Buddhism, materialism and the denial of death

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Tom Smith, modified 9 Years ago at 5/28/13 12:26 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 5/28/13 12:26 PM

Buddhism, materialism and the denial of death

Posts: 131 Join Date: 2/17/10 Recent Posts
Some things I have been thinking about that may start a discussion:

I don't know if consciousness is local or non local. I don't know if
materialism or spiritualism is closer to the truth. I am very curious
about these questions but I don't think they are related to what I am
seeking and experiencing in meditation.

Fear of death is one of the most powerful forces in human psychology.

Meditation can free us from that fear. There is a revelation that I
find impossible to verbalize but I will try. I could say meditation
reveals that there is nothing to die. All we ever experience is this
moment. Time is not what it appears to be and the self does not exist
in time in the way we think it does. What we think of as the self is a
momentary experience. In a way we are dying and being reborn each
moment.

When we experience this moment fully, without desiring or fearing
something in some other moment, this moment is glorious. This moment
when I truly open to it and let go into it is everything I ever longed
for in my spiritual search, and more. This experience frees me from
the fear of death. It frees me from the desire for anything more.

It doesn't matter if materialism or spiritualism is true in order to
experience the glory of this moment and the freedom from the illusion
that that there is something to die. Meditation and the spiritual path
work just fine, no matter which story about reality happens to be
true.

Seeking to prove that materialism is not true or that consciousness is
non local is connected with a fear of death. Convincing myself that
materialism is not true or that consciousness is non local will never
give me the same freedom as a glimpse at the reality that there is
nothing to die.

Curiosity is one of the great joys of being alive, and I am very
curious about the nature of reality. Is consciousness local or non
local? Did consciousness arise from matter or did matter arise from
consciousness? When the body dies, is that the end of the
consciousness connected with that body. I would like to know. I don't
want an emotional need to stand in the way of clearly asking these
questions.

Those are the major points. A few other thoughts that are somewhat
related:

Language evolved to discuss the material world, subject object and
verb. The very nature of language makes it hard to talk about
questions like "no self vs eternal self".

There are at least two different types of fear of death, and what I
wrote above will not make sense if we confuse the two. There is the
biological fear of death that keeps me from walking in front of a
truck. That is a good fear. There is the existential fear of death
that some day I will cease to exist. That is the fear that I am
talking about above that it is good to be free of.
Some Guy, modified 9 Years ago at 5/28/13 2:52 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 5/28/13 2:52 PM

RE: Buddhism, materialism and the denial of death

Posts: 343 Join Date: 8/9/11 Recent Posts
Experiences of non-local consciousness seem fairly common. For example, I once shared a dream with someone who later related it to me unprompted. I used to have a bagful of such stories, but I've forgotten them. I categorized them in my mind according to how verifiable they were. Third-part verification was best. I think if you go looking for such things you may find them. I suspect they tend to occur in groups where they're accepted, much like awakening and the DhO.

What that all says about death I don't know. Interesting to note, though, that fear of death is not the only complicating emotional factor. In Buddhism, fear of rebirth seems to get a lot more press. Somewhere on this forum there is a link to a concentration practice to recall past lives. Whatever you think of that, the point is not to prove your immortality, but, so they say, to make you properly afraid of rebirth. I've never found out what the preferred alternative is.

Also, I think we are sometimes discouraged from this discussion by peer pressure, scientism, and the fear of appearing to be afraid of death. I wonder if the tendency to discourage the discourse isn't partly a symptom of the limitations of "pragmatic dharma." Insight into death is not a fruit of our practices, whereas it is at least claimed in some other traditions.

I like Bikkhu Bodhi's essay on the meta-discussion, although it doesn't give much in direct answer to the question of what happens when you die.

If we suspend our own predilections for the moment and instead go directly to our sources, we come upon the indisputable fact that the Buddha himself taught rebirth and taught it as a basic tenet of his teaching. Viewed in their totality, the Buddha's discourses show us that far from being a mere concession to the outlook prevalent in his time or an Asiatic cultural contrivance, the doctrine of rebirth has tremendous implications for the entire course of Dhamma practice, affecting both the aim with which the practice is taken up and the motivation with which it is followed through to completion.


Thanissaro Bikkhu has an e-book that makes a similar case in more detail.
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Tom Smith, modified 9 Years ago at 5/28/13 6:02 PM
Created 9 Years ago at 5/28/13 6:02 PM

RE: Buddhism, materialism and the denial of death

Posts: 131 Join Date: 2/17/10 Recent Posts
If we suspend our own predilections for the moment and instead go directly to our sources, we come upon the indisputable fact that the Buddha himself taught rebirth and taught it as a basic tenet of his teaching.


I think that is correct, but just because the Buddha said it, does not mean that it is true.

the doctrine of rebirth has tremendous implications for the entire course of Dhamma practice, affecting both the aim with which the practice is taken up and the motivation with which it is followed through to completion.


My point is that I the real core of Buddhism as I understand it is not dependent on belief in reincarnation, an afterlife, or any truth beyond materialism.

I could be wrong about all of this. I am thinking out loud, looking for some people to talk to about this.
Some Guy, modified 9 Years ago at 5/29/13 10:16 AM
Created 9 Years ago at 5/29/13 10:16 AM

RE: Buddhism, materialism and the denial of death

Posts: 343 Join Date: 8/9/11 Recent Posts
Tom Carr:
I think that is correct, but just because the Buddha said it, does not mean that it is true.


No, of course not. I just mention it to point out that you bring up a worthy avenue of discussion, although it's often poo-pooed.

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