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Aloka
07 Jun 10, 10:17
Is modern "Buddhism" moving away from the teachings of the historical Buddha ?

What do you think? Please support your statements with evidence and links if you can.

Pink_trike
07 Jun 10, 19:50
Yes, I think so. Imo, those who attempt to lock the Dharma into a narrow, static, and rigid interpretation of what they believe is the _true words_ of the Buddha are steering Buddhism very far away from the intent and purpose of the teachings commonly attributed to a historical Buddha.

stuka
07 Jun 10, 22:25
Yes, I think so. Imo, those who attempt to lock the Dharma into a narrow, static, and rigid interpretation of what they believe is the _true words_ of the Buddha are steering Buddhism very far away from the intent and purpose of the teachings commonly attributed to a historical Buddha.

Sounds like a transparent smoke screen for obfuscating and distorting the Buddha's teachings.

Let us keep in mind that all traditions that call themselves "Buddhist" take the Buddha's words in the Nikayas as authoritative, and as the _true words_ of the Buddha, no matter how badly they might misapprehend them. This garbage of "Oh, we don't know if the Nikayas are really the words of the Buddha" is an obscrantist red herring.

What passes for "Buddhism" today does not even consider the Buddha's own liberative teachings as anything even remotely important; it concerns itself with superstitions and speculative views that long preceded the Buddha, and which have now largely replaced, ignored and discarded the Buddha's liberative teachings.

"Modern" Buddhism -- if that is taken to mean what is preposterously and laughably now being derided by "traditionalists" as "Nikaya-only heresy" -- is concerned with the Buddha's liberative teachings and concerns itself with these teaching, which the Buddha himself demonstrated rendered superstitions and speculative views irrelevant.

Aloka
07 Jun 10, 22:27
Imo, those who attempt to lock the Dharma into a narrow, static, and rigid interpretation of what they believe is the _true words_ of the Buddha are steering Buddhism very far away from the intent and purpose of the teachings commonly attributed to a historical Buddha.

So could you give some examples. please Pink trike?

trid6
11 Jun 10, 21:09
trid 6 Hello Dazz and fellow group members. When I read this question I immediately asked myself this question. Is SUFFERING different and are the reasons people suffer different in the modern word different? Buddha repeatedly stated that he only taught one thing and that was how to end suffering . He also was quite clear that any thing that agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all you are required to accept it and live up to it. To me the truth of this dharma is ageless and is just as relevent today.

Esho
12 Jun 10, 15:19
is just as relevent today.

Yes, and much more relevant today than ever. Modern world or, more precisely, postmodernism is caracterized by a high level of hedonism or the pursuit of fast and inmediate pleasure. This gives people a high level of suffering masked as pleasure.

Suffering is not inherent at anything. It is just a result of mental delusion and this is timeless to any civilization. If suffering is not being overcome, and the only who knows about is oneself, shurly we are moving away from what Buddha taught, independently of "modern" or "ancient" worlds frame of reference.

http://www.buddhismwithoutboundaries.com/images/smilies/hands.gif

truthseeker
19 Jun 10, 09:06
It is possible to define "modern Buddhism" before we proceed with commenting on it? What exactly do you have in mind? Do you mean "Protestant Buddhism" that dispenses with devotional practices and rituals, socially engaged Buddhism, mindfulness-only Buddhism, Buddhism as a humanist philosophy/psychology, or is it dharma lite ala Berzin?

Cheers, Thomas

Cobalt
20 Jun 10, 02:19
stuka: As someone who has a lot of trouble with the supernatural flavor of Buddhism as I've encountered it, I would be really interested in getting more detail about your position. I think it'd help me sort myself out, in addition to just plain being interesting.

stuka
20 Jun 10, 02:44
or is it dharma lite ala Berzin


Berzin sees the liberative teachings of the Buddha as "dharma lite", and his pack of superstitious nonsense as "real thing dharma". Berzin is a sad and humorless joke.

stuka
20 Jun 10, 03:24
stuka: As someone who has a lot of trouble with the supernatural flavor of Buddhism as I've encountered it, I would be really interested in getting more detail about your position. I think it'd help me sort myself out, in addition to just plain being interesting.


Hi, Cobalt.

I think the best place you might start is a book by Phra Prayudh A (P.A.) Payutto called Buddhadhamma: Natural Laws and Values for Life. I see there is a copy available on Ebay for about $20 including shipping at the moment, the item number is 330438411964 . You may find some excerpts from the book at http://www.buddhanet.net/cmdsg/payutto.htm .

Phra Payutto's book is a translation of the first version , shorter of what later became a much larger (1150 page) textbook, that he wrote while he was an administrator at Mahachulalongkorn Buddhist university. It was intended to be an authoritative work on the Buddha's teachings, and it clearly is exactly that. I highly recommend it. It is comprehensive and well-cited as well.

You might also take a look at Buddhadasa Bhikkhu's Handbook for Mankind, which is available in many places on the internet.

If you are not familiar with Buddhist meditation, what it is really for and about, and how to do it right, take a look at Henepola Gunaratana's Mindfulness in Plain English, also available in many places on the net. When I was first investigating the Buddha's teachings, I could find nothing that explained the why's and wherefore's of meditation until I ran into this work, and this work made it very clear.

Another good source is the emptyuniverse essay at http://emptyuniverse.110mb.com/ -- very nicely done adn without reference to superstition.


Will expand more on my understanding of the Buddha's teachings as I get time here. Hope this helps

:hands:

Glow
20 Jun 10, 05:28
It is possible to define "modern Buddhism" before we proceed with commenting on it? What exactly do you have in mind? Do you mean "Protestant Buddhism" that dispenses with devotional practices and rituals, socially engaged Buddhism, mindfulness-only Buddhism, Buddhism as a humanist philosophy/psychology, or is it dharma lite ala Berzin?

Cheers, Thomas

Seconding this question.

Aloka
20 Jun 10, 08:22
I guess I meant in the Buddhist practice and general outlook of the present day.

I didn't have any specific approaches or traditions in mind, it was just a general question.

truthseeker
20 Jun 10, 10:16
I guess I meant in the Buddhist practice and general outlook of the present day.

Okay. I think you might mean Buddhism in the modern/postmodern society, particularly in the West. In recent years, we have witnessed increasing interest in Buddhism in the West, and simultaneously we have seen anti-religious movements ala Dawkins/Hitches gaining considerable publicity and influence. This has led to a number of books on Buddhism that jump on the sceptical bandwagon. I am thinking of books like "Reflections of a Sceptical Buddhist" by Richard P. Hayes or "Buddhism Without Beliefs" by Stephen Batchelor, whereas the latter author has published a number of similar titles. Most of these books appeal to a single sutta, the Kalama Sutta, to bring across and justify their scpetical approach. There's been an insightful critique of Batchelor's book by Punnadhammo Bhikkhu, which is available in full here: http://www.darkzen.com/Articles/critiquez.htm. This critique points out some of the things that typically get overlooked by the modern sceptics.

Stephen Batchelor's book, "Buddhism Without Beliefs" has attracted a lot of attention in Buddhist circles. In many respects, this is an important book. It may be seen as a lucid manifesto of a tendency in modern, western Buddhism that has been gaining ground in recent years. This is the kernel of a new school of modernized, rationalized Buddhism; in essence a Protestant Buddhism. While this tendency is seen as a welcome one by many, it is worth examining more closely to understand just what is being put forward.

[...]

One aspect that Mr. Batchelor ignores is the importance that the Buddha placed on Right View. In Anguttara XVII the Buddha says that he knows of no other thing so conducive to the arising of wholesome states as Right View. In one of the frequently occurring formulas of Right View, as for example in Majjhima 41, the Buddha defines it as, among other things, a belief in karma and in "this world and the other world." Furthermore, there is much discussion in the suttas of Wrong View, one variety of which is precisely that of the materialists. "Since this self is material, made up of the four great elements, the product of mother and father, at the breaking up of the body it is annihilated and perishes, and does not exist after death." (Digha 1)

As an aside, it should be pointed out that advocates of a materialist Buddhism often claim that their view is different from this ancient annihilationism because it doesn't postulate a self. While it would take us too far afield to examine this argument in detail, suffice it to say that from a traditional Buddhist understanding, any doctrine of materialism must have an implied self-view. In other words, it is incompatible with a true understanding of not-self. This is because of, firstly, an identification with the single aggregate of bodily form and secondly, because of the belief in annihilation of consciousness at death which presupposes an existent entity to be annihilated (even if this is not articulated.)

Another way in which an agnostic Buddhism violates fundamental teachings is the imbalance in the development of the faculties. One of the five spiritual faculties is saddha, translated as faith or confidence. This must be balanced with its complement and opposite number, panna or discriminative wisdom. Too much faith without any wisdom is superstition, too much discrimination without faith leads to cunning ( "a disease as hard to cure as one caused by medicine.") That is, when we set our own reason upon a pedestal and denigrate the enlightenment of the Buddha with our skepticism, we can create our own false Dharma in service to the desires.

[...]

It is precisely the ancient wisdom of Buddhism that is missing form the western world. The sense of a meaning in life, the intrinsic value of human and other beings, the possibility of spiritual transcendence and the knowledge of that which is beyond the suffering, samsaric conditioned world accessible to science. It is tragically these very elements in the teachings that Mr. Batchelor. s approach would discard. The teachings of the Buddha are very old. This means to radicals and modernists that they are out-moded. To the traditionalist it means that they are tried and true. Millions upon millions of beings throughout history have practiced and benefited from the full form of the Dharma, taught complete with rebirth and transcendence and a non-physical mind. Many have benefited to the ultimate level of liberation. What is this arrogant pride of modern times that makes us think we are so much wiser?

These teachings are very precious. Precious in their entirety, in the letter and the meaning. They have been cherished and handed on to us intact from our teachers going back to the Buddha. Can we possibly justify hacking and tearing at a living tradition to make it fit a cheap suit of modernist cloth?

