The Secular Buddhist

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Feb 19, 2012 3:24 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
Ted Meissner wrote:
Spiny O'Norman wrote:My point was that disbelief can be as much a hindrance as belief - it's all a thicket of views and opinions.


That's one reason SB tends to focus on practice based on what can actually be demonstrated in the natural world -- the conjecturing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin, or what literal rebirth one might take, that's the thicket of views, not the reasonable inquiry into what can be shown as cause and effect.



Though SB freely admits cherry picking from the suttas, ie rejecting the bits that don't fit into his personal belief system. In other words secular Buddhism is still very much tied into the whole belief/disbelief thing.

Spiny
And how different is that from the sutta-only-ists, for example? In a real way, don't we all "cherry pick" from the suttas, looking for those bits that "speak" to us?
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby nowheat » Sun Feb 19, 2012 4:36 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:Did these Indian materialists teach dependent origination? Did they teach anatta, anicca, dukkha? The Middle Way? Craving as the cause of suffering?

No, but neither do these modern secular "Buddhists." At least not in any traditional Buddhist context.


Your first sentence denies the evidence (the Secular Buddhist Association website, just as the most obvious example, has discussions on dependent origination, dukkha, anatta and anicca; craving and suffering; the Middle Way -- it's a new site; there will be more) and your second states the obvious: the secular Buddhist discussions of dhamma are not in a traditional context. Is that last the part you feel is so bad? The whole of your argument rests on it being non-traditional?

I think it's inaccurate to attempt to recast the Buddha as advocating a materialist worldview or as being an agnostic.


Who said the Buddha advocates a materialist worldview? And as for "being an agnostic" it depends on how one defines an agnostic. Agnostics, even in the modern world, get portrayed by those who want straw men to knock down as doubters, as skeptics reminiscent of Sanjaya from the Buddha's day: that's done because it is far easier to argue against than taking on what the practitioner actually means by "skeptic" or "agnostic".

The skepticism I practice is a philosophical position in which people choose to critically examine whether the knowledge and perceptions that they have are actually true, with the aim of acquiring approximate or relative certainty, which is entirely compatible with what the Buddha teaches.

The agnosticism I am talking about is the sort that doesn't believe in unprovable things, and sets aside all those divisive, unresolvable cosmic arguments -- it's not "doubting" but is a-gnostic in that I admit that there are some things I just don't know. In setting them aside, I take the Buddha's advice on those things I don't know about and focus on the reduction of suffering here and now, on awakening in this very life, just as he said we should do.

So I am not painting the Buddha as a doubter-agnostic, but as a "sets aside unprovable views"-agnostic. Do you feel that latter is inconsistent with the Buddha of the suttas in some way?

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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Buckwheat » Sun Feb 19, 2012 4:53 pm

Nowheat,
I like many of your points but I would add that for those who see the wisdom of what the Buddha taught, he did teach having conviction and faith in the truth of some of the things he saw yet could not prove to us until after we ourselves found enlightenment, such as the fact of enlightenment itself. He is not advocating blind faith, but a trust that "Ah, the Buddha is really onto something. I trust him and therefore will gently embrace some of the things he taught until I have further evidence one way or another."

I believe the reason for this aspect of dhamma is to get us through some of the toughest moments of practice without giving up or rejecting a difficult practice. Is there room for such a concept in Secular Buddhism?
Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby nowheat » Sun Feb 19, 2012 5:21 pm

Buckwheat wrote:Nowheat,
I like many of your points but I would add that for those who see the wisdom of what the Buddha taught, he did teach having conviction and faith in the truth of some of the things he saw yet could not prove to us until after we ourselves found enlightenment, such as the fact of enlightenment itself. He is not advocating blind faith, but a trust that "Ah, the Buddha is really onto something. I trust him and therefore will gently embrace some of the things he taught until I have further evidence one way or another."

Is there room for such a concept in Secular Buddhism?


