Buddhism, Religion?

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Kare » Mon Aug 09, 2010 1:29 pm

pilgrim wrote:I'm waiting for this argument to settle down before I ask "Is Buddhism an atheistic religion/non-religion." :stirthepot:


I'd like to recommend two books:

Helmuth von Glasenapp: "Buddhism -- A Non-Theistic Religion"
Gunapala Dharmasiri: "A Buddhist Critique of the Christian Concept of God"

These are both old and may be difficult to find. But they are definitely worth the effort.
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Kare » Mon Aug 09, 2010 1:39 pm

Sobeh wrote:I decided to visit the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on account of this:

"‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God." Simple. Agnosticism is more nuanced, but has to do with the lack of either belief or disbelief. Atheism is thus a metaphysical claim about what exists and does not exist, while agnosticism takes the epistemological position that we don't know yet (or can't know ever - it can be used either way).


We should remember that Western definitions of these terms have a strong underlying Christian bias. The term "God", for instance, in the definition of atheism, should rather be "God or gods", or maybe just "gods". And as for agnostisism, it always seems to be taken for granted that it takes an agnostic position to something very much like a Christian concept of god. A real agnostic should also take an agnostic position to the claim that thunder is due to the god Thor, driving around in the sky with his chariot, chasing trolls. But for some reason or other, I have never heard an agnostic claim agnosticism in that connection ... :stirthepot:

There is a nice set of definitions that goes like this:

A theist is a person who does not think, but believes.
An atheist is a person who does not believe, but thinks.
An agnostic is a person who neither believes nor thinks.

:rofl:
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Mawkish1983 » Mon Aug 09, 2010 1:53 pm

I thought an agnostic was just the opposite of a gnostic... the 'sitting on the fence' idea just came later. Just like how atheist used to be an insult meaning 'godless' or 'heathen'.
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Sobeh » Mon Aug 09, 2010 1:58 pm

Kare wrote:A real agnostic should also take an agnostic position to the claim that thunder is due to the god Thor, driving around in the sky with his chariot, chasing trolls.


The agnostic definition from the encyclopedia I referred to notes that agnosticism is used there only for theistic claims, not meteorological (or other) claims. It has to do with the existence or non-existence of divine beings (more precisely, with the ontology of divine beings). On the agnostic view, evidence for Yahweh is equivalent to evidence for Thor (as well as all other possible deities, of which more are likely forgotten than not). Proof for the cause of thunder, however, has a strong scientific explanation that relies only on verified information, and therefore does not fall under the purview of "agnosticism" as defined here.

It's admirable to remember the Xian foundation of a lot of Western assumptions about philosophy, but that's a sword that cuts both ways as philosophy has impacted Xianity as well. In addition, Xianity itself is reliant on Hebrew thought, and we can go back as far as history goes in this vein (the Tanakh contains much Babylonian thought, for example).

But it doesn't much matter. The idiom "a moot point" now generally means a point not worth discussing, but originally the word "moot" meant something talked about at a meeting, therefore something worth noting. The point is not to get hung up on linguistic history, but to agree on a conventional use of words that facilitates communication. This is what dictionaries and encyclopedias are for.

If you're going to discard the definitions of terms as found in encyclopedias and dictionaries (for example, this one) then we simply cannot communicate.
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Thaibebop » Mon Aug 09, 2010 2:25 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Thaibebop,
Thaibebop wrote:Okay, really? I think you are being (fill in the blank here) now. I was talking about the chanting and bowing to statues yes, generosity is not a trait that solely stems from religion and yes I would say that trying to be nice to people is good training for you. I think though you are just trying to be nasty now with that sentence. What, are you offended now?

Sorry if I offended you. That wasn't my intention, so clearly I'm not communicating very well. I was simply trying to point out that is very difficult to separate some of these things. As I said earlier, my opinion is that veneration for the Buddha can be a very positive thing, yet it's something some people see as "too religious". And practising generosity seems to be an important precursor to any kind of development, which, again, is sometimes viewed as too religious or not sophisticated enough.

Rebirth, is clearly something everyone has their own opinion on. As you say, you don't have to take the Suttas describing rebirth and other things literally, and, whatever your preference, it would probably be a mistake to fixate on a purely literal view.

