Thread: Natural Buddhism

  1. #1

    Natural Buddhism

    I came across this ....


    Natural Buddhism

    By Gil Fronsdal

    While I am happy to be attending a conference on secular Buddhism, I do not identify with the label. My, perhaps idiosyncratic, understanding of secularism sees “secular Buddhism” as somewhat oxymoronic. Instead, I prefer the term “natural Buddhism.” I use this expression for understanding and practicing Buddhism without relying on supernatural explanations; i.e., on beliefs that fall outside of the laws of nature as we know them.

    By relying on a naturalistic approach to Buddhism, I am not claiming that what could be called supernatural is not real or true. While some day we may have natural explanations for such phenomena, for now, I see no need to include them in the Buddhism I practice.

    Beliefs found in Buddhism that could be called supernatural are rebirth, the working of karma over multiple lifetimes, heavens and hells, devas and Māras, miracles, merit and merit transfer, and many of the psychic powers mentioned in Buddhist texts (e.g., walking through walls, flying, and talking with gods.)

    None of my Buddhist teachers in either the West and in Asia required me to have faith in unverified beliefs. Instead, they instructed me to be deeply aware of my experience, including what beliefs I was holding. In fact, I suspect the deep questioning of my views and beliefs that they expected would have been inhibited by believing in what is supernatural.

    Because the earliest surviving texts of Indian Buddhism include many teachings free of supernatural ideas, I believe “natural Buddhism” can be considered an equally valid form of Buddhism as “supernatural Buddhism”, the predominant form we have today. An early text that supports a naturalistic approach to Buddhism is The Book of Eights (Atthakavagga), a text some scholars consider to have been composed earlier than most of the other early Buddhist discourses. As the fourth book in the Sutta Nipata in the Khuddaka Nikāya, The Book of Eights provides a foundation of teachings that does not rely on any ideology or supernatural beliefs; in fact, depending on doctrines of any type is seen as problematic in this Buddhist text. For example, not only is belief in rebirth not required, the text discourages any concern with future lives or wish for any state of being. Accordingly, The Book of Eights also has nothing to say about ending cycles of rebirth as a goal of practice.

    Because having faith is often central to having supernatural religious beliefs, it is noteworthy that the word faith (saddhā) appears only once in the Book of Eights and then only in a passage stating that someone who has attained peace is without faith, i.e., has no need for faith. While some form of faith may be implied in the teachings of The Book of Eights, no role for faith is mentioned. What is emphasized is having insight into what one can see for oneself, especially into the many forms of clinging and the benefits of letting go of these clingings.

    In the hope that the idea of a natural Buddhism is not seen as a far-fetched idea, I would like to present an overview of the main teachings of The Book of Eights.

    Personal Peace Through Not Clinging

    Rather than a transcendent, supernatural reality to be attained, The Book of Eights emphasizes a psychological state accessible within the life people live. The text champions a direct and simple approach for attaining peace (santi). The possibility of peace guides the teachings and practices the text advocates. Rather than a doctrine to be simply believed, these teachings describe means or practices for realizing peace.

    CONTINUED HERE

    Any comments about the article?




    Edit There's some info about the Atthaka Vagga (The Book of Eights) at the ATI website:

    http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/a...hakavagga.html



  2. #2
    Forums Member daverupa's Avatar
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    Aṭṭhakavagga

    ---

    Second Chapter


    I see here trembling, fearful in the world,
    These people gone under the sway of craving for births—
    Base people floundering in the jaws of death,
    Not free from craving for repeated birth.

    Look at them trembling with their egotistic selfishness,
    Like fish in a stream fast drying-up,
    Seeing it so, fare unselfish in this life,
    And cease worrying on different states of being.

    No longer longing towards either extreme
    Having understood touch, together with letting go,
    One should do what others will praise and not blame,
    A wise one is not stained by what is seen and heard.

    The sage has known perception and crossed the flood,
    So with nothing tainted, nothing wrapped around,
    They fare on in diligence with the arrow drawn,
    Neither longing for this world nor for another.

  3. #3
    Forums Member daverupa's Avatar
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    In many passages describing the goal, The Book of Eights emphasizes how the skillful sage behaves rather than an attainment distinct from how he or she lives. For example, the text does not mention any singular attainment, or transcendent and extraordinary states of consciousness. No mention is made of psychic powers such as the divine eye or the divine ear. Rather, the text enumerates the ethical behaviors such people would or would not do and the qualities of inner virtue or character they would have. In this way, the religious goal of the texts is always described in ordinary human terms, not in mystical, transcendent, or metaphysical terms.

    ...Just as the teachings of the Book of Eights instruct one to avoid opposing or debating religious doctrines, so too natural Buddhism is not opposed to supernatural forms of Buddhism.
    While not arguing against supernaturalism in and of itself - as the article also wisely avoids - I would like to suggest that the fact of there being no necessary supernatural component is very important to emphasize. I think the Dhamma is horribly obscured by arguments & descriptions that try to establish supernaturalism as a core aspect - or any aspect at all.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aloka View Post
    Letting go of their attachments, sages have no need for any doctrine and so do not oppose anyone else’s doctrine.
    I think not opposing to other people's views is at least as hard as letting go of our own - partly due to our pride, but also because once we believe to know what is best or truthful we have a tendency to want others to know, because we are convinced it is also best for them. In fact, one could wonder why something good and truthful wouldn't be the best for everyone. There is also the difficulty of dealing with the fact that we cannot change anything but ourselves.

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by daverupa View Post
    While not arguing against supernaturalism in and of itself - as the article also wisely avoids - I would like to suggest that the fact of there being no necessary supernatural component is very important to emphasize. I think the Dhamma is horribly obscured by arguments & descriptions that try to establish supernaturalism as a core aspect - or any aspect at all.

    I agree.

    and from the conclusion of the article by Gil Fronsdal:


    for those not inclined to believe in the supernatural, natural Buddhism points to a practice and an awakening that does not require believing in rebirth, ultimate realities, miracles, heavens, and hells, but instead teaches about the value of peace and letting go. While supernatural beliefs may be useful for some people, for those who cannot believe what they don’t believe, both natural Buddhism and The Book of Eights teach that to be at peace, one must let go of all clinging, including clinging to both natural and supernatural Buddhism.

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