The Secular Buddhist

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

Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby nowheat » Mon Feb 20, 2012 5:45 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.


Venturing into dangerous territory here, as Cittasanto pointed out, but I'll carefully refrain from using that r-word.

I would say one "uses" any part of a doctrine -- or we could call it a view (in this case we're talking about something that might fall under "right view", right?) as a lens through which to see and understand the world and what's happening in it, as a tool to interpret our experience.

Further, one might "use" -- for example -- the Christian Hell as a motivational tool?

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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Buckwheat » Mon Feb 20, 2012 6:12 am

It seems to me the most important use of rebirth is to create a sense of urgency such that it really does matter how much ones practice develops before death because good practice increases the odds of a good rebirth and vice versa. Also it eliminates suicide as a way out of suffering. That is just my own limited understanding. And looking backwards, there is appreciation and gratitude for previous good karma to be reborn in the human realm and a desire to not waste that previous right effort.

It took a lot of work to get here and I don' want to piss that away.

It may be possible to cultivate similar attitudes without rebirth,but I'm not sure if that would hold the same power to improve practice. Maybe... what do I know? "I'm still a fool" is the only thing I know for sure.
Last edited by Buckwheat on Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:07 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Buckwheat » Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:00 am

Nowheat,
Thank you for your respose to my post and the others. I can respect your line of thinking. I think over the last year or two I have developed a stronger trust in the Buddha so that I am leaning toward acceptance of some things that I have yet to experience for myself. I try to recognize that I am "out on a limb" and not go too far while at the same time using that extended faith to strengthen my practice in ways that seem verifyably beneficial. You seem a little more skeptical, but I wouldn't ask you to change that.

It is interesting the Buddha discusses a couple sources of misunderstanding the dhamma. One is to seek inferences in passages which are literally true and another is to take literally things that should be used for inferring the truth. I think until at least stream entry none of us can be 100% sure which passages fall into which categories. Did Buddha literally battle a being called Mara or is that personification of the inner struggle with delusion and lust? I do not know about that but I do respect your approach.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Nyana » Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:15 am

nowheat wrote: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.

Yeah, well, to quote Michael Rooker, "This is Louisiana, chief! I mean, how do you know who your daddy is? Because your mama told you so."

nowheat wrote: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".

Here we're talking about what constitutes valid sources of knowledge (pramāṇa). All Indian philosophical schools accept direct perception (pratyakṣa) and inference (anumāna) as valid sources of knowledge. Scripture (āgama) and verbal testimony (śabda) can be added to inferential knowledge, provided that one accepts the authority of of the scriptural source, author, or speaker.

In the context of the Pāli Tipiṭaka (and related collections preserved in other languages), there is simply too much scriptural material that's been preserved which is beyond the range of consensual, empirical experience of the average human being. In addition, there are a vast number of anecdotal sources (i.e. śabda) from every culture and historical period that speak of certain similar non-ordinary phenomenological experiences that result in significant cognitive and therapeutic changes in the individual. These are often highly valued changes resulting in various degrees of liberation and freedom, as well as other types of direct perception of non-ordinary phenomena. Personally, I consider these sources (āgama & śabda) compelling enough to keep an open mind regarding what I do not (yet) know via direct perception.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Sanghamitta » Mon Feb 20, 2012 8:07 am

Good for you.
Open minds are of course defined by being open all round.
That being the case I will leave judging the route by which other people arrive at empirical knowledge...
I see no evidence that holding either belief or disbelief results in saddha per se.
Over the years I have seen many who were certain, crash and burn and many who were/are sceptical are quietly flourishing in Dhamma without radically altering their public credo..
Its almost as though the mind and the heart do not correlate for a time.
Some folk become Dhamma scholars, some become faux peasants adopting folk belief without reserve. .
It all comes out in the wash.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Feb 20, 2012 8:13 am

Goofaholix wrote:
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.


You asked, I answered, doesn't mean it has any relation to my practice.

one could argue it is based on a very full practice, one where the faculty/strength of saddha is strong, rather than an impoverished practice where faith is weak?
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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"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 Cittasanto » Mon Feb 20, 2012 9:20 am

nowheat wrote: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.

I see what you mean now.
more like putting something on a todo list and leaving it undone untill other things are in place?
one doesn't start building the roof until the rest of the Building is finished, but the structures that make the roof may of already been built (such as the A-frames).