There is an urgent need to interpret and present these teachings to the modern west. This "Buddhism Without Beliefs" has sorely failed to do. The prescription of this book amounts to an abandonment of the traditional Dharma and the transformation of Buddhism into a psychotherapy, which like all psychotherapies, has no goal higher than "ordinary misery." This is a Buddhism without fruition, without a Third Noble Truth. Should such teachings prevail then they will still validate the tradition in a backhanded way; because they will fulfill the prophecies of the degeneration of the Dharma in this age of decline.

stuka
20 Jun 10, 18:21
I guess I meant in the Buddhist practice and general outlook of the present day.

I didn't have any specific approaches or traditions in mind, it was just a general question.


That might need to be broken down a bit further. For example, there are movements within Theravada, particularly within the Thai Forest tradition, that are gravitating back toward the Buddha's teachings. Some Zen sects have rejected the abhidhammic/mahayana speculations and focus on zazen practice and leave superstition aside. Other sects and movements are riding the abhidhammic/commentarial tide away form the Buddha's teachings. And then there are the tibetan religions, in which any resemblances to the teachings of the Buddha are merely superficial.

Sobeh
20 Jun 10, 18:41
And then there are the tibetan religions...

It seems to me that the more a particular strain of Buddhism is associated with a nation-state, the more that particular strain is going to field late texts as authentic (abhidhamma, sanskrit sutras, etc.). The "Thai" Forest Tradition, for example: it's an interesting reification. Why not simply say that the modern Forest Tradition was started in Thailand?

Besides Tibet, Sri Lanka is a fantastic example of Nationalist Buddhism and the horrors it can give rise to, and modern monastic involvement in the Thai catastrophe of late is perhaps further proof of the idea.

In this respect, it is possible that 'modern' Buddhism as referred to in this thread could refer to a move away from this sort of sectarian nationalism and toward a variety of other models. If so, these models might here be showcased: the secular Buddhist movement spearheaded by Batchelor would be merely one example of someone trying to find the best modern fit for the longest-standing human organizaton.

Just some thoughts.

Glow
20 Jun 10, 18:43
Having read Batchelor's book, I find that critique unconvincing. The fact that something is "very old" does not mean in that it is inherently "tried and true." It only means that it is... very old. Even the fact that Buddhism, like the Catholic church, survives today points only to its value as a social institution; it doesn't indicate any intrinsic value in the teaching. I am not saying this to denigrate the Dhamma. Certainly I have investigated this teaching for myself and found it of great value. But to do this, I first had to ask why something from 2,500 years ago would still be relevant to me today. Without that questioning and without that level of skepticism, Buddhism would be no less culpable as an "opiate of the masses" than any number of spiritual traditions that people take simply on faith.

One huge stumbling block for traditional Buddhism is its monastic focus. It's worth noting that the institution of monasticism in countries where Buddhism survives has typically cut off from the Dhamma from laypersons. Buddhism for the majority of the people in these countries amounts only to devotional practices and paranormal beliefs, with very little knowledge or application of the psychological and social insights of the Buddha of the Pali canon. Most people in the West cannot become and are not interested in becoming monks or nuns. How, then, do we reevaluate Buddhism for our modern-day lay lives? This is one of the questions Batchelor and his wife Martine are actually asking in their work. (For the record, I think Batchelor's newest book, Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist does a better job of pointing at an answer than Buddhism Without Beliefs.).

I am grateful that Batchelor, and people like Richard Gombrich, are doing this very important work. In the critique, Punnadhammo claims that Batchelor doesn't question his Western humanistic biases with the same tenacity he questions traditional Buddhism. I think this is disingenuous. For one thing, we know the history of Western humanism. We know how it developed and who contributed to it and why we should see a need for things like "democracy", "secularism", "agnosticism" and "science." Batchelor does not ascribe to them "unexamined positive valuation" as Punnadhammo claims. Rather, these are hard-won values, that have resulted from hundreds of years of mishaps, evaluations, critical thought and (sometimes unwitting) social experimentation.

In contrast to this, we don't really know the history of Buddhism. It almost seems that Punnadhammo is expecting Westerners to swallow Buddhism whole and assent to its value without going through an intermediary stage of weighing it against everything we know. This is unrealistic and possibly dangerous. As a person of Asian descent, I am sympathetic to Punnadhammo's qualms against Western arrogance. But I don't think Batchelor exhibits this sort of arrogance. In fact, I've been impressed by just how much sensitivity and respect Batchelor has towards the Indian milieu of Buddhism. Also, it should be noted that it's not just academics and skeptics: even people within the monastic community, like Thich Nhat Hanh, at points radically reinterpret and question the traditional canon. Buddhism's interaction with the West is relatively nascent. I see Batchelor as an intermediary stage of evolution.

As for whether or not we are diverging from the teachings of the historical Buddha, we have no way of really knowing what he actually taught. If the Pali suttas are in any way representative of the actual Siddhartha Gautama's teaching, I actually think more people than ever are being exposed to what he might have meant. The advent of the internet has made vast amounts of the Pali canon (as well as the Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan scriptures) available to a wider audience than ever. Rather than depending on monastic communities scattered and isolated from (and, in some cases, in opposition to) one another, we now have the change to come into contact with the alleged words of the Buddha firsthand. This is unprecedented, especially for lay people. And I think it's not a bad place to be, actually.

stuka
20 Jun 10, 21:40
This has led to a number of books on Buddhism that jump on the sceptical bandwagon.

The connection you are trying to make here is pure speculation, and a straw man. Dawkins' and Hitchens' views on Buddhism are quite different from those of Buddhists who see and practice the Buddha's liberative, non-superstition-based teachings.


I am thinking of books like "Reflections of a Sceptical Buddhist" by Richard P. Hayes or "Buddhism Without Beliefs" by Stephen Batchelor, whereas the latter author has published a number of similar titles.

Do these authors reference an influence of Hitchens and Dawkins? Or are you just making up as you go along?



Most of these books appeal to a single sutta, the Kalama Sutta, to bring across and justify their scpetical approach.

That is simply not true, and that falsehood can be seen for oneself by examining their works. It is clear from this statement that you are saying this from a standpoint of having not read Batchelor's works at all, and so are parroting what others tell you. Beyond that,as much as the fundamentalist movement despise, vililfy, and wish to excise the Kalama Sutta from the Nikayas, it is nonetheless a teaching of the Buddha. The question now becomes: So what if there is reference to the Kalama Sutta? There are plenty of other suttas that also stress that one can see the veraqcity of the Buddha's teachings and how they comport with reality. The Buddha asks his monks in MN 38 if they give their answers out of respect or reference to their teacher, for example. Vilifying the Kalama Sutta is a silly exercise in futility here.


There's been an insightful critique of Batchelor's book by Punnadhammo Bhikkhu, which is available in full here: http://www.darkzen.com/Articles/critiquez.htm. This critique points out some of the things that typically get overlooked by the modern sceptics.

I have read Punnodhammos' essay, and it is rife with innuendo and fallacious argument. It is as much a joke as Berzin's calling the Buddha's liberative teachings "Dharma Lite". Since you have brought it up, we shall take an in-depth look at Punnadhammo's polemic shortly.


This is the kernel of a new school of modernized, rationalized Buddhism; in essence a Protestant Buddhism.

More like a Copernican Revolution.


One aspect that Mr. Batchelor ignores is the importance that the Buddha placed on Right View. In Anguttara XVII the Buddha says that he knows of no other thing so conducive to the arising of wholesome states as Right View. In one of the frequently occurring formulas of Right View, as for example in Majjhima 41, the Buddha defines it as, among other things, a belief in karma and in "this world and the other world." Furthermore, there is much discussion in the suttas of Wrong View, one variety of which is precisely that of the materialists. "Since this self is material, made up of the four great elements, the product of mother and father, at the breaking up of the body it is annihilated and perishes, and does not exist after death." (Digha 1)

That is sammaditthi sasava; Defiled right view -- the superstitions that preceded the Buddha. The Buddha's own teachings he called Noble Right View that is without defilements, liberative, a Factor of the Path. Punnadhammo is equivocating here. Further, Punnadhammo directs his entire polemic against the straw man of "materialists" and "naterialism". unfortunately for him, however, the understanding of the Buddha's teachings he is railing against does not take a materialist position at all. he is, in effect, calling the Buddha a materialist.


As an aside, it should be pointed out that advocates of a materialist Buddhism

Straw Man. The Buddha's Noble, liberative teachings are not materialism, nor are those of us who follow them.



As an aside, it should be pointed out that advocates of a materialist Buddhism often claim that their view is different from this ancient annihilationism because it doesn't postulate a self.

On the other hand, the abhidhammic conception of reincarnation/"re-birth" is a hybrid eternalist-aniihilationism, which on one hand postulates an atta (though taking great pains to call it something else) that reincarnates eternally until one achieves certain prescribed goals, when it is then annihilated. The Buddha' liberative teachings transcend both eternalisn and annihilationism, and also any combination of the two. We also note that the Buddha himself was accused of being a materialist and an annihilationist by eternalists. they simply -- just like today -- could not see the Buddha's teachings beyond the influence of their own superstitions and assumptions.




While it would take us too far afield to examine this argument in detail, suffice it to say that from a traditional Buddhist understanding, any doctrine of materialism must have an implied self-view.

As must any doctrine of karma-and-reincarnation, or any of its variants.




In other words, it is incompatible with a true understanding of not-self.

As is any doctrine of reincarnation-and-karma.



This is because of, firstly, an identification with the single aggregate of bodily form and secondly, because of the belief in annihilation of consciousness at death which presupposes an existent entity to be annihilated (even if this is not articulated.)

Again the Straw Man, but this argument equally applies to the identification with the form of "stream of consciousness" (see the Buddha's humiliation of Sati the Fisherman's Son in MN 38 for proposing just that sort of a "consciousness" entity) that is proposed in reincarnation/karma strategies, and the belief in annihilation of that consciousness at Ultimate Death (Parinibbana), which presupposes an existent entity to be annihilated.


