No place for spirituality in Theravada?

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Spiny O'Norman
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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Fri Nov 26, 2010 1:38 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:So if Buddhists words are empty and meaningless why post at all ?


"Spiritual" isn't a Buddhist word though.

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Nov 26, 2010 2:41 pm

Neither is " Buddhist ".
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby Wizard in the Forest » Fri Nov 26, 2010 2:52 pm

Neither is "word". They're ultimately tools to help us understand each other, and understand the teachings, but glittering generalities can be more problematic because they're used with an agenda in mind. They are meant to mislead people. I don't like using them.
"One is not born a woman, but becomes one."- Simone de Beauvoir

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Nov 26, 2010 3:39 pm

" Buddhist " is certainly a generality...glittering or otherwise.
It is the term used in the west to denote the Buddhadharma, the Dharma of the Buddha...but in the various Asiatic languages there is no "ism" or " ist"...these are products of a certain kind of western mindset that sorts things into groups and subgroups in a political sense.
However the term is ubiquitous so what to do ? I think its more important to convey the context than to split hairs. The fact is we have no vocabulary in modern european languages to convey the concepts of the Buddhadharma in a one to one way...so "spirituality" will do.
Any possible misunderstanding will be corrected by context.
Frankly, translating dukkha as " suffering" or punarbhava as " reincarnation " are far more problematic in their ramifications.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby Hanzze » Fri Nov 26, 2010 3:56 pm

Here some pali word refering to spiritual http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philol ... splay=utf8
Last edited by Hanzze on Thu Jan 13, 2011 7:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby Hanzze » Fri Nov 26, 2010 4:04 pm

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Thu Jan 13, 2011 3:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Sat Nov 27, 2010 9:58 am

Sanghamitta wrote:The fact is we have no vocabulary in modern european languages to convey the concepts of the Buddhadharma in a one to one way...so "spirituality" will do.


There must be a better word than "spiritual" though. Is there a Pali word which captures the kind of meaning we're looking for?

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby KonstantKarma » Sat Nov 27, 2010 4:03 pm

I think you're looking for bhavana.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhavana

literally means "development" or "cultivating" or "producing" in the sense of "calling into existence." It is an important concept in Buddhist praxis (Patipatti). The word bhavana normally appears in conjunction with another word forming a compound phrase such as citta-bhavana (the development or cultivation of the heart/mind) or metta-bhavana (the development/cultivation of lovingkindness). When used on its own bhavana signifies 'spiritual cultivation' generally.

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby zavk » Tue Nov 30, 2010 6:35 am

KonstantKarma wrote:When used on its own bhavana signifies 'spiritual cultivation' generally.


Arrrghhh...there's the S word again! Can we not exorcise it, this spirit (pun intended) that constantly haunts us? :tongue:

But anyway, dear friends, you’ve all raised interesting points and they all offer plausible alternatives for tackling this thorny issue of ‘spirituality’. I’ve reflected on the matter further and I thought I’d share with you why despite its obvious shortcomings I refrain from dismissing the notion of ‘spirituality’ and why I am receptive to finding ways to revive/reform/reconfigure/reclaim the term. Let me clarify at the outset that I am not seeking to challenge anyone’s position here in particular. What I wish to share here is how I’ve reached my position regarding ‘spirituality’. I offer the story of my own experience in a gesture of good faith, with the hope that you might find something amidst my rambling thoughts that resonates with you.

But I will return to post again later as I’m busy with work right now (and household errands—they never end, do they?). Also, before I post let me just say that I have a tendency to write long posts. :soap: I think this is partly because I’ve been conditioned as a sociocultural researcher to be detailed in my explanation, and partly because I want to be as clear as possible so as to minimise misunderstanding. Or maybe the fact is I just have an unruly monkey mind. :cookoo: In any case, I understand if anyone finds my posts longwinded and tiresome.