This I would agree with, and do myself.

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.


This is more like proving "All is suffering" compared to "all is unsatisfactory," and a reason people are put off by the actual teaching in some cases/at certain stages. something, like an understanding of a text at a very gross level, can have no evidence so best left until later.

I think the Dhammapada verse 242 (? the one which says the taint of a woman is infidelity and there are other occurrences although rare, here I am only referring to the dhammapada verse) is a good example here, looking at it from the point of view of a general statement, shines a poor light from a modern perspective on the Buddha, and I believe an unfair one, but looking at the cultural ideas on women and sex at the time, as shown in the clarifications of the third precept on sexual misconduct, and the origin story in this case, it paints a different picture, it is a friend comforting a friend, who hasn't said "you know what women are like", or "you know what men are like" to a friend who has/is going through a hard patch in a relationship?

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.

yes, it is right here in my bag of wonder :tongue:
I remember the use of traditional baggage referring to the cultural add ons, and even interpretations

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.

I think this has been answered above in this post.
but yes I agree
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.

I don't think it is quite that, Like I said earlier about confused definitions, your dictionary definition of agnostic, and experiential definition didn't match and seamed to merge faith into it, so I think it is more about how we define, rather than what we are talking about. but this may just be saying the same from a different angle.

take rebirth as an example, The Sutta and Abhidhamma have different models of rebirth a three life and one life model respectively (although the three life is also in the Abhidhamma to a lesser degree, I would agree that the abhidhamma is a later collection, historically, but believe that this model wouldn't of been added from thin air, and it has shown a use in practice that gives me faith that the Abhidhamma is reliable as what the Buddha taught, it was just collected together later, but I am quite open to it not being his words historically, in this regard it doesn't matter to me personally, as it has shown itself to be true.
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 Nyana » Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:22 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Over the years I have seen many who were certain, crash and burn and many who were/are sceptical are quietly flourishing in Dhamma without radically altering their public credo..
Its almost as though the mind and the heart do not correlate for a time.

Yes, the head and the heart each develop at their own pace. And there's no set formula -- this development is unique to each individual. Optimally, any combination of faith and skeptical inquiry that leads to resiliency can be useful to help see one through both the highs and the lows.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:23 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
Spiny O'Norman wrote:
Ted Meissner wrote: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?


Speaking personally I try to keep an open mind when reading the suttas - though I find it isn't easy. My point was that rejecting those parts of the suttas that don't fit our current personal belief system can be a hindrance to understanding the teachings.

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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:27 pm

rblumberg wrote:"Cherry picking the suttas" has nothing to do with belief or disbelief...


I disagree. It seems to me that cherry picking is all about our personal beliefs, preconceptions and assumptions.

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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:50 pm

Lazy_eye wrote: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).


Point taken, but there is still selection occuring on the basis of personal preference - including presumably the belief ( assumption? ) that naturalism is the best way to approach the suttas.

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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Sanghamitta » Mon Feb 20, 2012 3:16 pm

Within reason the initial reason for practice is less important than the continuing thereof.
It usually boils down to dukkha.
Our personal preferences including which commentators/translators we prefer are more or less arbitrary, or are dependent on factors of culture and temperament which are eventually transcended. By which time we are proceeding by different momentum.
Most of the time if we have the right instruction, and make the right effort over time, including Sila, we just need to show up.
The Dhamma does the rest. Our pride does not like that idea however.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Feb 20, 2012 6:36 pm

Cittasanto wrote:one could argue it is based on a very full practice, one where the faculty/strength of saddha is strong, rather than an impoverished practice where faith is weak?


If that were the case then positive sentiments would result, I wouldn't expect to hear someone define their practise on sentiments like how "no point in practice", "a little more bearable", "pointless/not possible" it would all be if a belief held turned out to be misunderstood.

Would it not be better to base ones confidence on the postives one has experienced as a result of practise?
"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: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:04 pm

nowheat wrote:Further, one might "use" -- for example -- the Christian Hell as a motivational tool?


