Western cultural adaptations

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

Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Coyote » Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:22 pm

I wonder if this quest for "true dhamma" is a western concern? I.e trying to separate the core teachings from the cultural baggage, rather than taking Buddhism as it has been handed down to us. Although I am aware there are many "eastern" teachers who had similar concerns, i.e ajahn Chah.
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Kare » Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:45 pm

Coyote wrote:I wonder if this quest for "true dhamma" is a western concern? I.e trying to separate the core teachings from the cultural baggage, rather than taking Buddhism as it has been handed down to us. Although I am aware there are many "eastern" teachers who had similar concerns, i.e ajahn Chah.


It has been handed down to us in many different garbs. It would be rather confusing to try to accept them all - theravada, zen, vajrayana, nichiren, tendai, pure land ... just to mention some of them.

This means we have to apply some critical thinking.
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby daverupa » Fri Mar 14, 2014 10:44 pm

gavesako wrote: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


That author makes for some interesting reading.
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    "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: Western cultural adaptations

Postby hermitwin » Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:57 am

On rebirth, the tendency to differentiate between rebirth and reincarnation.
To argue that reincarnation is not part of buddha’s teachings. Ie to reject the concept of past and future lives.
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby hermitwin » Sat Mar 15, 2014 6:05 am

I will argue that there wont be a distinct western Buddhism. The main reason is the easy access to info via internet. Nobody can control the transmission of info . there may be a small group who follows people like Stephen Batchelor.
Famous monks eg Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Brahm, Mattieu Ricard subscribe to the “traditional “ Buddhism. If there is any western Buddhism, it will be a totally fragmented one without a unified philosophy. To put it simply, westerners cant agree what western Buddhism should be. I guess this is testament to the democratic nature of western communities.
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Mar 15, 2014 6:38 am

hermitwin wrote:I will argue that there wont be a distinct western Buddhism. The main reason is the easy access to info via internet. Nobody can control the transmission of info . there may be a small group who follows people like Stephen Batchelor.
Famous monks eg Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Brahm, Mattieu Ricard subscribe to the “traditional “ Buddhism. If there is any western Buddhism, it will be a totally fragmented one without a unified philosophy. To put it simply, westerners cant agree what western Buddhism should be. I guess this is testament to the democratic nature of western communities.

I would tend to agree that in the long term there will be no such thing as "Western Buddhism" but give a different reason : that the internet, backed up by other media, is inevitably producing a single global culture, and that a global Buddhism (perhaps with regional "dialects") will be part of that culture - much as we already have a global movie culture and are quickly moving towards a globalised version of the English language, reversing the previous drift of "American English" away from "Standard English" and all the other colonial versions of the language.
In fact, you could see Buddhism that way: all the different Asian traditions drifted apart for centuries of poor communications between communities and only had to come to terms with it - and start reconciling - in the 1950s when easier travel and mass communication (and literacy) made the differences apparent to large numbers of people.

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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby appicchato » Sat Mar 15, 2014 12:02 pm

To argue that reincarnation is not part of buddha’s teachings. Ie to reject the concept of past and future lives.


Hang on...not that he didn't, but I cannot recall (reading about) the Buddha ever speaking about reincarnation (except to possibly scuttle the notion)...(the idea (or reality) of) rebirth is not (the idea (or reality) of) reincarnation...(two different fish to fry)...although it doesn't discount the concept (or possibility) of past and future lives...
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Aloka » Sat Mar 15, 2014 1:56 pm

hermitwin wrote:On rebirth, the tendency to differentiate between rebirth and reincarnation.
To argue that reincarnation is not part of buddha’s teachings. Ie to reject the concept of past and future lives.


"Reincarnation" is a Tibetan belief as in a "reincarnate tulku"...someone believed to be a previous lama who died who has then been born again to take his place.

As far as I know, the Buddha only spoke about rebirth.


