Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautama?

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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Jul 07, 2013 12:14 pm

tiltbillings wrote:How do you know who is and is not an arahant?


Good question, and I suspect in practice it's largely a matter of faith. And what about when these various teachers disagree on assumptions and methods, which they often do - who do we believe, and why? It all seems very subjective to me, so I think there's a good case for referring back to the suttas in an attempt to understand the Buddha's "original" teachings.
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby Kusala » Sun Jul 07, 2013 12:18 pm

BlackBird wrote:I'm sorry but that's what the Buddha has said himself and if you want to call it unhealthy, then that's on you. I find it strange that you take issue against something the Buddha has been pretty categorical about. To do so really means that you value your own intellect and views as much as you do his, for if it were not so, you could not take that position given what he has said about the perfection of his expounding of the Dhamma, of his abilities as a teacher and of the perfection of the Dhamma itself.

You say that parts of the tipitaka have been proven wrong. Well I'm not sure which parts you refer to, but I only take the Nikaya's to be authoratitive, and to me, nothing in them has been proven wrong, they can be trusted from cover to cover.

It's one of those rare things that is quite black and white. I have faith that the Buddha was telling the truth when he said he was perfectly enlightened and the uncomparible teacher of gods and mankind and that the Dhamma was well expounded by the Blessed One, but I guess not everyone shares that faith.

I get that some people just aren't ready to accept that the Buddha's perfect and you and I are not, but there does have to come a time... Or else, as I said, you either start treading water, or you fall off the path altogether <- I have done both, several times, and I have seen the error of my ways - So I speak from experience on this one. Eventually one must put the Buddha above ones own intellect, we are after all, ignorant and deluded as to the real nature of existence.

Finally, Kim, having this view that the Buddha is supreme doesn't close off anything. My reading is as diverse as ever, and I am learning new things every day. I take mundane knowledge where I find it, and that's fine. I read a book on I ching the other day, it was good, I was reading passages from the bible the other week, and it was alright. But there's a point you arrive at where you're like - Okay - This is mundane truth, but what I'm seeking is supermundane truth, and so mundane truth has it's place, but it's not within the scope of the Buddha Dhamma. The Buddha Dhamma is exalted!

And yes, it is Buddhism-as-religion. If you've read the suttas it's hard to get the impression the Buddha wanted it any other way. If you want to be secular, and mix and match religious ideas that's fine, it's your life, but don't call mine unhealthy, because the Buddha would speak in praise of it. He was quite categorically in favour of saddha.

What is Saddha?

faith, confidence.

A Buddhist is said to have faith if "he believes in the Perfect One's (the Buddha's) Enlightenment" (M 53; A.V, 2)

Seemingly one would struggle to think of the Buddha as perfectly enlightened (or as the Perfect One for that matter) if they did not hold that he has primacy over all other teachers. Could one really be said to have faith at all?

It's funny, I sort of get the feeling that practising the Buddha's teachings the way the Buddha intended is something that's a little bit under fire here.

:anjali:


A healthy dose of skepticism is perfectly fine IMO. After all, we have the Kalama Sutta. That's the beauty of the Dhamma. It's all encompassing...
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby reflection » Sun Jul 07, 2013 12:41 pm

BlackBird wrote:Nobody said anything about blind faith reflection. My faith is reasoned in the application of the Suttas to my daily life, my bhavana and the wisdom that has arisen from it. Having faith in the Nikayas does not thereby equal faith in some idea about Mt. Meru. Furthermore you cannot say on good authority that there is anything near scholarly consensus that the first four nikayas have anything in them that could be considered a later addition.

Bit of projection being done here, and it's unwarranted.

I'm sorry if I offended you, but if anything the projection will be on your side as well, because I didn't intent to say your faith is not based on anything.

But saying that something can be trusted from cover to cover is not something you can reasonably base on practice or wisdom. Even an arahant has no special power to say certain texts are original teachings or not. Sure, you may say, this part is in accordance with my understanding, but that is no proof of their origin. And also there will be things you will never be able to proof, for example because they were insights attributed only to the Buddha.

So how I defined "blind faith" is not that it is not "blind" as in that it is not based on any practice. It has nothing to do with that. But blind as in trusting them to be an original account, even if there are external signs pointing the other way, which I assumed you were doing when I read "they can be trusted from cover to cover.".

Even within the different Pali versions there are differences in the first four nikayas. So there is no need for a consensus here, because I suppose you can just check it. Admittedly those differences are small, but so to say the four nikayas have no later additions/alterations is already false by just that there is no one version of them.

