The Secular Buddhist

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:45 am

Hi Geoff,
Ñāṇa wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Stephen Batchelor is practising a "sutta method" just as much as you are, but you have (I think) come to rather different conclusions.

I really don't think Batchelor is, Mike. How can one have a meaningful and coherent "sutta method" which fails to accept the validity of passages which are central to the description of the Buddha's awakening and passages which are common throughout the suttas? ...

What I meant was that Batchelor's stated aim is to investigate the suttas in order to determine the "true teachings of the Buddha", not that I agreed with his conclusions. The point is that different people can use the same material and come to rather different conclusions.

:anjali:
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:53 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Stephen Batchelor is practising a "sutta method" just as much as you are, but you have (I think) come to rather different conclusions.

I really don't think Batchelor is, Mike. How can one have a meaningful and coherent "sutta method" which fails to accept the validity of passages which are central to the description of the Buddha's awakening and passages which are common throughout the suttas? Just to mention a few, passages describing:


Failing to accept the validity of these teachings, yet still wanting to be a "Buddhist," is analogous to someone calling themselves a "Christian" yet refusing to accept the Trinity or the Resurrection of Christ. It's nonsensical.

Some of the most influential Christians of recent times in terms of turning people to an inner contemplative strain of Christianity...Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, David Stendhel-Rast, Martin Israel etc would to a greater ot lesser degree see the Trinity and Resurrection as deeply meaningful, but in in other than literal terms.
Perhaps we have reached an interesting historical point where Christianity in some of its forms is less literalist and more experientially orientated than are some Buddhists.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Feb 24, 2012 9:56 am

Sanghamitta wrote:On " it all comes out in the wash "

I have been on a number of Vipassana and Metta Bhavana retreats involving participants from the spectrum of western Buddhist orientations. From devotees of the Suttas to those exclusively preoccupied with practice.
As far as I could see any major difference in what they experienced was pretty much down to effort ..effort put forth against a backdrop of Sila.
What they believed before hand appeared to have little or no effect on the outcome at all.
...

It's certainly interesting how one can observe how people who have had little or no previous knowledge come up with quite similar experiences (even in quite different types of retreats).

As mentioned here:
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=10148
when such participants have quite deep experiences, they need the right support:
Kelly McGonigal wrote:The second concern that I have in terms of the secularization is that in the CCARE program we are not watering down the practices. People are doing Tonglen, which can be a very challenging practice, the practice of giving and taking, taking in people’s suffering and giving back compassion. And other practices that are very powerful. And even though we have made the program secular in the core content, I’m finding that people are coming back and reporting experiences that I only know how to respond to with Buddhist ideas. People coming in who are reporting what is essentially the dissolving of the self, the sense, that rigid sense of the self, the personality, the ego. People are spontaneously experiencing this when they do the practices and they aren’t necessarily deeply disturbed by them but they don’t understand what’s happening. And I don’t have the theory or the words from western psychology or a secular field to explain this in way that I find is helpful as how a Buddhist teacher would explain these experiences and what to do with them, how to use them in your practice and other things like that.

:anjali:
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:01 am

Greetings,

Kelly McGonical wrote:Tonglen... the practice of... taking in people’s suffering

:alien:

Kelly McGonical wrote:when they do the practices and they aren’t necessarily deeply disturbed by them but they don’t understand what’s happening.

AN 10.103 wrote:"In a person of wrong view, wrong resolve comes into being. In a person of wrong resolve, wrong speech. In a person of wrong speech, wrong action. In a person of wrong action, wrong livelihood. In a person of wrong livelihood, wrong effort. In a person of wrong effort, wrong mindfulness. In a person of wrong mindfulness, wrong concentration. In a person of wrong concentration, wrong knowledge. In a person of wrong knowledge, wrong release.

"This is how from wrongness comes failure, not success."

DN 22 wrote: :buddha1: "And what is right view? Knowledge with regard to stress, knowledge with regard to the origination of stress, knowledge with regard to the cessation of stress, knowledge with regard to the way of practice leading to the cessation of stress: This is called right view."