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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby hermitwin » Sat Mar 15, 2014 4:12 pm

see what I mean.....

in the East, reincarnation = rebirth.

in the West, Buddha did not teach reincarnation. lol.
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby hermitwin » Sat Mar 15, 2014 4:20 pm

In most Asian languages, the word for rebirth and reincarnation
is the same.
This is something that many westerners are not aware of.
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Anagarika » Sat Mar 15, 2014 4:53 pm

hermitwin wrote:In most Asian languages, the word for rebirth and reincarnation
is the same.
This is something that many westerners are not aware of.


Interesting that in the primarily English speaking west that we do have different words, and as I understand, the Buddha taught rebirth without the metaphysical explanation, but did not teach reincarnation as has been defined above, for example, in the Tibetan tradition. If there is no differentiation in some Asian languages, this could lead to confusion among the laity as to Sutta rebirth.
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby tiltbillings » Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:46 pm

hermitwin wrote:In most Asian languages, the word for rebirth and reincarnation
is the same.
This is something that many westerners are not aware of.
Actual examples, please.
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 waterchan » Sat Mar 15, 2014 9:37 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
hermitwin wrote:In most Asian languages, the word for rebirth and reincarnation
is the same.
This is something that many westerners are not aware of.
Actual examples, please.


ႈIn the Burmese language, this is the word for the process of transmigration from one being to another:

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Untitled.png (4.09 KiB) Viewed 182 times


and it literally means "person enters-occupies".

I don't think any other words exist. And if they do, there wouldn't be the kind of difference in meaning as between rebirth and reincarnation.

What's significant is that no one over there really uses this word when talking about rebirth/reincarnation in daily conversation. Instead, they would construct a sentence using a combination of the terms "this life", "next life", "birth", and "death". It's quite similar to how there is no mention of "rebirth" in the dependent origination model, just birth, death, and birth again.

I am inclined to think that the debate of "rebirth" vs "reincarnation" is an attempt to impose Western ideas upon Eastern philosophy. Can't we just say "birth-and-death" a la Nagasena instead?
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby appicchato » Sun Mar 16, 2014 12:26 am

Can't we just say "birth-and-death" a la Nagasena instead?


Sure...that option is open to you, and everyone else...
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Mar 16, 2014 4:04 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
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?

Coincidentally, I listened to a series of Prof Gross' talks over the weekend: http://audiodharma.org/series/253/talk/4577/
She certainly talks about "stories" and "myths" in a positive way. I find her expositions a refreshing change from the attitude that stories have to be literally true to be useful.

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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby binocular » Sun Mar 16, 2014 6:56 pm

Coyote wrote:I wonder if this quest for "true dhamma" is a western concern? I.e trying to separate the core teachings from the cultural baggage, rather than taking Buddhism as it has been handed down to us. Although I am aware there are many "eastern" teachers who had similar concerns, i.e ajahn Chah.

It doesn't seem like just a Western concern.

For another ample -
Ajaan Suwat often mentioned that one of Ajaan Mun's two favorite Dhamma talk topics was the "customs of the noble ones": the ariyavamsa in Pali. One of his reasons for focusing on this teaching was something that we tend to miss when we look at the forest tradition from an American perspective. From our perspective it's a very Thai tradition. But Ajaan Mun got a lot of flack in his day for going against Thai customs, Laotian customs — following the dhutanga practices, eating only one meal a day, eating out of his bowl, living out in the forest. People criticized him for this, saying that he was breaking with Thai custom. His response was that he wasn't interested in Thai customs or Lao customs or anybody's customs aside from the customs of the Noble Ones. He said, "If they're not the customs of the Noble Ones then they're the customs of people with defilement."
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ions2.html

Obviously, other than Westerners were concerned about the true Dhamma.


rather than taking Buddhism as it has been handed down to us

That's just it: many Westerners don't really have "Buddhism as it has been handed down to us", as many Westerners are in the situation where they are exposed to several schools of Buddhism first, before they make up their mind on which school to devote themselves to.

To have "Buddhism as it has been handed down to us", one would have to be born into a Buddhist community, or otherwise be in such a situation (due to external circumstances or ignorance) where one has no choice nor knowledge of the variety of Buddhist schools.

