David N. Snyder quotes

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David N. Snyder, Ph.D. (1962- ) is a bestselling Buddhist writer primarily writing from the teachings found in the Early Buddhist Texts (Nikayas, Agamas) of Buddhism. He is also founder of Vipassana Foundation and Dhamma Wiki.


On biological evolution, animals, soul theories

  • An understanding and acceptance of the theory of evolution is important because without that acceptance there is a perception of a great separation between humans and animals which simply is not true.
  • If animals are not spiritual beings subject to a heaven or hell or to rebirth; if animals do not have a soul, then neither do humans. The human species evolved from other species of animals. We are animals, members of the Animal Kingdom. If humans are spiritual beings, then so are all animals.
  • For those that believe in a soul but reject rebirth, then my (rhetorical) question to them is, where did the souls come from? If from God, then why only humans have this? We evolved from other animals -- we are animals; members of the Animal Kingdom.

On The Four Noble Truths

Main article: The Four Noble Truths
  • Suffering exists because of unfulfilled expectations. Therefore, it follows that, the logical negation of false expectations leads to no suffering. By following the eightfold middle path, you have the absolute value of fulfilled expectations which are greater than or equal to the sum total of all expectations.

On meditation and full lotus posture

  • Pain exists, suffering is optional; reduce resistance to pain and you reduce your suffering.
  • It matters more what you do with your mind than what you do with your legs.

On vegetarianism

  • The bottom line from an ahimsa (nonviolence) view which all Dharmic religions aspire to, is that any diet choice is going to have some 'collateral' damage, even if you are vegan (the harvest damage to insects or small animals from pesticides). So judging any diet as being particularly violent or unwholesome is not very helpful since all diets are somewhat violent. However, we could try to choose the least amount of violence, if we are able to. A meat based diet includes animals that were fed grains for years so there is the killing of the animal plus the collateral damage from harvest (see this chart: number of animals killed by diet choices). We should also realize that some people don't always have the luxury to choose the least violent due to family, culture, or if they are a monastic.

On Western philosophy

  • Western schools of philosophical thought have failed to be valid in all situations as one exclusive school of thought could not explain all possible phenomena. The Dhamma does not fit into any one of the Western philosophies. Much of the Vinaya is deontological. Skillful means can be considered consequentialist. The Four Noble Truths, Dependent Origination and kamma are natural ethics. Investigation, energy (Pali: vicaya, viriya) can fit to being compatible with skeptical inquiry. The Vinaya changing over time and circumstances can make the Dhamma compatible with subjectivity. The Dhamma mostly fits to natural ethics. Living beings are naturally subject to pain and suffering and there is a way to the end of suffering. Kamma and Dependent Origination are natural events that can be observed and experienced.

On the modern trend toward atheism, physicalism or materialism

  • Materialism postulates that we are all mere material, like machines, we have parts like hearts, liver, lungs, hips that can be changed out and replaced and because of this we must all be nothing but physical material that just decays and dies, no soul, no buddha-nature, i.e., the atheist's belief. The atheists contend that when we die, that is it, basically annihilation, no more existence in any form. If everything is materialism only and that's all there is, then why have scientists not been able to duplicate life? In all their expertise, skill, and knowledge, they have not been able to reproduce the tiniest gnat. Cloning does not count, as that uses the host's DNA. Robotic animals don't count, as they have no consciousness.
  • We have gone to the moon, built missiles and warheads capable of mass destruction and other very high technological advances, but we can't even duplicate a simple tiny gnat.
  • There appears to be something more to mere material of a being, otherwise material should be able to be replicated and make a new life, without using anyone's DNA, seed, egg or other biological material.

On the many different schools of Buddhism

  • Different strokes for different folks. They are all good. Each tradition can be seen as a technique for different temperaments. All head toward nibbana / nirvana. Some take a short path, some take the scenic route.

General comments and thoughts regarding Buddhism

  • When rigidity to a rule or tradition comes in conflict with compassion; choose compassion.

Skepticism vs. Faith (regarding the Buddhist teachings, rebirth, meditation techniques, etc.)

  • The person with too much doubt is like a person driving a car who doesn't take his foot off the brake. He refuses to take it off, not knowing or afraid of what might happen. He sees a green light but knows that the green color has no intrinsic meaning and is culturally based. It might mean stop in one culture or go in another. He has no faith or confidence that the cars going the other way are stopped or will stop. So he keeps his foot on the brake. He goes no where. Another person has a good balance of some skepticism and confidence. He has confidence in the people who placed the signs that they did so at the right places. He follows those signs. He trusts that the signs will take him to the place where he is supposed to go. He is also careful, so when he enters the intersection, he still checks with his head and eyes to make sure it is clear. He gently puts his foot on the accelerator. He progresses toward his destination.

On the internet and using the internet for Dhamma teachings

  • Like anything there are pros and cons, advantages and disadvantages. The disadvantages include some false Dhamma teachings, but the positive far outweighs the negative. There are numerous Suttas translated into many languages on the internet, e-books and other material, mostly at no charge to readers. This is the information age. I can remember when information was a commodity. Some held onto their information and knowledge like a prized-possession. Now some people go to forums and ask questions and there are numerous people ready to provide the information and teachings to help the person. People are not possessive about it any more because they know that it can be found out anyway through wikepedia, google or another online source. And it is sometimes quite easy to expose the false information from those that try to mislead.
  • In the year 1900 there were about 100 Western born convert Buddhists (guesstimate); one hundred years later there were over 10 million.

On Buddhism, Jainism, Taoism

  • Buddhism, Jainism, and Taoism are all very similar and no doubt influenced each other over their beginning years and beyond. All developed several hundred years before the birth of Jesus (before the common era). They may be the oldest, organized world religions in human history. Buddhism and Jainism developed from Shramana (ascetic) practices in India. There is historical evidence that Jainism originated around the 8th century BCE or earlier. Buddhism originated with Gotama-Buddha in 6th century BCE. Taoism developed from Chinese ancient religions and beliefs from around the 8th century BCE or earlier.
  • Being the oldest religion or one of the oldest religions does not necessarily make it true, but it is impressive that a very old religion, originating centuries before the common era can have a core set of beliefs that is not at odds with the basics of science, biological evolution, or with logic. If one were to design a new religion in today’s world, it would of course be easy to make one that is not at odds with modern scientific findings or with logic. A religion that is thousands of years old and meets this standard, however, would be very impressive.