After all, what would make it be a religion?

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After all, what would make it be a religion?

Postby Sekha » Mon Jan 28, 2013 10:55 am

I fully agree with the views of Goenkaji, it's just as if he would express my own thoughts:

Great misconception has arisen in the name of Buddha and his teaching. (...) He was not the founder of any religion. He never founded any religion. When one goes through the words, original words of Buddha, (...) we find he never taught buddhism. He did not convert a single person as buddhist. More than 50 000 pages of his original words, commentaries, subcommentaries, which are now on a CD-ROM, and a search program is there, the word ‘boddh’ is missing.

No buddhism. No buddhist. He taught Dhamma, that is Dharma. He called his followers dhammiko, dharmic. If it was boddha dhamma, then it would have been limited to a particular community, a particular sect. But Dhamma is for all, not limited to a particular community, a particular sect, and he taught Dhamma. Hundreds of years after Buddha, the word Bauddh was never used (...) after that, we don’t know, after how many centuries these words buddhism and buddhist came into use.

To me, these words degraded Buddha’s teaching, devalued Buddha’s teaching. The teaching is universal, for one and all. And when it has come up in its true meaning, true practice, people are willingly accepting it. There is no religion today in there world, no religion whose followers are not attending vipassana courses.
--- Transcripted from the discourse Buddha: the super-scientist at IIT Powai, Mumbai


The video is available here: http://www.vridhamma.org/StreamingPlayV ... -Scientist

What would be your reasons to acknowledge/reject those assertions?
Last edited by Sekha on Wed Jan 30, 2013 9:20 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jan 28, 2013 11:12 am

Avoiding words like "Buddhism," "Buddhist," "Converting," or "Religion," are mere sophistry to avoid turning off Hindus or others who are attached to their religion, to atheism, or to views of any kind.

If you have firm confidence that the Dhamma was well-taught by the Blessed One, who was Fully Enlightened by his own efforts, and well understood by those Noble Ones who practised his teaching properly, then you are a disciple of the Buddha, or a Buddhist.

Taking refuge in the Dhamma only, without acknowledging the origin of that teaching, or the possibility of others penetrating and realising that teaching, just makes for half-hearted commitment to the teachings and practice.

That doesn't mean that no one can set foot on the path without having the confidence to call themselves a Buddhist or even a "closet Buddhist." However, if their well-placed confidence is followed up by sincere and ardent practice and/or study, they will not be ashamed to call themselves a Buddhist, or a follow of the Buddha.
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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Jan 28, 2013 11:14 am

Hi, Sekha,
Most Westerners, I think, would contrast "religion" with "philosophy", "rationalism" or "science". When we do that, Buddhism as practised in traditionally Buddhist countries (and mostly as practised in the West) doesn't fit neatly in any single category.
Religion is typically devotional, science isn't: devotional practices are common in Buddhism but are not encouraged in the suttas.
Science is always open to debate and improvement, religion isn't: many Buddhists would say that the suttas are the first and last authority.
Science is systematic and analytical, religion is mystical and non-rational: Buddhism has elements of both.
... and so on.

However, I have to say that Goenkaji's arguments for the non-religiosity of Buddhism are fairly weak. Saying that the word "Buddhism" (or any related word) was not part of the dharma is no proof that the teachings didn't add up to "Buddhism" in the religious sense. As we say around here, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. :thinking:
[Edit: this is just another away of saying what Bhikku Pesala has just said, "Avoiding words like "Buddhism," "Buddhist," "Converting," or "Religion," are mere sophistry..." ]

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby Sekha » Mon Jan 28, 2013 11:21 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:if their well-placed confidence is followed up by sincere and ardent practice and/or study, they will not be ashamed to call themselves a Buddhist, or a follow of the Buddha.

