Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

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Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby Arali » Fri Aug 16, 2013 8:53 pm

Hello,

I've found myself in an odd position and could use some advice.

The textbook of a course I'm taking has a chapter that discusses Buddhism. It is pretty inaccurate.
I wrote to the university about it. I addressed several of the inaccuracies, but this is my main complaint:
They completely changed the 4th Noble Truth.


Image

They responded that these are matters of contention among Buddhists and that the box I've posted was from Stephen Batchelor a "Buddhist teacher".

I contacted Batchelor. He had no idea what they were talking about. I sent them what he had said, and included a variety of sources showing that The Four Noble Truths and the Eight-fold path are not something Buddhists are in disagreement about.

They've replied that their depiction of Buddhism is accurate.

I have 28 days to respond, but how does one respond to that?

My concern is that this chapter is one that students are required to learn. They must write an essay on it, which contributes to their final grade. Some of the people who take this course will go on to guide others' mindfulness practice. And changes are being made to make this course mandatory to every student undertaking psychology and/or counselling degree. That is a lot of people who will learn that the 4th Noble truth is 'Repeat 1-3 and it will become more effortless'.

I have tried to do what I thought was right, but I don't know how to proceed, and could use some input from fellow practitioners.

Any and all advice will be much appreciated.

Yours in the Dharma,
Arali
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby Modus.Ponens » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:22 pm

I'm shocked by such a distortion! Jesus!

Thinking about it, Jesus might be the reason...

If not, it's a severe mistake that an academic institution doesn't correct its mistakes. That's the fundamental principle of science!

EDIT: Sorry for not having useful advice. Just wanted to get the previous out of my system.
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby Justsit » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:48 pm

Tell them that there is widespread controversy over the authenticity of Batchelor's "Buddhism."
Ask them if it would be OK to study Christianity from a book written by Fred Phelps. Granted, bit of an extreme example, but they may get the point.
Last edited by Justsit on Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby Coyote » Fri Aug 16, 2013 9:50 pm

Is the text book written by your university? If so you should take it higher up - I am not sure of the process, but there should be one. If not, then have you contacted the authors? Which department in the course in? You could try contacting the head of that department, or alternately the RS, Philosophy ect. department, if there is one at your university.

Unfortunately misinformation is not uncommon in the school system, but it is terrible that this is happening at university level.
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby Arali » Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:41 pm

Modus.Ponens, Lol thank you, that was pretty much my initial response as well.

Justsit, It was really hard for me not to do that, especially because the author insists that Buddhism 'has to adapt for modern western audiences'.

Coyote, the book is written by the university, I'm in stage two of the formal complaint procedure. In this stage they contacted the author:

"With regards to the rewording and replacement of the source material in the box on page 171, Dr ---- adds that summarising Batchelor's depiction of Buddhist theory within the space afforded in this chapter required an inevitable exercise in simplification. Dr ---- would agree that in doing so the richness and complexity of the source material was necessarily lost. Turning towards your concerns about the omission of the eightfold path, Dr ---- interpretation of the four truths as actions includes the understanding that the point of the eightfold path is to cultivate the capacity to embody the first to third noble truths. In the point about 'becoming more effortless', the author is drawing on the metaphor of Buddhist practice being like a walk through a meadow of long grass. Each time you walk the path it becomes slightly easier."


They go on say their depiction of Buddhism is accurate, that ‘a number of experts and Buddhist practitioners’ found their chapter to be accurate, and so on. There only concession is they admit to getting the Buddha’s name wrong, and reversing the date of birth and death. If I reply, the next and final stage is the Vice-Chancellor, but I'm not sure what to say that I haven’t said already.
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby daverupa » Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:49 pm

Maybe you can try to get a footnote or a 'suggested reading' endnote added, with a balanced reading list.
    "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: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Aug 16, 2013 10:56 pm

the box I've posted was from Stephen Batchelor a "Buddhist teacher".

I contacted Batchelor. He had no idea what they were talking about.

