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I hope you can clarify my doubts:

  1. If one is skeptical concerning enlightenment (because no one besides the Buddha and mysteriously only those people in his time got enlightened) does it then even makes sense to practice Buddhism? The whole point is to escape impermanence and attain the unconditioned, Nirvana. If monks like Bhikkhu Bodhi even claim not to have realized enlightenment how are lay people going to realize this?

  2. I agree on the whole point concerning anicca, but impermanence is always used in a bitter way. Yes, we are going to get sick, old and then die at the end. Yes we cant cling to experience, but we can recall positive experiences and they change our brain.. this is why loving kindness works. Impermanence is always exploited to the extreme.. "well since everything is impermanent I give up on everything and better become a monk." Isn't that true? If you go by that belief it's quite bitter because monks that are long in their business haven't already realized nirvana/awakening and the chances are high that they wont. So why then belief in Nirvana and Enlightenment?

  3. Couldn't it be the case that Buddhism is just another fairy tale that want's to trick people, to live poorly and to keep quiet in tough times due to getting bad karma otherwise?

  4. If enlightenment is just about grasping the 3 characteristics and experiencing them during meditation then even an "evil" person can become enlightenment

  5. Why does it take so long to become enlightenment if it is just about seeing the 3 characteristics?

  6. What if rebirth truly doesn't exist? The whole point in striving for enlightenment is then pointless.

  7. Most people and monks don't question every doctrine. They use it as Thanissaro Bhikkhu said as a "working hypothesis" and therefore filter out any contrary evidence. What I mean by this is that they are succumbed to an argument of authority.

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    It seems to me like you have at least 5 different questions here. Maybe it's good to separate them into individual questions? – ruben2020 Feb 6 '18 at 16:10
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    Why not just answer a question you could answer? It's better to post several question here than to post 5 different. – Val Feb 6 '18 at 16:19
  • For what it's worth, I consider myself a buddhist (sort of), but I don't believe in reincarnation. Also I am not practicing with the specific goal of enlightenment. Admittedly quite paradoxically I think that practicing buddhism with this specific goal (enlightenment) in mind kinda defeats the purpose, as it's just another craving. Also, there is this other painful craving for some kind of logical understanding. Just let these cravings go. Sit. Practice meditation. Show compassion to other beings. Help them in practical ways that make their lives better. Then sit again. Practice. Repeat. – Zsolt Szatmari Feb 6 '18 at 19:10
  • I have reopened the question. – Lanka Feb 8 '18 at 11:19

11 Answers 11

6

Good honest question, love it. Let me give you an honest answer.

  1. If one is skeptical concerning Enlightenment (because no one besides the Buddha and mysteriously ONLY those people in his time got enlightened) does it then even makes sense to practise Buddhism?

Enlightenment is attained by a lot more people than you realize. It's just not advertised for reasons of political correctness and compassion. It's like telling kids there is no Santa Claus - kinda pointless and only hurts the kids.

The whole point is to escape impermanence and attain the unconditioned, Nirvana. If monks like Bhikkhu Bodhi even claim not to have realized enlightenment how are lay people going to realize this?

This is not how it works. You don't literally "escape impermanence", instead your perception of reality changes in such a way when impermanence no longer matters. Enlightenment is not becoming a Superman. It's more like getting able to see the true nature of "The Matrix". Again, this is not a literal change in how you see stuff, it is a fundamental change of one's mental framework and therefore of one's interpretation.

2 I agree on the whole point concerning anicca, but impermanence is always used in a bitter way. Yes, we are going to get sick, old and then die at the end. Yes we can't cling to experience, but we can recall positive experiences and they change our brain.. this is why loving kindness works. Impermanence is always exploited to the extreme.. "well since everything is impermanent I give up on everything and better become a monk." Isn't that true? If you go by that belief it's quite bitter because monks that are long in their business haven't already realized Nirvana/Awakening and the chances are high that they won't. So why then believe in Nirvana and Enlightenment?

This seems to be a misunderstanding of the attitude of detachment/revulsion, promoted by Theravada and the lower yanas of Mahayana for the sake of motivating beginners. Accepting Impermanence is not all there is to [Mahayana] Buddhism, far from it. It's more about seeing how things truly work and learning to work with them.

Couldn't it be the case that Buddhism is just another fairy tale meant to trick people who live poorly to keep quiet in the tough times through fear of getting bad karma otherwise?

There is an element of fairy tale in Buddhism, and there is a real element. And the real element is pretty damn real and mindblowing.

If Enlightenment is just about grasping the 3 characteristics and experiencing them during meditation then even an "evil" person can become enlightened.

It's much more than that, both in the sense of intellectual realization, and in terms of actual personal mastery in real life.

Why does it take so long to become Enlightened if it is just about seeing the 3 characteristics?