I can't speak for all Secular Buddhists (and I only barely fit in that category myself) but my take on my Buddhist study has been to allow that I started from having no idea what the Buddha taught or meant -- I only knew about his teachings what other people told me. So I have read and studied the suttas and the Upanisads and Brahmanas, and histories and theories about the times, and have come to my own understanding of what's there, and it is mostly in agreement with what the traditions teach.

So here's my question: If I find what the traditions teach is 75% (just to toss out a number) in agreement with what I find in the suttas and my studies elsewhere, but there is no match for the other 25% -- and some of that 25% flat out contradicts what I find -- should I "take on faith" that other 25% because 75% is a match? Or should I have confidence in the evidence that I have seen for myself?

My answer is that I am still open to the possibility that the traditions are right and I am mistaken; that the Buddha meant every word literally and I am just making things up -- as traditionalists are forever telling me I am doing -- to match my own world view. But from where I stand *inside* the research I am doing, I think I have a clearer view of what I am doing, how I am doing it, and why I am doing it than those scolding me for being a deluded revisionist do. And the more evidence I find that fits my understanding with startling accuracy, the more I lean in the direction of the traditions have a few mistaken ideas, and the suttas need fresh eyes to study them. I still have an open mind that I could be just as deluded as some people think I am (it is a very eye-opening insight into how it would feel to be totally insane) but I'm pretty sure I'm not.

I guess what I am saying is this: it is not actually a matter of "I trust [the Buddha] and therefore will gently embrace some of the things he taught until I have further evidence one way or another." It is a matter of trusting tradition interpretations of what the Buddha said that is the issue here, not trusting what the Buddha said.

I *do* trust what the Buddha said -- I trust it more than anyone else I know. I'm the one who is certain there was an historical person who said (not in the exact words but accurate as changes in grammar and vocabulary can get) what the vast majority of the suttas say he said; I see him as having had a large say in composing the stories of his deeds. I'm the one who says we shouldn't turn him into "an idea" and an icon of Buddha-nature but let him remain a man. I find in the suttas someone who was smarter than anyone else history or personal experience has shown to me -- people-smart, not just idea-smart like Einstein, and people-smart is a bigger challenge in my view. But when I read the suttas that describe the teachings of this brilliant mind I find what's presented there to contain subtleties the traditions miss -- and context they miss too, context that is perhaps a large part of the reason the traditions have missed the subtleties.

Do I trust what the Buddha said? More than anyone else I do. I don't always *like* what I find him saying. I don't like some of his methods for conveying his points -- it makes me uncomfortable; it's hard for me to justify in our modern context -- but I find it so coherent and internally consistent and the points made prove out so well in life that how could I not have faith that all I find him saying will prove out whether I see it or not?

I don't have that sort of faith in the traditional interpretations, though, sorry.

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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby nowheat » Sun Feb 19, 2012 5:26 pm

Cittasanto wrote:Saddha - faith; conviction; trust - is a part of the path also. I do not know anywhere the buddha talks about being agnostic as a default position. The Buddha does say to leave aside questions of a certain kind as they are not useful to the path, but with things that are these require faith, at times an acceptance that one does not know but not a idea that it is therefore not able to be known or irrelevant.


Saddha -- faith as confidence based on studying and practice and seeing how very much of the dhamma proves out in my life -- I have that in spades. As for "agnostic", please see my post two above.

"With things that are" that require "faith" -- if they *are* then they don't require faith, because if they *are* then we can see the truth of them for ourselves (diṭṭheva dhamme). If we cannot see them yet, then we wait until we can see them. If they are true, and we are following the path in working on study (right view), and putting it into practice (sila), and giving good effort to mindfulness and concentration, then these things that are true will become clear at the right time. In my understanding, that is all the "faith" that is required -- that what we have seen of the path has been correct so far, and if we keep practicing diligently, everything we need to know will be there in time.

Every time I have heard Ted talk on the subject he has indicated that if the evidence for rebirth (just using rebirth as an example -- not to turn this into the Great Debate) turns up, he'll be open to it. I do not find him closing his mind to it or dismissing rebirth as irrelevant; but he states that there is no good evidence he has seen.