:popcorn: :coffee: :computerproblem: :toilet:



Have nice day or night wherever you are… will post again.
With metta,
zavk

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby zavk » Tue Nov 30, 2010 10:54 am

OK…. ‘Spirituality’ is certainly what Wizard in the Forest suggests, a glittering generality, a term that is very effective in evoking a range of feelings and emotions. But what this also suggests is that regardless of the arguments we have for or against spirituality, there is always a certain tone of feeling reverberating through our arguments—a tone of feeling which we might describe in Dhammic terms as vedana. In other words, our position on ‘spirituality’ isn’t simply the result of logical thinking and argumentation, however well-thought and rational they may appear to be. It is also influenced by certain nonrational (which is not to say irrational) feelings which the Dhamma tells us can be experienced as pleasant, neutral, or unpleasant. And very often, these feelings can reveal more about our state of mind than thoughts do (well, at least this is what I’ve come to feel in practicing a vedana-based approach to meditation--I am speaking from personal experience and do not claim that this is an authoritative reading of Buddhist ideas). So I’ve been reflecting on the feelings that ‘spirituality’ has evoked in me….

I suspect most people experience unpleasant feelings about ‘spirituality’ because of its association with the New Age, mind-body-spirit, and self-help movements. These movements often use idiosyncratic (mis)readings of various traditions (including Buddhism) to promote a kind of consumerist lifestyle, emphasising such things as ‘positive thinking’ and ‘me-time’ to encourage self-centredness rather than to challenge it. There are many studies about these movements. For example, Paul Heelas, a sociologist from the UK, has written several books about New Age spiritualities. There’s also a book published earlier this year called Smile or Die: How Positive Thinking Fooled America and the World (sounds like it would be an interesting read! A review here)

But even without reading these studies, we can witness the banality and often unethical applications of ‘spirituality’ in the media and even amongst the people we know. I personally know someone who really buys into this sort of ‘spirituality’, finding fulfilment in books like The Secret, believing in tarot card readings and checking her horoscope for guidance everyday. I find that I usually experience an unpleasant feeling of aversion when I hear her speak about these things or when I see such books, magazines, CDs, etc, at her place.

So I began to inquire into these feelings. Why do I get this feeling of aversion when I encounter such forms of ‘spirituality? Is it because they are an empty, meaningless form of consumption? Well, I can certainly find research (such as the books I cited above) to support this position. However, being a sociocultural researcher who is fortunate enough to get paid for being a nosey parker, I have also learned that consumerism is never simply a passive, unthinking practice. To illustrate this, we could simply look at some of the threads here on DW. We all consume different forms of entertainment and popular culture: for example, Retro has compiled an impressive list of his favourite bands, Ben cites Bob Dylan in his signature, Individual, I believe, is a fan of gaming, and from what I can tell from Wizard in the Forest’s signature s/he is a fan of Japanese anime/manga. (I enjoy all these things too, ok, maybe not Bob Dylan.) Moreover, our consumption of entertainment often draw us into various 'fan communities' through which we develop friendship and a sense of connectedness--not unlike what we are doing here on DW as 'fans' of the Dhamma.

When we consume these things are we just ‘mindless’ victims of a capitalist system? While it is true that these things reflect a pervasive consumerist culture—and there are certainly problems with this—it doesn’t mean that consumers are unthinking or ‘cultural dupes’. It is easy to point a finger at others and accuse them of that, but what about our own consumerist habits? The consumption of these things can be meaningful and can help us make sense of life—case in point, why do we sometimes have discussions about movies/songs/books that have inspired us or have helped us better understand the Dhamma if the consumption of such things are simply meaningless and banal?

In the same way, those researching into ‘spirituality’ are beginning to reconsider the implications of the New Age movement and so forth. They have begun to take a more ‘reparative’ attitude towards the study of these movements rather than a narrow ‘paranoid’ attitude that simply aims to unveil the ideological mistakes of others—what does sociocultural analysis hope to achieve if the only thing it does is point a finger at others to proclaim how wrong they are?