Another way in which an agnostic Buddhism violates fundamental teachings is the imbalance in the development of the faculties. One of the five spiritual faculties is saddha, translated as faith or confidence.


Equivocation. Saddha is "confirmed confidence", won though seeing and knowing for oneself. Punnadhammo would equate it with blind faith. Ne'er the twain shall meet.


This must be balanced with its complement and opposite number, panna or discriminative wisdom. Too much faith without any wisdom is superstition, too much discrimination without faith leads to cunning ( "a disease as hard to cure as one caused by medicine.")

Punnadhammo is taking a flyer here. The Buddha taught nothing of the sort.




That is, when we set our own reason upon a pedestal and denigrate the enlightenment of the Buddha with our skepticism, we can create our own false Dharma in service to the desires.

The Buddha taught that the ending of the asavas is for one who knows and see, and not for one who does not now and does not see. No one is creating a "false dhamma" here -- with the possible exceptions of those who push superstition in place of the Buddha's teachings. The ones Punnadhammo would accuse of creating a "false dhamma" are studying and practicing the Noble teachings of the Buddha himself. If there is any "false dhamma" here, it is the abhidhamma, the commentaries, and all of the other later bastardizations of the Buddha's teachings that Punnadhamma & Co. adhere to. The abhidhamma itself came about as the result of the hyper-intellectualization of the Buddha's teachings. But the Buddha declared his own teachings to be founded entirely in reason -- not just "logic", but reasoning. Rational, empirical Discernment. Blind faith has no place here.




It is precisely the ancient wisdom of Buddhism that is missing form the western world.

The ancient wisdom of the Buddha is largely missing both in the West and in the East, where it has been replaced with superstition.


The sense of a meaning in life,

The Buddha does not declare a "meaning in life". The Buddha declares that there is suffering in life, and teaches how to quench it.


the intrinsic value of human and other beings,

The Buddha does teach this Buddhist "agnosticism" does not deny the value of human life in any way. Punnadhammo is spitting at the Straw Man again.



the possibility of spiritual transcendence

The Buddha's liberative teachings are all about "transcendence". He even calls them lokuttara, "world-transcending". Of course, he has his own, non-superstitious definition of "the world" that is specific to this notion of "transcendence". Unlike superstitious Buddhism, agnostic Buddhism embraces this very transcendence of this very "world".




and the knowledge of that which is beyond the suffering, samsaric conditioned world accessible to science.


The Buddha spoke of science, as opposed to nescience. Science, of course, takes its roots from latin, and means "knowlege". Nesience is also Latin, and means "ignorance" (without knowledge). The Buddha spoke of Vijja, meaning knowledge, and avijja, meaning without knowledge. And the Buddha spoke of knowledge -- science -- as on of the highest things, and he stressed that anyone could see his Dhamma for themselves, and see the results of practising his Dhamma forthemselves. And this is what modern "science" is about, too. Funny how all that works out.


and the knowledge of that which is beyond the suffering, samsaric conditioned world accessible to science

Ah, the Courtier's Reply. The Buddha did not claim that his teachings and the liberation they promise lie beyond what one can know and see for oneself. He said is is all here in this fathom-long body for one to see for oneself.



It is tragically these very elements in the teachings that Mr. Batchelor. s approach would discard.

Not true. What is being discarded is superstition. And nothing is lost, and much is gained.



The teachings of the Buddha are very old. This means to radicals and modernists that they are out-moded.

This statement is just so wrong on so many levels: First, lets kill off the Straw Man -- No one is discarding the Buddha's teachings "because they are old". Second, agnostic Buddhists are by and large embracing thE Buddha's own teachings, rather than others' superstitions that preceded him or followed him. Third, it is funny that some would call us "radicals", and some would call us "fundamentalists" I have even seen the term "Tipitaka-Only Heretics" used (though that would be quite inaccurate as the abhidhamma is part of the Tipitaka; more correct would be "Nikaya-Only-" or "Buddha's Trachings-Only 'Heretics'"). And again, fourth, we see the folks who concern themselves with the teachings of the Buddha -- the most ancient teachings in Buddhism -- as "modernists". And again, no one is saying that the Buddha's teachings are "outmoded because they are ancient", we are saying that the Buddha's own liberative teachings are the most relevant, and that other extraneous crap and cultural baggage is irrelevant.


To the traditionalist it means that they are tried and true.

We agree that the Buddha's own liberative teachings are tried and true, and in addition we can see their veracity for ourselves. It is superstition and extraneous dogma that is being discarded.




Millions upon millions of beings throughout history have practiced and benefited from the full form of the Dharma


The Buddha's own liberative teachings are complete, perfect, and "in full form" without extraneous teachings and superstitions.


taught complete with rebirth and transcendence and a non-physical mind.


That "non-physical mind" is an atta, a Self. The Buddha refuted Attavada.


Many have benefited to the ultimate level of liberation.


Not believing in an Atta, no. Not according to the Buddha's liberative teachings, that is.


What is this arrogant pride of modern times that makes us think we are so much wiser?


Punnadhammo is confusing his own arrogance in defending his clinging to ancient eisegeses. We in this modern times are concerning ourselves precisely with what the Buddha taught, rather than superstitions and the eisegeses that attempt to defend them.


They have been cherished and handed on to us intact from our teachers going back to the Buddha.

this is probably Punnadhammo's most preposterous statement in this essay. While it is true that the Buddha's liberative teachings have been handed down intact, other "teachings" have been attached to them and covered over them over the years -- the abhidhamma and commentaries, "three-lives", "re-linking consciousness" and such, the superstitions, not to mention the witch doctors and the worshiping of gods that go on in teh Buddha's name in Tibet. No, the Buddha's teachings has not been "handed down intact", they have been covered over adn obfuscated with a whole lot of extraneous crap.


Can we possibly justify hacking and tearing at a living tradition to make it fit a cheap suit of modernist cloth?

The cheap suit was donned by the abhidhammists, the comentarialists, the "three-lives" Atavadists, the reincarnationists and adherents and believers of superstitions. We are not talking about "modernism" here; we are talking about going back to the Buddha's own liberative, noble teachings.


There is an urgent need to interpret and present these teachings to the modern west.

There is an urgent need to present the Buddha's Noble, liberative teachings to theh modern west, indeed. That is already being done, in fact. We are indeed part of Buddhism's Copernican Revolution -- right here and now.


This "Buddhism Without Beliefs" has sorely failed to do.


The criticism I would have for Batchelor's work here is that he relies too heavily on his background in mahayana and the tibetan religion, and should focus his efforts toward the Buddha's Noble, liberative teachings as we see in the Nikayas.


The prescription of this book amounts to an abandonment of the traditional Dharma


A tradition of superstition. Irrelevant to teh Buddha's noble, liberative teachings. No great loss.


and the transformation of Buddhism into a psychotherapy, which like all psychotherapies, has no goal higher than "ordinary misery."


Another Straw Man. The Buddha's liberative teachings are indeed a psychology, but they are coupled with a rock-solid ethics of reciprocity and a liberative practice that make them a super-religion, far better than the pack of superstitions that Punnadhammo and Co.ould reduce the Buddha's teachings to. The Buddha himself stated that his teachings are designed to address suffering and its extinguishment. He does so in the most profound way. To call this "just a psychology" is like calling the Buddhadhamma "just a bunch of words".


This is a Buddhism without fruition, without a Third Noble Truth.

Punnadhammo has the Dhamma completely backwards. I was wrong before, the above is the most preposterous statement we have seen here.



Should such teachings prevail then they will still validate the tradition in a backhanded way; because they will fulfill the prophecies of the degeneration of the Dharma in this age of decline.

The degeneration of the Dhamma has already long ago come to fruition with the overrunning of the Buddha's Noble,liberative teachings with superstition and cultural baggage perpetrated by the abhidhammists, the commentarialists, and other superstition-mongers.

stuka
20 Jun 10, 21:55
or is it dharma lite ala Berzin?



The subject of Alexander Berzin's essay "Dharma Lite" has been raised again here recently, and since Berzin's polemic has become somewhat of a standard pejorative against the Buddha's liberative teachings, it bears examination so that this notion can die in the light of day, as it rightly deserves. We shall examine Berzin's polemic in its entirety; as it is a short essay, and dissect each argument and point as it is raised.


We begin with the title and the metaphor he chose for his polemic: "Dharma Lite' Versus 'The Real Thing' Dharma". One cannot help but see the irony in his choice of epithets, as they are derived from the promotional campaign of an American soft drink, essentially fizzy, flavored sugar-water with oodles of calories and little-to-no nutritional value. This, the promotions cry, is "The Real Thing", and this is what Berzin compares his tibetan religion to. Indeed. And this is what he holds as superior to the Buddha's liberative teachings.


Berzin starts his essay declaring The Importance of Rebirth:

"Tibetan Buddhism follows the Indian tradition and all Indian traditions take for granted belief in rebirth."

It is important to note that this is written from the standpoint and tenets of the tibetan state religion, whose adherents are taught that their religion is the pinnacle of "Buddhism", that all other versions of Buddhism are inferior. Berzin also fancies himself as speaking for all of Buddhism, no matter how little resemblance the tibetan state religion bears to the liberative teachings of the Buddha. Beyond that, Berzin opens up with a Fallacy Appeal to Tradition.


"Even if traditional Buddhist seekers do not have a deep understanding of what takes rebirth or how rebirth works, still they have grown up with the idea of rebirth as a cultural given. They need merely to have their understandings refined, but do not need to become convinced in the existence of rebirth."

Berzin generalizes about all Buddhists and the beliefs they grow up being fed, and assumes that all who grow up being taught superstitions will actually believe them without question or reservation. We shall also note here that the tibetan religion holds that a person reincarnates over and over again. There are Buddhist schools that distinguish between the notions they have developed of "re-birth" rather than "reincarnation", in order to shoehorn reincarnation past the Buddha's refutation of the Atta/Self, but the tibetan religions do not make this distinction, and declare ad nauseum that this person is the reincarnation of that person, and this one of that, etc. In common practice, however, it is all the same reincarnation belief once equivocal definitions are established.