well in my case I have no problem stating that I am a follower of the Buddha's teaching, but I don't consider it equivalent to being a buddhist, nor do I wish to be recognized as such. From what I have seen in many places, religion results in dogmatism, and attachment to rituals over earnest and continuous practice. And as Goenkaji rightly points out, declaring that the Buddha's teaching is a religion prevents a lot of people to just lend the first ear to what he says, which could be just enough for some of them to start being convinced.
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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby Sekha » Mon Jan 28, 2013 11:31 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:As we say around here, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it probably is a duck. :thinking:

well, this amounts to state that what seems to be in a particular way should be considered as actually being that way. So if I apply this to the self, there seems to be a self, since I can move my limbs just as I want, so there probably is a self.. Sorry, but this argument is obviously invalid

Kim O'Hara wrote:[Edit: this is just another away of saying what Bhikku Pesala has just said, "Avoiding words like "Buddhism," "Buddhist," "Converting," or "Religion," are mere sophistry..." ]

for me, not considering the teaching of the Buddha as a religion goes way beyond this. It implies being able to have a non-sectarian and above all non-dogmatic and critical approach to what we are told, which results in being able to question for example the authenticity of the buddhist scriptures, the validity of the theories developed in the commentaries etc.

What I see is that buddhists pretend to follow the Kalama sutta, but in practice 1) they consider what their instructor says as the truth without making any cross-investigation 2) they get angry when the neophytes start questioning the validity of whatever that instructor says. I have to say however I have also seen this attitude in teachers appointed by Goenka.
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As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59

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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jan 28, 2013 12:04 pm

I think many sceptics misinterpret what is said in the Kesamutti Sutta. Bhikkhu Bodhi wrote a much more thorough article on it. A Look at the Kalama Sutta

On converting followers of other religions, see the Upāli Sutta.
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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby Ben » Mon Jan 28, 2013 12:05 pm

Sayagi U Ba Khin had no problem saying that he taught Buddhism, nor did Saya Thetgyi, nor Ledi Sayadaw. Ostensibly SN Goenka teaches within the same tradition. The Burmese consider what he teaches as garden-variety Theravada and when one applies to the Govt of Myanmar for a religious visa, one is instructed to indicate that one's purpose is to practice Theravada meditation.

My take on it, after being a student to SN Goenka for 27+ years, is that what he is advocating is skilful means designed for those who may be leary of organized religion or so deeply attached to their own religious or atheistic views that it becomes a barrier for them to pick up the practice.
Unfortunately, many of SN Goenka's students, most notably newly-minted "old students", take on board his "secular" message uncritically and do not understand that "not Buddhist" is as much a label, as much an artefact of conceit, as the label "Buddhist".
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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Mon Jan 28, 2013 12:15 pm

I remember meeting Ajahn Sumedho when Ajahn Chah first came to the UK, which was before I ordained. I asked Ajahn Sumedho whether he thought Buddhism was a religion, expecting him to say that it was not because there is no God, etc. He replied that he thought it was, which deflated me completely. Looking for a debate, and finding that there's nothing there to dispute with. It all depends what you think a religion is, and you can label the Buddha's teaching in whatever way you want — its still the same universal truth about the ways things are — impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self.

If you're devout, you may call it a religion.
If you're intellectual, you may call it a philosophy.
If you're a pragmatist, you may call it a way of life.

Whatever you call it, it is the teaching of the Buddha, so I call it Buddhism, but with the caveat that there may be many teachings going by the name of "Buddhism," which are, in fact, derived from Hinduism or other sources, and are not the true teaching of the Buddha. Our job is to sort out the wood from the trees, not to argue about what name to give it.
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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby daverupa » Mon Jan 28, 2013 12:36 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote: I call it Buddhism, but with the caveat that there may be many teachings going by the name of "Buddhism," which are, in fact, derived from Hinduism or other sources, and are not the true teaching of the Buddha. Our job is to sort out the wood from the trees, not to argue about what name to give it.


:candle: :anjali:
    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.
- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby Mr Man » Mon Jan 28, 2013 2:00 pm

For me the religion aspect is the form. and this is what has allowed the teaching to travel from the time of the Buddha to our present day.

