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

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

Postby Kasina » Sun Apr 20, 2014 4:45 pm

Aloka wrote:
David N. Snyder wrote: However, in Buddhism I don't think it was ever claimed that the Buddha was divine, son of another divine being, etc.


According to Wikepedia:

In some Mahayana traditions, the Buddha is indeed worshipped as a virtual divinity who is possessed of supernatural qualities and powers. Dr. Guang Xing writes: "The Buddha worshiped by Mahayanist followers is an omnipotent divinity endowed with numerous supernatural attributes and qualities ...[He] is described almost as an omnipotent and almighty godhead."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_in_Buddhism





.


Good thing we weren't talking about Mahayana.
"This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it."


Sn 4.15 PTS: Sn 935-951 "Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself"

"You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go... This is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life..."

Wilbur Mercer in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Aloka » Sun Apr 20, 2014 5:17 pm

Kasina wrote:
Good thing we weren't talking about Mahayana.


For many people,the word "Buddhism" includes all traditions.


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

Postby Kasina » Sun Apr 20, 2014 5:25 pm

Aloka wrote:
Kasina wrote:
Good thing we weren't talking about Mahayana.


For many people,the word "Buddhism" includes all traditions.


:reading:


That's all fine and well, but we're dealing with the Suttas and Theravada.
:anjali:
"This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it."


Sn 4.15 PTS: Sn 935-951 "Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself"

"You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go... This is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life..."

Wilbur Mercer in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby waterchan » Sun Apr 20, 2014 5:28 pm

Kasina wrote:"Of course, brahman, you have affronted me with your personal statement(This is strange. He sounds offended?)...


Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation of the same line goes like this:

Surely, brahmin, your words are prying and intrusive...


It sounds like the Buddha is admonishing Sangarava for being fixated on his psychic powers.

As far as translations are concerned, I think Bhikkhu Bodhi's works are considered the gold standard.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Kasina » Sun Apr 20, 2014 5:53 pm

waterchan wrote:
Kasina wrote:"Of course, brahman, you have affronted me with your personal statement(This is strange. He sounds offended?)...


Bhikkhu Bodhi's translation of the same line goes like this:

Surely, brahmin, your words are prying and intrusive...


It sounds like the Buddha is admonishing Sangarava for being fixated on his psychic powers.

As far as translations are concerned, I think Bhikkhu Bodhi's works are considered the gold standard.


I was actually reading other trans. of this sutta as well because of the very interesting exchange concerning psychic powers.

Whilst reading I noticed that, even though Sangarava himself says he thinks these powers are works of illusion (or magic if you're reading Bodhi) and are only known by the one who experiences them, he full stop turns and asks the Buddha if he has those very same ones. Is he claiming that all others are unauthentic, yet the Buddhas are not? Note, that while the Buddha admonishes him for prying and being obsessive, he doesn't admonish his dismissal of the powers.

Further, reading the first half of the Sutta, we can see that:

When this (Going forth into homelessness is beneficial to oneself and others) was said, Ven. Ananda said to the brahman Sangarava, "Of these two practices, brahman, which appeals to you as the less complicated, the less violent, the more fruitful, & the more rewarding?"

When this was said, the brahman Sangarava said to Ven. Ananda, "Just as with Master Gotama & Master Ananda, I worship them, I praise them [both]."

A second time, Ven. Ananda said to him, "I didn't ask you whom you worship and whom you praise. I ask you, 'Of these two practices, brahman, which appeals to you as the less complicated, the less violent, the more fruitful, & the more rewarding?'"

A second time, the brahman Sangarava said to Ven. Ananda, "Just as with Master Gotama & Master Ananda, I worship them, I praise them [both]."

A third time, Ven. Ananda said to him, "I didn't ask you whom you worship and whom you praise. I ask you, 'Of these two practices, brahman, which appeals to you as the less complicated, the less violent, the more fruitful, & the more rewarding?'"

A third time, the brahman Sangarava said to Ven. Ananda, "Just as with Master Gotama & Master Ananda, I worship them, I praise them [both]."

Then the thought occurred to the Blessed One, "Being asked a legitimate question by Ananda up to the third time, the brahman Sangarava evades it and does not reply to it. Suppose I were to get him out [of this dilemma]."


Now, I am not one to put words into the Buddhas mouth, but it would seem that he then uses the Brahmin's obsession with psychic powers and those skilled in them to open him up to the Dhamma and eventually get him to join the Sangha:

"Aside from Master Gotama, is there another monk who is endowed with these three miracles?"

"Brahman, there are not only one hundred other monks... two... three... four... five hundred other monks: the monks who are endowed with these three miracles are many more than that."

