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Many people try to approach meditation and Buddhism from a scientific materialist perspective, despite the fact that Buddhism makes explicit claims about the after life, and despite the fact that Buddhism explicitly state that it is a Wrong View to believe in materialist Annihilation.

I posted the following questions rhetorically as part of an answer to another question, but it was suggested to be moved to its own question:

So, are there any materialist explanations to the following?

  1. Why is meditation pleasurable and helpful in a materialist world that is run based on natural selection?
  2. How is the possibility of experiencing states of joy and peace and realizations through meditation possible through an evolutionary model?
  3. What evolutionary advantage would make the desire to end greed, anger and selflessness such the desire to become a monastic (not reproducing and passing on your genes) occur?

What are the materialist claims by other philosophies with regards to meditation that you have seen? For example: (Evolutionary psychology) people are driven to help others because it enhance group survival. According to the same thinking though, people are also jerks because it enhance their own survival.

What are the counter arguments from Buddhism to these claims?

  • Can someone please explain why this post got down voted? I didn't even want to ask this question but someone suggest that I should. – Yinxu May 11 '16 at 13:35
  • I voted it down because, in my opinion, it is not skillful for Buddhists to behave like Christians and argue against science using unverifiable beliefs (such as reincarnation or God). – Dhammadhatu May 11 '16 at 13:52
  • But, I wasn't arguing against science though, I am interested in whether anyone have seen the relevant arguments posited by scientists/ atheists to explain these phenomena, and how should Buddhists react to these claims? What if someone were to say "it's all in your head"? There are plenty of 'evolutionary psychology' thrown about to explain human greed, anger, lust and folly. I am interested to know if they have made any scientific claims with regards to human virtue specifically with regards to meditation. – Yinxu May 11 '16 at 14:02
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    Upvoted because you took it from some answer to make a new question - that's nice practice in stackexchange :-) – Gottfried Helms May 11 '16 at 14:09
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    I haven't had the time to write answers or questions lately, but I would recommend someone referencing the book, "Buddha Brain" by Rick Hanson in their explanation. Also, is it possible to achieve enlightenment in materialism if they deny the existence of a self-observer/awareness? I understand it doesn't negate the possibility of enlightenment, but according to Buddhist doctrine awareness is essential for enlightenment to take place. Is it contradicting to hold both views? – Soto May 11 '16 at 18:50
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  1. Why is meditation pleasurable and helpful in a materialist world that is run based on natural selection?

Don't know; but it's just what is pleasing me. Also it helps to organize my view of things to the more relaxed one. Evolutionary benefit ? Why not...

  1. How is the possibility of experiencing states of joy and peace and realizations through meditation possible through an evolutionary model?

We seem not to be surprised, that, for instance, skiing is joyful and motion/sports is making peaceful in general, according to the doctors. Is skiing meaningful through an evolutionary model? (I'm taking your terms without really wanting to use that language & concept - but just for the moment...)

  1. What evolutionary advantage would make the desire to end greed, anger and selflessness such the desire to become a monastic (not reproducing and passing on your genes) occur?

Training the ability for selflessness, peace and compassion is very likely advantaguous for a (socially organized) species, even if it looks sometimes disadvantaguous for an individuum. And - if I'm relaxed not to run blindly and hysteric for reproduction, that's in a materialistic view surely benefitial for me (and as well for possible reproduction-partners ... ;-) ).

In short: emancipation from the totalitaristic greedyness of the "evolutionary paradigm" is -in my view- a step forward in the evolution of human kind (and that is also the background for answering this here in a buddhism-forum: the teaching of the Buddha can be understood as teaching for emancipation from greeds ("tanha") attachments and illusions.)

