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the soul
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roshan
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2007 11:54 pm    Post subject:  Reply with quote

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what do you atheists think about the soul?


I am a Vedantic atheist, and I do accept the idea of a soul.

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But to the explanation of the conciousness, think of a little baby, think of the different persons around the world suffering from different abnormalties in the brain (autists, spastic and many more). These examples show, in my opinion, what conciousness is made of. And its made of the constant interaction of the many different small elements in our brain and the impulses we get through the different senses. Through times we get some impulses on how to behave and how to react on different things. This makes us have feelings and emotions.


This depends on ones definition of the soul/consciousness. Note that in the Hindu (vedantic) context, the soul is defined as being pure awareness. It has nothing to do with thoughts and emotions. While the Abrahamic concept of the soul is anthropomorphic, being responsible for thinking and feeling, the Vedantic one is not.

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And about the evolutionary element you would find that other animals are able to have empathy, meaning is able to have feelings and emotions in relation to others. And the thing would be explained that the animal who created these elements was/is somehow more able to survive in a specific environment.


Any creature with awareness would be defined by Vedanta as posessing a soul.
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2007 2:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Roshan,

I thought this topic would be ideal in the Eastern Religions thread. Problem is, most Eastern beliefs are also atheistic. Smile

So anyway, I think there are similarities between Hindu and Buddhist philosophies but I was told there are also stark differences, like in the belief of a permanent soul and practices such as the caste system.

As I elaborated in the other thread, while we all have identities (the "I"), Buddhist believe that it is in constant change, meaning there is no permanent uniquely identifiable soul. This is observable in both the mundane level (like asking your spouse if you've changed) and the supramundane level (by observing the "I" during very deep meditation).

Now, some people like to say "I was so-and-so in my previous life" as in the case of child prodigies. On the surface this appears to support the popular notion of a premanent, preservable soul that transcends death.

I believe some elements of identity can transmigrate from existence to existence. However, depending on the state of energy at the time of transmigration, they may be dispersed to other energy concentrations within that fabric of "reality".

One observable example of this is how the memories of an individual who had passed on can reappear in more than one individual. Studies in Tibet showed cases where several child Lamas could remember the personal artifacts of a dead Lama that had never been made public, implying that part of the 'soul' had been reborn in several individuals. This led to chaos in succession planning.

Sorry, told you I didn't know if this belonged in Eastern religion or atheist section but it does present one view of the nature of the soul. Smile
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PostPosted: Sun Dec 09, 2007 10:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

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I thought this topic would be ideal in the Eastern Religions thread. Problem is, most Eastern beliefs are also atheistic.


Or at the very least, not dependant on theism. Smile

Quote:
So anyway, I think there are similarities between Hindu and Buddhist philosophies but I was told there are also stark differences, like in the belief of a permanent soul and practices such as the caste system.


On a superficial level, yes, there are differences. But upon studying the multitude of philosophies within each, the differences began to blur. As an example, the concept of Brahman(ultimate reality, identical to the soul) and Maya (relative reality) in Advaita (non dualist) Vedanta is identical to that of Nirvana/Buddha and Sunyata in some of the Mahayana sects (see the links I gave in the other thread). In fact, I think that in many ways, Mahayana Buddhism is basically a blend of Theravada and Vedanta (there are non philosophical influences as well - such as, for example, the use of Sanskrit as a liturgical language, breaking away from the use of Buddhist tradition of using Prakrits like Pali and Gandharan).

Note that caste in India was a medieval phenomenon - at the time Buddhism started, the caste system barely existed. By the time caste began to develop into its modern form, Buddhism was already on the decline, if not well on its way out.

Quote:
Now, some people like to say "I was so-and-so in my previous life" as in the case of child prodigies. On the surface this appears to support the popular notion of a premanent, preservable soul that transcends death.

I believe some elements of identity can transmigrate from existence to existence. However, depending on the state of energy at the time of transmigration, they may be dispersed to other energy concentrations within that fabric of "reality".

One observable example of this is how the memories of an individual who had passed on can reappear in more than one individual. Studies in Tibet showed cases where several child Lamas could remember the personal artifacts of a dead Lama that had never been made public, implying that part of the 'soul' had been reborn in several individuals. This led to chaos in succession planning.

