Can humans reach enlightenment?

Discussion in 'Eastern Philosophy' started by Grantywanty, Nov 1, 2007.

  1. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

    Well, you are making an epistemological claim. You are claiming that you have 'done' enlightenment, at least on occasion. How do you know this? How do you know it what is referred to by other people when they use that word? Etc.

    Another claim.

    By the way, you seem to be taking my questions as requests for help or for understanding how one 'does' enlightenment. But this is not the case. I am asking you to back up your claims or to explain how you know certain things.
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  3. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

    I think a concrete question here is do you think swarm really has experienced or practiced enlightenment? at least in any significant way. He seems to, in this subforum - as opposed to the way he communicates in other threads elsewhere - have shifted to the coy, clever neo-mystical 'implication speech' that I find less than impressive.

    I get your issue in general, but I think it is better approached case by case. If you go to the general I think it gets foggy fast.
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  5. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    I think anyone who answers in ways such as -

    is a wannabe.

    Although as far as Buddhism goes, conjecturing about a person's spiritual attainment is something that is considered as bringing madness and vexation to anyone who conjectured about it (see AN 4.77), it remains that we are still responsible for whom we believe and whom we take as our guide.
    And someone who possesses as little instruction wisdom as Swarm here has demonstrated is not someone to take as a guide.

    And if one isn't ready to take another person as an authority on an issue, then there is no point in talking to that person anyway. Other than perhaps to train oneself in critical arguments or merely to quibble ...
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  7. swarm Registered Senior Member

    Actually our exchange went:
    you - What was it about 'practice' that led you to believe enlightenment can be reached?
    me - Doing it.

    I'm engaged in an activity, or practice if you will, and it lead to my belief. My claim is empirical and pragmatic, not epistemological.

    Through experience and observation and through verification of details left by others who have shared their experiences and observations. Its a process very similar to the one employed by science.

    Are you saying you are incapable of practicing or that you cannot experience, observation or verify? Either way it seems like you are being contrary for the sake of being argumentative.

    They are not separate. The understanding is doing the practice. The proof is doing the practice. The explanation is doing the practice. Talking about it, saying "yes" or "no," has no meaning without the practice.

    The greater question of "can humans achieve enlightenment" cannot be addressed until "can I achieve enlightenment" is addressed and we have no common ground to discuss things about that between us until we can agree on "can we achieve enlightenment."
  8. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

    Yes, though in a sense, isn't that part of the topic of the thread. Setting aside the kinds of dominance and agenda related issues involved in these kinds of judgments (and in suppressing them which can be a form of victimhood), it seems one must find one's way.
  9. swarm Registered Senior Member

    Well we should certainly be clear about that.

    These are just the answers I have to the questions asked based on my current realization.

    If you think you can answer better, please do so.

    If you are seeking a guide, piss off.
  10. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    Sure. But to think that this way can or should be completely unique or different from all already proposed ways is setting oneself up for failure. Because seeking such uniqueness or difference will then consume all of one's time and energy, always being eager to define how one's own way differs from all others.

    But as soon as we do take up an already proposed way, we have to keep in line with it. Otherwise, it is like taking a medication but ignoring the instruction on it and taking the medication at our whim and liking - and then wondering or being angry that we didn't get well, that the medication didn't do its job.

    Conversely, when someone claims to be enlightened and uses particular Buddhist concepts, I think it is only fair and right that we hold them to the Buddhist standards - standards that we can, to some extent, use as measurements even if we ourselves are not enlightened.
  11. swarm Registered Senior Member

    No doubt and there is a lot of that between various schools and lineages. That's why I specifically say not to worry about the what of the practice; tea, meditation, yoga, martial arts, the what is not key. In the end the what is always yourself any way.

    Notions of succeeding to keep with it and failing to keep with it is part of what you have to get past. There isn't a particular "job" that is getting "done."

    Measure away. Pick a practice. Do it. See if I'm out of line.

    Question Changeling, who knows me personally.

    Assuming hasn't finally imploded, go to the Buddhism group and ask people who have corresponded with me for years about their opinion and read my public record.

