Human personality

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by Vajradhara, May 19, 2004.

  1. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste all.. .

    this is a continuation of the conversation from the Contentious Objector thread...


    Namaste mcedgy,

    thank you for the post.

    this is a great question, in my opinion.

    naturally, as a Buddhist, my view of these things may be slightly different than yours... or even other Buddhists :) viva la difference!

    in any event... i shall attempt to answer you query as accurately as possible from as broad a position as possible.

    what is the personality of the human being? is it the sum of the collective experience of the being? i'm not really sure, to be honest with you. when Buddhists talk about personality it is usally in the terms of conditioned personality... and what we really mean by that is that our consciousness has become conditioned to a certain type of input/output and operates in this manner. this is one of the reasons why people react differently to the same stimuli.

    to a large extent, the personality of the being is tied very strongly to their notion of self-existence, the "I". without this notion, personality becomes a bit less well defined and more open and flowing.

    from a non-Buddhist point of view... i think that we could make a pretty good case that this personality energy would continue, in some form, in the same fashion as other energy... though perhaps significantly modified such that we couldn't recognize it as a "personality" per se.

    from a Buddhist view, the personality can be seen as an aspect of consciousness, however it's one that's been emotionalized and is subject to being deluded about it's true nature, which is empty of conception. as you know, in Buddhism, we have a teaching of rebirth. this is not a rebirth of the "self" or of "I", rather, it's a rebirth of the accumulated karmic energy of our actions which are carried in an aspect of the consciousness that is identified as the 8th Alaya consciousness. recall, that for Buddhists, consciousness is not a monolithic entity.. it's an aggregate of many layers and parts... thus, we break consciousness down into very discrete bits to talk about... which is great on a conventional level... the danger there is that we take the conventional for the absolute.

    in the Vajrayana, especially as found in Tibet, there is a tradition of lamas choosing to be reborn, however, they will, on occassion, choose to have aspects of their consciousness that contain their emotionalized consciousness, i.e. personality, be reborn as well. as an aside.. if you ever have a chance to watch the movie Little Buddha, you'll see an example of this.

    so... in the end... here's what i would conclude. from the Buddhist position, generally the answer is "no", the personality does not continue from rebirth to rebirth... though there are some noted exceptions to this.

    i am curious to see how others may respond to your query as i think this question could be applicable to all religious traditions.
     
    Last edited: May 19, 2004
  2. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ....whys guy.... ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Kindest Regards!

    Yes, this does pose some interesting things to consider.

    How would this pertain to ghosts? Are there ghosts in Buddhist tradition?
     
  3. mcedgy

    mcedgy Active Member

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    very interesting. thanks. mcedgy
     
  4. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste juan,

    thank you for the post.

    yes, there sure are!

    actually.. they are called Hungry Ghosts... a Hungry Ghost is one of the negative rebirths that can occur in the Buddhist tradition. typically, rebirth as a Hungry Ghost is caused by excessive attachment, especially to matieral goods, wealth and fame. the Hungry Ghost is depicted as having a yawning mouth constantly trying to eat or drink yet a neck the size of a pin so that nothing can go down.. thus, the Hungry Ghost is constantly frustrated by their inability to satisfiy their desires.

    Hungry Ghosts have a tendency to hang around areas where humans are.. thus, they can be benefitted by hearing the Dharma expounded to them, though they cannot practice.
     
  5. iBrian

    iBrian Peace, Love and Unity Admin

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    I would quite agree. :)

    As things would have it, Louis is asking about life after death in another thread as well:
    http://www.comparative-religion.com/forum/showthread.php?t=1054
     
  6. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ....whys guy.... ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Kindest Regards, vaj, and thank you!
    How intriguing!

    Are these hungry ghosts then removed from the cycle of rebirth?

    At the risk of sounding trite, do Buddhist mothers tell stories of these ghosts to keep their children in line? The folklore aspect of this would be very interesting to me.

    In other words, are these examples held out as what not to do in the Karmic cycle? Is there a "punishment" aspect afterall?
     
  7. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste juan,

    thank you for the post.

    nope. as soon as their karmic energy is expended, they will be reborn again.. in either a higher, lower or same state. by the by.. this is true for the gods as well... though they have a positive rebirth, by comparison, they are still subject to karma and rebirth. it's a bit more traumatic for the gods though as they are generally aware of this but choose to do nothing about it.

    i'm sure that some mothers do... i mean mothers tell their children all manner of stories to keep them in line, as it were.

    generally speaking, i would imagine that people who are aware of these things are in some manner trying to avoid a negative rebirth.. however, this is not strictly the case. the Bodhisattva Kurkulla, for instance, determined that he would be reborn in hell to help the sentient beings that are reborn there... he asked "if not me, then who?" and determined to help sentient beings in hell have a higher rebirth.

