Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

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christopher:::
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Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby christopher::: » Sat Jan 17, 2009 3:55 am

Hi friends,

I want to raise a bit of a controversial topic, as delicately and dharmically (sp?) as possible. Without going into details (of names, places) there appear to be tensions between practitioners of certain schools that are arising at times here on the Internet. There have been (I will be specific here) especially confrontations at times between Soto Zen Buddhists and some Tibetan Buddhists, at other forums. I don't think there is any need to get more specific beyond that, as it could create trouble for our moderators here.

Anyway, beyond the personalities of people involved it seems to me that just like every other religion on this planet there are "wings" to Modern Buddhism, specifically a conservative and liberal wing. The conservative position is very tradition grounded, takes teachings literally, has a bit of a dualistic right/wrong view of teachings, and at times can be extremely intolerant of the more liberal wing.

The liberal wing, by contrast, is more open-minded and experimental, looks at teachings more interpretively, sometimes gets a bit assertive by calling certain literal beliefs "superstitious" or illogical. When these two wings meet, there can be tensions.

What I wonder is a) how do you view this, b) how should people respond and c) is this a natural tension that should be expected, and d) do you have any suggestions for how this tension might be neutralized or diminished?

I find it strange, actually, seeing this tension, given that there have been numerous situations where teachers within Soto Zen and Tibetan Buddhism have come together. And usually, they get along just fine (see below). Why should we be any different?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/upaya/460808601/

:group:
"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: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Jan 17, 2009 4:13 am

the internet lets people say things theyd never say in public...

i've noticed the Soto thing on the other forum, and i wonder if soto is soon to be a banned group on there like other buddhist groups.

i think one of the reasons this group was set up is so theravada buddhists could say what they want to from a theravada standpoint w/o having a mod from another school/philosophy come in and try to correct us or sanitize/censer us.
this is whats happening with the Soto priests that keep getting banned, soto as a tradition says A B C but a mod from a different background can say no thats not buddhism youve slandered the buddha youre out. it would be like us saying , no theres no bodhisattva idea, buddha didnt teach these sutras youve slandered the buddha youre out. and with it's tulku systems and reincarnated lamas one could easily level all sorts of things at the tibetans being eternalists whatever. everyone is a target. who gets shot just depends on whos got the gun i guess

who owns the dharma/dhamma?

now with the modern/trad theravada we've had our fights, of course. i think the majority of us on here have been kicked out of theravada by another of us over in the other forum because we dont dot every I and cross every T just like the Mahavihara would have had us do it. but the fight is a little different since the fundamentals are all basicaly the same, the goal is the same, the path is the same, and the different ideas arent so spread apart culturaly (ie. tibet and japan) so theres more common ground
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby christopher::: » Sat Jan 17, 2009 4:43 am

Some good points, jcs.

Yes, I think any group can become intolerant. Does it come with the territory of power, maybe? I dunno. In Judaism it's interesting, they speak openly of Orthodox, Conservative, Liberal and Reform Jews. Some of these groups have anymosity, but at least they recognize one another as being a kind of natural expression of the range views will take in a religion.

:reading: :yingyang: :ugeek: :rolleye: :guns: :hug: :coffee: :cookoo:
"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: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby Ben » Sat Jan 17, 2009 4:48 am

Hi Chris

I'd like to address this issue in a little more depth and I apologise for JC for not reading his response yet. What I would like to say is that from my humble perspective, many of the problems seem to be the result of conceit and delusion, failings that we all have until we become ariya. If I get time later on I'll get back to you with more.

I just ask that members refrain from naming other forums, websites, or individuals in their criticisms or observations.

Cheers

Ben
Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

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Re: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby stuka » Sat Jan 17, 2009 5:24 am

I know there were tensions between Buddhadasa and "city monks". Peter Jackson (not the movie producer) mentioned in his book about Buddhadasa that others who did not see things the way he did called him everything form a Communist to a Capitalist to a Mahayanist (because of his emphasis on "emptiness"), among other things. I believe he mentioned that there were some who wanted to have him disrobed. Jackson's explanation was that Buddhism is not an orthodoxy, but rather an orthopraxy. Jackson explains that they couldn't touch Buddhadasa because his vinaya was impeccable.

