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TOPIC: Beginning - Middle - ???

Beginning - Middle - ??? 14 Mar 2013 18:05 #9980

This conversation is great :) My own take on definitions or conceptions of the divine was that I share Jackson's problem with any conception of an interventionist god, but once you have a god who is completely non-interventionist (unless they are a witness who could intervene but doesn't, in which case you have the same moral problem) it seems to me to remove whatever that might be - the sum of everything, causality, a first point, an underlying strata of some kind - from the realm of something that I personally would describe as 'god.'

I'm reminded of Nick Cave's 'Into My Arms':

"I don’t believe in an interventionist god
But I know, darling, that you do"
Last Edit: 14 Mar 2013 18:07 by every3rdthought. Reason: edited to include link
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 14 Mar 2013 18:15 #9982

Jackson Wilshire wrote:
Mike, I think there are many different ways to conceptualize the divine. Not all such concepts bother me. To see all beings as an interconnected reality, and as the hands and feet of the otherwise impersonal divine, is just fine by me. That conception works better with a "causes and conditions" mentality than it does an "it happens because it was supposed to, for some deeper purpose" mentality.

Ah, I see we're not so far apart here. Yes, other than a multitude of purposes I see no overriding purpose in existence or "things happen for a reason" - I agree God isn't all powerful -at least the way we conceptualize power. There is apparently immense power in the creation of the universe however, and in its ongoing unfolding. As for taking suffering personally I'd like to think that a way can be found clear of that - but maybe that's just idealism. I can't fathom how time and space could apparently exist without suffering. But as you suggest perhaps we're too dull, too limited to ever grok it.
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 14 Mar 2013 18:25 #9983

What causes people to posit a God in the first place? I have never been able to see the, um, point. I'm not trying to create an argument about this but God is not a necessary condition of our existence as far as I can tell ;-)
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 14 Mar 2013 18:28 #9985

Mike Ramos wrote:
....I agree God isn't all powerful -at least the way we conceptualize power. There is apparently immense power in the creation of the universe however, and in its ongoing unfolding. ...

Mike, doesn't this get at a very critical point? Ideally, for a person with a spiritual practice, the concepts they hold at various times should be a combination of props and pointers that help them move deeper. If a particular concept is clung to vigorously, it solidifies into something unhelpful and limiting. So the Angry God concept may fit well with a child's perspective on angry adults. They may then begin to see that not ALL adults are angry...so maybe the Angry God concept was a limited view. What seems more relevant now? Or at a point a person may see God as largely a parental giver of stuff - God, I want a car. God, I want a girlfriend. God, where is my beautiful life? And when this proves not to work as planned, how does one rethink ones ideas of control and causality? Or in a surrender practice one may focus on God as the one in control of ones life, much as a meditator might begin to notice that thoughts and phenomena arise independently of our wanting them to... And what does that imply? And, as I am working with now, if the love I give to God is actually his own love returning to itself in a continuous flow, what does that say about my role in the relationship? It runs into an incongruous lingering duality which has been whacking me over the head for a good while and will work itself out soon enough, when it feels like it.

What seems relevant to me is that all spiritual "beliefs" are actually intended to be practices or pointers for investigation. In a maturing life, ones relationship to these things *should* be constantly maturing. Being aware of (in a self-aware way) that relationship is very useful, I think.
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 14 Mar 2013 18:44 #9990

Chris Marti wrote:
What causes people to posit a God in the first place? I have never been able to see the, um, point. I'm not trying to create an argument about this but God is not a necessary condition of our existence as far as I can tell ;-)

Speaking for myself I cannot explain it. It's an intuition. Right now it's a very helpful one for me, but held loosely, understanding there is no way to name what many (most?) who've had awakenings intuit on some level. And although it's helpful for now, I'm wary of staking a claim anywhere, I'm just following my nose here.
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 14 Mar 2013 18:51 #9992

Yes, of course. It's my nose that says there's no one, nothing there. It's just process all the way down. Probably quantum, probably driven by probabilities more than anything else. But, of course, I'm a science geek, grew up with scientists all around me, and their views and explanations were my starting point for this kind of inquiry.
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 14 Mar 2013 18:55 #9993

Ona Kiser wrote:
It runs into an incongruous lingering duality which has been whacking me over the head for a good while and will work itself out soon enough, when it feels like it.

Wow, this is exactly the issue I'm dealing with in this approach. At some point, as long as we are still getting up and crossing a room, or breathing, we have to accept the split. I think this is what the Buddha was pointing to (among other things) with his Middle Way.
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 14 Mar 2013 18:57 #9995

I have just removed a duplicate post. I hope that's okay.

- Chris
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 14 Mar 2013 18:58 #9996

Chris Marti wrote:
Yes, of course. It's my nose that says there's no one, nothing there. It's just process all the way down. Probably quantum, probably driven by probabilities more than anything else. But, of course, I'm a science geek, grew up with scientists all around me, and their views and explanations were my starting point for this kind of inquiry.

