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

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

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

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Apr 16, 2014 5:52 pm

Well, from what I can see, one reason this thread is so diffuse is that the OP presented such a large topic, containing several sub-topics each of which is deserving of its own thread. Where do we start? The relationship between mind and matter? The correct understanding of no-self? Anapanasati really about farting, not breathing? The failings of Bhikkhu Bodhi as a translator and interpreter? The errors of Richard Gombrich? Buddhism as a practice for eremites? The plot by Westerners to conceal the supernatural elements and make it palatable to secular people? The errors of Schopenhauer? Theosophy?

It's just too much to tackle at one swoop. Maybe if the OP would start some more narrowly-focused threads, we could engage his points one at a time. As it is now, he's presented a sort of overarching indictment, but it's hard to know how valid that indictment is without looking at the specific claims.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Wed Apr 16, 2014 6:01 pm

Well, perhaps we could begin a thread for each topic you have listed.

After all, we have so little to discuss here.....! :guns:

:namaste:
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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 binocular » Wed Apr 16, 2014 6:14 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:
Thanissaro wrote:It also closes off two groups of people who would otherwise benefit greatly from Dharma practice:

1. Those who see that interconnectedness won't end the problem of suffering and are looking for a more radical cure.
2. Those from disillusioned and disadvantaged sectors of society, who have less invested in the continuation of modern interconnectedness and have abandoned hope for meaningful reform or happiness within the system.


Just a side comment -- it may be worth noting that the second of these criticisms (limited value for the disadvantaged sectors of society) has also been brought against the dhamma of the nikayas. This was one of the reasons why Pure Land arose -- the path outlined in the suttas was seen as excluding a large spectrum of people at the lower socioeconomic ladder, many of whom were dependent on trades such as fishing or hunting. If we're going to evaluate spiritual practices based on their appeal to non-privileged strata of society, Amitabha or Jesus are probably better bets than the Pali Canon.

Many of the Buddha's disciples came from either mercantile or aristocratic backgrounds, as did the Buddha (Prince Gautama) himself. Among the poor, the decision by a family member to abandon social, economic and familial duties and go off to ordain is not taken lightly. So I'm not sure how far this argument of Thanissaro's should be pressed....

I think Thanissaro's point applies for those Westerners from lower socio-economic strata who have an interest in Buddhism, but who find it difficult or impossible to find a place in Western Buddhist groups as those Western Buddhist groups consist mostly of people from the solid middle class and upper class.
In traditionally Buddhist countries, one can be poor and still have an interest in Buddhism, and it works out somehow. In the West, this is not automatically so. Here, one can be poor and Catholic or Protestant. But an interest in more newly imported religions comes at a certain socio-economic cost that subscribing to a religion that is traditional to this geographic area does not. Religions that "come with the territory" seem to generally be more accepting of a wide variety of potential members, in comparison to more newly imported religions.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Apr 16, 2014 7:16 pm

TheNoBSBuddhist wrote:Well, perhaps we could begin a thread for each topic you have listed.

After all, we have so little to discuss here.....! :guns:

:namaste:


I'd like to get this anapanasati thing cleared up. "Breathe, you are alive!" might need a new title if this guy is correct. :twisted:

binocular wrote:I think Thanissaro's point applies for those Westerners from lower socio-economic strata who have an interest in Buddhism, but who find it difficult or impossible to find a place in Western Buddhist groups as those Western Buddhist groups consist mostly of people from the solid middle class and upper class.
In traditionally Buddhist countries, one can be poor and still have an interest in Buddhism, and it works out somehow. In the West, this is not automatically so. Here, one can be poor and Catholic or Protestant. But an interest in more newly imported religions comes at a certain socio-economic cost that subscribing to a religion that is traditional to this geographic area does not. Religions that "come with the territory" seem to generally be more accepting of a wide variety of potential members, in comparison to more newly imported religions.


What would a more inclusive form of Buddhism look like, in your view?

Of the various denominations, Nichiren and Sokka Gakkai seem to have the most diverse followings. At the level of ordinary lay practice, it can be hard to separate Theravada from the traditional culture of the host countries (Burma, Sri Lanka, Thailand). Culture and religion is intermingled in a way that is somewhat exclusive or at least off-putting to outsiders. Within the countries themselves, Buddhism is the state religion and part of the national identity, so naturally it is going to attract a wide variety of followers.

