Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism today

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Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism today

Postby Freelance ExBuddhist » Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:45 pm

For discussion/debate:

Brand New Ancient Buddhist Philosophy, Part 3
http://youtu.be/-GkMUh1exzo

"How far do the implications go, of this conflict between what's ancient, and what's only apparently ancient?"

"Culture is not static. Culture doesn't exist as a statue in a museum... culture only exists and persists when people actively reproduce it, when people are making it new, again and again."

"[On the one hand, the ancient Pali texts very clearly say that Buddhist monks who had attained nirvana could fly through the air like Superman, but,] nobody wants to teach a version of Buddhism that says 2,000 years ago, monks could fly, but, today, people have lost the art, nobody is meditating [properly], nobody is attaining nirvana [anymore]."
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Freelance ExBuddhist » Mon Apr 07, 2014 12:50 pm

[Circa 16 min, 30 seconds:]
"The third possibility, for me, is also not viable, I do not think the future of this religion can be a lie, in which people pretend that those texts don't exist, that Buddhism never was built on this type of supernatural claim..."

[...]

"...if you're going to draw people into the religion on a false premise, on the promise of a scientific and rational Buddhism, then you are going to lose those people, the minute they find out you've been lying to them..."
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby pulga » Mon Apr 07, 2014 3:07 pm

If one takes a phenomenological approach the worldview -- i.e. the life-world -- of an Indian in the Buddha's day has no significant relevance to the central teachings of the Buddha. Any worldview -- modern or ancient -- fits into the categories of the five aggregates, with mundane right view being that worldview most conducive to the realization of noble right view, the forerunner of the noble eightfold path. Be it noted that mundane right view needs to be modified through the recognition of its contingency at the inception of the noble eightfold path with the abandoning of the misapprehension of virtue and vows, cf. the simile of the raft.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby lyndon taylor » Mon Apr 07, 2014 3:31 pm

Actually there are a lot of people pretending that the supernatural elements of Buddhism don't exist.

I have to agree with you that the Buddha's teachings are to some extent a product of the time and location he existed in, I daresay a Buddha living in palestine in 30Ad might have quite a different way of teaching, likewise a buddha living in San Francisco in the 60s. The Dhamma itself is timeless, but we only have a window on the Dhamma filtered through the time and culture of the Buddha, obviously a lot of concepts important to the people of the Buddha's time are not important to people today, and vice versa......
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Jetavan » Mon Apr 07, 2014 3:48 pm

Freelance ExBuddhist wrote:"[On the one hand, the ancient Pali texts very clearly say that Buddhist monks who had attained nirvana could fly through the air like Superman, but,]
This could be a reference to the phenomenon of levitation, which many meditators/contemplatives, of all sorts of traditions and non-traditions, Abrahamic to Dharmic, have claimed have happened to them, or which many have claimed to have witnessed other persons experience; and these claims continue into the modern period.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Mon Apr 07, 2014 5:07 pm

What tradition of Buddhism are you referring to?
Does this 'flying' belief appear as a stated fact in all Buddhist traditions?
Have you come across this claim as a general fact across the board, or are you cherry-picking the information from one specific tradition's writings?

You seem to have a habit on focusing on one piece of the jigsaw puzzle, without referring to the cardboard cover for the broader picture....

Just saying....
:namaste:

You will not be punished FOR your 'emotions'; you will be punished BY your 'emotions'.



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‘Absit invidia verbo’ - may ill-will be absent from the word. And mindful of that, if I don't respond, this may be why....
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Apr 07, 2014 5:23 pm

Sure, there is Christian-apologetics, Jewish-apologetics, Muslim apologetics, and Buddhist apologetics.

The difference with Buddhism is that those supernatural things are not the essential teachings. For example, you have to have the resurrection of the flesh in Christianity; otherwise it pretty much isn't Christianity anymore without that. But you don't need those things in Buddhism for learning about dukkha and they way out of dukkha, i.e., The Four Noble Truths.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Mon Apr 07, 2014 5:31 pm

The thing I have found most logical about Buddhism is that if it doesn't make sense, then question it further; because if it doesn't help you in your practice, then leaving it aside is acceptable.

Always ask yourself: How does this help me be a better Buddhist?

if it doesn't, then forget it. Move on to what does, that's a far better course of action.
If others wish to stick to those principles, then bully for them, good luck with that, sincerely.