Comparing it to other accounts, shows more differences. And there is no reason some of those other versions are less reliable than the Pali canon. So either way, if you think the Pali version is somehow a perfect account, that is something you can only take on blind faith. Not saying it is stupid or it will stray you away from good practice, but saying that if we want to know the most original accounts we have to acknowledge it may all not be in just one collection.

Of course, it takes another step to assume what is in the suttas is actually what the Buddha (and his first disciples) said. Would they have spoken in such a repetitive way or is that added later to be able to remember the texts?.. Did those who composed the accounts remember it correctly?.. But I won't go further into that now.

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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby BlackBird » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:03 pm

I''m going to assume reflection that you know all about the suttas were passed down from generation to generation: The oral tradition is extremely reliable. It is so reliable that we can be almost sure that much of what is presented to us in the first four nikayas is in fact what took place during that time, if not all of it. A multitude of different groups of monks dispersed to all sections of the country, and then to other countries altogether, they did not meet to recheck the consistency of their suttas. There they recited the suttas in isolation from one another, over centuries, and yet they all ended up so incredibly similar that the finished products were virtually indistinguishable. Given the size of the tipitaka, this is quite incredible, and speaks volumes about the accuracy of the method. The minor difference presented between the Singhalese and Burmese versions are as you quite rightly state small. So small that I would figure them to be immaterial when it comes to the discussion topic at hand. The Chinese Agamas make for an interesting comparison also: They contain 4 nikayas that are roughly the same in length as their pali equivalent. From what I've read of them so far generally speaking the Dhamma contained within is the same as the pali versions.

If you go to this site called suttacentral, you will see that virtually all of the suttas presented in the Agamas and also in the Tibetan, Sanskrit canons and the Gandharan texts most have parallels found in the Pali sutta pitaka. I have investigated all of the ones with English translation that do not have parallel suttas in the PT, and nothing found within was of a heretical nature, it all tied in quite nicely with the flavour of Dhamma to which I am familiar. To me this says it all.

http://www.suttacentral.net/


You didn't offend me btw, and I am sorry if I was projecting, it just seemed as though you were responding to my post.

Btw I will try and hunt out a piece of writing I read on the reliability of the pali suttas and how we can trust the oral tradition to have given us a very accurate picture of what the Buddha actually said.

As for the Kalama sutta Kusala, you must remember the context in which it was given: The Kalama sutta was spoken to a bunch of people that had had many different teachers come through their village all proclaiming to know the right truth, and had destroyed the faith the Kalamas had in their previous teachers, one after another. They had been bombarded by holy men all preaching a different doctrine, whilst claiming the other teachers knew nothing. They had become very disenchanted with samanas who were passing through, so the Buddha gave them a teaching tailored to their needs that would allow them to eventually find faith in his teachings, he did not speak to many other groups the way he spoke to the Kalamas and this can be seen by the fact that the words used in the sutta are not widely repeated throughout the Sutta Pitaka.

All the same, there are people today who are in the Kalamas position, and the advice to them is as good to some modern people (particularly those arriving at Buddhism who have become disenchanted with other religions) as it was to the Kalamas. But those that think the Kalama sutta is a carte blanche for skepticism of his teachings have made an incorrect interpretation of the sutta. It is meant that one first apply the teaching to one's own life and see their veracity before taking faith, but it is not a blank cheque to not have faith. Some faith is necessary beyond a certain point.

with metta
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Last edited by BlackBird on Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:30 pm, edited 3 times in total.
"And so, because this Teaching is so different from what Westerners are accustomed to, they will try to adapt the Teaching to their own framework. What they need to learn to do is not to adapt the Teaching to their own point of view but to adapt their own point of view to the Teaching. This is called saddhá, or faith, and it means giving oneself to the Teaching even if the Teaching is contrary to one’s own preconceived notions of the way things are."- Ven Bodhesako

Nanavira Thera's teachings - An existential approach to the Dhamma | Ven. Bodhesako's essay on anicca
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby Mr Man » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:13 pm

Has anyone tried putting "Indisputable authority" into Wikipedia?
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:25 pm

The Tathāgata of the Nikāyas as Ācārya is sufficient for me.
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby clw_uk » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:25 pm

Thanks for the replies, lots to think about :)
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby BlackBird » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:25 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:The Tathāgata of the Nikāyas as Ācārya is sufficient for me.