It takes a long time because we have some deeply lying conceptual mistakes about reality, due to which we have accumulated much emotional baggage rooted in those conceptual mistakes, and on top of that we tend to actively fight it when anyone tries to show us our mistakes and delusions. We have all these explanations and rationalizations that we cling to, and they are connected with events in our personal lives, providing support and sustenance to delusion. It's like a tangle of hair made from wrong concepts, emotions, and karma - very difficult to untangle.

What if rebirth truly doesn't exist? The whole point in striving for Enlightenment is then pointless.

Rebirth of individuals does not exist. There is rebirth of information. Because future lives are made from information left by the past lives, Enlightenment is not pointless.

Most people and monks don't question every doctrine. They use it as Thanissaro Bhikkhu said as a "working hypothesis" and therefore filter out any contrary evidence. What I mean by this is that they are succumbed to an argument of authority.

That is true. Most people are unfortunately pretty closed-minded - not because of a fault of their own or inherent weakness, but (quite counter-intuitively!) out of their best intents. People try to make sense of it all using their logic and common sense, and filter out all nonsense. But because it is so tangled up, it is not always obvious what is nonsense and what is real. Deferring to authority is infinitely easier than trying to make sense of it all by oneself.


Unfortunately this entire Buddhism thing is a mess. It has this extraordinarily valid and useful stuff in its core, lots of confusion around that, and even more fairy tale stuff on the outside. I was very confused by it for decades and suffered a great deal. Now that I got it, the purpose of my life is to help people avoid wandering in the jungle as I did, and go straight to the well. Sometimes when doing this I wonder if by my efforts I only contribute to the jungle, as did my predecessors before me. But alas, I do what I can :))))

Let us know if we can help you here and please don't hesitate to start asking specific questions about Buddhist concepts and their application to real life.

  • Good to know that you also stumbled a lot on your path. Can you be more precise: Which doctrines do you accept, which not or rather metaphorically. One can undoubtedly interpret rebirth, samsara and nirvana differently but I dont think that the Buddha meant it that way? Though I have heard that the Buddha taught to different people and therefore use concepts like heaven or hell to encourage them to do good rather than bad. Im not sure on the last sentence though. – Val Feb 6 '18 at 17:33
  • Can't answer that in a comment, would either be too long or else too simplified. I think... I hope it won't be an overgeneralization to say that I accept all or almost all doctrines of Buddhism, but most of them not in their literal/superficial sense. – Andrei Volkov Feb 6 '18 at 17:58
  • Information is not reborn because it doesn't die to begin with. – Greg Schmit Feb 6 '18 at 18:14
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    Sure. You're right but that's nitpicking :) When you start thinking about information... and causation... playing out over time... things get kinda less rigid... So familiar notions like "entities" and "events" become very naive simplifications. Not to mention folksy concepts like birth and death. – Andrei Volkov Feb 6 '18 at 18:54
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Big questions begs for big answers :)

"If one is skeptical concerning enlightment (because no one besides the buddha and mysteriously ONLY those people in his time got enlightened) does it then even makes sense to practise Buddhism?"

First a small correction: there are many who, through time, had declared to have reached the same enlightenment that the Buddha declared. The Buddhist tradition (literary and cultural) does talk about past and present arahants, those people who brought the buddhist training to it's conclusion during their lifetime. Speculations about who is arahant is a favorite "past times" of buddhists.

As to the question itself, many people see the benefit of a large number of buddhist practices and assimilate them in their lives even if they don't believe they would get enlightened during their lives. So, I suppose it's a personal choice based on other things, not only in the belief of nirvana "here and now".

"The whole point is to escape impermanence and attain the unconditioned, Nirvana. If monks like Bhikkhu Bodhi even claim not to have realized enlightenment how are lay people going to realize this?"

Well, bhikkhu Bodhi is not the only bhikkhu ever lived. He is notorious in the west for his scholar work and social engagement. But being notorious, scholar, or engaged have very little to do with how far one is on the path. Besides being notorious, do you think he is a model of accomplishment?

"[...] but impermance is always used in a bitter way. Yes, we are going to get sick, old and then die at the end. Yes we cant cling to experience, but we can recall positive experiences and they change our brain.. this is why loving kindness works. Impermanence is always exploited to the extreme.."

The bitterness understanding of Buddhism is quite unfortunate and buddhists who take that stance often seem to flirt with depression. But I don't think that's a good understanding of the doctrine. See this thread: Buddhism is kind of depressing.

""well since everything is impermanent I give up on everything and better become a monk." Isnt that true?"

I guess if we stick only to genuine motivations that lead people to ordain, than perhaps, yes...it's a decision to be fully dedicated to the way out of suffering -- and, more often than not, to help people as well to ease their own suffering.

