Sue Hamilton -- anyone read her work?

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Sue Hamilton -- anyone read her work?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:40 pm

"Early Buddhism: a New Approach" looks interesting and I was thinking of ordering it. Has anyone here read it?

Rob (LE)
User avatar
Lazy_eye
 
Posts: 778
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: Laurel, MD

Re: Sue Hamilton -- anyone read her work?

Postby Nyana » Thu Jun 09, 2011 2:33 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:"Early Buddhism: a New Approach" looks interesting and I was thinking of ordering it. Has anyone here read it?

I read about half of it and put it on the shelf. I found it to be rather irrelevant and meandering. Her first book, Identity and Experience: The Constitution of the Human Being According to Early Buddhism is better. I would recommend it. It offers a pretty good survey of all the relevant sutta passages relating to the aggregates. However, her analysis is still a bit lacking in a few places. The problem is that she's not a practitioner, and it shows in both books. She's standing as a Western academic completely outside of the living tradition.

All the best,

Geoff
Nyana
 
Posts: 2229
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 am

Re: Sue Hamilton -- anyone read her work?

Postby IanAnd » Thu Jun 09, 2011 5:16 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:"Early Buddhism: a New Approach" looks interesting and I was thinking of ordering it. Has anyone here read it?

I read about half of it and put it on the shelf. I found it to be rather irrelevant and meandering.

I had a similar initial impression when I first began reading it in early 2007. I, too, had to eventually put it down for a while before I returned to finish it.

One thing is for certain: Sue Hamilton is a thinker. She'll challenge you to think about what she's writing about. I found some of her thoughts to be corroborative of my own views about certain issues. For instance:

"Indeed, there are strong suggestions that theoretical speculation — especially those to do with metaphysics — are both pointless and potentially misleading in the quest for nirvanna." (pg. 5)

And: "The suggestion embodied in such criteria is that what one should seek to understand is the spirit rather than the letter of the teachings: and it follows from this that overall coherence was always to be of central importance." (pg. 8)

Her overall style of writing in this book is less compelling than in her other book (Identity and Experience) and seems to be stylistically driven. This may be what accounts for Nana's impression that the book is "meandering." I think I understand what he's pointing toward when he says that.

Ñāṇa wrote:Her first book, Identity and Experience: The Constitution of the Human Being According to Early Buddhism is better. I would recommend it. It offers a pretty good survey of all the relevant sutta passages relating to the aggregates.

I would concur with this assessment.

Ñāṇa wrote:However, her analysis is still a bit lacking in a few places. The problem is that she's not a practitioner, and it shows in both books. She's standing as a Western academic completely outside of the living tradition.

I agree that one of the main problems with the book is that she is not a practitioner, and that this shows up in her work. However, one of the reasons I took up reading the book in the first place was to see if I could find some observations that might be worthwhile checking out. I have found that some academics (like Richard Gombrich for instance) are able to uncover (or express in a different way) certain salient points that may have been hidden inside much of the traditional writings on these subjects. And since I enjoyed Dr. Sue's first book, I decided to take up her second to see if there were any further insights that it might offer.

Indeed, there were for me some encouraging indications early on in the book (within the Introduction) which suggested that there might be some ideas with which I could concur. For example: "I will go on...to establish more fully than hitherto that the central focus of the teachings of early Buddhism is the understanding of human experience." But as the book dragged on, it became increasingly obvious that there was a frustration about exactly "where was she going with all this." While I could agree with many of the main premises she proposed, the way that she was dragging all this out was excruciatingly painful to have to read through, giving it that "meandering" feeling that Nana mentioned.

Even so, there are some hopeful gems of statements sprinkled throughout the book that will back up and perhaps add some dimension to a reader's understanding and appreciation of the Dhamma that Gotama taught. For instance:

"If we want to understand anything about ourselves at all, then, it is with our khandhas — our experiencing apparatus — that we need to start." (pg. 81)

And:

"In having seen, at Enlightenment, the way the process works, he is aware that affective responses are based on ignorance as to the nature of one's experience and has uprooted this binding continuity tendency." (pg. 164)

But overall, you may wish to pass on this for now until a later time, if ever.
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
User avatar
IanAnd
 
Posts: 399
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:19 am
Location: the deserts of Arizona

Re: Sue Hamilton -- anyone read her work?

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Jun 09, 2011 7:58 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:"Early Buddhism: a New Approach" looks interesting and I was thinking of ordering it. Has anyone here read it?

I read about half of it and put it on the shelf. I found it to be rather irrelevant and meandering. Her first book, Identity and Experience: The Constitution of the Human Being According to Early Buddhism is better. I would recommend it. It offers a pretty good survey of all the relevant sutta passages relating to the aggregates. However, her analysis is still a bit lacking in a few places. The problem is that she's not a practitioner, and it shows in both books. She's standing as a Western academic completely outside of the living tradition.