Of course, some would call Buddhadasa liberal or "modern", however, what he actually was, was a very conservative reformer. He went back to the Nikayas and taught right out of them. He had originally left the city monasteries and went to the forest because of the corruption he saw in the cities.

But where I am at, the meditation group I go to does not have such tensions. There is a meditation period, a short break, and then a dhamma talk. The ones who give dhamma talks here do so in the context of the Buddha's here-and-now, teachings. There is none of this internet Me-And-Mine here.

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Re: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby Jechbi » Sat Jan 17, 2009 5:37 am

Hi Christopher,
A few off-the-cuff responses:
christopher::: wrote:What I wonder is a) how do you view this,
Seems like sometimes folks don't realize how the written word can come across. If you say something straight, but it disagrees with what someone else has written, you can be perceived as angry. Voice inflections, facial expressions, all the stuff that occurs in face-to-face dialogue is absent, and smilies just don't bridge the gap. So I think a lot of the difficulty arises because people are not accustomed to communicating through a faceless written medium.
christopher::: wrote: b) how should people respond
When there is tension, I think it works best if posters view their own tension first and foremost. The tension we perceive in another in their writing may or may not be present. Apart from that, I think it's OK to let folks vent and act stupid without worrying too much about it, because anyone who reads the thread can see for themselves what's going on, and everyone is going to bring their own interpretation to it. There is never, in my opinion, any reason to try to vex the other person or make things worse (which isn't to say that I've never personally done this). But in the world of Web boards, I think generally it's a big mistake to take anything personally.
christopher::: wrote: and c) is this a natural tension that should be expected,
Yes.
christopher::: wrote: and d) do you have any suggestions for how this tension might be neutralized or diminished?
Not really, because you can never control what the other person is going to do. The best we can do is be aware of the tension that arises within ourselves and work with that.

I've had some interactions such as what you describe (not too many), and I have to admit that sometimes I can be thin-skinned. This whole tension between "liberals" and "conservatives" (or however you want to label the two sides) doesn't have to carry the emotional baggage. Disagreements are fine. It's the sense of righteous indignation that's the problem. I think that's really the key: To recognize when righteous indignation is arising in the other person, and then be gentle. And to recognize when righteous indignation is rising within oneself, and then be extra careful.
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: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby christopher::: » Sat Jan 17, 2009 5:46 am

Hello friends,

Thank you for your wonderful responses! What is becoming increasingly clear to me is how "drama" and tension is created whenever we seek to defend our views or positions and attack others. If I think of this as a Soto vs. TB issue i may find myself defending Soto Zen Buddhism. Right there i begin to create delusions. If i blame the other person, and refer to them by name, right there i create the illusion of an "other."

I started a similar conversation over at Drolma's website (link below) and she asked for the same parameters in this discussion as Ben. Don't mention anyone by name, don't mention another forum by name. It's quite interesting how those parameters help us to consider our words carefully. When we don't feel attacked, what is there to defend?

:meditate: :heart: :jedi:

http://www.buddhistlounge.com/personal-experience-f14/
"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

Element

Re: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby Element » Sat Jan 17, 2009 5:59 am

christopher::: wrote:I want to raise a bit of a controversial topic, as delicately and dharmically (sp?) as possible. Without going into details (of names, places) there appear to be tensions between practitioners of certain schools that are arising at times here on the Internet.

Hey Chris,

Internet or elsewhere is a place to express one's views straightforwardly. Each is expressing what they believe to be most beneficial. If it was not like that, then chat site would be very boring and people would learn little. We learn when we are challenged. That is what dukkha is. The word dukkha in Pali means 'difficult to bear'. Dukkha is a challenge that allows the Dhamma to grow in us.

If we crumble in debate or discussion, or must resort to banning people to protect our faith, then our faith is weak. Buddha said for one whose faith in the Tathagata is unshakeable (ajala saddha), they are not poor, their lives are not wasted.

For example, the following are quotes from Theravaden monks. We should not assume there is 'tension' there. There is mere honesty & helpfulness.
In contrast to this statement, Ajahn Brahm, spiritual director of the Buddhist Society of WA stated in a letter, “The Dalai Lama is not the ‘Pope’ of Buddhism and, charming as he often is, he sometimes gets it wrong.” Brahm also stated in his letter, “The Dalai Lama’s error is to look for his guidance in dodgy scriptures composed many centuries after the time of the Buddha.”