"If you go by that belief it's quite bitte because monks that are long in their business havent already realized nirvana/awakening and the chances are high that they wont. So why then belief in Nirvana and Enlightenment?"

I think it's safe to say most monks are monks in the formal sense: they wear robes, and they are affiliated to a sangha. That says nothing about their day to day. Are they committed to training the doctrine of their own religion, do they even know what these are and how to practice them? Or are they doing something else? I think, more often than not, it is the latter case.

And then, there's another kind of monks, people who are often hard to encounter. And these can be quite special people.

"Couldn't it be the case that Buddhism is just another fairy tale that want's to trick people, to live poorly and to keep quiet in tough times due to getting bad karma otherwise?"

It could. Are you sure, though?

"If enlightenment is just about grasping the 3 characteristics and experiencig them during meditation then even an "evil" person can become enlightenment. Why does it take so long to become enlightenment if it is just about seeing the 3 characteristics?"

Perhaps a more informative description of Nirvana (arahatship) is the destruction of ten fetters. Studying what they are might give a glimpse on how hard it is to accomplish this goal.

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Some Mahayana sects might add a few extra requisites to characterize final liberation.

"What if rebirth truly doesnt exist? The whole point in striving for enlightement is then pointless."

Maybe enlightenment would be pointless in this case, but would the entire teachings as well? After all, there's this very life still to take care of.

In one of the discourses, the Kālāmas put forward similar questions to the Buddha. While talking to them, the Buddha found the Kālāmas agreeing that good deeds lead to welfare and that bad deeds lead to harm. In other words, that being a good person has benefits in this lifetime. Then, using a hypothetical person who has strived to become greatly virtuous, he offered the following argument:

“This noble disciple, Kālāmas, whose mind is in this way without enmity, without ill will, undefiled, and pure, has won four assurances in this very life.

“The first assurance he has won is this: ‘If there is another world, and if there is the fruit and result of good and bad deeds, it is possible that with the breakup of the body, after death, I will be reborn in a good destination, in a heavenly world.’

“The second assurance he has won is this: ‘If there is no other world, and there is no fruit and result of good and bad deeds, still right here, in this very life, I maintain myself in happiness, without enmity and ill will, free of trouble.

“The third assurance he has won is this: ‘Suppose evil comes to one who does evil. Then, when I have no evil intentions toward anyone, how can suffering afflict me, since I do no evil deed?’

“The fourth assurance he has won is this: ‘Suppose evil does not come to one who does evil. Then right here I see myself purified in both respects.’

-- AN 3.65

Basically, he is saying that being virtuous has, at least, benefits here in this very life. And if turns out there are intrinsic harmful effects of evil actions, one won't suffer them because one does not do them. Now, if there is another life after death conditioned by the previous one, the effects of bad actions won't drag one to a suffering realm. So, in essence, being virtuous is a win-win situation.

Notice the Buddha is not asking the Kālāmas to believe rebirth at face value. He is just teaching them to be intelligent with their choices in a situation where they don't have the knowledge to be certain about things they are uncertain.

"Most people and monks dont question every doctrine. They use it as Thanissaro Bhikkhu said as a "working hypothesis" and therefore filter out any contrary evidence. What I mean by this is that they are succumbed to an argument of authority."

I think there are people who take what the texts and their teachers say as "working hypothesis" and put them to test. There are also people who take them as authority. And there are people who take them as authority and filter out contrary evidence.

Perhaps the majority is in the blind belief side. Then again, for one example, I read it's pretty much the same scenario in the mathematics circles when Bertrand Russell was studying, when no one questioned the foundations of mathematics or saw it's fragility. It was pure blind belief.

Cracking wrong beliefs is not an easy thing, anywhere.

  • Appreciate your comment Thiago. However, the list about the 10 "to be abandoned fetters" alarmed my bullsh*t sensor. Why? Why is belief in buddha or abandonment of rites the causation of 7 rebirths? Literally, this is pure nonsense. I'm sorry to say it. Buddhism is in this regard in the same way subdued as the western religions. "If you do good and belief you go to heaven, but if not or you do even a single tiny bad thing you will roast in hell". This is distorted black/white thinking... Buddhist talk about objectivity and questioning but they defend their teaching as well out of clinging. – Val Feb 7 '18 at 5:14
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    You might get more clarifying responses by posting a new question about fetters, if you like. As for heaven and hell, that was the point of the passage of the Kalama Sutta: the idea that "being good" has benefits in this very life. Not all buddhists "have faith" in afterlife. As for the remaining remarks, you are, of course, free to judge buddhism and buddhists however you like, and perhaps some individuals you've personally met may fit your criticism, but I don't think your assessments are fair in general, nor are they based on a fair, careful understanding of buddhism. – Thiago Feb 7 '18 at 14:15
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Firstly, if you look at this answer, even one Arahant cannot recognize another Arahant, so no one can confirm the attainments of another definitively.