"And, Master Gotama, where do those monks now live?"

"In this very same community of monks."

"Magnificent, Master Gotama! Magnificent! Just as if he were to place upright what was overturned, to reveal what was hidden, to show the way to one who was lost, or to carry a lamp into the dark so that those with eyes could see forms, in the same way has Master Gotama — through many lines of reasoning — made the Dhamma clear. I go to Master Gotama for refuge, to the Dhamma, & to the community of monks. May Master Gotama remember me as a lay follower who has gone for refuge from this day forward, for life."


I'm honestly not sure what to make of this. Ideas?
"This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it."


Sn 4.15 PTS: Sn 935-951 "Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself"

"You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go... This is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life..."

Wilbur Mercer in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Shaswata_Panja » Sun Apr 20, 2014 6:15 pm

"With his mind thus concentrated, purified, & bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, he directs & inclines it to creating a mind-made body. From this body he creates another body, endowed with form, made of the mind, complete in all its parts, not inferior in its faculties. Just as if a man were to draw a reed from its sheath. The thought would occur to him: 'This is the sheath, this is the reed. The sheath is one thing, the reed another, but the reed has been drawn out from the sheath.' Or as if a man were to draw a sword from its scabbard. The thought would occur to him: 'This is the sword, this is the scabbard. The sword is one thing, the scabbard another, but the sword has been drawn out from the scabbard.' Or as if a man were to pull a snake out from its slough. The thought would occur to him: 'This is the snake, this is the slough. The snake is one thing, the slough another, but the snake has been pulled out from the slough.' In the same way — with his mind thus concentrated, purified, & bright, unblemished, free from defects, pliant, malleable, steady, & attained to imperturbability, the monk directs & inclines it to creating a mind-made body. From this body he creates another body, endowed with form, made of the mind, complete in all its parts, not inferior in its faculties. When a disciple of a teacher attains this sort of grand distinction, Lohicca, that is a teacher not worthy of criticism in the world, and if anyone were to criticize this sort of teacher, the criticism would be false, unfactual, unrighteous, & blameworthy.



Definitely the Buddha is making a vague reference to prana and how prana erects the subjective reality for the self in the waking and dreaming states and also in other supernatural states that he is referring to.....A parallel study of the Upanishads and Pali Suttas is always thrilling!!!
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby mikenz66 » Tue Apr 22, 2014 3:35 am

Note the parallel discussion here:
http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=15916

In particular this discussion of Pure Land, etc:
http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f= ... 80#p228431

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

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Apr 22, 2014 2:11 pm

Excellent discussion they are having over there. Thanks for the heads up. :)

It's interesting to see the Mahayana responses, given Mahayana's somewhat different relationship to "the historical Buddha". It wasn't that long ago that most Mahayana practitioners believed the Lotus Sutra recounted the actual words of Siddhartha Gautama. but I think most teachers have since acknowledged that this is not so. And interestingly this did not spell the end of Mahayana -- on the contrary.

I think the group most likely to be put on the defensive by Freelance's videos and essays are the "modernist Pali suttarians". Generally, this group argues that:

-- the Buddha was a rationalist and skeptic/agnostic who rejected supernaturalism.
-- there is a body of "core teachings" which is entirely rational in nature and does not require faith or belief in unverifiable concepts
-- any supernaturalism is a cultural or commentarial add-on. Either it was added by disciples, hagiographers and commentators, or the Buddha may have been referencing existing religious beliefs but only as a teaching method

It's not hard to see that this position depends heavily on the notion of an "historical Buddha". This is the only way to get around what is otherwise an obvious problem of selection bias (i.e. the modernists define the "core teachings" as those which favor their point of view, and automatically assume that anything not favoring their view is an add-on). The argument is premised on the idea that the actual Gautama can be located within the suttas, and that we can characterize his outlook as non-supernaturalist. This concept of the Buddha becomes the basis for deciding which parts of the canon are to be taken seriously, and which should be regarded as inauthentic or of lesser importance.

If it sounds like I'm being dismissive of this perspective, I'm not. I can see the value of it. However, since it does rely heavily on a certain view of the "historical Buddha", it is vulnerable to the deconstruction which Freelance is carrying out in his work. This seems to be a special problem affecting Theravada modernists; it wouldn't be an issue in Western Zen, for instance.

