Brian Ruhe and Representation

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Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Maitri » Wed Nov 13, 2013 3:27 pm

Hello,

I stumbled across some of the videos of Brian Ruhe who is lay teacher in Canada. His webpage can be found here: http://www.theravada.ca/brian-ruhe/

He has many videos on http://www.youtube.com/user/BrianRuhe/featured discussing various aspects of Buddhism. I find that he makes some pretty broad generalizations regarding Buddhist history and textual authenticity. He also states that Mahayana is not an accurate representation of the Buddha's teachings as it's text came later, the doctrines differ from the Pali canon and so forth. He then covers certain Mahayana schools (his descriptions are pretty bad most times) and is very dismissive of them to the point of calling them "not Buddhist". His approach seems to confuse practice and mythological history with Western fields of historical-textual criticism and lump them both together, i.e. Pure Land practice isn't authentic because it's text came later.

Most of he claims to be speaking for Theravada- which isn't really possible. Has anyone seen hos videos? What did you think of the tone? Lastly, should it be said more openly to newcomers that the later sutras of the Mahayana are not "really the Buddha's teachings"? Why do people keep agitating for their school as a pure form of Buddhism when that's clearly not the case? Lastly, when reading his book online I felt a rather Protestant- fundamentalist tinge to his words, has anyone else picked up on this? Is this Evangelical Theravada?
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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Dan74 » Wed Nov 13, 2013 8:06 pm

I think I saw a little of one, and the tone didn't sound great, meaning neither the composed steady gentle air of Bikkhu Bodhi nor the kind warm attitude of Thich Nhat Hanh. But I am sure most of us here don't sound great on video either - luckily we aren't making any and spreading our confusion far and wide ;)
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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Sokehi » Wed Nov 13, 2013 9:31 pm

I watch some of his videos, but mostly when it comes to Dhammatalks and Interviews with Ajahn Sona that he was recording.

His own Talks and Teachings sound... well honestly I dislike as well the constant critisism of Mahayana. One might be able to practice and share the fruits of ones own practice without that.
Get the wanting out of waiting

What does womanhood matter at all, when the mind is concentrated well, when knowledge flows on steadily as one sees correctly into Dhamma. One to whom it might occur, ‘I am a woman’ or ‘I am a man’ or ‘I’m anything at all’ is fit for Mara to address. – SN 5.2

If they take what's yours, tell yourself that you're making it a gift.
Otherwise there will be no end to the animosity. - Ajahn Fuang Jotiko

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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby reflection » Wed Nov 13, 2013 10:52 pm

I think the division Theravada/Mahayana is unneeded. I did watch some things, but found them incorrect so as a response I added some comment to his video. Those comment I really worded nice and kindly with good arguments if I say so myself, but he did not respond and actually deleted it. I don't say this to discredit him, but just to say why at the replies on his channel you may mainly find comments that agree with him, or perhaps some replies he could easily deal with instead of those that really pin down the problems of his approach. I say this so you know there are many more that agree with you and what Brian Ruhe says is just what Brian Ruhe says and is in no way representative of some general Theravadan view (which you rightly say is impossible anyway).

But as a general remark you more often see people trying to justify their own beliefs by criticizing others. Even on things like outer appearance, people are putting others down so they get more self esteem. Or people point to other's mistakes so they seem smarter. I think this is a really unskillful way to go about things and something you will see done by someone who isn't really sure about his own way of going about things. In the case of criticizing the way others practice, it to me points to a lack of results of ones own practice. So teachers who mainly seem to criticize others, especially in an unskillful manner, I would just ignore. The Buddha said some things along those lines in some suttas also: that one shouldn't say "I understand and you don't, I practice right and you don't". Don't know the exact sutta but I vaguely recall somewhere in MN10-20 ??