Secondly, monks are not allowed by the Vinaya to tell their true attainments to the lay people, but they can tell it to other monks. Monks are not allowed to claim to attain something that they did not (that is, to speak the untruth about attainment), to anybody.

Thirdly, you are not forced to attempt to become enlightened or to try to leave suffering (as defined by the Buddha). You can continue as you were. If you're having a good time in samsara and you're quite satisfied with it, you don't have to feel coerced to let go of it.

Fourthly, there are some Secular Buddhists who say that there is no rebirth. This question of your's is best redirected to them: "What if rebirth truly doesnt exist? The whole point in striving for enlightement is then pointless."

  • "Monks are not allowed to lie about their attainments to anybody." ... And thus, If he would be enlightened he would have said it. Suppose he said he truth (which I believe he did), then he probably wont become enlightened in this life time (suppose). If that's the case, what is the point in living in a monastery. Dont get me wrong. Giving, loving and compassion, doing good deeds are good because they feel good both for you and most of the time for the other as well (if the intention is on point) However, the end goal is liberation from rebirth. Otherwise the dhamma is pointless? – Val Feb 6 '18 at 16:26
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    Monks can tell their true attainments to other monks, but not to lay people. However, they cannot claim to attain something that they did not. – ruben2020 Feb 6 '18 at 16:28
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1) If one is skeptical concerning enlightment (because no one besides the buddha and mysteriously ONLY those people in his time got enlightened) does it then even makes sense to practise Buddhism? The whole point is to escape impermanence and attain the unconditioned, Nirvana. If monks like Bhikkhu Bodhi even claim not to have realized enlightenment how are lay people going to realize this?

It is true that enlightenment is very rare, but that doesn't mean that we shouldn't strive our best. We all strive to be educated, but there are only few who are exceptional, in the same way, we do our best to maintain our health but there is no one fully perfect and healthy. So, we take courage and try our best to be enlightened if we succeed well and good if not the way itself is blissful.

2) I agree on the whole point concerning anicca, but impermance is always used in a bitter way. Yes, we are going to get sick, old and then die at the end. Yes we cant cling to experience, but we can recall positive experiences and they change our brain.. this is why loving kindness works. Impermanence is always exploited to the extreme.. "well since everything is impermanent I give up on everything and better become a monk." Isnt that true? If you go by that belief it's quite bitte because monks that are long in their business havent already realized nirvana/awakening and the chances are high that they wont. So why then belief in Nirvana and Enlightenment?

anicca /dukkha/anattaa are higher knowledge and should only be approached by a saintly man who is filled with virtue and his disenchantment with anicca should be based on virtue, not fear or indifference as you put it.

I must admit, especially on this platform, there is a huge amount of intellectual discussion about these ideas, but, in my opinion, it's just a smoke and nonsense to most of us because one has to be truly virtuous to meditate on these higher ideals. For example, for a saintly man who lives for the benefit of other who has no desire of his own in this world except fulfilling other peoples desire, for him the idea of anatta is easy to comprehend.

3) Couldn't it be the case that Buddhism is just another fairy tale that want's to trick people, to live poorly and to keep quiet in tough times due to getting bad karma otherwise?

Buddhism is not a fiction and contrary to what you noted the idea of Karma grants the power of what you become in your hand no external things which are independent of your intention (Karma) can affect what you become and this is freedom, the greatest freedom given to man. Even if it's a fiction as you say, for my part I should like this fiction, by the aid of which I should live happily and undisturbed. But you must consider for yourselves what you wish.

4)If enlightenment is just about grasping the 3 characteristics and experiencing them during meditation then even an "evil" person can become enlightenment

As a said above, only a saintly man should contemplate on these three marks of existence. An evil man or even an ordinary man contemplating on these truths will profit noting and will not lead him to enlightenment but confusion.

5)Why does it take so long to become enlightenment if it is just about seeing the 3 characteristics?

The three marks are said to describe the whole existence, so if it takes half a lifetime to earn mastery of say medicine which is a thin subset of mundane scientific knowledge, understanding the whole of existence will sure take a very long time.

6)What if rebirth truly doesnt exist? The whole point in striving for enlightement is then pointless.

Rebirth is true and there is progress to hope for from this life to the next, but even if it doesn't exist and if we can't achieve enlightenment in this life, the path itself is blissful. We live virtuously, free and untroubled if we follow the noble eightfold path.

7)Most people and monks don't question every doctrine. They use it as Thanissaro Bhikkhu said as a "working hypothesis" and therefore filter out any contrary evidence. What I mean by this is that they are succumbed to an argument of authority.

