Home > Buddhism > Buddhism Refuted: A Buddhist’s Paradox Exposed

Buddhism Refuted: A Buddhist’s Paradox Exposed

The person I replied to previously, who asked me about what I thought about the Buddhist concept of “sunyata”, gave me command from Buddha at the end of his letter, which after analyzing, realized was contradictory and self-negating. He gave me this verse, or statement from Buddha, supposedly from Buddha:

“Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

It’s contradictory in at least two ways:

1) It’s saying not to believe something unless you already believe it, which would include that sentence, so unless you already believe in not believing what you already believe, then you WOULDN’T believe that sentence, making it a futile command or advisory. In other words, you’d have to already believe that advice or command to believe and obey it. Whoever came up with it was implying that above all his other teachings, that that sentence was the one to first consider, as if that sentence was some how an exception to whether or not you believed it or not (UNLESS it was merely a malicious statement made by a demon that knew it was circular and illogical).

2) You shouldn’t believe anything according to this statement because no one is born with beliefs, only instincts. Beliefs develop from acquired knowledge. So, if you hadn’t learned whatever else Buddha advised or anything like it, and he said that to you, and you believed it, then you would still be unable to believe anything else he said since he said not to believe it unless you already did.

That also makes this statement harmful to learning, because it’s saying not to have anymore beliefs then what you already believe (so you’ve never learn anything else that could save your life or keep you from harm).

It’s also illogical in that in order to believe the statement itself, you must already believe that you should believe such statements.

Related Post:

Buddhism’s Sunyata Explained and Refuted

Update 11-10-2012, 11:49 P.M.:

LOL, THANK GOD, that I said “supposedly from Buddha” because I read just a few minutes ago from fakebuddhaquotes.com that it is fake. The blogger of that site says he thinks it is a mangled translation of this quote (that is supposedly form Buddha):

“…don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are unskillful; these qualities are blameworthy; these qualities are criticized by the wise; these qualities, when adopted & carried out, lead to harm & to suffering’ — then you should abandon them.”

Notice anything very bad? If you’re Christian or a philosopher you no doubt notice either of these glaring errors: “by scripture, by logical conjecture”. For the Christian, God’s word is perfect and logical reasoning is the only way to know and understand truth, and to the philosopher of math and informal logic, the last is true too. I also realized another problem after reading that quote on the “fake” site, that it is a futile saying in a way, if whoever made that fake quote meant simply agreeing with (though not believing), then he would have been giving a command or advice that somewhat equates to: don’t lie or pander, so then, what would have been better to say was, “Don’t say you believe something is true that you don’t believe is true” since it would be dishonest and you may mislead someone by agreeing with it, like it may turn out to be false and you gave the false appearance of it being true with your support, but the way it’s stated as I said in the beginning, is flawed. And if the inventor of that comment meant “don’t believe a thing is true that you don’t believe” then it’s a completely pointless command since a person can’t believe a thing that they can’t believe. It’s like saying, “Don’t pick up something with your hands if you have no hands”! You can’t anyways!

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  1. Robin
    July 24, 2011 at 11:53 AM

    But surely the whole point is that you form your own beliefs by gathering information along the way from many different sources and assemble that information yourself, test it with logic and then you can believe it, or not if you see fit.

