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Spiny Norman
27 Nov 2015, 07:11
I'm currently exploring paganism but I've been a Buddhist for many years, so I'd be happy to respond to any questions you might have, particularly on the practical side. Just be aware that Buddhism is pluralist and diverse, so giving a pan-Buddhist response to particular questions is often not straightforward. :0

Bartmanhomer
28 Nov 2015, 08:47
I got two questions actually, 1. How did you join Buddhism? What's Buddhism about anyway? :)

Spiny Norman
28 Nov 2015, 08:54
I got two questions actually, 1. How did you join Buddhism? What's Buddhism about anyway? :)

I got interested in it quite young and basically looked in the phone book to find out where the nearest Buddhist group was meeting ( phone books were used in the olden days because we didn't have the internet ;) ).

As for what Buddhism is about, I think that essentially it's about liberation from suffering, though that's expressed differently across the various schools.
In recent years my practice has involved meditating regularly and trying to maintain mindfulness throughout the day, paying close attention to experience in order to understand it better. There is a strong focus on self-awareness too.

Herbert
28 Nov 2015, 09:06
I'm aware that Buddhism, in itself, doesn't entail a belief in reincarnation, but would you say that the majority of Buddhists do or do not believe in it? How actively are The Eight Steps generally practiced? How do you generally interpret the idea that worldly desires, essentially speaking, cause suffering?

Spiny Norman
28 Nov 2015, 09:33
I'm aware that Buddhism, in itself, doesn't entail a belief in reincarnation, but would you say that the majority of Buddhists do or do not believe in it? How actively are The Eight Steps generally practiced? How do you generally interpret the idea that worldly desires, essentially speaking, cause suffering?

Traditionally Buddhist teaching does include a cycle of rebirth but quite a lot of westerners aren't comfortable with that. I wouldn't say that a belief in rebirth is necessary for effective practice though.
I think most Buddhists practice actively but what they do depends on their culture and the school they belong to. There is a 3-fold version of the 8-fold path, morality, meditation and wisdom, that gives a good feel for it.

Technically it's craving which causes suffering. Craving is tanha, literally "thirst".

Herbert
28 Nov 2015, 10:32
Ah, okay. I got the sense that rebirth was generally accepted, but I wasn't certain that it wasn't just a facet of those adjacent to Hindi majorities. Never heard of a three-fold path, but that does sound simpler. You learn a new proper translation every day. (I'm mostly just curious, but I try to incorporate disparate elements into my particular religion, hence why I prefer to know about them.)

B. de Corbin
28 Nov 2015, 10:38
Rebirth and reincarnation are not the same things.

"Rebirth" is the ability to change, and actually is required - #3 of the 4 Noble Truths, is, roughly, "suffering can end."

"Reincarnation" is the transmigration of souls. Worldwide, the majority of Buddhists do believe in reincarnation, but a person can be a Buddhist without believing in reincarnation.

Näre
28 Nov 2015, 10:47
What do you think are the biggest differences between Buddhism and Paganism?

Spiny Norman
28 Nov 2015, 10:55
Rebirth and reincarnation are not the same things.


That's right. Simply put, re-birth is reincarnation without a soul. In any case there are lots of references in the Buddhist suttas to beings "re-appearing" in different realms, according to their actions ( ie karma ).

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What do you think are the biggest differences between Buddhism and Paganism?

I don't know enough about paganism yet to give an informed response, but one difference I've noticed is that Buddhism tends to be inward looking while paganism tends to be more outward looking. For example when working with the elements in a Buddhist context I would be looking at them primarily as parts of the body, while in paganism the focus seems to be on how the elements inform and define the natural world ( I think! ).

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"Rebirth" is the ability to change, and actually is required - #3 of the 4 Noble Truths, is, roughly, "suffering can end."


Not really. Some Buddhists talk about moment-to-moment rebirth, the continual rebirth of self-view, though IMO there isn't much support for that interpretation in the suttas.

Herbert
28 Nov 2015, 12:25
Rebirth and reincarnation are not the same things.

"Rebirth" is the ability to change, and actually is required - #3 of the 4 Noble Truths, is, roughly, "suffering can end."

"Reincarnation" is the transmigration of souls. Worldwide, the majority of Buddhists do believe in reincarnation, but a person can be a Buddhist without believing in reincarnation.

While I was using somewhat imprecise language, under those definitions, reincarnation would be a form of rebirth. In any case, I generally take a more literal form of the word rebirth than some; namely, being born again (literally, not metaphorically). Using rebirth to refer to something other than being conceived, and then exiting the womb, for the second plus time, is somewhat devaluing the idea of entering the world of the living.

Spiny Norman
28 Nov 2015, 12:37
In any case, I generally take a more literal form of the word rebirth than some; namely, being born again (literally, not metaphorically). Using rebirth to refer to something other than being conceived, and then exiting the womb, for the second plus time, is somewhat devaluing the idea of entering the world of the living.

Birth and death are described in a literal way in the Buddhist suttas. Here for example in SN12.2:

“And what, bhikkhus, is aging-and-death? The aging of the various beings in the various orders of beings, their growing old, brokenness of teeth, greyness of hair, wrinkling of skin, decline of vitality, degeneration of the faculties: this is called aging. The passing away of the various beings from the various orders of beings, their perishing, breakup, disappearance, mortality, death, completion of time, the breakup of the aggregates, the laying down of the carcass: this is called death. Thus this aging and this death are together called aging-and-death.
“And what, bhikkhus, is birth? The birth of the various beings into the various orders of beings, their being born, descent into the womb, production, the manifestation of the aggregates, the obtaining of the sense bases. This is called birth."

https://suttacentral.net/en/sn12.2

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Just while I think to ask, do pagans tend to believe in reincarnation of some sort?