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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Sokehi » Wed Nov 13, 2013 11:45 pm

reflection wrote:But as a general remark you more often see people trying to justify their own beliefs by criticizing others. Even on things like outer appearance, people are putting others down so they get more self esteem. Or people point to other's mistakes so they seem smarter. I think this is a really unskillful way to go about things and something you will see done by someone who isn't really sure about his own way of going about things. In the case of criticizing the way others practice, it to me points to a lack of results of ones own practice. So teachers who mainly seem to criticize others, especially in an unskillful manner, I would just ignore. The Buddha said some things along those lines in some suttas also: that one shouldn't say "I understand and you don't, I practice right and you don't". Don't know the exact sutta but I vaguely recall somewhere in MN10-20 ??
:namaste:


Well said! :goodpost:
Get the wanting out of waiting

What does womanhood matter at all, when the mind is concentrated well, when knowledge flows on steadily as one sees correctly into Dhamma. One to whom it might occur, ‘I am a woman’ or ‘I am a man’ or ‘I’m anything at all’ is fit for Mara to address. – SN 5.2

If they take what's yours, tell yourself that you're making it a gift.
Otherwise there will be no end to the animosity. - Ajahn Fuang Jotiko

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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Maitri » Thu Nov 14, 2013 4:48 pm

reflection wrote:I think the division Theravada/Mahayana is unneeded. I did watch some things, but found them incorrect so as a response I added some comment to his video. Those comment I really worded nice and kindly with good arguments if I say so myself, but he did not respond and actually deleted it. I don't say this to discredit him, but just to say why at the replies on his channel you may mainly find comments that agree with him, or perhaps some replies he could easily deal with instead of those that really pin down the problems of his approach.


I have also left comments for him at the Youtube page, but they have gone unanswered. In his video about Mahayana traditions, he gets his facts wrong and doesn't address this issue in later videos. It's almost as bad as Evangelical apologetics. ( I want to be clear that I am not critiquing his delivery of the videos in terms of looks, production value or anything related, but only content. Lot's of videos have very simple style and are very good to watch despite this.) I noticed that he basis all of his credentials in regards to being an authority in Theravada are based on his time as a monk in Thailand (4 years, I believe) which is also problematic. Just because someone ordained doesn't mean that they then have a suitable background for teaching Buddhism. But, I suppose this is the nature of decentralized power structures within the tradition.

I say this so you know there are many more that agree with you and what Brian Ruhe says is just what Brian Ruhe says and is in no way representative of some general Theravadan view (which you rightly say is impossible anyway).


Yes, this is the feeling I get from it as well. Of course, any teacher you study or practice with will present the Dhamma from their viewpoint, but that viewpoint is one that should be informed and cultivated. It's problematic because he presents his opinion as an authoritative voice which is, well, unfortunate.

According to the historical record, the Mahayana tradition and it's text arose later than the earliest portions of the Pali cannon. However, that's about as simple as you can make it- things tend to get messy in reality :? I rather like Piya Tan's work which gives a very broad account of Buddhist history https://sites.google.com/site/dharmafarer/home/books-by-piya-tan
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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Maitri » Thu Nov 14, 2013 4:50 pm

If anyone wants to read his book, you can find it here http://books.google.com/books?id=e9mz9yg74wAC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false Please know that it's not my intention to bash anyone, but only to investigate the claims presented.
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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Viscid » Thu Nov 14, 2013 5:17 pm

I actually asked Brian a year or two ago whether or not his belief that Mahayana was the product of Mara ("Marayana") also represented Ajahn Sona's views, and he said that it does. It made me stop taking Ajahn Sona very seriously.
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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Samma » Thu Nov 14, 2013 7:02 pm

Viscid right in the video he goes short of saying "Mara made Mahayana". He qualified answer is:
"I cant say with certainty ... I don't really know what to believe ... its possible that mara made mahayana"


Short take: Guy is refreshing but a bit wacky.