    But if you work past your preconceptions about what you think I'm saying I think you'll see that there is nothing actually that radical about anything I've said.

    To find out the answer. Pick a practice. Do it. Come to a conclusion.

    I did. I have a conclusion I'm coming to. But so what? If I say yes or no, what's that mean to you any way? If you can't tell, you have to learn how to.
  12. VossistArts 3MTA3 Registered Senior Member

    I totally agree with what youre saying here. Even though I've practiced simple Zazen concentration/meditation for 20 years and have been very Buddhist minded in general most of my adult life, I rarely talk about what I have accomplished through my practice, and of what I've understood by way of various Buddhist teachings in a Buddhist or Zen context. I use my own words, because no matter how I see it, I have learned what I've learned from the questions I have found to ask for my own reasons, and I have and always will go about my inner and outer learning process my own way.
    This is the only way.
    If we are to learn anything important about the historical Buddha and his life it will be that he arrived at his destination only after experiencing and abandoning any established forms of practice and then setting out on his own.

    The first thing that seemed really important to me that the Buddha taught, in fact, is that we all must do it our own way, see it for ourselves, sort it out for ourselves. Grasping and understanding Buddhist teachings without actually arriving at and experiencing the sources of those teachings personally and first hand is nothing more than intellectual understanding, it is not realization, and it is not knowing. A true Buddhist has taken what they found useful in Buddhism along with EVERYTHING else they have experienced and has continued to go their OWN way. Forget the Buddha. Sitting like the Buddha was said to have sat, meditating like it's said he did, on the insights and conclusions he reached in his final lifetime is incredibly inappropriate and in my opinion ineffective for anyone else to try and do like him. How many Buddhas are any of you aware of that practicing Buddhism has created?

    That's so true. Buddhism can't decide what you need to do, nor do I think one can just study Buddhism hoping to find out what they need to do and learn, and hope to accomplish it through specific Buddhist means until perhaps, they have made deep breakthroughs and have become very skilled at working with their minds through introspection (meditation) and related processing. It's entertaining to read Buddhist philosophy thinking you understand this and that, but until you spend significant time sitting quietly, examining your thoughts, getting to know and have control of your mind to some extent, and learn how to process new experiences and to properly reflect on past experiences, its just passing the time. Sure some of what you read might fit into a good place at some point in the future, but when that time comes the puzzle piece that's intended to illuminate (enlighten) the subject would be there anyway, just without the Buddhist reference attached to it so...

    Agreed. My recommendation is sitting quietly and counting breaths, watching thoughts come and go. Getting to know yourself in the most simple and obvious way. This is basic Zen practice in other words. In my experience this is the most natural and honest and direct way to start to practice, as free of dogmas and conceptual necessity as any other kind of practice Im aware of. Just my opinion.
    If not that, just continue to live your life, and think about what you're doing and what it means to you. Examine everything you can manage to .

    Same here. And my practice is constantly evolving. There are ever more conclusions to arrive at that will probably then be replaced by different conclusions down the road. Maybe I'll just walk around and talk to people. Maybe I'll decide to dedicate a few years to more formal Zen practice. Maybe Tibetan Buddhism. Maybe Jesus. Maybe I'll become a bartender in Thailand next to a temple. Maybe Ill go to Africa. Work on a farm.Whatever.

    And you'll do whatever you'll do too.. and you'll know you're on your path (if you like calling it that) if you learn from it, when you find moments where you say, " AH HA! NOW I SEE SOMETHING! I GET IT!".

    Enlightenment comes in little steps all the time. Probably everyone has at least of bit of enlightenment. You will definitely find all you can handle though, if you consciously decide that is what you intend to do with your motivation no matter WHAT you do with your life.
  13. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

    I don't think I proposed this - seeking uniqueness and different - but I'm not sure if that's what you're saying either.

    I think this is one of the few ways to interact with non-intimates where there is disagreement: find in their worldview the problems you are experiencing. If you cannot, then the liklihood they will acknowledged the problem with what they are saying or doing is even smaller. It is also an effective tool for evaluating them yourself.