This alone is enough to demonstrate that there is a factual error in the text.
It may look trivial but it is one that the author can't brush it off as a difference of opinion amongst Buddhists when challenged on it.

:namaste:
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby Ben » Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:04 pm

The Four Noble Truths happens to be one of those things that the vast majority of Buddhists are actually in agreement with.
If Stephen Batchelor has also denied that he has reduced the 4NT to what has been quoted then it would be a good idea to follow up with the previous suggestions. Not only is the material factually incorrect but it appears that it has been erroneously attributed to a respected author.
What isn't clear is whether the quoted material is in a text that is published by the university or whether it is a text published elsewhere but utilised by the university. If you don't get any traction with your complaint - continue to take it up the food chain until you get to the Vice Chancellor and then include your previous unsuccessful attempts to raise the issue with the relevant department.
Wishing you all the best,

Ben
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby Modus.Ponens » Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:07 pm

Even wikipedia's summary is (much, much) better than this thing.

If they were actions, they would be called the four noble actions, not the four noble truths. And I fail to see where these actions are a necessary adaptation to the western modern world.

I shouldn't be surprised, though. A few months ago the case of a buddhist scholar at Oxford was discussed here at DW. He left buddhism for unsubstantiated objections to the buddhist path. An Oxford PhD in buddhist studies making such mistakes should have given me the adequate imunitary cells.
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby plwk » Fri Aug 16, 2013 11:23 pm

Well, Arali, if you have exhausted all channels within the system to get it corrected, the last resort would be inevitable though: legal action.
Getting the support and petition power from the local Buddhist Community may help to bolster your case to get that fixed, challenging their purported 'Buddhist experts'
Of course, if you're up to be a crusader or else it's back to toeing the line, as they expect you to...

...especially because the author insists that Buddhism 'has to adapt for modern western audiences'.
Sure, Buddhism has a long history of 'adaptation' wherever it landed but not to the point of what Abhasita Sutta warns all about... they are perhaps trying to pull a fast wool over your eyes as I see it...
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:24 am

plwk wrote:Well, Arali, if you have exhausted all channels within the system to get it corrected, the last resort would be inevitable though: legal action.
Getting the support and petition power from the local Buddhist Community may help to bolster your case to get that fixed, challenging their purported 'Buddhist experts'
Of course, if you're up to be a crusader or else it's back to toeing the line, as they expect you to...

...especially because the author insists that Buddhism 'has to adapt for modern western audiences'.
Sure, Buddhism has a long history of 'adaptation' wherever it landed but not to the point of what Abhasita Sutta warns all about... they are perhaps trying to pull a fast wool over your eyes as I see it...

There's no need for conspiracy theories. Realistically, it's far more likely that the text was written quickly by the nearest person in the department who wasn't too busy at the time. Now that it has been challenged, everyone concerned is simply trying to protect their own reputations, firstly by denying there is a problem and secondly by saying it doesn't matter because it's only a legitimate difference of opinion - "They responded that these are matters of contention among Buddhists and that the box I've posted was from Stephen Batchelor a "Buddhist teacher"."

:namaste:
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby clw_uk » Sat Aug 17, 2013 2:00 am

I'm shocked :jawdrop:

How does that pass for buddhism
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby Aloka » Sat Aug 17, 2013 12:37 pm

This 21 minute extract from a talk from Ajahn Amaro "Practising with The Four Noble Truths" might be helpful in some way.


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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby Jhana4 » Sat Aug 17, 2013 1:32 pm

I think this is one of those situations where change is only going to happen when the company realizes it and its reputation are out in the spotlight.

How about going to one of those petition sites, creating a petition with a polite of the situation, inviting prominet monks & profressors to sign the petitionm and then posting links to the petition anywhere where people might care?
Last edited by Jhana4 on Sat Aug 17, 2013 4:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Aug 17, 2013 3:57 pm

Modus.Ponens wrote:I'm shocked by such a distortion! Jesus!