Mike

I agree with you completely and perhaps it's my fault that we haven't agreed on this before. Being generous is important and I feel that anyone who is making being generous a religious trait is missing the point of being generous. Veneration of the Buddha is an important thing but it seems to me that it is just the beginning, a place to start, and a possible pit fall as an attachment. I do think that veneration of the Buddha is different from believing in rebirth or any other mythical aspect, because I thinking that veneration is a way to help yourself into right mind, right view. Chanting I think would do this as well, but again, I think a person could get attached to the chanting and believe it's doing more then just helping you focus your mind. So, cool, I think we are on the same page. :twothumbsup:
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Thaibebop » Mon Aug 09, 2010 2:28 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
Thaibebop wrote:There is no proof of rebirth.... I think the Buddha talked about rebirth as many of his followers would have understood those references....

Hi Thaibebop,

How do you know that the Buddha didn't understand and teach about rebirth based upon his own direct knowledge of former existences?

All the best,

Geoff

A possibility to be sure, but no proof that he did. Since he stressed practicing to end suffering and focusing on your current actions to do so as more important then any reward or punishment you could receive later, I think it's a waste of time to focus on that possibility. If there is rebirth and you have earned merit, great, if not, you have done wonderful things with the life you have, no loss either way.
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Thaibebop » Mon Aug 09, 2010 2:31 pm

Ben wrote:
Buddhism, Religion?


Does it actually matter?
Just walk the path and these types of questions become irrelevant.

This is where I disagree. I have encountered too many accounts of monks that talk about the dangers of attachment to certain practices that are based solely on myth and superstition and how this takes away from the path.
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Sobeh » Mon Aug 09, 2010 2:33 pm

It is a differentiation between asking if Buddhism is a religion or not, and asking if {this} or {that} is the DhammaVinaya or not. They are wholly different orders of inquiry.
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Thaibebop » Mon Aug 09, 2010 3:06 pm

Sobeh wrote:
Thaibebop wrote:What is disingenuous is believing that Asian cultures can't tell the difference between religion and philosophy.


I said the difference was contextualized with reference to Western history. The word "religion" didn't exist as such prior to the Western explication of it. I never said they couldn't tell the difference, I'm saying that while the difference is here now it wasn't always so.

You did not understand what I wrote.

As to religion generally, you are saying that some adherents are ignoring passages in the scriptures they don't like, but this is at least partly inaccurate. Often such passages receive one or another interpretation that locates them in a chronological or theological development. You cited parts of the Tanakh and a Pauline epistle, for example, but I doubt you are familiar with the various catechisms on those writings as followed by such adherents (the Talmud, for example, or the CCC). They render a different picture, one you seem to be ignorant of. It is on account of that ignorance that I caution you about your conclusions.

I have an MA-ABT in Comparative Religion, so I'm actually very comfortable talking about religion and philosophy in any capacity, contrary to your later claim. On that note:

Thaibebop wrote:Really, do I need to define religious trappings to you?


This is why I brought anything up at all; definitions are part and parcel of a discussion like this, and leaving terms such as this critically undefined is a problem. The definition of religion is itself a troublesome bugbear, how much more so 'religious trappings'? The difference between religion and philosophy is another such issue. Definitions are in fact wholly pertinent to the OP, so why would you not take the time to clearly define your ideas?

I've read Hitchens, Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and others, so the video added nothing new. Note that this is a debate on the terms used, another example of how important definitions are. I decided to visit the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on account of this:

"‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God." Simple. Agnosticism is more nuanced, but has to do with the lack of either belief or disbelief. Atheism is thus a metaphysical claim about what exists and does not exist, while agnosticism takes the epistemological position that we don't know yet (or can't know ever - it can be used either way).

Also, Thomas Paine was a Deist (that's my BA in History getting dusted off, combined with a bit of internet verification).

As I said: clearer thinking is called for.

Wow, can the website hold your ego?!! Excuse me for doubting you noble professor.

You are right I didn't understand your previous statement as what you intended because that wasn't what you said. I guess you didn't have a care when you first wrote it.

Since you have exalted degrees in which to draw from then you should know that there is difference between what theologians spend their time debating and what the average person views when considering their religion. The passage in Leviticus is very clear I don't believe there is any room for interpretation there. A person who follows that faith and wishes to justify their hatred towards gays will use this passage, regardless of what comparative religion degree holders like yourself say about it's proper interpretation. Those who follow this faith and wish to support gay rights will ignore this passage and talk about Jesus. It's very simple, just watch the news, talk to a Christian, either way most people don't practice their faiths the same way and with the words of a religious scholar in their ear. So, pointless point for you.

Instead, you have said I am ignorant on this topic, though you don't have a care to spell out how, and you've pulled out your degrees out for me to marvel at. You are not debating any more, you realize this, yes?

Religious trappings? Why the confusion? The article in question, in the OP gave examples. Is that monks examples of religious trappings, plus the ones I have given not enough for you, or just not the right ones?

