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Why all the suffering ?

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Why all the suffering ?
Answer
12/14/15 2:40 AM
The first noble truth points to the fact there is suffering, the second noble truth that attachment is largely the cause of that suffering.

But why do we have the attachments ?

It seems Buddhism proposes karma from a previous life as a major reason. This does not cut it as a pragmatic answer. 

Is there more Buddhist theory on why we create attachments ? I wonder if the focus on removing attachment distracts from this fundamental question. Is there a Buddhist belief/assumption that attachments are fundamental ?

Investigating this question leads me to see suffering as our sacrifice at the altar of ideology/doctrine. That these ideologies/doctrines have evolved with no goal apart from survival, similar to biological evolution.

Seeing the cause of attachment as social doctrines, the individual is controlled by attachment. Removing attachments would result in a disengagement which would be a simple way for the dominant ideologies to shed those individuals.

This points to the inevitable collective nature of suffering and the potential freedom to suffer in the service of ideologies that reduce suffering. 

RE: Why all the suffering ?
Answer
12/14/15 5:00 AM as a reply to Mark.
Dependent origination. Craving is caused by feeling sensations. Feeling is caused by sense contact. Sense contact is caused by the sense bases. The sense bases are caused by name and form. Name and form is caused by consciousness. Consciousness is caused by volitional formations. Volitional formations are caused by ignorance.

Essentially, suffering is caused by ignorance. Ignorance of our ethical actions and their effects, ignorance of the true nature of reality and the mind.

RE: Why all the suffering ?
Answer
12/14/15 5:30 AM as a reply to Lewis James.
Lewis:
Dependent origination. Craving is caused by feeling sensations. Feeling is caused by sense contact. Sense contact is caused by the sense bases. The sense bases are caused by name and form. Name and form is caused by consciousness. Consciousness is caused by volitional formations. Volitional formations are caused by ignorance.

Essentially, suffering is caused by ignorance. Ignorance of our ethical actions and their effects, ignorance of the true nature of reality and the mind.

Hi Lewis,

Great summary, thanks. There are a couple of issues you might help me with.

The idea that there is a "true nature of reality" seems to be inherently anthropocentric. But whether you think that is knowable or not is perhaps besides the point unless you actually claim to know it.

Dependent origination in my understanding considers the subjective experience as being primary. I think you hit the nail on the head with the the ignorance about mind. It seems to me the mind is largely socially constructed and that includes the subjective experience itself. Dependent origination as it is often intepreted seems to miss this because there is an inherently individual/subjective perspective. But if that perpsective is put aside there is still a socially constructed mind.

I'll try an analogy. Dependent origination could be seen like evolution in regards to biology. There is a process that is ongoing and self promoting. Humans now manipulate genes directly, so evolution without any particular goal has to some extent become evolution in the service of human goals. Likewise dependent origination can be manipulated directly (changes to subjective experience) in the service of human goals.

I guess I'm pointing to the existential crisis that buddhism highlights (which most buddhists seem to avoid). By pushing dependent origination to it's logical conclusion the socially constructed nature of mind and the incoherence of subjective exprience is perhaps exposed.

RE: Why all the suffering ?
Answer
12/14/15 6:15 AM as a reply to Mark.
The idea that there is a "true nature of reality" seems to be inherently anthropocentric. But whether you think that is knowable or not is perhaps besides the point unless you actually claim to know it.

True enough, whether there is any reality independent of the knowing of it is kind of irrelevant, given that the problem is that right now we're stuck experiencing it through consciousness. I actually edited the wording there a couple of times because I agree the phrase 'true nature of reality' isn't a very good label.

Dependent origination in my understanding considers the subjective experience as being primary. I think you hit the nail on the head with the the ignorance about mind. It seems to me the mind is largely socially constructed and that includes the subjective experience itself. Dependent origination as it is often intepreted seems to miss this because there is an inherently individual/subjective perspective. But if that perpsective is put aside there is still a socially constructed mind.

Exactly, whether there's a real difference between mind/reality or not that difference is only noted in mind. So, ignorance is the cause, to be more specific and say ignorance of x or y is perhaps not too useful a concept. It's difficult because even if we accept on faith that the root of our suffering is ignorance, we can't see what it is we're ignorant of, precisely because we're ignoring it. The only way is to stop ignoring it, and that's what the path is.


I'll try an analogy. Dependent origination could be seen like evolution in regards to biology. There is a process that is ongoing and self promoting. Humans now manipulate genes directly, so evolution without any particular goal has to some extent become evolution in the service of human goals. Likewise dependent origination can be manipulated directly (changes to subjective experience) in the service of human goals. 


I guess I'm pointing to the existential crisis that buddhism highlights (which most buddhists seem to avoid). By pushing dependent origination to it's logical conclusion the socially constructed nature of mind and the incoherence of subjective exprience is perhaps exposed.

I'm not quite sure I follow the analogy. You mean that a thorough understanding and seeing of dependent origination could be used to influence the material world in ego driven ways?

RE: Why all the suffering ?
Answer
12/14/15 7:24 AM as a reply to Lewis James.
Lewis:


I'll try an analogy. Dependent origination could be seen like evolution in regards to biology. There is a process that is ongoing and self promoting. Humans now manipulate genes directly, so evolution without any particular goal has to some extent become evolution in the service of human goals. Likewise dependent origination can be manipulated directly (changes to subjective experience) in the service of human goals. 


I guess I'm pointing to the existential crisis that buddhism highlights (which most buddhists seem to avoid). By pushing dependent origination to it's logical conclusion the socially constructed nature of mind and the incoherence of subjective exprience is perhaps exposed.