    i would say that no, "punishment" isn't a concept in Buddhism. who's there to punish you? this would require some type of judge to determine if you've done something to be punished for... and since this being doesn't exist in Buddhism there is no punishment... by the same token.. there is no reward for doing good things either.

    perhaps, a better way to view this is to consider it in this fashion.

    when a farmer plants crops he has two choices.. he can water the seeds and weed the field or he can choose not to water the seeds and weed the field. if the farmer waters the crop and takes care of it, when it comes in we don't say that he was "rewarded" we say that "he reaped what he sowed"... by the same token, if he chooses not to water and weed the crops we don't say that the farmer is being "punished"... again, he reaped what he sowed.

    another thing to keep in mind is though karma is infallible, it is not unchangeable.... we can mitigate our karmic potential in this very moment... in fact.. if not in this moment.. it cannot be done :)
     
  8. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ....whys guy.... ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Kindest Regards, Vaj! Thank you for your very thoughtful reply!
    I realize I am attempting to understand this through eyes trained in the Christian faith, but I am confused...
    "the gods?" I understood you earlier to say that Buddhism had no God or gods. Is this reference somehow maybe to Hindu or animist gods?
    I accept that my understanding of "God" is not the Christian norm, I do not visualize a "white beard in the sky" (I think that is how bananabrain puts it). What I envision is really beyond my ability to expound upon, as I envision something much closer to the "sea" I have seen Brian allude to. Am I wrong in understanding Buddhism to be largely in agreement with this concept, if not in calling it "God?"

    Are you aware of any specific tales?

    OK, this really begs a question...what then is the Buddhist concept of hell? Especially if there is no punishment?

    I am hoping some of my confusion is because there is some form of breakdown or non-transference or lack of translation across the languages and traditions.

    I am accepting your farmer analogy as you say in the effort to absorb the lesson. As a gardener, I would and have said a "farmer" is rewarded with the bounty of "his" harvest, although likewise "he" is rewarded with the dearth.

    Thank you.
     
  9. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste Jaun,

    thank you for the post.

    this is, of course, a very important thing to keep in mind.. and if you are able, it will serve you well in exploring other traditions. one of the things that i've noticed is that people try to interpet other systems through their own paradigm.. often this makes the whole thing hopelessly confusing for the casual reader.

    the Buddha taught both gods and men the Dharma. what Buddhists don't believe in is a First Cause Deity, the traditional Santanadharma and Semetic view of God.. one that is benevolent, concerned and active in the universe. in our view, the gods of the various religious traditions are just other beings in the cycle of samsara... perhaps in a more positive rebirth, by comparison, but not really liberated from birth and death.

    this is, in fact, a direct explanation of the various aspects of deity that one finds in the vast Indian religious tradtions.

    this is a bit tricky. Paul Tillich, a Protestant Theologian, uses the term Ground of Being to describe God. His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama when asked about this said that he wouldn't have much issue using this type of understanding when describing some of the Buddhist doctrines... i.e. the Ground of Being, or Dharmadhatu. of course, there will be some Buddhists that disagree quite vigoriously.. which we'd expect.. and frankly, be surprised if that wasn't the case.

    in any event... to get to the heart of this.. generally speaking these types of thoughts aren't condusive to the spiritual path.. since these things are beyond our ability to know, we should concentrate on what we do know and put those teachings into practice.

    the only one that i'm aware of off hand is the legend of the Raksasha.. which is a type of shape shifter in India mythos.

    this is also a bit tricky.. as hell has many layers.. and they are different. here's the thing that's important to keep in mind... let's say, for sake of discussion, that you were a terrible being and were reborn in a hell realm. the first thing to keep in mind that no rebirth is eternal.. you will only remain in the hell realm for the duration of your karma... when this has been expended, the being will be reborn again.

    let me offer this similie.

    for a being in a heavenly realm, water appears as manna and honeydew. for a being in the human realm, water appears as water that will quench our thirst. for a being in the hell realm, water appears as molten bronze and puss. in each instance, the water is the same, yet the perception of the being is such that they cannot perceive it.

    now... to offer another view of this... there is a view in Buddhism that rebirth isn't a literal rebirth in terms of biological life, rather, rebirth is the continually arising of thoughts conditioned by the previous thought. in this veiw, then, a being in hell or heaven or on earth is metaphorically representing various mental states that a being will experience.

    confused yet? :)

    is that really a "reward" though? in my understanding of this term, it would imply that there is a being, somewhere, that judges the actions of the farmer and, based on those actions, allowed the farmer to reap a harvest of corn or reap a harvest of dirt. however, is this really the case? you've heard the expression "you sleep in the bed that you made"? this is what we're getting at.

    naturally, this is refelective of our worldview and as such, may not be how you veiw the world :)
     
  10. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ....whys guy.... ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Kindest Regards, Vaj! Thank you most sincerely!
    I like to think it has and will continue. I realize my view is not the view of others. I attempt the best I can to understand where others are coming from, if for no other reason than to better communicate. Language can be so limiting, when words and concepts can mean entirely different things between two individuals.

