FPMT (Keeping the Mahayana Tradition Alive)

Cino

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This person, however, would be incredibly tormented and torn between the two worlds. He/she would need lots (and lots) of love from his/her Beloved one.

Most modern-day gurus, possibly enlightened to some degree, stumble when it gets to issues of power, money, and sex. The Buddha sidestepped these issues by establishing an order of homeless celibate beggars: no power, no money no sex allowed; these issues don't arise. It is a Buddhist belief in some schools that an enlightened person must ordain within a short period after their enlightenment, or else they die...

Other traditions don't necessarily feature this neat solution.

I sometimes wonder whether the retreat into monasteries or some other reclusive lifestyle so often observed in enlightened persons is not a way to avoid facing unresolved personal issues around power, sex, or money...
 

stranger

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Most modern-day gurus, possibly enlightened to some degree, stumble when it gets to issues of power, money, and sex. The Buddha sidestepped these issues by establishing an order of homeless celibate beggars: no power, no money no sex allowed; these issues don't arise. It is a Buddhist belief in some schools that an enlightened person must ordain within a short period after their enlightenment, or else they die...

Yes, I now see a certain wisdom in that belief.

Other traditions don't necessarily feature this neat solution.

I sometimes wonder whether the retreat into monasteries or some other reclusive lifestyle so often observed in enlightened persons is not a way to avoid facing unresolved personal issues around power, sex, or money...

The monastery was (and still is) an experiment that had to be tried. In our seeking and searching for solutions we have to try just about everything. There is no teacher like experience. But when a solution proves fruitless we have to move on to something else in order to quench the fires of our present distress. It's sort of a purgatorial situation. There seems to be no end to it, but we hope against hope to be granted absolution at some point. Nothing is guaranteed however. This becomes a part of the torment. We need a miracle, so to speak. It's a position born from the realization of our complete and total weakness and helplessness.
 

Nick the Pilot

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How about the people around them? If an enlightened being doesn't suffer from any unresolved issues, their unenlightened companions still get to bear the consequences, I imagine.

If a person has not yet achieved enlightenment, and also has unresolved emotional issues, having an enlightened person around them isn’t going to change anything. The unenlightened person still has to resolve their emotional issues and then go through the process of becoming enlightened.

What are your thoughts on the topic of "enlightened beings with a personality disorder"? Can this happen? If not, what prevents it?

There are two meanings for the word enlightened.

(1) The meaning as it is used in everyday conversation is; someone who suddenly perceives a cause-and-effect understanding of a phenomenon in life. Having an “aha” moment. Having an “epiphany”.

(2) The meaning as it is used in some Buddhist traditions to mean a raising of a person’s consciousness to a level higher than a human being is capable of, followed by a testing of the person to ensure they can now stop incarnating on the human level, and successfully become conscious at the next level of consciousness above the human level.

It must be pointed out that some Buddhist traditions such as Japanese Zen Buddhism see enlightenment as (1) not (2).

In answer to your question, type (2) requires all personality disorders be resolved before enlightenment is possible. (Any personality disorders discovered during the pre-enlightenment testing will show the person is not ready for enlightenment, and raising their consciousness to a nirvanic level of conscious would be a disaster.)

…if the sufferer stays "earthbound"; that is to say, is not able to progress beyond his/her earthly reality.

In my understanding of enlightenment, the person no longer suffers, so such a possibility does not need to be considered.

…is not able to progress beyond his/her earthly reality

Enlightenment, by its very definition, allows a person to progress beyond his/her earthly reality.

This person, however, would be incredibly tormented and torn between the two worlds.

In my understanding of enlightenment, no such dilemma exists. (But it must be mentioned there are disagreements between people who qualify for enlightenment and then go on to nirvana, as opposed to people who qualify for enlightenment but then decide not to go on to nirvana but stay here on this physical Earth instead.) It should also be mentioned that some Buddhist traditions teach the idea of the total extinction of a person when they die, which actually refers to achieving enlightenment. Enlightenment is the total extinction of the lower aspects of a person's personality. Enlightenment is not the extinction of the higher aspects of a person's personality, it is a time when a person is now able to use their higher aspects much more efficiently.