If you have read Hitchens then you should know that he makes a very strong case that unlike Jefferson, Paine was a atheist, wrote a whole book on it and I feel at least made a good argument. It was based off of Paine's revulsion at the French Revolution, to avoid a similar incident he would promote deism, yet made proclamations against all forms of organized religion. So, perhaps I should have said that he was an anti-theist. Of course, the argument stands that the beliefs of people like Paine and Jefferson may never be clearly known for their was only so much that they could've admitted to that society would have let them get away with.

Again, if you gave read Dawkins then you also are aware of the sitting on the fence agnosticism argument. Atheism can't be making a metaphysical claim because it's saying that the claims made are not validated, not proved. Stop sitting on the fence professor, there is either proof or not.

Alright, You have not contributed to this discussion. Instead you have tried to play school master and 'put me in my place' with your degrees. You have not addressed any of the points I brought up and instead picked at places that you though showed weakness. You made the claim that I was ignorant on the subject of these religions being discussed and didn't bother to explain how. If you really want to take part please do do, but this post is just ridiculous. I have my education as well and I am not using what I have done, or what I am doing as an debating point. Perhaps this burst of vanity from you was unintended and I am just misreading your post, but considering you told me to 'have a care' I will say the same to you. This is a conversion between equals, not a classroom you get to direct. M'okay? M'okay! Cheers! :twothumbsup:
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Thaibebop » Mon Aug 09, 2010 3:08 pm

Kare wrote:
Sobeh wrote:I decided to visit the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on account of this:

"‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God." Simple. Agnosticism is more nuanced, but has to do with the lack of either belief or disbelief. Atheism is thus a metaphysical claim about what exists and does not exist, while agnosticism takes the epistemological position that we don't know yet (or can't know ever - it can be used either way).


We should remember that Western definitions of these terms have a strong underlying Christian bias. The term "God", for instance, in the definition of atheism, should rather be "God or gods", or maybe just "gods". And as for agnostisism, it always seems to be taken for granted that it takes an agnostic position to something very much like a Christian concept of god. A real agnostic should also take an agnostic position to the claim that thunder is due to the god Thor, driving around in the sky with his chariot, chasing trolls. But for some reason or other, I have never heard an agnostic claim agnosticism in that connection ... :stirthepot:

There is a nice set of definitions that goes like this:

A theist is a person who does not think, but believes.
An atheist is a person who does not believe, but thinks.
An agnostic is a person who neither believes nor thinks.

:rofl:

I have never heard that. Witty I must admit. :thumbsup:
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Thaibebop » Mon Aug 09, 2010 3:10 pm

Mawkish1983 wrote:I thought an agnostic was just the opposite of a gnostic... the 'sitting on the fence' idea just came later. Just like how atheist used to be an insult meaning 'godless' or 'heathen'.

The historic use of these words is something we could take into account but that would be a whole other thread. I have a feeling that the ideas and feelings connected with these words have changed greatly over time.
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Thaibebop » Mon Aug 09, 2010 3:13 pm

Sobeh wrote:It is a differentiation between asking if Buddhism is a religion or not, and asking if {this} or {that} is the DhammaVinaya or not. They are wholly different orders of inquiry.

Not sure who you are addressing, but I still claim that Buddhism is a religion, yet I am asking, since there is a more constructed and linear philosophy that is the basis of this religion, why bother with the aspects of this religion that could be considered myth, magic, or superstition?
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby pilgrim » Mon Aug 09, 2010 3:18 pm

Kare wrote:
pilgrim wrote:I'm waiting for this argument to settle down before I ask "Is Buddhism an atheistic religion/non-religion." :stirthepot:


I'd like to recommend two books:

Helmuth von Glasenapp: "Buddhism -- A Non-Theistic Religion"
Gunapala Dharmasiri: "A Buddhist Critique of the Christian Concept of God"

These are both old and may be difficult to find. But they are definitely worth the effort.


Buddhists don't accept Allah and Yahweh, but we have the Brahma Sahampati and Sakka,,
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Sobeh » Mon Aug 09, 2010 3:21 pm

Thaibebop wrote:<a bewildering array of indignation and aggressive sarcasm>


:shrug:
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Thaibebop » Mon Aug 09, 2010 3:42 pm

Sobeh wrote:
Thaibebop wrote:<a bewildering array of indignation and aggressive sarcasm>


:shrug:

Seriously?

