PeterB wrote:...with a large minus sign in front of it.
Nice article (he's written something like that before, hasn't he?). Bhikkhu Thanissaro raises some good points about how it is important to be historically reflexive in our approach to the Dhamma. As he suggests, it is important to be aware of the broader cultural and intellectual assumptions that have influenced the development of Buddhism and how these assumptions continue to underly contemporary understandings of the Dhamma. To this extent, he is certainly spot on in identifying the influence of Romanticism, and he has certainly identified some of the key problems of conflating the assumptions of Romanticism with the Dhamma.
While I largely agree with what he is trying to do, I think the kind of critically reflexivity he is calling for should not only be applied to Romanticism but also to the other cultural and intellectual paradigms that have influenced and still continue to influence our understanding of Buddhism. I have mentioned this book several times before: The Making of Buddhist Modernism, by David McMahan. The book presents a good overview of how contemporary Buddhism has been shaped by three overarching cultural and intellectual paradigms of modernity: western monotheism, scientific rationalism, and romantic expressivism.
To put it very simply, it looks at the history of Buddhism from the nineteenth century to illustrate how Buddhism has been reconfigured in relation to these three overarching discursive paradigms. Examining a range of Buddhist figures and movements, the book demonstrates how Buddhism is sometimes aligned with these discursive paradigms and how it is sometimes placed in opposition to them. In short, the Buddhism that we have today has developed out of a continuous interplay with these three paradigms.
Given this to be the case, Bhikkhu Thanissaro is certainly right to draw attention to the influence of Romanticism. But I don't think Buddhism can totally disassociate itself from Romanticism as such--how can it do so when Romanticism forms part of the conceptual scaffolding upon which Dhammic ideas are made relevant and intelligible to a contemporary audience? To be fair, I don't think Bhikkhu Thanissaro is suggesting that Buddhism cuts or seals itself off from Romanticism. It seems to me that he is arguing for greater reflexivity, that we carefully sift through those assumptions that are unhelpful, assumptions which might misrepresent some of the fundamental principles of the Dhamma.
But by the same token, the same could be said about the other two discursive paradigms that equally influence Buddhism. How might we become more critically reflexive about the influence of western monotheism and scientific rationalism? Of particular interest for most of us here, I think, would be Buddhism's relationship with scientific rationalism. To take Bhikkhu Thanissaro critical attitude seriously then, we ought to equally ask:
- How have (western) notions of rationalism and scientificity influenced the way we understand Buddhism?
- What assumptions of scientific rationalism have been projected onto Buddhism?
- Have any assumptions about rationality and scientificity become (to borrow Bhikkhu Thanissaro's words) 'gates' that shut us off from some of the more challenging and radical possibilities of the Dhamma, possibilities which may very well elude or exceed rationality and scientificity?
- How might we begin to sift through these assumptions?
Thanks for sharing the article. Bhikkhu Thanissaro's critical attitude is admirable and is certainly worth emulating. My preference, however, is to take onboard his critical attitude and extend it to other cultural and intellectual paradigms influencing contemporary Buddhism and not just 'Romanticism.' So for instance: Bearing in mind that scientific rationalism is largely a product of the European Enlightenment (a very recent historical development in comparison to the history of the Dhamma), just as Bhikkhu Thanissaro wishes to respect the Dhamma for what it is by interrogating 'Buddhist Romanticism', how might we--to respect the Dhamma for what it is--also interrogate, say, 'Buddhist Rationalism' or 'Scientific Buddhism'?
I don't think Buddhism can totally disassociate itself from Romanticism as such--how can it do so when Romanticism forms part of the conceptual scaffolding upon which Dhammic ideas are made relevant and intelligible to a contemporary audience?
The Pure Land
The Pure Land is described in the Longer Sukhāvatīvyūha Sūtra as a land of beauty that surpasses all other realms. More importantly for the Pure Land practitioner, once one has been "born" into this land (birth occurs painlessly through lotus flowers), one will never again be reborn. In the Pure Land one will be personally instructed by Amitābha Buddha and numerous bodhisattvas until one reaches full and complete enlightenment. In effect, being born into the Pure Land is akin to escaping saṃsāra, thereby achieving enlightenment.
mikenz66 wrote:zavk wrote:Nice article (he's written something like that before, hasn't he?).
It was presented in a talk here:
Buddhist Romanticism 2002-03-25 44:16
zavk wrote:I do feel that keeping these questions open are vital to my continuing growth in the Dhamma.
Ben wrote:Hi Ed,zavk wrote:I do feel that keeping these questions open are vital to my continuing growth in the Dhamma.
Yes, me too.
Thanks Peter for sharing.
TMingyur wrote:I think that there is no "dhamma as such" that is not influenced by its specific regional cultural environment. Actually integrating some of the cultural aspects of the environment the dhamma is "newly entering" is a characteristic of dissemination of "the dhamma". Only the integration of ideas/concepts that are in contradiction to "right view" is problematic.
Personally I find some of the achievements of "European enlightenment" very helpful and completely compliant with the buddhist path. But that does not mean that these achievements become dominant, it just means that they are helpful in dealing with Buddhism and integrating the buddhist path and Western cultural environment which produced a significant part of my personality and is still shaping it.
christopher::: wrote:I'm often surprised here in Japan how few Japanese have ever heard of the Dhammapada or know anything of the suttas and what exactly Buddha taught- beyond the 4NT and 8F Path.
Shinran advocates reliance on tariki, or other power (他力)—the power of Amida Buddha's made manifest in Amida Buddha's Primal Vow—in order to attain liberation. Shin Buddhism can therefore be understood as a "practiceless practice," for there are no specific acts to be performed such as there are in the "Path of Sages" (the other Buddhist schools of the time that advocated 'jiriki' ('self-power'). In Shinran's own words, Shin Buddhism is considered the "Easy Path" because one is not compelled to perform many difficult, and often esoteric, practices in order to attain higher and higher mental states.
PeterB wrote:I wait with bated breath Zavk to see you explain the mechanism by which " modern" Theravada was the work of one particular early Pali schoar.
Always touching to see in the middle of discussions about an essay by a Theravadin Bhikkhu students of the Mahayana will find a way to reach out to each other even when that involves conclusions that would not be supported by the author of that which is under discussion... ....bless.
Its not long...it might be beneficial to read it in its entirety.
I would draw particular attention to the final paragraph.
Thanks are due to alan, he posted it in another thread and I have pinched it.
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