Or one might use the "don't know mind" as a tool. I think there is no subsitute for undertaking practise in the face of uncertainty, it really helps one appreciate how nothing can be clung to, even beliefs.
"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: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Sanghamitta » Mon Feb 20, 2012 7:10 pm

Well said....I am fairly neutral about Zen but they have a concept which i think ties in closely with the approach of Luang Por Chah...the
Goofaholix wrote:
nowheat wrote:Further, one might "use" -- for example -- the Christian Hell as a motivational tool?


Or one might use the "don't know mind" as a tool. I think there is no subsitute for undertaking practise in the face of uncertainty, it really helps one appreciate how nothing can be clung to, even beliefs.
" only dont know mind ".
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby perkele » Mon Feb 20, 2012 8:32 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
rblumberg wrote:"Cherry picking the suttas" has nothing to do with belief or disbelief...


I disagree. It seems to me that cherry picking is all about our personal beliefs, preconceptions and assumptions.

Spiny

I concur, and...
Spiny O'Norman wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote: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).


Point taken, but there is still selection occuring on the basis of personal preference - including presumably the belief ( assumption? ) that naturalism is the best way to approach the suttas.

Spiny

I actually think such a systematic and predefined mode of cherry-picking is the worst and most limiting of all.

But:
Sanghamitta wrote:Within reason the initial reason for practice is less important than the continuing thereof.
It usually boils down to dukkha.
Our personal preferences including which commentators/translators we prefer are more or less arbitrary, or are dependent on factors of culture and temperament which are eventually transcended. By which time we are proceeding by different momentum.
Most of the time if we have the right instruction, and make the right effort over time, including Sila, we just need to show up.
The Dhamma does the rest. Our pride does not like that idea however.

Very :goodpost: !


I think "secular buddhism" is just more intellectually/ideologically/philosophically/socially/whateverally acceptable for certain circles of people. It all depends on the individual what he/she makes of it. Sincere interest leads to sincere investigation, wherever it starts.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Goofaholix » Mon Feb 20, 2012 9:04 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:I disagree. It seems to me that cherry picking is all about our personal beliefs, preconceptions and assumptions.


Actually the use of the phrase "cherry picking" is dismissive, derogatory, and about our personal beliefs, preconceptions and assumptions.

If someone reads something new on the internet they automatically determine what fits in with their prior learning and what doesn't, what seems useful and what doesn't, what is worth further investigation and what isn't, what seems far fetched and what doesn't. This is not labelled "cherry picking".

If attends a lecture they automatically determine what fits in with their prior learning and what doesn't, what seems useful and what doesn't, what is worth further investigation and what isn't, what seems far fetched and what doesn't. This is not labelled "cherry picking".

If someone listens to a politician's speech they automatically determine what fits in with their prior learning and what doesn't, what seems useful and what doesn't, what is worth further investigation and what isn't, what seems far fetched and what doesn't. This is not labelled "cherry picking".

If someone reads the newspaper they automatically determine what fits in with their prior learning and what doesn't, what seems useful and what doesn't, what is worth further investigation and what isn't, what seems far fetched and what doesn't. This is not labelled "cherry picking".

This is just the normal process of learning and development, nobody gets it right all the time but we do our best to make the most of the information presented to us, hopefully we're all sincere and do our best.

I don't think the process of learning from a 2500 year old document should be any different, except maybe there should be a greater level of respect and gratitude in the process.

If someone belongs to a fundamentalist religion and reads their scriptures they automatically accept it regardless of what fits in with their prior learning and what doesn't, what seems useful and what doesn't, what is worth further investigation and what isn't, what seems far fetched and what doesn't. Luckily this is not how it works with the Dhamma.
"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: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Cittasanto » Mon Feb 20, 2012 9:08 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
Cittasanto wrote:one could argue it is based on a very full practice, one where the faculty/strength of saddha is strong, rather than an impoverished practice where faith is weak?


If that were the case then positive sentiments would result, I wouldn't expect to hear someone define their practise on sentiments like how "no point in practice", "a little more bearable", "pointless/not possible" it would all be if a belief held turned out to be misunderstood.

Would it not be better to base ones confidence on the postives one has experienced as a result of practise?


this is one possible result of falling into that particular wrong view, but I think my last respond came from a misunderstanding of what you were saying.
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 » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:22 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
Spiny O'Norman wrote:I disagree. It seems to me that cherry picking is all about our personal beliefs, preconceptions and assumptions.