Sorry, told you I didn't know if this belonged in Eastern religion or atheist section but it does present one view of the nature of the soul.


One way of thinking of the soul is the pure, uncontaminated, changeless "Buddha" that lies within you, which Hindus call the Atman. Obviously, this is the exact same thing that lies in everyone else, hence, the Atman is identical to Brahman (Nirvana), or the absolute reality upon which everything else is superimposed. Therefore, no one actually has a soul of their own, there is just "the" soul, which would explain that incident of branching reincarnation in Tibet.

Note that the existence of memories (even of previous lives) that can be relived indicates that experience is not merely just a series of snapshots, but that there is some sort of thread connecting it together. Therefore, in addition to the atman/brahman, Vedanta accepts the idea of a Jiva (illussionary individual soul) which is a composite entity, composed not only of the atman, but also of karmas from previous lives, memory imprints and possibly other things as well. Strangely enough, it seems that there were Buddhist sects who accepted ideas similar to the Jiva while at the same time rejecting the Atman, while other Buddhists sects accepted the Atman (but calling it different names) while rejecting the Jiva, showing the many different ways in which Anatta can be interpreted, and blurring the distinction between Hinduism and Buddhism just a little bit more.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 1:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hi Roshan,

I've moved our discussion to a new thread under Non-Abrahamic Religions:

http://freefaith.myfreeforum.org/sutra1240.php#1240

since we're starting to discuss ideas specific to Buddhism and Hinduism. See you in the other thread.
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 10:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

norwegian wrote:
Hi Roshan,

I've moved our discussion to a new thread under Non-Abrahamic Religions:

http://freefaith.myfreeforum.org/sutra1240.php#1240

since we're starting to discuss ideas specific to Buddhism and Hinduism. See you in the other thread.


Who needs MOD when we have mature and intelligent members like you guys! Very Happy

I am really impressed with the the attitude of the non-Abrahamic folks!
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

roshan wrote:

I am a Vedantic atheist, and I do accept the idea of a soul.

This depends on ones definition of the soul/consciousness. Note that in the Hindu (vedantic) context, the soul is defined as being pure awareness. It has nothing to do with thoughts and emotions. While the Abrahamic concept of the soul is anthropomorphic, being responsible for thinking and feeling, the Vedantic one is not.


Hi Roshan

Nice to meet you.

You say that the vedantic concept of soul is the one of "pure awareness". I must admit I have little knowledge of the vedantic philosophy, but I'm glad that you pressed me to finally having a look at my little booklet on vedantic philosophy and religion by Satsvarupa dasa Goswami. As I read his little indtroduction to the vedantic thougths and concepts I get an idea of several concepts of soul, but I guess that your concept either is the "atma" = "self" or "jiva" or both (or perhaps its the same)?

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EDIT: Had not seen that you already had discussed the two terms in your discussion with norwegian, as seen above, sorry. So my question would rather be what concept of soul from the vedantic philosophy is it you accept?
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But nontheless regarding which concept or another one you are refering to my view is that its still part of the material, ie. the brain.
And as far as I understand considering the vedantic view I will continue to be reborn in eternity because I think myself of being a material.

Cheers and peace.

PS. If you rather want to answer in the other thread 'norwegian' put up that's fine with me.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 3:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The thing is, today there are various sects of Vedanta, and almost all of them are theistic, but to various extents. I can tell from the name of the booklets author that he is probably from one of the theistic and dualistic variants of Vedanta. On the other hand, I am an atheist and a monist. So you will find that his explanation and views of the soul, reality, god, scriptures and others will be very different from mine, in many cases, virtually the opposite.

Quote:
But nontheless regarding which concept or another one you are refering to my view is that its still part of the material, ie. the brain.


It is a bit difficult to explain the atma, as words such as consciousness are quite ambiguous. A decent explanation would be something that allows one to be aware of consciousness. I dont have anything against viewing the mind as being purely material though.

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And as far as I understand considering the vedantic view I will continue to be reborn in eternity because I think myself of being a material.


Not actually true. Anyone can achieve enlightenment - what matters is not belief, but the practice of spirituality.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 11:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

roshan wrote:
It is a bit difficult to explain the atma, as words such as consciousness are quite ambiguous. A decent explanation would be something that allows one to be aware of consciousness.