Thinking about it, Jesus might be the reason...


I think you might be on to something. Attend to suffering is listed as the first "truth". Christianity seems to focus a lot on suffering and how it was "necessary" for Christ to suffer on the cross for the sake of the rest of us. As Buddhists we know that suffering is not something we welcome, but something we want to overcome, not by attending to it, but rather by eliminating it.
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby Arali » Sat Aug 17, 2013 8:23 pm

Thank you all for your replies. :)

I think I will appeal to the Vice Chancellor, and if that fails, then I'll create a petition.

Anyone have anything they think I should include in this final appeal?
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby Modus.Ponens » Sat Aug 17, 2013 8:54 pm

My advice is for you to be very diplomatic and careful. I have a friend who didn't finish his degree over conflict with teacher(s). Your own welfare is very important.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby dagon » Sat Aug 17, 2013 9:52 pm

Arali wrote:Thank you all for your replies. :)

I think I will appeal to the Vice Chancellor, and if that fails, then I'll create a petition.

Anyone have anything they think I should include in this final appeal?


I think that most of us respond to the material that is supposed to be studied with an automatic upchuck reflex but we need to be more objective than that. This is material that is to be used in an academic setting and as such needs to meet academic needs and standards.

What is stated there is wrong in fact – the way to attack that is to demonstrate that by providing relevant published sources. This includes both source material and commentaries that have authors that are considered to be authoritative by reputation – hence the use of bachelor as a reference. This is both a fabrication of a reference and defaming the academic standing of Bachelor. Most Universities publish academic standards to be used and include many things like plagiarism. Somewhere in these published standards there are references to fabrication of references. Anyone who reads am academic text should be able to review the original sources by use of the reference; hence universities also insist that all work by students and STAFF meet accepted stands. This is to allow both checking of the work and to allow the reader to further explore the subject matter. Unfortunately what was given to us in that scan did not show the full reference – or was that the full reference? I would like to see the full reference, lol

An example of one universities referencing standards http://sydney.edu.au/library/subjects/d ... mplete.pdf
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby Cittasanto » Sat Aug 17, 2013 10:00 pm

I do not know about university politics but the fourth Noble Truth is wrong.

Bachelor isn't a Buddhist teacher in the sense of standard Buddhism, and all schools I know would disagree here, however, there is a video I watched recently that I thought was beautiful in one aspect which hapends to relate to your problem!

This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
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Re: Distorting the Dharma [Advice]

Postby Jhana4 » Sat Aug 17, 2013 10:41 pm

dagon wrote:
Arali wrote:Thank you all for your replies. :)

I think I will appeal to the Vice Chancellor, and if that fails, then I'll create a petition.

Anyone have anything they think I should include in this final appeal?


I think that most of us respond to the material that is supposed to be studied with an automatic upchuck reflex but we need to be more objective than that. This is material that is to be used in an academic setting and as such needs to meet academic needs and standards.

What is stated there is wrong in fact – the way to attack that is to demonstrate that by providing relevant published sources. This includes both source material and commentaries that have authors that are considered to be authoritative by reputation – hence the use of bachelor as a reference. This is both a fabrication of a reference and defaming the academic standing of Bachelor. Most Universities publish academic standards to be used and include many things like plagiarism. Somewhere in these published standards there are references to fabrication of references. Anyone who reads am academic text should be able to review the original sources by use of the reference; hence universities also insist that all work by students and STAFF meet accepted stands. This is to allow both checking of the work and to allow the reader to further explore the subject matter. Unfortunately what was given to us in that scan did not show the full reference – or was that the full reference? I would like to see the full reference, lol

An example of one universities referencing standards http://sydney.edu.au/library/subjects/d ... mplete.pdf


+1

I would recommend this as a prelude to an online petition. It is kind of hard for academics to argue for text that is proven to be clearly wrong. If done politely, behind closed doors, it might even make you appear as a better student.
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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