Western cultural adaptations

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

Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Aloka » Thu Mar 13, 2014 2:10 pm

binocular wrote:It's when people end up with things like "This is the only right way to practice meditation for everyone, everywhere" that we enter the domain of exclusivism and superiorism.


Hi binocular,

Where does this take place ? On the internet, or in Buddhist centres away from the internet ?

And in the process of this, some other people got pushed out of Buddhist groups ...


Sorry, but again I'm not clear what you're talking about.

binocular wrote:But hey, by all means, it seems possible enough to turn even Buddhism into the sort of religion where the main thing is to keep said religion going, even if this means misery and death for those who try effort keep it going. In the spirit of revolution, devouring its own children

Huh ?

I guess I am one of the newer generations of people with an interest in Buddhism - part of the generation of people who came into contact with Buddhism via the internet, by first reading the Pali Canon, and not via contact with actual living Buddhist traditions.


Have you ever attended teachings/ practised/ mixed with other people at a Buddhist centre, Temple or Monastery ?


:anjali:
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Aloka » Thu Mar 13, 2014 2:25 pm

binocular wrote:
David N. Snyder wrote:Not on this forum.


The people who have been silenced disagree.


That seems rather a mysterious statement - who are you speaking on behalf of, binocular ?
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Kare » Thu Mar 13, 2014 2:27 pm

binocular wrote:I guess I am one of the newer generations of people with an interest in Buddhism - part of the generation of people who came into contact with Buddhism via the internet, by first reading the Pali Canon, and not via contact with actual living Buddhist traditions.

I think starting with the Pali Canon makes for a very different basis of one's interest in Buddhism than starting off what appears to be the usual way, ie. via a particular Buddhist group or teacher.

It's not that I like or dislike the cultural adaptations - it's that they are foreign to me, given my background. It seems impossible to me now to try to fit myself into an existing Buddhist tradition.

And of course, like so many others, you can dismiss people like myself, suggesting that we have no clue, aren't real Buddhists etc.



That's funny - after we have disagreed in several postings in this thread, I suddenly find you very much in agreement with my own views (or myself very much in agreement with your views - depending on the perspective). Maybe our earlier disagreements were based on misunderstandings.

Although I am not one of the newer generations. I am one of the older generations of people who got interested in Buddhism before there were any living Buddhist traditions present in my country. Not via the internet - which was not invented at that time - but via books. And as soon as I discovered the Pali texts, I felt I was coming home. That's why I spent some time and energy studying Pali, which led me to producing several translations from the Pali texts into Norwegian: Dhammapada, Thera- and Therigatha, Digha and Majjhima Nikaya and more (and stubbornly continuing ...). So it seems we have been following more or less parallell courses into the Dhamma.

And like you, I find the existing Buddhist traditions "foreign" - even though I am quite fond of the different Asian styles of Buddhism. What I would prefer, is a Buddhism that is in harmony with Western culture, without losing any of the essential Buddhist qualities.

So you can rest assured that I never will dismiss you or people like you. :)
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Mar 13, 2014 2:36 pm

binocular wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:That may be how one has adopted and adapted the Dhamma, trying to make it his/her own. Why do you assume that the Dhamma must be a private matter when we have the examples in the Nikayas that point to public teaching and public contention over what is true?

What makes you think this is what I assume?
Because what you write is suggesting that, but quite frankly it is uncertain what your actual point is, given that you are bringing into this discussion stuff no one here is saying.

By "private matter," this is what I mean - http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ml#private
Essentially, an emphasis on what goes on inside, as opposed to focusing on the outside.
What is "private" gets expressed "on the outside" as one relates to the world. So, what is your point?


Maybe, but there seems to be an assumption in what you are saying is the Dhamma must be understood in a particular way -- that is, not being exclusive, etc.

Since different people have different karma, different applications of the Dhamma will take place in their lives respectively.
As such, what applies or "works" for one person, may not apply or "work" for another.

It's when people end up with "This is the only right way to practice meditation for everyone, everywhere" that we enter the domain of exclusivism and superiorism.
So, your assumption, it seems, is that this is not correct Dhamma. Based upon what?

tilt wrote:
There are people who in fact say, or at least imply things like "this Dhamma that I/we teach, is the only true Dhamma, ever, for everyone."
And this is not some rarity, it seems fairly common.
And that certainly can be a result in how they tried to make the Dhamma their own.

And in the process of this, some other people got pushed out of Buddhist groups ...
So, again, as we have seen in other threads, this is about you and your being rejected by some folks. Why should you care that some people do not act in a way that you assume they should? They do not get to define who you are and how you see yourself, unless you allow them to.

But hey, by all means, it seems possible enough to turn even Buddhism into the sort of religion where the main thing is to keep said religion going, even if this means misery and death for those who try effort keep it going. In the spirit of revolution, devouring its own children.
Now, this is reading as a personal issue that you are acting out here.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby appicchato » Thu Mar 13, 2014 3:10 pm

...everyone else has their specific unique interests invested in pondering this topic.