    • July 24, 2011 at 1:28 PM

      Hi, not sure what you are replying to concerning what I wrote, but I’m going to guess that when you say “the whole point” that you’re referring to “the meaning of life” which many New Ager’s and Mormons claim is for us to learn. However what is your and their evidence for that? Buddha is not God and did not make a meaning of life that applies to us all and the Bible clearly says that the meaning of life goes beyond people simple generalized learning, but specific learning and that we SHOULD worship God because he deserves that worship. Those going to Hell will have their learning, tragically and horrifyingly limited to forever remembering that they were wrong to reject God, and that being in pain forever was not worth hating him, and those who are forgiven (by God’s choice primarily, not based on the desire of men to be forgiven) will forever have perfect knowledge of who God is and the universe, to the extent that God allows, and learning about new people being born and what they do and how it feels to associate with them and the endless events that will occur in the renewed universe. Life is not given for the sake of merely learning. Also, many people can and do excuse their rejection of God as “we’re still learning” as the Mainstream Science Cult does, who hope for a breakthrough or deluding themselves into thinking that they have one, against the Bible, and therefore a just reason to reject him. That excuse is no better then saying, when you shoot a flaming arrow at someone with hatred, “I was only joking.” And that example comes from the Bible. And as for the last part you said, yes, you can make make judgments and have beliefs, but not everyone makes such judgments truthfully, but rather are biased and many knowingly delude themselves. And regardless of what you base your judgments on, it isn’t self justifying. You cannot say to God on judgment day, “I was justified in what I chose to believe BECAUSE I BELIEVED.” That’s a nonsensical statement, and WITHOUT logical evidence to support it. It’s like saying, “I’m justified in murdering BECAUSE I MURDERED.”

  2. September 8, 2011 at 12:30 AM

    hi there, that a very nice observation u have made.How ever i don’t see why the statement

    “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”

    is self negating or contradictory. At first the above statement is just another statement that you may come across in daily life.you might think about it and choose to believe it to be true or not just as you would do for any other statements that you may come across.

    the reasons for believing the above statement could be many,it may be that it makes sense to you,it may be that you just felt like it or it may be that it appeared to be illogical but for some strange (or unexplained) reason you belied in it.

    If it was the case that you believed the above statement (and also follow what the statement says) ,from then on u will think about other statements(or ideas,concepts etc perhaps even the initial statement it self) before you believe in them too.

    so it may also be the case that you initially just believed in the statement. Then do as the statement says(which would be to think about ideas,concepts statements before you believe them) and then thought about the statement above and then decided that the statement did not make sense and hence stop following what the statement says(for it may indeed be possible that the above statement may not be meaningful to some people).

    however it may also be the case that you may not believe the initial statement and then not follow what it says.

    so as i see it the bhuddha has given us his opinion (or advice) about how to deal with ideas,concepts etc and it would be up to us to either accept it or reject it.Perhaps the reason the bhudda gave this opinion(or advice) despite the fact that this opinion(or advice) could be rejected was that there was also a possibility that it could be accepted.

    thanks for making that observation though, it really made me think, let me know what you think

    cheers :)

    • September 8, 2011 at 12:49 PM

      Perhaps I should have said that it CAN lead to a paradox, or contradiction, because if you say it this way (and it’s implied by the original version), “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense, including this statement, ‘Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.'” Now how can you believe that statement if it doesn’t agree with your “reason” or “common sense”? Also to say, “your own reason” is grammatically nonsensical or too vague to be understood. If it were worded, “…if id doesn’t agree with what you reason to true and what is common sense (common sense meaning: known by most people to be true) that would make sense. It also seems like useless advice to me, even in it’s grammatically correct form, because who in the world believes something that doesn’t make sense to them, or rather, doesn’t have doubts about it?
      Isn’t is common sense not to fully trust in something you have doubts about, and isn’t that just the natural inevitable mental consequence? If some math problem doesn’t make sense to a person, can they honestly think to themselves, “It makes sense.”?