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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby Sekha » Mon Jan 28, 2013 4:39 pm

Ben wrote:what he is advocating is skilful means designed for those who may be leary of organized religion or so deeply attached to their own religious or atheistic views that it becomes a barrier for them to pick up the practice. Unfortunately, many of SN Goenka's students, most notably newly-minted "old students", take on board his "secular" message uncritically and do not understand that "not Buddhist" is as much a label, as much an artefact of conceit, as the label "Buddhist".

Well, 1) I think Goenka includes himself in the first of your two categories and 2) as far as I am concerned I am fine with this idea about "labelism", too. But I am much better off in front of my family and former friends if I tell them I'm practicing an art of living rather than a religion, and that I don't necessarily agree to everything that buddhist leaders say and do. So there is a practical reason that goes beyond merely liking or disliking an idea.


Bhikkhu Pesala wrote: It all depends what you think a religion is, and you can label the Buddha's teaching in whatever way you want — its still the same universal truth about the ways things are — impermanent, unsatisfactory, and not-self.

If you're devout, you may call it a religion.
If you're intellectual, you may call it a philosophy.
If you're a pragmatist, you may call it a way of life.

More or less agreed. But 1) those who belong to the second category may easily fall for ditthupadana, attachment to views. 2) the only successful practitioners belong to the third category. 3) those who belong to either of the first two will never get free from suffering unless they also belong to the third category. So the first two are not necessary at all, only the third one is important.

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Whatever you call it, it is the teaching of the Buddha, so I call it Buddhism, but with the caveat that there may be many teachings going by the name of "Buddhism," which are, in fact, derived from Hinduism or other sources, and are not the true teaching of the Buddha. Our job is to sort out the wood from the trees, not to argue about what name to give it.

Well, given the state of confusion in which the world is at the moment, as you rightly refer to, I think it does help to make use of an appropriate terminology, and I think the Buddha has himself set the example in his teachings. To me the word buddhism carries too much of confusion. I don't want to be likened to those organisations whose members call themselves buddhists but actually refuse to accept any of the four noble truths (case of one of my friends).
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As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59

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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby ground » Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:06 pm

What purpose does it serve to replace the term "buddhism" by the term "dhamma"? Actually there is a lot of religion in many suttas. On the other hand there are suttas which are not religious at all. So everyone may focus on what entails freedom from stress or at least reduction of stress. :sage:

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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby Coyote » Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:11 pm

I personally don't think Buddhists should care what others think, as long as it is not actually misrepresenting the Dhamma. Whatever name you choose you are going to get lumped in with others who don't necessarily believe or practice the way you do. When talking to others, "Buddhism" does just fine as everyone knows what you are talking about, whether they have the right idea or not.
The "religion" aspect makes it clear than the Dhamma goes beyond philosophy and psychology, though it has those aspects, and into the "spirit"ual.
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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby Sekha » Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:17 pm

ground wrote:What purpose does it serve to replace the term "buddhism" by the term "dhamma"?

buddhism is considered a sectarian word that repels those who do not want to get converted to a religion and yet want to practice the Dhamma to reach the end of suffering.

ground wrote:Actually there is a lot of religion in many suttas.

What do you mean exactly by that?

ground wrote:So everyone may focus on what entails freedom from stress or at least reduction of stress.

agreed. and that does not necessarily entail practicing a religion
Last edited by Sekha on Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:28 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59

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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby Sekha » Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:26 pm

Coyote wrote:everyone knows what you are talking about, whether they have the right idea or not.

well you are contradicting yourself in the same sentence, friend

Coyote wrote:The "religion" aspect makes it clear than the Dhamma goes beyond philosophy and psychology, though it has those aspects, and into the "spirit"ual.

yes but it also has a sectarian connotation that is not helpful. "Spiritual art of living" seems to me more appropriate
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As a sweet-smelling and beautiful lotus flower may grow upon a heap of rubbish thrown on the highway, so also, out of the rubbish heap of beings may appear a disciple of the Buddha, who with his wisdom, shines resplendent in wisdom. -/ Dhp 58-59