Well, until you know the truth the best option to follow is what is declared by the all-knower, so faith is needed and filtering out true opinion which leads to knowledge is also needed.

  • How do you know answer 7? – Val Feb 6 '18 at 19:27
  • @Val be courageous and remain inquisitive as you did here and you will know the truth. Volition the ability to discern doesn't get hindered by ignorance, although ignorance prevented it from knowing the correct answer immediately. – user13011 Feb 6 '18 at 20:21
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The whole point is to escape impermanence and attain the unconditioned, Nirvana. If monks like Bhikkhu Bodhi even claim not to have realized enlightenment how are lay people going to realize this?

Both in the Buddha's time & today, only a relative few people are able to attain enlightenment; which is the official teaching of Buddhism (refer to Dhammapada 174). Buddhism itself is not deceiving people (although many modern so-called teachers are deceiving people).

"well since everything is impermanent I give up on everything and better become a monk."

Buddhism does not teach this to all people. For ordinary people who cannot abandon sex & family, due to instinctual drives, urges & fears, Buddhism teaches them to make good kamma so they can go to "heaven" (DN 31).

So why then belief in Nirvana and Enlightenment?

Buddhism is not about belief. Buddhism is for people who desperately need to find peace because the world is not an attractive place for them. If you still believe TV, movies, sex, luxury, fancy cars, boats, video games, porn, family, God, Jesus, etc, are attractive, desirable & worthwhile things, enlightenment is probably not for you.

Couldn't it be the case that Buddhism is just another fairy tale that want's to trick people, to live poorly and to keep quiet in tough times due to getting bad karma otherwise?

Yes, Buddhism is another fairy tale but only for puthujjana (the blind masses). Refer again to Dhammapada 174.

If enlightenment is just about grasping the 3 characteristics and experiencig them during meditation then even an "evil" person can become enlightenment

No. An "evil" person cannot even see the 3 characteristics because the mind of an evil person has too many hindrances.

Why does it take so long to become enlightenment if it is just about seeing the 3 characteristics?

It doesn't take long. It only takes a long time for ordinary people who have lots of instinctual drives ("hindrances"), such as sexual lust, fear of death & selfishness.

What if rebirth truly doesnt exist? The whole point in striving for enlightement is then pointless.

Reincarnation is not related to enlightenment. Further, reincarnation does not exist. The only real "re-birth" is the rebirth of thoughts of egoism.

Most people and monks dont question every doctrine. They use it as Thanissaro Bhikkhu said as a "working hypothesis" and therefore filter out any contrary evidence. What I mean by this is that they are succumbed to an argument of authority.

Thanissaro has done many wrong translations and given many wrong teachings however his PDF internet book called 'Shape of Suffering' is true & real. Buddhism teaches its followers to question every doctrine (AN 3.65; MN 95; MN 38; etc).

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  1. On rebirth

The continuity of the self experiencing process may arguably be described as a fabrication, a weaving together of arisings and passings of conditionally determined moments of consciousness, a stream of deaths and (re)births funnelled through stages of becoming by the psycho physical aggregates of the 'experiencer' tightly knit together by the energy of craving. Following that line of thought, the break-up of the body is nothing but a moment of that process, albeit a more noticeable one.

SN 22:100 SN 22:22

Now, about the kammic energy of craving fueling the rebirth process, there is a nice sutta using the metaphor of the jumping off sparkles of a fire that, carried away by the breeze, can ignite another raging fire, even a long way away... But for the life of me, I just can't remember the precise reference right now.

With Mettā

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Many of your questions are well-addressed in the Kalama Sutta. The tl;dr of the Sutta is that a group of people, who are overwhelmed many different spiritual paths, ask the Buddha how they should evaluate the truth of one path over another. The Buddha provides a response indicating morality and mindfulness as paths that lead to benefit, regardless of doctrinal differences (e.g. belief in afterlife, etc). Paths of greed and hatred will not be beneficial in this life or in another.

This Sutta also establishes a general principle in Buddhism: we are not expected to believe in doctrines; rather, if we wish to improve the conditions of our lives, the Buddha gives us tools that we can put to the test directly. You don't need to believe in impermanence, rebirth, kamma, nibbana, etc. to practice meditation or live by a moral code. But if you do practice morality and mindfulness, your life will improve precisely because your mind, meaning how you see the world, will have changed fundamentally.

This might answer some of your questions on, e.g. on impermanence: The Buddha teaches that impermanence is a fact of life. Recognizing or rather experiencing this is not about giving up on life; it's about understanding what you can and cannot control in life, which in turn may help you understand what things are truly valuable in life. We learn from this that pursuing money, wealth, and fame, for example, simply cannot lead to true happiness because these things are impermanent, subject to change, and beyond our control. Monks are (possibly) not people who have given up on life, but rather people who have decided to pursue the things in life that really are valuable and within our control, viz. morality and purification of the mind through meditation. Obviously, this is not an easy thing, but no one ever said it would be. Nevertheless, there are so many grades of benefit that moral living and meditation bring, that even one who does not attain nibbana in this life will benefit in the here and now from good conduct.

