Monday, February 13, 2012

Don't Sleep There Are Snakes

People find their faith or lose it (or lose their reason and then find it, as a friend of mine prefers to say) for a wide variety of reasons. The linguist Daniel Everett spent years in the Amazonian jungles trying to share his faith with the Piraha Indians. But in a strange reversal of expectations the simple, practical and content Indians caused Everett to abandon his faith. In his book Everett tells how this happened and articulately explains how one view of reality can be just as valid and just as satisfying, as another. The Piraha were able to accept Everett despite him having a different faith. But when Everett announced to his family that he had lost his faith, he lost them also. It’s a very interesting story.


Soe am i said...

Very interesting. Thank you Bhante.)

Ben said...

Dear Bhante,

I am philosophizing about the relationship about mind and matter in Buddhism. Basically, I am stuck and would like to ask you if you would share you knowledge about the Dhamma with me? As I do not know how to contact you directly, I post my question here. However, if you are interested in a discussion, we also could exchange email addresses.

As far as I understood the empirical self or personality is an emergent property of the five upadanakkhandha. (S 22, 105, 4 III p 159) That means it is conditioned by them and would not exist without them. Whereas the rupa is of physical nature, the other ones are not, however, they are also have a physical cause. Vedana results from the fact, that I do have eyes and ears, their mental representation is sanna and so on…

Thus mental properties results from physical properties, but are not reducible to them. It is wrong to say that mind equals matter. Buddha said that distinct parts can form a wagon, but the wagon is not in the distinct parts (S 5, 10 6 I p. 135). The ancient Greek philosophers said that the whole is more than the sum of it parts and nowadays we call that kind of philosophy emergence. As a consequence the self is like an illusion; it is conditioned, unstable and will fade away whenever the conditions are not longer given. Furthermore, the conditions themselves are also instable and without any intrinsic properties.

What I am wondering about is if the mental does not equal the physical how can they interact. If I have a motivation, how does this motivation lead to an action or to put it differently: How is downward causing from the mental to the physical explained in Buddhism? Can the mental affect the physical at all? Can a mental event lead directly to another mental event or has it first to cause a physical event which then causes a mental event?

I would be very happy you have an idea on this philosophical question. I am aware of the fact that our language and the capacity of our mind are limited and eventually there is no way to find a solution to this problem at all just by reasoning - just as the eye sees everything but no itself. However, I hope to find a new perspective on that problem.

Kind regards,

Shravasti Dhammika said...

Dear Ben,
You can contact me at

Lonlysky said...

Do you see Bhante, that the same claims with the same reasoning can be raised against the Buddhist Teachings? Why people with the same practical view would except the Buddhas' words if they never saw and heard him themselves, and why happy and satisfied people as the Pirahas would adopt the Four Noble Truths and aspire to liberation from suffering, suffering that probably they are not experiencing?

Lonlysky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
luan said...

Thanks for sharing this book. I would love to see the copy and have one. I just wonder how he regain his faith after being in a jungle.

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