MN 60 wrote: :buddha1: "This is called an individual who neither torments himself nor is devoted to the practice of torturing himself, who neither torments others nor is devoted to the practice of torturing others. Neither tormenting himself nor tormenting others, he dwells in the here-&-now free of hunger, unbound, cooled, sensitive to happiness, with a Brahma-like mind."


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: The Secular Buddhist

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:10 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

mikenz66 wrote:Tonglen... the practice of... taking in people’s suffering

:alien:

Not sure what your point is. Tonglen appears to be just a variation of brahamavihara practice.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonglen
In the practice, one visualizes taking onto oneself the suffering of others on the in-breath, and on the out-breath giving happiness and success to all sentient beings.

Are you saying that you don't believe that someone doing that practice would have similar experiences to Theravada practitioners doing metta and karuna practices?

:anjali:
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:16 am

Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Tonglen appears to be just a variation of brahamavihara practice.

A wrong version of it (based on Kelly's description of it, at least).

There is no "taking" of anything in metta... rather, there is the letting go of taking. There is even the letting go of the view that people must first be kind to you, before you will in turn be kind to them.

Your post, outlining the befuddlement of the uninstructed Tonglen practitioner, serves as a good warning to Secular Buddhists that they should have Right View as the their forerunner, rather than Wrong Tantra.

If you have stopped only one person from charging off merrily down the lane of such practices without first developing Right View, you have accumulated much merit today.

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: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Nyana » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:17 am

Sanghamitta wrote:Some of the most influential Christians of recent times in terms of turning people to an inner contemplative strain of Christianity...Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, David Stendhel-Rast, Martin Israel etc would to a greater ot lesser degree see the Trinity and Resurrection as deeply meaningful, but in in other than literal terms.
Perhaps we have reached an interesting historical point where Christianity in some of its forms is less literalist and more experientially orientated than are some Buddhists.

Yes, Liberal Theology was (and is) a necessary development in Biblical hermeneutics -- in order to differentiate the mythical and allegorical literary styles from the ethical and soteriological message of Christianity. Theistic religions cannot peacefully and coherently coexist and integrate with modernity without this differentiation. And just like for Christianity, liberal hermeneutics doesn't necessitate the rejection of the afterlife, within the context of the Buddhadhamma this differentiation doesn't necessitate rejecting the teachings on post-mortem continuity.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:21 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:On " it all comes out in the wash "

I have been on a number of Vipassana and Metta Bhavana retreats involving participants from the spectrum of western Buddhist orientations. From devotees of the Suttas to those exclusively preoccupied with practice.
As far as I could see any major difference in what they experienced was pretty much down to effort ..effort put forth against a backdrop of Sila.
What they believed before hand appeared to have little or no effect on the outcome at all.
...

It's certainly interesting how one can observe how people who have had little or no previous knowledge come up with quite similar experiences (even in quite different types of retreats).

As mentioned here:
viewtopic.php?f=16&t=10148
when such participants have quite deep experiences, they need the right support:
Kelly McGonigal wrote:The second concern that I have in terms of the secularization is that in the CCARE program we are not watering down the practices. People are doing Tonglen, which can be a very challenging practice, the practice of giving and taking, taking in people’s suffering and giving back compassion. And other practices that are very powerful. And even though we have made the program secular in the core content, I’m finding that people are coming back and reporting experiences that I only know how to respond to with Buddhist ideas. People coming in who are reporting what is essentially the dissolving of the self, the sense, that rigid sense of the self, the personality, the ego. People are spontaneously experiencing this when they do the practices and they aren’t necessarily deeply disturbed by them but they don’t understand what’s happening. And I don’t have the theory or the words from western psychology or a secular field to explain this in way that I find is helpful as how a Buddhist teacher would explain these experiences and what to do with them, how to use them in your practice and other things like that.

:anjali:
Mike

Interesting certainly,but hardly surprising. The Buddha knew what he was doing..
And it is quite clear I think that much/most of his teaching was sprats for mackerels. A holding operation while people get down to the real stuff of practice. A holding operation clothed of necessity in the cultural forms of the time..In other words the spiritual lingua franca of the Indian Subcontinent around 500 BC with its giants and devas and highly poetic cosmology and speculations about post mortem states .
The Buddha knew better than to engage in disputing all that. Incidentally I would imagine that our concept of " secular " or " religious" would have had very little meaning to people of that age.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Nyana » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:22 am

retrofuturist wrote:There is no "taking" of anything in metta... rather, there is the letting go of taking.

