Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Jun 18, 2013 12:24 am

Greetings,
daverupa wrote:The fact is, these speculations are in an altogether different direction than that of appropriate attention.

:goodpost:

Metta,
Retro. :)
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Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby daverupa » Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:35 am

Indeed, it's all very woo-woo.

:alien:

:rolleye:
    "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: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby hgg » Tue Jun 18, 2013 5:45 am

The fact is, these speculations are in an altogether different direction than that of appropriate attention.


I don't think that these are speculations.
Its a simple observation while reading the pali canon that Buddhas are only reborn in India.

Anyway, thank you for your help and comments.
hgg2014.

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Re: Buddha's Rebirths

Postby binocular » Tue Jun 18, 2013 8:45 am

hgg wrote: Why did he always choose India?

Maybe "India" here refers to "holy land", and not to that geographical entity that we commonly call "India."
It makes sense that prospective Buddhas are always born in the land that is holy (wherever this may geographically be).

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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby binocular » Tue Jun 18, 2013 8:49 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,
daverupa wrote:The fact is, these speculations are in an altogether different direction than that of appropriate attention.

:goodpost:


Read the poster's other concerns:

hgg wrote:
I don't take the rebirth stories as literal truth. The stories do not agree with what we know of the history of the planet.


Then, how will you be able to decide what is true and what is not in the accounts of Buddha ?
If some of the accounts are not true, then more might be false.
How will you be sure for example that there are 31 planes of existence and not only one?

It is very important for a theory to be sound in order to inspire confidence.
If we cannot account for this possible discrepancy in Buddha's rebirths,
the validity of the theory of rebirths might be shaken.



Expecting people to "just have faith" in what a particular teacher or tradition (or just a poster on the interent who claims to be a Buddhist) say and not question it - that's an instruction to blind faith. It's putting the cart before the horse.

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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby barcsimalsi » Tue Jun 18, 2013 12:08 pm

daverupa wrote:The underlined portion is probably a mistake, since it judges the centuries-long composition of this oral material according to modern historical values, rather than according to then-standard mythical pedagogies and narratives. The oral tradition was such that the reciters were also encouraged to make inferences and connections with the material, and the nature of the recitations would have been such that a reciter would have easily imputed "obvious" additions - ones which felt readily apparent and valid, but which to our way of thinking were unoriginal.

We also ought to remember that the Sangha existed in a context of other groups who vied for social support, so the narrative formats would have been aligned with lay interests and lay conceptions of the cosmos - indeed, since the Buddha left so much undeclared that puthujjana find enticing, it would have been a matter of course to flesh out the conceptions of worlds and beings and whatnot according to prevailing cultural values.

I shall take that as both fraudulent + effective strategy to preserve and spread the heart of dhamma, the 4noble truth as it spells. Thanks for explaining.

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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby Nyana » Tue Jun 18, 2013 1:15 pm

daverupa wrote:Indeed, it's all very woo-woo.

:alien:

:rolleye:

Was this derogatory comment an example of acting with appropriate attention?

There's a whole lot of open space between dogmatic literalism and cynical derision. You should check it out sometime.

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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby daverupa » Tue Jun 18, 2013 1:28 pm

Nyana wrote:Was this derogatory comment an example of acting with appropriate attention?

There's a whole lot of open space between dogmatic literalism and cynical derision. You should check it out sometime.


We tend to go back and forth on this sort of topic occasionally; smugly taking the moral high ground is something of a contradiction, but you make a good point so long as 'cynical' & 'derisive' describe my motives - but surely you wouldn't presume, up there as you are.

Too bad I said nothing else about the topic, else we might have had something relevant to discuss.
    "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: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby Nyana » Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:09 pm

daverupa wrote:Too bad I said nothing else about the topic, else we might have had something relevant to discuss.