"Therefore, texts on the graded stages of the path (lam-rim) do not even mention the topic of gaining conviction in the existence of rebirth."


Berzin speaks again from the perspective of the tibetan religions, citing the lam-rim, which is strictly a tibetan teaching, only relevant to adherents of the tibetan religion. Now he begins to circle round the arguments:


"Without rebirth, the discussion of mind having no beginning and no end becomes meaningless."

Not only is this argument circular, it references a concept (beginningless mind) that never crossed the Buddha's lips. "Beginingless Mind" is necessarily an entity that is permanent, which the Buddha declared was not to be found in his liberative teachings.


"Without beginningless and endless mind, the entire presentation of karma falls apart."

Quite a self-damaging concession and a disaster for tibetan dogma (as is the problem of "beginningless mind"), but insignificant to the Buddha's liberative teachings, which are not based in the speculative view of karma-and-reincarnation or "beginningless mind".


"This is because the karmic results of our actions most frequently do not ripen in the same lifetime in which we commit the actions."

Yes -- "multiple-life" karma-and-reincarnation necessitate the postulation of a same entity or agent that produces and receives karmic results, and cannot survive without such an entity or agent. The Buddha staunchly refuted the notion that he taught of an entity that reaped the rewards of actions from one life to the next. Had Berzin ever read the Nikayas, he might have known that.


"Without the presentation of karmic cause and effect over the span of many lifetimes, the discussion of the voidness of cause and effect and of dependent arising likewise falls apart."


The tibetan versions of "voidness" and of paticcasamuppada indeed fall apart, agreed. However, the Buddha taught sunnata ("all things are empty of self or anything pertaining to a self" -- an indictment of illusions of states of status and ownership) and paticcasamuppada (ignorance causes us to grasp to sense pleasures, causing suffering) quite differently from how the tibetans teach it, and the Buddha's sunnata and paticcasamuppada in the here-and-now remains alive and thriving without any reference at all to superstitions of "karmic cause and effect over many lifetimes". The Buddha declares as such (in the case of PS) in the Maha Tanhasankhaya Sutta, MN 38:


"Bhikkhus, you who know thus and see thus, would your mind run to the past: 'Was I in the past or was I not in the past? What was I in the past? How was I in the past? Having been what, what did I become?'" "No, venerable sir." "Bhikkhus, would you who know and see thus, run to the future: 'Will I be in the future, or will I not be in the future? What will I be in the future? How will I be in the future? Having been what, what will I become?'" "No, venerable sir." "Bhikkhus, would you who know and see thus have doubts about the present: 'Am I, or am I not? What am I? How am I? Where did this being come from? Where will it go?'" "No, venerable sir."

Berzin continues:


"Moreover, in terms of the three scopes of lam-rim motivation, how can we sincerely aim for benefiting future lives without belief in the existence of future lives? How can we sincerely aim for gaining liberation from uncontrollably recurring rebirth (samsara) without belief in rebirth? How can we sincerely aim for enlightenment and the ability to help others gain liberation from rebirth without belief that rebirth is a fact? In terms of bodhichitta meditation, how can we sincerely recognize all beings as having been our mothers in previous lives without believing in previous lives? In terms of anuttarayoga tantra, how can we sincerely meditate in analogy with death, bardo, and rebirth to purify ourselves of uncontrollably experiencing them if we do not believe that bardo and rebirth occur?"

So all of the circular arguments here follow this form ad nauseum: "--But without karma, there could be no rebirth! --And without rebirth, there could be no karma! --And without karma, there could be no rebirth! --And..."

All of these problems are only problems for the tibetan religion which has built a house of cards on the foundation of these superstitions.


"Thus, it is clearly evident that rebirth is a cornerstone for a large and crucial portion of the Dharma teachings."


Of the tibetan teachings, yes. That hardly makes rebirth a cornerstone of the Buddha's liberative teachings, which the tibetan religion virtually ignores. Berzin continues:



"'Dharma-Lite' and 'The Real Thing' Dharma"


Sounds like a Budweiser commercial, doesn't it? --A lot more than Berzin realizes, no doubt.


"Most Westerners come to Dharma without prior belief in rebirth."


What an amazing statement, considering that most come from some form of Christian background, coming from (and rejecting) a belief in Christian rebirth!


"Many approach the study and practice of Dharma as a method for improving the quality of this lifetime, especially in terms of overcoming psychological and emotional problems."

Which is something the Buddha taught the Dhamma as, also: He said many times, "I teach about suffering and the extinguishment of suffering".


"This attitude reduces Dharma to an Asian form of psychotherapy."

Quite the Straw Man here. Berzin fails to notice that the Buddha's phenomenological psychology is also coupled with a strong ethics of reciprocity (a la "Golden Rule" as examplified in the Veludvareyya Sutta), which makes it a modern "super-religion" in comparison to primitive religions that base their ethical planks in flimsy superstitions that require massive suspension of disbelief in order for one to adhere to their tentets. Berzin would reduce the Buddha's magnificent, modern, superstition-free super-religion teachings to just another flimsy, primitive pack of superstitions.


"I have coined the term Dharma-Lite for this approach to Buddhist Dharma, analogous to "CocaCola-Lite." It is a weakened version, not as strong as "The Real Thing." The traditional approach to Dharma - which includes not only discussion of rebirth, but also the presentation of the hells and the rest of the six realms of existence - I have termed The Real Thing Dharma."


Again, Berzin calls the fizzy, nutrition-free, flavored water of superstition-based religion "The Real Thing". How fitting. And he disparages and villifies the Buddha's superstition-free, liberative teachings.

Now Berzin raises the preposterous notion that while one practices the Buddha's rock-solid, rosuperstition-free super-religion, one should nonetheless do so while bowing to the supremacy of his superstitions:


"There are two ways to practice Dharma-Lite. "1. We may practice it with acknowledgment of the importance of rebirth in Buddhism and the sincere intention to study the accurate teachings on it. Thus, we aim to improve this lifetime with the Dharma methods merely as a steppingstone on the way to working to improve our future rebirths and to gain liberation and enlightenment. Thus, Dharma-Lite becomes a preliminary step on the graded path to enlightenment, a step prior to the initial scope. Such an approach is completely fair to the Buddhist tradition. It does not call Dharma-Lite 'The Real Thing'."


This ridiculous approach is completely ignorant of the fact that the Buddha constantly declares that his teachings are for the elimination of suffering here-and-now, in this lifetime.


"2. We may practice it with the recognition that Dharma-Lite is not only the actual Dharma, but also the most appropriate and skillful form for Western Buddhism to take. Such an approach shortchanges and is grossly unfair to the Buddhist tradition. It easily leads to an attitude of cultural arrogance."


The Buddha's Noble Path is indeed the actual Buddhadhamma, and is the most appropriate and skillful form for Western Buddhism, and indeed all religions that call themselves "Buddhist" to take. We are, after all, Buddhists, and it is therefor most appropriate for us to follow and practice the teachings of the Buddha, rather than wallow in the superstitions that preceded him or the eisegeses that followed him.

It is more than fair to hold any religion that calls itself "Buddhist" to the liberative teachings of the Buddha. And the cultural arrogance lies on the part of a religion that ignores the Buddha's own liberaqtive teachings, buries them inder with superstition and state politics, and deigns to continue to call itself "Buddhist".


"Therefore, we need to proceed with great care if we find that, at our present level of spiritual development and understanding, Dharma-Lite is the drink for us."


One who would call him- or her-self "Buddhist" should indeed take care -- to be sure that they are learning and practicing the teachings of teh Buddha, adn being taught the Dhamma of the Buddha, instead of watered-down superstitious nonsense that bears only a superficial resemblance to "Buddhism", and has little-to-nothing to do with the Buddha's own, liberative teachings.



"Schematic Summary of Dharma-Lite: Buddhism becomes Dharma-Lite when

* the aim is to improve only in this life;
* the student has little or no understanding of the Buddhist teachings on rebirth;
* consequently, the student has neither belief nor interest in future lives;
* even if the student believes in rebirth, he or she does not accept the existence of the six realms of rebirth;
* the Dharma teacher avoids discussion of rebirth or, even if he or she discusses rebirth, avoids discussion of the hells. The teacher reduces the six realms to human psychological experiences."



* the Buddha taught his Dhamma for the ending of suffering here-and-now, and that here-and-now is necessarily in "this life". Berzin is calling the Buddha's liberative teachings "Dharma Lite"
* the Buddha taught the internal inconsistency and irrelevance of karma-and-reincarnation beliefs to his liberative teachings, for example in the Maha Kammavibhanga Sutta. This is a proper understanding of karma-and-rebirth according to the Buddha. Again, Berzin is calling the Buddha's teaching on karma-and-reincarnation "Dharma Lite".
* With respect to "interest in future lives", we already see above quote from the Maha Tanhasankhaya Sutta, in which the Buddha states that such interest is irrelevant. Berzin calls the Buddha's position "Dharma Lite".
* The Buddha taught the realms as metaphorsl: "I have seen a heaven called "Six Sense Bases". I have seen a hell called "Six Sense Bases." Berzin calls the Buddha's metaphorical approach to the realms "Dharma Lite".
* The Buddha does not discuss reincarnation/"re-birth" in the context of his own liberative teachings. Again, he teaches the hells as metaphor when he says he has "seen a hell called Six Sense bases". Berzin is calling the Buddha's libertive teachings "Dharma Lite".


"Schematic Summary of The Real Thing Dharma: The Real Thing Dharma is the authentic traditional practice of Buddhism, in which

* the student at least acknowledges the importance of rebirth on the spiritual path and has the sincere wish to gain a correct understanding of it;
* the student aims either for liberation from uncontrollably recurring rebirth or for enlightenment and the ability to help all others gain liberation;
* even if the student aims for improving future lives, this is merely as a provisional step on the path to gaining liberation or enlightenment;
* even if the student aims for improving this life, this is merely as a provisional step on the path to improving future lives and gaining liberation or enlightenment."