So Paul Heelas has recently begun to re-evaluate 'spirituality' more positively. Conducting ethnographic research of New Age practitioners in the UK, he has found evidence to suggest that these people are not simply unthinking consumers nor can their ‘spirituality’ be easily dismissed as a mere extension of capitalism. He discovered that through consuming ‘spirituality’ these individuals are exploring ways of building community and to become more socially responsible. He suggests that ‘spirituality’ is allowing them to explore what he calls an ethic of humanity—an approach to life that values relationality over individuality. To be sure, not every New Age ‘spirituality’ promotes this, but we cannot deny its possibility either by making sweeping generalisations to denigrate all those people into 'spirituality' as somehow morally or mentally defective. And while certain aspects of their ‘spirituality’ diverge from Buddhism, that's no basis for us to dismiss them either.

So, knowing these things, why do I still feel a sense of aversion towards my friend’s interest in ‘spirituality’? Is it because unlike those people that Heelas studied, my friend is not engaging in ‘spirituality’ in the ‘right’ ethical way? Am I feeling a sense of aversion towards her ‘spirituality’ because she is using it to avoid confronting the root causes of her personal problems? But even if she is drawn to ‘spirituality’ for these reasons, isn’t it because she is confronted by dukkha, even if she isn’t dealing with it in the most skilful way? Knowing her history, I can see that she seeks solace in ‘spirituality’ partly because of her past experiences of hurt and trauma and so forth. If this is the case, then, why (if I pride myself as a Buddhist) is my first reaction one of aversion rather than empathy or compassion?

Gosh... I'll stop here, work through my thoughts, or rather, feelings, and post again. Take care.
With metta,
zavk

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Tue Nov 30, 2010 11:16 am

KonstantKarma wrote:I think you're looking for bhavana.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhavana

literally means "development" or "cultivating" or "producing" in the sense of "calling into existence." It is an important concept in Buddhist praxis (Patipatti). The word bhavana normally appears in conjunction with another word forming a compound phrase such as citta-bhavana (the development or cultivation of the heart/mind) or metta-bhavana (the development/cultivation of lovingkindness). When used on its own bhavana signifies 'spiritual cultivation' generally.


So could we have panna bhavana ( development of wisdom )? That seems to describe the goal of Buddhism quite well.

Spiny

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby zavk » Tue Nov 30, 2010 12:37 pm

Continued from previous post....

As I inquired into my feelings, I began to realise that the feelings of aversion derive not from the fact that my friend has misunderstood ‘spirituality’ or that ‘spirituality’ has been misused by opportunistic marketers—valid as these arguments may be. Rather, my feelings of aversion derive from a sense of ‘I know better than you/I’m more discerning than you’. It is the same sense of aversion that we sometimes get when we look through a friend’s music collection and go ‘Urrrghh, I didn’t know that s/he likes something so “common”…’, or the kind of aversion we can observe in a so-called cultural elite who turns his/her nose up at people who flock to the cinemas to catch the latest Hollywood blockbuster.

In other words, the feelings of aversion I had towards my friend’s ‘spirituality’ was a means to assert a superiority of TASTE. ‘Taste’ depends on DISTINCTIONS. E.g. between cultured/uncultured, sophisticated/uncouth, artful/trashy, unique/common, etc, etc. (Buddhism uses the idea of the ‘Eight Worldly Winds’ to describe the samsaric world of distinctions.) So I’ve come to realise that the habit of making distinctions, the habitual urge to assert a superiority of taste, was what my feelings of aversion towards ‘spirituality’ is really about. It was a means for me to pat myself on the back, to feel good about myself over and against others who unlike me are ‘duped’ by ‘spirituality’. I began to see that my aversion towards ‘spirituality’ belies an air of snootiness or snobbishness. Or to put it in Dhammic terms, it was a subtle way of reinforcing a sense of ‘I’, 'me', 'mine'.