Well, you did:

daverupa wrote:The underlined portion is probably a mistake, since it judges the centuries-long composition of this oral material according to modern historical values, rather than according to then-standard mythical pedagogies and narratives. The oral tradition was such that the reciters were also encouraged to make inferences and connections with the material, and the nature of the recitations would have been such that a reciter would have easily imputed "obvious" additions - ones which felt readily apparent and valid, but which to our way of thinking were unoriginal.

We also ought to remember that the Sangha existed in a context of other groups who vied for social support, so the narrative formats would have been aligned with lay interests and lay conceptions of the cosmos - indeed, since the Buddha left so much undeclared that puthujjana find enticing, it would have been a matter of course to flesh out the conceptions of worlds and beings and whatnot according to prevailing cultural values.

It seems you're suggesting that dhamma narratives were developed by reciters motivated by what the puthujjana would find enticing. But why should these dhamma narratives be relegated to such lowly status -- being segregated from Buddhavacana and not relevant to noble disciples? Why should anyone accept a post-modern relativistic revision of Buddhist history? Might there be more intelligent and compelling ways to relate to this narrative material than by dismissing it as "woo-woo"?

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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby alan » Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:44 pm

hgg, I like it that you are thoughtful on these matters. Just like to point out there is never a specific mention of India when the Buddha spoke of his past births. Caste and clan perhaps, but that could be read many ways. Most of the world was divided socially along those lines at his time.

As for the Deva realms, that's probably an extrapolation from high meditative states, and should have no bearing on your belief, or non-belief, in the teachings.

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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby daverupa » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:52 pm

Nyana wrote:
daverupa wrote:Too bad I said nothing else about the topic, else we might have had something relevant to discuss.

Well, you did:


Failed sarcasm (and the general snarky tone as well - I am sorry for these both).

Why should anyone accept a post-modern relativistic revision of Buddhist history?


Why should anyone prefer a pre-modern mythical scholastic creation of Buddhist history?

Might there be more intelligent and compelling ways to relate to this narrative material than by dismissing it as "woo-woo"?


Sure; what you quoted from my earlier post is an example of one way to go about it. There are others, and you seem to have done something about it according to your own predilections. We might all benefit from hearing you talk about that, instead of the current approach.

:hug:
    "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: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby alan » Tue Jun 18, 2013 3:59 pm

Must also say that the reciters of the Suttas were not encouraged to comment or add anything. Their purpose was just to remember, and pass it on. Not sure how this idea came about that additions where made at the early stages.

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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby daverupa » Tue Jun 18, 2013 4:23 pm

alan wrote:Must also say that the reciters of the Suttas were not encouraged to comment or add anything. Their purpose was just to remember, and pass it on.


Research into the technology of the Buddhist oral traditions suggests a complex and somewhat fluid process of transmission and sutta creation. Not much, if anything, seems to have been intentionally left out, but additions were a different matter and, without explicit barriers to it, there would be no need for encouragement.

Not sure how this idea came about that additions where made at the early stages.


~350 years of transmission is a long time, but perhaps the Nikayas did spring into being fully formed as we see them today, with only accidental differences (Agama differences and so forth). I don't think this is very likely, however.
    "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: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby Nyana » Tue Jun 18, 2013 4:34 pm

daverupa wrote:
Why should anyone accept a post-modern relativistic revision of Buddhist history?


Why should anyone prefer a pre-modern mythical scholastic creation of Buddhist history?

Well, doesn't this characterization of dhamma narratives as "pre-modern mythical scholastic creation[s]" already presuppose postmodern assumptions? The Buddha is on record explicitly asserting these narratives. And other than these records of discourses, we don't know what the Buddha may have thought or said on this subject one way or the other.

Revisionist analysis is based on multiple assumptions, any number of which may be false. Moreover, if one wants to dismiss this particular teaching based on academic historical critical analysis, then why not dismiss the entire Vinayapiṭaka and thereby allow monastics to get married, etc., based on similar assumptions? And if one is going to make decisions about the dhammavinaya based on contemporary secular criteria, why not conclude that the arahant fruition is itself an invented myth -- that such an ideal is not only biologically impossible for an adult human, it is also psychologically and physiologically unhealthy?

daverupa wrote:
Might there be more intelligent and compelling ways to relate to this narrative material than by dismissing it as "woo-woo"?


