OK to disagree?

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OK to disagree?

Postby Hunter » Sun Jan 17, 2010 3:17 am

Question: If I read something in the Pali Canon and i dont agree with is that O.K.? So far I dont disagree with really any of it, but just in case! I dont like that other religions make you accept things with blind faith.

To the Theravada Buddhist is the Pali Canon like the WORD OF BUDDHA, or can one disagree with some of it?

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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby Ben » Sun Jan 17, 2010 3:22 am

Hi Hunter
The Dhamma as it has been recorded in the Pali Canon is vast and profound. Many people struggle with some material within the Canon.
The Buddha said that one of the qualities of the Dhamma is 'ehi passiko', (must be seen for oneself). So if there is something that you have difficulty with, for the time being, 'put it to the side', and in time, through one's own penetration of the Dhamma from bhavana (mental cultivation) the nature of reality will be revealed to you.
metta

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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby retrofuturist » Sun Jan 17, 2010 3:27 am

Greetings Hunter,

Hunter wrote:Question: If I read something in the Pali Canon and i dont agree with is that O.K.?


I think Ajahn Chah answers this question nicely here...

In the Buddha's time there was one disciple who was very astute. At one time, as the Buddha was expounding the Dhamma, he turned to this monk and asked, "Sariputta, do you believe this?" Venerable Sariputta replied, "No, I don't yet believe it." The Buddha praised his answer. "That's very good, Sariputta, you are one who us endowed with wisdom. One who is wise doesn't readily believe, he listens with an open mind and then weighs up the truth of that matter before believing or disbelieving."

Now the Buddha here has set a fine example for a teacher. What Venerable Sariputta said was true, he simply spoke his true feelings. Some people would think that to say you didn't believe that teaching would be like questioning the teacher's authority, they'd be afraid to say such a thing. They'd just go ahead and agree. This is how the worldly way goes. But the Buddha didn't take offense. He said that you needn't be ashamed of those things which aren't wrong or bad. It's not wrong to say that you don't believe if you don't believe. That's why Venerable Sariputta said, "I don't yet believe it." The Buddha praised him. "This monk has much wisdom. He carefully considers before believing anything." The Buddha's actions here are a good example for one who is a teacher of others.


Source: http://www.what-buddha-taught.net/Books ... Dhamma.htm

Hunter wrote:So far I dont disagree with really any of it, but just in case! I dont like that other religions make you accept things with blind faith.


That is good, but it's also worth considering that just because we do not agree or understand something at this point in time, that it is not necessarily wrong. It is good to keep an open mind and be accepting of the possibility that what to us, at this point in our spiritual development, does not accord with our experience or beliefs, may one day in fact make a great deal of sense, when viewed with wisdom. Even if that does not happen, we should not disparage the Buddha or his teachings, and leave them be, in the hope that others may benefit from these teachings that we find anomalous.

Hunter wrote:To the Theravada Buddhist is the Pali Canon like the WORD OF BUDDHA, or can one disagree with some of it?


The Classical perspective is that it is all Buddhavacana (word of Buddha)... which means either spoken by the Buddha, or as equivalent to being spoken by the Buddha. Others Theravadins may approach it more liberally, but it is very rare to find anyone who does not at least acknowledge that the Sutta and Vinaya Pitakas are sufficiently accurate encapsulations of the Buddha's teachings.

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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Jan 17, 2010 5:09 am

Hunter wrote:To the Theravada Buddhist is the Pali Canon like the WORD OF BUDDHA, or can one disagree with some of it?

Hi, Hunter,
Ben and Retro have already given good advice but your 'either/or' caught my eye: to me, it's possible to accept both the first part - yes, it's the Word of the Buddha - and the second - yes, one can disagree with some of it.
Ben and Retro have given reasons for questioning anything that seems wrong and maybe putting it aside for later, but it seems to me that it is possible to disagree permanently with some of the teachings and still be a good Buddhist. (Before everyone jumps on me, I will say that no teaching should be rejected until it has been well understood: if you're not sure, do set it aside until later.)
But there are some teachings which seem to owe far more to the cultural assumptions of ancient India and to the monastic life than to eternal wisdom, and are undeniably sexist in modern terms. IMO, they need to be considered for their appropriateness to our modern secular society, not blindly accepted.
:thinking:

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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Jan 17, 2010 6:36 am

Since the Buddha was Omniscient, if we disagree with the Buddha, then we must be wrong. However, if we disagree with something we read in a translation of the Pali Canon, it means that we are doubtful about an interpretation.
  1. Did the Buddha really say this as it is recorded in the Pali Canon? Ideally, we should consult the Pāli text and learn at least some of the Pāli language. Then we should apply The Four Great References.
  2. Did the translator interpret the meaning correctly and translate it accurately?
  3. Did I misinterpret what the translator meant?
Now you can see that there is a whole lot of places where we can get it wrong.

I remember a talk by Ajahn Amaro, in which he explained how someone had misunderstood what was meant by "In the seen, just know the seen." He was confused because what he had heard was, "In the scene, just know the scene."