He/she would probably long for that love…

I do not think such longing is even possible for an enlightened person.

He/she would need lots (and lots) of love from his/her Beloved one

That is not how I see enlightenment.

…enlightened to some degree…

I do not see someone achieving enlightenment to a ‘partial degree’. I see it as an all-or-nothing condition.

It is a Buddhist belief in some schools that an enlightened person must ordain within a short period after their enlightenment, or else they die...

I would say an enlightened person is already ‘ordained’. If a Buddhist tradition teaches such a belief, I would not want to be a member of that particular Buddhist tradition. (It is amazing how much the various Buddhist traditions disagree in their teachings.) However, in defense of such a teaching, I agree that, when a person achieves enlightenment, they must decide whether to enter nirvana at the end of their present incarnation, or instead remain on this physical world for at least one more physical incarnation.

these issues don't arise

I agree. The definition of enlightenment contains the idea of permanently rising above any desire for power, money, sex, etc. In my opinion, any person with an ego-driven need for power, money, sex, etc. would automatically fail the test for enlightenment.

I sometimes wonder whether the retreat into monasteries or some other reclusive lifestyle so often observed in enlightened persons is not a way to avoid facing unresolved personal issues around power, sex, or money...

Of course some people do so for such reasons. I am reminded of Sister Maria (Julie Andrews) in the 1960’s movie Sound of Music who does this exact thing. Mother Superior has Maria leave the convent for this very reason. Retreating to and hiding in a monastery or convent does not resolve personality ‘issues’, it can actually delay enlightenment.
 
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stranger

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If a person has not yet achieved enlightenment, and also has unresolved emotional issues, having an enlightened person around them isn’t going to change anything. The unenlightened person still has to resolve their emotional issues and then go through the process of becoming enlightened.

Hi Nick. :) In law enforcement there is this idea of "good cop/bad cop". It's a device which is used to break down the defenses of a suspect. Considering that, I feel that your post here leans heavily into the bad cop camp. It's okay, bad cop doesn't necessarily mean bad teacher. I have learned a lot in my lifetime from the more harsh aspects of teaching. So it's okay, don't feel bad, cop. ;)

One hardly need point out that the sufferer lacks the ability to clean himself/herself up to the degree that they would be worthy of enlightenment. This would be tantamount to achieving salvation through the works of the law -- a process that must be tried by all, picking oneself up by the bootstraps so to speak -- but which must at some point be jettisoned in favor of gnosis. Seen this way, it is the process itself which frees the willing sufferer to surmount whatever obstacles, including emotional issues, that stand in the way.



In answer to your question, type (2) requires all personality disorders be resolved before enlightenment is possible. (Any personality disorders discovered during the pre-enlightenment testing will show the person is not ready for enlightenment, and raising their consciousness to a nirvanic level of conscious would be a disaster.)

In my understanding of enlightenment, the person no longer suffers, so such a possibility does not need to be considered.

Oh dear. We see things differently here but this is interfaith, is it not. I accept your position, though there is little I can do about it at the moment except gently but firmly set forth my own. The question of whether manifestations of a personality disorder must be eradicated before enlightenment can be attempted is one which I suspect must be proven through experience rather than guestwork. Therefore it is unlikely you and I will resolve it in this exchange (though it could be resolved at some point through gnosis).

Suffering is another great teacher that we cannot do without IMO. I don't think I will ever be free of suffering in this life, if only due to the fact that I retain physicality. In spirit, it could be a different matter. But of course I may never achieve enlightenment. In many ways it is out of my hands now. Suffering creates an impetus to drive forward like nothing else can.

I'm going to leave off my reply at this point, seeing we would just be covering the same repetitive ground. Suffice it to say you believe personality disorder issues need to be resolved before enlightenment is attempted, whereas I believe they are resolved, or at least relegated to their proper place, through the experience of enlightenment itself.


