western cynicism/eastern credulity.

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western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby PeterB » Thu Jan 20, 2011 9:48 am

It would appear that on the major issues the 4NT the N8FP, Dukkha D.O.etc there is in the main a good deal of cross cultural agreement in broad terms.
However when it comes to certain phenomena there seems to be something of an east/ west split.

Recently we have seen threads which purport to show photos of Devas for example, or to urge us to perform rituals for our ancestors...Or to describe example of children recalling previous births.

As a generalisation ( and I emphasise it IS a generalisation with exceptions from both sides ) the response to this kind of thread tends to fall in three ways. western Buddhists are unconvinced to say the least. Eastern Buddhists accept it wholesale...and then there is a third group which asks whether it matters anyway.

Why is this ?

Do phenomena happen in Asia that do not happen in Europe or the USA ?
Do they happen but we are trained not to see them ?
Do they not happen but have a psychological/cultural explanation as to why it is widely believed that they do ?
And perhaps most importantly...do they matter either way..are they necessary to an understanding of Dhamma ?

What do you think ?
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby plwk » Thu Jan 20, 2011 10:15 am

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If this single thing is recollected and made much,
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby PeterB » Thu Jan 20, 2011 10:20 am

That is a highly ambiguous picture, one that could just as easily represent a reaction to the idea that such phenomena have a psychological explanation and are then culturally reinforced.
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby clw_uk » Thu Jan 20, 2011 11:04 am

Do phenomena happen in Asia that do not happen in Europe or the USA ?


Not outside the realms of possibility but I doubt it


Do they not happen but have a psychological/cultural explanation as to why it is widely believed that they do ?


Thats the more likely explanation, to me at least

And perhaps most importantly...do they matter either way..are they necessary to an understanding of Dhamma ?


Not in the slightest


I am always confused as to why such things are brought into a discussion, even more so when the evidence for them is so lacking
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby andre9999 » Thu Jan 20, 2011 11:11 am

I prefer skeptic over cynic. In the case of the deva photo thread, I've seen thousands of doctored photos. I have yet to come across a deva. Maybe they don't get to the Americas much.

As far as its importance, I'd say the questions that come up in many of the threads lack a direct impact in anything, much less enlightenment. But I'm also not inclined to jump in as the second post in every thread and say, "Why are you asking? Just go meditate." There are some people who over-think things - a lot - but maybe it helps drive their practice. Similarly, there are types of people who's practice is probably strengthened by knowing that there are devas stopping by a temple. Good for them, I say. Whatever works.
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby PeterB » Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:00 pm

andre9999 wrote:I prefer skeptic over cynic. In the case of the deva photo thread, I've seen thousands of doctored photos. I have yet to come across a deva. Maybe they don't get to the Americas much.

As far as its importance, I'd say the questions that come up in many of the threads lack a direct impact in anything, much less enlightenment. But I'm also not inclined to jump in as the second post in every thread and say, "Why are you asking? Just go meditate." There are some people who over-think things - a lot - but maybe it helps drive their practice. Similarly, there are types of people who's practice is probably strengthened by knowing that there are devas stopping by a temple. Good for them, I say. Whatever works.

That could cut several ways couldnt it ? What about those who are drawn to Dhamma , then come across pictures of "devas" and decide that they will stick to good old rationalism, thank you very much ?
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby andre9999 » Thu Jan 20, 2011 12:13 pm

PeterB wrote:That could cut several ways couldnt it ? What about those who are drawn to Dhamma , then come across pictures of "devas" and decide that they will stick to good old rationalism, thank you very much ?


From what I've learned so far, I suspect that the "Insight" school of thought will appeal to those people... Something very sanitized of all metaphysical parts. On the other side, you could go Tibetan and have all sorts of extra things.

I think this gets into where that thread about a Westernized Buddhism did. Each culture seems to grab Buddhism and mix it with their own beliefs.

From what I know of the history of religions, people have needed to be "converted" from what they already believed. Some people were able to see what Jesus taught and work with that. Other people who worshipped trees needed to see a giant wooden cross. Some people can just look at what Buddha taught and work with that. Other people need to see that he has authority to teach, so they want him to be gold with long fingers and have flowers pop-up where he steps.
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby Goofaholix » Thu Jan 20, 2011 6:35 pm

You might be aware that Wat Pah Nanachat is built on a charnal ground.

Thais staying there routinely see ghosts, westerners don't.

I think it has to do with expectation.

In my experience Thais don't like to be alone, ever, one of the reasons often given is they are afraid they might see ghosts. I think this is taught to them from an early age by parents and grandparents to discourage them from going off on their own, Thai culture being a very social culture togetherness is very important.
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby PeterB » Thu Jan 20, 2011 6:42 pm

Interesting......Sanghamitta wote about a community of Christian monks who live in the middle of Europes largest cemetery, its in Surrey,...she asked if any of them had seen a ghost...they replied that they havent...." but the deer population is growing ".....which is jolly nice.
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby appicchato » Thu Jan 20, 2011 7:39 pm

Goofaholix wrote:Thais...routinely see ghosts, westerners don't.

Whenever the topic arises I usually ask the Thai (who's brought the subject up) if they've ever seen one...and have yet to hear in the affirmative...