      Another problem with that statement is that it excludes trusting in something for which there are trustworthy witnesses. For example if you are face with a math equation you can’t understand, but which helps prove that say, a starship you are on can make it safely back to Earth with an asteroid field in the way. Though you may not be able to understand the math formula they worked out to figure out how to get past the asteroid field to Earth without running out of fuel, if you know them to be trustworthy, then why would it be illogical to put your trust in them again? Or say it was God who worked out the formula, and you knew him to be perfect, that would truly be illogical to not believe the formula to be correct then, wouldn’t it? Yet that statement says, in its simplified, grammatically correct form, “Don’t believe it if you can’t understand it, or if most others don’t believe it.” It’s a corrupt form of reasoning, corrupt advice. If it allowed for trusting in the claims of witnesses you reasoned to be trustworthy and that everyone else agreed was trustworthy, that would be better. But it still is wrong, because what if you don’t have the luxury of knowing what most people think, and live in a small village, and are stuck there? What if you are a slave, isolated in some place with little contact with others (and many have been in this situation, and slaves still exist in many places in the world who may be trapped in a house with few people and where few people visit)? And say you have little access to other information, except maybe the Bible, and four books about the Bible, with no references other than Bible verses? Then you must rely on reason apart from common sense. But the statement says reason AND common sense. You have to know what many others believe to know that it’s “common sense.”

      And what if someone says to you, “If you pray to God to know the truth, with all sincerity and with all your heart in order to please him above yourself, then he’ll give you superior reasoning, knowledge and understanding,” and suppose that it’s true that if you do pray in that way it will happen, yet you can’t understand why it would be so, and most people you know say, “There’s no God,” or “I don’t believe that,” then they will have missed out on that. It’s anti-scientific in that way, and prevents progress. What harm would it do to convince yourself that that statement was true and to then heed it at least as an experiment, or “wager”?

      Perhaps a rebuttal could be, “It’s doesn’t rule out experimenting to find out if something is true, if you believe that experimentation is true and agreed by others that that is true,” however that would be wrong, because it still negates heeding the statement of having faith that God exists and will open your eyes if you pray to him for help and so on, the experiment requires that, requires going against Buddha’s advice or command. In way, it’s as if he were saying, “Only believe what I tell you is reasonable, that is what common sense is.” It’s like a sleight of hand trick, that hinders someone from leaning the truth.

      What Buddha said, to me, is also like saying these paradoxical things, “This statement is a lie” or “This statement is true” or “Don’t believe this statement.”

    • September 8, 2011 at 1:20 PM

      Here’s another way of saying what Buddha said and why it is wrong, or hypocritical: “Don’t believe anything is true, even if I say it is true, unless you can understand why it is true and if more than most people instinctively know or feel that it is true.” The problem with that is that he’s implying that his advice or command (without evidence), is something reasonable, at least to those he tells it to, and that it is “common sense”. IF IT ISN’T reasonable or common sense, then the statement should not be believed. It also becomes paradoxical if stated this way (which it already implies):

      ” Believe this command is true: ‘ Don’t believe anything is true, even if I say it is true, unless you can understand why it’s true and if more than most people instinctively know or feel it’s true, including the statement: ‘ Believe this command is true: ” Don’t believe anything is true, even if I say it is true, unless you can understand why it’s true and if more than most people instinctively know or feel it’s true. ” ‘ ” So he’s saying, “Believe me” BEFORE you reason it to be true, and his command can be multiplied into inifinity so that it has no end. It’s an infinitely repeating contradiction, or at least, a command with no conclusion because it asks you to attempt to believe than question the command’s validity, and then repeats again into infinity since you must constantly anyalize the next repeat to see if it is reasonable and common sense after being told to believe it first. It’s very confusing. I would like to see that translated into a mathematical formula to show it as a mathematical paradox.

      • January 15, 2012 at 1:49 AM

        hi there

        in your rephrasing of the bhuddas quote

        ” Believe this command is true: ‘ Don’t believe anything is true, even if I say it is true, unless you can understand why it’s true and if more than most people instinctively know or feel it’s true, including the statement: ‘ Believe this command is true: ” Don’t believe anything is true, even if I say it is true, unless you can understand why it’s true and if more than most people instinctively know or feel it’s true. ”

        i dont understand why you add the precondition “belive this statement is true ” at the begining of your rephrasing of the quote .In addition to this , when you say “So he’s saying, “Believe me” BEFORE you reason it to be true, and his command can be multiplied into inifinity so that it has no end.”