At least we can agree on point here:

Of course some people do so for such reasons. I am reminded of Sister Maria (Julie Andrews) in the 1960’s movie Sound of Music who does this exact thing. Mother Superior has Maria leave the convent for this very reason. Retreating to and hiding in a monastery or convent does not resolve personality ‘issues’, it can actually delay enlightenment.

We are 100% lockstep on this one, though as I pointed to before, such measures must be taken first before they are superseded by a better way. We always gravitate to the lower measures first and once those have been found lacking, we are open to higher things. The sky becomes the limit.
 

Cino

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I agree. The definition of enlightenment contains the idea of permanently rising above any desire for power, money, sex, etc. In my opinion, any person with an ego-driven need for power, money, sex, etc. would automatically fail the test for enlightenment.

Thanks for explaining.

What is your definition of enlightenment? Is it congruent with Buddhist criteria?

Are there persons alive today who meet your definition of enlightenment?
 

Nick the Pilot

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Oh dear. We see things differently here but this is interfaith, is it not.

I think it is good we can agree to disagree on things. It is when one person tells another person what they must believe that communication ends. I remember one time being told by a Buddhist I must believe there is no soul (which I disagree with). I was also told that I am forbidden to say we “reincarnate”, that I must say we are “reborn” (which I also disagree with). Needless to say, I do not have discussions with that person any more.

Suffering is another great teacher that we cannot do without IMO. I don't think I will ever be free of suffering in this life, if only due to the fact that I retain physicality. In spirit, it could be a different matter. But of course I may never achieve enlightenment. In many ways it is out of my hands now. Suffering creates an impetus to drive forward like nothing else can.

Suffering also burns off bad karma. It is no fun to suffer, but at least we can get a small amount of comfort in how it means we now have just a little less bad karma to deal with.

And, in my opinion, enlightenment removes a great deal of suffering.

I'm going to leave off my reply at this point, seeing we would just be covering the same repetitive ground. Suffice it to say you believe personality disorder issues need to be resolved before enlightenment is attempted, whereas I believe they are resolved, or at least relegated to their proper place, through the experience of enlightenment itself.

It’s okay to agree to disagree.

What is your definition of enlightenment?

Enlightenment is the achieving of the minimum amount of spirituality that allows us to become conscious at the level of consciousness that is above the human level of conscious.

It also means we never have to reincarnate again. The word salvation is sometimes applied to the idea of enlightenment, because it means we are 'saved' from ever being forced to suffer through another reincarnation again. (Let’s face it, life on earth contains a lot of suffering, and people are always relieved and happy that achieving enlightenment means no more forced reincarnations.) There are also people who achieve enlightenment but then choose to continue reincarnating on earth rather than enter nirvana, but this idea is a little off-topic.

Enlightenment also means be tested to be sure earthly desires have all disappeared. (If a person still has earthly desires, these desires will cause the person to seek future reincarnations, negating any value in renouncing reincarnating forever, and causing more 'forced' reincarnations containing more suffering.)

Is it congruent with Buddhist criteria?

It depends. The thing about Buddhist is that there are so many different Buddhist traditions with so many different teachings that they seem to contradict each other. For instance, take a look at Zen Buddhism vs. Pureland Buddhism. These two traditions are so different, I am amazed we can call both of them Buddhism. Then you have the form of Buddhism which is popular in China today, which is a combination of Zen Buddhism and Pureland Buddhism! (I am also amazed by how many Buddhist temples in the world do not have a statue of Buddha, but this is a topic for another thread.)

Regarding the use of the word enlightenment, there are actually some traditions within Buddhism which discourage the use of the word altogether. I have asked several Japanese Buddhists what the difference between enlightenment and nirvana is, and I have yet to get a straight answer (because there is no difference between enlightenment and nirvana in some forms of Japanese Buddhism.)
 
