Buddhism and religion

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby christopher::: » Tue Jun 09, 2009 2:35 am

Peter wrote:On reflection, it seems to me the OP questions could probably be shortened to:

a] How do you define "religion" or "religious"?
b] How do you feel approaching Buddhism as a religion, or taking a religious approach to Buddhism is helpful? how is it harmful?


I find those questions easier to work with, though the first is hard... I don't think I have a definition, its kinda like love, religion takes many forms, and people will experience it in various ways...

Any approach (religious/nonreligious) that helps people to cultivate healthy positive states of mind/emotion, that inspires kindness/compassion and reduces suffering in their lives is helpful, imo.

Any approach that sows discord, fear, hostility, judgmentalness, us/them thinking, unhappiness, etc can be viewed as "harmful"...
Last edited by christopher::: on Tue Jun 09, 2009 2:40 am, edited 2 times in total.
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby pink_trike » Tue Jun 09, 2009 2:36 am

tiltbillings wrote:The religious impulse is a far broader experience than participation in religious institutions.


Absolutely - this is at the heart of my interest in this impulse. You've put a better name to this mind-form than I have. It's this "human religious impulse" that I think needs unbiased scrutiny. What exactly is this impulse around which institutions gather and build? Is it a healthy mind-state? We have no idea because the normal levels of scrutiny that are applied to other human "impulses" haven't been applied to this particular impulse seriously. It is largely taboo to do so. Yet people continue to indulge in this impulse without examining it. An amazingly huge number of people on the planet for centuries have and do assume, without critical analysis, that religion is 1. human nature, and 2. unquestionably beneficial. But what if we're wrong? Wouldn't we want to know?

If we don't unpack this "impulse" and examine it rigorously from every unbiased angle, how do we know that we haven't fooled ourselves royally? We have a huge habit of deluding ourselves that extends far back in time. Nearly all of us delude ourselves habitually throughout our lives. So, do we take the word of people who indulge in this impulse and fight to the death in the name of this impulse? Do we take their word that it's just human nature and above scrutiny? What kind of research is that? What if the collective religious community is wrong about this impulse? What if this impulse is a grand collective delusion, another pernicious defilement of the mind? What if this impulse is simply just a perceptual disorder that ranges from mild to violent - that contributes to the mental dis-ease that Buddhism attempts to address?

This impulse looks to me and to many others like it may be a perceptual kink - like our weird perceptual kink that makes us perceive ourselves as somehow separate from the whole without being aware of it. An easily exploited perceptual kink. Maybe the code needs to be scrubbed of it. Certainly the body count alone back through time should be enough to be very cautious about this impulse.

There hasn't been nearly enough research into this impulse and it's effects re: cognition, impulse control, self-esteem, and the long-term effects on society, children, mental health, war, violence, cruelty, etc... There are many mind-states that have been made taboo in the best short and long-term interests of society and individual mental health - even some that had some benefits to society. Perhaps humankind would be better off if this impulse joined them - it's certainly worth examining carefully, and this examination is surely consistent with the Dharma. Letting go of this impulse may be exactly what the good doctor, Siddhārtha Gautama, recommended.
Last edited by pink_trike on Tue Jun 09, 2009 3:44 am, edited 2 times in total.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby pink_trike » Tue Jun 09, 2009 2:40 am

tiltbillings wrote:
clw_uk wrote:
But isnt it the point? Following wish thinking doesnt help people face reality and if it is wish thinking then it may or not be true and needs to be weighed against evidence to decide if its logical to accept and act on, if there is no evidence at all and its just a wish then why organize something so massive around it since your probably just deluding yourself and others because of your own wish for reality to be a certain way (not you personally)


You are agruing something entirely other than the basic question of how to define religion.

I'll point out again that the OP question wasn't about defining religion.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby pink_trike » Tue Jun 09, 2009 2:41 am

tiltbillings wrote:
clw_uk wrote:Howdy Ben

Not necessarily. One could interpret your comment to mean that you deny transcendence. If this is your attitude then i can assure you that it is not the case.
I can't speak for the availability of the transcendent experience available via other religions or spiritual practices, but its certainly available to the sincere practitioner within Buddhism. But, to quote Rachel Hunter in an often quoted shampoo commercial It won't happen overnight, but it will happen.
Metta



Why does transcendence have to mean supernatural. For example I can see the images from deep space and look at all those billions of stars and feel transcendent. That doesnt involve supernatural but natural


It does not have to be "supernatural," and any number of religious people will tell you that your feeling of transcendence is very much religious in nature.

But why would we want to take their word for it?
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby pink_trike » Tue Jun 09, 2009 2:53 am

Ben wrote:Mr Pink

Peter wrote:On reflection, it seems to me the OP questions could probably be shortened to:

a] How do you define "religion" or "religious"?
b] How do you feel approaching Buddhism as a religion, or taking a religious approach to Buddhism is helpful? how is it harmful?


