Modern Theravada

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Re: Modern Theravada

Postby Coyote » Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:45 pm

binocular wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:5. A hotch-potch of the teacher's personal opinions, labelled as "Modern" to make it look like he/she is not old-fashioned or narrow-minded and as "Theravāda" to give it an air of authority and orthodoxy.


I don't get this, though. If those teachers are so sure they know better than the Buddha, better than the Pali Canon and the tradition, why don't they just call it after themselves? Why rely on the traditional name for authority and orthodoxy?


To make is seem more down to earth than "mystical" mahayana? To some early buddhism and theravada are synonymous, so it makes sense to keep the name if you believe that is what you teach.
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Re: Modern Theravada

Postby Paribbajaka » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:28 pm

binocular wrote: I don't get this, though. If those teachers are so sure they know better than the Buddha, better than the Pali Canon and the tradition, why don't they just call it after themselves? Why rely on the traditional name for authority and orthodoxy?


That's a good point. So how about the aformentioned monks who sell charms and tell fortunes? How about the monks in Burma inciting violence? What about the Pali commentators that began to delineate and define points not in the orginal texts? Very often today we hear of the different "layers" of the Pali canon, how certain parts were clearly added later or modified, and about how the whole of the Abhidhamma is most liekly not Buddha sasana... why continue to use the name of Buddhism at all if you're going to do these things?

It's because this is a living tradition, much like how Christianity has changed since ancient Palestine. Traditions survive by adapting and changing.

The Buddha speaks in the Pali Canon of kings and monarchs, but we have very few monarchies left. Does this mean Buddhists should oppose democracy? Or do we adapt the teachings on monarchs to our current elected officials?

The Buddha speaks at one point in the Pali Canon on seeing through sexual desire, and uses a woman "at the height of her beauty, 16 years of age" as an example in a sermon. Should Buddhists then adapt the teaching to current views of sexual maturity, or apply it in its written way and risk criminal charges in some countries?

This is not an argument for a free-for-all do what feels good Dhamma, but a Dhamma that is open to changing the small things in order to accomodate a popualtion that is very different philosphically, socially, and politically from that of ancient India.
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Re: Modern Theravada

Postby daverupa » Wed Apr 24, 2013 7:56 pm

If Dhammic exegesis conforms in certain ways to the culture within which it is propagated, I see no reason to judge modern attempts at this as being more or less valid than past attempts in and of themselves, to wit "Thai Buddhism" and so forth.

It seems hypocritical to see "modern Theravada" as liable to criticism if such things as "Burmese..." and "Thai Forest..." are seen as acceptable. There are problems with and within all such groupings, are there not?
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Re: Modern Theravada

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:42 pm

binocular wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:5. A hotch-potch of the teacher's personal opinions, labelled as "Modern" to make it look like he/she is not old-fashioned or narrow-minded and as "Theravāda" to give it an air of authority and orthodoxy.


I don't get this, though. If those teachers are so sure they know better than the Buddha, better than the Pali Canon and the tradition, why don't they just call it after themselves? Why rely on the traditional name for authority and orthodoxy?

I doubt if any "Modern Theravāda" teachers think that they know better than the Buddha, but some may think they know better than those we might call the "Orthodox Theravāda" who have more regard for, say, the Abhidhamma, Commentaries, and works that are clearly much later like the Visuddhimagga.

There are clearly dangers from either extreme — accepting blindly whatever is in Pāli as the original teachings, or picking and choosing which teachings one regards as authentic.

Just try not to cling to views, and enjoy the journey of finding out as much as you can, through both study and practice.
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Re: Modern Theravada

Postby Kim OHara » Thu Apr 25, 2013 12:16 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
binocular wrote:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:5. A hotch-potch of the teacher's personal opinions, labelled as "Modern" to make it look like he/she is not old-fashioned or narrow-minded and as "Theravāda" to give it an air of authority and orthodoxy.


I don't get this, though. If those teachers are so sure they know better than the Buddha, better than the Pali Canon and the tradition, why don't they just call it after themselves? Why rely on the traditional name for authority and orthodoxy?