Berzin arrogantly proclaims that the dogmatic tenets of his religion are the "authentic traditional practice of Buddhism", claiming to speak for all religions that call themselves "Buddhism". This is a manifestation of the position of his religion that it is the Ultimate Buddhism, superior to all other forms of Buddhism.

The Buddha is clear about the irrelevance of reincarnation/"re-birth" beliefs to his teachings, and could not be more clearer than in his description of the "Four Solaces" in the Kalama Sutta, AN 3.65:

"Now, Kalamas, one who is a disciple of the noble ones — his mind thus free from hostility, free from ill will, undefiled, & pure — acquires four assurances in the here-&-now:

"'If there is a world after death, if there is the fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then this is the basis by which, with the break-up of the body, after death, I will reappear in a good destination, the heavenly world.' This is the first assurance he acquires.

"'But if there is no world after death, if there is no fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then here in the present life I look after myself with ease — free from hostility, free from ill will, free from trouble.' This is the second assurance he acquires.

"'If evil is done through acting, still I have willed no evil for anyone. Having done no evil action, from where will suffering touch me?' This is the third assurance he acquires.

"'But if no evil is done through acting, then I can assume myself pure in both respects.' This is the fourth assurance he acquires.

"One who is a disciple of the noble ones — his mind thus free from hostility, free from ill will, undefiled, & pure — acquires these four assurances in the here-&-now."



This, in which the Buddha demonstrates the irrelevance of karma-and-reincarnation/"re-birth" superstitions to his teachings, is what Berzin laughably calls "Dharma Lite".

truthseeker
21 Jun 10, 03:15
Besides Tibet, Sri Lanka is a fantastic example of Nationalist Buddhism and the horrors it can give rise to, and modern monastic involvement in the Thai catastrophe of late is perhaps further proof of the idea.

I am not sure if I understand this. Could you expand on the "horrors" and the "Thai catastrophe"?


Having read Batchelor's book, I find that critique unconvincing.

Thank you, Glow, for your thoughtful response. I actually agree with most of what you say, except perhaps the first paragraph. I think that Stephen Batchelor's approach is genuine and knowledgeable, not really disrespectful, but somehow opinionated. With "jumping on the sceptics" bandwagon, I don't want to imply that Batchelor was influenced by Dawkins or Hitchens in any way (obviously not!), but that scepticism is the leading motive here and this label tends to sell books these days.

I can actually identify with some of Batchelor's views, especially his take on devotional practices, rituals, and religious attitudes. However, I realise that this is very much a personal matter and I would argue that it should be decided by the individual what method works best for him/her. The thing that I don't like about Batchelor's book is its revisionism and latent protestantism. He recounts innumerable little facts about Buddhism, some of them quite misrepresented, whereas he always points out how these diverge from the supposedly "pure" teaching. With his supposed "peeling away of dogma" from Buddhism, he peels away good chunks of flesh, apparently quite unaware of doing so. It goes a little bit into the direction of Protestant Buddhism along with the issues that we already discussed on this forum.

Cheers, Thomas

stuka
21 Jun 10, 04:07
I think that Stephen Batchelor's approach is genuine and knowledgeable, not really disrespectful, but somehow opinionated.

Opinionated" really means nothing here. Anyone can call anyone else's understanding or view "opinionated". It's nonsense.


scepticism is the leading motive here and this label tends to sell books these days.

Oh, yes, it would be very nice for you if you could reduce it to a matter of just wanting to sell books with a "skeptical hook". It's a whole lot more than that -- people can see the truth of the 4NT for themselves right off, and that they are true independently of, and without recourse to, any superstition or speculative view.




The thing that I don't like about Batchelor's book is its revisionism and latent protestantism.

What revisinonism? What "protestantism? Give examples.





He recounts innumerable little facts about Buddhism, some of them quite misrepresented

Name some of them, and what makes you think he misrepresents them? Vague innuendo will not do here.


With his supposed "peeling away of dogma" from Buddhism, he peels away good chunks of flesh, apparently quite unaware of doing so.

What "good chunks of flesh? Let's not be vague here.



It goes a little bit into the direction of Protestant Buddhism


And what is this "Protestant Buddhism"? What are its tenets, and who declares themselves "Protestant Buddhists"? A show of hands from the legions of Protestant Buddhist Straw Men, please...?

Sobeh
21 Jun 10, 16:02
I am not sure if I understand this. Could you expand on the "horrors" and the "Thai catastrophe"?

I was referring to general nationalist accretions co-opting the Sangha; here (http://www.csmonitor.com/2007/0618/p04s01-wosc.html) is an article for Sri Lanka, and here (http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gdfo0kzXfg_9COMsVeXu-E4ZRozA) is one for Thailand.

stuka
21 Jun 10, 19:07
stuka: As someone who has a lot of trouble with the supernatural flavor of Buddhism as I've encountered it, I would be really interested in getting more detail about your position. I think it'd help me sort myself out, in addition to just plain being interesting.



Cobalt, please see my post in the beginner's forum on "The Buddha's Unshakable Ethics". I will be posting more along this vein there.

Deshy
22 Jun 10, 17:20
Is modern "Buddhism" moving away from the teachings of the historical Buddha ?

After about 2500 years what else can we expect. But I think the essence is still there in the suttas well protected and as valid as before.

Aloka
22 Jun 10, 18:05
And what is this "Protestant Buddhism"? What are its tenets, and who declares themselves "Protestant Buddhists"? A show of hands from the legions of Protestant Buddhist Straw Men, please...?


I've never heard of "Protestant Buddhism" before ! :dontknow:

stuka
22 Jun 10, 19:51
I've never heard of "Protestant Buddhism" before ! dontknow

Hmmm... apparently a phrase coined by anthropologists to describe a reaction in Sri Lanka to the British occupation:

Two prominent Sri Lankan anthropologists, Gananath Obeyesekere (1) and Kitsiri Malalgoda, (2) created the phrase Protestant Buddhism to identify a form of Buddhism that appeared in Sri Lanka as a response to Protestant Christian missionaries and their evangelical activities during the British colonial period. Buddhists not only criticized Protestant missionaries, but also adopted their strategies and models in reforming Buddhism. This process of assimilation and incorporation occurred on an ideological level as well as social and cultural levels. The emulation of Protestant models was very much apparent in the establishment of Buddhist schools and Buddhist organizations such as the Young Men's Buddhist Association. Like evangelical Protestant Christians, Buddhists also started to print pamphlets (after June 1862), to hold preaching sessions, and to enter into debates and religious controversies in defending Buddhism. In the history of religious controversies, one important event was the two-day public debate (August 26, 27, 1873) that was held in Panadura between a Sinhala Wesleyan clergyman David de Silva and Buddhist monk Mohoṭṭivatt Guṇānanda (1823-90). The arrival of Colonel Henry Steel Olcott (1832-1907) in Sri Lanka in 1880 marked another important phase in the shaping process of what anthropologists have identified as Protestant Buddhism.


We are still waiting for that show of hands of all, or any, who claim to be "Protestant Budhists"....

srivijaya
22 Jun 10, 20:21
I've never heard of "Protestant Buddhism" before !
Orange robes perhaps?

stuka
22 Jun 10, 20:57
Hmmm.. found more...

Term introduced by the scholar Gananath Obeyesekere referring to a phenomenon in Sinhalese Buddhism having its roots in the latter half of the 19th century and caused by two sets of historical conditions: the activities of the Protestant missionaries and the close contact with the modern knowledge and technologies of the West. In 1815 the British become the first colonial power to win control over the whole of Sri Lanka and signed the Kandyan convention declaring the Buddhist religion practised by the locals to be inviolable. This article was attacked by Protestant evangelicals in England and the British government felt obliged to dissociate itself from Buddhism. The traditional bond between Buddhism and the government of the Sinhala people had effectively dissolved while official policy favoured the activities of Protestant missionaries and the conversion to Christianity had become almost essential for those who wished to join the ruling élite. Leader of the movement that started as a result of these conditions was Anagārika Dharmapāla.

The movement can be seen both as a protest against the attacks on Buddhism by foreign missionaries and the adoption in the local Buddhism of features characteristic of Protestantism. In essence, Protestant Buddhism is a form of Buddhist revival which denies that only through the Saṃgha can one seek or find salvation. Religion, as a consequence, is internalized. The layman is supposed to permeate his life with his religion and strive to make Buddhism permeate his whole society. Through printing laymen had, for the first time, access to Buddhist texts and could teach themselves meditation. Accordingly, it was felt they could and should try to reach nirvāṇa. As a consequence lay Buddhists became critical both of the traditional norms and of the monastic role.


It seems that this is being used as a pejorative against folks who would read the Suttas themselves. Quite a stretch, I would say, since all of the Buddhist traditions (and those that claim to be "Buddhist" as well) are disseminating printed literature.

Of course, this notion of a movement that "denies that only through the Saṃgha can one seek or find salvation" is a straw man as well: The Sangha includes not only monastics but also robed laypersons and housenholders who know the Dhamma and can explain the Dhamma to others and defend it from its detractors
. The Buddha points this out many times in the suttas as he speaks in praise of his Sangha.


Perhaps Bhikkhu Bodhi is a "Protestant Buddhist" as well, for his complicity in disseminating the Dhamma in written form to the masses, undercutting the political power of monastic rule. Shame, shame.... 8)

jan
08 Aug 10, 15:02
Having read Batchelor's book, I find that critique unconvincing. The fact that something is "very old" does not mean in that it is inherently "tried and true." It only means that it is... very old. Even the fact that Buddhism, like the Catholic church, survives today points only to its value as a social institution; it doesn't indicate any intrinsic value in the teaching. I am not saying this to denigrate the Dhamma. Certainly I have investigated this teaching for myself and found it of great value. But to do this, I first had to ask why something from 2,500 years ago would still be relevant to me today. Without that questioning and without that level of skepticism, Buddhism would be no less culpable as an "opiate of the masses" than any number of spiritual traditions that people take simply on faith.

