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Many Questions?

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Many Questions?
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1/19/10 5:26 PM
Ok, I guess this would be the right forum for this. I'll just ask a bunch of questions that are really unrelated to each other.

1.) I haven't entirely finished HCTB so forgive me if this is in there, but Daniel did you attend medical school after you attained arahantship or before? If it's before, did you find any difficulty trying to find time to practice or go on retreats ? The reason I ask is because I'm planning on attending medical school myself within the next two years.

2.) Do you think that all religions share the same goal?

3.) When I read the suttas, often times it says that many people attained arahantship from simply hearing the Buddha speak. How did this happen? Does this happen in this day as well?

4.) To Arahants: In what way is life different than before arahantship, if at all?


That's all I can think of right now.

RE: Many Questions?
Answer
1/20/10 4:48 AM as a reply to ManZ A.
Alright, I'll give these a go, but some of those are big ones.

1) I was an anagami through medical school, and took night classes and worked my butt off to graduate 6 months early (only one in my class to do so), so that I could go on my final retreat, 21 days at MBMC, where I got arahatship. It was difficult finding time to go on retreats in medical school, but I did go on this really nice 14 day retreat over one Christmas break. I also took the whole summer before medical school to go on two one-month retreats at Gaia House.

2) While I can see arguments for all religions sharing the same goal in some broad, fundamental, abstract sense, functionally, practically and in terms of how the wide range of followers interpret and practice and strive in those religions, the answer is a clear "no". The primitive Baptists that live near me are not striving for enlightenment, strong jhanic abilities, or even the same morals I did. I am not striving for my own planet like I hear some Mormons are. At no time have I worshiped my ancestors so they will intervene for me. The list goes on and on.

3) I don't know what was going on back in the day, so anything said is speculation about people hearing the Buddha speak and speculation about how accurate the texts are: some are clearly pretty fanciful. As to today, some people do get enlightened pretty fast, but all the one's I know personally practiced hard.

4) This is by far the hardest question. I can say I am off the spiritual quest ride I was on post crossing the A&P: this alone is huge, and frees up my energy for other projects, such as making the world a better place and paying off debt. I can say my mind is much more clear, my perception of reality is way more natural and pleasant in that it is not trying to section off part of it as in control or separate or an observer or Subject, I really enjoy my natural jhanic abilities and whatever powersy stuff has arisen at times, I really enjoy helping people to do the same thing and my increased ability to do that, my appreciation of interdependence and some of the deeper aspects of the human condition and the way the mind functions at a core processing level really helps me in a number of ways all which are hard to articulate, and there are a large number of ways that my mind functions now that are better than before regarding processing difficult emotions, painful sensations, and other related aspects of reality. There is much more peace and tranquility than there was before, in general terms, though moments vary like anything. There are lots of things it didn't change much, personality quirks and the like, the ordinary facts of this life (though it has righted something what was very off in the relationship to them), etc. I am sure there are other aspects to this, but it is nearly 5am and I worked a long day, so that will have to do for the moment.

Regardless: go for it! Everyone I know who has really done it says the same thing.

RE: Many Questions?
Answer
1/20/10 4:25 PM as a reply to ManZ A.
I'll probably have to do a retreat before med school then. Sounds like a long night, hope you get a good rest. Thanks for the reply Daniel. emoticon I hope I'll hear some more responses for the last three questions.

RE: Many Questions?
Answer
1/20/10 4:35 PM as a reply to Daniel M. Ingram.
Daniel M. Ingram:
whatever powersy stuff has arisen at times,


I know there is a taboo about talking about "the powers," and the view (probably correct) that they are a distraction in the end, but I can't help being quite curious about them.

Since Daniel is known as a breaker of taboos I am hoping he will go into a little more detail about his experiences in this realm emoticon

RE: Many Questions?
Answer
1/20/10 4:54 PM as a reply to mjk 10 93.
Powersy stuff tends to draw lots of interest, so perhaps that should be its own thread.

Start one and see who chimes in, but be specific in what you are wanting: I have had so many weird and interesting experiences that I would hardly know where to begin and could babble on for page after page. None of it did for me what arahatship did or even close. Further, tie it in with something practical: how it would help your practice or help you do what you want to do? How would these accounts inspire you to whatever? Why are the powers more interesting than finishing up the insight thing? Keep it on that level, and perhaps something more useful than the standard conversation that happens around them will result.

RE: Many Questions?
Answer
1/21/10 11:12 PM as a reply to ManZ A.
ManZ A:

2.) Do you think that all religions share the same goal?