But faith does not mean *acting on* the portions that are not yet revealed to us as if they have been revealed -- that is *blind faith*. What saddha means is studying and looking for the evidence so that what *is true* will be revealed. If, in 20 years of practice, evidence of rebirth is still not revealed we may not spend as much time trying to find it, but that's not equivalent to having a totally closed mind. The practice is extremely useful without the unproven aspects that the traditions teach, and if the path proves out as the traditions teach, I'm ready for that.

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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Cittasanto » Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:07 pm

Hi Nowheat,
You seam to confuse knowing with faith!
how you describe agnosticism is how I am using it, and I am sorry but no straw man, just the fact that faith requires trust that something is, agnosticism requires leaving it aside.
we can not verify enlightenment is possible the dhamma is true in all its details, but we can test and through inferance trust that the path does what it says on the tin, so to speak.

Agnosticism says until it is proven I wont use it.
Saddha says I have no proof for this but I will trust it is correct and test it as I go.

I do not know who ted is, but setting something aside because it maybe wrong, but open to it being correct is not faith.

Through my experiance of practice I have found what is said on the tin to be true so far, and have faith that what I have not seen for myself is true also so it is part of my working model until I can either prove it is false or which I believe is more likely to be true.

and what the Buddha put aside due to it not being useful for the training, is quite well documented, and can you prove the Buddha was enlightened and taught what he said on the tin, through direct experience of the end result? or do you have saddha that it is so?
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby nowheat » Sun Feb 19, 2012 7:54 pm

Cittasanto wrote:You seam to confuse knowing with faith!
how you describe agnosticism is how I am using it, and I am sorry but no straw man, just the fact that faith requires trust that something is, agnosticism requires leaving it aside.
we can not verify enlightenment is possible the dhamma is true in all its details, but we can test and through inferance trust that the path does what it says on the tin, so to speak.

Agnosticism says until it is proven I wont use it.
Saddha says I have no proof for this but I will trust it is correct and test it as I go.

I do not know who ted is, but setting something aside because it maybe wrong, but open to it being correct is not faith.

Through my experiance of practice I have found what is said on the tin to be true so far, and have faith that what I have not seen for myself is true also so it is part of my working model until I can either prove it is false or which I believe is more likely to be true.

and what the Buddha put aside due to it not being useful for the training, is quite well documented, and can you prove the Buddha was enlightened and taught what he said on the tin, through direct experience of the end result? or do you have saddha that it is so?

Agnosticism doesn't exactly say "I won't use it" -- there is still testing -- but I won't believe it blindly and use it as if it is proven fact, and cease to question. Faith, in most people's definition of it, requires that one go beyond questioning. I am never beyond questioning. Saddha, as I understand it, is not blind faith.

"Ted" is Ted Meissner, who posted earlier in the thread -- he is the fellow whose site and podcasts we are discussing in this thread.

I am handicapped by a bit of language barrier here, friend Cittasanto, because I don't know what you mean by "said on the tin".

But I will say this: Through my experience of practice I have found that everything I *read* the Buddha to be saying *in the suttas* has been verified by practice in my life, except awakening, which I have not yet experienced but I have faith that it is possible as described in the suttas. Through that same experience of practice I have found that NOT everything I am *told* that the Buddha is saying bears out at all. There are many different views of "what the Buddha taught" and some of them contradict each other. This is why I rely on reading the suttas and putting what I find there into practice on the cushion and off it.

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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Feb 19, 2012 8:00 pm

retrofuturist wrote: I think it's needlessly disparaging, intolerant and inaccurate to call other Buddhists cārvākas...

I don't think that was the point. Putting aside any judgement on particular approaches, it seems highly relevant that ancient India contained a rich variety of philosophies.

One should, therefore, not assume that the philosophies espoused in various modern approaches to Buddhism (including the variety of approaches with the "Secular Buddhism" label) do not have counterparts in Ancient India, or that these philosophies were not examined at the time.