This is what I’ve learned from inquiring into my feelings of aversion towards ‘spirituality’. To be sure, there is evidence that we can evoke to critique ‘spirituality’, but there is also evidence that we can evoke to speak favourably of ‘spirituality’. In any case, the fact that ‘spirituality’ appeals to so many people suggests that it is very effective in tapping into the underlying sense of unsatisfactoriness that every human being experiences. Some of us—maybe because of our past kamma—are able to deal with the feeling of unsatisfactoriness through the Dhamma. Others do it through ‘spirituality’. So even if some forms of ‘spirituality’ are questionable, it remains the case that those who are drawn to it are driven by a desire to overcome dukkha, a condition that we all share.

This is why I’m careful not to dismiss ‘spirituality’ too easily; this is why I am receptive to the reformation/reconfiguration of ‘spirituality’. Holding too strongly to a negative view of ‘spirituality’, I find, solidifies a sense of self, sucks me into a hole of self-righteousness, and cuts me off from feeling empathy and compassion towards those who, because of the inescapable reality of dukkha, are drawn to ‘spirituality’--just as I am drawn to Buddhism for the same reason.

To the extent that ‘spirituality’ appeals to people because it appears to be able to ease dukkha, it also offers me a space to empathise with other fellow human beings (even if I do not always agree with their interpretations of ‘spirituality’), who, like me, are grappling with dukkha. But if I refuse to have anything to do with ‘spirituality’ (something which I think is impossible anyway), I would also be cutting off the possibility of connection with those people who find ‘spirituality’ meaningful.

As far as I’m aware, Dhamma practice is not about defending the uniqueness of Buddhism at the expense of connection with others, even if—especially if—those others are different from us or hold beliefs that do not sit comfortably with ours. It is moments like these--encounters with something that arouses feelings of aversion in us, encounters that prompt us to become indignant, defensive, self-righteous--that demand utmost mindful self-reflexivity on our part. These moments, in my experience, present the best opportunities for insight, for growth, and for connection with others.


Moreover, given how ‘spirituality’ is not limited to any one religious tradition or culture, and given how it can be used to explore what Heelas calls an ethic of humanity, it can offer a space for people to get together—despite their differences—to collectively make sense of such things anger, death, suffering, as well as kindness, love, compassion, and hope. In our current global political climate where tensions are boiling over with regards to such things as nationality, ethnicity, and religion, it seems that we need to urgently find common spaces and common languages to work out the values that matter to us as a collective humanity. 'Spirituality' can provide us with one such common-language, if we use it with care.

This will, of course, take time and effort. The dominant (unwholesome) understandings of ‘spirituality’ can only be changed slowly. But if we can learn anything from the history of ‘spirituality’, it shows that the use of the term has and can change in accordance with the social needs of the day. As a Buddhist who is committed to living in accordance with the principle of change, as someone who is committed to cultivating an ethical life of compassion and social-engagement, I’ve therefore made the decision to adopt a friendly and open attitude towards ‘spirituality’. I’m not that interested in erecting a barrier between Buddhism and ‘spirituality’. To do so would risk incarcerating Buddhism from the world. This is not to say that I won’t point out shortcomings where they are to be found--in fact, I have spent the past three years looking into such shortcomings. I just wish to guard against reifying a strict opposition between ‘Buddhism’ vs. ‘spirituality’, lest I unwittingly burrow myself into a self-righteous hole and become isolated from my fellow humanity who, like me, are grappling with dukkha. If I do so, I would, ironically, enact precisely what critics have cautioned about ‘spirituality’: that it becomes a guise for a kind of self-absorbed endeavour, a means to turn away from the social obligations of the world while retaining a sense of so-called inner peace.