So yes, I get that what Thanissaro calls "Buddhist Romanticism" is geared towards the intelligentsia and the middle class; I just wonder what sort of Western Buddhism wouldn't be.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby SDC » Thu Apr 17, 2014 1:07 am

Freelance, what monk's work have you studied? No, this is not a loaded question where I try to tell you that your work is bullsh*t because you haven't studied the monks that I follow. In fact I will likely not respond at all. I'm just curious.

EDIT - I was going to PM you, but you don't have it enabled.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Freelance ExBuddhist » Sat Apr 19, 2014 5:33 am

Anagarika wrote:...I cannot imagine that the instructions for breath meditation would be inclusive of lower intestinal gasses. [...] But seriously, is the idea that the root term was misapplied in the translations, and that anapana/apana is only correctly used with respect to the abdominal winds?


You should be shocked, Anagarika, and not because I'm telling you the truth, but because so many other people have lied to you.

Here is a typical English translation of one of the Rahulaovada Suttas (i.e., containing the origin of the practice of "breathing meditation" now so commonly bought and sold). The truth is there if you're willing to see it, i.e., without my adding much more than bold and underline to a single word.

QUOTE
[The Buddha:] “What now, Rāhula, is the element of air? The element of
air may be internal, may be external.
“And what, Rāhula, is the internal gaseous element? Whatever pertains
to oneself as an individual, is gaseous, of an airy nature, and a
product of grasping—as for example: ascending and descending flatus
[i.e., the Latin term for flatulence!!!!], the vapours in the abdomen
and bowels, the air passing through the various parts of the body...
This, in accordance with fact and with perfect knowledge, should be
regarded thus: ‘This is not mine; this am I not; this is soulless.,’
Having seen with perfect knowledge that such is the case one becomes
disgusted with the gaseous element, and one’s mind is detached from
the element of air."
CLOSE QUOTE
Translation of Nyanaponika Thera, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka, The Wheel No. 33, 1st ed. 1961

To all of you reading this who have dismissed the importance of textual and philosophical study (in contrast to practice), I say this:
it is not the case that there are two separate paths: one of practice, and one of knowledge. There is just one path, and it is an eightfold path.

"Practice" is not the cure for ignorance; research is the cure for ignorance.

If you have no respect for honest researchers, if there is no support for honest researchers (in contemporary Buddhism) they will cease to exist; and that is, in short, what has happened to me. Any potential I had to conduct research is now in the past tense; my dreams are dead, and you can easily imagine how much better the results of my efforts would have been if I had devoted myself to textual study of almost any other religion, or even ancient Greek. The reward for hard work, in this religion, is simply to be hated and feared by people who know less than you do, and who do not want any challenge to the image of the religion they've formed in their own imagination. You can read the last interview I gave (to a Buddhist magazine in Hong Kong) in which I refer to myself as a Buddhist, before deciding to break with the religion entirely, here: https://medium.com/p/9df3f5f826e4

I say, again, anyone who is trying to sell you "practice without knowledge" is playing a game of the blind leading the blind. If you are yourself boasting of "practice without knowledge", I can say with certainty that the religion you are practicing is neither Theravada nor Buddhist. The religion of the Buddha did not worship pious ignorance, and neither should you.

Please, read the article in full when you have time:
[Title:] So-Called Breathing Meditation
[Subtitle:] A notice on the mistranslation of Ānāpānasati.
[Link:] https://medium.com/p/eaed2e5fbe40

To all of you who find it more convenient to confront me, rather than confronting precisely the issue stated in the title of this group's discussion, ask yourself why your favorite translator (be it Thanissaro, Bodhi, or otherwise) was never honest with you about just this one issue I've pointed out (so-called "breathing meditation") --and then ask yourself how many other issues they may not be honest about.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Apr 19, 2014 8:34 am

Freelance ExBuddhist wrote:[The Buddha:] “What now, Rāhula, is the element of air? The element of
air may be internal, may be external.
“And what, Rāhula, is the internal gaseous element? Whatever pertains
to oneself as an individual, is gaseous, of an airy nature, and a
product of grasping—


Yes, the internal air element includes flatulence - but so what?

