Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Which of the following best represent your approach to discussions on Buddhism?

Accommodationist
0
No votes
Apologist
0
No votes
Comparativist
4
16%
Constructivist
5
20%
Critic
2
8%
Interpreter
3
12%
Post-traditionalist
1
4%
Secularist
6
24%
Traditionalist
3
12%
True Believer
1
4%
 
Total votes : 25

Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 14, 2011 2:43 am

Greetings,

In this recent topic...

Thought-provoking new blog
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=8377

... we were introduced to a blog that used some thought-provoking classifications for different types of Buddhists - http://speculativenonbuddhism.wordpress.com/categories/ - split by their approach to understanding and discussing the Dhamma, rather than necessarily by their tradition.

As a point of discussion, what do you think of the following categories.... and as a bit of an ice-breaker, there's a poll for you to nominate which ones (if any) you think best classifies your approach. In keeping with the quote below, I've allowed up to four selections per voter.

Speculative Non-Buddhism wrote:The categories that I am working with–and of course invite you to work with as well–are as follows. Please bear two points in mind. First, my reason for using categories like these is to capture basic rhetorical thrusts in Buddhist teaching and writing. I am interested in teasing out the strategies and approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism. Giving names to these approaches is an attempt bring some clarity and differentiation to the material. Second, these categories are not in any way derisive (i.e., categorization is not name-calling). I, personally, value certain approaches over others. To be honest, I do not respect all equally. Some, I feel, are damaging to human beings. In other words, like you, I have my biases and opinions. But, the point to this categorization is to name and illuminate and understand, not to castigate. That being said, let’s permit a range of emotions and tones to manifest. Let’s range from bland to spicy, as fits the dish being served up. Can we do so in obeisance to philosophia, love of wisdom? The categories:

Accommodationists. Writers, teachers, etc., in this vein know better, but let be. That is, their rhetoric suggests avenues of critique or even contradiction; yet, they leave these pathways unexplored. Why? In order to preserve the Buddhist status quo.

Apologists. For whatever reasons, these figures seek to have Buddhist teachings, theories, practices, etc., come out on top. Thus, they act in defense of Buddhism. Quite often, they must resort to logical contortions and, more seriously, omission of contrary evidence. But not always, of course; sometimes they do indeed correct misunderstandings and misrepresentations.

Comparativists. They have proficient knowledge of other teachings and systems, as well as a robust interest in the Buddhist versions of whatever it is they are treating. And they use this knowledge to illuminate via contrasts and comparisons.

Constructivists. They seek effective application of Buddhist teachings and practices, yet often recognize the need for adaptation and innovation. Such writers and teachers are less concerned with upholding tradition than with finding new uses.

Critics. They offer insightful queries, which, given the nature of criticism, often threaten fissure. They are not concerned with ameliorating this fissure.

Interpreters. They explain, clarify, expound on the teachings of the Buddha. They make it all make sense. They tend to be benign. They value description over analysis, since the latter, done well, veers toward critique.

Post-traditionalists. Like traditionalists, they uphold the values gleaned from the Asian dispensation of Buddhism. However, they seek a renovation of the archaisms and (certain) superstitions favored by their Asian patriarchs. They do not want a new house, only a freshly painted one with, perhaps, a modern kitchen.

Secularists. They hold the values of modern scientific methodology, such as evidence-based claims, critical thinking, rigorous debate, and the coruscating light of reason. While respecting tradition, they seek a contemporary application.

Traditionalists. They are committed to the forms–doctrines, practices, beliefs, etc.– that are preserved in Asian institutional structures. Some of these structures are of ancient or medieval origin, some are modern. They espouse pre-scientific worldviews. They axiomatically adhere to archaic cosmologies. They often believe in a world animated by spirits and hidden forces. They know no other possibility.

True Believers. They raise the (western) Buddhist banner. They heart Buddhism, though “Buddhism” is always proscribed by their particular school. Some true believers, of course, literally love all things Buddhists. This person, I think, is a peculiarly recent, North American type. They subscribe to some version of “One Dharma,” and are desirous of finding unity in diversity.

Each of these categories is easily coupled with others. For instance, comparative work may be done with an apologetic intent; interpretive work, in the search for new constructions. Someone may be doing three or four things at once. An awareness of variegated strategies and intentions will prevent us fro, too quickly pigeonholing an author, teacher, etc.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby alan » Sat May 14, 2011 2:59 am

I'll take the category of a seeker who read the suttas and was convinced, and now has faith. And I'll also say it's the only category that will lead anywhere of real value.
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Re: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 14, 2011 3:02 am

:goodpost:

... the point to this categorization is to name and illuminate and understand, not to castigate.

To quote a certain tennis player: "You can't be serious!" :jumping:

:anjali:
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Re: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby Nyana » Sat May 14, 2011 6:54 am

Given the definitions of each category given by the author, methinks the option of "None of the above" should be added to the survey.