    Sustained attempts to create belief in an axiom they do not share or to somehow make up for different experiences and kinds of expertise seem pretty doomed to me as communication. Perhaps they can be interesting as training of some kind.
  14. swarm Registered Senior Member

    Thanks VossistArts.
  15. Changeling Registered Senior Member

    Swarm: "Question Changeling, who knows me personally."

    "Enlightenment?" I can't speak to that point. However I can give some specific examples.

    1) Swarm doesn't argue. In the ten years we have been together we have had maybe two fights. We have our disagreements, and we both have very strong personalities, but we are almost always able to settle them and get past them without the destructive practice of arguing. He knows how to do this and he taught me to do it too.

    2) Swarm doesn't have problems. Circumstances come and go, things change, difficulties arise...and always, he calmly examines the situation, chooses a course of action, sets it into motion, and then goes ahead enjoying life and being happy. He evaluates, course-corrects, and then moves forward. He has exactly zero angst about life.

    3) Swarm practices non-attachment. During the last month while everybody in the U.S. has been crapping their pants watching our entire economy spinning into a death spiral, Swarm has not lost one moment of sleep. He calmly evaluated our finances, made an adjustment or two, and went back to appreciating the truly important things in life. His wealth can never be lost because it is not measured in money.

    4) Swarm is deeply respected by everyone who knows him. Our friends, even ones we haven't seen in years, call him when they face a life crisis, to ask for specific advice. He is known for being able to see the real dynamics of a situation and focus on pragmatic solutions which really work.

    5) Swarm is a wonderful partner and father. He is concerned, attentive, loving and patient.

    6) Swarm is deeply, truly happy. He gets an amazing and magnificent level of enjoyment out of life.

    I don't know if this constitutes "enlightenment." But I completely agree with him that it is a result of practice, because he has demonstrated this practice to me, showed me how to do it, and by taking up the practice myself, I too have learned how to live a truly happy life.

    It's not important what it's called. What's important is that it really works.
  16. Simon Anders Valued Senior Member

    His enlightenment seems to include
    1) not admitting when he is wrong or hypocritical - and least in some instances
    2) deep concern about the online reputation of something named 'swarm'.
    and you are swooping in to help the reputation of 'swarm' at swarm's request.

    He also makes a point of implying things about the inferiority of certain other people and his superiority. And now you have come in and echoed the latter.

    Whatever he has taught you that you like, well, that is great for you. But the more protests like yours or his and the more implications of his superiority, the less likely at least certain people are going to be to not notice the problem.

    He could be a great, really wise guy 'out there' - and I do believe that - but sorry, he's been a bit of a wanker 'in here'. Maybe he assumes too much in this medium, maybe it is something else.

    And I am working here with what you and he have presented as enlightenment or the preferred way to be and saying he does not seem to fit that definition. Dropping the issue of his great wisdom, which is better shown via interaction rather than proven through testimony in any case, would send a stronger message, than all the posturing that went in both before and after he was called on it.
  17. Changeling Registered Senior Member

    Simon Anders: "...and you are swooping in to help the reputation of 'swarm' at swarm's request."

    You are incorrect. His directive was to the people here to feel free to ask me questions about him. He did not ask me to step into this conversation. However I really wanted to because it's fun.

    I'm glad you are so concerned with him. That says a lot, especially since a couple of posts ago you vowed to ignore him from now on.
  18. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    The part about uniqueness and difference was in regard to your saying "it seems one must find one's way"; for the sake of some predictable objections or agreements mainly from "the gallery", I was addressing the extreme end of finding one's way, namely, complete uniqueness and difference.
    (As an example, in another thread, Psychotic Episode went on and on demanding that people come up with something of their own, as opposed to quoting scripture.)

    I suppose it comes down to spiritual maturity: Spiritually immature people will tend to discuss anything with anyone anytime anyhow. But spiritually maturing people will be very careful about what they discuss and with who and where and how.

    Which brings me back to something said earlier in the thread -

    One doesn't know that in advance. One has faith that he was - that the old scriptures are right.