3.) When I read the suttas, often times it says that many people attained arahantship from simply hearing the Buddha speak. How did this happen? Does this happen in this day as well?

4.) To Arahants: In what way is life different than before arahantship, if at all?


Of course you are aware that the answers you receive to these questions depends upon the depth of insight and perception of the person providing the answer.

2. In general, I agree with what Daniel has stated on this. He's pretty much captured the larger picture in his first sentence. Yet, if you add an historical perspective to this, you begin to realize that all the religions extant in the world were "created" by men for other men. And I'm not necessarily referring to the intentions of the so-called founders of these religions, either. Others, in some cases not connected with the founder, have used what the founder started and added on their own agenda, that usually being some sort of control mechanism over the minds of the masses of other people. This is especially visible in the three main Western religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Hinduism, of course, grew out of the ancient brahmanical tradition and its concern with the Vedas which was extant during the time of the Buddha. And Taoism, though similar to Buddhism in some ways, is actually closer to Hinduism than it is to Buddhism. And of course there is the view that the Dhamma which the Buddha taught did not formerly belong to any rigid definition of being classified as a religion at all, that it was only after his death that others used what he taught and forged a religion from it. So, there is the Dhamma which Gotama, the Buddha, taught, and then there is the religion that grew out of this that we call Buddhism. Personally, I don't consider what Gotama taught to be a formal religion in the sense that the other worldly faiths regard themselves as being a religion.

3. As to the question regarding people making attainments or having realizations simply from hearing a discourse, it usually occurred because those persons had already developed some insight (or intuition) into the specific discourse being spoken. It occurs because the mind of the listener (for whatever reason) generally has an insight (or intuition) about the truth being spoken of in the discourse. And yes, it can occur in the present day; I've had it occur myself. Although, because there are so many more distractions today than there were then combined, in general, with the difference in the way people are being raised today, it probably occurs much less often nowadays.

4. Not making any claims here. Just sharing my individual experience after having made some profound realizations about the Dhamma which Gotama taught. To paraphrase the followers of Zen, before enlightenment there is chopping wood and carrying water, and after enlightenment there is still chopping wood and carrying water. The mundane goings-on of life change very little. What does change is one's perspective of life and one's reaction to the realities that life holds. As a result of increased mindfulness and powers of observation honed by the principles of the Dhamma, one is less likely to become emotionally upset when things don't go one's way. Also, there is an increase in one's ability to confront difficult situations such that they no longer hold the dread (dukkha or dissatisfaction) that they may have formerly held. This latter is a result of a change in attitude toward what must be done as well as a profound acceptance of "what is." This necessarily results in a more grounded approach toward solving the problems of life as well as a more pleasant approach toward life in general wherein very little ever upsets one. There is a contentedness with life that is developed which surpasses even the worst situations that can occur and is acquainted with what the Christians call "the peace which passes all understanding."

RE: Many Questions?
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1/21/10 8:01 PM as a reply to Ian And.
I'm aware of that, just wanted to know everyone's thoughts on them is all. emoticon Thank You for your reply Ian. You mentioned that you've had the experience of having heard something and gaining insights (?). Was it like having an epiphany?

RE: Many Questions?
Answer
1/21/10 11:11 PM as a reply to ManZ A.
ManZ A:
You mentioned that you've had the experience of having heard something and gaining insights (?). Was it like having an epiphany?

Actually, it was having read Gotama's words and having realized the insight he was speaking about in the passage. And no, it wasn't like an epiphany, but rather, "I never thought of it in that way before. But, yes, I see your point."

Just off the top of my head, it's happened at least twice that I can think of. Once was reading a passage out of Walpola Rahula's classic book What The Buddha Taught. See how you would do. Can you make the connection? (Note: Rahula rendered the Pali word vedana as "sensation" rather than the more familiar rendering of it as "feeling.")

The Buddha declared in unequivocal terms that consciousness depends on matter, sensation, perception and mental formations, and that it cannot exist independently of them. He says:

"Consciousness may exist having matter as its means, matter as its object, matter as its support, and seeking delight it may grow, increase and develop; or consciousness may exist having sensation as its means. . . or perception as its means. . . or mental formations as its means, mental formations as its object, mental formations as its support, and seeking delight it may grow, increase and develop.

