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4 years ago  ::  Mar 17, 2010 - 7:05PM #1
Cvalda
Posts: 2

First off, the easy ones... what are the correct pronunciations of the words "Theravada" and "tanha"?


Okay, now, I am going to admit I feel a bit out of place here, but I am very interested in learning more about Theravada Buddhism, and how one can apply the teachings to one's life.  Small bit of history... was raised in a strict Pentecostal Christian atmosphere.  After a huge life-altering event at age 25, I fell away from that faith... I read up and studied many things over a course of time, and came out the other side just using the term "Atheist"... but my beliefs really lie in a more detailed description: Moral Existential New Age Zen Atheist.  :P


I will be turning 35 soon, and find myself looking for a little more direction in my life - not in an eternal sense, but just for this human lifetime that I am currently existing in.  I am drawn to the ideas and teachings that I've encountered in Theravada Buddhism thus far (or what I understand of them).  (Incidentally, that beliefnet quiz has always landed me on that, every time I've taken it in the last few years.)


I still need to spend much more time really reading over and taking in the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold thing...  (One thing I seem to lack more and more as I age is the ability to not let myself get distracted... I need to find some focus again...) 


I've had two initial thoughts playing at the top of my mind, that I'm wondering if someone could offer some clarity on.  Firstly, and I don't know how to word this right, but when it comes to becoming free of attachments... well, my brain automatically wants to make the leap from letting go of attachments to a sense of "apathy".  How does one let go of attachments and yet still "care".  Know what I'm getting at?


Secondly... it's my understanding that the "goal" (for lack of a better word) of the Buddhist belief/way of life is attaining Enlightenment and reaching Nirvana.  Can one actually incorporate the teachings into their life without that being the goal?  I mean, what if one doesn't want to reach that state?  Yah, I totally get that if I don't want to reach Enlightenment - if I would rather keep existing on a human level - than I've obviously got some attachments that I haven't freed myself of... is it then counterproductive to incorporate Buddhism into one's life if one is... oh I don't know... if one is NOT willing to achieve Enlightenment?  I will be the first to admit that I have a bit of a hang-up on our "eternal" existance... heaven/hell/judgement was one of the major undoings of my Christianity (or at least my perceptions of them, and what I was taught of them).  While I do call myself an Atheist, I'm a pretty bad one (LOL!!!) because I do believe that our "energy" (what some may call soul) does continue after we leave our earthly bodies, and I believe it may continue in many ways, in many forms... eternally... but I am, as of yet, uncomfortable with the idea of total Enlightenment and Nirvana...  This has probably been the key thing that has held me off from really diving deeper into Buddhism.


I don't know if those questions made sense, but would love to read some thoughts on it!  Thanks much for your time!!!

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4 years ago  ::  Mar 18, 2010 - 1:27PM #2
RenGalskap
Posts: 1,420
Hi Cvalda,

Mar 17, 2010 -- 7:05PM, Cvalda wrote:

First off, the easy ones... what are the correct pronunciations of the words "Theravada" and "tanha"?


The "a" is pronounced something like the word "awe", and the "e" is something like the word "air". (If you want to get picky about it, it's like the word "air", but without the second half of the diphthong.)

Mar 17, 2010 -- 7:05PM, Cvalda wrote:

... my beliefs really lie in a more detailed description: Moral Existential New Age Zen Atheist. :P


You probably already know this, but Bnet has Zen and Atheist discussion boards.

Mar 17, 2010 -- 7:05PM, Cvalda wrote:

Firstly, and I don't know how to word this right, but when it comes to becoming free of attachments... well, my brain automatically wants to make the leap from letting go of attachments to a sense of "apathy". How does one let go of attachments and yet still "care". Know what I'm getting at?


This is a common question, and different people explain it different ways. That's good, because no one explanation makes sense to everyone.

My way of explaining it is to say that caring occurs, but you don't identify with the caring. There's an expression that occurs a number of times in the suttas that translates as "This is not me, this is not mine, this is not what I am." So I may care enough to respond to your question, but this responding is not me, this action is not mine, these thoughts are not what I am. If I think of this action as mine, or these thoughts as me, then I become attached to them. In that case I would probably feel bad if you liked someone else's explanation better. But if I recognize that there's no "me" in these thoughts or this action, then it's not a problem if you pick whatever explanation makes the most sense to you.

Similarly, I care about the people in my family, but if I don't identify with my thoughts and actions, I can do things for them without becoming upset when the result is not what I was expecting. If I'm not attached to a particular outcome, then I can offer better help without my actions being biased by what I want.

Mar 17, 2010 -- 7:05PM, Cvalda wrote:

Secondly... it's my understanding that the "goal" (for lack of a better word) of the Buddhist belief/way of life is attaining Enlightenment and reaching Nirvana.


A quick comment on language: Many Buddhist texts were written in Sanskrit. The original Theravada texts were written entirely in Pali. If you're going to study Theravada Buddhism, you're going to encounter the Pali word "nibbana", which is the equivalent of the Sanskrit "nirvana".