This also (hopefully) answers many of your other questions: Enlightenment is not just about "academically" or "theoretically" understanding the Four Noble Truths or the Three Characteristics. It is really about incorporating them fully into one's experience of life, which can only be done by personally testing them through moral living and meditation. This is why an "evil" (i.e. immoral) person cannot attain enlightenment; by definition such a person has not really let go of the defilements that prevent us from experiencing these characteristics as a reality.

Happy to clarify where needed.

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If monks like Bhikkhu Bodhi even claim not to have realized enlightenment how are lay people going to realize this?

There are even lay people who have this attainment friend. Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi is a good translator, unfortunately he is not famous for his meditation skills or achievements. Which may be plentiful, i would not know as monks are not allowed to claim any.

I read that, The Buddha would not die before he had lay people and monks of both genders firmly established and capable of upholding. So

The monastic community has no monopoly on attainments. If you are looking for attainments look for meditation monks in last 100 years. You can look for lay people too but that is probably impossible to verify in any way as they rarely explain their views and often weird people in general in that group who claims such things among normal people etc

  • Do you mean by attainment "enlightenment"? You didnt answer my question really. How do you know that laypeople achieved realization? Just because someone says so or is regarded as an authority person doesnt make it so. Just because one knows the dharma and practises for 30 years there is no proof that they are enlightenment. Actually you can't proof enlightenment and if you cant proof it, believing in rebirth becomes pointless. – Val Feb 6 '18 at 16:17
  • read the litterature i suggested, then we can talk more. – 1231546 Feb 6 '18 at 16:25
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1. If one is skeptical concerning enlightment does it then even makes sense to practise Buddhism?

I think it does (make sense): because the Dhamma is meant to be "good in the beginning, good in the middle, good in the end" (references).

So even if you're skeptical (or unclear) about the end, you might practice the beginning because you understand the beginning as good.

The whole point is to escape impermanence and attain the unconditioned, Nirvana.

Also I'm not sure that enlightenment is the whole point (see Nirvana fallacy).

And I'm not sure that the goal is to escape impermanence ... I think that it (a goal) may be to escape dukkha (i.e. suffering or unsatisfactoriness), and/or to become a better person (or a better teacher).

If monks like Bhikkhu Bodhi even claim not to have realized enlightenment how are lay people going to realize this?

In case it helps, there's a theory of stages of enlightenment ... even a little is better than none (remember, "good in the beginning").

2. Yes we cant cling to experience, but we can recall positive experiences and they change our brain.. this is why loving kindness works.

Yes. Recall (recollection) is important in Buddhism ... including recollection of virtue which is said to be associated with concentration (references here and here and here).

Also on page 82 of this:

Thus, the Commentary notes, a bhikkhu talking to a dying patient should be 82 very circumspect in how he chooses his words, focusing not on how to speed up the dying process but on how to inspire the patient with the following thoughts: “The attainment of the paths and fruitions is not out of the ordinary for a virtuous person. So, having formed no attachment for such things as your dwelling, and establishing mindfulness in the Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, or the body, you should be heedful in your attention.” The Vinita-vatthu to Pr 4 contains a number of stories in which bhikkhus comfort a dying bhikkhu by asking him to reflect on what he has attained through the practice, which was apparently a common way of encouraging a dying bhikkhu to focus his thoughts on the best object possible. The suttas also contain advice on how to encourage patients facing death. See, for example, MN 143, SN 36.7, and AN 6.16. In all of these cases, the advice is aimed not at precipitating death but at inspiring calm and insight.

"well since everything is impermanent I give up on everything and better become a monk." Isnt that true?

Maybe not true. For a start, there is a place for lay people in Buddhism ... I presume a majority of Buddhists are lay people ... though in some Buddhist countries, I think a majority of lay people have become monks temporarily (reference).

Also I think you don't "give up everything" ... instead perhaps you "take on" the Noble Eightfold Path ... or "take refuge" (also known as "go for refuge").

If you go by that belief it's quite bitte because monks that are long in their business havent already realized nirvana/awakening and the chances are high that they wont. So why then belief in Nirvana and Enlightenment?

Perhaps because you have belief in the Buddha and the Dhamma too, and because what you know of the Dhamma (in "the beginning" and/or "the middle") makes sense to you, agrees with your experience).

3. Couldn't it be the case that Buddhism is just another fairy tale that want's to trick people, to live poorly and to keep quiet in tough times due to getting bad karma otherwise?