Traditionalists, by contrast, don't have a lot to be bothered about, since their approach to Buddha has all along been religious rather than historical. To be told that Buddha is not a historical figure but a religious one is not really earthshaking news to them; in terms of epistemology, they tend to privilege religious experience over historical method anyway.
Last edited by Lazy_eye on Tue Apr 22, 2014 3:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Kasina » Tue Apr 22, 2014 3:08 pm

I generally don't think the Buddha didn't have supernatural views... However, I have seen in the scriptures that most any of his teachings will relate back to his most important goal- opening the Dhamma eye for those he teaches and allowing others to grasp it. For this topic I absolutely recommend reading/listening to Ven. Nanananda's nibbana sermons found here:

http://www.seeingthroughthenet.net/eng/ ... cat=nn&p=1

Excuse any errors, I'm on my phone.

:anjali:
"This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it."


Sn 4.15 PTS: Sn 935-951 "Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself"

"You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go... This is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life..."

Wilbur Mercer in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby beeblebrox » Tue Apr 22, 2014 3:27 pm

Kasina wrote:I generally don't think the Buddha didn't have supernatural views... However, I have seen in the scriptures that most any of his teachings will relate back to his most important goal- opening the Dhamma eye for those he teaches and allowing others to grasp it. For this topic I absolutely recommend reading/listening to Ven. Nanananda's nibbana sermons found here:

http://www.seeingthroughthenet.net/eng/ ... cat=nn&p=1

Excuse any errors, I'm on my phone.

:anjali:


Hi Kasina,

I think this only confirms what Lazy Eye said in the post just above.

In the Pali Canon, the Buddha is constantly referred to as the teacher of devas and humans; there is a section in Samyutta Nikaya which is devoted entirely to the Buddha's teachings to the devas; there is a lot of references to Mara showing up as a being; and if I'm not mistaken, the Buddha was encouraged to teach by a Brahma. The canon is full of stuff like this.

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

Postby Aloka » Tue Apr 22, 2014 3:42 pm

.
Lazy_eye wrote:Excellent discussion they are having over there. Thanks for the heads up. :)

I had a look at the thread at Dharma Wheel and the video posted there in the OP#1 isn't the one David posted here, its this one:

.



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

Postby Kasina » Tue Apr 22, 2014 4:33 pm

beeblebrox wrote:
Kasina wrote:I generally don't think the Buddha didn't have supernatural views... However, I have seen in the scriptures that most any of his teachings will relate back to his most important goal- opening the Dhamma eye for those he teaches and allowing others to grasp it. For this topic I absolutely recommend reading/listening to Ven. Nanananda's nibbana sermons found here:

http://www.seeingthroughthenet.net/eng/ ... cat=nn&p=1

Excuse any errors, I'm on my phone.

:anjali:


Hi Kasina,

I think this only confirms what Lazy Eye said in the post just above.

In the Pali Canon, the Buddha is constantly referred to as the teacher of devas and humans; there is a section in Samyutta Nikaya which is devoted entirely to the Buddha's teachings to the devas; there is a lot of references to Mara showing up as a being; and if I'm not mistaken, the Buddha was encouraged to teach by a Brahma. The canon is full of stuff like this.

:anjali:


Hi Beeblebrox.

Like I said, these things don't really bother me. Whether they exist or not, the teaching doesn't change. I believe in rebirth, so if there are devas there are devas. No change in my practice either way. This is how I feel though, some people would rather believe they were absolutely skillful means, and dismiss them outright.

Edit: forgot to mention, I am quite aware of the many instances of these things in the suttas, and I'm very familiar with the sutta where Brahma urges the Buddha to teach.

:anjali:
"This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it."


Sn 4.15 PTS: Sn 935-951 "Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself"

"You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go... This is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life..."

Wilbur Mercer in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Apr 22, 2014 4:46 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Traditionalists, by contrast, don't have a lot to be bothered about, since their approach to Buddha has all along been religious rather than historical. To be told that Buddha is not a historical figure but a religious one is not really earthshaking news to them; in terms of epistemology, they tend to privilege religious experience over historical method anyway.


Yes, I agree with that. And also there really are some references in the Pali Canon that really do make the Buddha a historical person, a human being. So it could be argued that any interpretation is 'cherry-picking' so why not use the interpretation that works for you and Ehipassiko, see if it works.
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Kasina » Tue Apr 22, 2014 4:50 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:Traditionalists, by contrast, don't have a lot to be bothered about, since their approach to Buddha has all along been religious rather than historical. To be told that Buddha is not a historical figure but a religious one is not really earthshaking news to them; in terms of epistemology, they tend to privilege religious experience over historical method anyway.


Yes, I agree with that. And also there really are some references in the Pali Canon that really do make the Buddha a historical person, a human being. So it could be argued that any interpretation is 'cherry-picking' so why not use the interpretation that works for you and Ehipassiko, see if it works.


