Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Nyana » Wed Mar 28, 2012 6:32 pm

daverupa wrote:There's a lot more uncertainty about the particulars, here, than many seem willing to accept.

Text-critical analysis is speculative. The methodology of textual criticism is not able and will never be able to demonstrate what the historical Buddha actually taught.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby daverupa » Wed Mar 28, 2012 6:35 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
daverupa wrote:There's a lot more uncertainty about the particulars, here, than many seem willing to accept.

Text-critical analysis is speculative. The methodology of textual criticism is not able and will never be able to demonstrate what the historical Buddha actually taught.


This is not the goal of textual criticism, so it's rather strange to insist that what isn't its goal is, in fact, not possible for it. It does provide alternative and compelling explanations for various features in the texts, however, up to and including highlighting at least a handful of commentarial/transmission errors and oversights (the odd reading or etymology, the connection of certain phrases with the ideas in the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, and so forth).
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Mar 28, 2012 6:49 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:So do you think the Buddha taught things he knew not to be true?


I think you have to look at each passage as to what the purpose of the lesson is at the time. The Buddha was clear in some passages that he wasn't interested in metaphysics but in others used a lot of metaphysical examples in his teaching.

An understanding of who the audience was he was addressing, the common usage of the words he was using and the wordplay he used based on them, what he was trying to achieve, and what his audience was capable of understanding, all play a part.

I think it's a very judeo christain worldview that dictactes that anything to do with religion must be interpreted in an obtuse way even though we are used to using our intelligence in all other fields.

So no I don't think the main lesson of any of his discourses were ever what he knew not to be true, I just don't think he would have expected that in 2500 years people would have been so obtuse as to not be able to differentiate between the important message and the background information.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Nyana » Wed Mar 28, 2012 7:07 pm

daverupa wrote:This is not the goal of textual criticism, so it's rather strange to insist that what isn't its goal is, in fact, not possible for it. It does provide alternative and compelling explanations for various features in the texts, however, up to and including highlighting at least a handful of commentarial/transmission errors and oversights (the odd reading or etymology, the connection of certain phrases with the ideas in the Brhadaranyaka Upanisad, and so forth).

Yes, that's what textual criticism can offer. Interesting, sometimes helpful, but quite limited.

daverupa wrote:There's a lot more uncertainty about the particulars, here, than many seem willing to accept.

It cannot deliver certainty about the particulars.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Mar 28, 2012 7:21 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Are you are claiming that these limitations have prevented effective practice over the past 2500 years? To me, that's the important issue.


If we understand the Buddha was mainly interested in people following in his footsteps and freeing themselves from greed, aversion and delusion then I'd say something has been limiting the effective practise of that over the past 2500 years.

If we understand the Buddha was mainly interested in people being reasonably moral, giving donations, building temples and pagodas, performing rites and rituals, all in order to secure a more fortunate rebirth then I'd agree there is no problem here.

I understand that the Buddha offered it as an alternative way of making progress, however can we say it's a good thing that in traditional cultures so few choose or are even aware they can choose the former?
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby daverupa » Wed Mar 28, 2012 7:26 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:Yes, that's what textual criticism can offer. Interesting, sometimes helpful, but quite limited.


Of course; but "quite limited" is a wiggle phrase. There are definite limits to what textual criticism can do, but this is true of every field of knowledge; that phrase cannot function as a criticism in this respect - and the points which textual criticism raises against the traditional readings of the issues in this thread are as yet unmolested.

Ñāṇa wrote:It cannot deliver certainty about the particulars.


It does not claim to deliver certainty; again, this is insisting it cannot do what it does not claim to do, a vacuous effort.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby mikenz66 » Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:06 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Are you are claiming that these limitations have prevented effective practice over the past 2500 years? To me, that's the important issue.

If we understand the Buddha was mainly interested in people following in his footsteps and freeing themselves from greed, aversion and delusion then I'd say something has been limiting the effective practise of that over the past 2500 years.

Are you saying that teachers such as U Pandita, Ajahn Brahm, Bhikkhu Bodhi, and so on are teaching less effectively than secular buddhists such as Stephen Batchelor? [By all accounts, his retreat teachings are very good, so I'm not arguing that Secular Buddhism has to be ineffective.]
Goofaholix wrote:If we understand the Buddha was mainly interested in people being reasonably moral, giving donations, building temples and pagodas, performing rites and rituals, all in order to secure a more fortunate rebirth then I'd agree there is no problem here.

I understand that the Buddha offered it as an alternative way of making progress, however can we say it's a good thing that in traditional cultures so few choose or are even aware they can choose the former?

The alternative view is that modern backgrounds and views can also cause motivational problems. Speaking kind of generically from my experience with relatively secular people I observe that some see the practice as a way of having a less stressful life. I.e. the possibility of the total elimination of Dukkha .

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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:23 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Are you saying that teachers such as U Pandita, Ajahn Brahm, Bhikkhu Bodhi, and so on are teaching less effectively than secular buddhists such as Stephen Batchelor? [By all accounts, his retreat teachings are very good, so I'm not arguing that Secular Buddhism has to be ineffective].


