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Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People? - Dhamma Wheel

Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
mal4mac
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Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby mal4mac » Mon Aug 05, 2013 11:22 am

Pepper suggests:

“The goal is not acceptance, retreat, and detachment, but engagement and judgment and change. We are not a “pure self” corrupted by social formations, but a self constructed as always-already corrupt and ignorant and suffering, and the only way to change that is to transform our social system.”

http://speculativenonbuddhism.com/2013/ ... o-bhikkhu/

This seems to me to be an entirely spurious argument. Acceptance, retreat, and detachment seem an entirely valid way to transform one’s social system! Ajahn Geoff certainly transformed his by moving to a Thai monastery. Tom Pepper seems to be suggesting a highly engaged attempt to change the society we find ourselves in. But is it worth enduring a lot of suffering to seek a very uncertain social outcome, that might even result in far worse social conditions (Russian revolution... etc...)

Personally, I think minimal engagement is appropriate in Western democracies... vote every few years... but when the corrupt get in again, as they will, whatever you do, you haven’t wasted years continuously demonstrating, going to endless meetings, fighting coppers, and doings loads of things that disturb your sanity and tranquility.

“... our contemporary “spiritual but not religious” attitude... assumes that no matter what I do (lie, steal, cheat on my spouse, exploit the poor, support military oppression of third world people, etc.) I will go to heaven …”

This is just rhetorical rubbish, which “spiritual but not religious” people have this attitude? OK, maybe some, but not any I know, and certainly not “most”.
- Mal

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Kim OHara
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Aug 07, 2013 5:15 am

Hi,
Your opening quote makes more sense (or maybe means something a bit different) in the context of the whole article, which I do encourage everyone to read.
One question Pepper raises is (roughly) "whether we should engage in efforts to improve our society". It is not a "spurious" argument at all but a very good question. I happen think everyone except ordained monks should answer in the affirmative, but the other side of the argument has plenty of supporters too. Pepper's discussion is worth reading.
The rest of the article deals with (1) whether Thanissaro Bhikku gets more respect than he deserves, just because he has an Asian name and wears a robe, and (2) whether Thanissaro is a dualist or not, and whether such dualism is really Buddhist or not.

:namaste:
Kim

mal4mac
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby mal4mac » Wed Aug 07, 2013 11:52 am

- Mal

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Anagarika
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby Anagarika » Wed Aug 07, 2013 1:06 pm

Who the heck is Tom Pepper, and why is he a featured guest at this cocktail party?

My take on Pepper is that he is a bit meanspirited, and is somehow trying to make a minor name for himself by attacking scholars like Thanissaro Bhikkhu. From the bits and pieces I've read on speculativebuddhism.com , Peppers come across as reasonably intelligent with a nasty narcissism streak. He's a professor of English at a small college in Connecticut, also taking grad school classes in psychology. Writing of the practice of teaching English, he "Peppers' his comments with denigration of his own colleagues : "Anyone who can read Conrad can read Zizek or Althusser. Of course, many of my colleagues can’t read either, so they are really just covering their incompetence by claiming it is their students who can’t understand theory."

It's always charming when someone believes themselves to be the smartest person in the room, or on the campus. Peppers might believe his colleagues to be incompetent, but I'm guessing they are doing fine for their students. He strikes me as the insecure, wannabe intellectual who believes the fastest way to the top is to try to drag those at the top down. Tracking him down further, he is " A completely amateur Buddhist, who has never been a monk in any tradition, Tom is a member and associate teacher at the Buddhist Faith Fellowship of Connecticut, where he teaches Buddhist Sunday School and helps lead study groups for newcomers to Buddhism." http://www.bffct.net/

This sangha is a Shin group, and has the following (http://www.bffct.net/id71.html) as its "What We Believe":

15. We believe….the Pure Land is the realm of enlightenment (nirvana) and a concrete image of emptiness (shunyata), which is the transcending deathless and eternal dominion beyond conception, devoid of hatred, greed and ignorance.

