Traditions and ideology

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

Re: Traditions and ideology

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:01 am

Greetings Dan,

Dan74 wrote:Yes, but I am sure history has played a part too - as always it is the interaction of historical, social and psychological forces, isn't it? And you can't separate the three.

I agree those are all factors, though with the communications revolution, the historical and social influences are arguably diminishing relative to the psychological forces, in the context of the modern Buddhist world.

Dan74 wrote:84000 is not to be taken literally, right?

Feel free to replace "84,000" with "a shed-load". :D

Dan74 wrote:Also "evolutionary derived" or kammic or through nature-nurture inteaction...

I wasn't really separating them as such, I just meant as they evolved over time. Arguably, "evolutionary forces" is a blanket statement intend to capture all the actual forces (kammic, physical, other niyamas) that played out over time.

Dan74 wrote:My belief as I guess you know is that great masters of different times and places have discerned the core of the Buddha's teaching through insight and realisation and having absorbed and assimilated the teachings have made them their own. And so rather than repeating "dead words" they spoke using their own words with the force of their living energy and experience and of course the insight of liberation. So we have Suttas and Sutras, shastras, commentaries, koans, termas, etc etc Some seem more insightful, some seem less when filtered through our own particular slant and predilection.

Understood. And with the increasing emphasis on psychological "predilection" and the veritable smorgasboard of traditions available, it's decreasingly relevant to speak of traditions in the traditional geographical sense, or via their evolutionary path, but to speak of them increasingly in terms of (as you said) personality, predilection and (as Kim said) worldview. As a non-Korean following a path brought to you to Melbourne via Korea, you yourself are a product of this "modern Buddhism" which needn't be explained in the traditional historical way via recourse to Councils, schisms et.al.

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: Traditions and ideology

Postby Dan74 » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:16 am

Yes, Councils and schisms (if even real) are not really relevant to me but Pali Buddhism is.

Tradition is also relevant, in my view, because it is the quality control, the reference point. There are the texts and the senior teachers that are meant to ensure that individual teachers don't go off track or if and when that happens to help them come back and also also warn their students. As an anecdote, a fellow teacher of Buddhist RE here is a student of a student of Geshe Michael Roach. She is a lovely lady who is now teaching my son, and though GMR appears to me to be a case in point, here we are...

Hmm... traditions are bigger than personality and no matter what traditions some thing will grate on you. I don't know. I suppose I could've easily been a student of Ajahn Sumedho or perhaps Chogyal Namkhai Norbu. It has a lot to do with circumstance or kamma, if you will.
Last edited by Dan74 on Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Traditions and ideology

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:23 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Kim,

...
World-view seems a worthy subtitute to ideology to me.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Good. I think it's a more realistic term. But I really must leave you guys to it for a while because there are other (less fun) things I ought to be doing - raking lawns, sweeping floors, stuff like that ...

:namaste:
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Re: Traditions and ideology

Postby retrofuturist » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:51 am

Greetings,

Dan74 wrote:Hmm... traditions are bigger than personality

And arguably that general relationship not holding true at a particular point in time is how new traditions come to be formed (but that isn't necessarily a bad thing).

An example that comes to mind is the conflict that has arisen as a result of bhikkhuni ordination and how the situation is viewed differently by conservatives and progressives within the broader Thai Forest tradition. Interestingly, some may feel that they remain part of the Thai Forest tradition, yet others within the Thai Forest tradition might regard certain segments that have gone against "tradition" somewhat differently.

Tradition, as distinct to lineage, seems to have a far more subjective quality to it. It seems more to do with community and identification, and through identification, you're likely to do things in a way that shares parallels with others who self-identify with that group too.

It's all quite complicated, yet here we are... along with traditions.

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: Traditions and ideology

Postby Dan74 » Fri Apr 13, 2012 2:33 am

retrofuturist wrote:It's all quite complicated, yet here we are... along with traditions.

Metta,
Retro. :)


Indeed!
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Re: Traditions and ideology

Postby Cafael Dust » Fri Apr 13, 2012 10:05 am

Could the Bodhisattva ideal have something to do with cultural differences between India and China? India has always had a tradition of holy wanderers, accepting the benefits to society of such a person as given and without need of outlining, whereas Chinese sages, e.g. Lao Tzu, Confucius, have always had to justify their existence and maintenance by reference to the needs of their community? So Mahayana became popular in China and the areas influenced by Chinese thought, since Mahayana Buddhism focuses on, for better or worse, how an enlightened person is useful to others. Whereas Theravada took root in those countries which were influenced by Indian thought; indeed, Thai Buddhism continues with the ideal of the forest dwelling, wandering contemplative, whereas Chan and Zen are more like Western church/monastic communities, with defined responsibilities to the laity.

We tend to characterise Western society as 'free' compared with other cultures, but actually, it is not so much that we are free as that the marketplace is free to assign us flexible roles. We are still expected to demonstrate measurable benefits to our community, hence the perceived threat that the influence of Indian culture posed to our society in the 1960s. This would explain the greater popularity of the Mahayana in the West.