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stranger

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Suffering also burns off bad karma. It is no fun to suffer, but at least we can get a small amount of comfort in how it means we now have just a little less bad karma to deal with.

And, in my opinion, enlightenment removes a great deal of suffering.

I'll have to take your word for that since I am not enlightened. :(

It’s okay to agree to disagree.

Yes.
 

Nick the Pilot

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I am not enlightened.

In my opinion, for us the purpose of life is to make progress toward enlightenment. Once we put ourselves on the path to enlightenment, we start moving in the direction we are intended to move in.

A deep understanding of enlightenment is not necessary in order to make progress toward enlightenment. A good Christian, a good Buddhist, a good Muslim, etc., are all making progress toward enlightenment.

This even gives us a definition of good and evil. To do good is to do things which cause us to make progress towards enlightenment. To do evil is to do things which cause us to actually lose progress towards enlightenment.
 

Cino

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Cino,

I need to add one more thing. We cannot achieve enlightenment until we have burned off all our bad karma.
That is a difference to Buddhism, then. The method of burning off all bad Karma, according to the Buddha, does not work.
 

Cino

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Feel free to explain.

In Buddhism - and I'm mostly familiar with Theravada, but I believe this is one of the central teachings common to most or all schools - Enlightenment is not reached by getting rid of all dark karma, but by stopping suffering at its root, by ending the "defilements", the asavas. This is the third noble truth.

One of the clearest expositions of this difference that I'm aware of is the "Devadaha Sutta" - for example here: https://suttacentral.net/mn101/en/sujato

It starts out with an argument why burning off dark karma is not a viable strategy in the Buddha's opinion, then goes on to sketch out the Buddhist strategy of "ending the defilements". Here's a good summary, towards the end of the sutta:

When their mind has become immersed in samādhi like this—purified, bright, flawless, rid of corruptions, pliable, workable, steady, and imperturbable—they extend it toward knowledge of the ending of defilements. They truly understand: ‘This is suffering’ … ‘This is the origin of suffering’ … ‘This is the cessation of suffering’ … ‘This is the practice that leads to the cessation of suffering’. They truly understand: ‘These are defilements’ … ‘This is the origin of defilements’ … ‘This is the cessation of defilements’ … ‘This is the practice that leads to the cessation of defilements’.
 

wil

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It is a fascinating idea, that the elimination of karma is not required for enlightenment, but unfortunately such an idea does not fit into my belief system.
I am obviously not in tune with the belief...but karma (or my idea of karma) is one of the the things I like from this belief.

While my understanding may be wrong, it comes from a less than rudimentary knowledge without which wouldn't have instigated the errant thoughts I benefit from.

I appreciate that karma is a sort of paying for, reconciling sins from past lives...or maybe even this one (in our fast food world my version of a karmic issue can get activated at the drive thru order box and be dealt out and eliminated prior to the second window.) But I still envision karma as me pushing a large wrecking ball hanging from a pully far above my head...putting this potentially destructive force in an arc on an orbit which will eventually return to the place in consciousness where I am. My job is just.to move, to grow in consciousness before it returns and it will swing by. Now do good deeds completely eliminate the issue, or could I step back into the path?
 

Nick the Pilot

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Now do good deeds completely eliminate the issue, or could I step back into the path?

The key word here is ‘completely.’ Yes, doing good deeds can eliminate bad karma, but some people think they can create bad karma, then go to a public service company, do some volunteer work, and the whole thing is settled. I do not think it works that way. I believe the requirements to remove bad karma are on the harsh side. When we do something bad and create bad karma, not only do we hurt the person involved but also people they know, their family members, etc. Effects of bad karma can last years or even generations. We must make amends for all of these aspects of one instance of bad karma. Then there is the problem of making amends with the person who was hurt by what we did. This also must be remedied.
 

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The key word here is ‘completely.’ Yes, doing good deeds can eliminate bad karma, but some people think they can create bad karma, then go to a public service company, do some volunteer work, and the whole thing is settled. I do not think it works that way.
I'd agree (with one caveat) – it doesn't work that way in any system of moral values.