All the best,

Geoff


I didn't realize she had an earlier book out -- maybe I'll look for this one instead. I could benefit from a good overview of the skandhas.

Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

:anjali:
User avatar
Lazy_eye
 
Posts: 778
Joined: Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:23 pm
Location: Laurel, MD

Re: Sue Hamilton -- anyone read her work?

Postby Nyana » Thu Jun 09, 2011 8:09 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:I didn't realize she had an earlier book out -- maybe I'll look for this one instead. I could benefit from a good overview of the skandhas.

Yeah, it's the published version of her doctoral dissertation. When I was looking for a link to the book to add to my previous reply I noticed that it's out of print according to Amazon. Hopefully you can find a copy somewhere. At any rate, it's probably the best book length survey of the sutta strata passages on the aggregates. In this regard it's better than Mathieu Boisvert's dissertation on the aggregates, which relies quite heavily on commentarial interpretation (but still worth reading).

All the best,

Geoff
Nyana
 
Posts: 2229
Joined: Tue Apr 27, 2010 11:56 am

Re: Sue Hamilton -- anyone read her work?

Postby IanAnd » Thu Jun 09, 2011 9:28 pm

Ñāṇa wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:I didn't realize she had an earlier book out -- maybe I'll look for this one instead. I could benefit from a good overview of the skandhas.

Yeah, it's the published version of her doctoral dissertation. When I was looking for a link to the book to add to my previous reply I noticed that it's out of print according to Amazon. Hopefully you can find a copy somewhere.

Rob,

Might want to try getting on the waiting list at The Book Depository if you aren't able to find it anywhere else. The Book Depository not only has great price discounts over Amazon, but it has free shipping worldwide. Can't beat that deal!

All the best,
Ian
"The gift of truth exceeds all other gifts" — Dhammapada, v. 354 Craving XXIV
User avatar
IanAnd
 
Posts: 399
Joined: Mon Oct 19, 2009 5:19 am
Location: the deserts of Arizona

Re: Sue Hamilton -- anyone read her work?

Postby Aloka » Fri Jun 10, 2011 6:51 am

I bought it early last year - from Wisdom Books or The Book Depository. However I didn't read all of it because it wasn''t so interesting as I had expected and I had other reading that I was doing at the same time too.

I didn't pick it up again, unfortunately. Perhaps I'll eventually go back to it again sometime.


:anjali:
User avatar
Aloka
 
Posts: 3508
Joined: Wed Jan 21, 2009 2:51 pm

Re: Sue Hamilton -- anyone read her work?

Postby daverupa » Fri Jun 10, 2011 11:26 am

I picked up a copy from my local university library, and have read the introduction. I am very enticed, as her approach mirrors the one I developed studying comparative religion in grad school. Others have commented on her not being a practitioner, but she writes:

"Last but not least, I make no apology for my enthusiasm for my subject. As my work has progressed, my fascination has deepened. Particularly with regard to thinking about and drawing out certain implications, I have found the process to be an absorbing, stimulating, and profoundly enriching experience."

In light of the prevailing mood in academia to insist on objectivity, this is noteworthy.

(However, chapter seven promises to lay out an ontology, so we'll see how it goes!)
    "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]
User avatar
daverupa
 
Posts: 4074
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Sue Hamilton -- anyone read her work?

Postby Kare » Fri Jun 10, 2011 11:40 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:"Early Buddhism: a New Approach" looks interesting and I was thinking of ordering it. Has anyone here read it?

I read about half of it and put it on the shelf.


The same thing happened to me. Maybe I should give it a new chance ...
Mettāya,
Kåre
User avatar
Kare
 
Posts: 679
Joined: Sun Feb 01, 2009 10:58 am
Location: Norway

Re: Sue Hamilton -- anyone read her work?

Postby daverupa » Fri Jun 10, 2011 12:07 pm

She mentions that there is a dry chapter or two that she asks the reader to "bear with me" about. I wonder if this was the halfway mark where many got off the ride.
    "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]
User avatar
daverupa
 
Posts: 4074
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 6:58 pm

Re: Sue Hamilton -- anyone read her work?

Postby JIMBOSAN » Fri Jun 10, 2011 12:33 pm

I just purchashed Early Buddhism a New Approach - I'm half way through it - It's not worth the 40$ I spent on it - I would say this book would be for someone who understood the ABC's of Buddhism and was ready to take a Freshmen College class - A used copy might be worth pusuing -
User avatar
JIMBOSAN
 
Posts: 17
Joined: Wed Mar 23, 2011 3:20 pm
Location: SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA


Return to Open Dhamma

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: martinfrank, robertk and 7 guests