:thumbsup: I agree.
"This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it."


Sn 4.15 PTS: Sn 935-951 "Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself"

"You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go... This is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life..."

Wilbur Mercer in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Apr 22, 2014 5:15 pm

Aloka wrote:.
Lazy_eye wrote:Excellent discussion they are having over there. Thanks for the heads up. :)

I had a look at the thread at Dharma Wheel and the video posted there in the OP#1 isn't the one David posted here, its this one:

.



.


Yes, in this one he talks about the impact of political changes on Buddhist institutions and pratice, and also makes some interesting points about technology. This second issue is one that most of us have seen firsthand, I believe. The internet has radically changed the dialogue because claims that would normally have gone unquestioned in the past can now be challenged almost instantaneously on a discussion forum like this one, for instance.

I had a moment of shock a few years ago when I was browsing through some books by certain well-established teachers and noticed that they were putting forward claims that had been thoroughly debunked on the various internet forums. Freelance is quite right to point out that people just can't get away with that anymore, no matter what robes they wear.

In the latter part of the video he shifts gear and starts discussing Nagarjuna and later Mahayana sects such as Pure Land. (This is what prompted the discussion at the other site). I found this section somewhat weak. It really just adds up to the standard Theravadin critique of Mahayana: Nagarjuna wasn't the Buddha, the Pure Land sutras (along with the rest of the Mahayana canon) are inauthentic, there's no Guan Yin in the Pali Canon, etc. Nothing that I haven't heard already a thousand times over. Most Zen students, for instance, are probably aware that "Transmission of the Lamp" is highly unreliable as an historical record. This doesn't seem to interfere much with its appeal to practitioners. And why should it?
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby Kasina » Tue Apr 22, 2014 5:42 pm

I apologize if this sounds ignorant, but what's the point or goal of these discussions? Are we saying that trying to cut the myth is bad (which I'd say is a mixed blessing at best)? Or that doing that is bad ? Or that teachings aren't good enough/original (many efforts from scholars say otherwise)? This, to me seems futile as long as we can all agree that the goal is nibbana and the means described by the Buddha will get us there.
"This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it."


Sn 4.15 PTS: Sn 935-951 "Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself"

"You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go... This is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life..."

Wilbur Mercer in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
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Re: Confronting what's ancient and what's not (in Buddhism t

Postby beeblebrox » Tue Apr 22, 2014 6:11 pm

Kasina wrote:I apologize if this sounds ignorant, but what's the point or goal of these discussions? Are we saying that trying to cut the myth is bad (which I'd say is a mixed blessing at best)? Or that doing that is bad ? Or that teachings aren't good enough/original (many efforts from scholars say otherwise)? This, to me seems futile as long as we can all agree that the goal is nibbana and the means described by the Buddha will get us there.


Hi Kasina,

I think these discussions are useful in that they help us to see how many different possible interpretations could be made of the teachings; and how they might be actually rooted in ignorance; in what kind of ways; and that when we try to cling to a particular interpretation, how this might lead to some difficulty.

It seems to be in perfect accord with the Buddha's teachings on the dependent origination, and the way that the khandhas actually function.

In Mahayana Buddhism, there is a sutra called the "Sutra of Immeasurable Meanings." (It is included as a part of the "Three-fold Lotus Sutra.") It describes something exactly like this, and it happens with the Buddha's teachings.

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

Postby Kasina » Tue Apr 22, 2014 6:37 pm

beeblebrox wrote:
Kasina wrote:I apologize if this sounds ignorant, but what's the point or goal of these discussions? Are we saying that trying to cut the myth is bad (which I'd say is a mixed blessing at best)? Or that doing that is bad ? Or that teachings aren't good enough/original (many efforts from scholars say otherwise)? This, to me seems futile as long as we can all agree that the goal is nibbana and the means described by the Buddha will get us there.


Hi Kasina,

I think these discussions are useful in that they help us to see how many different possible interpretations could be made of the teachings; and how they might be actually rooted in ignorance; in what kind of ways; and that when we try to cling to a particular interpretation, how this might lead to some difficulty.

It seems to be in perfect accord with the Buddha's teachings on the dependent origination, and the way that the khandhas actually function.

In Mahayana Buddhism, there is a sutra called the "Sutra of Immeasurable Meanings." (It is included as a part of the "Three-fold Lotus Sutra.") It describes something exactly like this, and it happens with the Buddha's teachings.

:anjali:


Yes, I suppose that makes it clearer, thanks.
"This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it."


Sn 4.15 PTS: Sn 935-951 "Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself"

"You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go... This is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life..."

Wilbur Mercer in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
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