"There is many a slip twixt cup and lip" as the saying goes.

I think the story about Venerable Sāriputta referred to by Ajahn Chah is this verse from the Dhammapada. It is a classic case of how different people can interpret the words spoken in different ways.

An Excellent Man is Not Credulous

The man who is not credulous, who knows the uncreate,
who has cut off rebirth, who has destroyed all results,
and expelled all desires, he is truly an excellent man. (Dhp v 97)

If the Pāli text is translated literally, it could mean something like this:

“The ungrateful, faithless burglar, has ruined his life.
He eats what is vomited by others, yet thinks that he is superior.”

Sceptical doubts about the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha will remain until nibbāna is realised for the first time, and one becomes a Stream-winner. It is one of the five hindrances that need to be overcome to attain concentration and insight. Without acknowledging and knowing the doubt as a mental object, it won't be possible to transcend it. Purification by Overcoming Doubt is a necessary stage that the meditator must pass through on the way to developing deeper insights, long before nibbāna can be reached.

If Māra's Army of doubt is allowed to gain the upper hand, the mind will become intractable, and the meditator will become very difficult to instruct. Listening to Dhamma, discussing the Dhamma, and reflecting wisely on what one has heard or read are the ways to dispel doubt so that one can meditate effectively. Doubt cannot be eradicated completely unless one meditates effectively until nibbāna is realised.

Reading and discussion alone will not dispel or eradicate doubt — only diligent and proper practise in the cultivation of mindfulness is effective.
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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Jan 17, 2010 8:34 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:But there are some teachings which seem to owe far more to the cultural assumptions of ancient India and to the monastic life than to eternal wisdom, and are undeniably sexist in modern terms.

The word "sexist" is itself sexist. It always implies discrimination against women by men, but women can equally well discriminate against men due to their sexist views.

All except Arahants are biased and prejudiced due to ignorance and latent predispositions, so they are incapable of judging impartially whether or not any teaching is discriminatory.

All of the Buddhas and the Arahants are incapable of taking a wrong course through the four biases (agati): desire, aversion, delusion, or fear. The Buddha discriminated wisely on the basis of considering the welfare of all living beings impartially.

For example, in teaching Māgandiya he said that he would not touch his daughter, Māgandiyā's, body full of foul things even with his foot. Due to these true, but displeasing words, the daughter held a grudge against the Buddha. However, Māgandiya and his wife became non-returners.

One should be wary of misinterpreting the words of the Buddha due to one's own inherent biases and prejudice — we will all have them until we become Arahants.
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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Jan 18, 2010 4:41 am

Thank you for your comments, Bhikku.
I find myself disagreeing so strongly with some of your views that I cannot express my disagreement without either being dishonest or appearing rude, so all I can do is mention my disagreement.
:namaste:

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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby Bankei » Mon Jan 18, 2010 7:58 am

The Buddhist canon and teachings evolved over many centuries with many things added and subtracted and modified or even distorted along the way. There is no reason to believe otherwise.

When you read the canon or any religious books you should keep this in mind.

ps have you seen the movie The Life of Brian.?
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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby chownah » Mon Jan 18, 2010 1:52 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The word "sexist" is itself sexist. It always implies discrimination against women by men,.....

I believe you are mistaken.....the term sexist does not in itself imply as you suggest....it sounds like you have a sexist interpretation of the term sexist.
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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby meindzai » Mon Jan 18, 2010 3:13 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Since the Buddha was Omniscient, if we disagree with the Buddha, then we must be wrong. However, if we disagree with something we read in a translation of the Pali Canon, it means that we are doubtful about an interpretation.
  1. Did the Buddha really say this as it is recorded in the Pali Canon? Ideally, we should consult the Pāli text and learn at least some of the Pāli language. Then we should apply The Four Great References.
  2. Did the translator interpret the meaning correctly and translate it accurately?
  3. Did I misinterpret what the translator meant?
Now you can see that there is a whole lot of places where we can get it wrong.



My approach is like this - if I disagree with or have a problem with something I come across I first assume it's my understanding that is at fault. I would add:

* Is there some context either cultural or otherwise that I am missing here?

It doesn't mean that the teaching doesn't apply anymore, but that the when, how, who, and why need to be taken into consideration.

-M
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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Jan 18, 2010 10:09 pm

meindzai wrote:* Is there some context either cultural or otherwise that I am missing here?

It doesn't mean that the teaching doesn't apply anymore, but that the when, how, who, and why need to be taken into consideration.

...and after that consideration?
:juggling:
If there is no possibility that the consideration will change your thoughts about the truthfulness or value of the statement, why consider?
If you say there is such a possibility, you are claiming the right to reject parts of the canon.
The first is a faith-based position.
The second is a knowledge-based or empirical or (dare I say it) scientific position. (My position, BTW, in case you didn't realise.)

I see the choice between them as one of the crucial issues for Buddhism as it comes to the West and enters the modern world.
:namaste:

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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby Bankei » Tue Jan 19, 2010 2:28 am

I think we should critically look at things, even Buddhist texts/doctrines etc, in a scientific manner.

