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Aloka
11 Oct 16, 17:55
Before Buddhism came to the west- and the internet - people in countries where Buddhism flourished went to temples or monasteries on special occasions and also supported the monastic communities. If they were serious about practice, they received oral instructions from teachers and then went away to get on with it.

Today, people in the western world often seem to look at the Buddha's teachings from a more intellectual point of view. They read lots of books, suttas, sutras and commentaries and also have lengthy debates on the internet.

Is this too much information and is it actually beneficial to our day to day practice, which includes meditation? Are we practising in the modern world as the Buddha intended 2,500 years ago in Iron Age India - or do we perhaps study and talk a lot, but not make any real effort to get down to the actual practice of the teachings in our everyday lives ?

What's your opinion ?

:reading:

Grushka
12 Oct 16, 09:30
From what I have seen there are a lot of people trying to improve their quality of life and take the practice seriously, so I think it's cool how everybody can have access to the teachings.

However, from my point of view, the material we have available tends to be a little elaborate, its language seems not to be as simple for modern western people to understand as maybe it was intended to be, and philosophically there is also a certain complexity in the teachings. I think more educated people tend to take more interest, and of course they can't resist organizing, debating, and theorizing the whole thing rather than actually listening to it.

In the east, they might have the opposite problem, as there was a tendency to accept and obey and embrace superstition.

In my humble opinion, one way or another, we can't help but giving spiritual authority to the teachings in some level, and no authority can ever lead to the truth.

Esho
12 Oct 16, 15:18
Buddhism has become too intellectual in the western culture and this is because of the nature of Buddhism itself. Buddhism is rational or at least the teachings of the Buddha; it is scientific in its approach to human nature and the nature of suffering and it is highly technical in the solutions it gives to the problem of unsatisfactoriness. All this combined with the tendency to become intellectual in the western culture gives us a highly intellectual Buddhism.

Of course this was not the intention of the Buddha and it moves away from a sincere practice and an effort to practice meditation and a life dedicated to the observance of the principles of doctrine of Buddha always being in the realm of the rationalization of the doctrine and never landing it in a sincere practice.

Also I suspect of some monks that promote this approach writing books which encourage this attitude of just reading and never acting and many scholars that write their books promoting this approach of being too intellectual toward the teachings of Buddha.

It is up to everyone to choose which approach to take but the temptation to become too rational and intellectual is always there and it is hard to evade.

daverupa
13 Oct 16, 11:34
I think Buddhism has too much of ...a lot.

This is a function of the people engaging with it, and to this extent I suspect that just about everyone who's attempted the practice - Iron Ages & Today - has brought a lot of excess baggage along, at least at the front end; some mental luggage sticks around very tenaciously for a long while. One example I saw recently was an article on the Secular Buddhist website about mindfulness, Buddhist practice, and dating.

Now, the pursuit of a romantic relationship is a normal sort of human goal, but not a suitable Dhammic goal at all. So, here we have a case of a Buddhist with non-Buddhist goals - surely a very common situation, past & present. It tends to be called 'lay Buddhism', as though somehow any given culture's preferences can find a place within the Dhamma. What stands out to me is the fact that believing this ignores the following:

MN 22 (https://suttacentral.net/en/mn22)

“Bhikkhus, that one can engage in sensual pleasures without sensual desires, without perceptions of sensual desire, without thoughts of sensual desire—that is impossible.

...in favor of having one's cake & eating it, too.

It's like Lego blocks. You can just play around with them, using some & discarding others, or you can build the thing in the instructions, but you can't do both at the same time. Whether intellectual or devotional, most people seem to use Buddhism as either a treasured cultural possession or a philosophical plaything, it seems to me.

SilentStream
28 Nov 16, 00:40
Being new to Buddha's teachings ,I have took books back to the library because of this very reason.Way over my head.If this was the case with books on Christianity I probably wouldn't have become a Christian years ago.

Aloka
03 Apr 17, 18:38
Anyone else have any comments? (Bearing in mind that this topic was posted 6 months ago and some of the other participants might not be looking in at the moment).


:hands:

Element
04 Apr 17, 02:45
Before Buddhism came to the west- and the internet - people in countries where Buddhism flourished went to temples or monasteries on special occasions and also supported the monastic communities. If they were serious about practice, they received oral instructions from teachers and then went away to get on with it.

Today, people in the western world often seem to look at the Buddha's teachings from a more intellectual point of view. They read lots of books, suttas, sutras and commentaries and also have lengthy debates on the internet.

I am not sure Buddhism in Asian countries ever "flourished", apart from devotion based on superstitious beliefs about making merit for a good reincarnation.

Thus, I have the impression the modern devotion to scholarly Buddhism is a similar superstition since many of the intellectual theories about the scriptures often have no intrinsic or knowable reality.