“The comment is coming from a very specific view of the world. He’s a political figure and he’s certainly no fool, and he’s not going to say anything to offend the Tibetan community,” said Venerable Bhante (Tejadhammo Bhikku), abbot and spiritual director of the Association of Engaged Buddhists Inc.


Buddhists question Dalai Lama

Element

Re: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby Element » Sat Jan 17, 2009 6:27 am

stuka wrote:Jackson explains that they couldn't touch Buddhadasa because his vinaya was impeccable.

Buddhadasa packaged his political socialist teachings in Dhamma language in the 60s, thus skirted around the Vinaya.

But in the 40s or 50s, when they sought to disrobe him for teaching things like 'The Triple Gem is an obstacle to Nibbana', he was also protected by some very senior monks.

Some of Buddhadasa's teachings were rooted in Zen, in non-duality. They were excellent teachings when I was a learner because they were conducive to the development of samadhi. Buddhadasa taught often so listeners could gain stream-entry. Of course, these days I disagree with these kinds of Zen teachings he gave and of course there are many of Buddhadasa's teachings that disagree also. (Buddhadasa has his own 'lower' and 'higher' teachings). However, his Zen teachings were powerful and as such had their short-comings or dangers. Non-duality is a very dangerous teaching, which is why Buddha did not really teach it.

Thus, when certain bhikkhus wished Buddhadasa to be disrobed for saying things like 'there is no Buddha, no Dhamma and no Sangha', that 'most views about the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha are like the Himalayan mountains blocking one's way and view of Nibbana', of course this would create tension.

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Re: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby christopher::: » Sat Jan 17, 2009 6:56 am

Hi Element,

Thanks for responding my friend.

Element wrote:
Internet or elsewhere is a place to express one's views straightforwardly. Each is expressing what they believe to be most beneficial. If it was not like that, then chat site would be very boring and people would learn little. We learn when we are challenged. That is what dukkha is. The word dukkha in Pali means 'difficult to bear'. Dukkha is a challenge that allows the Dhamma to grow in us.

If we crumble in debate or discussion, or must resort to banning people to protect our faith, then our faith is weak. Buddha said for one whose faith in the Tathagata is unshakeable (ajala saddha), they are not poor, their lives are not wasted.


I agree with what you have written, though reading your posts reminded me of another "element" that often helps to create tensions. To criticize the beliefs or leaders of others as "wrong" while also presenting our views on other people's views and beliefs as 100% valid, as facts.

Not saying you are "wrong" with anything just posted, but this is something that does create tension. I agree, we need to challenge one another in a strong fashion. It helps separate the dharma from non-dharma. But people can win arguments and even hold unshakeable faith in what they believe, and still be completely wrong.

:rules:

All very complicated,
and paradoxical.

:spy:
"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

Element

Re: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby Element » Sat Jan 17, 2009 7:35 am

christopher::: wrote:Not saying you are "wrong" with anything just posted, but this is something that does create tension.
:rules:

:reading:

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Re: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby retrofuturist » Sat Jan 17, 2009 10:43 am

Greetings,

If I wanted to know about Soto Zen, I would ask a Soto Zen practitioner.
If I wanted to know about Vajrayana, I would ask a Vajrayana practitioner.
If I wanted to know about Theravada, I would ask a Theravada practitioner.

I don't see the need for any tensions there. Peace.

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)


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One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby LisaMann » Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:06 am

Greetings and thanks for the invite! :D

As far as Tibetan vs Zen, this is nothing new... hey there've been issues for a millennium, and I guess some Tibetans still see Mo-ho-yen under every bed. "Ban the blasphemer!" Heck, back then we got the boot from the Tibetan plateau, now we just get the boot off a website.

It stinks, but we can choose to, or not to, participate. I'll leave my sandals behind, at least.