  • Thanks, it always seem that the explanation for any behavior in evolutionary psychology is concluded as being beneficial for survival (evolutionary fitness). Even playful behavior are said to be about conflict resolution, attract mates, learning, build survival skills etc. Everything is about greed and survival in some form. That is not what Buddhism teaches however. The mental and moral viewpoint from Buddhism is a far cry from survival and reproduction only mantra of evolutionary psychology. – Yinxu May 11 '16 at 14:51
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    The observation "everything is about greed and survival" is a formulation of what -possibly mentally defective- observers have seen. Human culture, intellectualism, reflection and self-reflection of behave and possible outcomes of behave should -in the same perspective- be an in-between result of evolution itself: whether it is only beneficial or also dysfunctional must be found out later/in the current process. A -meanwhile- somehow commonplace is a report of some couple in my friends who wanted "reproducing" This did not work until they left out their determination. ... – Gottfried Helms May 11 '16 at 15:15
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    If one likes to think only materialistic - even then the Buddhas teachings for emancipation from unwholesome mental states and fabrications might be seen as useful. The buddhistic dharma was not intended as a better replacement for biologists/evolutionists paradigm to manage the world but to help people "who have little dust on their eyes" to find a way to resolve from their sufferings. Unrespectively whether an evolutionist sees this as progress or backstep in his/her mental concept of evolution. – Gottfried Helms May 11 '16 at 15:20
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  1. For me, Buddhist meditation is scientific & materialist. For example, watching breathing causes the breathe & physical body to calm. This is scientific (observable cause & effect) & materialistic, since breath is a material element

  2. For me, claims about an after life are not related to meditation. I have read meditation is done to abandon this 'world' and any other 'world'. When the mind is concentrated, it does not think about an afterlife.

  3. For me, Buddhism does not teach about materialist Annihilation. The Buddha of the Pali scriptures taught Annihilation is the view that: "I will cease at death"; just as Eternalism is the view: "I will continue after death". These are wrong views because they are 'self-views'. They are not related to life after death. They are about beliefs about personal life after death.

  4. I think meditation is pleasurable and helpful in a materialist world that is run based on natural selection because it is a non-sensual joy that frees the mind from 'samsara', i.e., craving induced reproduction.

  5. I think there is possibility of experiencing states of joy and peace and realizations through meditation through an evolutionary model because evolution is both physical & mental. For example, the Buddha represents the pinnacle & final end of human evolution.

  6. The evolutionary advantage of becoming a monastic (not reproducing and passing on your genes) would be exactly the very same advantage as ending craving so there is not more 'becoming' in the future, which some people believe to be an "afterlife". This advantage is reaching the final end of evolution. The arahants said at enlightenment: "There is nothing further to do for this world".

  7. In my understanding, there are no materialist claims and counter arguments from Buddhism because the Lord Buddha taught that talk about how the world was created is unprofitable. That said, the theory of evolution accords with the Buddhist law of cause & effect.

The Buddhist commentaries state:

The laws of nature, although uniformly based on the principle of causal dependence, can nevertheless be sorted into different modes of relationship. The Buddhist commentaries describe five categories of natural law, or niyama. They are:

  1. Utuniyama: the natural law pertaining to physical objects and changes in the natural environment, such as the weather; the way flowers bloom in the day and fold up at night; the way soil, water and nutrients help a tree to grow; and the way things disintegrate and decompose. This perspective emphasizes the changes brought about by heat or temperature.

  2. Bijaniyama: the natural law pertaining to heredity, which is best described in the adage, "as the seed, so the fruit."

  3. Cittaniyama: the natural law pertaining to the workings of the mind, the process of cognition of sense objects and the mental reactions to them.

  4. Kammaniyama: the natural law pertaining to human behavior, the process of the generation of action and its results. In essence, this is summarized in the words, "good deeds bring good results, bad deeds bring bad results."

  5. Dhammaniyama: the natural law governing the relationship and interdependence of all things: the way all things arise, exist and then cease. All conditions are subject to change, are in a state of affliction and are not self: this is the Norm.

Good, Evil and Beyond: Kamma in the Buddha's Teaching: P. A. Payutto http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/good_evil_beyond.pdf

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