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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:31 pm

There are many different versions of what is a religion, but the one I like is:

a belief in any one or more of the following:

1. A belief in a supreme being God or in gods, worthy of worship or veneration
2. Belief that there are sacred things, objects, places, or writings set apart from other mundane things and writings
3. Belief in some kind of post-mortem continuation, heaven, hell, reincarnation, or rebirth

Buddhism, oops I mean The Dhamma meets all of the above. There is no creator-God, but there are devas (1), there is the Pali Canon, pilgrimage (2), and there is rebirth (3).

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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Jan 28, 2013 5:33 pm

Follower of the Dhamma, Buddhist, etc. "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet"

Call it whatever you like, but it is Buddhism. But I understand what Goenka-ji is doing, skillful means and all. Some want to avoid the "R" label at any cost.

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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby m0rl0ck » Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:07 pm

Sekha wrote:I fully agree with the views of Goenkaji, it's just as if he would express my own thoughts:

Great misconception has arisen in the name of Buddha and his teaching. (...) He was not the founder of any religion. He never founded any religion. When one goes through the words, original words of Buddha, (...) we find he never taught buddhism. He did not convert a single person as buddhist. More than 50 000 pages of his original words, commentaries, subcommentaries, which are now on a CD-ROM, and a search program is there, the word ‘boddh’ is missing.

No buddhism. No buddhist. He taught Dhamma, that is Dharma. He called his followers dhammiko, dharmic. If it was boddha dhamma, then it would have been limited to a particular community, a particular sect. But Dhamma is for all, not limited to a particular community, a particular sect, and he taught Dhamma. Hundreds of years after Buddha, the word Bauddh was never used (...) after that, we don’t know, after how many centuries these words buddhism and buddhist came into use.

To me, these words degraded Buddha’s teaching, devalued Buddha’s teaching. The teaching is universal, for one and all. And when it has come up in its true meaning, true practice, people are willingly accepting it. There is no religion today in there world, no religion whose followers are not attending vipassana courses.
--- Transcripted from the discourse Buddha: the super-scientist at IIT Powai, Mumbai


The video is available here: http://www.vridhamma.org/StreamingPlayV ... -Scientist

What would be your reasons to acknowledge/reject those assertions?

:goodpost:

Also i completely agree that to relegate the dharma to religion disrespects and degrades it. Religions are make beleive and myth and the dhamma is about reality. Imo if people need to feel holy they should go somewhere else.
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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby Coyote » Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:16 pm

Sekha wrote:
Coyote wrote:everyone knows what you are talking about, whether they have the right idea or not.

well you are contradicting yourself in the same sentence, friend

Coyote wrote:The "religion" aspect makes it clear than the Dhamma goes beyond philosophy and psychology, though it has those aspects, and into the "spirit"ual.

yes but it also has a sectarian connotation that is not helpful. "Spiritual art of living" seems to me more appropriate


Everyone knows what Buddhism is, even if their idea about it is not correct. It is a universally understood term for those following the teachings of the Buddha. What they understand by that might not be clear or even correct, though.
As to the second point, maybe it is just as unhelpful and divisive to try remove the Dhamma from any religious connotation, do you not see this as being sectarian? What about those (such as myself) who do find the term helpful? Many religious people, theists included, think of their own religion as being non-sectarian and a universal teaching, even the sectarians. Perhaps it is best to challenge divisive views about Buddhism and religion in general by living in a manner that suggests Buddhism has the ability to transcend it rather than just changing the name you call it by.
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Re: After all, what would make this be a religion?

Postby Coyote » Mon Jan 28, 2013 6:20 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:
:goodpost:

Also i completely agree that relegate the dharma to religion disrespects and degrades it. Religions are make beleive and myth and the dhamma is about reality. Imo if people need to feel holy they should go somewhere else.


You know Christians say the exact same thing. Ok, maybe not the part about feeling holy.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
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