You make the claim that I am ignorant on the topics discussed here and the only why you back that claim up is to wave your degree around like a victory flag. When I call you on this display of vanity this is your response? You are a discredit to academics sir. You make a claim you back it up. It's what I am having to do for my degrees and I assume it's what you had to do for yours. You don't make a point by saying I am an expert, agree with me. I can't believe that after causing such an offense that this is your response, to shrug, and to dismiss all I have said.

Your college education was wasted. If all you can do is shrug you have clearly said all you are capable of saying. Please let others who have something to contribute to this discussion to so without your inane interruptions and condensing demeanor.

To all others following this thread I apologize for this short series of posts, please let's continue to have a good discussion. :anjali:
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Thaibebop » Mon Aug 09, 2010 3:47 pm

To get this thread back on topic, let's focus on this question,
Since there is a more constructed and linear philosophy that is the basis of this religion, why bother with the aspects of this religion that could be considered myth, magic, or superstition?
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Nyana » Mon Aug 09, 2010 4:29 pm

Thaibebop wrote:Since he stressed practicing to end suffering....

Hi Thaibebop,

Contemplating saṃsāra as an ongoing series of futile, hollow, and unsatisfactory repetitions of birth, sickness, pain, and death motivates one to practice with diligence to a degree that a limited view directed toward merely ending the unsatisfactoriness of this life cannot. The atheistic view that there is nothing after this present life entails the consequence that everyone reaches a cessation of dukkha (of sorts) upon death. If everyone were to attain the fruition effortlessly, merely by dying, then there would be no compelling motivation to fully engage in the integral practice of the dhammavinaya.

Thaibebop wrote:
Ñāṇa wrote:How do you know that the Buddha didn't understand and teach about rebirth based upon his own direct knowledge of former existences?

A possibility to be sure....

There is no good reason to dismiss this possibility. A self-limiting approach will only yield (i) limited results, or (ii) no results.

Moreover, since there is no historical record whatsoever of an atheistic dhammavinaya, I would suggest that your atheistic, rationalist-only buddha is a myth of your own creation.

All the best,

Geoff
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Nyana » Mon Aug 09, 2010 4:49 pm

Thaibebop wrote:I think you are being (fill in the blank here) now.... I would say that trying to be nice to people is good training for you. I think though you are just trying to be nasty now with that sentence.


Thaibebop wrote:Wow, can the website hold your ego?!! Excuse me for doubting you noble professor....

Since you have exalted degrees in which to draw from....

Stop sitting on the fence professor, there is either proof or not....

You have not contributed to this discussion. Instead you have tried to play school master and 'put me in my place' with your degrees. You have not addressed any of the points I brought up and instead picked at places that you though showed weakness. You made the claim that I was ignorant on the subject of these religions being discussed and didn't bother to explain how. If you really want to take part please do do, but this post is just ridiculous. I have my education as well and I am not using what I have done, or what I am doing as an debating point. Perhaps this burst of vanity from you was unintended and I am just misreading your post, but considering you told me to 'have a care' I will say the same to you. This is a conversion between equals, not a classroom you get to direct. M'okay? M'okay!


Thaibebop wrote:You make the claim that I am ignorant on the topics discussed here and the only why you back that claim up is to wave your degree around like a victory flag. When I call you on this display of vanity this is your response? You are a discredit to academics sir. You make a claim you back it up. It's what I am having to do for my degrees and I assume it's what you had to do for yours. You don't make a point by saying I am an expert, agree with me. I can't believe that after causing such an offense that this is your response, to shrug, and to dismiss all I have said.

Your college education was wasted. If all you can do is shrug you have clearly said all you are capable of saying. Please let others who have something to contribute to this discussion to so without your inane interruptions and condensing demeanor.


Thaibebop wrote:
Sobeh wrote:<a bewildering array of indignation and aggressive sarcasm>

Seriously?

Yes, seriously. There is absolutely no call for self-righteous indignation, aggressive sarcasm, and belligerence here on Dhamma Wheel Thaibebop.
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby Kare » Mon Aug 09, 2010 6:49 pm

Sobeh wrote:
Kare wrote:A real agnostic should also take an agnostic position to the claim that thunder is due to the god Thor, driving around in the sky with his chariot, chasing trolls.


The agnostic definition from the encyclopedia I referred to notes that agnosticism is used there only for theistic claims, not meteorological (or other) claims. It has to do with the existence or non-existence of divine beings (more precisely, with the ontology of divine beings). On the agnostic view, evidence for Yahweh is equivalent to evidence for Thor (as well as all other possible deities, of which more are likely forgotten than not). Proof for the cause of thunder, however, has a strong scientific explanation that relies only on verified information, and therefore does not fall under the purview of "agnosticism" as defined here.