For example:
http://secularbuddhistassociation.com/a ... rinciples/
Secular Buddhism is naturalistic, in that it references natural causes and effects, demonstrable in the known world.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/C%C4%81rv%C4%81ka
Cārvākas cultivated a philosophy wherein theology and what they called "speculative metaphysics" were to be avoided. The Cārvākas accepted direct perception as the surest method to prove the truth of anything.

:anjali:
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby rblumberg » Sun Feb 19, 2012 9:23 pm

"Cherry picking the suttas" has nothing to do with belief or disbelief, and I'm not sure that I understand what it means to have a particular text "speak" to me. I read the suttas for the practical wisdom to live with a measure of joy and equanimity in a world distinguished by impermanence and pervasive dukkha. I read them regularly, and I try to distinguish what I see as a remarkably consistent and coherent system of understanding the experience we have of such a world. Throughout the texts of the Pali Canon, the man Gotama Siddhatha is revealed as a master teacher, who presented his dhamma in terms that were always appropriate to the types of experience that his listeners could be presumed to have had; the teachings he delivers to renunciant bhikkhus and bhikkunis were different from those which he delivered to kings and headmen, and different again from those delivered to householders. Even further, he had a different approach to transmitting the dhamma to old people and young people, to novices and experience meditators, and so forth. So, in reading the suttas, I try to find the particular expression of the dhamma that matches my experience most closely. And the more deeply I understand and internalize my understanding of the dhamma, the more I can get from the teachings delivered to those whose experience is very different from mine.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Nyana » Sun Feb 19, 2012 11:43 pm

nowheat wrote:the secular Buddhist discussions of dhamma are not in a traditional context. Is that last the part you feel is so bad?

It isn't necessarily bad or wrong.

nowheat wrote:The agnosticism I am talking about is the sort that doesn't believe in unprovable things.... So I am not painting the Buddha as a doubter-agnostic, but as a "sets aside unprovable views"-agnostic. Do you feel that latter is inconsistent with the Buddha of the suttas in some way?

According to the suttas direct knowledge can include the recollection of former lives, the divine eye that can perceive beings in different realms, the divine ear which can hear the same, and so on. This knowledge was part of the Buddha's awakening (and also that of many arahant disciples). Therefore, there is no good reason for limiting knowledge merely to what can be known through deluded cognitions of ordinary worldlings. As already suggested, the epistemological premise of the following:

    Secular Buddhism is naturalistic, in that it references natural causes and effects, demonstrable in the known world.

Is better aligned with the naturalistic worldview of the Lokāyata than with the Buddhadhamma. Debiprasad Chattopadhyaya, Indian Philosophy, p. 188:

    Purandara (a Lokāyata philosopher) [...] admits the usefulness of inference in determining the nature of all worldly things where perceptual experience is available; but inference cannot be employed for establishing any dogma regarding the transcendental world, or life after death or the law of karma which cannot be available to ordinary perceptual experience.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:51 am

Agnosticism doesn't exactly say "I won't use it" -- there is still testing -- but I won't believe it blindly and use it as if it is proven fact, and cease to question.

and you did say this before, and in other words in that post.
The agnosticism I am talking about is the sort that doesn't believe in unprovable things, and sets aside all those divisive, unresolvable cosmic arguments

from what you have said if you can not prove/know the truth of it, you set it aside, which to me means 'wont use it,' 'leaving it aside.'
Faith, in most people's definition of it, requires that one go beyond questioning. I am never beyond questioning. Saddha, as I understand it, is not blind faith.

that would be blind faith; faith in Buddhist definition, to my understanding, is putting the claim to the test until it is proven one way or the other, reflecting before, during, and after for its usefulness to the path.

