Secular view - The Future of Religion

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

Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby daverupa » Wed May 16, 2012 6:36 pm

Prasadachitta wrote:Since I practice with one of the groups which he brings up, I am looking for a distinction and truthfully I dont find one other than the one point I brought up. Every Tradition or school has many explanations and contexts for those explanations and it is always up to each individual to sort that out. This is not the domain of some special "secular Buddhist".


That one point is essentially the only difference, which is why I said it was a root issue, and as the great rebirth thread shows, it's hardly a minor point - therefore, here is a distinction which answers your looking for one, so why not count it? After all, Secular Buddhism also has its many explanations and contexts for those explanations, and I gave some examples of how that can play out. Also, as I suggested a couple pages ago, perhaps it can fruitfully be seen as simply another Buddhist tradition, amenable to certain demographics.

It might be that the tone and scale of various atheist voices and claims is thoroughly conflated with Secular Buddhism, a not unexpected event, and as we saw in a recent thread, this sort of thing is a huge problem for many such that they feel the Dhamma cannot be practiced correctly in the absence of accepting certain views current in the Suttas, views which the Secular Buddhist will tend to consider tangential or otherwise beside the point. This is the dichotomy of note, the distinction which you rightly mention as the sticking point; but if we're going to be ecumenical and accept that there is progress to be made on the Path in, say, Zen circles, Secular Buddhism warrants a similar mulligan.

The further claim that Secular Buddhism is the only reasonable approach to the Dhamma is a completely different claim, and one which is unsustainable. This goes to the idea that these issues are the "domain" of Secular Buddhism; I think this overstates the case by a hefty margin, so it's useful to slice this issue fairly thin to avoid unnecessary ideological bleed. Arguments which successfully go against Batchelor's claims do not thereby automatically apply to Secular Buddhists in toto.
    "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: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed May 16, 2012 8:33 pm

kirk5a wrote:
Prasadachitta wrote:What does he mean by nirvana? Is he insinuating that it is other than a result which arises from the eightfold path here on earth? What does he mean by moment to moment flourishing? I would suggest that he will start describing nirvana.


So having denied that nirvana is the aim of Buddhist practice, he will start describing nirvana?

Stephen Batchelor wrote:Likewise, nirvana – i.e. the stopping of craving – is not the goal of the path but its very source.

That's an interesting interpretation. Not sure how we could square that with the Pali teachings.

Helo Kirk5a,

The statement about the stopping of craving being a source rather than a goal is interesting but I cant be sure I know what it means. The point to me is that he does refer to nirvana as the stopping of craving. Source versus goal seems like a semantics game to me. There is plenty of textual evidence to support a process oriented model of awakening. As Thanisarro ponts out in his recent talk on papuna, it is our practice as Buddhists to cultivate relational process oriented ways of understanding the world rather than seeing in terms of objects. I dont see why this cant apply to the goal as well as the path. As to what I was saying about Batchelor's paper, I think this is a digression.

Take care

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"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: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed May 16, 2012 9:01 pm

daverupa wrote:This is the dichotomy of note, the distinction which you rightly mention as the sticking point; but if we're going to be ecumenical and accept that there is progress to be made on the Path in, say, Zen circles, Secular Buddhism warrants a similar mulligan.


If it it is the only real distinguishing point then there is no need for Batchelor make statments like...

As a secular Buddhist my practice is concerned with responding as sincerely and urgently as possible to the suffering of life in this world


I assure you that, at least within the community in which I practice, there is no declaration of dogma which one needs to believe in order to have an effective practice. One need only want to understand the cause of suffering and have at least some confidence that there is a way to its end. By listing off a number of practice communities as not being "secular" then going on to describe the radical "return to the roots of the Buddhist tradition" as what he means by secular, he is insinuating a lot. The tradition I practice with is full of people exploring the many explanations of generations of enlightened teachers. We explore what the general contexts likely were for their teachings and talk about what inspires and guide's us in them. We test them for ourselves. Whether we take a teaching as literal or figurative, what we really want to know is how are we affected by regarding things in that manner and how does it play out in practice. When I look around I find that this is by and large what Buddhists do.

Metta

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"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: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Buckwheat » Wed May 16, 2012 11:33 pm

Prasadachitta wrote:
Rather than attaining nirvana, I see the aim of Buddhist practice to be the moment-to-moment flourishing of human life within the ethical framework of the eightfold path here on earth.


This seems to me like accepting a lesser goal. There is nothing wrong with that, as in this lifetime I am not aiming for nirvana. However, it seems foolish/dangerous to tell others that nirvana will not be the higher goal in a future rebirth, or right here and now if the individual feels up to the task.
Disciples, this I declare to you: All conditioned things are subject to disintegration – strive on untiringly for your liberation.