Mar 17, 2010 -- 7:05PM, Cvalda wrote:

Can one actually incorporate the teachings into their life without that being the goal?


A lot of people do. :-)

Mar 17, 2010 -- 7:05PM, Cvalda wrote:

I am, as of yet, uncomfortable with the idea of total Enlightenment and Nirvana.


People have different ideas about what Enlightenment and Nibbana are. Just to be clear, Nibbana is the end of dukkha. Dukkha is a Pali word that has no good English translation. It's often translated as "suffering", but that's not accurate. It's more like the general sense of dissatisfaction that we encounter constantly. It ranges from mild annoyance to profound suffering. The Buddha taught that everything is marked by dukkha. Nothing lasts forever, and so we tend to feel some anxiety over the loss or possible loss of things. The fact that we're going to die tends to create some anxiety. There's also suffering from the loss of a loved one, or separation from someone you love, or the suffering from serious illness. Whether as annoyance, anxiety, or suffering, dukkha is a constant fact.

Enlightenment is the insight that leads to the end of attachment; that is, when we stop identifying with things. Nibbana is the end of dukkha that occurs when this identifying stops.

Nibbana and Nirvana both mean "extinguishing" in their original languages. In Buddhism, they mean the extinguishing of dukkha.

I hope that helps a little. :-)

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4 years ago  ::  Mar 18, 2010 - 4:14PM #3
Bob0
Posts: 482
The pronunciation question was just a google away. Here on the Island where we have many types of Buddhists and many different ethnic back grounds I sometimes hear it pronounced Tear a vah da. This may be because some backgrounds have difficulity pronouncing the th sound. My Thai friends have no idea they are Theravada. They just think they are Buddhists.

 


 

Buddhism has changed in many ways since the teaching of The Buddha. Certain belief systems, local customs and folkways have become bound up in Buddhism.  Rather than Nirvana I use the term awakening. When asked if he was a God, a heavenly being, a nature spirit, or a human being the Buddha replied no to all of these. He simply declared that he was "awake".  (AN IV.36 Dona Sutta With Dona) That is my goal. To overcome craving, desire, and leave ignorance behind in an awakened state. By incorporating the teachings of the Buddha into your life you may become awake. It takes time to understand what it is all about.

 

It seems to me that you are confusing enlightenment and reincarnation. There is a great debate as to whether reincarnation, rebirth or undeclared is the proper Buddhist position. In total numbers the Reincarnation Buddhists seem to outnumber the rest but it isn't the only position.

 

[ While I do call myself an Atheist, I'm a pretty bad one (LOL!!!) because I do believe that our "energy" (what some may call soul) does continue after we leave our earthly bodies, and I believe it may continue in many ways, in many forms... eternally..."]

 

This is a statement of your faith, something you want to believe in. Of course if you were pushed you couldn't provide proof of an eternal soul. 

 

You've spent a lot of time in a Judeo/Christian dominated country. Your parents, teachers, friends and the media all helped shape your thoughts. You have reached a point where you are comfortable with those thoughts. Some are beneficial and some are not. But you cling to them. Buddhism is peeling off those unwise, un beneficial ideas, dropping unwise and un beneficial actions and freeing yourself from the craving that causes suffering.

 

I hope this is beneficial.

Wishing you a small tranquil day,

Bob
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4 years ago  ::  Mar 18, 2010 - 5:25PM #4
Cvalda
Posts: 2

Thanks so much to both of you for your responses!  I truly appreciate it!


Mar 18, 2010 -- 1:27PM, RenGalskap wrote:

There's an expression that occurs a number of times in the suttas that translates as "This is not me, this is not mine, this is not what I am." So I may care enough to respond to your question, but this responding is not me, this action is not mine, these thoughts are not what I am. If I think of this action as mine, or these thoughts as me, then I become attached to them. In that case I would probably feel bad if you liked someone else's explanation better. But if I recognize that there's no "me" in these thoughts or this action, then it's not a problem if you pick whatever explanation makes the most sense to you.  Similarly, I care about the people in my family, but if I don't identify with my thoughts and actions, I can do things for them without becoming upset when the result is not what I was expecting. If I'm not attached to a particular outcome, then I can offer better help without my actions being biased by what I want.



Okay I sort of get you! The whole "this is not me" thing... that is definitely a thought I'd like to explore more and see how I can apply it to living.  But... what is me?  Or what is a me?  (Nope, not asking "Who am I" because I realize that is a totally unfair question for anyone!) I can understand it to an extent - "this house is not me. this is a house. this child is not me. it is a child."  You know what? I think I just answered my own question!  LOL!  Okay, but in saying "these actions are not mine", that's not the same as not taking responsibility for one's actions and deeds, correct?  I mean, owning up to what we do is important.  How does one seperate the two?  Also, if these thoughts are not mine, and these actions are not mine, whos are they?


Mar 18, 2010 -- 1:27PM, RenGalskap wrote:

A quick comment on language: Many Buddhist texts were written in Sanskrit. The original Theravada texts were written entirely in Pali. If you're going to study Theravada Buddhism, you're going to encounter the Pali word "nibbana", which is the equivalent of the Sanskrit "nirvana".