B. de Corbin
28 Nov 2015, 13:28
While I was using somewhat imprecise language, under those definitions, reincarnation would be a form of rebirth. In any case, I generally take a more literal form of the word rebirth than some; namely, being born again (literally, not metaphorically). Using rebirth to refer to something other than being conceived, and then exiting the womb, for the second plus time, is somewhat devaluing the idea of entering the world of the living.

Well, one person's devaluation is another person's metaphor.

Those who believe in reincarnation take them to be the same thing, those who don't take them as separate things. Even Buddhist scholars have disputes about this...

Buddhism is older than Christianity, and has traveled the world in all directions, dieing out in some places only to be recreated long after, it has been reformulated over and over again, leaving a great many varieties smeared across this itsy-bitsy planet - it is more diverse even than is Christianity...

One thing that is generally true (though, Alas!, not always) is that different Buddhist groups respect other Buddhist groups, even when they disagree.

Spiny Norman
28 Nov 2015, 13:47
One thing that is generally true (though, Alas!, not always) is that different Buddhist groups respect other Buddhist groups, even when they disagree.

Yes, generally, though you do some lively debates on Buddhist forums. ;)

habbalah
29 Nov 2015, 13:45
Do you consider Buddhism to be a theist or atheistic path?

B. de Corbin
30 Nov 2015, 02:10
Do you consider Buddhism to be a theist or atheistic path?

Porpoise hasn't responded yet, so I will give you my perspective...

For me, non-theistic. For others, theistic.

In the writings, when Buddha was questioned about certain things, such as "the gods," he responded by saying that those questions are irrelevant to what he was teaching. For me, Buddha (assuming he existed as something other than a composite character) was a regular human who had something to teach that is accessible to other humans.

To me, it seems that if Buddha was something other than a regular human, or if he had some kind of divine backing, than what he had to teach is not accessible to everybody, only to the special ones.

It would defeat the whole concept of Buddhism (as I see it...).

Sean R. R.
30 Nov 2015, 02:53
How can you argument the fact that desires are cravings and not an expression of our free will? (assuming there is free will in Buddhism)

Spiny Norman
30 Nov 2015, 03:03
Do you consider Buddhism to be a theist or atheistic path?

Some schools are polytheistic, but broadly Buddhism is non-theistic in the sense that there is no creator God. From my own experience I would say that quite a lot of western Buddhists are atheist, having abandoned a previous Christian upbringing.

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How can you argument the fact that desires are cravings and not an expression of our free will? (assuming there is free will in Buddhism)

I would say that there is always a choice but it is often limited by our conditioning, personality, circumstances and culture. Desires in themselves are not a problem, it's craving or attachment to desire which is seen as the root of suffering. Craving is more like addictive behaviour, strong attachment, clinging and grasping. Impermanence means that the object of our attachments and cravings will inevitably change and disappear. So as the suttas say, "what is impermanent is unsatisfactory".

B. de Corbin
30 Nov 2015, 03:13
How can you argument the fact that desires are cravings and not an expression of our free will? (assuming there is free will in Buddhism)

Myself? I don't. Yes, you have free will. You can desire and crave things all you want. You can desire and crave things that are bad for you, or that are good for you, or that you may get, or that are impossible to get.

You can also use your free will to release yourself from harmful cravings and desires, to reduce the impact of desiring things you can't get, and the hurt of wanting or loosing the things you crave.

As Porpoise wrote, craving/desire isn't the problem. The problem is attachment to such an extent that you become miserable via desire/craving, which leads you to be unhappy when you don't get it, or when you lose it, or when you fear you may lose it or not get it.

Desire or crave happiness, though, and learning to dis-attach is the way...

Sean R. R.
30 Nov 2015, 03:17
Thank you both for your answers.

Spiny Norman
30 Nov 2015, 04:01
You can also use your free will to release yourself from harmful cravings and desires, to reduce the impact of desiring things you can't get, and the hurt of wanting or loosing the things you crave.


With some insight into the impermanent and insubstantial nature of things there is a natural lessening of the tendency to grasp and crave. People often talk about this as "letting go", though it's not an act of will, more a result of insight, seeing how things really are.

B. de Corbin
30 Nov 2015, 04:33
With some insight into the impermanent and insubstantial nature of things there is a natural lessening of the tendency to grasp and crave. People often talk about this as "letting go", though it's not an act of will, more a result of insight, seeing how things really are.

Yes, but to gather that insight, one has to chose to do so - free will :)

Spiny Norman
30 Nov 2015, 04:39
Yes, but to gather that insight, one has to chose to do so - free will :)

The choice involved here is to do Buddhist practice. Or not, as the case may be. ;)

Bartmanhomer
01 Dec 2015, 17:39
How do Buddhist get along with people with different religions? For example you're a Buddhist and I'm a Taoist. We'll reacted differently because of our different belief systems.

Spiny Norman
01 Dec 2015, 23:04
How do Buddhist get along with people with different religions? For example you're a Buddhist and I'm a Taoist. We'll reacted differently because of our different belief systems.

Generally Buddhists are pretty laid back, though personally I struggle with monotheists, particularly the fundamentalists. I also get frustrated with new-age types!