    This is interesting, and it adds to my understanding. I hope you will not mind if I find some difficulty with it though.


    I have seen ou mention Mr. Tillich before. I haven't taken the time to look into his efforts. What is your interpretation of the term "Ground of Being?"

    This I accept without question. I apply the best I understand to my utmost ability.

    Thank you, I will look into this at the first opportunity. Does this mean "hungry ghosts" are "shape shifters?" Or are these two entirely different paranormal expressions in folklore?

    Sounds very similar to Dante. (Makes me wonder which came first, the chicken or the egg?)
    I have a somewhat different view, which perhaps explains my confusion. In the short term "strict" sense, hell is the grave, the earth. In the end term, hell is the final cleansing of the "trash." (The smoke ascends forever, in the Christian analogy, by the fire is severe, short and final.)

    Is this not simply called "growing?"

    Yes, but I thrive on confusion! :)

    I think I understand what you are getting at, it is just that the analogy of a farmer (or gardener) made to a farmer (or gardener) is likely to be misunderstood. The farmer is rewarded for his efforts by his efforts. Yes, he reaps what he sows, in that he will not harvest cherries in a vineyard. If he does not put forth the effort, he will get very poor cherries even in his orchard. This is the physical sense.

    The symbolic sense is that the earth rewards him for his efforts. In the spiritual sense, then, is where he might view the abundance as being reward from a "god." This concept has deep roots in animist religions (at least according to Frazer and Hyslop) as well as Christianity. I believe it is to this you are alluding.

    Does this help clarify where I am at?
     
  11. Vajradhara

    Vajradhara One of Many

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    Namaste juan,

    thank you for the post.

    of course not :) i wouldn't expect you to accept anything that is said here.. rather... if something makes some sense, you would consider it based on your previous undestandings and see if it matches up. generally speaking, i consider this to be the default view that i operate with when engaged in an inter-religious discussion. though i realize that not all people do :)

    you'll have to pardon my crude grasp of Christian theology in this opinion.. it is my view that Paul Tillich is trying to get past the personal "old man with a beard" metaphor of God and trying to get back to the mystery of that which is beyond conception. it is my opinion that Paul Tillich's view is more of a mystical approach to Deity. as he is a Christian, his view is one that concludes that the Ground of Being, i.e. the fundamental nature of reality is God, without any anthropormorphizing.

    two different things. actually, hungry ghosts aren't really in the folklore.. it's fairly confined to the Buddhist mythos. Raksahas, by contrast, are part and parcel fo the Indian cultural mythos, regardless of religious orientation. they traditionally take the form of a human man with a tigers head.. though the head is disguised by their magic to appear like a handsome human male.

    the amphibian :) LOL

    naturally, as we'd both expect :) one of the reasons why this wouldn't work so well in the Indian view is that there is no "end" per se.. the cycle simply begins again. i think, in a general way, as we explore these various topics we are seeing how the world view really influences the way everything else is seen.


    yes, that is what i'm alluding to :) remember... in the Buddhist view, it is dualistic to think of the physical sense or spiritual sense being seperate from each other. practice is enlightenment and enlightenment is practice as our Ch'an friends like to say.

    yes.. the farmer or gardner reaps the benefits of their efforts.. they are not "rewarded" for their efforts though.

    i think that this defintion is what i'm getting at with the term "reward":

    Noun1.reward - a recompense for worthy acts or retribution for wrongdoing...



    so.. i think that using this definition, you can see how a Buddhist wouldn't say that one is rewarded or punished for their effort or lack of effort with regards to the crop that they've planted... or, in our spiritual lives as that is actually what we are talking about :)
     
  12. juantoo3

    juantoo3 ....whys guy.... ʎʇıɹoɥʇnɐ uoıʇsǝnb

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    Kindest Regards, Vaj! Thank you for the response!
    Thanks. I enjoy our conversations.

    Ah yes, I can see this now. And I can see how it would seem more semantically acceptable.

    I really must take some time soon and look into these. So many interests, so little time...

    Touché! :)

    Yes, I have long seen how cultural differences influence interactions. Attempting to understand other cultures is an important way of getting beyond impasses, and it furthers understanding not only intellectually, but even in applied wisdom and spirituality. At least, it has for me.

    Now I think I better understand where it is you are coming from, and I can see much better now what it is you intended.

    An aside, perhaps you can help. As a gardener, I have an interest in the Chinese method of terrace farming called "teaching water." I am most interested in how the fields are initially developed from raw land. What time I spent looking with a search engine proved fruitless, perhaps you know of some texts that address this in english? Thanks.
     

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