The point is that the elements are both internal and external, but still just elements and not to be grasped. And it's nothing to do with anapanasati practice... :redherring:
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Unrul3r » Sat Apr 19, 2014 8:37 am

Freelance ExBuddhist wrote:Here is a typical English translation of one of the Rahulaovada Suttas (i.e., containing the origin of the practice of "breathing meditation" now so commonly bought and sold). The truth is there if you're willing to see it, i.e., without my adding much more than bold and underline to a single word.

QUOTE
[The Buddha:] “What now, Rāhula, is the element of air? The element of
air may be internal, may be external.
“And what, Rāhula, is the internal gaseous element? Whatever pertains
to oneself as an individual, is gaseous, of an airy nature, and a
product of grasping—as for example: ascending and descending flatus
[i.e., the Latin term for flatulence!!!!], the vapours in the abdomen
and bowels, the air passing through the various parts of the body...
This, in accordance with fact and with perfect knowledge, should be
regarded thus: ‘This is not mine; this am I not; this is soulless.,’
Having seen with perfect knowledge that such is the case one becomes
disgusted with the gaseous element, and one’s mind is detached from
the element of air."
CLOSE QUOTE
Translation of Nyanaponika Thera, Buddhist Publication Society, Kandy, Sri Lanka, The Wheel No. 33, 1st ed. 1961


Yes, it's flatus and it seems a translation uddhaṅgamā vātā & adhogamā vātā, which seems to fit. I don't see any ānāpāna reference there though. I can see assāso passāso which are also the words used in ānāpānassati and they seem to clearly imply breathing.

Thai & Burmeses Tipitaka - MN 62 wrote:katamā ca, rāhula, vāyodhātu? vāyodhātu siyā ajjhattikā, siyā bāhirā. katamā ca, rāhula, ajjhattikā vāyodhātu? yaṃ ajjhattaṃ paccattaṃ vāyo vāyogataṃ upādinnaṃ, seyyathidaṃ — uddhaṅgamā vātā, adhogamā vātā, kucchisayā vātā, koṭṭhāsayā vātā, aṅgamaṅgānusārino vātā, assāso passāso, iti yaṃ vā panaññampi kiñci ajjhattaṃ paccattaṃ vāyo vāyogataṃ upādinnaṃ — ayaṃ vuccati, rāhula, ajjhattikā vāyodhātu. yā ceva kho pana ajjhattikā vāyodhātu yā ca bāhirā vāyodhātu vāyodhāturevesā. taṃ ‘netaṃ mama, nesohamasmi, na meso attā’ti — evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya daṭṭhabbaṃ. evametaṃ yathābhūtaṃ sammappaññāya disvā vāyodhātuyā nibbindati, vāyodhātuyā cittaṃ virājeti.


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

Postby daverupa » Sat Apr 19, 2014 2:55 pm

Freelance ExBuddhist wrote:To all of you who find it more convenient to confront me, rather than confronting precisely the issue stated in the title of this group's discussion...


Hey.

Substantive points have been directly engaged previously in this thread, as well, but have thus far been ignored by you. No matter; don't worry about this thread, it's rambling anyway.

Go here, let's have an on-topic discussion, instead of this wonky meta-junk.
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Zom » Sat Apr 19, 2014 4:41 pm

Anapanasati really about farting, not breathing?


"[1] Farting in long, he discerns, 'I am farting in long'; or farting out long, he discerns, 'I am farting out long.' [2] Or farting in short, he discerns, 'I am farting in short'; or farting out short, he discerns, 'I am farting out short.'

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

Postby SDC » Sat Apr 19, 2014 4:43 pm

Freelance ExBuddhist wrote:To all of you who find it more convenient to confront me, rather than confronting precisely the issue stated in the title of this group's discussion...


I don't find it convenient at all. If you would enable your PM's, then those of us with broader questions about this campaign of yours can ask ON THEIR TERMS as opposed to yours ONLY. Or perhaps you would rather control every discussion? So I will ask again: what monk's work have you studied? Simple question. And like I said before, I am merely curious and don't really even care to discuss it. Besides, I couldn't compete with the sheer magnitude of facts you've accumulated.