Sleeping with klieg lights on is most prevalent too...go figure...

The list is quite long, and just part of the draw of living here... :pig:
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Jan 21, 2011 3:53 am

appicchato wrote:Whenever the topic arises I usually ask the Thai (who's brought the subject up) if they've ever seen one...and have yet to hear in the affirmative...


Come to think of it I don't recall ever hearing about ghost experiences the speaker has had, just ones they've heard other people have had.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby PeterB » Fri Jan 21, 2011 9:42 am

That reminds of something Alan Watts said...he was not a reliable guide to the teaching of the Buddha, but he was a great raconteur and very shrewd.." people are constantly asking me about supernatural experiences they assume i must have had...and I am constantly replying that I have never had any such experience, and neither has any of my teachers or friends, or indeed anyone whose testimony I would trust ."
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby Sacha G » Fri Jan 21, 2011 9:56 am

Hi,
If some of you want to read serious things on parapsychology, go to the society for psychical research website, and to the liste of recommended reading:
http://www.spr.ac.uk/main/page/recommen ... psychology

Well, to find an analogy, not only no one has ever seen somebody being murdered,
but people who speak of murder haven't either. That doesn't murder doesn't exist. It's only rare enough. But that's an extrem case, and parapsychology is actually widespread. I think 1 american out of 10 has had an Out of Body Experience for example.
I suppose on this very website some have had one.
:alien:
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby Taco » Fri Jan 21, 2011 10:25 am

my experience, their experience - could be true
my experience, not their experience - could be true
not my experience, their experience - could be true
not my experience, not their experience - could be true

Does it matter? No.
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby PeterB » Fri Jan 21, 2011 10:33 am

Sacha G wrote:Hi,
If some of you want to read serious things on parapsychology, go to the society for psychical research website, and to the liste of recommended reading:
http://www.spr.ac.uk/main/page/recommen ... psychology

Well, to find an analogy, not only no one has ever seen somebody being murdered,
but people who speak of murder haven't either. That doesn't murder doesn't exist. It's only rare enough. But that's an extrem case, and parapsychology is actually widespread. I think 1 american out of 10 has had an Out of Body Experience for example.
I suppose on this very website some have had one.
:alien:

The British neurologist Susan Blackmore, who is a student of Zen Buddhism carried out a long and detailed study of Out Of Body experiences and concluded that they involve nothing that leaves the body...they are entirely explainable in terms of known psychological/neulogical processes.

In a summary that has become well known she said " My conclusions concur with the Buddhist Anatta view...there is nothing to leave the body and no where for it it go ".
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby meindzai » Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:16 pm

PeterB wrote:And perhaps most importantly...do they matter either way..are they necessary to an understanding of Dhamma ?



Not to a partial understanding, which is good enough to start with.

-M
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby PeterB » Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:22 pm

Sprats for mackerels ?
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby Sacha G » Fri Jan 21, 2011 1:57 pm

In a summary that has become well known she said " My conclusions concur with the Buddhist Anatta view...there is nothing to leave the body and no where for it it go ".

Which proves she didn't understand anatta and mixed ultimate and conventional.
Anatta doesn't contradict the existence of an astral body. :geek:
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby PeterB » Fri Jan 21, 2011 2:22 pm

Perhaps Sacha G you could point to the Sutta which describes the existence of an astral body ?
Specifically where would you posit an "astral body" in the schemata of the khandhas ?
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Re: western cynicism/eastern credulity.

Postby meindzai » Fri Jan 21, 2011 3:08 pm

PeterB wrote:Perhaps Sacha G you could point to the Sutta which describes the existence of an astral body ?
Specifically where would you posit an "astral body" in the schemata of the khandhas ?


I'd say that the idea of "astral body" is a reification (or to use a neologism, "thingification") of the aggregate of consciousness, and so it's kind of a poor explanation for what happens at death. There is certainly no "thing" that "leaves" the body. But consciousness is said to continue to *occur* so long as there is nutriment for it. I.e. as long as there is craving there will be consciousness, and the time of death is simply no exception.

"What one intends, what one arranges, and what one obsesses about: This is a support for the stationing of consciousness. There being a support, there is a landing of consciousness. When that consciousness lands and grows, there is the production of renewed becoming in the future. When there is the production of renewed becoming in the future, there is future birth, aging & death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair. Such is the origination of this entire mass of suffering & stress."
- Cetana Sutta: Intention

This hardly describes the existence of an astral body but it's easy to see how it can be interpreted that way, since we are accustomed to thinking of things and objects and not processes.

Which leads us to the cultural problem. It's possible that there is a cultural variation in the ability to contemplate things in a less subject-object oriented fashion, that is, dividing things into bits and pieces, and always trying to find the "thing" rather than be satisfied with a process. I'm not going to make clichéd blanket statements about "east vs. west" but my observation of my own culture (American) is that we are largely obsessed with acquisition, so our idea of learning something is to acquire facts about it, and in order to do that we must have "things" that can be categorized.

So we want to know "what is that *thing*" that supposedly "leaves the body" so that we can add that information to our accumulated knowledge and until we do this we feel we cannot fully understand it.

Anyway that's my take as of this moment. It may change tomorrow. :)

-M
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