Sure; what you quoted from my earlier post is an example of one way to go about it. There are others, and you seem to have done something about it according to your own predilections. We might all benefit from hearing you talk about that, instead of the current approach.

It's a big subject. Is a secular framework the only way to enter the noble path in this day and age? Is a secular framework ever an efficacious way to approach the dhammavinaya? There are numerous modern examples of traditional ascetic Theravāda practitioners who have gone very far towards the goal or possibly even reached the goal in this life. But I've yet to come across one such example among secular revisionists, even though there is at least one person who claims to be an arahant, and who, quite conveniently, also claims that there's no need for an arahant to abstain from lust or sex.

As I implied earlier, I think there's plenty of room for appreciating dhamma narratives that doesn't require subscribing to a rigid dogmatic literalism, and at the same time, doesn't strip them of meaning and value either.

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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby alan » Tue Jun 18, 2013 4:37 pm

Tell us about the technology of oral traditions, and what research has proved about the Suttas. I'm confident they were remembered correctly.
Don't use phrases like "Complex and somewhat fluid", or other weasel words.

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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby daverupa » Tue Jun 18, 2013 6:16 pm

alan wrote:Don't use phrases like "Complex and somewhat fluid", or other weasel words.


It was vague due to being based on remembered discussions, primarily from the introduction to Analayo's comparative study of the Majjhima Nikaya. There's an article by A. Wynne on this as well. Problematically in this last case,

The evidence on the literary history of early Buddhism presented here concerns only the transmission and not the composition of the extant texts.


It's definitely speculative, what I've written, but educated guesses are both guesses, and educated. It's one way to "appreciate dhamma narratives" in a meaningful, modern context using early Buddhist studies, multiple assumptions notwithstanding. There are other approaches. For the motivated, there is this.

In any event, nothing was intended as a weasel phrase.

Nyana wrote:The Buddha is on record...


Mahayana texts use this device, as well. It begs the question, to wit: are the Nikayas in toto inviolate Buddhavacana, or are they texts which arose out of historical processes?

Your various "why not" slippery slopes are presumptive and uninteresting.

Finally,

As I implied earlier, I think there's plenty of room for appreciating dhamma narratives that doesn't require subscribing to a rigid dogmatic literalism, and at the same time, doesn't strip them of meaning and value either.


We agree as far as this goes, sir. We simply disagree over how to appreciate them.
    "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: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby Nyana » Tue Jun 18, 2013 6:56 pm

daverupa wrote:It begs the question, to wit: are the Nikayas in toto inviolate Buddhavacana, or are they texts which arose out of historical processes?

Which begs the question: What criteria is one to use to differentiate Buddhavacana from texts which arose out of historical processes?

daverupa wrote:Your various "why not" slippery slopes are presumptive and uninteresting.

You asked me to consider your other replies on this thread, so that we might have "something relevant to discuss." Now you retard further substantive discussion by categorically dismissing my considerations as "presumptive and uninteresting." It seems to me that you really don't want to engage in a meaningful discussion of these issues at all. Which is a bit strange, given that you've already replied on this thread 8 times -- including the very first reply to the OP.

daverupa wrote:
As I implied earlier, I think there's plenty of room for appreciating dhamma narratives that doesn't require subscribing to a rigid dogmatic literalism, and at the same time, doesn't strip them of meaning and value either.


We agree as far as this goes, sir. We simply disagree over how to appreciate them.

So how do you appreciate them?

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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby daverupa » Tue Jun 18, 2013 7:58 pm

Nyana wrote:What criteria is one to use to differentiate Buddhavacana from texts which arose out of historical processes?