One huge stumbling block for traditional Buddhism is its monastic focus. It's worth noting that the institution of monasticism in countries where Buddhism survives has typically cut off from the Dhamma from laypersons. Buddhism for the majority of the people in these countries amounts only to devotional practices and paranormal beliefs, with very little knowledge or application of the psychological and social insights of the Buddha of the Pali canon. Most people in the West cannot become and are not interested in becoming monks or nuns. How, then, do we reevaluate Buddhism for our modern-day lay lives? This is one of the questions Batchelor and his wife Martine are actually asking in their work. (For the record, I think Batchelor's newest book, Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist does a better job of pointing at an answer than Buddhism Without Beliefs.).

I am grateful that Batchelor, and people like Richard Gombrich, are doing this very important work. In the critique, Punnadhammo claims that Batchelor doesn't question his Western humanistic biases with the same tenacity he questions traditional Buddhism. I think this is disingenuous. For one thing, we know the history of Western humanism. We know how it developed and who contributed to it and why we should see a need for things like "democracy", "secularism", "agnosticism" and "science." Batchelor does not ascribe to them "unexamined positive valuation" as Punnadhammo claims. Rather, these are hard-won values, that have resulted from hundreds of years of mishaps, evaluations, critical thought and (sometimes unwitting) social experimentation.

In contrast to this, we don't really know the history of Buddhism. It almost seems that Punnadhammo is expecting Westerners to swallow Buddhism whole and assent to its value without going through an intermediary stage of weighing it against everything we know. This is unrealistic and possibly dangerous. As a person of Asian descent, I am sympathetic to Punnadhammo's qualms against Western arrogance. But I don't think Batchelor exhibits this sort of arrogance. In fact, I've been impressed by just how much sensitivity and respect Batchelor has towards the Indian milieu of Buddhism. Also, it should be noted that it's not just academics and skeptics: even people within the monastic community, like Thich Nhat Hanh, at points radically reinterpret and question the traditional canon. Buddhism's interaction with the West is relatively nascent. I see Batchelor as an intermediary stage of evolution.

As for whether or not we are diverging from the teachings of the historical Buddha, we have no way of really knowing what he actually taught. If the Pali suttas are in any way representative of the actual Siddhartha Gautama's teaching, I actually think more people than ever are being exposed to what he might have meant. The advent of the internet has made vast amounts of the Pali canon (as well as the Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan scriptures) available to a wider audience than ever. Rather than depending on monastic communities scattered and isolated from (and, in some cases, in opposition to) one another, we now have the change to come into contact with the alleged words of the Buddha firsthand. This is unprecedented, especially for lay people. And I think it's not a bad place to be, actually.


Great to have such high quality postings on this Forum.

Aloka
08 Aug 10, 21:55
One huge stumbling block for traditional Buddhism is its monastic focus. It's worth noting that the institution of monasticism in countries where Buddhism survives has typically cut off from the Dhamma from laypersons. Buddhism for the majority of the people in these countries amounts only to devotional practices and paranormal beliefs, with very little knowledge or application of the psychological and social insights of the Buddha of the Pali canon. Most people in the West cannot become and are not interested in becoming monks or nuns. How, then, do we reevaluate Buddhism for our modern-day lay lives? This is one of the questions Batchelor and his wife Martine are actually asking in their work. (For the record, I think Batchelor's newest book, Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist does a better job of pointing at an answer than Buddhism Without Beliefs.)


I disagree that the monastic focus is a stumbling block for Buddhism -its not here in the UK, at any rate. I've just spent the day at a Theravada Forest tradition monastery and listened to a 2hr talk given by the Abbot Ajahn Sumedho to the ordained and lay community. Devotional practices and paranormal beliefs weren't even mentioned. There were a number of references to suttas in the Pali Canon, the Four Noble truths were mentioned, Dependent Origination, and lots of advice for meditation, mindfulness and day to day living.

I think its a mistake to mistrust all things that are connected with tradition and to want to just throw them out. For me it would be a great tragedy if the only Buddhist 'teachers' available were people like Stephen Batchelor.

I've also encountered several westerners interested in ordaining in both the Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist traditions in this country both of which have active monastic communities.

Snowmelt
08 Aug 10, 22:18
The Buddha established the Sangha rule of only taking food that is given precisely to ensure that the monastics would have daily contact with laypeople. From what I hear, it is very unusual for a Thai man not to be ordained at some point in early adulthood, if only for a few months. In a monastery, he will be exposed to daily contact with the Dhamma. Although they will teach some things I might no agree with, nonetheless this practice continues to ensure that the Dhamma does not die from the world. It is still there for those to find who want. The best of the monastics are the finest examples of Dhamma followers that are to be found in the world, and the fact that they have let go of materialism, lust for power, and most, if not all, other worldly pleasures is a strong indication that here is one of the best places to look for a teacher who is no longer bound to greed, hatred, and delusion.

Glow
28 Nov 10, 23:21
One huge stumbling block for traditional Buddhism is its monastic focus. It's worth noting that the institution of monasticism in countries where Buddhism survives has typically cut off from the Dhamma from laypersons. Buddhism for the majority of the people in these countries amounts only to devotional practices and paranormal beliefs, with very little knowledge or application of the psychological and social insights of the Buddha of the Pali canon. Most people in the West cannot become and are not interested in becoming monks or nuns. How, then, do we reevaluate Buddhism for our modern-day lay lives? This is one of the questions Batchelor and his wife Martine are actually asking in their work. (For the record, I think Batchelor's newest book, Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist does a better job of pointing at an answer than Buddhism Without Beliefs.)


I disagree that the monastic focus is a stumbling block for Buddhism -its not here in the UK, at any rate. I've just spent the day at a Theravada Forest tradition monastery and listened to a 2hr talk given by the Abbot Ajahn Sumedho to the ordained and lay community. Devotional practices and paranormal beliefs weren't even mentioned. There were a number of references to suttas in the Pali Canon, the Four Noble truths were mentioned, Dependent Origination, and lots of advice for meditation, mindfulness and day to day living.

I think its a mistake to mistrust all things that are connected with tradition and to want to just throw them out. For me it would be a great tragedy if the only Buddhist 'teachers' available were people like Stephen Batchelor.

I've also encountered several westerners interested in ordaining in both the Theravada and Tibetan Buddhist traditions in this country both of which have active monastic communities.


So this post is several months old, and I missed your reply, but I wanted to clarify a few points. The present manifestation of the Thai forest tradition in the U.K. is a relatively novel phenomenon. It actually ought to be called the "Thai forest revival." In fact, it evolved in the 20th century out of the direct result of people who, like Stephen Batchelor, were interested in reviving a practice of Buddhism that relied on direct experience of the transformative psychology and personal interaction with the historical Pali texts. The Thai forest tradition of Ajahn Maha Bua and Ajahn Chah, thus, was a sort of "modernist" movement itself. It was an anomaly that was not representative of other contemporary Theravadin communities in Thailand or abroad.

In fact, in the case of the Sri Lankans (to whom we owe quite a lot in terms of our knowledge of Pali manuscripts), it was thanks largely to the efforts of two Westerners that Buddhism and a meditation tradition still exists in that country at all: Colonel Henry Steel Olcott and Helena Blavatsky who reinvigorated Buddhism there after years of Colonial oppression. The man who revived the meditation tradition (which had fallen out of favor in the Sri Lankan monastic community) in Sri Lanka and India was a sort of protege of theirs: Anagarika Dharmapala. His return to the Pali texts and the resurrection of the contemplative practices gleaned therefrom are a direct result of Olcott and Blavatsky's exhortation to simply return to the original texts themselves (which, again, was anomalous to the contemporary Buddhist culture). From what we can tell, until fairly recently, laypeople in Theravadan countries (not so sure about Zen or Vajrayana) did not meditate and had no interest in it, certainly not with an eye for the deep shift in the psyche that those familiar with the Pali texts know it has the potential to catalyze.

And, of course, we have people like Buddhadasa Bhikku or Mahasi Sayadaw, et al. who became distrustful with their own contemporary "traditional" culture and established "traditions" of their own. These traditions actually reflected a return to the historical Buddha's teaching rather than a departure from it. People like Batchelor or Gombrich are simply the latest in a chain of reevaluations of the prevailing Buddhist culture. In other words, "modern Buddhism" oftentimes signifies a return to early Buddhism, or at least a practice that more closely resembles what we can presently know of early Buddhism.

Likewise, the modern "access to insight" movement whereby laypeople everywhere have access to the Pali texts is unprecedented, and results from the "modernist" approach to Buddhism spearheaded by the Thai forest revival and the expectations for such a thing by Westerners like Ajahn Sumedho, Bhikku Bodhi, Jack Kornfield and Thanissaro Bhikku. I'm not sure we would even have English translations of the Pali texts if the Christian Protestant Reformation hadn't made personal exposure to the firsthand sources of a religion so intrinsic to spiritual study in the West. That sort of unprecedented access really didn't exist in Asia at all until recently. In fact, guess where the Sri Lankan Walpola Rahula (author of What the Buddha Taught) studied the Pali canon in depth?: the Sorbonne in Paris. Comprehensive scriptural study of the sort we modern Westerners have become used to is a modern innovation.

I'm not certainly not saying Batchelor, et al. should be the only teachers and that we should look to their work uncritically and abandon all Asian traditions in favor of modern ones. I am simply saying that blindly vilifying modernism and exalting so-called tradition is short-sighted, because Batchelor and other modern Buddhists are just doing the selfsame things that people (some of whom, like Ajahn Chah, have even been Asian) have always been doing in good faith efforts to understand what Buddhism really means for us as individuals. I always get the feeling that qualms of this sort are indicative of a sort of knee-jerk misoneism, rather than an honest understanding and evaluation of Buddhism in its proper historical, social, and personal contexts respectively.