"Were a man to say: 'I shall show the coming, the going, the passing away, the arising, the growth, the increase or the development of consciousness apart from matter, sensation, perception and mental formations, he would be speaking of something that does not exist." (SN 22.53) (emphasis added)


The other time involved the famous passage regarding the teaching he gave to Bahiya found in the Udana. Here is how John Ireland rendered that passage in his translation, complete with his own footnote.

Herein, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: "In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized." In this way you should train yourself, Bahiya.

When, Bahiya, for you in the seen is merely what is seen; in the heard is merely what is heard; in the sensed is merely what is sensed; in the cognized is merely what is cognized, then, Bahiya, you will not be "with that." When, Bahiya, you are not "with that," then, Bahiya, you will not be "in that." When, Bahiya, you are not "in that," then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the ending of suffering.* (emphasis added)

footnote * This is a difficult passage. An explanation of it derived from the Comy. would be something like this: "In the seen is merely what is seen" without adding one's own views, opinions, concepts, personal likes and dislikes, etc.: that is, just seeing what is there as it actually is. "You will not be with what," bound by that view, by attraction or repulsion, etc. "You will not be in that" situation of being deluded and led astray by views and emotions. "You will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two": neither in this world nor another world. This means the experience of Nibbana or enlightenment, which is a stepping out of the mundane world.

RE: Many Questions?
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1/22/10 1:58 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Hmmm, I'm not sure if I got the same experience as you. It was more of a "Oh yes that makes sense". The reason I asked if it was like an epiphany is because I have gotten often times that kind of experience when reading the suttas.

RE: Many Questions?
Answer
1/22/10 10:52 PM as a reply to ManZ A.
ManZ A:
Hmmm, I'm not sure if I got the same experience as you. It was more of a "Oh yes that makes sense". The reason I asked if it was like an epiphany is because I have gotten often times that kind of experience when reading the suttas.

So now you understand it's not that big a deal. Anyone can do it.

Although I think the compilers of the discourses were being exceedingly generous by suggesting that such and such achieved arahantship simply by hearing and realizing the truth of some discourse given by Gotama. Especially this Bahiya fellow. According to that particular sutta, he died soon after having his revelation. While he may have realized something about the anatta teaching, he certainly didn't have enough time to comprehend more complicated teachings such as paticca samuppada, especially if he never heard a discourse about it. If you can see what I'm getting at. That discourse gives one the impression that this was Bahiya's only meeting with the Buddha and the only thing he ever heard him comment on. I would think that the compilers might have considered that a little more seasoning with the Dhamma would have been more appropriate in order to confer the inference of arahantship. Just my take, though.

RE: Many Questions?
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1/23/10 9:34 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Perhaps that's true. How could they attain arahantship if they didn't actually experience the insight or truth for themselves. The suttas don't specify the amount of time that went by between discourses either. It says that some bhikkhus' minds were liberated on the spot while the discourse was being given, and for others they had to be ardent and diligent in their practice before they could attain arahantship.

RE: Many Questions?
Answer
1/24/10 11:31 PM as a reply to ManZ A.
ManZ A:
Perhaps that's true. How could they attain arahantship if they didn't actually experience the insight or truth for themselves. The suttas don't specify the amount of time that went by between discourses either. It says that some bhikkhus' minds were liberated on the spot while the discourse was being given, and for others they had to be ardent and diligent in their practice before they could attain arahantship.

Yes. Now you're thinking. If you look at the suttas from a realistic standpoint, using what you know of life's experience in similar events, it may help you to begin discerning what the suttas likely mean in reality rather than their staid position as being documents supposedly authenticating actual experience. While they may indeed authenticate the experience of "certain bhikkhus," one's own life experience tells us that most likely, many who were idealized in the "committee organization" of the recorded discourses may have been given a pass in order to inspire awe and faith in the written discourses. One's own life's experience tells one that the more likely scenario was, as you hypothesize, "they had to be ardent and diligent in their practice before they could attain arahantship."

That would certainly reflect my own experience with regard to the two examples I gave above.

RE: Many Questions?
Answer
2/2/10 8:17 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Okay I got another one. In the past few months, I've often contemplated decay and death as this was one of the major things which caused the Bodhisatta to renounce worldly life. I tried to do it with "mindfulness of the body", and after a while I felt very much disgusted (to the body). After a while it suddenly hit me in epiphany fashion that I'm going to die and that everything is dying. This created a sense of fear in me about death which has really put many things in perspective in some ways. Anyways, my question is as an arahant, are you still afraid of death? I understand this might be kind of like a limited emotional range model type of thing, but I was just wondering since one of the main things often mentioned by the Buddha was that an arahant has gone beyond the reach of death.