The reason why India accepts the wandering monk as being useful without demanding spreadsheets and cost analysis, is perhaps because India historically has had so many contemplatives who did prove useful, so that confidence in the tradition has become ingrained and no longer requires justifying.
Last edited by Cafael Dust on Fri Apr 13, 2012 10:13 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Traditions and ideology

Postby Dan74 » Fri Apr 13, 2012 10:12 am

There may be something to your theory, CD, I am not sure. The one thing to note is that Chinese Buddhism has also had a strong forest dwelling, wandering contemplative tradition, so this worldly Mahayana Buddhism notion is quite flawed I think, while Theravada monastics are in some sense more beholden to the community because they completely depend on their dana.
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Re: Traditions and ideology

Postby Cafael Dust » Fri Apr 13, 2012 10:19 am

Well, China is a big place, so is India. My theory is necessarily a generalisation. Also, whatever one's ideology, the practical implications of Buddhist practice will often lead to temporary introversion and thus the traditions you refer to.

Dana is not a fixed wage, it's based on the acceptance by the public of supporting monks whose usefulness has not been demonstrated to them. Whereas a Zen priest is paid for specific duties.
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Re: Traditions and ideology

Postby Dan74 » Fri Apr 13, 2012 10:40 am

Cafael Dust wrote:Well, China is a big place, so is India. My theory is necessarily a generalisation. Also, whatever one's ideology, the practical implications of Buddhist practice will often lead to temporary introversion and thus the traditions you refer to.

Dana is not a fixed wage, it's based on the acceptance by the public of supporting monks whose usefulness has not been demonstrated to them. Whereas a Zen priest is paid for specific duties.


A Zen priest is a very recent phenomenon that is irrelevant to what you were saying above. I don't follow...

As for unconditional support of monks, this is not the reality from what I've heard.
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Re: Traditions and ideology

Postby Cafael Dust » Fri Apr 13, 2012 11:01 am

Fair. I'm likely conflating a sketchy knowledge of history with my own cultural stereotypes. I do, however, see some societies as more attached to unambiguously quantifying the material usefulness of religion than others, and there does seem to be a difference between Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism along these lines. Everything I've read about ancient and modern India suggests a deep respect and tolerance for wandering contemplatives as the focus for generosity, indeed as a life to aspire to. Russia has a similar tradition.
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Re: Traditions and ideology

Postby Zom » Fri Apr 13, 2012 12:52 pm

Everything I've read about ancient and modern India suggests a deep respect and tolerance for wandering contemplatives as the focus for generosity, indeed as a life to aspire to.


I told about that elsewhere and will repeat once again - to be tolerant and respectful doesn't mean that we must accept other traditions as correct 8-) There are differences between mayahana and theravada and it is foolish not to notice them.
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Re: Traditions and ideology

Postby kirk5a » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:01 pm

Zom wrote:I told about that elsewhere and will repeat once again - to be tolerant and respectful doesn't mean that we must accept other traditions as correct 8-) There are differences between mayahana and theravada and it is foolish not to notice them.

"Differences" do not necessarily mean "incorrect."
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Re: Traditions and ideology

Postby Dan74 » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:23 pm

Zom wrote:
Everything I've read about ancient and modern India suggests a deep respect and tolerance for wandering contemplatives as the focus for generosity, indeed as a life to aspire to.


I told about that elsewhere and will repeat once again - to be tolerant and respectful doesn't mean that we must accept other traditions as correct 8-) There are differences between mayahana and theravada and it is foolish not to notice them.


Cafael was trying to say that Indian culture at the time was conducive to the contemplative approach of the early Sangha, I think. Nothing to do with the Thearavada vs Mahayana thingie that you seem to be turning this into. Why don't we exercise some restraint and not derail this topic with ill-conceived sectarianism?

There are other topics for that if one's tempted.
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Re: Traditions and ideology

Postby Zom » Fri Apr 13, 2012 2:12 pm

"Differences" do not necessarily mean "incorrect."


Yes. But when something is white, it just can't be black. So there is a need to study a matter carefully.

Why don't we exercise some restraint and not derail this topic with ill-conceived sectarianism


Why do you think that theravada/mahayana topic is "ill-conceived". I see it "well-conceived" (as saw many elders of the past ,)
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Re: Traditions and ideology

Postby Dan74 » Fri Apr 13, 2012 2:19 pm

It's off-topic because the focus of this thread is not which tradition is right and which is wrong. It is ill-conceived because I don't see any experience and understanding of what you are attempting to critique here or elsewhere when it comes to Mahayana.
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Re: Traditions and ideology

Postby Zom » Fri Apr 13, 2012 2:28 pm

It is ill-conceived because I don't see any experience and understanding of what you are attempting to critique here or elsewhere when it comes to Mahayana.


Because I don't speak about these details here. What I'm pointing at - is that Mahayana and Theravada are different. And all similarities mentioned here are, actually, not similarities between these two, but are similarities between theravada and non-mahayana (for example, sarvastivada). I've said everything, thank you.
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Re: Traditions and ideology

Postby Cafael Dust » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:22 pm

Incorrect means a cause of sorrow.

Now it is often easy to be cavalier in asserting that a belief is objectively wrong, because we're just playing our games in the 3D holosphere we call reality. To be called upon to assert whether or not a belief is a cause of sorrow, however, may make one more aware of the burden of responsibility taken on in making such a statement.

The truth is a bully everyone pretends to like.

Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts.
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