I like peanut butter on my bread. You want to go spreading jam on it, feel free. but I just like it plain, no-nonsense and as it is. Thanks!
:namaste:

You will not be punished FOR your 'emotions'; you will be punished BY your 'emotions'.



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‘Absit invidia verbo’ - may ill-will be absent from the word. And mindful of that, if I don't respond, this may be why....
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Apr 08, 2014 5:28 am

Just a quick observation: the funky, supernatural stuff offers some clues about how Buddhism views the relationship between mind and matter. A very useful essay I found awhile back on this subject is Peter Harvey's "The mind-body relationship in Pali Buddhism: A philosophical investigation". It is online here.

Harvey writes:

In the Buddhist view, the mind purified, calmed and tuned by meditative concentration has great transformative power over matter, and that the physical world is not as stable as is normally seen. Its transformation is not seen as 'miraculous' or super-natural, though, just super-normal. It is done in a law-like way by drawing on the power of the meditative mind.


Along similar lines, in Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda's book "What Buddhists Believe," we come across the following:

The relation of mind to matter is like the relation of a battery to an engine of a motor car. The battery helps to start the engine. The engine helps to charge the battery. The combination helps to run the motor car. In the same manner, matter helps the mind to function and the mind helps to set matter in motion.


And then of course there is the opening of the Dhammapada, which (depending on how you interpret it) could be read as declaring the primacy of Mind over all phenomena.

I think the above examples show that while "supernatural elements" may not be central to the Buddhist teachings, they are not irrelevant either. It seems clear that the Buddha did not espouse ontological materialism. If, in fact, mind precedes matter, then things like telepathy or walking through walls can't be ruled out (even if one hasn't seen any examples of this).

Meanwhile, ontological materialism would not only rule out walking through walls and psychic powers (maybe not so central to Buddhism), but the doctrine of rebirth (generally considered pretty central). I think what we have to accept is that Buddhism is based on a paradigm which differs in some important respects from the modern, Western blend of naturalism and materialism. People who come to Buddhism expecting it to be the "skeptical religion" are going to run into various problems.

Hope you find Harvey's essay helpful...back to lurking...
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Aloka » Tue Apr 08, 2014 6:40 am

Hi FreelanceEB,

I had a quick look at your video.

Some Buddhists, myself included, set aside the supernatural and superstitious in order to practice the core teachings of the Buddha such as the 4NT.

A similar approach is also mentioned by some Buddhist teachers/monks. Two example for you :

Buddhadhasa Bhikkku:

The third fetter is Superstition (Silabbatapraramasa) or attachment to rules and rituals based on a misunderstanding
of their real purpose. Essentially it is a misguided attachment to certain things one does. Usually it has to do with doctrines and ceremonies. An example of this is belief in magic and magical practices, which is blatantly just superstition and occurs even among Buddhists. Practice based on the belief that it will produce magical abilities, psychic powers and protective forces is founded on false hopes and is irrational

Another example is the undertaking of moral precepts (Five Precepts, etc.) or virtuous conduct. The real purpose of this is to eliminate mental defilements; but if we believe that it will give rise to miraculous powers which we shall then be able to use to eradicate the defilements, we are in fact grasping and clinging, and so defeating our original purpose. The practice is quite correct in itself, but if we misunderstand it and cling to it irrationally, regarding it as something magical or sacred, then it becomes pure superstition. Even taking upon oneself the moral precepts, if done in the belief that it will lead to rebirth as a celestial being, is without a doubt an example of attachment to rules and rituals and goes contrary to Buddhist aims. Such beliefs contaminate otherwise virtuous conduct.

The objective of the Buddhist discipline is the elimination of the cruder defilements of body and speech as a foundation for the progressive development of concentration and insight. The objective is not rebirth in heaven. To have such false motives is to soil and contaminate one's own morals with grasping and clinging, with false ideas. Charity, or adherence to moral precepts, or meditation practice, if carried out with a mistaken idea of their true objective. inevitably will stray from the Buddhist path. Do understand that even Buddhist practice associated with misunderstanding because craving has come in and taken over, bringing the expectation of mystical powers, becomes superstition instead.

http://www.buddhanet.net/budasa12.htm


and from Karma Yeshe Rabgye a western Tibetan Buddhist monk:


Buddha and Superstitions

People, for centuries, have been indulging in superstitions, lucky charms, omens, divinations and fortune-telling. They have used these things to help them make decisions and keep them from taking responsibility for their own actions. In some cultures they are still placing a lot of importance on such things. However, if you look carefully you can see these things stem from ignorance and fear. They certainly are not a reliable way to help you navigate through life.