Sotthī hontu nirantaraṃ - May you forever be well.
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu May 17, 2012 12:17 am

Buckwheat wrote:
Prasadachitta wrote:
Rather than attaining nirvana, I see the aim of Buddhist practice to be the moment-to-moment flourishing of human life within the ethical framework of the eightfold path here on earth.


This seems to me like accepting a lesser goal. There is nothing wrong with that, as in this lifetime I am not aiming for nirvana. However, it seems foolish/dangerous to tell others that nirvana will not be the higher goal in a future rebirth, or right here and now if the individual feels up to the task.


I can see how you interpret Batchelor in this way. Im not so sure what he is trying to say. Its seems clear enough to me that the Historical Buddha experienced nirvana with his body intact here on this earth. While Batchelor may be saying that the efficacy of intentional action does not extend into a next life I do not think it is clear in this essay that he is in any way diminishing nirvana. I could be wrong.

Take Care

Prasadachitta
"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: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby kirk5a » Thu May 17, 2012 3:05 am

Prasadachitta wrote:While Batchelor may be saying that the efficacy of intentional action does not extend into a next life I do not think it is clear in this essay that he is in any way diminishing nirvana.

I think denying the efficacy of intentional action into the next life does rather significantly diminish nirvana.
"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: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu May 17, 2012 4:48 am

kirk5a wrote:
Prasadachitta wrote:While Batchelor may be saying that the efficacy of intentional action does not extend into a next life I do not think it is clear in this essay that he is in any way diminishing nirvana.

I think denying the efficacy of intentional action into the next life does rather significantly diminish nirvana.



perhaps.
"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: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Justsit » Thu May 17, 2012 11:25 am

kirk5a wrote:
Prasadachitta wrote:While Batchelor may be saying that the efficacy of intentional action does not extend into a next life I do not think it is clear in this essay that he is in any way diminishing nirvana.

I think denying the efficacy of intentional action into the next life does rather significantly diminish nirvana.

Doesn't Batchelor also deny rebirth?
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Travis » Thu May 17, 2012 1:34 pm

Justsit wrote:Doesn't Batchelor also deny rebirth?

Yes
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Travis » Thu May 17, 2012 2:04 pm

http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2010/06/bg-175-the-buddhist-atheist/
Now karma is another matter all together. I find it quite unproblematic to state that when I die, the effects of my actions will continue in the world. If I have a heart attack now, and drop dead, that doesn’t mean that my books or things I’ve said or done, to other people, through my words, through my deeds, will no longer continue to have an effect. They will. I think this is fairly self evident. So the only difference then, in my view, is that I don’t believe it’s necessary for some subtle bit of me to carry over into another life to experience the fruits of my own acts, but rather I simply see that after our death we have an enormous responsibility to ensure that the world we leave for others, be they our own children, be they our students, or so on, anybody, whoever, man, woman, animal. So I have no difficulty with the idea that after death my actions will continue to bear fruit. The only difference is that unlike some Buddhists, I don’t feel any need to be around when they mature.

And I feel that the important point of the doctrine of rebirth in any case is to give a kind of vehicle for the continuity of our moral acts to continue to bear fruit in the future. I think we can dispense with the vehicle and simply recognize that everything we do in this life will have consequences both now and after we are no longer here. And I think both views are equally potent in establishing a sense of moral responsibility, which I feel is really the main point..


http://www.tricycle.com/p/1952
In the Kālāma Sutta the Buddha says, don’t just accept what I say because I am your teacher, because the tradition says it, or because it seems to be reasonable. At the end of that text, he speaks about the four solaces, or rewards, that come from the practice of the Dhamma. One solace says, if there is indeed another life, if there is, indeed, a law of karmic cause and effect, then, after death, you will be reborn in a happy realm and benefit from the results of your present karma. The second solace says, if there is no future life, if there is no law of karma, then, too, by practicing the Dhamma you will live happy and content, here and now, in this world. That is very striking: the Buddha seems to be saying what really matters is not what may or may not follow after death, but the quality of your experience, here and now in this very life.