Of course you are right in saying that thunder has a strong scientific explanation. But some religious believers have a tendency to discard strong scientific explanations. Today no one believes in Thor causing thunder. Therefore the example is deliberately a bit absurd. But it is not difficult to find equally absurd theses put forward by religious believers.

It's admirable to remember the Xian foundation of a lot of Western assumptions about philosophy, but that's a sword that cuts both ways as philosophy has impacted Xianity as well. In addition, Xianity itself is reliant on Hebrew thought, and we can go back as far as history goes in this vein (the Tanakh contains much Babylonian thought, for example).

But it doesn't much matter. The idiom "a moot point" now generally means a point not worth discussing, but originally the word "moot" meant something talked about at a meeting, therefore something worth noting. The point is not to get hung up on linguistic history, but to agree on a conventional use of words that facilitates communication. This is what dictionaries and encyclopedias are for.

If you're going to discard the definitions of terms as found in encyclopedias and dictionaries (for example, this one) then we simply cannot communicate.


Does one dictionary necessarily give the absolute and final truth? Sometimes it is useful to compare and evaluate different dictionaries. The one in your link confirms what I formerly said about an underlying Christian bias. Here is another one that is better:

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/agnostic
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Re: Buddhism, Religion?

Postby EricJ » Mon Aug 09, 2010 7:24 pm

Dhammapada, Sahassavagga wrote: Though month after month for a hundred years one should offer sacrifices by the thousands, yet if only for a moment one should worship those of perfected minds that honor is indeed better than a century of sacrifice.

Though for a hundred years one should tend the sacrificial fire in the forest, yet if only for a moment one should worship those of perfected minds, that worship is indeed better than a century of sacrifice.

Whatever gifts and oblations one seeking merit might offer in this world for a whole year, all that is not worth one fourth of the merit gained by revering the Upright Ones, which is truly excellent.

Dhammapada, Buddhavagga wrote:If you worship those worthy of worship, Awakened Ones or their disciples who've transcended objectifications, lamentation, and grief, who are unendangered, fearless, unbound: there's no measure for reckoning that your merit's 'this much.'
If we look at the suttas, devotional practices have never been absent from Buddhism and there is no reason that they should be now, aside from a aversion to or misunderstanding of the purposes of these practices. I would contend that these practices have various benefits. First of all, engaging in such practices leads to the accumulation of advantageous kammic results. Merit is not merely for the purpose of rebirth in some pleasurable realm of existence, which seems to be a popular line of thought whenever others are denigrating the practices of merit-making Buddhists. Merit, if one accepts the notion of rebirth, contributed to the Buddha's enlightenment and merit has contributed to the fact that we have knowledge of the Dhamma and see its advantages. To quote Sutta Nipata 1.38: "This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond."

Furthermore, devotional practice engenders an attitude which subjugates samsaric concerns in light of those qualities we should emulate and teachings/practices we should follow. Buddhanussati reminds us of what qualites that we, as individuals seeking enlightenment, seek to engender in ourselves. Reminding ourselves of the sublime wisdom, complete enlightenment, and unwavering equanimity of the Buddha makes everything else that we could possibly be in samsara pale in comparison. Devotional practice, especially if immediately preceeding a meditation session, helps us to turn our minds towards Dhamma and reminds us of what we are doing and seeking in sitting. Finally, devotional practice engenders humility, which helps us to let go of ego and practices which nurture "self-view pleasures."

There is a fundamental difference between the meaning of the word "worship" or "venerate" in Buddhism and the meaning of the word in theistic, "soul" religions. The former uses the practice for an specific, individual, path-centered purpose, which is to develop qualities and conditions which are conducive to Unbinding. The latter directs the practice towards a supposedly personal, substantial being for the purpose of some sort of advantageous result (salvation, prevention of natural disasters, good crops, love, etc.), which according to Buddhist, is centered on "softening" samsaric existence instead of cutting it at its roots. I would contend that many posters in this topic are not making such a distinction.


Regards,
Eric
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I do not want my house to be walled in on sides and my windows to be stuffed. I want the cultures of all the lands to be blown about my house as freely as possible. But I refuse to be blown off my feet by any.- Gandhi

With persistence aroused for the highest goal's attainment, with mind unsmeared, not lazy in action, firm in effort, with steadfastness & strength arisen, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

Not neglecting seclusion, absorption, constantly living the Dhamma in line with the Dhamma, comprehending the danger in states of becoming, wander alone like a rhinoceros.
- Snp. 1.3
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