Here's a version of how consciousness arise:

Dependent on Ignorance arise Volitional Formations. Dependent on Volitional Formations arise Rebirth Consciousness. Dependent on Rebirth Consciousness arise Mind and Matter. Dependent on Mind and Matter arise the Sixfold Base. Dependent on the Sixfold Base arise Contact. Dependent on Contact arise Feeling. Dependent on Feeling arise Craving. Dependent on Craving arise Clinging. Dependent on Clinging arise Becoming. Dependent on Becoming arise Birth. Dependent on Birth arise Ageing and Death and sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief, and despair. Thus there is the arising of this whole mass of suffering.

- Extracted from the principles from Dependent Origination (how things arise.)

If you notice, the first link of the chain is ignorance and the last link suffering. Ignorance is canceled out by enlightenment. If you break the chain at the very beginning, the rest will break away and cease to exist. This is the central philosophy of Buddhism.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2007 6:42 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

roshan wrote:
The thing is, today there are various sects of Vedanta, and almost all of them are theistic, but to various extents. I can tell from the name of the booklets author that he is probably from one of the theistic and dualistic variants of Vedanta. On the other hand, I am an atheist and a monist. So you will find that his explanation and views of the soul, reality, god, scriptures and others will be very different from mine, in many cases, virtually the opposite.


I understand. And yes he's quite theistic  Smile  but nontheless interesting to read.
But about you being a monist do you also accept reincarnation? - do you reject dualism?
What would you suggest to read if one is interested in learning more about it?
Sorry for all the question, I'm just curious.

roshan wrote:
It is a bit difficult to explain the atma, as words such as consciousness are quite ambiguous. A decent explanation would be something that allows one to be aware of consciousness. I dont have anything against viewing the mind as being purely material though.


Yes you said it was the "pure awareness". But how does this manifest itself? To me there seems to be some kind of dualism, considering "atma" and "material" or is those two of the same kind? So you don't accept the idea of "jiva", according to my book, being the thing which makes us want material things?

roshan wrote:

Not actually true. Anyone can achieve enlightenment - what matters is not belief, but the practice of spirituality.


Can you elaborate on what this means? I mean what is the "practice of spirituality"?

Cheers
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 12, 2007 2:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

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But about you being a monist do you also accept reincarnation? - do you reject dualism?
What would you suggest to read if one is interested in learning more about it?
Sorry for all the question, I'm just curious.


I accept reincarnation, and reject dualism.

What do you wish to learn about?

Quote:
Yes you said it was the "pure awareness". But how does this manifest itself? To me there seems to be some kind of dualism, considering "atma" and "material" or is those two of the same kind?


Well, the word used for this sort of philosophy is "advaita" which is translated into English as "non-duality" - it is called non dualism in the sense that it does not recognize that  there is anything dual to or existing independent of the absolute reality (Brahman). The material (which includes the individual soul, karma, and even god, of one exists) is regarded to be superimposed on Brahman - hence, only Brahman exists. The material (maya) arises out of Brahman naturally - sort of like sparks or flames emanating out of a fire, or how the theoretical god particle combines in multiple ways to produce all of physical existence. You could claim that this philosophy is dualistic because it does contrast reality in its absolute state (Brahman) with reality in its relative state (Maya) - but in the end, Brahman and Maya are not dual to each other since it is the same reality viewed from different perspectives, with Maya being illussory in comparision to Brahman - like a child thinking that a rope is a snake in the dark. Once one is enlightened, one realizes that the snake is just a rope.

In the end the reason for confusion is that dualism has multiple meanings in English. Although Advaita literally translates as non-dualism, the English word that most accurately captures what the philosophy is about is monism. Here is the definition of monism as per Encarta:

1.  theory of reality as single entity: the philosophical theory that reality is a unified whole and is grounded in a single basic substance or principle.

Quote:
So you don't accept the idea of "jiva", according to my book, being the thing which makes us want material things?


Hard to comment on this without reading your book. But in Advaita, desire for physical things has nothing to do with either the Jiva or the Atma - it is due entirely to the human ego/mind.

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