Yes and no?

Published characteristics of the Dhamma are:

Svākkhāto bhagavatā dhammo:
sandiṭṭhiko akāliko
ehipassiko opaneyyiko
paccattaṃ veditabbo viññūhī ti.

The Dhamma is well declared by the Bhagavā:
visible here and now, immediate,
inviting to come and see, effective,
to be individually ascertained by the wise.

In other words I think you're supposed to understand it, make sense of it, use it, not just believe it.

4. If enlightenment is just about grasping the 3 characteristics and experiencig them during meditation then even an "evil" person can become enlightenment.

I'm not sure that enlightenment is just about grasping the 3 characteristics. I think it's more about the (two or) three poisons, the ten fetters, and so on -- see also Buddhist Paths to liberation.

5. Why does it take so long to become enlightenment if it is just about seeing the 3 characteristics?

That reminds me of this sutta:

If that's so, Master Ananda, then it's an endless path, and not one with an end ...

Another theory is that some (or many, or all) people only have to reattain an enlightenment which has already occurred.

Another theory is that cessation happens frequently; but there's "rebirth" (of, for example, a sense-of-self etc.), and what takes a while is practice which allows those "births" to cease.

6. What if rebirth truly doesnt exist? The whole point in striving for enlightement is then pointless.

Some people reckon it's important for (during) this life.

7. Most people and monks dont question every doctrine. They use it as Thanissaro Bhikkhu said as a "working hypothesis" and therefore filter out any contrary evidence. What I mean by this is that they are succumbed to an argument of authority.

If I can try to think of an example, think of two different bits of doctrine:

  • "The noble truths"

    The first two or three noble truths sound plausible to me ... relevant, important, accurate ... and so, I think, let's take that as a "working hypothesis" and find out more about that.

  • "Arahants can fly"

    Conversely "arahants can fly" is a bit different ... I don't know what to do with that doctrine, how to make use of it ... I don't want to question it, exactly, but it's not a bit of doctrine that I try to use ... even though I don't question it, I don't think it's right to say that I have "succumbed to an argument of authority". Instead it's a subject I'm agnostic about i.e. something which I literally don't know about.

I think one does sometimes see people expressing a bit of scepticism about this and that; or saying that they take a non-literal interpretation of so-and-so.

A lot of people though may be reluctant to get into big arguments about doctrine ... it might seem like they "succumb" quietly (by not arguing) but I might interpret that instead as people quietly making way.

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Let my person "answer" with a counterquestion: Does sceptic gives any lasting release and how - for sure such times can remembered - doesn't faith and vision gives more to hold on and to not let oneself fall into a meaningless hole with all it's effects afterwards? At least, here what could be lost aside of rebirth while not living a visionless death life? Who ever could give such a "money back guarantee"?

"So it is, Blessed One. So it is, O One Well-gone. One who is a disciple of the noble ones — his mind thus free from hostility, free from ill will, undefiled, & pure — acquires four assurances in the here-&-now:

"'If there is a world after death, if there is the fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then this is the basis by which, with the break-up of the body, after death, I will reappear in a good destination, the heavenly world.' This is the first assurance he acquires.

"'But if there is no world after death, if there is no fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then here in the present life I look after myself with ease — free from hostility, free from ill will, free from trouble.' This is the second assurance he acquires.

"'If evil is done through acting, still I have willed no evil for anyone. Having done no evil action, from where will suffering touch me?' This is the third assurance he acquires.

"'But if no evil is done through acting, then I can assume myself pure in both ways.' This is the fourth assurance he acquires.

"One who is a disciple of the noble ones — his mind thus free from hostility, free from ill will, undefiled, & pure — acquires these four assurances in the here-&-now.

To the Kalamas

Following just that much, associating with people of firm convidence, one arives at doubtlessness naturally. Is there any reasonable argument not to seek and associate with skillful deeds and those firm with it?

So the famous Mangala-Sutta starts not out of reason with the root condition of being really blessed:

Not consorting with fools, consorting with the wise, paying homage to those worthy of homage: This is the highest protection.

One in doubt seeking for an end of doubt may always feel welcome and give it a challenge for release. It's not the case that the Buddha did not invite to test and give him, his Dhamma and the Sangha a challenge or good prove. But it's not the case that there will be sacrifices of that without duties for the sake of resist in the middle of doubt.

So even seeking for a firm vision is ones personal choice, ones personal sacrify, ones personal giving for a better "gain".

First Things First and Respect, Confidence and Patient are by the way two useful talk if that much sacrify and devotion, giving, can be given to be able to take.

If associating with those of doubt, approaching and asking "fools", honor what actually does not hold to be worthy of being honored, how can unshakable confidence, such based on "when you know for yourselves" be ever expected? How can security be found if no refuge is taken? And again: how does doubt feel?

