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Why Buddhism is True

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Why Buddhism is True (And Why You Can Blame Natural Selection for Your Suffering)

 

In this adaptation from his new book, Why Buddhism is True, Robert Wright explains how evolutionary psychology supports the Buddhist diagnosis of the human predicament.

 

By Robert Wright

 

The Matrix is sometimes said to be a “dharma movie” because it allegorically captures the human predicament as Buddhism depicts it: Life as ordinarily lived is a kind of illusion, and you can’t be truly free until you pierce the illusion and look into the heart of things. Until you “see it for yourself,” as one character explains to Neo, you will remain in “bondage.”

 

That robot overlords are behind the illusion afflicting Neo is in one sense a blessing. They give him something to rebel against—and rebellions are energizing! An oppressive enemy focuses the mind and steels you for the struggle ahead.

 

That would come in handy with the Buddhist struggle against illusion, because meditation, a big part of that struggle, can be hard to sustain—getting on the cushion every day, even when you don’t feel like it, and then carrying the insights from meditation into everyday life. Too bad that in Buddhism there’s no evil perpetrator of delusion to fight!

 

In traditional Buddhism, actually, there is: the Satan-like supernatural being named Mara, who unsuccessfully tempted the Buddha during the epic meditation session that led to his great awakening. Mara, though, has no place in the more secular Buddhism that has been spreading through the west in recent years. Kind of disappointing.

 

But there’s good news on this front. If you would like to think of meditation practice as being a rebellion against an oppressive overlord, there’s a way to do that: just think of yourself as fighting your creator, natural selection.

 

Full article:

https://tricycle.org/trikedaily/why-buddhism-is-true/

 

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Great title, great idea - showing the much suspected truth of Buddhist thinking by bringing the philosophical closer to the scientific. 

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Interesting article! I tend to agree with most of the points made in the article. We are products of our evolutionary heritage. The guiding force of all life forms is survival and reproduction. That's what distinguishes the inanimate from the animate. All life-forms, whether bacteria, insects, plants, tigers, monkeys or humans, do whatever is necessary to survive.

 

We tend to kid ourselves that we are special because of our religious explanations for our creation, but such religious beliefs, however benign and peace-loving, do not seem to have stopped the continual slaughtering of other humans in the interests of the survival and dominance of a particular group, tribe or nation, throughout the history of humanity. This is pure animal behaviour.

 

As a result of our increased brain power, we are able to cause far more devastation than any other animal on the planet, when we give free reign to our animal instincts.

 

However, there is a value in religions, at their best, and I emphasize 'best' because there's a lot of clap-trap and nonsense in all religions, which has to be sorted out, through a process of rational thought, as represented by the advice given by the Buddha in the Kalama Sutta.

 

It is the peace-loving aspect of all religions which tends to counter the aggressive instincts of our animal condition.
The Christian principles of 'Love thine Enemy', 'Love thy neighbour as oneself', and so on, and the Buddhist principles of 'Do no harm to any sentient creature', are designed to counteract, and offer a solution to the problems resulting from our animal instincts.

 

Unfortunately, our animal instincts are so strong that even those who claim to to be Christian or Buddhist will often give way to their animal instincts. Look at what's currently happening  in the Buddhist country of Myanmar, with regard to the Rohingha. What's happening is clearly against fundamental Buddhist principles, but fundamental animal instincts have dominated, in this case, despite the Buddhist culture.
 

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Interesting idea: that natural selection is our Creator.

 

The book is a New York Times best-seller, which I guess means that non-Buddhists find it interesting.

 

There's an interview with the author on the Secular Buddhism website.

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On 9/19/2017 at 8:27 PM, camerata said:

Interesting idea: that natural selection is our Creator.

 

Yes. I found the use of the expression 'Creator' a little odd, but Robert did qualify his use of the term with the following statement, "The starting point is that natural selection “cares” about only one thing. (I put “cares” in quotes because natural selection is a blind process, not a conscious designer.)

 

Nevertheless, having admitted that natural selection is a blind process, he continues to use the term as though 'natural selection' is a 'thing' or a 'being' with its own agenda, as in the following phrase: "If you look at the full array of tools natural selection uses to get us to serve its values...."

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I think it is just a literary device. Richard Preston uses it in his books about viruses to make non-sentient globs of protein sound extremely sinister.

 

The book is available on Kindle, so I will definitely be buying it.

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On 9/20/2017 at 10:13 PM, camerata said:

I think it is just a literary device. Richard Preston uses it in his books about viruses to make non-sentient globs of protein sound extremely sinister.

 

The book is available on Kindle, so I will definitely be buying it.

I agree. It's a literary device. But the same could be said of all the supernatural stories in religions in general. When we're in a 'scientific mode', I think we should be more precise in our terminology.

 

I also have a Kindle, and might buy the book. The only reservation I have, is that I don't seem to have the time to read all the books I've already bought during the past years. I don't think I ever finished reading Bertrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy which I bought several decades ago. It's only around a thousand pages. :smile:

 

I haven't yet read the Pali Canon, which is much more than a thousand pages, more like a huge encyclopedia. :smile:

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Try Bhikkhu Bodhi's In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon (The Teachings of the Buddha). He orders the teachings by topic, each followed by an explanation in plain English.

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'How to live without FEAR & WORRY'

'GEMS of Buddhist WISDOM'

 

The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation' - Tapei Taiwan

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On 9/21/2017 at 6:10 PM, camerata said:

Try Bhikkhu Bodhi's In the Buddha's Words: An Anthology of Discourses from the Pali Canon (The Teachings of the Buddha). He orders the teachings by topic, each followed by an explanation in plain English.

I found the book on Amazon for A$10 in e-book format. I've added it to the hundred or so books I already have on my Kindle. I don't know when I'll have the time to read it. That's the problem. I already have a pretty good overview of Buddhist principles and practices, but I'm not particularly motivated to reduce my own suffering because any suffering I might have is so difficult to detect.

 

I'm already quite relaxed and calm with no major problems, health-wise or other-wise, thankfully.

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I was in Fang for 2 days when I was hit by a pickup. I am now confined to a wheelchair for the rest of this life.

I must adjust to what is - I have no choice in the matter.

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