Admittedly, this passage occurs once, whereas rebirth and karma occur everywhere. Nonetheless, it looks oddly out of place. For that very reason, it is probably original: It would have been in no orthodox tradition’s interest to have added it later. Even more to the point is “the declared and the undeclared” in the Mālunkyovāda Sutta, Majjhima 63
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby kirk5a » Thu May 17, 2012 3:28 pm

Travis wrote:http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2010/06/bg-175-the-buddhist-atheist/
Now karma is another matter all together. I find it quite unproblematic to state that when I die, the effects of my actions will continue in the world. If I have a heart attack now, and drop dead, that doesn’t mean that my books or things I’ve said or done, to other people, through my words, through my deeds, will no longer continue to have an effect. They will. I think this is fairly self evident. So the only difference then, in my view, is that I don’t believe it’s necessary for some subtle bit of me to carry over into another life to experience the fruits of my own acts, but rather I simply see that after our death we have an enormous responsibility to ensure that the world we leave for others, be they our own children, be they our students, or so on, anybody, whoever, man, woman, animal. So I have no difficulty with the idea that after death my actions will continue to bear fruit. The only difference is that unlike some Buddhists, I don’t feel any need to be around when they mature.

Wait a minute.... if Mr. Batchelor has the following outlook
For human
flourishing first stirs in that clear, bright, empty space where neurotic self-centredness
realizes that it has no ground to stand on at all.
One is then freed to pour forth like
sunlight.

then what the heck is he doing regarding the body as self?
"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: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu May 17, 2012 5:57 pm

Travis wrote:http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2010/06/bg-175-the-buddhist-atheist/
Now karma is another matter all together. I find it quite unproblematic to state that when I die, the effects of my actions will continue in the world. If I have a heart attack now, and drop dead, that doesn’t mean that my books or things I’ve said or done, to other people, through my words, through my deeds, will no longer continue to have an effect. They will. I think this is fairly self evident. So the only difference then, in my view, is that I don’t believe it’s necessary for some subtle bit of me to carry over into another life to experience the fruits of my own acts, but rather I simply see that after our death we have an enormous responsibility to ensure that the world we leave for others, be they our own children, be they our students, or so on, anybody, whoever, man, woman, animal. So I have no difficulty with the idea that after death my actions will continue to bear fruit. The only difference is that unlike some Buddhists, I don’t feel any need to be around when they mature.

And I feel that the important point of the doctrine of rebirth in any case is to give a kind of vehicle for the continuity of our moral acts to continue to bear fruit in the future. I think we can dispense with the vehicle and simply recognize that everything we do in this life will have consequences both now and after we are no longer here. And I think both views are equally potent in establishing a sense of moral responsibility, which I feel is really the main point..


I suspect that they are not equally potent in establishing a sense of moral responsibility even though I can imagine that they both might be effective. I think Batchelor seriously underestimates the potent and damaging effect of the belief that there is some"thing" that we are now which we will not be after death.

Metta

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby daverupa » Thu May 17, 2012 6:17 pm

Prasadachitta wrote:I suspect that they are not equally potent in establishing a sense of moral responsibility even though I can imagine that they both might be effective. I think Batchelor seriously underestimates the potent and damaging effect of the belief that there is some"thing" that we are now which we will not be after death.


This is a huge problem for Batchelor, to wit accepting an annihilationist premise as opposed to a reincarnation-eternalism premise. Neither one was championed by the Buddha; trotting out the "best of outside views" line does not make this a palatable move.

Perhaps what Batchelor is trying to do here is to generate a Dhamma explication which he thinks the Buddha would have used if, instead of brahmins, he had dealt mostly with atheists. Speculative.
    "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: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Prasadachitta » Thu May 17, 2012 6:44 pm

daverupa wrote:Perhaps what Batchelor is trying to do here is to generate a Dhamma explication which he thinks the Buddha would have used if, instead of brahmins, he had dealt mostly with atheists. Speculative.


It seems to me the Buddha tended to nudge eternalists towards non eternalism and annihilationists towards non annihilation. Are you saying that Batchelor thinks its best to reinforce views of annihilation? The record indicates that the Buddha would not do that.

Metta

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby daverupa » Thu May 17, 2012 8:02 pm

Prasadachitta wrote:Are you saying that Batchelor thinks its best to reinforce views of annihilation? The record indicates that the Buddha would not do that.


Agreed; this is why I said as much in the second sentence. As I've mentioned, the Sutta in my signature references an example of the Buddha teaching the Middle Way directly, without even using 'right view with effluents' as a touchstone. In other words, neither annihilationism nor the traditional take on the wholesomeness of effluential right view are taken up in the case of a layman who was perplexed about these sorts of views. Batchelor seems to be trying something similar but altogether misses the target by trying to rope atheism into service as an appropriately Dhammic stance. I tend to think that he's still mostly responding to his time in the Tibetan tradition, thereby swinging too far into an opposing view.
    "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: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby meindzai » Thu May 17, 2012 8:49 pm

Coyote wrote:
Buckwheat wrote:
I think this is taking my point too far. I think there is a similar percentage of non-religious people that consider it immoral to kill, steal, and lie. Drinking is more likely, and therefore some reckless behavior, but I don't think any higher percentage of non-religious people would be so foolish as to justify their killing, stealing, and lying as morally acceptable. My point was one simply of behavioral conditioning, that coming together in church, temple, or forum, we come together as a group to reinforce the moral lessons, keeping them at the fore and pondering the minutia of how to enhance virtue. As a former non-religious type, I can say that non-religious still have these discussions, but not as frequently.