[Note: This is a gift of Dhamma, not meant for commercial use or other low trades and exchange for the world.]

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  1. The purpose of buddhist practice is to put a end to dukkha (a.k.a. suffering, stress, unhappiness, discontentment). Full enlightenment is the culmination of this practice. Knowing that every sentient being has interest in live at ease free from dukkha as much as possible, even if you can't attain full enlightenment, reducing dukkha will increase peace and contentment, so the practice still profitable.

  2. If you train the mind appropriately, renunciation is blissful

Ud 2.10
[The Buddha:] "Is it true, Bhaddiya that, on going to a forest, to the foot of a tree, or to an empty dwelling, you repeatedly exclaim, 'What bliss! What bliss!'?"

[Ven. Bhaddiya:] "Yes, lord."

"What meaning do you have in mind that you repeatedly exclaim, 'What bliss! What bliss!'?"

"Before, when I was a householder, maintaining the bliss of kingship, I had guards posted within and without the royal apartments, within and without the city, within and without the countryside. But even though I was thus guarded, thus protected, I dwelled in fear — agitated, distrustful, and afraid. But now, on going alone to a forest, to the foot of a tree, or to an empty dwelling, I dwell without fear, unagitated, confident, and unafraid — unconcerned, unruffled, my wants satisfied, with my mind like a wild deer. This is the meaning I have in mind that I repeatedly exclaim, 'What bliss! What bliss!'"

Renunciation is contrary to popular opinion because lay people live their lives indulging in worldly sense pleasures. But the sense pleasures are not inherently atractive, its apparent attractiveness actually is conditioned by the mind and its concomitants through giving attention only to the brief agreable aspect of the of the sense experiences and being unaware of the disagreeable aspect.

MN 149

"For him — infatuated, attached, confused, not remaining focused on their drawbacks — the five clinging-aggregates head toward future accumulation. The craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now this & now that — grows within him. His bodily disturbances & mental disturbances grow. His bodily torments & mental torments grow. His bodily distresses & mental distresses grow. He is sensitive both to bodily stress & mental stress."

As the Buddha investigate the nature of dukkha, he did the opposite:

AN 9.41

"So it is, Ananda. So it is. Even I myself, before my Awakening, when I was still an unawakened Bodhisatta, thought: 'Renunciation is good. Seclusion is good.' But my heart didn't leap up at renunciation, didn't grow confident, steadfast, or firm, seeing it as peace. The thought occurred to me: 'What is the cause, what is the reason, why my heart doesn't leap up at renunciation, doesn't grow confident, steadfast, or firm, seeing it as peace?' Then the thought occurred to me: 'I haven't seen the drawback of sensual pleasures; I haven't pursued [that theme]. I haven't understood the reward of renunciation; I haven't familiarized myself with it. That's why my heart doesn't leap up at renunciation, doesn't grow confident, steadfast, or firm, seeing it as peace."

He find out that the pursue of the wordly sense pleasures is inevitably entangled with a mass of dukkha and as he meditates further, he became gradually and naturally disenchanted with them.

SN 56.31

"And what have I taught? 'This is stress... This is the origination of stress... This is the cessation of stress... This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of stress': This is what I have taught. And why have I taught these things? Because they are connected with the goal, relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. This is why I have taught them."

This means that those monks whom renounce and practice properly will not bitter for had renounced to lay life because they will naturally lose interest in worldly sense pleasure and stay satisfied.

  1. It seems that you distrust the Buddha's teachings because (maybe) you lack understanding and familiarity towards the mechanics of the mind.

  2. It can't because a evil person is highly passionate for sense pleasures to the point of harm other beings.

  3. I think it takes more than just "seeing the 3 characteristics", the Buddha teaches a gradual training.

  4. If there is no rebirth, enlightenment still worth as unconditional peace, contentment, freedom and fearlessness in this life.

  5. At the end of the day, the subjects that really matters are those which have pratical implications in our lives and the range of the problem of dukkha encompass all our live (from birth to death), so the resolution of this problem is what really will determine our happiness or unhappiness. Worrying about "not succumbed to an argument of authority" is just another form of craving for sense pleasure of self-identification entangled with dukkha. As long as you make the right questions to evaluate your deeds by mind, body and speech everything will be alright.

  • Do they (the deeds) lead to stress and suffering, or to the end of stress and suffering?
  • If they lead to stress, are they necessary?
  • If not, why do them again?
  • If they lead to the end of stress, how can you master them as skills?

                           With each & Every Breath by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
    

These are the questions that really has pratical implications in our lives. Belief in rebirth is harmless and it may actually propel the practice to end suferring, if it is not appealing to you, just put it aside for now.

protected by Andrei Volkov Feb 10 '18 at 0:16

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