Sadhu!
"And so, because this Teaching is so different from what Westerners are accustomed to, they will try to adapt the Teaching to their own framework. What they need to learn to do is not to adapt the Teaching to their own point of view but to adapt their own point of view to the Teaching. This is called saddhá, or faith, and it means giving oneself to the Teaching even if the Teaching is contrary to one’s own preconceived notions of the way things are."- Ven Bodhesako

Nanavira Thera's teachings - An existential approach to the Dhamma | Ven. Bodhesako's essay on anicca
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby reflection » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:37 pm

BlackBird wrote:I''m going to assume reflection...

Hi,

My nitpicking was to show how the basic assumption is false; that things must be an accurate account, that things must have been left unaltered. Because the same reasoning can be applied to comparing bigger differences with other accounts, for which I see no reason to assume they would not have be transmitted with attention to detail as well. There is no way we are ever going to prove which was the most original version, if we can even speak of such a thing. But if -for example- two accounts contradict the third, it's reasonable that on that matter, the third is not representing the original.

I won't argue it further because it is drifting off topic. If you are interested, I suggest to take a look at works like "A history of mindfulness" that shows that such issues are not insignificant matters, but can apply to core suttas such as the satipatthana accounts.

Either way, also from a practical point of view I find not holding to much to the suttas is useful because it can make you rethink things, or not hold them too tightly.

Metta,
:anjali:
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby Mr Man » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:43 pm

ancientbuddhism wrote:The Tathāgata of the Nikāyas as Ācārya is sufficient for me.


So you have had no need of contemporary teachers?
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby BlackBird » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:46 pm

reflection wrote:I suggest to take a look at works like "A history of mindfulness" that shows that such issues are not insignificant matters, but can apply to core suttas such as the satipatthana accounts.

Metta,
:anjali:


I have looked at it, rather thoroughly, and I happen to think Ven. Sujato is a 2nd rate scholar at best, but it makes for an interesting read nonetheless. (Don't want anyone to think I don't like Ven. Sujato though, I like his writings and he's a good yogi).
"And so, because this Teaching is so different from what Westerners are accustomed to, they will try to adapt the Teaching to their own framework. What they need to learn to do is not to adapt the Teaching to their own point of view but to adapt their own point of view to the Teaching. This is called saddhá, or faith, and it means giving oneself to the Teaching even if the Teaching is contrary to one’s own preconceived notions of the way things are."- Ven Bodhesako

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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Jul 07, 2013 1:58 pm

Mr Man wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:The Tathāgata of the Nikāyas as Ācārya is sufficient for me.

So you have had no need of contemporary teachers?


Sure, they're useful, but none of them seem to agree, so it's all a bit hit and miss really. Though if a contemporary teacher said to me: "Don't read the suttas, just take my word for it", then I wouldn't touch them with a bargepole.
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby Spiny Norman » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:06 pm

Kusala wrote:A healthy dose of skepticism is perfectly fine IMO.


I agree, but I think healthy skepticism should also be applied to the ideas of contemporary teachers. I think this is important, because people are naturally drawn to teachers who share their own assumptions, and this can lead to a kind of group-think, with everyone thinking the same way.
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby Mr Man » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:28 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
Mr Man wrote:
ancientbuddhism wrote:The Tathāgata of the Nikāyas as Ācārya is sufficient for me.

So you have had no need of contemporary teachers?


Sure, they're useful, but none of them seem to agree, so it's all a bit hit and miss really. Though if a contemporary teacher said to me: "Don't read the suttas, just take my word for it", then I wouldn't touch them with a bargepole.


And there is also no consensus on the meaning of the sutta. It is always interpretation. We could see "The Tathāgata of the Nikāyas as Ācārya is sufficient for me" as meaning "my understanding of the Tathāgata of the Nikāyas" is correct. As I see it the teaching of the Buddha and of contemporary teaches is there for reflection and is "Paccattam Veditabbo Vinnuhi" to be comprehended individually by the wise.
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby BlackBird » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:37 pm

I've honestly been a bit dismayed by what seems to me to be a creeping secularism in these forums of late. Not saying people have to have faith in the Buddha and that they have to think he was speaking the truth, but I don't think that view point should be seen as unhealthy, especially when the Buddha has spoken in praise of it. But there we are presented with the problem - People just don't seem to give the Buddha the primacy I think he deserves, and if you don't put him above others, then you don't have to accept a word of what he says.

But the whole concept of a putting contemporary teachers at a value equal to or above the Buddha himself seems a bit ironic to me, considering he's the one that expounded Dhamma in the first place, and none of us would be here doing this if it wasn't for him.