Yeesh, that got long. Sorry for being so garrulous.

Cobalt
28 Nov 10, 23:55
Glow:

I found that very thought-provoking. Thanks. I'm not steady enough on my own feet where discussing the various traditions is concerned to give you a good reply to it, but I enjoyed the read.

Glow
29 Nov 10, 00:19
Thanks Cobalt. :) Getting people to think is the best response I could have hoped for!

Aloka
30 Nov 10, 07:52
I'm not certainly not saying Batchelor, et al. should be the only teachers and that we should look to their work uncritically and abandon all Asian traditions in favor of modern ones. I am simply saying that blindly vilifying modernism and exalting so-called tradition is short-sighted, because Batchelor and other modern Buddhists are just doing the selfsame things that people (some of whom, like Ajahn Chah, have even been Asian) have always been doing in good faith efforts to understand what Buddhism really means for us as individuals. I always get the feeling that qualms of this sort are indicative of a sort of knee-jerk misoneism, rather than an honest understanding and evaluation of Buddhism in its proper historical, social, and personal contexts respectively.


Since my last post on this subject I've been to more talks at Amaravati monastery, asked questions in a question and answer session and had chats on two different occasions with Ajahn Sumedho about personal practice. It delighted me that everything I heard was very relevant to my studies of the Pali Canon, to my everyday life, and to my meditation practice. It might be worth mentioning that I came to the Forest Tradition after investigating the teachings of Ajahn Chah and others and of course not forgetting Ajahn Buddhadasa.

This was like a much needed breath of fresh air after my many years of listening to Tibetan Buddhist teachings handed down from lineage masters and translations and discussions of various Tibetan texts. It is certainly not unjustifiably exalting tradition to say that it would be a huge loss to the world if the Forest Tradition were to disappear, because they cut through so many of the cultural superstitions that cling to Buddhism, amongst other things.

As for Steven Batchelor, I bought 'Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist' and only read half of the book because it was so boring to me that I couldn't be bothered to pick it up again. So many other westerners have followed that trail to India and other places in the far east, some taking Buddhist ordination for a while, often coming to similar conclusions but not actually writing a book about it. Having been a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner myself I didn't find anything new in what he had to say about that phase of his life as a monk in two traditions either, and there were also some fuzzy inconclusive gaps in the storytelling. Maybe the book improved in the second half but I'm afraid I'm not a particularly Stephen Batchelor fan. He seems to be quite attention/media seeking and the thought of ever considering him as a teacher is too preposterous for words. I don't see that he has anything new and innovative to offer me in general, there are plenty of others who have come to similar conclusions. I don't consider this to be "blindly vilifying modernism" I'm simply speaking from my own investigation, offline experience and conclusions. I don't actually see anything wrong in modern thought, why would I ? - but it does have to be something that I find convincing if it has the label of "Buddhist."

Just a personal opinion though, 'different strokes for different folks' as the saying goes.

;D

Glow
30 Nov 10, 22:43
Thanks for your thoughtful response Dazzle. I'm glad to hear you're finding the teachers at Amaravati helpful and relevant. :)

But I'm not quite sure I understand your comment about considering Batchelor a teacher being "preposterous." As I (and the majority of his readers) don't have any actual access to him, he is more of an author than teacher. I don't consider myself a student of his and I'm not even avery ardent fan. I simply think he articulates some important points of discord at the juncture of modern secularism and Buddhism. If others have followed a similar journey, why should they not write books about it? Writing is a powerful way of communicating ideas and it is never a bad thing to have a diversity of voices available. I personally find it nice to hear that people have the selfsame doubts as myself and learn about what conclusions they have come to, even if they differ from my own.

There are any number of people in whose work I have found wisdom, with whom I have not had personal contact: Ajahn Chah, Bhikku Bodhi, Pema Chodron, et al. They exist to me only as writers. I don't have a student-teacher relationship with them, and I don't resonate with everything they have written. Furthermore, even if I were to consider such people "teachers", such a relationship does not entail subjugating your own intellect or opinion to that of another. You can doubt and disagree with your teacher and still learn some things from them. As such, I don't see why such a relationship, to any person, should be "preposterous."

I also think you're setting up a false dichotomy between the Thai Forest Tradition and people like Batchelor. Why are you pitting them against one another as if their right to exist is mutually exclusive? Where in my posts did I ever say the Thai Forest Tradition should go away? Why even posit such a scenario? (As you can tell from all the question marks, I am truly quite perplexed, lol.) I am simply saying that the modernist approaches to Buddhism (of which the Thai Forest Revival is one!) have their place and can be quite valuable. I wouldn't want to do without the more orthodox Sri Lankan schools who have preserved much of the Theravada canon. I also certainly would not want to do without the work of Jack Kornfield or Gil Fronsdal -- two teachers in the Western Insight Meditation tradition -- whose teaching makes "kitchen-sink level" Buddhism come to life for laypeople. A lay practice, the sort I am practicing and I assume you and most people on this forum who are not monastics are practicing, is a fairly novel phenomenon. It's nice to have people who are talking about how they have navigated the intersection between this 2,500-year-old body of philosophy and their 21st-century workaday reality.

As for Confession..., like you I found parts of it boring and Batchelor's prose sometimes hard-going, but I enjoyed his reconstruction of the Buddha's pragmatism and his reading of the Four Noble Truths more so than the memoir aspect. I also am not quite convinced that one can safely say that the Buddha didn't literally believe in the metaphysical aspects of the philosophy preserved in the suttas. Still, I enjoyed reading his thoughts. I appreciate that he is voicing some of the reservations people looking East for wisdom might have.

Aloka
30 Nov 10, 23:17
Hi Glow,

My use of the word 'preposterous' in connection with Batchelor as a teacher was purely a rather forceful personal opinion !

As well as writing books he also functions in a teaching capacity. From his website...." For several months each year he travels worldwide to lead meditation retreats and teach Buddhism "....and personally I wouldn't consider it worth investigating him as a teacher.

I'm not sure why you think I'm pitting the Forest Tradition against Batchelor, that certainly wasn't my intention, perhaps its my muddled way of presenting my views. The topic is "Is modern Buddhism moving away from the teachings of the Buddha" and I was supporting the teachings of the Forest Tradition (which isn't moving away from the teachings of the Buddha) as being very relevant to the modern world.

Sorry if I caused any misunderstanding. :bunny:

Glow
30 Nov 10, 23:37
Hi Glow,

My use of the word 'preposterous' in connection with Batchelor as a teacher was purely a rather forceful personal opinion !

As well as writing books he also functions in a teaching capacity. From his website...." For several months each year he travels worldwide to lead meditation retreats and teach Buddhism "....and personally I wouldn't consider it worth investigating him as a teacher.

I'm not sure why you think I'm pitting the Forest Tradition against Batchelor, that certainly wasn't my intention, perhaps its my muddled way of presenting my views. The topic is "Is modern Buddhism moving away from the teachings of the Buddha" and I was supporting the teachings of the Forest Tradition (which isn't moving away from the teachings of the Buddha) as being very relevant to the modern world.

Sorry if I caused any misunderstanding. :bunny:

Hi Dazzle. Okay, I think I understand what you mean now. :) I think I probably muddled my first post in this thread wrong when I said that monasticism was a "stumbling block." I think I may have seen it that way when I posted that, but now I realize that I have learned quite a lot from monks and nuns. My point was that, although in the suttas we see the monastic community communicating all manner of dharma to laypeople, this hasn't always been how it's worked out historically. From accounts I've read and my own experiences in Asia, the laity don't really know about the dharma beyond the very basics and the monastic community didn't have any interest in sharing it with them until fairly recently. Places like Amaravati in England and Dhammaloka in Australia are quite novel in that they exist to offer the dharma to an audience that includes people from all lifestyles: not just monastics.

Lay people are now interested in really, seriously studying meditation and the suttas and the dharma in detail whereas, traditionally, (and this is the case even in the Buddha's time), such people were not expected to take up such a dedicated practice. The Buddha's prescription for lay people (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.179.than.html) is fairly limited. People want more than that now. That's why I think "modern" Buddhism is actually a propagation of the historical Buddha's message: it's allowing more people than ever to interact more intimately with his message than ever.

clw_uk
01 Dec 10, 15:48
I think an argument can be made that the Buddhas own noble teachings were not always taught to the laity and there was a slant to just teach basic morality to the laity



When this was said, Anathapindika wept and shed tears. Then Ananda asked him, "Are you foundering, householder, are you sinking?"

"I am not foundering, Ananda, I am not sinking. But although I have long waited upon the Teacher and bhikkhus worthy of esteem, never before have I heard such a talk on the Dhamma."

"Such talk on the Dhamma is not given to lay people clothed in white, but only to those who have gone forth."

"Well, then, Sariputta, let such talk on the Dhamma be given to lay people clothed in white. There are people with little dust in their eyes who are wasting away through not hearing such talk on the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand."




http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.143x.olen.html



notice he said that the Buddhas own teachings were



"Such talk on the Dhamma is not given to lay people clothed in white, but only to those who have gone forth."

Esho
02 Dec 10, 15:01
I think an argument can be made that the Buddhas own noble teachings were not always taught to the laity and there was a slant to just teach basic morality to the laity

So, do you think that monastic life is the only way to have a deep and real practice of the Dhamma?

:hands:

clw_uk
02 Dec 10, 16:09
So, do you think that monastic life is the only way to have a deep and real practice of the Dhamma?


Not at all. Just that at some point the Four Noble Truths were not taught to lay people (well some were taught them). The majority just heard the morality teachings. In the suttas that strongly portray dying and being reborn after death somewhere you notice that they are mostly taught to lay people, also the golden rule is strongly expressed in a sutta aimed at lay people


The sutta above is evidence enough that at the very least most lay people didnt hear the four noble truths. However we dont have a date for it. Was this at the beginning of the Buddhas teaching career? Did the lay start to hear the 4NT's after this?