Firstly, tonglen is more about karuṇā and vedanānupassanā than about mettā. Secondly, the "taking" is a metaphor for inducing empathy by contemplating external feelings.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:26 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Mike,

mikenz66 wrote:Tonglen appears to be just a variation of brahamavihara practice.

A wrong version of it.

There is no "taking" of anything in metta... rather, there is the letting go of taking. There is even the letting go of the view that people must first be kind to you, before you will in turn be kind to them.

Your post, outlining the befuddlement of the uninstructed Tonglen practitioner, serves as a good warning to Secular Buddhists that they should have Right View as the their forerunner, rather than Wrong Tantra.

If you have stopped only one person from charging off merrily down the lane of such practices without first developing Right View, you had accumulated much merit today.

Metta,


Can we expect Retrofuturist that you will float that view of Tong-len on Dharma Wheel ? As I understand it the vajrayans sees Tong-len as an important means of DEVELOPING Right View...not a result of holding a particular verbal formulation.

Retro. :)
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:30 am

Greetings Sanghamitta,

Sanghamitta wrote:Can we expect Retrofuturist that you will float that view of Tong-len on Dharma Wheel ?

No you can't expect that, and based on the information provided by Geoff I have since updated my earlier post with the caveat that I'm talking about Tonglen as described by Kelly McGonigal.

If you wish to advise Kelly of her error, it may be to the benefit of many meditators who undertake meditation practices with inadequate background on the Dhamma... viewtopic.php?f=17&t=11586&start=20#p175356

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: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Nyana » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:41 am

Sanghamitta wrote:On " it all comes out in the wash "

I have been on a number of Vipassana and Metta Bhavana retreats involving participants from the spectrum of western Buddhist orientations. From devotees of the Suttas to those exclusively preoccupied with practice.
As far as I could see any major difference in what they experienced was pretty much down to effort ..effort put forth against a backdrop of Sila.
What they believed before hand appeared to have little or no effect on the outcome at all.
I suspect that as they travelled back from the retreat each participant donned the uniform that they most identify with, but perhaps it was a little less fitting. A little more roomy.
The qualitative difference in my experience is between those who regularly attend retreats and those who do not..this is not intended to offend. It is a much repeated and consistent observation.

To be sure, there are different degrees of commitment and different degrees of the sense of urgency to practice. I wonder though, how this notion of secular Buddhism fits with Buddhist monasticism?... I think most of the ordained monastics I know -- who have dedicated their lives to the dhammavinaya -- do accept the teachings on rebirth and take this view seriously and also practice contemplative recollections like recognition of the uncertainty of the time of death, and so on (although I've never conducted anything like a formal survey on the subject).
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:42 am

Your updated caveat is duly acknowledged. :smile:

:anjali:
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:48 am

Ñāṇa wrote:
Sanghamitta wrote:On " it all comes out in the wash "

I have been on a number of Vipassana and Metta Bhavana retreats involving participants from the spectrum of western Buddhist orientations. From devotees of the Suttas to those exclusively preoccupied with practice.
As far as I could see any major difference in what they experienced was pretty much down to effort ..effort put forth against a backdrop of Sila.
What they believed before hand appeared to have little or no effect on the outcome at all.
I suspect that as they travelled back from the retreat each participant donned the uniform that they most identify with, but perhaps it was a little less fitting. A little more roomy.
The qualitative difference in my experience is between those who regularly attend retreats and those who do not..this is not intended to offend. It is a much repeated and consistent observation.

To be sure, there are different degrees of commitment and different degrees of the sense of urgency to practice. I wonder though, how this notion of secular Buddhism fits with Buddhist monasticism?... I think most of the ordained monastics I know -- who have dedicated their lives to the dhammavinaya -- do accept the teachings on rebirth and take this view seriously and also practice contemplative recollections like recognition of the uncertainty of the time of death, and so on (although I've never conducted anything like a formal survey on the subject).

