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Dhamma Wheel • View topic - Why Buddhism Needs the West

Why Buddhism Needs the West

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

Why Buddhism Needs the West

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Nov 28, 2013 6:49 am

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: Why Buddhism Needs the West

Postby Ben » Thu Nov 28, 2013 7:49 am

Thanks Tilt. An interesting article. Much I agree with and disagree with.
Buddhism needs the west like it needs a hole in the head. Buddhism as it is interpreted and practiced today is the result, in part, due to western influences from the ancient Greeks to Protestant scholars from the 19th Century.
I also disagree with the authors premise that the wellspring of positive social movement is via exposure to Greek philosophy. To me, it appears to indicate a lack of knowledge of Asian social and political dynamics.
Kind regards,
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.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

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Re: Why Buddhism Needs the West

Postby mahat » Thu Nov 28, 2013 6:36 pm

East or West, what Buddhism really needs are serious practitioners, who practice as taught without biases. Western Buddhists however have done a tremendous job of translating the texts into english. I learned from the Tipitika translated by the Pali Text Society :reading: , without which I would not have become a Buddhist.

However, the west has unique things to offer and Buddhism's meeting with science so far has only been a positive thing.

:namaste:
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Re: Why Buddhism Needs the West

Postby Ben » Thu Nov 28, 2013 6:54 pm

mahat wrote:
However, the west has unique things to offer and Buddhism's meeting with science so far has only been a positive thing.

:namaste:


Really?
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.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
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Re: Why Buddhism Needs the West

Postby mahat » Thu Nov 28, 2013 7:37 pm

Ben wrote:
mahat wrote:
However, the west has unique things to offer and Buddhism's meeting with science so far has only been a positive thing.

:namaste:


Really?


I guess it's like the parable of the blind men and the elephant. Buddhism is like the elephant and it's going around the world for all the blind men/women to describe it. The west has another way to look at things through science. Science is another perspective, which of course will only give another incomplete view. It's gathering another piece of the puzzle. So far science using Buddhist monks is proving meditation to be effective to populations who never knew what meditation is, in that way I am saying it has been a positive thing so far.
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Re: Why Buddhism Needs the West

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Nov 29, 2013 2:08 am

That article seems to be too political throughout. The Buddha spoke very little about politics, except to advise some kings on proper governance. He advised his monks and nuns to not talk about politics.

For most of us who are lay people it can be interesting and sometimes necessary to discuss politics. The author assumes that democracy is the best form of government as it has evolved from its Greek roots. But is it? I sometimes wonder if there is a better form of government, perhaps Plato's Republic or some other option. During the Buddha's time the prevailing form was absolute monarchy and it didn't seem to bother the Buddha.
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Re: Why Buddhism Needs the West

Postby Ben » Fri Nov 29, 2013 2:33 am

David N. Snyder wrote:That article seems to be too political throughout. The Buddha spoke very little about politics, except to advise some kings on proper governance. He advised his monks and nuns to not talk about politics.

For most of us who are lay people it can be interesting and sometimes necessary to discuss politics. The author assumes that democracy is the best form of government as it has evolved from its Greek roots. But is it? I sometimes wonder if there is a better form of government, perhaps Plato's Republic or some other option. During the Buddha's time the prevailing form was absolute monarchy and it didn't seem to bother the Buddha.



Greetings David,
It appears to me that the style of democracy that is practiced today in the west has little in common with what was in vogue in ancient Athens. If memory serves me well, at least one of the ancient Indian City States was a republic, though I don't knw anything about its style of government.
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.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
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Re: Why Buddhism Needs the West

Postby manas » Fri Nov 29, 2013 3:15 am

In his 1969 book Earth House Hold, the Buddhist poet and essayist Gary Snyder wrote, “The mercy of the West has been social revolution; the mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both.”


For being a good ordinary human being, I would say, yes. But:

Over the years, this observation has been quoted many times by those making the case for a more socially engaged Buddhism. The challenge is to better understand the relationship between the two: the mercy of the East and the mercy of the West.


Much as the Buddha cared about every living being, his Teaching was primarily about liberation from dukkha, and although he did give advice to rulers sometimes, the impression I get is that, to put it colloquially, he had 'bigger fish to fry', than to concern himself too much with politics - and so do we.

metta
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Re: Why Buddhism Needs the West

Postby Ben » Fri Nov 29, 2013 3:43 am

Hi Manas,
When I get time I'll post the content of an email that Bhikkhu Bodhi sent me regarding his own motivation for social engagement. I think it may prove insightful for some, here.
Kind regards,
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.

Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR
Buddhist Life Stories of Australia
e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com
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Re: Why Buddhism Needs the West

Postby Mkoll » Fri Nov 29, 2013 6:31 am

David N. Snyder wrote:The author assumes that democracy is the best form of government as it has evolved from its Greek roots. But is it? I sometimes wonder if there is a better form of government, perhaps Plato's Republic or some other option. During the Buddha's time the prevailing form was absolute monarchy and it didn't seem to bother the Buddha.

Based on what I've observed of human nature in this life, I imagine an absolute monarchy would actually be ideal. This of course assumes the right monarch: a "wheel-turning monarch" or a ruler as described in the Tao te Ching. I say this because I think people tend to emulate those senior to them as a child obeys its parents. This is just as true on the societal level. A virtues of a good ruler who lived by virtue would percolate down to everyone else. The adults would emulate the virtuous leader and their children would be more inclined to obey their virtuous parents. Thus the world would live in harmony.

However, I'm afraid this is a pipe dream. The reality is quite the opposite. More peaceful people tend not to desire wielding power over others so they don't seek those positions of power like more greedy people would tend towards naturally. It's a catch-22.

Athenian democracy was a "direct democracy" which means people directly voiced their opinions in a forum and cast their votes themselves - of course only certain men could actually participate. This government was possible due in part to the fact that Athens was a geographically condensed city-state in Ancient Greece with a relatively small population. What we have today in the United States and much of the world is called an "indirect democracy" where people elect others to make decisions on their behalf. This was due in part to the constraints of geography.

With the telecommunications technology of today that transcends those geographic limitations, we could have a government truly for the people and by the people...

Another pipe dream.

:anjali:
Peace,
James
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Re: Why Buddhism Needs the West

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Nov 29, 2013 8:02 pm

Mkoll wrote:With the telecommunications technology of today that transcends those geographic limitations, we could have a government truly for the people and by the people...


I have thought about that idea before too. It would be nice and a direct-democracy. People who are registered to vote would receive an online ID and a password and use that to log-in and vote via their computers to the election website. Unfortunately, it will probably never happen as there would be all kinds of concerns about hackers, coercion (mafia holding a gun to your head as you log-in and vote for their candidate, issues), etc.
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