nowheat wrote:Are they following a-moral Wrong Views and do they need to be encouraged to take up a foreign belief system they will need to relinquish before they can reach liberation? In the Buddha's day, taking a step towards the views common in the day might have made sense -- but it seems to me that in our day and age it would make more sense to encourage Christian beliefs.
The line in bold made me think you felt belief in kamma would need to be relinquished prior to enlightenment. Apparently I misunderstood it.
Might the confusion come from karma and rebirth being so intertwined in your understanding that when I argue against using rebirth you hear me also arguing against karma? Whereas in my understanding, the Buddha redefined karma as something we can see for ourselves -- and free ourselves of by the methods he teaches -- right here and now in this life. For me this was his point, that his method liberated the ardent, energetic, and insightful follower before death, no waiting for things that would happen in the next life.
Another point in this paragraph is that you seem to assume all westerners are wonderful ethical people.
I don't believe that at all. But I haven't found any newcomers to Buddhism actively endorsing the view that they can walk up this side of the Ganges slicing and dicing people, and come back down the other doing the same, and it makes no difference. The prisoners you mention who might be "doing it to look good" aren't actually newcomers to Buddhism (they're gamers gaming the system). The people you mention who "seem genuinely enthusiastic to learn about the working of kamma" are, as you say, "not evil people". That was my point: That we are not teaching the Buddha's method to the slicers-and-dicers and gamers; we are teaching the Buddha's method to people who are seeking the path because they already have some access to some innate sense of morality that lets them even worry that they might be evil people.
I can assure you that I do not fit that description myself...
Which of us does? It's a fairy tale. We Buddhists come to this practice because we need help getting life straightened up, not because we're wonderful to begin with.
... so there is a necessity to emphasize the Buddhist ethical framework. To take that point further, many prisoners who can not accept Christianity at this point in their lives are turning to Buddhism.
But the whole of the dhamma is about ethics, and recognizing that we are not evil people, just people who make mistakes, and literal rebirth is not only not the only part that can teach that, it is not even integral to the dhamma's ethics or to recognizing that we are not evil. Karma, just by itself, teaches ethics just fine. The Safe Bet (shorn of its emendation) is saying precisely that -- good deeds reap good ends even if retributional rebirth is not part of the cosmic system; bad deeds reap bad ends, ditto.
It is really only when *we* are afraid that the way things work -- the way we can see for ourselves that things work -- isn't enough to motivate people (ourselves included) that we need to bring rebirth into it. If we believe, actually believe, what the Buddha is telling us about us not being evil people, about having a selfless nature if only we get the obscuring longing-for-self out of our way, then retributive, right-and-wrong balancing rebirth isn't at all necessary to believe in. Rebirth actually obscures the truth: that if we follow this path long enough and far enough we will see that we do have naturally generous and caring natures, and no carrot-and-stick is needed for us to behave that way. We need to clearly see that no belief in unknowable rebirth is needed to motivate anyone, and we can see that if we can just help each other notice where the greed and ill will and delusion comes from, see how it is those things (not a cosmic order) that bring about the effects of karma, and stop the process that generates them. Concentrating on an order *outside ourselves* that does the balancing for us obscures the point that the source generating the karma is the same source that delivers the results -- it is that human sense of self acting to preserve itself, not a cosmic order.
This paragraph seems to start with the assumption that there was something fundamentally different from the Buddhas day to now. However, both societies had some loose sexual habits, both have a problem with crime and violence, greed, lying, cheating, etc. From the framework of Buddhist ethics, most of modern society is fairly hedonistic. I see my friends and family pursuing things that only further suffering every day. It is fairly painful to watch, but I don't feel like preaching as I have a lot to learn about life myself.
Yes, there was something fundamentally different from the Buddha's (place and) day to now (in the West). In his day, the predominant belief was in rebirth, in our day and place, it is not. People are still the same.
My main point is that we do not need to tell people the Buddha teaches us to see clearly the distinction between what we know and what we only think we know -- we don't need to tell people this path is about sorting out delusion -- and then teach them to look for something they have no evidence for, and encourage them to bend experiences to shape them into supporting evidence. In the Buddha's day people believed in rebirth and he started by meeting people where they were -- assuring them that their belief system was more moral than many others out there -- and then he worked at moving them towards a less selfish way of looking at things, at redefining what's behind karma and what could be done with it.
We need to do the same thing, not introduce a whole new cosmology that is not in evidence for them to take up, believe in, and then need to give up in order to be liberated.
This is *why* it's Secular Buddhism: because it is focused on what we can see here and now, in this very life, and getting as far along the path as possible, in this very life.