I doubt if any "Modern Theravāda" teachers think that they know better than the Buddha, but some may think they know better than those we might call the "Orthodox Theravāda" who have more regard for, say, the Abhidhamma, Commentaries, and works that are clearly much later like the Visuddhimagga.

There are clearly dangers from either extreme — accepting blindly whatever is in Pāli as the original teachings, or picking and choosing which teachings one regards as authentic.

Just try not to cling to views, and enjoy the journey of finding out as much as you can, through both study and practice.

:thumbsup:
Indeed.

This thread reminded me of http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=12&t=16897 - now locked, but the OP may find posts usefully addressing the topic in the first few pages. :tongue:

:namaste:
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Re: Modern Theravada

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu Apr 25, 2013 12:39 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:I doubt if any "Modern Theravāda" teachers think that they know better than the Buddha, but some may think they know better than those we might call the "Orthodox Theravāda" who have more regard for, say, the Abhidhamma, Commentaries, and works that are clearly much later like the Visuddhimagga.

There are clearly dangers from either extreme — accepting blindly whatever is in Pāli as the original teachings, or picking and choosing which teachings one regards as authentic.

Just try not to cling to views, and enjoy the journey of finding out as much as you can, through both study and practice.


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Re: Modern Theravada

Postby Dan74 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 12:42 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
Just try not to cling to views, and enjoy the journey of finding out as much as you can, through both study and practice.



:goodpost:
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Re: Modern Theravada

Postby Paribbajaka » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:17 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
There are clearly dangers from either extreme — accepting blindly whatever is in Pāli as the original teachings, or picking and choosing which teachings one regards as authentic.

Just try not to cling to views, and enjoy the journey of finding out as much as you can, through both study and practice.


Are you perhaps suggesting a "middle way" Bhante? :smile:

In all seriousness I think that this is the most sensible view.

I work at a drug rehab, and an issue that often comes up is clients who don't like aspects of the 12 step process and tradition, feeling that they have an idiosyncratic way that would work better for them. I have often explained to them that recovery is less of a poem than a science: there is a method that works, and instead of trying to do it "my way" it's often best to follow what those who came before you did. Newcomers are also often encouraged to "take what you can and leave the rest". Focus on the points you can agree with in any meeting and don't stress what doesn't resonate with you. More often than not, the more someone hangs around, the less there is that they can't "take" so to speak. The aim is not to take the offending parts of the 12 steps away or to hide them, but to allow each person to find their own way to embracing their core.

The Dhamma is a little different, a little older and therefore with more traditions. I think it is important to have a healthy respect for that tradition, but to also recognize the parts that are not as important and can be adapted. The issue becomes figuring out what is what, and this is where well-trained teachers (both monastic and lay) become crucial. We have seen again and again lay teachers with cursory training in the Dhamma passing off their view as THE view. This most certainly is dangerous, and the new agey Buddhism we've discussed is a result. However, the new agey Buddhism can be a crucial door for many, who eventually seek out "heavier" teachings. I know that I myself started with a very secular view of Buddhism, and my quest to find the "real" teachings eventually brought me to Theravada and the Ajahn I study under. If the fluffy teachings were not there as a gateway, I truly don't believe I'd have the practice I have today. So perhaps there is room for both? The main danger is in the fluff being confused with the core, but I feel that most people who practice sincerely will eventually start to find the difference.
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Re: Modern Theravada

Postby Dan74 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 2:27 am

There is another side to this perhaps.

If one takes the approach of an active hands-on teacher who helps the students with meditation and general cultivation on a regular basis, how can one really teach what one does not know? And what one does know is going to be limited unless one is an arahat. So there will be some distortions inevitably, but as long as the teacher is grounded in correct practice and the insight is sufficient to guide the students, such teacher can be extremely valuable.
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Re: Modern Theravada

Postby binocular » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:03 am

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Just try not to cling to views, and enjoy the journey of finding out as much as you can, through both study and practice.