Seems that way...not a pretty picture... :coffee:
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Mar 13, 2014 3:14 pm

binocular wrote:
It's not that I like or dislike the cultural adaptations - it's that they are foreign to me, given my background. It seems impossible to me now to try to fit myself into an existing Buddhist tradition.
That is a problem of your own making.

And of course, like so many others, you can dismiss people like myself, suggesting that we have no clue, aren't real Buddhists etc.
Again, a problem of your making. It is not other people that determine if you are or are not a Buddhist. It is you who determine that.

I guess I am one of the newer generations of people with an interest in Buddhism - part of the generation of people who came into contact with Buddhism via the internet, by first reading the Pali Canon, and not via contact with actual living Buddhist traditions.

I think starting with the Pali Canon makes for a very different basis of one's interest in Buddhism than starting off what appears to be the usual way, ie. via a particular Buddhist group or teacher..
I started out 45 years ago. No groups, no internet. In the early 70's I had to travel from Minnesota to England to meet actual living, breathing, talking Western and Asian Buddhists. In so many of the threads here you involve yourself in, you bring this up this personal business of yours one way or an other, again and again. So the question is: why do you care what other people think in terms of your being a Buddhist or not? You are likely not going to change their behavior, but you are responsible for your own.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Anagarika » Thu Mar 13, 2014 3:46 pm

Kare wrote: That's why I spent some time and energy studying Pali, which led me to producing several translations from the Pali texts into Norwegian: Dhammapada, Thera- and Therigatha, Digha and Majjhima Nikaya and more (and stubbornly continuing ...).


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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Kare » Thu Mar 13, 2014 4:34 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:
Kare wrote: That's why I spent some time and energy studying Pali, which led me to producing several translations from the Pali texts into Norwegian: Dhammapada, Thera- and Therigatha, Digha and Majjhima Nikaya and more (and stubbornly continuing ...).


Dette er en fantastisk prestasjon! Godt gjort!


Takker og bukker! :)
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Mar 13, 2014 5:26 pm

Kare wrote:
BuddhaSoup wrote:
Kare wrote: That's why I spent some time and energy studying Pali, which led me to producing several translations from the Pali texts into Norwegian: Dhammapada, Thera- and Therigatha, Digha and Majjhima Nikaya and more (and stubbornly continuing ...).


Dette er en fantastisk prestasjon! Godt gjort!


Takker og bukker! :)
Úsáid Béarla, le do thoil.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Kamran » Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:52 am

Not sure if it has been mentioned but Western Romantic influence is described in the below article by Thanissaro Bikhu:

Many Westerners, when new to Buddhism, are struck by the uncanny familiarity of what seem to be its central concepts: interconnectedness, wholeness, ego-transcendence. But what they may not realize is that the concepts sound familiar because they are familiar. To a large extent, they come not from the Buddha's teachings but from the Dharma gate of Western psychology, through which the Buddha's words have been filtered. They draw less from the root sources of the Dharma than from their own hidden roots in Western culture: the thought of the German Romantics.

"The Roots of Buddhist Romanticism"

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... icism.html
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Spiny Norman » Fri Mar 14, 2014 1:51 pm

Kare wrote: What I would prefer, is a Buddhism that is in harmony with Western culture, without losing any of the essential Buddhist qualities.


In the UK we have groups like Triratna, Samatha Trust, Interbeing and NKT which are specifically tailored for western culture - is that the kind of thing you mean?

It strikes me though that defining what the "essential Buddhist qualities" are might not be straightforward.
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Kare » Fri Mar 14, 2014 2:04 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
Kare wrote: What I would prefer, is a Buddhism that is in harmony with Western culture, without losing any of the essential Buddhist qualities.


In the UK we have groups like Triratna, Samatha Trust, Interbeing and NKT which are specifically tailored for western culture - is that the kind of thing you mean?



I am sure they work for some people. From what I have seen of those groups, however, I think I would prefer a more secular solution. But that is my personal preference. Others surely have other preferences.

It strikes me though that defining what the "essential Buddhist qualities" are might not be straightforward.


You are quite right. That might easily be the subject of a new thread.
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Anagarika » Fri Mar 14, 2014 2:24 pm

Isn't part of the answer what Ven. Thanissaro is getting at? "they come not from the Buddha's teachings but from the Dharma gate of Western psychology"

My sense is that we have at our disposal the core Dhamma. Much has been discussed on DW as to what constitutes "core Dhamma," but some of the good scholarship suggests that the core teachings of the Buddha are found in the Pali Sutta and Vinaya. Having said that, to what extent do we allow the core teachings to be "adapted" or "westernized" before they no longer constitute the Dhamma? To use the analogy of the Dhamma as medicine, at what point does the recipe for the medicine get changed before it is no longer medicine, and just a more pleasant tasting placebo? To propose another analogy, let's say we have Einstein's formula for general relativity. Let's then say that we agree that this this formula is the recipe for what Einstein calculates as his theory of relativity. Then we suggest that his formula be adapted, and recalculated, to fit with cultural norms or societal mores. Can we then say we have a theory of relativity that works?