Are you happy with that or do you wsh the topic to carry on in its original form?
Metta

Ben

Hi Ben,

In the OP I stated the central concern and theme of the thread:

I'm more interested in why individuals choose a religious view of Buddhism, or why they don't.


And clarified it again when I replied to zavk's post:

It's about why some people choose to engage Buddhism religiously and some don't as I stated in the OP.


The questions are there so that we can state our biases upfront, before engaging in dialogue about why people choose to engage Buddhism religiously.

The OP may not be a work of art, but I think it's been clarified sufficiently. Imo, the discussion re:

a] How do you define "religion" or "religious"?
b] How do you feel approaching Buddhism as a religion, or taking a religious approach to Buddhism is helpful? how is it harmful?


...might be a good topic for a separate thread, but I'll leave that to Peter.

(I don't see the value in changing the OP 4 pages into a thread).

metta,
Jeff
Last edited by pink_trike on Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:47 am, edited 2 times in total.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby christopher::: » Tue Jun 09, 2009 3:02 am

Many of the great "pioneers" of what is called "religion" shared some of your concerns I think, jeff.

Jesus was trying to point out the problems with the organized religions of his day, Siddhartha set out to find a new way. Lao Tsu offered Taoist thought in part as a critique of organized government, and attempts to control people.

The problem as I see it is the difficulty of trying to throw out the bath water, without tossing the baby. As soon as a baby (new way, vision of our interconnectness, transcendence, living love) is born people try to teach it and organize it, claim it as their own "brand," call it sacred, priesthoods develop, churches and temples are built, money needs to be collected, etc.

The two (organized sociocultural groups and wisdom) are synergistically linked though. The priesthood can create problems (especially when they manipulate or ignore the wisdom) but when the core wisdom is lived truly and transmitted, their efforts can be highly beneficial.

The real problem is ignorance, and then all the unhelpful mindstates and behaviors that arise with it. This is not implicit in religion though, or the religious "impulse," imo. It comes with all human activities and institutions..

Most religions arise as ways of sharing wisdom, improving the human condition. The challenge is to stay true to that.

:heart:
Last edited by christopher::: on Tue Jun 09, 2009 3:23 am, edited 1 time in total.
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby pink_trike » Tue Jun 09, 2009 3:22 am

christopher::: wrote:Many of the great "pioneers" of what is called "religion" shared some of your concerns I think, jeff.

Jesus was trying to point out the problems with the organized religions of his day, Siddhartha set out to find a new way. Lao Tsu offered Taoist thought in part as a critique of organized government, and attempts to control people.

The problem as I see it is the difficulty of trying to throw out the bath water, without tossing the baby. As soon as a baby (new way, vision of our interconnectness, transcendence, living love) is born people try to teach it and organize it, claim it as their own "brand," call it sacred, priesthoods develop, etc.

The two (organized sociocultural groups and wisdom) are synergistically linked though. The priesthood can create problems (especially when they manipulate or ignore the wisdom) but when the core wisdom is lived truly and transmitted, their efforts can be highly beneficial.

:heart:


Hi Christopher,

Yes, you're right. I've long believed that was Siddhartha's intent.

Perhaps in this amazing time with our amazing communication technology it's the time for everyone to seriously reconsider the value of these institutions, and to reconsider the value of centralization. Perhap they are no longer needed. How about Open Source locally-sustained wisdom? No intercessors. Direct experiences of awareness in direct contact with the phenomenal world. Let religion die away. :smile:
Last edited by pink_trike on Tue Jun 09, 2009 3:33 am, edited 2 times in total.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby christopher::: » Tue Jun 09, 2009 3:29 am

pink_trike wrote:
Perhaps in this amazing time with our amazing communication technology it's the time for everyone to seriously reconsider the value of these institutions, and to reconsider the value of centralization. Perhaps they are no longer needed. How about Open Source, locally-sustained wisdom? No intercessors. Direct experiences of awareness in direct contact with the phenomenal world. Let religion die away.



That's been happening. Just look at Europe, and at America, over the last 5 decades. In America the roots go back to the transcendentalists, maybe earlier. Look at Asia- especially China and Japan, less and less people identify with organized religions.

Thing is, just as the power of religions has faded the attraction and influence of materialism has risen. Technology, careerism, pleasure seeking, entertainment industries - these are the new "religions." Hundreds of millions of people no longer identify themselves with a religious group primarily, instead its their career/business, favorite music, video game or the technology they are into that gives them a sense of belonging.

Are they any happier though?

I don't think so.

I agree with you, Jeff, that there are alternate pathways to wisdom which exist, and more that can be created. I just don't see formal "religions" as the problem. Alternative pathways are great, but any approach based on wisdom can be highly beneficial, imo.