Remember, you put your work out there - in a very dramatic, provocative fashion on an internet forum where people can freely comment - so don't fret when people have questions. If you can't handle that, then please move along.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Aloka » Sat Apr 19, 2014 5:22 pm

SDC wrote: I don't find it convenient at all. If you would enable your PM's, then those of us with broader questions about this campaign of yours can ask ON THEIR TERMS as opposed to yours ONLY.


Unfortunately the PM systems of website forums can also be an opportunity for the less than friendly or the mentally challenged to launch very unpleasant attacks on people who have different views to their own, as I have sometimes discovered myself on the internet in the past. Indeed I was even once told by a Mahayana person by PM that "bad things are going to happen to you in the future".

........... If you can't handle that, then please move along.


Please lets show some kindness and not over-react. Whatever happened to the practice of the Brahma Viharas ? I've been really saddened by some of the confrontational, off topic,and sometimes just plain nasty responses to this poster both here and in the thread that was closed...and that's not even mentioning the dire attempts at toilet humor.

Give him a break & be patient for goodness sake....

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

Postby fivebells » Sat Apr 19, 2014 5:46 pm

Aloka wrote:Please lets show some kindness and not over-react. Whatever happened to the practice of the Brahma Viharas ? I've been really saddened by some of the confrontational, off topic,and sometimes just plain nasty responses to this poster both here and in the thread that was closed...and that's not even mentioning the dire attempts at toilet humor.


Fortunately, it's possible to have good will for someone without liking them, wanting them around, or humoring their foolishness.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby beeblebrox » Sat Apr 19, 2014 6:00 pm

fivebells wrote:Fortunately, it's possible to have good will for someone without liking them, wanting them around, or humoring their foolishness.


Most of that doesn't seem right to me... the only part that I would agree with is by not humoring them.

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

Postby fivebells » Sat Apr 19, 2014 6:10 pm

beeblebrox wrote:Most of that doesn't seem right to me... the only part that I would agree with is by not humoring them.


Well, here's an example I found yesterday of Maha Boowa expressing his displeasure. There are many others, including by the Buddha himself. Thanissaro has a great series of talks which clarify exactly what do and do not constitute the Brahmaviharas.

"He is clearly aiming for the presidency now. The monarch trampled, the religion trampled, the country trampled, by this savage and atrocious power in a few people in the government circle. That is the circle of ogres, of ghosts, of trolls, of demons, all in there....So even Devadatta saw the harm he caused, and he was rewarded for his good deed. He would attain Buddhahood. For those who have made mistakes, if we see the harm we cause, we can still get by. But what is it with Thailand? What kind of governance?"

"They even dare to accuse Luangta Maha Bua of playing politics. Politics, what dog shit. There’s only shit all over the country. I brought the Buddha’s dharma to cleanse in order for them to repent and recognize good and evil. Because they’re the government. The world flatters them as smart people, but don’t be smart down in a toilet. Don’t be smart about putting a torch to the head of everyone in the country, from Nation, Religion, and Monarchy on down. These guys will get burned unless they recognize the truth. I’m saddened by all this. How does this come about?"
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby beeblebrox » Sat Apr 19, 2014 6:19 pm

fivebells wrote:Well, here's an example I found yesterday of Maha Boowa expressing his displeasure. There are many others, including by the Buddha himself. Thanissaro has a great series of talks which clarify exactly what do and do not constitute the Brahmaviharas.

"He is clearly aiming for the presidency now. The monarch trampled, the religion trampled, the country trampled, by this savage and atrocious power in a few people in the government circle. That is the circle of ogres, of ghosts, of trolls, of demons, all in there....So even Devadatta saw the harm he caused, and he was rewarded for his good deed. He would attain Buddhahood. For those who have made mistakes, if we see the harm we cause, we can still get by. But what is it with Thailand? What kind of governance?"

"They even dare to accuse Luangta Maha Bua of playing politics. Politics, what dog shit. There’s only shit all over the country. I brought the Buddha’s dharma to cleanse in order for them to repent and recognize good and evil. Because they’re the government. The world flatters them as smart people, but don’t be smart down in a toilet. Don’t be smart about putting a torch to the head of everyone in the country, from Nation, Religion, and Monarchy on down. These guys will get burned unless they recognize the truth. I’m saddened by all this. How does this come about?"