Sorry, I'm not much of a party animal. :yingyang:

Sure, I am often heavy and difficult, although not due to clinging to a particular view of or in Buddhism, but more due to a sense of urgency.
It's not always easy to figure out how to balance the sense of urgency with calm.
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Re: Modern Theravada

Postby Ben » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:07 am

binocular wrote:It's not always easy to figure out how to balance the sense of urgency with calm.

Develop sila, samadhi and panna.
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Re: Modern Theravada

Postby binocular » Thu Apr 25, 2013 9:13 am

daverupa wrote:If Dhammic exegesis conforms in certain ways to the culture within which it is propagated, I see no reason to judge modern attempts at this as being more or less valid than past attempts in and of themselves, to wit "Thai Buddhism" and so forth.

It seems hypocritical to see "modern Theravada" as liable to criticism if such things as "Burmese..." and "Thai Forest..." are seen as acceptable. There are problems with and within all such groupings, are there not?


I think the problems arise when someone purports their particular exegesis of Buddhism as The Buddhism.
Often, I've seen this from "modern" Buddhists, and sometimes accompanied with a considerable amount of hatred and contempt.

In my experience, while the traditionalist extremists may chide one and send one away with an idle hand gesture, I find that the modern extremists are much more feisty - like really angry and vindictive. Huh.


Paribbajaka wrote:That's a good point. So how about the aformentioned monks who sell charms and tell fortunes? How about the monks in Burma inciting violence? What about the Pali commentators that began to delineate and define points not in the orginal texts? Very often today we hear of the different "layers" of the Pali canon, how certain parts were clearly added later or modified, and about how the whole of the Abhidhamma is most liekly not Buddha sasana... why continue to use the name of Buddhism at all if you're going to do these things?

It's because this is a living tradition, much like how Christianity has changed since ancient Palestine. Traditions survive by adapting and changing.

The Buddha speaks in the Pali Canon of kings and monarchs, but we have very few monarchies left. Does this mean Buddhists should oppose democracy? Or do we adapt the teachings on monarchs to our current elected officials?

The Buddha speaks at one point in the Pali Canon on seeing through sexual desire, and uses a woman "at the height of her beauty, 16 years of age" as an example in a sermon. Should Buddhists then adapt the teaching to current views of sexual maturity, or apply it in its written way and risk criminal charges in some countries?

This is not an argument for a free-for-all do what feels good Dhamma, but a Dhamma that is open to changing the small things in order to accomodate a popualtion that is very different philosphically, socially, and politically from that of ancient India.


Well, I don't have a problem with not calling myself a Buddhist. Although some people really put a lot of stock in calling themselves Buddhists and to be considered as such by others.
I can't relate to such Buddhists.
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Re: Modern Theravada

Postby Paribbajaka » Thu Apr 25, 2013 11:46 am

binocular wrote:Often, I've seen this from "modern" Buddhists, and sometimes accompanied with a considerable amount of hatred and contempt.

In my experience, while the traditionalist extremists may chide one and send one away with an idle hand gesture, I find that the modern extremists are much more feisty - like really angry and vindictive. Huh.

My experience has been that everyone is capable of anger and vindictiveness with the right (wrong?) conditions.

In general "modern extremists" are very open with their interpretation of the Dhamma, as we've been discussing sometimes a little too open. But many of them do indeed have an axe to grind with traditional religion.

At the same time, traditionalists seem to be the ones most likely to look down their noses at other forms of practice or views of practice. This is regardless of whether their tradition has scriptural basis or is just a different cultural adaptation.

Interestingly, the monks I've met tend to be fairly open in their understanding of the Dhamma. My primary teacher prides himself on his open mindedness and gladly converses with Mahayana Buddhists (and Christians and Muslims) about unifying points.
Another monk I practice with reads from a "Jesus Calling" devotional in his off time and says that his prediction for the future of Wester Buddhism inlcudes statues of Jesus meditating throughout temples.
Many of the Lao temples I go to have bodhisattva stautes or even Hindu god statues along the walls in addition to Buddhas.

Let's just remember that none of us are enlightened beings and that our view, no matter what that is, is not the be all and end all. The tipitaka is most likely not the exact literal word of the Buddha, modern teachers may be too loose in their approach, and all of us are trying to do the best we can with what we have.
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