"Ted" is Ted Meissner, who posted earlier in the thread -- he is the fellow whose site and podcasts we are discussing in this thread.

one post, and one of a list of contributors, is this another hardcore movement, or a group?
I am discussing secular Buddhism, not one person!
I am handicapped by a bit of language barrier here, friend Cittasanto, because I don't know what you mean by "said on the tin".

it lives up to its own claims about itself = look for Ronseal on youtube they use the term in their adverts, and I believe the 'plain english' campaign looks for things to say what it means, like legal documents....
But I will say this: Through my experience of practice I have found that everything I *read* the Buddha to be saying *in the suttas* has been verified by practice in my life, except awakening, which I have not yet experienced but I have faith that it is possible as described in the suttas. Through that same experience of practice I have found that NOT everything I am *told* that the Buddha is saying bears out at all. There are many different views of "what the Buddha taught" and some of them contradict each other. This is why I rely on reading the suttas and putting what I find there into practice on the cushion and off it.


Like I said earlier you seam to be confusing terms up. I agree with your definition of agnostic, I disagree with your definition of faith, particularly in this context.
Faith requires keeping something said to be useful unless it can be shown to be completely useless, if it was useful in certain circumstances, but not in others, then lets keep it around, but if it is never useful then keeping it around would be blind ignorance.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:33 am

Cittasanto wrote:from what you have said if you can not prove/know the truth of it, you set it aside, which to me means 'wont use it,' 'leaving it aside.'


Just curious, how does one "use" rebirth?

Just taking that as an example because it tends to be the first sticking point in these kinds of discussions.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Feb 20, 2012 2:57 am

Greetings,

spiny wrote:Though SB freely admits cherry picking from the suttas, ie rejecting the bits that don't fit into his personal belief system. In other words secular Buddhism is still very much tied into the whole belief/disbelief thing

tiltbillings wrote:And how different is that from the sutta-only-ists, for example? In a real way, don't we all "cherry pick" from the suttas, looking for those bits that "speak" to us?

I would be more inclined to say this is about certain suttas resonating more than others. The term "cherry pick" infers deliberate selection and non-selection, whereas it's more likely that some suttas just happen to have had more beneficial impact, relevance or meaning than others.

It's when certain suttas are selected and some are rejected based on the criteria of personal preference alone (such as in the example used by spiny) that "cherry picking" might be an apt description.

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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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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Feb 20, 2012 3:02 am

Goofaholix wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:from what you have said if you can not prove/know the truth of it, you set it aside, which to me means 'wont use it,' 'leaving it aside.'


Just curious, how does one "use" rebirth?

Just taking that as an example because it tends to be the first sticking point in these kinds of discussions.

As has already been pointed out this would be for another thread! but all is Dukkha (as translated as suffering) could also be used, I guess, but I think most of us know the answer to that lies within what Dukkha actually means, rather than the translation.

but...
if there were no rebirth, annihilation, no point in practice, except to make this life a little more bearable, and Enlightenment would be pointless/not possible, as we all end up the same anyway.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
With Metta
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Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Feb 20, 2012 3:19 am

To me, the argument that secular/skeptical Buddhists are cherry-picking based on arbitrary, subjective preference is somewhat misleading. That may be true for some New Agey types, or for people who have a superficial attraction to Buddhism without having really explored it.

But for the serious-minded "skeptical Buddhist", the selection process is actually fairly systematic. It's shaped by reference to naturalism, empiricism and critical thinking processes (what constitutes a reasoned argument, etc). It's not matter of personal whim, in other words. It's a fairly consistent and coherent set of benchmarks. There are objective criteria set forth for evaluating assertions; it isn't important that one "likes" or "dislikes" a particular teaching.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby tiltbillings » Mon Feb 20, 2012 3:30 am

Lazy_eye wrote:To me, the argument that secular/skeptical Buddhists are cherry-picking based on arbitrary, subjective preference is somewhat misleading. That may be true for some New Agey types, or for people who have a superficial attraction to Buddhism without having really explored it.