        i dont see why its necessary that you belive that the bhuddas quote is true before you analyse its truthfulness or correctness.
        because not beliving that this quote is true at the beginning would not make it impossible to analyse the quote.
        the reason for this is that before a quote is analysed for certain characteristics (a quotes truthfulness,logical structure etc) the nature of that characterestic can only be guessed (perhaps based on common sense).
        only after the analysis of the quote would you be able to know with a certain level of certanty( the levell of certanty will depend on the way the analysis was carried out)of the true nature of the characterestic the quote was being analysed for.
        in fact one could argue that its impossible to know certain characteristics of a quote before the quote is analysed first,for prior to analysis a quote would be a meaningless collection of words.
        could you please elaborate on why you decided to add the precondition “Believe this command is true:” when rephrasing the bhudas quote.

  3. September 8, 2011 at 11:15 PM

    Hi there thanks a lot for taking the time to reply,its much appriciated

    I did not actually know that the full version of the Buddhas teaching also included the bit “And your common sense” thanx for pointing this out. Its very intresting that the bhudda included this aspect of common sense and I will go and speak to a monk to better understand why.

    The definition of comon sense you gave was as follows (please correct me if I have miss understood you ) “common sense meaning: known by most people to be true” your definition appears to be similar to wikipedias definition too ,which is “ Common sense, as described by Merriam-Webster, is defined as beliefs or propositions that most people consider prudent and of sound judgment, without reliance on esoteric knowledge or study or research, but based upon what they see as knowledge held by people “in common”. Thus “common sense” (in this view) equates to the knowledge and experiencewhich most people already have, or which the person using the term believes that they do or should have. According to Cambridge Dictionary, the phrase is good sense and sound judgment in practical matters (“the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way”). ”
    Now according to what I know about bhuddism so far what the bhudda ment by common sense in this instance is more likely to be like the definition of common sense provided by the online cambridge dictionary which is as follows “ the basic level of practical knowledge and judgment that we all need to help us live in a reasonable and safe way http://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/british/common-sense“
    but I may be wrong I will claify this with the monk soon. But I do think the Buddha could have been more explicit about the meaning of the term “common sense” (may be he was though ,because usually his teaching have commentaries that are attached to them which explain things in more detail,again I will clarify with the monk ).
    If a persone comes across this teaching of bhudda and decides to investigate it,then,After investigating the teaching of bhudda (using what ever techniques they use to investigate whether it be using logic or are swayed by some emotion or a mix of emotions or logic or what ever other techniques thery may use
    )they may then decide to either accept this teaching or reject it.its important to notice that a persone may initially accepts or rejct this teaching not because the bhudda says his teaching is true, but because their own techniques for accepting or rejecting ideas found this teaching to be either acceptable or rejectable.
    If a persone initially accepts this teaching of bhudda and also decides to follow it, then from that point on they will think about ideas concepts etc and only accept them if it “… agrees with your own reason and your own common sense”(im paraphrasing the bhudda here).
    An interesting situation could arise here though,a persone may accept this teaching of bhudda at first using there own techniques used for accepting or rejecting ideas.Then after accepting this teaching of the bhudda they may then think about the teaching of bhudda again (sort of what im doing now lol),then they may decide that the teaching of bhudda is no longer true.This could happen for example if a persone thought about the teaching of bhudda at first and made a logical error in his line of though(or perhaps got swayed by some emotions) and then mistakenly decided to accept the teaching,how ever after doing as the teaching of bhudda says he may re investigate the teaching of bhudda and then because he made no logical error decided that its false and reject it.So this teaching of bhudda leaves room for this very teaching to be investigated.
    One could assume that some one could first accept and then reject the taching in a infinite loop(or atleast as long as the persone lives lol),and in deed this may or may not be the case.I too sometimes question this teaching but so far found no reason to reject it,but who knows I might find a reason in the future(may be you could convince me :).
    When you say “ It also seems like useless advice to me, even in it’s grammatically correct form, because who in the world believes something that doesn’t make sense to them, or rather, doesn’t have doubts about it?”
    this may in deed be true for you,this is also the case with me he seems to be stating the obvious. However even though this teaching of bhudda is not useful to me (and you) it may be useful to others for it may help them to improve there decision making techniques( decisions about accepting or rejecting concepts,statements etc).
    As for the following issue that u mentioned “ Another problem with that statement is that it excludes trusting in something for which there are trustworthy witnesses.”I dont think there is actually a problem.The reason I say this is as follows.
    A concept or idea that I come across can have many sources such as a book,a persone or what ever other source.Once I come across this idea or concept I may decide to investigate it no matter where it came from(not accept the idea simply investigate it).
    When I investigate this concept I may also be aware of the source of that concept take the source into account as I investigate.
    Take your example of the space ship for example,if I knew that the equation was formulated by god I would certainly accept it,similarly if I knew it was from an idiot I would not.
    The above teaching of bhudda allows for such a situation.Assume that I have accepted the the teaching of bhudda.Now I come across this equation and also some additional information about the equations origin (which is that its from god),then I would think about whether to accept this equation or reject it.
    I cannot understand the equation so im not able to judge its validity,how ever I am also aware of the fact that god was the source of it,if I was aware of the nature of god(the fact that god would help me and not harm me for example ,this information could be a part of my common sense ) then I would accept the equation solely based on the source even if I don’t understand the equation.
    However it could be that knowledge about god was not apart of my common sense so in this case I may not accept the equation and then run out of fule :( .
    So I suppose simply accepting the bhuddas teaching may not help me make right decissions it may how ever make my decision making techniques better at least this has been the case for me so far , and if I would notice that following the bhuddas teaching is not efective then I could always reject it for a better decision making technique.