Actually the use of the phrase "cherry picking" is dismissive, derogatory, and about our personal beliefs, preconceptions and assumptions.

If someone reads something new on the internet... attends a lecture... listens to a politician's speech... reads the newspaper they automatically determine what fits in with their prior learning and what doesn't... This is not labelled "cherry picking".

This is just the normal process of learning and development, nobody gets it right all the time but we do our best to make the most of the information presented to us, hopefully we're all sincere and do our best.


Yes but...

Well, okay, I should first say that I think the worst thing about the term "cherry picking" is that it is generally applied to others as a fault of theirs, while we almost never apply it to -- or notice -- that we do the same things ourselves and (as you point out here) we would never say that we were cherry picking, but *we* use *good judgment* and our choices of which cherries to pick benefit from our experience and expertise, right? So I am agreeing with SO'N that it is about our personal beliefs and preconceptions -- but of "other" as much as of ourselves -- and with you, too, that it is dismissive and derogatory.

But -- much as I dislike the term because it is used in an "us vs them" sort of way -- that we all do cherry-pick in the worst possible ways is exactly the Buddha's point. What we call "confirmation bias" he calls "namarupa" -- the way we define everything in terms of ourselves, the way we seek that which confirms our beliefs (so tied into our self-concepts) and are averse to anything that might threaten those beliefs, and the way we ignore (as irrelevant) anything that doesn't fall into either of those categories -- though what we ignore may be just as important.

We really need to spend more time noticing the degree to which we do this -- even with our beliefs about Buddhism.

I don't think the process of learning from a 2500 year old document should be any different, except maybe there should be a greater level of respect and gratitude in the process.


Absolutely!

If someone belongs to a fundamentalist religion and reads their scriptures they automatically accept it regardless of what fits in with their prior learning and what doesn't, what seems useful and what doesn't, what is worth further investigation and what isn't, what seems far fetched and what doesn't. Luckily this is not how it works with the Dhamma.


Is it not?

Most of the western Buddhists I have met came to this religion with no prior education about kamma except in the vaguest of ways. They had not been making any effort to understand what it really meant or how it would play out in their lives in a way that would affect their lives -- it was just "the cosmic order" and not something they thought about changing themselves to set right. Most newcomers to Buddhism I have encountered had no vested interest in rebirth, and yet they do come to accept it regardless of it not fitting with their prior learning. They bend their understanding of what they see *to* fit to this new model, in pretty much the same way it happens with any fundamentalist of any stripe (I have never encountered a newly hatched fundie who did not kick a *little* at the start, but over time became thoroughly indoctrinated -- but then I hang out with generally bright people).

And I would maintain that because so many converts to Buddhism are so busy doing just what you say they don't do (if I understand your point with "Luckily this is not how it works with the Dhamma" correctly) there is a failure to examine our scriptures thoroughly enough, measure them against what we experience accurately enough, and an outright blindness to the way that bending our acceptance of the dhamma-as-taught means that we fail to notice when the accepted dogma actually is *not* useful, but might even be a hindrance.

But then, I am way out there even for a Secular Buddhist. :alien:

:namaste:
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Kare » Mon Feb 20, 2012 10:26 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
Spiny O'Norman wrote:I disagree. It seems to me that cherry picking is all about our personal beliefs, preconceptions and assumptions.


Actually the use of the phrase "cherry picking" is dismissive, derogatory, and about our personal beliefs, preconceptions and assumptions.

...

If someone reads the newspaper they automatically determine what fits in with their prior learning and what doesn't, what seems useful and what doesn't, what is worth further investigation and what isn't, what seems far fetched and what doesn't. This is not labelled "cherry picking".

This is just the normal process of learning and development, nobody gets it right all the time but we do our best to make the most of the information presented to us, hopefully we're all sincere and do our best.

I don't think the process of learning from a 2500 year old document should be any different, except maybe there should be a greater level of respect and gratitude in the process.

If someone belongs to a fundamentalist religion and reads their scriptures they automatically accept it regardless of what fits in with their prior learning and what doesn't, what seems useful and what doesn't, what is worth further investigation and what isn't, what seems far fetched and what doesn't. Luckily this is not how it works with the Dhamma.


:goodpost: :anjali:
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