But for the serious-minded "skeptical Buddhist", the selection process is actually fairly systematic. It's shaped by reference to naturalism, empiricism and critical thinking processes (what constitutes a reasoned argument, etc). It's not matter of personal whim, in other words. It's a fairly consistent and coherent set of benchmarks. There are objective criteria set forth for evaluating assertions; it isn't important that one "likes" or "dislikes" a particular teaching.
I was going to say that, more or less, but thanks. You did a better job than I would have.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Prasadachitta » Mon Feb 20, 2012 4:16 am

Lazy_eye wrote:To me, the argument that secular/skeptical Buddhists are cherry-picking based on arbitrary, subjective preference is somewhat misleading. That may be true for some New Agey types, or for people who have a superficial attraction to Buddhism without having really explored it.

But for the serious-minded "skeptical Buddhist", the selection process is actually fairly systematic. It's shaped by reference to naturalism, empiricism and critical thinking processes (what constitutes a reasoned argument, etc). It's not matter of personal whim, in other words. It's a fairly consistent and coherent set of benchmarks. There are objective criteria set forth for evaluating assertions; it isn't important that one "likes" or "dislikes" a particular teaching.

I also appreciate this. The distinction made here is an important one.
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Feb 20, 2012 4:57 am

Cittasanto wrote:if there were no rebirth, annihilation, no point in practice, except to make this life a little more bearable, and Enlightenment would be pointless/not possible, as we all end up the same anyway.


That sounds like a point of view informed by an impoverished practise, personally I've found the here and now results of practise have made it well worthwhile and this is after all what Secular Buddhism is pointing to, I don't need hopes for the future to make the present bearable.
Last edited by Goofaholix on Mon Feb 20, 2012 5:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby nowheat » Mon Feb 20, 2012 5:02 am

Ñāṇa wrote:According to the suttas direct knowledge can include the recollection of former lives, the divine eye that can perceive beings in different realms, the divine ear which can hear the same, and so on.

For the person who experiences these, it would be direct knowledge, yes. For others who are hearing someone else talk about them, it is not direct knowledge. I have no experience of former lives in the sense I feel you are meaning it -- which would be a literal sense.

This knowledge was part of the Buddha's awakening (and also that of many arahant disciples). Therefore, there is no good reason for limiting knowledge merely to what can be known through deluded cognitions of ordinary worldlings. As already suggested, the epistemological premise of the following:


I'm not sure what you mean by "limiting knowledge" -- I don't block knowledge that, for example, the Buddha spoke often about rebirth. If I know something, I don't refrain from using it. But someone else's knowledge and experience is not my knowledge and experience. Maybe you can explain what you mean by "limiting knowledge".


Secular Buddhism is naturalistic, in that it references natural causes and effects, demonstrable in the known world.


Where you and I differ on the Buddhadharma is that it is your understanding (and that of many other Buddhists) that the Buddha taught that there is, to use terms from the links you provided, a "transcendental world" -- in whatever way you conceive it to be taught by the Buddha, whether it is simply rebirth as human, or in a variety of forms, limited to this plane of existence, or in heavens and hells populated by devas and petas. You assign to me the attitudes of the Caravakas because I, like them, sets aside things that are thusfar unproven, not part of common human experience -- but it seems you put us both in that basket, separated from the Buddha's doctrine, *because* you believe that the Buddha taught something that goes beyond what can be seen.

The only thing I find in the suttas that goes beyond what I know and see is awakening, nibbana, and that I take on saddha because what is described is consistent with both the rest of the suttas, and with what I see in practice. If you understood the suttas the way I understand them, you would, I guess, call the Buddha an agnostic too. I understand him as using discussions of metaphysics as a language that he understood very well, a language he had in common with a great many people in his day; as very consciously choosing to speak that language without -- as he says -- clinging to it himself. I understand that this is not the traditional view -- further, I understand that it not even "the Secular Buddhist" view -- because there *is* no single Secular Buddhist view.