I can roll with that! :)
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 14 Mar 2013 20:39 #10000

Eric wrote:
I guess a certain amount of what I see here is what I would refer to as arguments from the absolute. Which is fine, right, nothing to do, this is simply happening, how could it be otherwise, etc. It does seem that this perspective should theoretically lead to no discussion at all.

But it at least appears to me that (and I hate to say it) effort :ohmy: of some kind had a role....
Hi Eric. I agree with your premise.

Thankfully, I've recently found online communities (such as this one) where they may mention things from a higher perspective but at least it is put into context. After we put in the effort to get past SE to ?? path - this is how we see things.

I hope from the comments you received on this topic, you now feel you can appreciate (as I do) the viewpoints of those who have done the work, and feel inspired to put in the effort.
:-)
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 15 Mar 2013 15:39 #10021

Ona Kiser wrote:
I cannot look back at my life and see anything as "a waste". Each thing I did led me to do something else. Doing something that "didn't work for me" led me to recognize something else as a better choice.

Does anyone else have this perspective? I didn't have it until somewhere shortly before waking up. It was a big change for me.

This has been my default perspective my whole life, more or less. In fact I didn't realize that it was even a perspective until one particular evening in my twenties hanging out with some friends and the topic of what you would change about your past came up. I was surprised that people really thought that way. I guess I thought only characters in movies and books did lol?

Anyhow it's easier now to imagine alternative scenarios and really look at what certain decisions or mistakes cost me, or wonder what my life would be like if certain key events of childhood had gone differently. This has become possible since awakening, so go figure. I don't get bogged down in this, it's not ruminating-- just sudden flashes of how different my life could be if certain things had been different. It's accompanied by strong deep feeling, positive or negative in inverse to the imagined alternative life (i.e., imagining a positive alternative feels bad/sense of loss, imagining a negative alternative feels good/thankfulness).
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 15 Mar 2013 15:47 #10022

Jackson Wilshire wrote:
In other words, I don't buy the claim that we god makes us suffer in order that we grow and mature. If god is all powerful, it can make us mature and grow without suffering. The way I see it, any god that needlessly requires suffering as a precondition for growth is not worthy of my praise.

What if 'god' values human freedom above a lack of suffering? What if 'god' can't make us grow?

I'm agnostic on the theism question, personally, but I thought these were interesting questions in response to your thoughts.

I used to do sweat lodges when I was growing up with some older guys. The one dude had gone out west and found a medicine man who adopted him and taught him the ways. Well one day this medicine man came to Maine to visit and led a sweat. During the sweat there is a time to make prayers. Later Sam (the medicine man from the reservation) said something to the effect of: ";You know when you guys all pray to the great spirit for growth and wisdom and stuff like that, you're praying for suffering right?" Then he had a big laugh ;) Anyhow there seems to be some truth to that, don't you think? ETA: even in the sense of turning towards suffering in order to learn to suffer less through mindfulness. Growth seems to often involve discomfort.
Last Edit: 15 Mar 2013 15:49 by Jake St. Onge.
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 15 Mar 2013 15:57 #10023

Good points, Jake.

I think it's true that suffering affords a tremendous opportunity for growth in many cases.

To answer your two questions:

1.) Why does valuing freedom over suffering necessitate the possibility of suffering in the first place? In other words, why would god create suffering?
2.) If god can't make us grow, than he can't do everything, and is thus not all-powerful.

Let's throw god a proverbial bone here... Maybe god allows suffering in cases where growth is the end result. But surely not every occasion of suffering is good for growth. Sometimes the suffering truly is greater than one can handle, especially in the case of children who have yet to develop the capacity to reframe their experience into positive, helpful views. So, I'm left with the same problem.

I'm all for people believing in a god with limited powers but an unlimited heart, or vice versa. And this is why the idea that a personal god who preordains every event in order to bring about some greater purpose, is untenable to me.
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 15 Mar 2013 16:03 #10024

For those who don't know, I should mention that I was a bona fide Jesus Freak from about age 13 to 19. I was a worship leader for the youth group band, and I went to a bible college for three years. It was during the third year that I began to honestly question what I believed, and what I was being taught. I finally looked into other faiths, and surveyed different philosophical positions. It didn't take long for the edifice of my Christian faith to begin crashing down around me.
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 15 Mar 2013 18:44 #10026

Thanks for your thoughtful replies Jackson! Like I said, I'm pretty agnostic on the theism front. I just don't have any skin in that game, and no pet theories of particular interest either. But I definitely appreciate your basic reasoning, and find it reasonable ;) To whit "I'm all for people believing in a god with limited powers but an unlimited heart, or vice versa". I guess I've mostly leaned in that direction if I had to pick a position. On the other hand I've had some theistic friends who showed me other possibilities were equally reasonable, which depend on the difference between god's intentional will (what he/she wants to happen and thus happens) and god's 'permissive will' which is a will to permit human freedom, knowing that we might mess things up. Of course in that scenario, there are no gaurentees that everything will turn out all right, which is why Jesus happens in that world view, to restore what has gone awry, one heart at a time. Hahaha, I'm preaching to the unconverted though huh? It's funny cause I've had the opposite trajectory: my upbringing biased me heavily against Judeo-Christian thinking.
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 16 Mar 2013 09:18 #10035

I guess I have experienced points in my life where I believed in god, but then again I was young. It seems so clearly cultural and a psychological crutch or security blanket of sorts. There seems to be some sort of a need there that one can let go of, and, being as the whole awakening thing seems to be about this type of letting go, the remnants of belief like that are yet another bit of mystery. Perhaps it lines up with the idea of "something greater than oneself," and other things we stumble on in meditation, and ends up being retained. (I think that's an interesting topic - what is let go of, and what is retained, in this process). And perhaps it is still too culturally rude not to go along with the crowd.