All the best,

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Re: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 14, 2011 6:59 am

Ñāṇa wrote:Given the definitions of each category given by the author, methinks the option of "None of the above" should be added to the survey.

All the best,

Geoff
Agreed.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby retrofuturist » Sat May 14, 2011 7:06 am

Greetings Tilt,

Yep... that's what I had in mind when I wrote in brackets "if any" in the original post.... polled are limited to 10 options, so there was no room for any more.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Sat May 14, 2011 8:10 am

From the preamble to the listing:
I feel, are damaging to human beings. In other words, like you, I have my biases and opinions.
It shows, which is why I really cannot buy into the descriptions.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby alan » Sun May 15, 2011 1:37 am

These categories are examples of differing ways of conceptualizing, describing, classifying. And it appears the authors of the blog are perfectly fine with that. What seems to be lost is the basic idea that some people are actually in it to improve themselves and find the truth.
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Re: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby alan » Sun May 15, 2011 2:12 am

In other words, it seems like an intellectual game for these folks.
No emphasis on effort or appropriate attention--no burning need to find the truth. Just different ways of arranging things in order to arrive at a system that confirms their viewpoints, and from which they can begin again their games of who is smarter and who has it figured out.

I should know. Used to be just like that.
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Re: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby ground » Sun May 15, 2011 7:05 am

I am an "I-don't-care-ist" because as a buddhist I find such sort of discussions silly.

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Re: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby daverupa » Sun May 15, 2011 7:11 am

It suffers from sesquipedalianism.
    "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: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby zavk » Sun May 15, 2011 7:58 am

Interesting....

To give a taxonomy to what is the living, breathing, changing ecology of bodies, knowledge, and practices called 'Buddhism' is problematic from the start--at least this is how I see it. I do like some of these categories, though some of the definitions of what they involve are open to debate; they should be open to debate. But I suppose whoever wrote this had to be succinct in their definitions.

For the simple reason that I'm committed NOT to give the question 'Who am I?' a fixed answer but to explore it as an ongoing project of life (as an art of living as Goenka, the Dalai Lama, and others might put it), I'd refrain from positioning myself squarely within any of these categories, though I must say that some of them do resonate with me.

I wonder if these categories could nevertheless be useful as a kind of working blueprint to explore lines of dialogue, connections, and friendship between the diverse cultures, peoples, knowledges and practices that have been lumped together under the name 'Buddhism'. Perhaps these categories--which certainly reflect contemporary trends and conditions--could allow for connections between diverse groups, and in ways that do not erase the differences between them nor reduce the Dhamma into an everything-and-hence-nothing catchphrase or brand label. Rather than regard them as distinct or separate, or pigeonhole ourselves and others on their behalf, I wonder if these categories could mutually inform and mutually support one another--not unlike how the different components of 8FP are not strictly distinct or separate, but are rather like the petals of a flower folding and unfolding onto one another to reveal the beauty that is the Dhamma.

:anjali: :group: :smile:


edit: added to a sentence an important 'NOT, without which the meaning is totally different! heh....
Last edited by zavk on Sun May 15, 2011 10:59 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby Ben » Sun May 15, 2011 8:14 am

Hi Ed,
zavk wrote:For the simple reason that I'm committed to give the question 'Who am I?' a fixed answer but to explore it as an ongoing project of life (as an art of living as Goenka, the Dalai Lama, and others might put it), I'd refrain from positioning myself squarely within any of these categories, though I must say that some of them do resonate with me.

Yes, but I actually found many of the categories to be quite alien.
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Re: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby zavk » Sun May 15, 2011 8:34 am

Hmmm... yes, I see what you are saying Ben. I'd personally have trouble coming up with ten categories, but on the whole, I think the general tendencies described above can be observed in public discourses about Buddhism. Again, I just want to clarify what I mean to write in the bit quoted is '....I'm committed NOT to give the question 'Who am I?' a fixed answer....' Not your fault Ben, just my carelessness.


:)
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Re: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby Ben » Sun May 15, 2011 8:43 am

Not your fault either, Ed!
I'm committed NOT to give the question 'Who am I?' a fixed answer
For me, its not so much a commitment but its too difficult for me to pin down where I am at.
kind regards

Ben
"One cannot step twice into the same river, nor can one grasp any mortal substance in a stable condition, but it scatters and again gathers; it forms and dissolves, and approaches and departs."

- Hereclitus


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Re: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby daverupa » Sun May 15, 2011 9:19 am

It's a list of attributes to apply to a self.
    "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: Approaches taken in the contemporary discourse on Buddhism

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon May 16, 2011 9:35 pm

Strange classifications and categories. It must be saying more about the author of these classifications than those who answer it.

For example, the "True Believers" are supposed to be Western Buddhists?!

Most so-called Western Buddhists I know came to Buddhism from skepticism, sometimes even an extreme skepticism and then studying Buddhism, other religions, philosophies, etc.
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