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Re: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby genkaku » Sat Jan 17, 2009 1:24 pm

My two cents:

Everyone runs into his or her own brick wall. Protective walls, strong walls, walls of virtue, walls of intellect, walls of self, walls of other, walls of oneness, walls of emptiness, walls of compassion, walls of clarity.... And just because I write something in one quick sentence does not mean the matter is at all quick or easy. Those who take Buddhism at all seriously are provided with the tools to set aside their walls. Whether anyone picks up those tools is not something one person can do for another ... which is not to say they don't try. :) "The one true way" may be on everyone's lips, but whether they consent to find the one true way is an entirely different matter.

I think the best we can do is practice ... and perhaps pray a little that others will have the good fortune to actually pick up the tools in front of them. In the meantime, things can be pretty depressing.

I'm not a big fan of using the words of others, but a good line is a good line, and Gautama wasn't whistlin' Dixie when he said or was supposed to have said, "It is not what others do and do not do that is my concern. It is what I do and do not do -- that is my concern."

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Re: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby kc2dpt » Sat Jan 17, 2009 3:57 pm

christopher:::,

I find tension arises when we assume we're all practicing the same religion. When we try to force things like that there is bound to be tension.

Conversely, when we assume we are practicing different religions we can talk civilly, compare similarities, contrast differences, and generally enjoy each other's company.

To put it another way...

If I say "Buddha said this" and you say "No no no, Buddha said that" well then we've got a fight on our hands.
But if I say "In my tradition we learn this" and you say "That's interesting because in my tradition we learn that" then we have a civil and interesting discussion.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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Re: Tensions within Buddhism, Real

Postby Will » Sat Jan 17, 2009 4:02 pm

There have always been debates between the followers of Buddha. Sometimes this "tension" leads to new schools or sects, but this is nothing out of the ordinary. At other times it is just a matter of differing emphasis or focus on some doctrines or practices that begin to define a new school of Buddhism. In this case there is no tension.

We Occidental adherents are more aware than many ethnic followers, of the vast field of the Dharma that produced such a variety of views and we are not sure if all are of equal value or not. This lack of real certainty makes some of us so uncomfortable that we strike out, either to defend what we "know" is the best form of Dharma or to attack that view which we also "know" is not the right way.

In addition, we converts, whether from secularism, indifference or another religon, are often ablaze with energy that will burn ourselves and others at times.
This noble eightfold path is the ancient path traveled by all the Buddhas of eons past. Nagara Sutta

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Re: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby christopher::: » Sat Jan 17, 2009 5:09 pm

Thank you all for responding. So many wise and insightful posts!

Now, here comes the 20 thousand dollar question: what responsibility (if any) do those in positions of power have to be tolerant of their sisters and brothers who have no such power, when views of traditions and/or practitioners may differ?

How important within Buddhism is the value and practice of tolerance?

AND (finally) when tolerance is not being practiced by our fellow Buddhists, what can we do if anything?

Accept the situation as is? Scream loudly? Teach by example?

Just walk away?
"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: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby jcsuperstar » Sat Jan 17, 2009 5:34 pm

well this place is here

and theres treeleaf for soto zen...

what happens when you have a party and its not fun for your guests?
they find new parties..
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat

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Re: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby piper » Sat Jan 17, 2009 6:53 pm

Hi Christopher:::,

christopher::: wrote:a) how do you view this

I've been thinking lately that such tensions might arise from the different approaches to Buddhist practice. The basic split being the direct path and the... uh, I don't know the proper term for the inverse... the indirect path? My understanding of the difference is shaky at best but for what it's worth I'll posit that it boils down to our basic drive for meaning. The indirect path provides an abundance of meaning and the direct path is more austere. Both paths can lead to transcendence, of course, I think it's a matter of whichever suites a particular individual rather than a matter of one being better than the other.

b)how should people respond

NEFP, of course. :smile:

c)is this a natural tension that should be expected

In the sense that we all seem to have an insatiable drive for meaning it may be expected to cause tension without, as well as within.

d)do you have any suggestions for how this tension might be neutralized or diminished?

NEFP, of course. :smile:

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Re: Tensions within Modern Buddhism, Real or Illusory?

Postby Placid-pool » Sat Jan 17, 2009 7:02 pm

jcsuperstar wrote:well this place is here

and theres treeleaf for soto zen...

what happens when you have a party and its not fun for your guests?
they find new parties..


:goodpost:


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