Once again, please excuse my long post. But if you have patiently read this far, THANK YOU. I shall sign off here in the spirit of goodwill and friendliness (gasp… I've used that ghostly word again! If there is indeed a better way of putting across what I'm expressing here without actually using the S word, then, I concede my weakness. The spirit may be willing but my linguistic skills are weak).

:anjali: :smile: :group:
With metta,
zavk

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby KonstantKarma » Tue Nov 30, 2010 3:07 pm

Spiny O'Norman wrote:
KonstantKarma wrote:I think you're looking for bhavana.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bhavana

literally means "development" or "cultivating" or "producing" in the sense of "calling into existence." It is an important concept in Buddhist praxis (Patipatti). The word bhavana normally appears in conjunction with another word forming a compound phrase such as citta-bhavana (the development or cultivation of the heart/mind) or metta-bhavana (the development/cultivation of lovingkindness). When used on its own bhavana signifies 'spiritual cultivation' generally.


So could we have panna bhavana ( development of wisdom )? That seems to describe the goal of Buddhism quite well.

Spiny


I like what Houtman says in Mental culture in Burmese crisis politics:

The word bhavana is a verbal noun derived from the causative of the verb bhavati, to be, to become, and therefore literally means "the bringing into existence," i.e. producing, development. Thus the development of mind is twofold:

1) Development of mental concentration (samadhi-bhavana), or tranquility (samatha-bhavana);
2) Development of wisdom (panna-bhavana), or clear insight (vipassana-bhavana).

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby kirk5a » Tue Nov 30, 2010 3:30 pm

KonstantKarma wrote:
Spiny O'Norman wrote:
So could we have panna bhavana ( development of wisdom )? That seems to describe the goal of Buddhism quite well.

Spiny


I like what Houtman says in Mental culture in Burmese crisis politics:

The word bhavana is a verbal noun derived from the causative of the verb bhavati, to be, to become, and therefore literally means "the bringing into existence," i.e. producing, development. Thus the development of mind is twofold:

1) Development of mental concentration (samadhi-bhavana), or tranquility (samatha-bhavana);
2) Development of wisdom (panna-bhavana), or clear insight (vipassana-bhavana).

mm ok and
3) this development of mind is for the cessation of clinging.
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Nov 30, 2010 3:40 pm

The idea of "clinging" is useful to a degree, but is also to be dropped.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby kirk5a » Tue Nov 30, 2010 3:46 pm

Not clinging to the idea of clinging, I examine my mind for clinging, and the release of clinging, directly.

How's that? :smile:
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Nov 30, 2010 3:48 pm

Its much simpler than that. We dont need to watch ourselves watching ourselves.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby Hanzze » Tue Nov 30, 2010 3:52 pm

_/\_
Last edited by Hanzze on Thu Jan 13, 2011 3:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Just that! *smile*
...We Buddhists must find the courage to leave our temples and enter the temples of human experience, temples that are filled with suffering. If we listen to Buddha, Christ, or Gandhi, we can do nothing else. The refugee camps, the prisons, the ghettos, and the battlefields will become our temples. We have so much work to do. ... Peace is Possible! Step by Step. - Samtach Preah Maha Ghosananda "Step by Step" http://www.ghosananda.org/bio_book.html

BUT! it is important to become a real Buddhist first. Like Punna did: Punna Sutta Nate sante baram sokham _()_

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby kirk5a » Tue Nov 30, 2010 4:03 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Its much simpler than that. We dont need to watch ourselves watching ourselves.

Not construing a "watching ourselves watching ourselves," clinging-mind is known, the release of clinging-mind is known.

Any further tweaking?
"When one thing is practiced & pursued, ignorance is abandoned, clear knowing arises, the conceit 'I am' is abandoned, latent tendencies are uprooted, fetters are abandoned. Which one thing? Mindfulness immersed in the body." -AN 1.230

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Re: No place for spirituality in Theravada?

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Nov 30, 2010 4:11 pm

You are a a man arent you ? ;)
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.


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