I believe the requirements to remove bad karma are on the harsh side.
I'd prefer balance – does the harsh not assume that the bad outweighs the good, whereas, it seems to me, all the saints and sages say the good far outweighs the bad? I'm thinking of the light of a single candle banishing the darkness, etc.

Too often there is a desire to see the transgressor punished. It's a human trait, but an unfortunate one. In my tradition, for example, the desire for 'righteous retribution', the desire to see the unjust get their just desserts (from our pov) is in itself a cause of bad karma.

When we do something bad and create bad karma, not only do we hurt the person involved but also people they know, their family members, etc. Effects of bad karma can last years or even generations.
But by the same token a simple good act can equally reverberate down through the generations, surely?
 

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I always fall back on the Tibetan Buddhist, Marco Pallis, who makes the point that popular notions often are far removed from what the Buddha and the Tradition actually says.

An instance of how popularised interpretations can lead to a certain amount of doctrinal distortion is provided by current beliefs in Buddhist countries concerning the possibility of "rebirth as a man". People all too readily assume that a human rebirth, provided they keep leading fairly ethical lives (often at a lowish level) is there for the asking... With these people "merit", good karma, comes to be regarded wholly in a quantitative sense, rather as if it could be meted out by the pound, a matter of manipulating a neat double column balance-sheet in such a way as not to leave oneself too heavily in debt.

What is erroneous in popular concepts of rebirth is the idea of continual rebirths in the human state.

They forget the common dictum about "human birth hard to obtain" or the Buddha's parable about the purblind turtle swimming in a vast ocean where there is also a piece of floating wood with a hole in it. He estimated any particular being's chances of obtaining a human birth as about equal to the likelihood of that turtle pushing its head through that hole!

By this far-fetched parable he evidently wished to impress on people the extreme precariousness of the human chance, warning them thus against the folly of wasting a precious opportunity in trivial pursuits. In a world that likes to think of itself as "progressive" how many people, I wonder, make even a slight attempt to follow this advice?


In my own metaphysic, nature never repeats itself, so the idea of some kind of I, some kind of individual selfhood, repeating itself ad infinitum, ever progressing by increments sometimes small, sometimes large, is both non-traditional and metaphysically ill-informed and unlikely. As I see it, the recollection of past lives is to do with the principle of resonance rather than direct remembrance – that the sins of the fathers will be visited on the sons does not mean the father comes back as the son to work off the debt.

The Dalai Lama had much to admire in the Christian teaching of one life and then judgement, because he understood the preciousness and precariousness of the human state.
 

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Returning to the new book, Lamrim Year, that was mentioned some posts back. Depending on how one counts there are 10-15 major themes of practice that this tradition and book outline. The need for the guru is a basic one. Here is Lama Yeshe on the inner & outer guru:

The tantric texts often mention that all realizations come from the guru. This is true, but we have to understand that “guru” has two different levels of meaning. The relative, objective guru is the teacher who, by communicating with us in different ways, shows us how to act so that we can discover our own totality. But on a deeper, more subjective level, our guru is none other than our own inner wisdom, our own fundamental clarity of mind.

Practically speaking, there is only so much the relative, external guru can do for us; they cannot guarantee that we gain insight and realizations. But our inner guru, our own clear wisdom, can accomplish everything. The practice of guru yoga, therefore, is primarily a method for learning how to listen to this inner guru.

Ordinarily, even though we do possess this inner voice of wisdom, we do not listen to it. We do not even hear it! We are too busy listening to the garbage conversation of our gross dualistic minds. We are so accustomed to this that even when wisdom does arise, as an intuitive insight, we often reject it. By practicing guru yoga we are able progressively to cut through our superficial ways of relating to the world and make contact with the innate wisdom at the heart of our being. When we have done this, then we can communicate deeply with the outer guru as well. But as long as we are out of touch with our inner guru, no matter how profound the teachings of the outer guru may be, we will never be able to integrate them.

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