I'm not quite sure I follow the analogy. You mean that a thorough understanding and seeing of dependent origination could be used to influence the material world in ego driven ways?
I think it is worth clarifying"material world" because some people think in terms of "physical world" i.e. only things that can or eventually will be described by physics. I'd be happy with the term "reality" and that would include subjective experience. So for example if I imagine a building falling down but the building does not fall down the experience of the building falling down was a part reality. If I push the building down then the destroyed building becomes part of reality. I think this is important because it puts the mental and physical on the same footing. So for example the building is real and so is racism, money, ideology etc.

It is worth making a distinction between actions that impact future experiences and actions which don't. So for example I hear a noise and ignore it, the mental noise was real but it is insignificant. I hear a noise and then fix the squeeky door, that is an action that changes reality. All actions that change future reality are infinitely more important than actions that don't change reality. This means having good intentions is not enough.

Yes I think that a thorough understanding of DO must lead to action. The more liberated the more selfless the action. 

The notion of "ego driven" or "freewill" is completly inverting the reality. The ego is never driving something, the ego is how the socially constructed mind gets control of my body. I think there is a fairly coherent explanation for why the ego evolved, why it serves broader society and the individual but also why the result is suffering. DO points to anatman and from a subjective experience that could be seen as an end in itself. But if the subjective experience is not priveledged the insights DO points to selfless action. 

RE: Why all the suffering ?
Answer
12/14/15 7:11 AM as a reply to Mark.
I understand, that's an interesting perspective. I think it might have been Daniel who once posted positing that essentially any phenomenon is 'real' to the extent it has a causal influence, even if not a material thing experienced by a consensus. So for example a spiritual experience or a DMT trip may not be 'real' or even useful in a conventional material sense, but if it motivates you to act in a different way than before the experience then it can be said to be real in the context of causality or karma or what have you. So does a clear seeing of DO and the resultant mind cause one to act in a way which doesn't cause suffering for anyone? That seems to be the Buddha's promise, but I can't say for sure.

RE: Why all the suffering ?
Answer
12/14/15 7:23 AM as a reply to Lewis James.
Lewis:
I understand, that's an interesting perspective. I think it might have been Daniel who once posted positing that essentially any phenomenon is 'real' to the extent it has a causal influence, even if not a material thing experienced by a consensus. So for example a spiritual experience or a DMT trip may not be 'real' or even useful in a conventional material sense, but if it motivates you to act in a different way than before the experience then it can be said to be real in the context of causality or karma or what have you. So does a clear seeing of DO and the resultant mind cause one to act in a way which doesn't cause suffering for anyone? That seems to be the Buddha's promise, but I can't say for sure.
That is a good summary, thanks. For me it is clear that action in the world causes suffering, I would include inaction as a type of action when choosing not to act. Action in the world, while causing suffering can also reduce suffering. The challenge DO issues is to influence the process with a selfless goal in mind. My understanding is the Buddha claimed no creation of karma for an arhat but did not claim an arhat would not cause suffering. I see it more connected with anatman - if one is not identifying with actions then karma can't get a hold. Maybe you can point me to a reference ?

RE: Why all the suffering ?
Answer
12/14/15 7:44 AM as a reply to Mark.
The seeing of DO is the same as the realisation of anatta, if I understand correctly. By seeing and experiencing clearly the chain of events that cause suffering, you see that there is no self orchestrating the process. So that would seem to cause subsequent actions to be performed selflessly if the seeing remains clear. I've been working through the Majjhima Nikaya recently alongside Bhikku Bodhi's systematic study found here, and he goes into this subject in some detail. I'll see if I can find some specific references that talk about this.

RE: Why all the suffering ?
Answer
12/14/15 8:16 AM as a reply to Lewis James.
Lewis:
The seeing of DO is the same as the realisation of anatta, if I understand correctly. By seeing and experiencing clearly the chain of events that cause suffering, you see that there is no self orchestrating the process. So that would seem to cause subsequent actions to be performed selflessly if the seeing remains clear. I've been working through the Majjhima Nikaya recently alongside Bhikku Bodhi's systematic study [url=]found here, and he goes into this subject in some detail. I'll see if I can find some specific references that talk about this.
Thanks. If actions are performed selflessly I don't see how those actions will not cause suffering for others. In the balance right action may be reducing suffering. I can't imagine causality changing because the act was by an arhat or an idiot.

RE: Why all the suffering ?
Answer
12/14/15 9:19 AM as a reply to Mark.
Mark:


It seems Buddhism proposes karma from a previous life as a major reason. This does not cut it as a pragmatic answer. 
I would view the word karma used here, in this sense.  Karma as cause and effect, we have born within us results of millions and millions of years of evolutionary biological cause and effects.  We are thus born in this certain form and respond to most internal and external phenomeon  due to previous conditions that are set before us, i.e. evolutionary forces, karma.

Carl Jung has also pointed to this, 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collective_unconscious
Collective unconscious, a term coined by Carl Jung, refers to structures of the unconscious mind which are shared among beings of the same species. According to Jung, the human collective unconscious is populated by instincts and by archetypes

Similar to that we are generally born with an arm with a hand at the end , so we all share this commonality.  Thus too, we are born with a mind, and that too, grew with the same general patterns.  One could say karma, past life effects, or one could say evolution, past life effects.

It is true also , what you are pointing to, in that there are social conventions and social inventions that also pass along from one generation to the next, in the form of memes, that also evolve along their own path, and can also be a cause of suffering.

Take Materialism for example, while providing some sense of happiness in the short term, it is similar to the mouse on the wheel, getting cheese, then back on the wheel, getting cheese, then back on the wheel.

Psi