I don't know. I think there are quite a lot of non-religious people who see it morally acceptable to kill during times of war or if it protects the lives of enough people. I think the same can be said of lying in certain circumstances, or at least this has been my experience as someone brought up non-religious and with the people I have known throughout my life. Stealing perhaps less so, at least, in our property-focused society.
Also it depends what you mean by religious. Just because someone claims that label for themselves doesn't mean they are going to abide by the moral code of that particular religion, so I can see your point there.
I do think a point can be made that religious people are more likely to adhere to strict or absolutist views of morality, whereas the non-religious are more likely to make certain immoral acts justified by their circumstances.


I'm sorry I can't quote this (I'll look) but recent evidence suggests that our genetics and culture probably influence our ethics more than anything else. We may use ethical systems to support or put a framework around this, but the primary motivation doesn't come from religion itself. This makes sense to me since there seems to be so many deviations with regards to ethics and religious practice as the two of you are describing here. (i.e. I met this really ethical religious guy, but then I met this really ethical secular guy, but then I met this really awful religious guy, etc.)

I know I have always had a strong sort of drive towards what I consider "ethical" behavior, with plenty of humanity getting in the way to cause slip ups. But having dhamma as my framework adds support and encouragement to that drive that I have always felt.

Just as it's been shown that most of our decisions aren't based on rational thinking, but that we use rational thinking to justify decisions we've made emotionally.

As for Batchelor - it's pretty clear he deviates from the teachings and it seems like more dhamma-lite, which is very popular these days. I continue to ponder whether it is better than no Dhamma at all. I'm not sure yet.

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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Mr Man » Thu May 17, 2012 9:02 pm

daverupa wrote:Perhaps what Batchelor is trying to do here is to generate a Dhamma explication which he thinks the Buddha would have used if, instead of brahmins, he had dealt mostly with atheists. Speculative.

Do you think he rates himself so highly? Perhaps he is stugling with his own Dhamma explication in a very public way?
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Re: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby daverupa » Fri May 18, 2012 1:26 am

Mr Man wrote:
daverupa wrote:Perhaps what Batchelor is trying to do here is to generate a Dhamma explication which he thinks the Buddha would have used if, instead of brahmins, he had dealt mostly with atheists. Speculative.

Do you think he rates himself so highly? Perhaps he is stugling with his own Dhamma explication in a very public way?


We need not impute motive - it's what any teacher might try. But we can critically examine the result, in any case.
    "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: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby kirk5a » Fri May 18, 2012 2:22 am

Prasadachitta wrote:I think Batchelor seriously underestimates the potent and damaging effect of the belief that there is some"thing" that we are now which we will not be after death.

Yep. Also known as "self-identity view." As Ven. Punnadhammo points out in his critique:

Punnadhammo Bhikkhu wrote:As an aside, it should be pointed out that advocates of a materialist Buddhism often claim that their view is different from this ancient annihilationism because it doesn't postulate a self. While it would take us too far afield to examine this argument in detail, suffice it to say that from a traditional Buddhist understanding, any doctrine of materialism must have an implied self-view. In other words, it is incompatible with a true understanding of not-self. This is because of, firstly, an identification with the single aggregate of bodily form and secondly, because of the belief in annihilation of consciousness at death which presupposes an existent entity to be annihilated (even if this is not articulated.)
"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: Secular view - The Future of Religion

Postby Nyana » Fri May 18, 2012 2:31 am

daverupa wrote:As I've mentioned, the Sutta in my signature references an example of the Buddha teaching the Middle Way directly, without even using 'right view with effluents' as a touchstone.

As an aside: It's worth noting that the phrase "right view with effluents" is unique to MN 117 whereas the Madhyamāgama parallel (MĀ 189) to MN 117 only mentions right view defined as "There is what is given, what is offered...." It seems reasonable that MĀ 189 is the earlier version in this regard and MN 117 displays considerable revisions parallel to the Abhidhamma Vibhaṅga and Dhammasaṅgaṇī.

:focus:
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