I've been getting a bit too involved in these discussions of late, a bit too much for everyone's liking, and a bit too much for my own liking but I feel if someone isn't going to thresh out the traditional Buddhist view it'll just be a sea of this Buddhism-as-secular-scientific-experiment and I worry that that view might be adopted by newcomers who think that it is the right way of going about things. At the very least for them to see there is an alternative to secular-buddhistic-humanism seems prudent.

The alternative is to see that there was a Buddha who was fully enlightened, the incomparable teacher of gods and mankind, the leader of men to be tamed. The awakened one and exalted one. His teachings are available in the Sutta Pitaka. Make his teachings the yardstick by which you compare all others and you cannot go wrong.

The view expressed by the original poster:
..gain better elaborations from modern ajahans (such as Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho and Ajhan Buddhadasa)


Takes as fact that 'modern ajahns' are enlightened, when such ideas are far from fact, and are merely speculation. Even if they were fact - Arahants are not created equal, and the Buddha was the first in all categories. To say that modern teachers can explain the Dhamma better than the Buddha is not only wrong, it is disrespectful.
Last edited by BlackBird on Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"And so, because this Teaching is so different from what Westerners are accustomed to, they will try to adapt the Teaching to their own framework. What they need to learn to do is not to adapt the Teaching to their own point of view but to adapt their own point of view to the Teaching. This is called saddhá, or faith, and it means giving oneself to the Teaching even if the Teaching is contrary to one’s own preconceived notions of the way things are."- Ven Bodhesako

Nanavira Thera's teachings - An existential approach to the Dhamma | Ven. Bodhesako's essay on anicca
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby nekete » Sun Jul 07, 2013 2:50 pm

This is called buddhism for only one reason: Buddha (Siddartha Gautama).
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby Mr Man » Sun Jul 07, 2013 4:06 pm

BlackBird wrote:I've honestly been a bit dismayed by what seems to me to be a creeping secularism in these forums of late.

I'm not sure if there is a "creeping secularism" in these forums.
Not saying people have to have faith in the Buddha and that they have to think he was speaking the truth, but I don't think that view point should be seen as unhealthy, especially when the Buddha has spoken in praise of it. But there we are presented with the problem - People just don't seem to give the Buddha the primacy I think he deserves, and if you don't put him above others, then you don't have to accept a word of what he says.
I don't agree that people don't give the Buddha the primacy that is deserved
But the whole concept of a putting contemporary teachers at a value equal to or above the Buddha himself seems a bit ironic to me, considering he's the one that expounded Dhamma in the first place, and none of us would be here doing this if it wasn't for him.
I don't think that contemporary teachers are being made equal or placed above the Buddha within our tradition.
I've been getting a bit too involved in these discussions of late, a bit too much for everyone's liking, and a bit too much for my own liking but I feel if someone isn't going to thresh out the traditional Buddhist view it'll just be a sea of this Buddhism-as-secular-scientific-experiment and I worry that that view might be adopted by newcomers who think that it is the right way of going about things. At the very least for them to see there is an alternative to secular-buddhistic-humanism seems prudent.
The traditional Buddhist view? Where is that practiced? Thailand? Sri Lanka? Burma? or is it the property of a handful of righteous caucasions?
The alternative is to see that there was a Buddha who was fully enlightened, the incomparable teacher of gods and mankind, the leader of men to be tamed. The awakened one and exalted one.

That doesn't have to be an alternative.
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby ancientbuddhism » Sun Jul 07, 2013 8:40 pm

Mr Man wrote:So you have had no need of contemporary teachers?


There are kalyāṇamitta I have met over the years.

Mr Man wrote:And there is also no consensus on the meaning of the sutta. It is always interpretation.


There is consensus throughout the Nikāyas, consider Saṃyutta Nikāya where the doctrinal themes are nicely grouped. In my years of studying the Pāḷi Nikāyas I have found the central themes of contemplative work and reflexive analysis remarkably in agreement.

Mr Man wrote:As I see it the teaching of the Buddha and of contemporary teaches is there for reflection and is "Paccattam Veditabbo Vinnuhi" to be comprehended individually by the wise.


Some are wise, some are not. All pale in comparison to the Sublime One.
Katamo ca bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo: samatho ca vipassanā ca. Ayaṃ vuccati bhikkhave asaṅkhatagāmī maggo.

“And what, bhikkhus, is the path leading to the unconditioned? Calm and insight. This, bhikkhus, is called the path leading to the unconditioned.” SN. 43.2 – Samathavipassanāsuttaṃ

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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby Nyana » Sun Jul 07, 2013 9:58 pm

Kim OHara wrote:In my terms, that presents almost a textbook case of Buddhism-as-religion. It's your choice - always - but I don't like* the way it closes off the opportunities for enriching and developing our knowledge....