I consider any Buddhavacana texts to be historical texts, while not all historical texts are Buddhavacana. I consider the Nikayas to be a broad, complex, chronological development with respect to the Dhamma, rather than a single product of The First Council which looks the same now as it did then (to say nothing of thinking of the Abhidhamma as First Council-era material - the Nikayas and the Pali Canon are not the same set of texts).

This is all a preliminary point of view for approaching the Nikayas 'from the West', 'in my case'.

daverupa wrote:You asked me to consider your other replies on this thread, so that we might have "something relevant to discuss." Now you retard further substantive discussion...


Sigh.

doesn't this characterization of dhamma narratives as "pre-modern mythical scholastic creation[s]" already presuppose postmodern assumptions?


Pre-modern is descriptive. Mythical is descriptive. Scholastic refers to the historical embedded-ness of the Nikayas within Theravada orthodoxy. Creation is probably the only presumption here: I see the Nikayas as carriers of the material created by the Buddha and built up over time, and not as precisely coextensive with that primary created material.

why not dismiss the entire Vinayapiṭaka


Because that's the baby and the bathwater. (But I see no reason to keep the garudhammas around, for example.)

why not conclude that the arahant fruition is itself an invented myth


There's no apparent reason to conclude that. It's the raison d'être of the texts to begin with.

I'm sorry for thinking of this sort of question as disingenuous and confrontational, discarding it as uninteresting without addressing it.

Is a secular framework the only way to enter the noble path in this day and age?


Loaded question, this time. As to whether it's ever useful, well, I think so, and you seem to disagree.

So how do you appreciate them?


I've already said how I treat them, how I consider them, and so forth, at some length, and I don't think I missed a question from your recent battery (though please mention any).

How do you appreciate them - realms, gods, big fish, favoritism towards India with respect to where Buddhas seem to arise? Please respond in kind.
    "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: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby Nyana » Tue Jun 18, 2013 10:02 pm

daverupa wrote:I consider any Buddhavacana texts to be historical texts, while not all historical texts are Buddhavacana. I consider the Nikayas to be a broad, complex, chronological development with respect to the Dhamma, rather than a single product of The First Council which looks the same now as it did then (to say nothing of thinking of the Abhidhamma as First Council-era material - the Nikayas and the Pali Canon are not the same set of texts).

I agree with all of the above. But this still leaves unaddressed the question of why, from a pragmatic perspective, there should be a need to differentiate between Buddhavacana and later historical accretion within the closed Pāli canonical corpus? What is so problematic about parts of the Pāli canonical corpus that warrants their segregation and dismissal?

daverupa wrote:Pre-modern is descriptive. Mythical is descriptive. Scholastic refers to the historical embedded-ness of the Nikayas within Theravada orthodoxy. Creation is probably the only presumption here: I see the Nikayas as carriers of the material created by the Buddha and built up over time, and not as precisely coextensive with that primary created material.

In this context of dhamma narrative it's probably useful to primarily refer to the sutta corpus, which I wouldn't characterize as pre-modern mythical scholastic creations, although there are likely elements of all of that contained therein.

daverupa wrote:
why not conclude that the arahant fruition is itself an invented myth

There's no apparent reason to conclude that. It's the raison d'être of the texts to begin with.

Then you might agree that there are limits to cultural revisionism -- at some point the traditional Buddhist soteriological project unravels and becomes meaningless.

daverupa wrote:How do you appreciate them - realms, gods, big fish, favoritism towards India with respect to where Buddhas seem to arise? Please respond in kind.

Personally, I don't spend much time thinking about those particular things. I also don't feel compelled to go on Buddhist discussion forums and attempt to rewrite Buddhist historical narratives according to secular academic trends.

I think the Pāli suttas are prescriptive and descriptive. They primarily designate a path to develop in order to realize the cessation of dukkha. The teachings are tools to be used -- provisional expedients from beginning to end.

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Re: Buddha's Rebirths - Possible Paradox

Postby daverupa » Wed Jun 19, 2013 1:27 am

Nyana wrote:What is so problematic...


Probably that I keep trying to explain myself. I'm simply sorry for the mess.
    "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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