Questions we cant really answer I know but interesting to think about


Also in the suttas there are lay people who become arahants or once returners


However saying that I would argue that the monastic life provides the ideal place for practice, for most though not all

Esho
02 Dec 10, 16:20
However saying that I would argue that the monastic life provides the ideal place for practice, for most though not all

Thanks Craig...

Now, have you ever felt the need to go though the monastic life? Sometimes I have had that feeling; mostly now that I am through the teachings of the historical buddha (the Pali Canon). The few I have read, gives me the idea that the way to practice deeply is just through monastic reclusion.

Thanks for your comments.

:hands:

Esho
02 Dec 10, 16:21
Also in the suttas there are lay people who become arahants or once returners

Can you share the links for this suttas?

;D

clw_uk
02 Dec 10, 16:22
Now your asking me to do some digging lol

Will look now ;)

Esho
02 Dec 10, 16:25
Now your asking me to do some digging lol

Take your time Craig... no rush

;)

clw_uk
02 Dec 10, 16:29
This man was not ordained

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/kn/ud/ud.1.10.than.html


There is also this


KingKikiKaasiraajaa took a low seat and siting said thus to the Blessed One: Venerable sir, may the Blessed One accept to spend the rains in Benares, I will attend on the Blessed One and the community in this manner. The Blessed One Kassapa perfect and rightfully enlightened said I have already accepted to spend the rains. King Kiki Kaasiraajaa entreated the Blessed One up to the third time and the Blessed One Kassapa said I have already accepted to spend the rains. Then king Kiki Kaasiraajaa was displeased and unpleasant, thinking, the Blessed One Kassapa perfect rightfully enlightened does not accept my invitation. He asked the Blessed One Kassapa.Venerable sir, is there some other enticing supporter? Great king, in the chief village, Vebhalinga there is a potter named Ghatikara, he is my chief supporter. To you, great king there is a change in the mind (* and displeasure thinking the Blessed One Kassapa does not accept my invitation to spend the rains in Benares. To the potter Ghatikara, such a thing does not happen, and will not happen. Great king, the potter Ghatikara has taken refuge in the enlightenment, in the Teaching and the Community of bhikkhus. Abstains from destroying life, abstains from taking what is not given, abstains from misbehaviour in sexuality, abstains from telling lies and abstains from intoxicating drinks. Great king, the potter Ghatikara has unwavering faith in Enlightenment, in the Teaching and the Community of bhikkhus. Is endowed with the virtues of the noble ones. Great king, the potter Ghatiara has overcome doubts about unpleasantness, about the arising of unpleasantness, about the cessation of unpleasantness and the path to the cessation of unpleasantness. Great king, the potter Ghatikara takes one meal per day, is virtuous and leads a holy life. Great king, he has put aside gold and gems, soverign gold and silver. He does not till the ground with a mammoty or with his hand. He puts rats, mice and dogs into a box in a friendly manner and puts the left overs of rice, green grams or chick peas into it and leaves them saying take away whatever you wish. Great king, the potter Ghatikara supports his blind decayed mother and father. Great king, the potter Ghatikara has destroyed the five lower bonds to the sensual world, is born spontaneously, will not proceed from that world and will extinguish in that same birth.


http://www.vipassana.info/081-ghatikara-e1.htm


Thats all I could find for now, will see if I can find some more

Esho
02 Dec 10, 16:41
Thanks Craig!

:hug:

clw_uk
02 Dec 10, 18:20
The first sutta is interesting since it is essentially what the whole practice is aimed at


"Then, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: In reference to the seen, there will be only the seen. In reference to the heard, only the heard. In reference to the sensed, only the sensed. In reference to the cognized, only the cognized. That is how you should train yourself. When for you there will be only the seen in reference to the seen, only the heard in reference to the heard, only the sensed in reference to the sensed, only the cognized in reference to the cognized, then, Bahiya, there is no you in terms of that. When there is no you in terms of that, there is no you there. When there is no you there, you are neither here nor yonder nor between the two. This, just this, is the end of stress."


Just experiencing, "the way it is"

Not adverting or wanting, not giving rise to "I" or "mine"


However most cannot simply enter into this state and so the gradual path is taught to lead one to it. I would also argue that one of the principle methods of "getting" there is anapanasati

metta

Mystic1
04 Dec 10, 21:39
Is it only modern Buddhism that might (or might not) be moving away from the Buddha's teachings? If the Buddha didn't teach tantra, then wouldn't tantric Buddhism have moved away from the Buddha's teachings long ago? What is the issue at hand in this thread; is someone striving to maintain an "authentic" Buddhism, by limiting texts and practices to accepted texts attributed to the Buddha? A little clarification as to the aim of the thread would be helpful. Buddhism has always evolved to suit the cultures that adopt it. That's not necessarily a "moving away".

Aloka
04 Dec 10, 22:01
Hi Mystic1 and welcome,

My question was concerning the practice of Buddhism in the present day world and if anyone thought it was/wasn't moving away from the core teachings of the historical Buddha, such as, for example, The Four Noble truths.

The issue of Tantra is probably a separate subject .


What is the issue at hand in this thread; is someone striving to maintain an "authentic" Buddhism, by limiting texts and practices to accepted texts attributed to the Buddha?

I don't understand your point here - if we don't use texts and practices attributed to the Buddha then it can't be called 'Buddhism' can it?


Kind regards,

Dazzle

Mystic1
04 Dec 10, 23:12
Interesting question. Tibetan Buddhism is full of texts not relating to the Buddha at all. Some are commentaries on texts attributed to the Buddha, but some are "terma", texts "discovered" (or written) by mystic practitioners. And some of the Tantric texts were written by women in India approx. a millenium after the Buddha. Thank you for the welcome, BTW. :)

Aloka
04 Dec 10, 23:21
some are "terma", texts "discovered" (or written) by mystic practitioners

The most important terma texts were written by Guru Rinpoche who was considered in Tibet to be the second Buddha.


And some of the Tantric texts were written by women in India approx. a millenium after the Buddha.

Which women in India are you referring to? I can only think of Niguma right now - who composed Six Doctrines similar to those of Naropa who was an India forefather of the Tibetan Kagyu lineage. (Who in some accounts is said to be her consort -and in others her brother)

Mystic1
05 Dec 10, 03:50
Well, now that I need it, Dazzle, I can't find the book that has that information. I'm going to see if I can find it in another book. But even if I can't come up with specific names, the point was more that tantric practice didn't develop until around 600 AD (give or take a century) in India. According to Miranda Shaw and other scholars of the early tantric movement, tantric texts were written by women as well as by men. So that's quite a bit after the Buddha. So would it be fair to say that tantric Buddhism moved away from the writings/teachings of the Buddha? But that's not the subject of this thread. Oh well. :P

Aloka
05 Dec 10, 03:58
It's preferable if people can support some of their statements with evidence as well as links or specific references for any quotes made, because we are a learning community.

Regarding further details about Tantra, we've already got a revivied Tantra thread in the Mahayana/Vajrayana forum.

As you didn't introduce yourself in the Welcome forum, can I ask you if you practice with any of the Buddhist traditions offline, Mystic1 ? ;D

Mystic1
05 Dec 10, 18:56
Oh, sorry. Are new members supposed to check in first at the Welcome forum? I was eager to dive right into the discussions. I've been studying Vajrayana on and off my whole adult life. I haven't found a sangha (or even a basic school/sect) to stick with regularly, so I've mainly been reading and meditating on my own, and applying the basic principles in day-to-day life. But I was fortunate to receive the Lamrim teachings years ago, which I really enjoyed. At the moment, I'm starting to wonder if Vajrayana is really for me. I'll take a look at your Vajrayana forum and see if I can find some direction there.

Aloka
05 Dec 10, 19:39
Thanks Mystic1, much appreciated. It's always good to have a little background info about our new members.



At the moment, I'm starting to wonder if Vajrayana is really for me.

Take your time - investigate what the different traditions have to offer. I hope you'll enjoy being a member of our community.


:hands:

londonerabroad
08 Dec 10, 04:39
This argument really depends on whether or not you believe in one or more Buddhas and whether or not you believe they still exist, helping sentient beings. When talking about modern, are you doing so from the standpoint of a fundamentalist or academic? Are you seeking enlightenment and why?

Aloka
08 Dec 10, 06:07
This argument really depends on whether or not you believe in one or more Buddhas and whether or not you believe they still exist, helping sentient beings. When talking about modern, are you doing so from the standpoint of a fundamentalist or academic? Are you seeking enlightenment and why?


The question is open to any viewpoint which is relevant to the teachings of the historical Buddha.

Not sure what you mean about the 'fundamentalist' or' academic' part.

We are all Buddhist practitioners from different traditions or newcomers to Buddhism here. "Are you seeking enlightenment and why?" is completely off topic.

:hands:

Esho
08 Dec 10, 15:44
This argument really depends on whether or not you believe in one or more Buddhas and whether or not you believe they still exist, helping sentient beings.

The Buddha teachings are not about beliveing but understanding, experience and result.

;)

KoolAid900
09 Dec 10, 01:40
In my experience, no they are not. This might not make any sense to anybody else, but I feel that Vajrayana Buddhism is the living Buddha. I feel that the exact same transmission is happening here and now that occured b/w Buddha and his disciples. It may, or may not, have changed clothes, but I really think it is the same thing.

Mani
09 Dec 10, 02:50
. I feel that the exact same transmission is happening here and now that occured b/w Buddha and his disciples. It may, or may not, have changed clothes, but I really think it is the same thing.


Yes, in Vajrayana when one receives a transmission from an authentic lineage holder from an uninterrupted lineage, this is the case.

Though many words from Sanskrit are not the easiest to translate in a straightforward way, the word "tantra" itself can translate to something very close to "continuum". This is why an authentic Vajra Guru who holds an uninterrupted lineage is absolutely necessary for one to practice Vajrayana.