My sense is that we have to be very careful accepting cultural adaptations, and we must examine each adaptation and measure it against the Canon. My view is that it's not the Dhamma that needs to conform to western culture, but that western culture really needs to pay attention to what the Buddha actually taught, like it or not, and conform its conduct to that formula. Otherwise, we can call it Zen, or yoga, or psychology, or 'secular Buddhism," but we can't really honestly call it Buddhadhamma.
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 14, 2014 2:58 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:Isn't part of the answer what Ven. Thanissaro is getting at? "they come not from the Buddha's teachings but from the Dharma gate of Western psychology"

My sense is that we have at our disposal the core Dhamma. Much has been discussed on DW as to what constitutes "core Dhamma," but some of the good scholarship suggests that the core teachings of the Buddha are found in the Pali Sutta and Vinaya. Having said that, to what extent do we allow the core teachings to be "adapted" or "westernized" before they no longer constitute the Dhamma? To use the analogy of the Dhamma as medicine, at what point does the recipe for the medicine get changed before it is no longer medicine, and just a more pleasant tasting placebo? To propose another analogy, let's say we have Einstein's formula for general relativity. Let's then say that we agree that this this formula is the recipe for what Einstein calculates as his theory of relativity. Then we suggest that his formula be adapted, and recalculated, to fit with cultural norms or societal mores. Can we then say we have a theory of relativity that works?

My sense is that we have to be very careful accepting cultural adaptations, and we must examine each adaptation and measure it against the Canon. My view is that it's not the Dhamma that needs to conform to western culture, but that western culture really needs to pay attention to what the Buddha actually taught, like it or not, and conform its conduct to that formula. Otherwise, we can call it Zen, or yoga, or psychology, or 'secular Buddhism," but we can't really honestly call it Buddhadhamma.
Who determines what is core Dhamma, based upon what criteria? And assuming that that could be objectively determined, who then determines that Zen or Madhyamaka do not meet that definition?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby SDC » Fri Mar 14, 2014 4:49 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:My sense is that we have at our disposal the core Dhamma.


My sense is that we have the blueprint to find dhamma. We have the seed. The texts are close. As close as they can be, but the rest is up to us. We need to take what we learn and develop our practice. This will inevitably lead to deeper understanding, away from a common understanding, away from SOME of the concepts in the texts, and away from SOME interpretations. Just like a seed becomes a tree.

However, I feel it is our tendency as westerners not to stray from that written word. We are taught that the knowledge in books is absolute and complete. That is what we like to see. We like to have it written down and spelled out for us. In that way it is more “reliable”. If it is published and it has solid references we feel the writer has done his due diligence and we can trust it to a certain extent.

In turn this can cause us to reject certain ideas and experiences based on their difference from the words. We may even find ourselves defending those words and try to keep everything in line with those words. If we go the full-on scholarly route we find our entire practice based on knowing the written word, but we have not been able to properly apply it and develop it.

Just a thought. :smile:

Didn’t read every page and apologize if any of this is repetitive.
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Anagarika » Fri Mar 14, 2014 5:16 pm

"Who determines what is core Dhamma, based upon what criteria? And assuming that that could be objectively determined, who then determines that Zen or Madhyamaka do not meet that definition?"

This is part of the challenge for individual practitioners. As others have pointed out, Buddhism has no Pope or Chief Rabbi to state what is 'core teachings' or Gospel, and what is not. I've left the question as to what is Dhamma to experts like Prof. Rita Gross, who is a Vajrayana practitioner, but writes very skillfully as a historian and anthropogist as to what is Buddhavacana, in her expert opinion, and what later developed as myth. As well, we have Ven. Thanissaro for example, who has invested his life into an investigation of Dhamma, and I see no compelling reason to doubt his fundamental opinions as to Dhamma. We also have experts like Dr. Gombrich, who has written extensively on historical matters concerning ancient Buddhism and Dhamma development.

My own view is that we really don't have anyone to determine for us what is Buddha dhamma, and what is not. We do, however, in exercising wise judgment, need to make some calculation as to what to trust, and what to see as myth or fabrication, bearing in mind that not all in the texts can be seen as 100 % Buddhavacana. We each have to make our own investigation, and make these determinations for ourselves. One of the great attributes of Buddhism is its diversity, and the fact that skilled, selfless, and ethical teachers exist in all traditions.