    thanks again for your reply, awaiting ur next reply, cheers :)

  4. indra
    January 1, 2012 at 1:26 AM

    buddha never said to belive him He said there is suffering and asked to look at it . and pointed to the way to to cesation of suffering

    • January 1, 2012 at 1:31 AM

      But as I pointed out, he indeed said to believe him, BUT contradicted himself. Further, if he states a thing as fact, like, “This is how not to suffer,” do you think he’s saying, “Don’t believe me”? If so, he was a poor teacher and insane. And as I’ve pointed out, he didn’t make sense. So his way does not lead to peace. Please study logical fallacies and what I wrote more carefully.

  5. January 11, 2012 at 12:14 PM

    At the beginning of the first post you mention that the bhudda said “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense.”.when the bhudda says “… no matter if I have said it…” ,it appears that he did not want us to believe something just because he said it.
    You also mention that if he did not expect us to believe what he said,then this would mean that he is a bad teacher. Whether he is a bad teacher or not depends on the standards of teaching you judge the bhudda with,could you elaborate on why exactly you think the bhudda was a bad teacher .
    If a person sates a fact,it doesn’t necessarily mean that they expect you to belive what he says.for example if I said “ aliens exist ” I might have many intentions in making this statement. My intentions could be to scare you,to make you curious about aliens,to make you read about the possibility of existence of aliens or it could also mean that my intention was for you to belive that there are aliens.
    How ever if I made a the following statement “ aliens exists,you must belive me !“ then one could make a fair assumption that my intentions were to make you belive in the existance of aliens,how ever again my true intentions may have been different. My true intentions could have been to make you curios about aliens and then grab your attention by giving you a sense of urgency by saying saying “ …. you must believe me!”.
    Hence you could assume that the bhudda wanted you to belive what he said but ,remember this is simply an assumption that you make based on the statement the bhudda made. The bhuddas true intentions may simply have been to make you curios about the nature of belief,or perhaps some other hidden intention that you or I still haven’t thought of :)

  1. February 8, 2012 at 7:46 AM

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