Good to know! Thank you!


Mar 18, 2010 -- 1:27PM, RenGalskap wrote:

People have different ideas about what Enlightenment and Nibbana are. Just to be clear, Nibbana is the end of dukkha. Dukkha is a Pali word that has no good English translation. It's often translated as "suffering", but that's not accurate. It's more like the general sense of dissatisfaction that we encounter constantly. It ranges from mild annoyance to profound suffering. The Buddha taught that everything is marked by dukkha. Nothing lasts forever, and so we tend to feel some anxiety over the loss or possible loss of things. The fact that we're going to die tends to create some anxiety. There's also suffering from the loss of a loved one, or separation from someone you love, or the suffering from serious illness. Whether as annoyance, anxiety, or suffering, dukkha is a constant fact.  Enlightenment is the insight that leads to the end of attachment; that is, when we stop identifying with things. Nibbana is the end of dukkha that occurs when this identifying stops.  Nibbana and Nirvana both mean "extinguishing" in their original languages. In Buddhism, they mean the extinguishing of dukkha.  I hope that helps a little. :-)



If there is one thing I've encountered in reading and studying about this, it is the concept of "dukkha"... at least I think! LOL!  However, what kind of existence is an enlightened existence?  If we are not experiencing suffering, happiness, pain, comfort, sorrow and joy, how do we know that we exist?  In my little overworked brain, it seems that an end to dukkha would be just that, the end.  What of our consciousness then?


I'm having trouble articulating my thoughts here because I'm having trouble pinning them down... I really need to work on stilling my mind... I will get there, I hope!  My follow-up question to the one I just asked was going to be "And why do I care?" which I know cannot by answered by anyone but me... I might need to figure out HOW to figure that out! LOL!


Mar 18, 2010 -- 4:14PM, Bob0 wrote:

The pronunciation  question was just a google away.



Thanks for the link! Just what I was looking for!  I did google, just didn't see that, and I always forget about dictionary.com! I use hit merriamwebster.com...


Mar 18, 2010 -- 4:14PM, Bob0 wrote:

Rather than Nirvana I use the term awakening. When asked  if he was a God, a heavenly being, a nature spirit, or a human being the  Buddha replied no to all of these. He simply declared that he was  "awake". 



I like this thought... am going to look into and ponder this in depth! Thanks!


Mar 18, 2010 -- 4:14PM, Bob0 wrote:

It seems to me that you are confusing enlightenment and  reincarnation.



I think I'm understanding the difference.  I don't care about reincarnation... if I die and come back, great.  If I die and that's it, great.  Whatever happens when I die is going to happen, so  be it.  But as I was saying previously in this response, I'm not sure what an enlightened existence really is, and I don't really know if that is what I would strive for.  In fact, I'm not striving for any one thing after I die.  I'm concerned with the living of this life.  (Guess that means I'm attached, huh? LOL!)


Mar 18, 2010 -- 4:14PM, Bob0 wrote:

This is a statement of your faith, something you want to believe  in. Of course if you were pushed you couldn't provide proof of an  eternal soul. 


 

You've spent a lot of time in a Judeo/Christian dominated country.  Your parents, teachers, friends and the media all helped shape your  thoughts. You have reached a point where you are comfortable with those  thoughts. Some are beneficial and some are not. But you cling to them.  Buddhism is peeling off those unwise, un beneficial ideas, dropping  unwise and un beneficial actions and freeing yourself from the craving  that causes suffering.



I hear you there!  But when it comes to what I WANT to believe and what I DO believe, they are seperate, although I recognize that neither may be the truth.  Yah, I've been very ingrained with the Christian doctrine, and in some ways, wish I could still believe it - oh yah, the idea of a loving Creator who created me and cares and wants me to be with Him eternally - that is a beautiful thought!  I'd love to believe that.  But I don't, and haven't for the last ten years of my life. Not for a second. With that out of the picture, my next one would  be that I want to believe that when we die, that's it, light's out, no do overs, what's done is done.  But given the state of energy and so many other things as I understand them, I don't believe that, either.  Do I WANT to believe in reincarnation?  Um... you know what? That sounds really tiring! LOL!  I'm definitely not scared of leaving this human body (okay, terrified of the process of dying, but once I'm dead, yah, I have no problem there). 


I guess I really just need to do some soul searching and reflection on what my hang up is with this all, since when presented with most options, I don't care what happens... wait, I'm lying to myself... I do care because I would NOT want to end up in a Christian heaven, and I'm not sure if Enlightenment is ... whatever it is...  oh what fun our little human brains are !LOL!  I guess what I'm trying really hard NOT to say is, I don't know if Nirvana/Enlightenment is for me because I don't know if I deserve as much... nor if I want to give up as much...


Attached.  Yah.  :P


Okay off to do some more reading, some more pondering, some more soul searching, and to try to get a grasp on this meditation thing...  Thanks all for your time!  :)

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4 years ago  ::  Apr 27, 2010 - 4:16PM #5
Rosie1992
Posts: 1

Thanks you all tremendously for your insight. I'm developing an interest in Buddhism and this really helped.

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