IMO we already get enough of this consensus Buddhism in the US where its all lets mash different teachings together, pretend they mesh not focus on the differences, and all just get along. Still, we can recognize the differences in a more thoroughgoing way without being as dismissive or wacky about it as he tends to get though.
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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Sokehi » Thu Nov 14, 2013 8:05 pm

Marayana... what a horrible unskillful play with words :/ wouldn't expect that sort of "humor" within buddhist communities
Get the wanting out of waiting

What does womanhood matter at all, when the mind is concentrated well, when knowledge flows on steadily as one sees correctly into Dhamma. One to whom it might occur, ‘I am a woman’ or ‘I am a man’ or ‘I’m anything at all’ is fit for Mara to address. – SN 5.2

If they take what's yours, tell yourself that you're making it a gift.
Otherwise there will be no end to the animosity. - Ajahn Fuang Jotiko

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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Maitri » Thu Nov 14, 2013 9:26 pm

Viscid:

Viscid wrote:I actually asked Brian a year or two ago whether or not his belief that Mahayana was the product of Mara ("Marayana") also represented Ajahn Sona's views, and he said that it does. It made me stop taking Ajahn Sona very seriously.


I watched this video just now- I wasn't aware of it before. Very strange stuff. I'm getting a very strong Protestant Reformation feeling from this stuff; oppose the Devil in his Papist Church kind of vibe. I'd suggest he read Buddhism Transformed: Religious Change in Sri Lanka by Gombrich to see just how much Protestant Christianity has affected these viewpoints in the modern era.


He does claim that this feeling is wide spread in "mainstream Theravada" yet I've never heard a teacher speak of it or read about it before. Could this a private opinion held by some Theravadans? Yes, of course. But to call it mainstream, that's a rather broad call.

Samma:

IMO we already get enough of this consensus Buddhism in the US where its all lets mash different teachings together, pretend they mesh not focus on the differences, and all just get along. Still, we can recognize the differences in a more thoroughgoing way without being as dismissive or wacky about it as he tends to get though.


:goodpost: Yes, this is how I feel too. I noticed that there also seems to be a badge of pride for some people to not be identified as Buddhists- as if they have reached a state to transcend labels. There is constant drumming on that practices like Taking Refuge or puja are something to grow out of and into a general beige tinged spirituality. If anything, Buddhism in America has a sort of blahh oatmeal blandness to it to try and encourage inter-group harmony. Why so many people feel the need to do this- I don't know. It seems to come from a reaction to Christian claims of exclusivity; which makes me wonder just how much of what goes on is that type of reactive behavior.

Having said that, I think that Mr. Ruhe's videos are addressing this sort of behavior but from the opposite side of the spectrum and going into a literalist/fundamentalist tizzy. It is important to ask these type of questions and to communicate our differences with each other, but not with a method that denigrates people or their traditions.
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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby reflection » Thu Nov 14, 2013 9:43 pm

Well talking about not identifying with labels - I actually think that is an important thing on some levels. (But do think taking refuge etc are good things.)

In my eyes we could turn this teachings around into something useful. Maybe anybody who feels offended is attached to belonging to a group or identifies with labels. I mean, if anybody were to call Theravada "Hinayana" and say it is basically shit that leads nowhere, I wouldn't feel hurt by that. So his teachings may be a good test for some, but not the way he intended.
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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Benjamin » Tue Dec 03, 2013 2:34 am

reflection wrote:In my eyes we could turn this teachings around into something useful. Maybe anybody who feels offended is attached to belonging to a group or identifies with labels. I mean, if anybody were to call Theravada "Hinayana" and say it is basically shit that leads nowhere, I wouldn't feel hurt by that. So his teachings may be a good test for some, but not the way he intended.
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:goodpost:

I don't think that anyone who looks sincerely at the Pali Canon would find this sort of video skillful, though as you well point out, the skilled practitioner would hardly take offense to this video personally. IMO, it's not so much offensive as it is immature. Ruhe seems to care more about sectarianism than actually practicing, and i'll take the latter over the former any day. Be it Hsu Yun, Ajahn Chah, the Dalai Lama, whatever.
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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Sokehi » Tue Dec 03, 2013 7:48 pm

What wonders me most now if Ajahn Sona agrees with that attitude... Some here might have more insight onto this topic. I'm unhappy about Brians apparently sectiaranistic approach. I found quite a number of his teachings on Youtube by Ajahn Sona very good and interesting, but I'd like to know what more knowledgeable members of the community think about this.
Last edited by Sokehi on Tue Dec 03, 2013 8:57 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Get the wanting out of waiting