I spoke about "wasting" my time within the mushroom culture (zen in my case). I can see all of that, like everything else, as just happening. Or even useful in some way. For example, I seem to have recently reframed a lot of old stuff where I was bullied as a kid, realizing that in some way those other kids were just pointing out some of my more glaring weaknesses. In that way, they may have helped me (being very generous here). At the same time, though, they were still assholes and I can't help but thinking that there are a lot more constructive ways to go about that. Similarly, in zen I think there's probably a bit more that could be said other than "just sit," at least for a beginner.
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 16 Mar 2013 10:01 #10041

Zen is zen. For some it's very useful and it really works. I think we need to be careful not to diss any individual traditions just because we had a bad experience or they didn't work for us. My hope is that on this message board we can avoid being Theravada/noting snobs :)
Last Edit: 16 Mar 2013 10:02 by Chris Marti.
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 17 Mar 2013 21:03 #10125

Jackson Wilshire wrote:
...But surely not every occasion of suffering is good for growth. Sometimes the suffering truly is greater than one can handle, especially in the case of children who have yet to develop the capacity to reframe their experience into positive, helpful views. ...

I'm curious how those of you who do metta or tonglen practice work with difficult past experiences or would advise students/mentorees/colleagues who were weighed down by a painful memory or event? One of the ways I've seen or read about people using these practices is to work with such a thing: the really basic instruction includes the part, for example, where you send loving kindness to someone "you have difficulty with" as they so politely put it. Obviously it is expected to be a practice, not a quick fix, but what is implied, in my understanding, is that in time one develops the capacity to feel loving kindness even towards difficult people (which implies someone who once did you harm).

I personally don't find this experientially very different from the infinite divine love/mercy/forgiveness stuff. (Though obviously the conceptual framework is different.)

Thoughts?
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 17 Mar 2013 22:34 #10129

Ona Kiser wrote:
I personally don't find this experientially very different from the infinite divine love/mercy/forgiveness stuff. (Though obviously the conceptual framework is different.)

I'm not sure even the conceptual framework is that different, after all loving kindness, sympathetic joy and compassion are called divine abodes even in Buddhism.

For me the practice inclines the mind toward compassion and forgiveness. It has allowed me to totally forgive people who hurt me in the past. And I'm talking about some serious abuse here. If I were to advise someone doing metta I would have them direct it toward themselves for a good long time - months and months if possible. If this is difficult or impossible at times then direct it toward someone for whom they have great love or sympathy. After the practice has some traction then they can direct kindness to neutral or difficult people. This mirrors the traditional instructions, but in general I've found it best to just go with what feels right. I often end up riffing on the stock phrases and improvising - it's the intent which is important. BTW for those who have trouble getting concentrated, metta is often a great way to get into jhana. But if you do it with that intention you're likely to sabotage your efforts - it has to be genuine.

John Peacock advises to just practice metta and never mind the other three divine abodes - they'll develop naturally just from metta practice. I agree with this, but I've found that practicing sympathetic joy had a direct effect on feelings of envy or jealousy for example. I came to think of this as not unlike prayer in its affect on the mind.
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Beginning - Middle - ??? 18 Mar 2013 06:21 #10131

What seems to me is that one can end up with a concept of God that runs up against reality, in the same way one can have a concept of awakening that runs up against reality. So much as one (before awakening) tends to think "ah, awakening will be like this and that" and those factors one expects tend to revolve around ones own preferences and needs: "Awakening only happens to people who deserve it, people who are nice and perfect" or "Awakening will make all my enemies (unpleasant feelings) go away" or "I will wake up because I am performing this technique very excellently." Similarly one tends to at various times have concepts of God that are based on (worldly) priorities like "God punishes my enemies and protects my friends" or "God hates the same people I hate" or "God loves me because I perform his assignments successfully" and so on.

And the fact is that awakening/God isn't about us.

It seems that if people grow up with really inflexible and dogmatic concepts of God, it gets really hard later in life to adjust those to reality. Similarly as if one gets really hooked on certain concepts of awakening, it gets really painful to adjust later, when reality doesn't match dearly held expectations. Except that 99% of us here didn't grow up with concepts of awakening, because we grew up in a largely Judeo-Christian culture and only got into the awakening stuff later in life, as adults.

In this regard it was interesting at the recent retreat being with a bunch of people who were working through reframing their understanding of God because of just such issues (and in many cases because of having preliminary awakening experiences *within* the tradition, and having that in itself shake up their childhood beliefs about the Angry Punishing God... (details in my journal thread where I put a retreat report).
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