My only point here is this: As long as you are certain that the Buddha really saw his past lives, really saw the arising and passing away of beings, really had arguments with Mara, really visited Brahma in his heaven, really teleported across rivers -- regardless of where you decide to draw the line between what he actually did and what is mythology -- then you won't see him as an agnostic because he won't have been, in your understanding, uncertain about anything. But from within my understanding -- where I draw the line is different from where you do -- I can see that he acknowledged that time spent thinking about rebirth, gods, other worlds, next lives, and even karma and merit, was not his recommended path because these are more often mistaken understandings than anything like the truth.

:namaste:
nowheat
 
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby nowheat » Mon Feb 20, 2012 5:35 am

Cittasanto wrote:
nowheat wrote:Agnosticism doesn't exactly say "I won't use it" -- there is still testing -- but I won't believe it blindly and use it as if it is proven fact, and cease to question.

and you did say this before, and in other words in that post.
The agnosticism I am talking about is the sort that doesn't believe in unprovable things, and sets aside all those divisive, unresolvable cosmic arguments

from what you have said if you can not prove/know the truth of it, you set it aside, which to me means 'wont use it,' 'leaving it aside.'


Apparently my definition of "set aside" and yours are somewhat different. By "set aside" I don't mean "put away never to be examined". When reading suttas that I don't understand, I set them aside, too, and pick them up again for later consideration. I don't debate my understanding of them with others because I don't understand them so I can't debate the validity of my take on them, because I don't have a take on them -- but I will always listen to others' views about them, since they may give me the key I need to understand. I don't act on what's in a sutta that is as yet unclear to me, or make it part of my practice, because I can't, really. So I set it aside.

I am an agnostic in that sense.

I apologize for the lack of clarity.


nowheat wrote:Faith, in most people's definition of it, requires that one go beyond questioning. I am never beyond questioning. Saddha, as I understand it, is not blind faith.

Cittasanto wrote:that would be blind faith; faith in Buddhist definition, to my understanding, is putting the claim to the test until it is proven one way or the other, reflecting before, during, and after for its usefulness to the path.


Because one cannot prove a negative (if the metaphysical claims are actually untrue) one will spend a lot of energy continuing to test for something not in evidence. At a certain point it would seem wiser to "set aside" until further evidence turns up rather than actively seeking something that has not shown up for decades (when the rest of one's practice is still improving over that course of time). Where a person draws that line would be up to the individual I suppose.

But the reason I set aside the Buddhist metaphysical claims is not just because I don't have evidence in my life for them. It is because when I read the suttas, I find the Buddha gently suggesting that seeking after metaphysics when there is no evidence is not skillful.

nowheat wrote:"Ted" is Ted Meissner, who posted earlier in the thread -- he is the fellow whose site and podcasts we are discussing in this thread.

Cittasanto wrote:one post, and one of a list of contributors, is this another hardcore movement, or a group?
I am discussing secular Buddhism, not one person!


I was making a distinction between Ted's opinions and mine; we are two individuals who are not in 100% accord on everything. If you want to discuss Secular Buddhism with the understanding that it is a unified movement, I hope you'll let me know when you find that unified movement. We are many individuals.

Cittasanto wrote:Like I said earlier you seam to be confusing terms up. I agree with your definition of agnostic, I disagree with your definition of faith, particularly in this context.
Faith requires keeping something said to be useful unless it can be shown to be completely useless, if it was useful in certain circumstances, but not in others, then lets keep it around, but if it is never useful then keeping it around would be blind ignorance.


If something is said to be useful, but I find it not only not useful, but counterproductive, does your definition of faith require that I use it because the people who tell me it is useful often give good advice? If the evidence of my own experience denies its usefulness at every point, I think it is blind faith to act as if it is true. When it is counterproductive, and dismissed by a source I trust even more, it becomes foolish.

It seems to me the sticking point in our conversation here is *only* that I say that I don't have faith in Buddhist metaphysical claims and you do.

I feel sure we actually agree about what saddha is -- it is not blind faith -- it is faith based on the sense that we have been told the truth by this source often enough to believe that the things we have been told, that have not yet been seen by us, will be proven accurate. I think we both practice that faith -- about awakening, for example.

:namaste:
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