Some words from Ralph Waldo Emerson, written over 150 years ago, very much in line with what you are saying..

"Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes . Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines today also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship."

source: Nature


:namaste:
"As Buddhists, we should aim to develop relationships that are not predominated by grasping and clinging. Our relationships should be characterised by the brahmaviharas of metta (loving kindness), mudita (sympathetic joy), karuna (compassion), and upekkha (equanimity)."
~post by Ben, Jul 02, 2009
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby Sher » Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:33 am

What does the _concept_ of religion mean to you personally? How does the _idea_ of religion itself make you feel?

I am totally okay with the concept of religion. The first book I read on Buddhism was Damien Keown’s little book called A Short Introduction to Buddhism. In it he introduced me to Ninian Smart’s model of the Seven Dimensions of Religion. I post a paraphrased version I created below.

Seven Dimensions of Religion based on the Ninian Smart Model


Practical and Ritual -- Practices such as
worship, prayer, regular gatherings, rites of passage

Experiential and Emotional -- Includes religious experiences such as visions, revelations, enlightenment, and general religious ecstasy -- The acute and earth-shaking, as well as the gentler, more mundane religious feelings.

Narrative or Mythic -- Stories that explain and inspire. The "story side" of a religion; includes written as well as oral tales, formal as well as informal teachings, alternative histories, and predictions.

Doctrinal or Philosophical -- The official, formal teachings that underpin the narrative/mythic parts of a religion, though it's important to note that the doctrine doesn't necessarily predate the narrative. Creeds and scripture representing formal teachings are included in this dimension.

Ethical and Legal -- The laws, formal and moral, that shape behavior.

Social and Institutional -- Requires physical form. The Social Dimension consists of the formal organization, such as the church, mosque, synagogue, sangha and other institutions that may come about as a result of the religion; for instance the Salvation Army and Meditation Retreat Centers.

Material -- An outgrowth of religious experience/encounter. This dimension contains all the physical creations of a religion, including buildings and architecture, icons, art, instruments of ritual, music, and symbol. It also includes natural features of the earth which may be important to the system, for instance sacred mountains, stones, holy ground, Jerusalem, etc. The objects of the material dimension may be stunning, elegant works of art, or they may be very simple and plain creations.

I feel that Buddhism, or my practice and sense of Buddhism touches upon or I would like it to touch upon many of these dimensions.

- How familiar are you with the history and origin of the idea of religion (the concept, not the phenomenon)?

Religion is a construct defined by scholars and practitioners in many different ways. There is no one definition of religion that all will agree with! It is hard to say if you feel what you do is religious unless you have a working definition of religion. The term religion was created by people-- Westerners, scholars that needed to explain beliefs and practices of various cultures, so that these beliefs and practices could be studied and categorized. I believe the term “religion” is a relatively new concept –perhaps nineteenth century. This is my surface understanding of he concept.

- Why do you choose to engage with Buddhism as a religion rather than just as a body of valuable wisdom and practices? For me the path of Buddhism and taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Sangha is a sacred way of being in the world; it is a way of moving toward and experiencing happiness (sukha-what I understand the Buddha ultimately discovered). Based on my experience, practice is a sacred activity. Meditation is noble, choosing not to step on the spider has an aspect of the sacred (reverence and respect), pausing to really observe and run my hand across a homing pigeon’s back noting the silky feathers is a mindful moment that, for me, has a sacred element. By sacred I mean reference, respect, mindfulness, and a calm way of being in the moment.

- For you personally, what elements of Buddhism need to be viewed through the lens of "religion"? I am not sure any of the elements “need” to be viewed through the lens of religion. I’m not sure what you mean.

- Is meditation inherently a religious activity? It is a noble activity.

- Is lovingkindness inherently a religious activity? You do not have to be religious to practice lovingkindness. Practicing lovingkindness is also a noble activity . These are the questions I feel able to answer clearly. I am not defending a position, I’m just sharing how I perceive my understanding of my practice at this point in my life.

Sher
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby pink_trike » Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:34 am

Ben wrote: I can't speak for the availability of the transcendent experience available via other religions or spiritual practices, but its certainly available to the sincere practitioner within Buddhism. [/i]
Metta

Ben


I find it interesting that the general definition of transcendence is:

exceeding or surpassing usual limits especially in excellence.

...but the general religious definition is:

a condition or state of being that surpasses and is independent of physical existence.

Imo, I think it's worth considering that religion's definition describes a craving that arises as a result of our dualistic perceptual and material alienation from the natural/phenomenal world. NOT THIS (physical existence, which is dissatisfactory),THAT (whatever is missing must be "out there" somewhere).