I dont doubt your experience...I can tell you that many of the monks I know/knew best, and Ajahn Chah, dropped/drop the subject like a handful of warm ordure as soon as it was raised and did not pick it up again.
It became a bit of an in game for example ( which I am sure he was aware of ) to try to get Ajahn Sumedho to talk about Rebirth..
I think I MAY know what his actual position was...but he invariably answered in terms of " do the work ! " pointing metaphorically or literally to the cushion..
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Nyana » Fri Feb 24, 2012 10:58 am

Sanghamitta wrote:I can tell you that many of the monks I know/knew best, and Ajahn Chah, dropped/drop the subject like a handful of warm ordure as soon as it was raised and did not pick it up again.

Yes, Chah and Sumedho are skillful teachers.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Feb 24, 2012 12:18 pm

retrofuturist wrote:... I have since updated my earlier post with the caveat that I'm talking about Tonglen as described by Kelly McGonigal.

If you wish to advise Kelly of her error, it may be to the benefit of many meditators who undertake meditation practices with inadequate background on the Dhamma... http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 20#p175356

I don't think anyone needs saving from her. The description was not from Kelly, it was from a Wikipedia article.

Actually I don't see any inherent contradiction between what I quoted, what Geoff said, and karuna and metta as described in the Suttas. Metta and karuna practice as described in the suttas generally involve some sort of visualisation:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... ml#brahma1
"That disciple of the noble ones, headman — thus devoid of covetousness, devoid of ill will, unbewildered, alert, mindful — keeps pervading the first direction [the east] with an awareness imbued with good will,
...
"That disciple of the noble ones — thus devoid of covetousness, devoid of ill will, unbewildered, alert, mindful — keeps pervading the first direction with an awareness imbued with compassion...

:anjali:
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby kirk5a » Fri Feb 24, 2012 2:08 pm

Goofaholix wrote:
Buckwheat wrote:Or do you believe that we just get a little more pure and happy and then a little more pure and happy and then we die? There would be nothing immoral with that but I'm not sure it would qualify as Buddhism.


Sure, why not.

How is that different from the annihilationist view?

How would one go for refuge in the Buddha while thinking that much of what he said was false? Not just - "I don't personally know the truth on this point yet" but "what the Buddha is recorded saying there is false."
"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: The Secular Buddhist

Postby vinasp » Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:03 pm

Hi everyone,

The annihilationist and the eternalist views are both views of a self.

Here are the descriptions of eternalism and annihilationism from DN.1
The Brahmajala Sutta, translated by Bhikkhu Bodhi.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .bodh.html

1. Eternalism (Sassatavāda): Views 1–4

30. "There are, bhikkhus, some recluses and brahmins who are eternalists, and who on four grounds proclaim the self and the world to be eternal. And owing to what, with reference to what, do these honorable recluses and brahmins proclaim their views?

4. Annihilationism (Ucchedavāda): Views 51–57

84. "There are, bhikkhus, some recluses and brahmins who are annihilationists and who on seven grounds proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being. And owing to what, with reference to what, do these honorable recluses and brahmins proclaim their views?

85. "Herein, bhikkhus, a certain recluse or a brahmin asserts the following doctrine and view: 'The self, good sir, has material form; it is composed of the four primary elements and originates from father and mother. Since this self, good sir, is annihilated and destroyed with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death, at this point the self is completely annihilated.' In this way some proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being.

Regards, Vincent.
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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Spiny O'Norman » Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:24 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Liking or disliking particular teachings is only an issue in the absence of instruction.
With proper instruction one just gets on with it.


I agree, but this seems to assume there is only one approach to proper instruction, which is clearly not the case.

So there is also the issue of liking / disliking this or that approach ( this or that teacher ).

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Re: The Secular Buddhist

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Feb 24, 2012 3:28 pm

If the instruction is proper, liking or disliking this or that approach or teacher is as frivolous as liking or disliking a given fireman when the house is on fire....it really doesnt matter.
Its our response and application that matters, nothing else.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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