What does womanhood matter at all, when the mind is concentrated well, when knowledge flows on steadily as one sees correctly into Dhamma. One to whom it might occur, ‘I am a woman’ or ‘I am a man’ or ‘I’m anything at all’ is fit for Mara to address. – SN 5.2

If they take what's yours, tell yourself that you're making it a gift.
Otherwise there will be no end to the animosity. - Ajahn Fuang Jotiko

https://www.youtube.com/user/Repeataarrr
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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Mkoll » Tue Dec 03, 2013 8:11 pm

reflection wrote:The Buddha said some things along those lines in some suttas also: that one shouldn't say "I understand and you don't, I practice right and you don't". Don't know the exact sutta but I vaguely recall somewhere in MN10-20 ??

:namaste:

Not quite what you're talking about but close:

"Bharadvaja, first you went by conviction. Now you speak of unbroken tradition. There are five things that can turn out in two ways in the here-&-now. Which five? Conviction, liking, unbroken tradition, reasoning by analogy, & an agreement through pondering views. These are the five things that can turn out in two ways in the here-&-now. Now some things are firmly held in conviction and yet vain, empty, & false. Some things are not firmly held in conviction, and yet they are genuine, factual, & unmistaken. Some things are well-liked... truly an unbroken tradition... well-reasoned... Some things are well-pondered and yet vain, empty, & false. Some things are not well-pondered, and yet they are genuine, factual, & unmistaken. In these cases it isn't proper for a knowledgeable person who safeguards the truth to come to a definite conclusion, 'Only this is true; anything else is worthless."

"But to what extent, Master Gotama, is there the safeguarding of the truth? To what extent does one safeguard the truth? We ask Master Gotama about the safeguarding of the truth."

"If a person has conviction, his statement, 'This is my conviction,' safeguards the truth. But he doesn't yet come to the definite conclusion that 'Only this is true; anything else is worthless.' To this extent, Bharadvaja, there is the safeguarding of the truth. To this extent one safeguards the truth. I describe this as the safeguarding of the truth. But it is not yet an awakening to the truth.

"If a person likes something... holds an unbroken tradition... has something reasoned through analogy... has something he agrees to, having pondered views, his statement, 'This is what I agree to, having pondered views,' safeguards the truth. But he doesn't yet come to the definite conclusion that 'Only this is true; anything else is worthless.' To this extent, Bharadvaja, there is the safeguarding of the truth. To this extent one safeguards the truth. I describe this as the safeguarding of the truth. But it is not yet an awakening to the truth.
-MN 95

Regarding denigration of Mahayana:
"And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, abstaining from idle chatter: This, monks, is called right speech.
-SN 45.8

The Buddha constantly reminds us to act in ways that are for our own benefit and for the welfare of others. Attaining the goal of the holy life may take many lifetimes. It is good to remind oneself that along the way, one can and should benefit others. Theravadans tend to stress one's own welfare, Mahayanans tend to stress the welfare of others. In the middle, there is a healthy balance.

Having a single-minded, laserlike focus on one's own enlightenment is only appropriate at the highest stages of the Path or for really dedicated practitioners who are willing to put their lives in danger to realize the Dhamma, like the late Ven. Ajahn Mun who would meditate in man-eating tiger territory. Otherwise, for most of us, it is inappropriate and can lead to unhealthy unbalances.
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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Dhammanando » Wed Dec 04, 2013 12:55 am

Mkoll wrote:Regarding denigration of Mahayana:

"And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, abstaining from divisive speech, abstaining from abusive speech, abstaining from idle chatter: This, monks, is called right speech.
-SN 45.8



Divisive speech is that which aims at provoking disaffection in one person or group towards some other person or group, but only where this proceeds from an unwholesome volition. Therefore not all speech aimed at provoking disaffection is classed as divisive speech, for sometimes it may be prompted by a wholesome volition. An example would be when, out of concern for the listener’s welfare, one warns him about an evil person with whom it would be harmful for him to consort.