But we should also not be too quick to dismiss or reject things outright.

There is a movement within Japanese Buddhism called Hihan Bukkyo/Critical Buddhism. It was started off by 2 Soto Zen Priests and academics at Komazawa uni in Tokyo. They argued that most of Japanese Buddhism (and Mahayana) was not actually Buddhism because it deviated from the teachings of the Buddha. Thats just what we need in Theravada, a critical look at the teachings and practices.
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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby Kim OHara » Tue Jan 19, 2010 3:47 am

We're getting back onto ground covered in the 'Two Naked Buddhas' thread http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=3058&hilit=Naked+Buddha here a while ago.

:namaste:
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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue Jan 19, 2010 6:48 am

chownah wrote:I believe you are mistaken.....the term sexist does not in itself imply as you suggest....it sounds like you have a sexist interpretation of the term sexist.

Obviously I am not mistaken, since I pointed out that the word can have the meaning of discrimination by women against men.

However, just as the word "gay" (nowadays) always implies "homosexual" the word "sexist" always implies prejudice by men against women. That may not be the writer's or speaker's intention, but the reader or listener is likely to take the implied meaning unless the context clearly indicates otherwise.
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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby meindzai » Tue Jan 19, 2010 6:57 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
meindzai wrote:* Is there some context either cultural or otherwise that I am missing here?

It doesn't mean that the teaching doesn't apply anymore, but that the when, how, who, and why need to be taken into consideration.

...and after that consideration?
:juggling:
If there is no possibility that the consideration will change your thoughts about the truthfulness or value of the statement, why consider?


I'm not sure I understand the question. The assumption is that my understanding is not clear, and I am trying to clarify it. If after those considerations I still do not understand, it the answer is "I don't understand." Often such things become clear later with further study or clarification through practice.


I see the choice between them as one of the crucial issues for Buddhism as it comes to the West and enters the modern world.
:namaste:

Kim


The west and the modern world may need to get over itself if it wants to have anything to do with Buddhism.

-M
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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Jan 19, 2010 7:01 pm

meindzai wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:
meindzai wrote:* Is there some context either cultural or otherwise that I am missing here?

It doesn't mean that the teaching doesn't apply anymore, but that the when, how, who, and why need to be taken into consideration.

...and after that consideration?
:juggling:
If there is no possibility that the consideration will change your thoughts about the truthfulness or value of the statement, why consider?


I'm not sure I understand the question. The assumption is that my understanding is not clear, and I am trying to clarify it. If after those considerations I still do not understand, it the answer is "I don't understand." Often such things become clear later with further study or clarification through practice.


I see the choice between them as one of the crucial issues for Buddhism as it comes to the West and enters the modern world.
:namaste:

Kim


The west and the modern world may need to get over itself if it wants to have anything to do with Buddhism.

-M

True. ;) I suspect that The Dhamma will still be around when the " modern world " is a forgotten dream.
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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby adosa » Wed Jan 20, 2010 2:17 am

Or as the Dalai Lama says:

If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.


Makes sense to me,

adosa :smile:
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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby notself » Wed Jan 20, 2010 2:44 am

adosa wrote:Or as the Dalai Lama says:

If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change. In my view, science and Buddhism share a search for the truth and for understanding reality. By learning from science about aspects of reality where its understanding may be more advanced, I believe that Buddhism enriches its own worldview.


Makes sense to me,

adosa :smile:


Even the most precise scientific inquiry is colored by perception and assumption. The very instruments we use to examine reality create bias because we only measure those things we can imagine or perceive. Pure science is an approximation of the truth and is always subject to falsification.
Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he is indeed the noblest victor who conquers himself. ---Dhp 103
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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Jan 20, 2010 3:52 am

notself wrote:Even the most precise scientific inquiry is colored by perception and assumption. The very instruments we use to examine reality create bias because we only measure those things we can imagine or perceive. Pure science is an approximation of the truth and is always subject to falsification.

All true, Notself, but what does that mean to you in the context of this thread? What implications do you wish us to draw from it?
:thinking:

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Re: OK to disagree?

Postby notself » Wed Jan 20, 2010 4:43 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:
notself wrote:Even the most precise scientific inquiry is colored by perception and assumption. The very instruments we use to examine reality create bias because we only measure those things we can imagine or perceive. Pure science is an approximation of the truth and is always subject to falsification.

All true, Notself, but what does that mean to you in the context of this thread? What implications do you wish us to draw from it?
:thinking:

Kim


Making science the measure on truth in Buddhism can be a mistake. The quote "If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change." is from the Dalai Lama. I don't necessarily think that it is the job of science to prove or disprove Buddhism. If some scientific hypothesis or theory conflicts with Buddhim, I don't think Buddhism necessarily has to change. I think science need to look at its experimental evidence for possible error.
Though one may conquer a thousand times a thousand men in battle, yet he is indeed the noblest victor who conquers himself. ---Dhp 103
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