Ven. Thanissaro made the point in one of his articles that people see it as disrespectful to other traditions when those connected to the Pali Sutta/Vinaya schools critique Mahayana, for example. He then goes on to say that the disrespect comes from ignoring or misrepresenting what the Buddha actually taught. As Prof. Gross intimated in her article in this Spring's Buddhadharma, it is her students that have the heart attacks when she tells them that the Heart Sutra is not the word of the Buddha, and that it is a far-later-in-time constructed myth. She is trying to accurately define Buddhavacana, despite her allegiance to her teacher in Vajrayana. I feel she wants her Mahayana students to learn a semblance of the historical truth, even if it makes their hearts hurt.
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 14, 2014 8:38 pm

we have Ven. Thanissaro for example, who has invested his life into an investigation of Dhamma, and I see no compelling reason to doubt his fundamental opinions as to Dhamma.
No way would I question Ven T's sincerity and devotion to the Dhamma, but he is wide open to serious doubt concerning some of his opinions about the Mahayana and some things Theravada, showing himself to be not without problems as a scholar.

Prof. Rita Gross, who is a Vajrayana practitioner, but writes very skillfully as a historian and anthropogist as to what is Buddhavacana, in her expert opinion, and what later developed as myth.
Myth. Myth is an interesting word that can be used in a positive as well as a negative sense. Interestingly, the Nikayas seem to have a fair amount of "myth' playing out in the suttas, as well. What is meant by myth here?

We also have experts like Dr. Gombrich, who has written extensively on historical matters concerning ancient Buddhism and Dhamma development.
Gombrich is good, as is Ven Analayo.


BuddhaSoup wrote:My own view is that we really don't have anyone to determine for us what is Buddha dhamma, and what is not. We do, however, in exercising wise judgment, need to make some calculation as to what to trust, and what to see as myth or fabrication, bearing in mind that not all in the texts can be seen as 100 % Buddhavacana. We each have to make our own investigation, and make these determinations for ourselves. One of the great attributes of Buddhism is its diversity, and the fact that skilled, selfless, and ethical teachers exist in all traditions.
So, one can find in Zen, after all, Dhamma.
My own view is that we really don't have anyone to determine for us what is Buddha dhamma, and what is not. We do, however, in exercising wise judgment, need to make some calculation as to what to trust, and what to see as myth or fabrication, bearing in mind that not all in the texts can be seen as 100 % Buddhavacana. We each have to make our own investigation, and make these determinations for ourselves. One of the great attributes of Buddhism is its diversity, and the fact that skilled, selfless, and ethical teachers exist in all traditions.
The question is not which "anyone"; rather, it is what basis do we use to determine what is core Dhamma and how do we use that in looking at other expressions of the Dhamma?

Diversity, even with the Theravada -- Mahasi Sayadaw, Ajahn Brahm, Ven Thanissaro. Here are three differing teachers. Is one correct, the others simply wrong in their presentation of the Dhamma? How do one determine this, or could each approach be accurately representative of the Dhamma?
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby gavesako » Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:07 pm

Here is a critique of some interpretations by Gombrich:

I would like to thank all of the cowardly editors who admitted that this was an important (even brilliant) contribution to the study of Buddhist Philosophy, but that they could not publish it because they live in fear of Richard Gombrich. Perhaps "thank" was not the right verb in that sentence. ;-)

http://a-bas-le-ciel.blogspot.co.uk/201 ... ticle.html
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby waterchan » Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:13 pm

tiltbillings wrote:Diversity, even with the Theravada -- Mahasi Sayadaw, Ajahn Brahm, Ven Thanissaro. Here are three differing teachers. Is one correct, the others simply wrong in their presentation of the Dhamma? How do one determine this, or could each approach be accurately representative of the Dhamma?


When you reach a certain stage in your investigation of the Dhamma, it becomes a highly subjective matter of how well the systems of different teachers fit into your personal opinion of "true Dhamma". We will never come to a solid agreement on the criteria for "true Dhamma". But it's healthy to have the willingness to revise one's own opinion in light of new information that comes along. After all, none of these teachers you mentioned are above criticism.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby tiltbillings » Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:17 pm

waterchan wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:Diversity, even with the Theravada -- Mahasi Sayadaw, Ajahn Brahm, Ven Thanissaro. Here are three differing teachers. Is one correct, the others simply wrong in their presentation of the Dhamma? How do one determine this, or could each approach be accurately representative of the Dhamma?


When you reach a certain stage in your investigation of the Dhamma, it becomes a highly subjective matter of how well the systems of different teachers fit into your personal opinion of "true Dhamma". We will never come to a solid agreement on the criteria for "true Dhamma". But it's healthy to have the willingness to revise one's own opinion in light of new information that comes along. After all, none of these teachers you mentioned are above criticism.
"True Dhamma" is not an expression I would opt to use.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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