So while Buddhism has certainly become too intellectual, imo, this is a similar superstition to former times.

The core instruction that the Buddha-Dhamma is 'visible here-&-now, invites inspection & is verifiable by each insightful meditator' has not ceased for 2,600 years. It is chanted everyday by millions of Buddhists. Yet it is not practised & used as the foundation for study. From the perspective of orthodox Buddhism, it is pointless to develop theories about anything not based on knowable experience.

Therefore, we should certainly study scriptures as much as we can however we should always seek to reconcile those scriptures with knowable reality.

:peace:

philg
04 Apr 17, 10:56
There is a danger that the intellectual aspects of Buddhism are attractive to us here in the West that we forget the practice part. Attractive, because you can easily tease out the secular dimension so that it is more akin to Western philosophical discourse. And you don't have to sit on the mat, or burn josticks, or set up a shrine, or anything seemingly religious. Danger, because you do have to sit in some sort of meditation eventually, or it merely becomes an intellectual exercise rather than a life-changing process.

mcsfa1
04 Apr 17, 13:40
Hope that this is not off topic but do feel it applies.

Was drawn to Theravada Buddhism in part by another practitioner who put it this way - "You have a problem, meditate, you have a question, meditate, you get bored, meditate ..." This all supported by the Pail Canon and the teachings provided at a monastery. Sounds like Buddhism before it came to the West. Am I lost in time?

What am encountering here in the US is when searching for books with English translation, many of the authors add their liberal bent or own flavor to the writing instead of just the teachings of the Buddha. This is discouraging and a waste of money. Amazon.com loves me and so does the local library to which such books are donated. So perhaps here it may be said "liberal intellectualism?" The discussion forums such as this one are sincerely appreciated at this point in my journey - thank-you to its creators and maintainers.

In terms of practice, can only speak for myself. Wish one day to wear the robe thus devote most of my free time to meditation and study. Will soon find the right sangha.

justusryans
05 Apr 17, 17:50
Of everything I've studied about Buddhism the message I've gotten is sit and let go. Let go of everything. Yes... reading can be very helpful, and I have my favorites of course. But to really try and understand I think you need to sit.:hands:

binocular
22 Apr 17, 19:07
Before Buddhism came to the west- and the internet - people in countries where Buddhism flourished went to temples or monasteries on special occasions and also supported the monastic communities. If they were serious about practice, they received oral instructions from teachers and then went away to get on with it.

Today, people in the western world often seem to look at the Buddha's teachings from a more intellectual point of view. They read lots of books, suttas, sutras and commentaries and also have lengthy debates on the internet.

What else are Westerner Buddhists supposed to do?
What else can Westerner Buddhists do?

In traditionally Buddhist countries, practicing Buddhism (to whatever extent) is embedded as relevant into the social, political, and economical aspects of people's lives, with an emphasis on communal relevance and tradition.

In the West, those aspects are largely missing, simply because the social, political, and economical structure specific for Buddhism is not present. Westerner Buddhists are trying to practice Buddhism in a world that is alien to Buddhism and in which Buddhism is an alien. That means that they are facing challenges that people in traditionally Buddhist countries don't face.

It's only normal that Westerner Buddhists are trying to make up for the social, political, and economical lacks that they have in comparison to traditionally Buddhist countries, and the immediate way to do that is by focusing on the informational, doctrinal aspects of Buddhism, hence all the reading, studying, talking, discussing.



Is this too much information and is it actually beneficial to our day to day practice, which includes meditation? Are we practising in the modern world as the Buddha intended 2,500 years ago in Iron Age India - or do we perhaps study and talk a lot, but not make any real effort to get down to the actual practice of the teachings in our everyday lives ?
What could be said that the Buddha intended for people like us, for people in circumstances and with challenges like we have them?

Aloka
22 Apr 17, 19:57
Hello binocular :wave:

How nice to see you here!



What could be said that the Buddha intended for people like us, for people in circumstances and with challenges like we have them?

I'm sure there were just as many challenges for people living in India approximately 2,500 years ago. Maybe not exactly the same, but dukkha can be pervasive whatever the time or place.

.

binocular
23 Apr 17, 06:06
I'm sure there were just as many challenges for people living in India approximately 2,500 years ago. Maybe not exactly the same, but dukkha can be pervasive whatever the time or place.
And chances are that different challenges require different solutions.
Perhaps even the only way that some semblance of Buddhist practice can survive in particular circumstances, is by being "too intellectual."

philg
23 Apr 17, 11:01
I think we need to keep up the struggle in the West to both keep as close to the teachings of the Buddha as possible, and at the same time to get away from the jargon that scares people away from Buddhism.