I think you need to reread my paragraph it said nothing of the sort. I didn't say anything about teachers not teaching effectively, rather about so few choosing to follow them and choosing the backup option instead.

I'd prefer to have right view without effluents rather than with, wouldn't you?

mikenz66 wrote:The alternative view is that modern backgrounds and views can also cause motivational problems. Speaking kind of generically from my experience with relatively secular people I observe that some see the practice as a way of having a less stressful life. I.e. the possibility of the total elimination of Dukkha .


Peoople will find excuses if their heart is not in it whether they have a traditional or a secular view.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Nyana » Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:25 pm

daverupa wrote:...the points which textual criticism raises against the traditional readings of the issues in this thread are as yet unmolested.

I haven't seen any credible points raised against the traditional readings in this thread yet. What I see are some tacit epistemological assumptions and qualms rooted in metaphysical naturalism and physicalism.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:50 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:I haven't seen any credible points raised against the traditional readings in this thread yet. What I see are some tacit epistemological assumptions and qualms rooted in metaphysical naturalism and physicalism.


I think most of us are very open to the possibility that the traditional readings are correct, it's the Nana readings we struggle with.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby nowheat » Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:55 pm

mikenz66 wrote:I don't understand why you keep appealing to the authority of something you don't explain.

It has a lot to do with it taking me 20K words to explain it well enough that I can hold out a hope that those who are firmly convinced they already have a really good theoretical understanding of dependent arising might actually see the sense. As well as having a lot to do with my attempts to point out that there are other ways of looking at the dhamma.

It would be interesting to hear if you have points to make about dependent origination that have not been explored by teachers and scholars such as Venerables Buddhadassa, Nanavira, and Nanananda, all of whom disagree in various ways with the standard interpretations (though, particularly for Ven Nananda, not so much with rebirth, but with the connection of rebirth with dependent origination).


I actually did summarize what I am saying dependent arising is about, in far fewer than the 20K words, in a post over on the Great Rebirth Debate thread:

nowheat wrote:(3) In the overall scheme of dependent arising, the Buddha is simultaneously describing what people think is going on (the way atta arises, and eventually goes to bliss) and what is actually going on (the way anatta arises, and eventually goes in the opposite of the direction folks think all their efforts should take them in: to dukkha instead of bliss). Bhava is the transition point in the normal Vedic way of seeing things, where one goes through the funeral pyre and becomes whatever they will be in one of the three realms they have been aiming all their lives towards. Their expectation would be something like "bhava to bliss" but the Buddha is saying, "Bhava, sure, but not to bliss, just to the experience of life that we all have: birth, sickness, aging, and death: dukkha." This is because the Buddha is not describing something which will survive the transition of bhava and go on to either bliss or a new life, but he is describing anatta which isn't going anywhere.


I don't think that's something I "don't explain" -- that's about as succinct an explanation as I'm ever likely to be able to give.

nowheat wrote:I am thankful for the accurate transmission of the words of the Buddha, but less than thankful for the limitations put on understanding the meaning.

Are you are claiming that these limitations have prevented effective practice over the past 2500 years? To me, that's the important issue.


To the degree that the teachings, as they are explained to us, foster clinging to a view of literal rebirth on thin evidence -- teaching us to build a case for something on thin evidence -- at the expense of, instead, paying attention to the way we tend to attach ourselves to ideas on too little evidence, yes, the limitations prevent getting as far as one could in practice. Keep in mind that I've said "95% overlap" between my understanding of what the dhamma is about and tradition -- so I'm not saying "throw out the whole thing and start from scratch". I am not one, for example, who says kamma is irrelevant, I just say it needn't be attached to past and future lives we cannot examine.

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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby nowheat » Wed Mar 28, 2012 8:58 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
nowheat wrote:Well, I understand that. It's just human nature. But it's also the point-of-view that never will investigate those lovely and huge volumes of the Buddha's words that we have, so that we can look to see how accurate our understanding is -- fear blocks even the possibility of making an effort; a dogmatic attachment to what we have already learned stands in the way of reading any text any other way.

Well, I can't speak for Ven. Bodhi or Alan Wallace, but from where I'm sitting it has nothing to do with fear or dogma. It has to do with accurately reading the texts. And in this regard the mainstream Buddhist understanding of the texts isn't mistaken, and therefore, isn't in need of correction.


So then you welcome others putting in an effort to look for clearer understanding through alternate readings of the text? You are simply satisfied that everything has been explained, and you personally wouldn't waste your time on it?

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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby kirk5a » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:11 pm

Goofaholix wrote:I'd prefer to have right view without effluents rather than with, wouldn't you?

Do those who have not reached stream entry have this "right view without effluents" ?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby nowheat » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:12 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:So do you think the Buddha taught things he knew not to be true?


A long time ago I used to think a lot about God. I finally decided that, for me, what God is, is the force and effect of all the good things people think, do and say in the world (which allows Satan to be the opposite -- the force and effect of all the bad things). So for me, God is not a discrete entity somewhere up in the sky, or someone who hears my prayers and may choose to intervene, God is the accumulated force of people's good will.