In Buddha‘s day you could put superstitions and omens down to a lack of education, but I am not sure what the reasoning is behind it in today’s society. You still see people touching wood or keeping their fingers crossed to bring them good luck. Others wear a rabbit’s foot for good luck – though I think it is not very lucky for the rabbit. They don’t put new shoes on a table, walk under ladders or put umbrellas up in the house just in case it brings them bad luck. People become visibly scared if they break a mirror or spill salt, and don’t lets even mention Friday 13th.

In the Tibetan culture it is inauspicious to start a journey on Saturdays. So people pack their things on Friday and leave the house as though they are starting their journey. But in fact they only take their bag to a friend’s house and then return to their own home. On Saturday they walk out of their home and collect their bag and then start their journey. This way they believe they have tricked the superstition. So it is clear that such thinking only creates a vicious circle where superstitions are used to cheat other superstitions.

continued: http://buddhismguide.org/buddha-and-superstitions/


Kind regards,

Aloka
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Freelance ExBuddhist » Wed Apr 09, 2014 3:14 am

"...if you're going to draw people into the religion on a false premise, on the promise of a scientific and rational Buddhism, then you are going to lose those people, the minute they find out you've been lying to them..."

http://youtu.be/-GkMUh1exzo

I do not believe the future of the religion should be a lie.

I also do not believe the history of the religion should be a lie.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby lyndon taylor » Wed Apr 09, 2014 4:19 am

It seems many peoples defintion of a lie is something they can't believe a la Kalama sutta, etc.

I've heard people on this forum assert the Buddha told "lies" about rebirth being true, just to make his teaching more accessible to the people. LIkewise with devas, spirits and other supernatural creatures.
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Spiny Norman » Wed Apr 09, 2014 12:30 pm

lyndon taylor wrote:I've heard people on this forum assert the Buddha told "lies" about rebirth being true, just to make his teaching more accessible to the people. .


It's possible the Buddha taught rebirth as skillful means, though it does seem to rest on the rather patronising assumption that his contemporaries were unsophisticated in their views and understanding.
Well, oi dunno...
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby lyndon taylor » Wed Apr 09, 2014 12:47 pm

lies=skillful means???????
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community that has so generously given me so much, sincerely former monk John
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby culaavuso » Wed Apr 09, 2014 4:54 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:It's possible the Buddha taught rebirth as skillful means, though it does seem to rest on the rather patronising assumption that his contemporaries were unsophisticated in their views and understanding.


The suttas say that abstaining from lying is part of the definition of right speech, and lying is part of the definition of wrong speech.

SN 45.8: Magga-vibhanga Sutta wrote:And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, abstaining from idle chatter: This, monks, is called right speech.

MN 117: Maha-cattarisaka Sutta wrote:And what is wrong speech? Lying, divisive tale-bearing, abusive speech, & idle chatter. This is wrong speech.


They also say that arahants continue to practice the eightfold path (plus two additional factors to make it a tenfold path).

MN 117: Maha-cattarisaka Sutta wrote:In one of right view, right resolve comes into being. In one of right resolve, right speech comes into being. In one of right speech, right action... In one of right action, right livelihood... In one of right livelihood, right effort... In one of right effort, right mindfulness... In one of right mindfulness, right concentration... In one of right concentration, right knowledge... In one of right knowledge, right release comes into being. Thus the learner is endowed with eight factors, and the arahant with ten.


They also directly state that the Buddha is an arahant.

SN 22.58: Buddha Sutta wrote:The Blessed One said, "The Tathagata — the worthy one (arahant), the rightly self-awakened one — is the one who gives rise to the path (previously) unarisen, who engenders the path (previously) unengendered, who points out the path (previously) not pointed out. He knows the path, is expert in the path, is adept at the path. And his disciples now keep following the path and afterwards become endowed with the path.


The Buddha's instructions to Rahula also take a dim view of lying.