    I think that unless one is very unhappy, or very proud, or has an exceptional thirst for knowledge (demonstrated by, e.g. daily studying hundreds of pages and limiting all their other human functions), or is simply attracted to God or the Buddha, one will not have the necessary faith to pursue enlightenment, nor will one have the necessary strictness in the way they do it.

    I'm not saying this to look down on anyone. I am pointing out that it is important to be honest about what one really wants and is willing to do. Frankly, most of us are still much too well off, too complacent, too lazy and too easy to distract to take up a serious spiritual practice that makes every moment of life a matter of life and death. Sure, we're unhappy, we want something really really good, we get involved in studying stuff - but none of these states and desires persists 24/7. Instead, for most of us, they come and they go ...
    Perhaps somewhere along the way we might become serious.
  19. Changeling Registered Senior Member

    Greenberg: "Frankly, most of us are still much too well off, too complacent, too lazy and too easy to distract to take up a serious spiritual practice that makes every moment of life a matter of life and death."

    Actually it's not that hard once you get the hang of it. If you practice mindfulness as a spiritual path, it simply acts as an understanding which informs your decisions and perceptions as you move throughout your day. I've seen it referred to as "Every Minute Zen."
  20. greenberg until the end of the world Registered Senior Member

    And I bet you think I have no clue about what you're talking about.

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  21. Changeling Registered Senior Member

    greenberg: "And I bet you think I have no clue about what you're talking about."

    Why would I think that?
  22. swarm Registered Senior Member

    You mean "in your opinion."

    Luckily disagreeing with you and upholding my side of the discussion is not being wrong.

    Being wrong is no big deal and when I am wrong I take steps to correct it if it is pertinent. Like when I miss attributed something to greenberg earlier.

    You just have to ask. "Swarm" was my stage name back in the day when I was DJing. I picked it because of the patterns the dancers make when the music really connects. I've used it for over a decade now whenever a pseudonym is needed.

    But isn't judging people on their name a bit juvenile and petty for you?

    Its funny how you ask questions you don't really seem to want answers to and then when I offer my actual experience resolving those issues you can do nothing but try to attack my character. Your objections are petty and your arguments seem mainly composed of incredulity at being challenged.

    When it becomes obvious you have no leg to stand on you stick you fingers in your ears and shout "lalala I'm ignoring you lalala."

    I think the embarrassment would choke a lesser man.
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2008
  23. swarm Registered Senior Member

    I don't see that finding one's way necessitates complete uniqueness and difference beyond the personal uniqueness and difference of being yourself and not someone else. For example I found my own way to the summit of Mt Rainier, but it wasn't completely unique and different from those who went before me, with me, or after me. My understanding is that finding your own way is more about taking responsibility for your practice.

    Yes, some people become timid, some are quiet, some are secretive, but others are not. You should be careful about confusing maturity with style.

    There are a number of issues here. First dukkha is endemic to the non enlightened state. Every one already is suffering sufficiently to stop. There is no need to suffer more first, indeed it would be cruel to turn someone away with “your pain isn’t great enough to be helped.” Instead the compassionate stance is to help anyone who wishes to stop suffering if you can without personal bias about the quality or quantity of their suffering.

    Second, while there are certainly those who use faith, I find faith a hindrance. I prefer to test things for myself and personally find something’s worth. When something works as describe, it is apparent and no faith is needed. When it doesn’t, all the faith in the world won’t change things. But that’s again just a matter of style.

    Finally one should not confuse monasticism with practice. “Strictness” has no more to do with it than anything else. Ferocious struggle and harsh discipline can be as much a hindrance as a deliverance. It really depends on who you are and what your personal hang ups are. Ikkyu is a good example of this. It is a middle way of enough discipline, enough laxness, enough but not too much or too little, but monasticism is usually not this for your average person.

    I think you are caught up in the notion that it is hard, requiring great effort, astounding intellect, etc.

    It is not. That is just what some people throw at it before they realize it isn’t that at all. It is easy. It is just the right effort as things align because you stop making everything harder than it has to be.

    Start with who you are. You don’t have to be someone you aren’t before starting.

    So take up an unserious spiritual practice.

    There is nothing that “makes” every moment of life a matter of life and death. Every moment of life already is a matter of life and death.

    Why wait?

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