Perhaps what Buddhism offers us is an integral experience through excellent clarity...rising above usual limits (ignorance) - rather than a transcendent independent (separate) experience. Not rising above and independent (pushing away), but expansively re-integrating (perceptual inclusiveness - a direct experience of the whole).
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby Jechbi » Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:47 am

Hi Pink,

pink_trike wrote:This impulse looks to me and to many others like it may be a perceptual kink - like our weird perceptual kink that makes us perceive ourselves as somehow separate from the whole without being aware of it. An easily exploited perceptual kink. Maybe the code needs to be scrubbed of it. Certainly the body count alone back through time should be enough to be very cautious about this impulse.

I think it's fine if you want to apply this scrutiny to yourself and your own approach to "religion," but when you start applying it to others and telling others what religion actually is, and that those others have not been critical enough of themselves, that's where you're going to run into problems. I think there's something wrong with the general assumption that "religious" folks suspend critical thinking. And none of this type of discussion you're talking about is taboo at all, at least as far as I can tell. Sure, folks might get uncomfortable when you challenge them in this way, but you're not really challenging "religion" as most people understand it. You're challenging what you see as a lack of critical thinking. You incorrectly label that shortcoming as "religion," and folks don't understand what you're trying to say.

My 2 cents.
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:48 am

PT: I'm more interested in why individuals choose a religious view of Buddhism, or why they don't.


Can't really do that in a meaningful without defining what is meant by "religion."
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby Jechbi » Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:50 am

Peter wrote:From Miriam Webster: "a pursuit or interest to which someone ascribes supreme importance".

For some people this might be career. For others it might be family. For others it might be football. This definition allows just about anything to be religion.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby pink_trike » Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:50 am

Jechbi wrote:Hi Pink,

pink_trike wrote:and folks don't understand what you're trying to say.
.


Hi Jechbi,

Perhaps it is only religious people who claim ignorance...

You'll note that I try to avoid telling others what religion actually is - and repeatedly suggest that we ought to find out what it is through rigorous scrutiny, preferably before we indulge in it.
Last edited by pink_trike on Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:53 am, edited 2 times in total.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:52 am

You'll note that I try to avoid telling others what religion actually is - and repeatedly suggest that we ought to find out what it is through rigorous scrutiny, preferably before we indulge in it.


Except you are willing to classify as something bad. This is simply odd, if not down right weird.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby pink_trike » Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:54 am

tiltbillings wrote:
You'll note that I try to avoid telling others what religion actually is - and repeatedly suggest that we ought to find out what it is through rigorous scrutiny, preferably before we indulge in it.


Except you are willing to classify as something bad. This is simply odd, if not down right weird.

Never used the word "bad", nor did I imply it.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby Jechbi » Tue Jun 09, 2009 4:57 am

pink_trike wrote:You'll note that I try to avoid telling others what religion actually is - and repeatedly suggest that we ought to find out what it is through rigorous scrutiny, preferably before we indulge in it.

Sorry, my misunderstanding.

In my opinion, religion actually is a social construct, but I see there's been some discussion here about the human "religious impulse" that each person individually experiences, perhaps independenty of any institution. That's a different matter, in my opinion.

In my opinion, that impulse is the instinctual recognition that there's something more than just this limited "self" that we seem to be. Everybody at some point in their life probably has that existential angst. That, coupled with glimpses of something that might seem to lie "beyond," fuel personal religious pursuits, in my opinion.

Organized religions provide a framework for exploring that impulse.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jun 09, 2009 5:03 am

pink_trike wrote:But why would we want to take their word for it?


Probably for no more reason than we should take your word for that your bowing to a Buddha astatue and a globe are not part of the religious impulse and more than your sitting in meditation in hopes ending pain has not a thing to do with it.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby pink_trike » Tue Jun 09, 2009 5:03 am

Jechbi wrote:
pink_trike wrote:
Organized religions provide a framework for exploring that impulse.

And has a remarkable talent for exploiting that impulse. :tongue:
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: Buddhism and religion

Postby tiltbillings » Tue Jun 09, 2009 5:05 am

Jechbi wrote:
pink_trike wrote:You'll note that I try to avoid telling others what religion actually is - and repeatedly suggest that we ought to find out what it is through rigorous scrutiny, preferably before we indulge in it.

Sorry, my misunderstanding.

In my opinion, religion actually is a social construct, but I see there's been some discussion here about the human "religious impulse" that each person individually experiences, perhaps independenty of any institution. That's a different matter, in my opinion.

In my opinion, that impulse is the instinctual recognition that there's something more than just this limited "self" that we seem to be. Everybody at some point in their life probably has that existential angst. That, coupled with glimpses of something that might seem to lie "beyond," fuel personal religious pursuits, in my opinion.

Organized religions provide a framework for exploring that impulse.

And channelling it, and, of course, it all that can go horribly wrong, but it can also go quite right. None of this is black and white.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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