MN 61: Ambalatthika-rahulovada Sutta wrote:Rahula, whatever there is of a contemplative in anyone who feels no shame at telling a deliberate lie is tossed away just like that.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby santa100 » Wed Apr 09, 2014 6:55 pm

+1. Also just want to add MN 58 which explains what kind of speech He would and would not utter:
MN 58 wrote:[1] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial (or: not connected with the goal), unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[2] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, unendearing & disagreeable to others, he does not say them.

[3] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, but unendearing & disagreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them.

[4] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be unfactual, untrue, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[5] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, unbeneficial, but endearing & agreeable to others, he does not say them.

[6] In the case of words that the Tathagata knows to be factual, true, beneficial, and endearing & agreeable to others, he has a sense of the proper time for saying them. Why is that? Because the Tathagata has sympathy for living beings."
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Apr 09, 2014 8:11 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:It's possible the Buddha taught rebirth as skillful means...


I think it depends on what we take to be the goal of the path.

If the goal is eradication of desires, an end to mental fermentations, "nothing further for this world" and so on, I have trouble seeing how this makes sense unless rebirth is the foundational premise.

It also depends on what we take to be the actual practice. If it's a relaxed kind of thing, a simple process of "letting go", not being so driven by craving, appreciating flowers and children and the value of washing dishes -- well, that makes sense in a secular humanist context. But from what I gather, Theravada Buddhism is actually a lot more intense and hardcore than that. It's a systematic program meant to uproot all desires and emotional attachments. Does that really make sense in a one-lifetime context? Actually, psychopaths are said to be lacking in emotional response, and schizophrenics have a weak sense of self: does that mean they are enlightened? So the Buddhist program as a kind of secular philosophy or therapy is problematic.

Note: I'm not a believer in rebirth myself, or a genuine Buddhist -- just someone with an interest in religion/spirituality. (I felt the need to say this because people often assume that if you see rebirth as important to Buddhist doctrine, you must be a believer).
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby culaavuso » Wed Apr 09, 2014 8:15 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:I think it depends on what we take to be the goal of the path.


SN 22.86: Anuradha Sutta wrote:Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.


SN 56.31: Simsapa Sutta wrote:In the same way, monks, those things that I have known with direct knowledge but have not taught are far more numerous [than what I have taught]. And why haven't I taught them? Because they are not connected with the goal, do not relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. That is why I have not taught them.


Lazy_eye wrote:It's a systematic program meant to uproot all desires and emotional attachments. Does that really make sense in a one-lifetime context?


DN 22: Maha-satipatthana Sutta wrote:If anyone would develop these four frames of reference in this way for seven days, one of two fruits can be expected for him: either gnosis right here & now, or — if there be any remnant of clinging-sustenance — non-return.


The caveat being that sustaining the practice described for seven days is not trivial.

Lazy_eye wrote:Actually, psychopaths are said to be lacking in emotional response, and schizophrenics have a weak sense of self: does that mean they are enlightened?

Lacking emotional response would seem to be distinct from cultivated equanimity and good will, which are among the ten perfections. A weak sense of self would seem to be distinct from wisdom or discernment, also among the ten perfections.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Apr 09, 2014 8:21 pm

culaavuso wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:I think it depends on what we take to be the goal of the path.


SN 22.86: Anuradha Sutta wrote:Both formerly & now, it is only stress that I describe, and the cessation of stress.


SN 56.31: Simsapa Sutta wrote:In the same way, monks, those things that I have known with direct knowledge but have not taught are far more numerous [than what I have taught]. And why haven't I taught them? Because they are not connected with the goal, do not relate to the rudiments of the holy life, and do not lead to disenchantment, to dispassion, to cessation, to calm, to direct knowledge, to self-awakening, to Unbinding. That is why I have not taught them.


Lazy_eye wrote:It's a systematic program meant to uproot all desires and emotional attachments. Does that really make sense in a one-lifetime context?


DN 22: Maha-satipatthana Sutta wrote:If anyone would develop these four frames of reference in this way for seven days, one of two fruits can be expected for him: either gnosis right here & now, or — if there be any remnant of clinging-sustenance — non-return.


The caveat being that sustaining the practice described for seven days is not trivial.


So the goal is gnosis (knowledge)?
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby culaavuso » Wed Apr 09, 2014 8:26 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:So the goal is gnosis (knowledge)?


The quotes seem to suggest that the goal is Unbinding, which implies the cessation of stress. Gnosis would thus be a critical condition for realizing the goal.
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