16. We believe….death is a new beginning, in which we ascend to the Pure Land, only then do we return to this world to help all beings realize enlightenment.


OK, Tom Peppers, this is what you believe. So why all the animosity toward Ven. Thanissaro? Again, I think you're a fly trying to take a bite out of the rhino's rear end. It's pesky, might get you some attention, but I'm pretty sure the rhino will survive.

mal4mac
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby mal4mac » Wed Aug 07, 2013 6:01 pm

- Mal

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Anagarika
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby Anagarika » Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:45 pm


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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby Zom » Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:52 pm


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Mr Man
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby Mr Man » Wed Aug 07, 2013 7:56 pm


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Anagarika
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby Anagarika » Wed Aug 07, 2013 8:06 pm


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Mr Man
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

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Mr Man
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby Mr Man » Wed Aug 07, 2013 8:42 pm


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Kim OHara
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby Kim OHara » Wed Aug 07, 2013 11:18 pm


mal4mac
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby mal4mac » Thu Aug 08, 2013 12:21 pm

- Mal

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Crazy cloud
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby Crazy cloud » Thu Aug 08, 2013 2:18 pm

In my opinion is the task of keeping the path open and acsessible for future seekers, a very noble and compassionate act of giving and reciving. And who else is there to keep the path clear ..

metta

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your name Mori means forest like the infinite fresh green distances of your blindness

pulga
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby pulga » Thu Aug 08, 2013 3:44 pm

I'm just curious -- and a little disconcerted -- about just what sort of society Pepper would have in store for us.

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Kusala
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby Kusala » Sun Aug 11, 2013 7:05 am

Image

"He, the Blessed One, is indeed the Noble Lord, the Perfectly Enlightened One;
He is impeccable in conduct and understanding, the Serene One, the Knower of the Worlds;
He trains perfectly those who wish to be trained; he is Teacher of gods and men; he is Awake and Holy. "

--------------------------------------------
"The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One,
Apparent here and now, timeless, encouraging investigation,
Leading to liberation, to be experienced individually by the wise. "

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Kim OHara
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Aug 11, 2013 10:02 am


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Alex123
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby Alex123 » Mon Aug 12, 2013 6:12 pm

"Life is a struggle. Life will throw curveballs at you, it will humble you, it will attempt to break you down. And just when you think things are starting to look up, life will smack you back down with ruthless indifference..."

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Kamran
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby Kamran » Mon Sep 02, 2013 11:46 pm

Pepper disputes Thanisarro's interpretation of the Buddha's awakening. But even if that's a valid criticism, it does not support his argument that people should "engage, judge, and change" the world instead of developing detachment.

It also does not negate Thanissaro's teaching of the actual practice or the usefulness of the huge wealth of resources he provides.

Thanissaro is not dogmatic and does not demand his students to agree with everything he says. For example, he acknowledges in a very congenial manner that most of his students don't believe in literal rebirth.

Pepper implies that Thanissaro teaches "pure self" but Thanissaro points out that the BUddha did not teach anything like Buddha Nature.

Last but not least, Pepper's points are obscured by an extremely arrogant tone. Hopefully, he continues to practice and develops an alternative source of happiness than thinking about how smart he his :)
"Silence gives answers"

Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi

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lyndon taylor
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Re: Is Buddhism an Opiate for the People?

Postby lyndon taylor » Tue Sep 03, 2013 1:34 am

I suppose by the same criteria, education would be the opiate of the masses, anything that promises a better life by completion of its programme(education) would have to be an opiate. Or maybe our criteria are completely wrong and Buddhism is not the opiate, or education......
18 years ago I made one of the most important decisions of my life and entered a local Cambodian Buddhist Temple as a temple boy and, for only 3 weeks, an actual Therevada Buddhist monk. I am not a scholar, great meditator, or authority on Buddhism, but Buddhism is something I love from the Bottom of my heart. It has taught me sobriety, morality, peace, and very importantly that my suffering is optional, and doesn't have to run my life. I hope to give back what little I can to the Buddhist community, sincerely former monk John

http://trickleupeconomictheory.blogspot.com/


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