RE: Many Questions?
Answer
2/3/10 1:30 PM as a reply to ManZ A.
ManZ A:

Anyways, my question is as an arahant, are you still afraid of death? I understand this might be kind of like a limited emotional range model type of thing, but I was just wondering since one of the main things often mentioned by the Buddha was that an arahant has gone beyond the reach of death.

First, let me address the latter part of your statement before answering the question you posed. When the Buddha mention that "an arahant has gone beyond the reach of death," what he was referring to was that the arahant has gone beyond the "cycle of rebirth," meaning that since he (the arahant) has seen (had insight into) the reality of existence and seen it for what it is (that is: impermanent, unsatisfactory, and without self nature (anicca, dukkha, and anatta) that he is no longer under any illusion or delusion about existence and therefore is beyond attachment to being reborn in any kind of existential realm. All of which means that he is free (liberated from) of the round of rebirth. With that in mind, let's move on to your question, which by any measure of the answer will be subjective in nature and not necessarily what others may be able to expect as an outcome of their own efforts to reach arahanthood.

First, your question is presumptuous; it asks, "are you still afraid of death?" I'm not aware of having made any statement regarding being "afraid of death." So, your presumption, which was rude in itself, has been shot down. Would you like to rephrase your question and ask it again?

RE: Many Questions?
Answer
2/3/10 3:23 PM as a reply to Ian And.
Ian And:
ManZ A:

Anyways, my question is as an arahant, are you still afraid of death? I understand this might be kind of like a limited emotional range model type of thing, but I was just wondering since one of the main things often mentioned by the Buddha was that an arahant has gone beyond the reach of death.

First, let me address the latter part of your statement before answering the question you posed. When the Buddha mention that "an arahant has gone beyond the reach of death," what he was referring to was that the arahant has gone beyond the "cycle of rebirth," meaning that since he (the arahant) has seen (had insight into) the reality of existence and seen it for what it is (that is: impermanent, unsatisfactory, and without self nature (anicca, dukkha, and anatta) that he is no longer under any illusion or delusion about existence and therefore is beyond attachment to being reborn in any kind of existential realm. All of which means that he is free (liberated from) of the round of rebirth. With that in mind, let's move on to your question, which by any measure of the answer will be subjective in nature and not necessarily what others may be able to expect as an outcome of their own efforts to reach arahanthood.

First, your question is presumptuous; it asks, "are you still afraid of death?" I'm not aware of having made any statement regarding being "afraid of death." So, your presumption, which was rude in itself, has been shot down. Would you like to rephrase your question and ask it again?


Well I must say Ian, that before I posted the question I was thinking the same thing about the still part, but I did not intend for it to be rude. So I'll say this is wrong on my part. I was hoping that there would be an arahant (btw I was wondering if you were an arahant? You seem to be quite knowledgeable, although I know that doesn't mean that one has attained fourth path) who was afraid and would answer if anything changed at all. Let's go with, IF a person was afraid of death before arahantship would he still be afraid of it afterwards?

RE: Many Questions?
Answer
2/3/10 6:27 PM as a reply to ManZ A.
ManZ A:

I was hoping that there would be an arahant (btw I was wondering if you were an arahant?

I make no claims. Besides, you would never be able to confirm whatever I might say without meeting me personally and finding out for yourself. So, the question really is irrelevant. Although I will say that I will put my knowledge and understanding of the Dhamma up against anyone else's any day of the week and be confident that I know (from direct experience) what I'm talking about.

ManZ A:

Let's go with, IF a person was afraid of death before arahantship would he still be afraid of it afterwords?

You know, if you just think about your question a little deeper you could answer it yourself. What am I referring to?

What facts did I bring out in my previous response? An arahant has insight into "the reality of existence and seen it for what it is — that is: as impermanent, unsatisfactory, and without self nature (anicca, dukkha, and anatta)." Do you think that anyone who has reached that level of understanding still views themselves as "a personality" which can be extinguished at death? Think about it. You already know the answer. (Or at least you should.)

Regarding my own thoughts on the matter, since the death of the physical body is inevitable, it is nothing to be feared. It's going to happen whether one fears it or not. No use working oneself up over something that they have no control over. One may have some concern about the point of transition, but that is only natural. Once the fires of attachment go out, what more could you want? Death itself opens up into nibbana (that is, if one knows what one is doing, or rather how to correctly respond).