* I am saying "I don't like" as if it's merely personal preference but it's a bit stronger and deeper than that, including "I think it is unhelpful".

But to each his own ... which, btw, is another reason for not being too narrow about things :tongue:

In order to not be too narrow about things I think it's worthwhile acknowledging that Buddhism is a religion. It meets the criteria of being a religion. Frederick Ferré, Basic Modern Philosophy of Religion:

    One's religion is ... one's way of valuing most comprehensively and most intensively.

Of course, not everyone's going to agree with that as a definition of religion. Clifford Geertz offers another definition in The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays:

    [A] religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.

Then there's Ninian Smart's analytic model of religion related to seven dimensions: doctrinal, mythological, ethical, ritualistic, experiential, institutional, and material. This model has been applied to Buddhism, for example, by Damien Keown in Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction. Keown says of this approach:

    The attraction of this approach is that it does not reduce religion to any single doctrine or belief, or suggest that all religious believers have one thing in common. The data from different cultures and historical periods shows that generally they do not. Nevertheless, there seems to be a cluster of things which collectively give substance to the phenomenon we call 'religion'.

Kim OHara wrote:I don't like* the way it closes off the opportunities for enriching and developing our knowledge....

I don't think that acknowledging Buddhism as a religion closes off the opportunities for enriching and developing knowledge, either with regard to the main knowledge claims that are ubiquitous across authoritative Buddhist sources, or with regard to the types of knowledge acquired through secular disciplines.
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Re: Why do Buddhists always revert back to siddhartha gautam

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Jul 08, 2013 12:07 am

Nyana wrote:
Kim OHara wrote:In my terms, that presents almost a textbook case of Buddhism-as-religion. It's your choice - always - but I don't like* the way it closes off the opportunities for enriching and developing our knowledge....

* I am saying "I don't like" as if it's merely personal preference but it's a bit stronger and deeper than that, including "I think it is unhelpful".

But to each his own ... which, btw, is another reason for not being too narrow about things :tongue:

In order to not be too narrow about things I think it's worthwhile acknowledging that Buddhism is a religion. It meets the criteria of being a religion. Frederick Ferré, Basic Modern Philosophy of Religion:

    One's religion is ... one's way of valuing most comprehensively and most intensively.

Of course, not everyone's going to agree with that as a definition of religion. Clifford Geertz offers another definition in The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays:

    [A] religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods and motivations in men by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing these conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.

Then there's Ninian Smart's analytic model of religion related to seven dimensions: doctrinal, mythological, ethical, ritualistic, experiential, institutional, and material. This model has been applied to Buddhism, for example, by Damien Keown in Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction. Keown says of this approach:

    The attraction of this approach is that it does not reduce religion to any single doctrine or belief, or suggest that all religious believers have one thing in common. The data from different cultures and historical periods shows that generally they do not. Nevertheless, there seems to be a cluster of things which collectively give substance to the phenomenon we call 'religion'.

Kim OHara wrote:I don't like* the way it closes off the opportunities for enriching and developing our knowledge....

I don't think that acknowledging Buddhism as a religion closes off the opportunities for enriching and developing knowledge, either with regard to the main knowledge claims that are ubiquitous across authoritative Buddhist sources, or with regard to the types of knowledge acquired through secular disciplines.

Hi, Nyana,
Thanks for this ... all true but a bit at cross-purposes with what I was trying to say yesterday. I failed, I guess :embarassed: and I'm actually not all that surprised because I was very tired when I wrote it. I'm still tired but will try again.
I was trying to get at two related points:
(1) Buddhism does not completely align with the Western concept of religion nor with the Western concepts of science or philosophy but sits somewhere between the three.
(2) The typical test of truth in (Western) religion is, "Does this accord with our inerrant sacred text?" whereas the typical test in (Western) science is, "Does this accord with already-established knowledge and, if not, can it be proven by experiment?" That is, the religious approach prioritises authority and a static body of knowledge but the scientific approach prioritises testable, repeatable experience and the increase of knowledge from one generation to the next. (Western) philosophy generally aligns with the scientific model.

What of Buddhism? Buddhism-as-typical-religion is, as I said, Blackbird's approach; Buddhism-as-science is the "secular Buddhist" approach; but I feel that neither of these extremes matches the Tipitaka's own truth test, which I might summarise as "trust me but test what I say", particularly well.

Does that make more sense?

:namaste:
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