But once we have choice as to which particular Buddhist to listen to, there is less and less of a "Buddhism as it has been handed down to us."
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby binocular » Sun Mar 16, 2014 8:41 pm

Kare wrote:It has been handed down to us in many different garbs. It would be rather confusing to try to accept them all - theravada, zen, vajrayana, nichiren, tendai, pure land ... just to mention some of them.
This means we have to apply some critical thinking.

"Critical thinking" - by whose standard of " critical thinking"? And if we're going to go by such a standard, then why choose a particular Buddhist or any other school, rather than just stick to that standard (and the ontology, epistemology, and ethics implied in that standard) to begin with?
I mean, I am skeptical about the idea that the true Dhamma can be arrived at by critically thinking about the existing Buddhist schools and comparing them.

I think the Hare Krishnas introduce an interesting concept that may be worth considering (and may in fact already exist in Asian Buddhism, it's just that we in the West aren't seeing it?), namely, that of the "triple check" guru-sadhu-sastra. That is, essentially, that a person should follow only instructions that the three sources (ie. one's teacher, saintly people, and scriptures) agree on. This approach has its double binds too, to be sure, but it's not rocket science either.


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"

We cannot but enter the Dhamma through one gate or another. This is inevitable, and I don't think it is a problem as long as one doesn't declare oneself as having "arrived".

needs to pay attention to what the Buddha actually taught,

But we can only take on faith that a teaching is one by the Buddha.

It seems to me that many Westerners are big on declaring they "have it right" - much in the mainstream Christian spirit of declaring one _knows__ exactly_ what it is that Jesus and God mean and want. And that this sense of urgency of considering oneself to "have it right" is what may be causing the most problems for Westerners. That spirit of "I know what the Buddha taught and anyone who disagrees with me disagrees with the Buddha himself".

Otherwise, we can call it Zen, or yoga, or psychology, or 'secular Buddhism," but we can't really honestly call it Buddhadhamma.

Maybe Westerners have the general tendency to be concerned with names and declarations to the point that it is counterproductive. Which would be a good example of cultural baggage.
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Mar 16, 2014 9:30 pm

binocular wrote:I think the Hare Krishnas introduce an interesting concept that may be worth considering (and may in fact already exist in Asian Buddhism, it's just that we in the West aren't seeing it?), namely, that of the "triple check" guru-sadhu-sastra. That is, essentially, that a person should follow only instructions that the three sources (ie. one's teacher, saintly people, and scriptures) agree on. This approach has its double binds too, to be sure, but it's not rocket science either.

Surely this is simply the Triple Gem - Buddha, Dharma and Sangha? And "taking refuge" in it is depending on it?

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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Mar 16, 2014 10:04 pm

Kim OHara wrote:
binocular wrote:I think the Hare Krishnas introduce an interesting concept that may be worth considering (and may in fact already exist in Asian Buddhism, it's just that we in the West aren't seeing it?), namely, that of the "triple check" guru-sadhu-sastra. That is, essentially, that a person should follow only instructions that the three sources (ie. one's teacher, saintly people, and scriptures) agree on. This approach has its double binds too, to be sure, but it's not rocket science either.

Surely this is simply the Triple Gem - Buddha, Dharma and Sangha? And "taking refuge" in it is depending on it?


Yes surely, it's not rocket science, even modern religions are adopting this approach it seems.
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Postby Ben » Sun Mar 16, 2014 10:51 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
Kim OHara wrote:
binocular wrote:I think the Hare Krishnas introduce an interesting concept that may be worth considering (and may in fact already exist in Asian Buddhism, it's just that we in the West aren't seeing it?), namely, that of the "triple check" guru-sadhu-sastra. That is, essentially, that a person should follow only instructions that the three sources (ie. one's teacher, saintly people, and scriptures) agree on. This approach has its double binds too, to be sure, but it's not rocket science either.

Surely this is simply the Triple Gem - Buddha, Dharma and Sangha? And "taking refuge" in it is depending on it?


Yes surely, it's not rocket science, even modern religions are adopting this approach it seems.


You will also find that Buddhism predates the Hare Krishnas and even Hinduism. It would not surprise me that it is one of the many Buddhist artefacts that have been incorporated into Hinduism and some of its offshoots.
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