Hi Fivebells,

I've never met Ven. Maha Boowa, and I'm sure he was a good teacher... but I hardly think he had any business in talking like that.

I'm not able to listen to any of Ven. Thanissaro's audio talks, unfortunately. I'm deaf.

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

Postby SDC » Sat Apr 19, 2014 7:04 pm

Aloka wrote:
SDC wrote: I don't find it convenient at all. If you would enable your PM's, then those of us with broader questions about this campaign of yours can ask ON THEIR TERMS as opposed to yours ONLY.


Unfortunately the PM systems of website forums can also be an opportunity for the less than friendly or the mentally challenged to launch very unpleasant attacks on people who have different views to their own, as I have sometimes discovered myself on the internet in the past. Indeed I was even once told by a Mahayana person by PM that "bad things are going to happen to you in the future".


Actually, had I been able to ask him through PM we would have ended up having a very pleasant discussion. I was actually looking forward to it until I saw it was disabled.

Aloka wrote:I've been really saddened by some of the confrontational, off topic,and sometimes just plain nasty responses to this poster both here and in the thread that was closed...and that's not even mentioning the dire attempts at toilet humor.


This has nothing to do with me, Aloka. I was curious about his background and had intended to share a few ideas because I happen to AGREE with some of his points. Unfortunately he seems to want it to stay one-sided, but I am doing my best to make it known that I would like to know a few things. Perhaps I was somewhat abrasive, but I was only matching his candor. I KNOW he can handle that.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Anagarika » Sat Apr 19, 2014 7:22 pm

Part of one of my earlier comments was the idea that Freelance reminds me of the brilliant French chef that throws knives at his kitchen staff when they underperform, or the cardiac surgeon that the nurses bristle at due to his hurled invectives, yet his patients all have high recovery rates. I thought it fairly cool that someone that had been in the Pali academic trenches and was offering some of his perspectives. Just as you needn't enjoy French cuisine, you needn't eat at the chef's café, nor do you need to pay attention to the "breath meditation involves flatulence" argument. My wrestling coach in school terrorized me, but he made me a better wrestler. Some of my grad school professors were impossibly difficult, but I still remember the holding of "Pierson v. Post." The point of all of this is that when we have someone weighing in with some really cool stuff, even if we don't agree with it all, it is good to remember the essence of the Brahmaviharas, or even to just be patient, and understanding that some people have enormous IQ and may lack some EQ, and vice versa. We all can be guilty of these imbalances. If Freelance doesn't contribute to DW further, I will regret this.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Lazy_eye » Sat Apr 19, 2014 7:52 pm

Aloka,

I think you brought up an interesting point early on in the thread when you mentioned Buddhadasa. The OP's general thesis, if I understand him correctly, is that what most of us think of as "Theravada Buddhism" is a distorted and sanitized product of inaccurate translation, deliberate obfuscation and misinterpretation, driven by the need to make the dhamma more palatable to Westerners.

How, then, should we see reformists such as Buddhadasa who emerged from within the indigenous tradition in their home countries? Are they, too, guilty of perpetuating a fraud? Why or why not?
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Aloka » Sat Apr 19, 2014 8:55 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Aloka,

I think you brought up an interesting point early on in the thread when you mentioned Buddhadasa. The OP's general thesis, if I understand him correctly, is that what most of us think of as "Theravada Buddhism" is a distorted and sanitized product of inaccurate translation, deliberate obfuscation and misinterpretation, driven by the need to make the dhamma more palatable to Westerners.

How, then, should we see reformists such as Buddhadasa who emerged from within the indigenous tradition in their home countries? Are they, too, guilty of perpetuating a fraud? Why or why not?


Hiya Lazy_eye,

I certainly agree with some of Buddhadasa's views - but that doesn't mean that I have fully investigated, or that I agree with, everything that he taught or was involved in.

Unfortunately I don't know enough about the history and teachings of traditional Buddhism in Thailand to be able to comment fully about the wider context.

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