When I speak to those who believe in God, however they conceive Him to be, I recognize that what I understand God to be is different from what they are likely to conceive God to be. Or maybe not. I don't actually know how well matched is our understanding. If I speak to believers in God about how to put God's love into effect in the world, am I lying to them because I don't believe in exactly the same sort of God they do? I don't think I am. I think I am making a sincere effort to try to communicate how and why I act the way I do in the world, and about how we should act in the world, and why it matters, without spending a whole lot of time slicing and dicing the huge and difficult concept of what God is. I am focusing on the pragmatic portion of how to act in the world in a way that decreases human suffering and increases love.

This is my understanding of what the Buddha is doing throughout the suttas. This is why he says, "It is widely accepted in the world, Bharadvaja, that there are gods..." and "He words things by means of what is said in the world but without grasping at it..." and "What do you think... What is better for those well-to-do-brahmins... that the statements they make accord with worldly convention or flaunt worldly convention?" This method fosters dealing with the here-and-now and reduces useless arguments over unknowable things.

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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:18 pm

kirk5a wrote:Do those who have not reached stream entry have this "right view without effluents" ?


The following doesn't suggest stream entry is a pre-requisite so I don't see why it couldn't be possible;

    "And what is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path? The discernment, the faculty of discernment, the strength of discernment, analysis of qualities as a factor for Awakening, the path factor of right view of one developing the noble path whose mind is noble, whose mind is free from effluents, who is fully possessed of the noble path. This is the right view that is without effluents, transcendent, a factor of the path.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby daverupa » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:19 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:What I see are some tacit epistemological assumptions and qualms rooted in metaphysical naturalism and physicalism.


It's probably more accurate to call it a form of naturalized epistemology, just as a point of fact, as neither metaphysical naturalism nor physicalism are being asserted anywhere here. Instead, the tacit view being championed in the OP, that "strongly holding rebirth-view is mandatory for progress in the Dhamma," has failed to receive adequate support which would warrant accepting it as true; that phrase has actually been undermined in various ways.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby kirk5a » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:29 pm

Goofaholix wrote:The following doesn't suggest stream entry is a pre-requisite so I don't see why it couldn't be possible;

whose mind is noble [ariya]

Why would a non-stream enterer be described as having a noble mind?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby vinasp » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:32 pm

Hi everyone,

There is a sutta which says that the monks are divided into two camps.

Here is the Sutta from PTS Gradual Sayings Vol. 1, page 67.
[ The book of twos, chapter V, #4]

"Monks, there are these two companies. What two? The Ariyan and the
un-Ariyan (1). And what, monks, is the un-Ariyan company?
Herein, monks, in whatsoever company the monks understand not, as it
really is, the meaning of "This is suffering"; understand not, as it
really is, the meaning of "This is the arising of suffering"; understand
not, as it really is, the meaning of "This is the ending of suffering";
understand not ... "This is the practice leading to the ending of
suffering", - this company is called "the un-Ariyan."
And what, monks is the Ariyan company? (The reverse of the above).
..... These are the two companies, and of these two the Ariyan company
has the pre-eminence.

Footnote 1. Comy, distinguishes them as "that of noble disciples" and
"that of the ordinary persons".

------------------------- End of Quotation -----------------------

If we assume that these two camps were the same size, then half of the
monks did not understand the four truths.

My own guess is that ninety percent of the monks did not understand the
four truths.

There is something very odd about this state of affairs. There is something
very odd about the teachings. Do you not think that the teachings are
over complicated? Do you not find the teachings to be obscure rather than
clear?

Are the teachings intended to be misunderstood, and if so, why?

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Nyana » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:36 pm

nowheat wrote:So then you welcome others putting in an effort to look for clearer understanding through alternate readings of the text?

I support people using the texts as a source of refuge to help them wake up. I also support and encourage developing a strong meditation practice. And most relevant to this forum, I support monastic Buddhism, regarding which the Theravāda has so far been the most successful in establishing monasteries in the West that are capable of maintaining a Vinaya lineage.

nowheat wrote:You are simply satisfied that everything has been explained, and you personally wouldn't waste your time on it?

Well, I'm pretty much familiar with most alternate interpretations that have been put forward in the past 100 years, as well as the Indian, Tibetan, and East Asian varieties that have been developed over the past 2000 years. And of all these, I find that the Theravāda tradition has been uniquely able to retain and transmit the Dhamma and Bhikkhu Pāṭimokkha to the modern world. Of course, in the real-world this isn't perfect. But as a lineage it offers a pragmatic working model that I believe is still capable of delivering liberation.
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Re: Atheism is an Unskillful False Dhamma

Postby Goofaholix » Wed Mar 28, 2012 9:36 pm

kirk5a wrote:Why would a non-stream enterer be described as having a noble mind?


Is nobility the solely a characteristic of stream enterers?

In that case only stream enterers can practise the noble eightfold path (which incidently I think is in line with Stephen Batchelors theories), and perhaps only stream enterers can practise noble silence.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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