Hence the commentarial statement that the near-enemy of non-divisive speech (i.e. the quality easily confused with it) is “lack of concern for another’s welfare” (anatthakāmatā).

And so if Mr. Ruhe and Ven. Soṇa believe the Mahāyāna to have been inspired by Māra, it would be misguided of them to refrain from saying so out of a wish to be non-divisive.
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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Mkoll » Wed Dec 04, 2013 1:32 am

Dhammanando wrote:Divisive speech is that which aims at provoking disaffection in one person or group towards some other person or group, but only where this proceeds from an unwholesome volition. Therefore not all speech aimed at provoking disaffection is classed as divisive speech, for sometimes it may be prompted by a wholesome volition. An example would be when, out of concern for the listener’s welfare, one warns him about an evil person with whom it would be harmful for him to consort.


Thank you for making that clear for me, Bhante.

:anjali:
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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Viscid » Thu Dec 05, 2013 8:30 pm

Dhammanando wrote:Divisive speech is that which aims at provoking disaffection in one person or group towards some other person or group, but only where this proceeds from an unwholesome volition. Therefore not all speech aimed at provoking disaffection is classed as divisive speech, for sometimes it may be prompted by a wholesome volition. An example would be when, out of concern for the listener’s welfare, one warns him about an evil person with whom it would be harmful for him to consort.


There are, obviously, instances where the intent to divide a person from a group is skilful-- it'd be wise to discourage someone from joining a group of criminals or violent religious extremists, for example. However, I see no wisdom in encouraging the view that all adherents to a particular religion are following doctrines that originate from the Devil. This is encouraging prejudice. There is nothing to be gained from Theravadins believing that Mahayana adherents are gullible enough to be fooled by the devil-- that Mahayana doctrines are ultimately misleading and evil. Such prejudice is the foundation of discord, and its spread is harmful to everyone's welfare.

If one believes that exposure to Mahayana doctrines will lead one astray, that argument should be made by rationally demonstrating the incompatibility of those doctrines with the original teachings of The Buddha. Asserting those doctrines are the product of an indemonstrable evil is mere slander. If the basis for such activity is 'wholesome volition,' then that volition is predicated upon ignorance.
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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Maitri » Sun Dec 08, 2013 2:58 am

If one believes that exposure to Mahayana doctrines will lead one astray, that argument should be made by rationally demonstrating the incompatibility of those doctrines with the original teachings of The Buddha. Asserting those doctrines are the product of an indemonstrable evil is mere slander.


:goodpost: I think that this is a key point in what is wrong with his presentation. For many Buddhists in the West there is an understanding that the Pali cannon represents an older "version" of Buddhist sutras- I don't think any Mahayanist would debate that. However, Brian Ruhe's approach to discussing Mahayana is not based on any rational, thoughtful comparison with the Buddha's teachings; basically he mocks the suttas and misrepresents the lineages throughout all his videos.

I think the debate of the historical accuracy of Theravada and Mahayana texts is a good one to have. It can be difficult for someone who has practiced for years to then find out that the texts, views, or practices they held with faith may not be taught by the Buddha. I think that is important conversation to have with Mahayana practitioners, but not in the context that Mr. Ruhe presents his critiques.
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Re: Brian Ruhe and Representation

Postby Dan74 » Sun Dec 08, 2013 5:04 am

Maitri wrote:
If one believes that exposure to Mahayana doctrines will lead one astray, that argument should be made by rationally demonstrating the incompatibility of those doctrines with the original teachings of The Buddha. Asserting those doctrines are the product of an indemonstrable evil is mere slander.


:goodpost: I think that this is a key point in what is wrong with his presentation. For many Buddhists in the West there is an understanding that the Pali cannon represents an older "version" of Buddhist sutras- I don't think any Mahayanist would debate that. However, Brian Ruhe's approach to discussing Mahayana is not based on any rational, thoughtful comparison with the Buddha's teachings; basically he mocks the suttas and misrepresents the lineages throughout all his videos.

I think the debate of the historical accuracy of Theravada and Mahayana texts is a good one to have. It can be difficult for someone who has practiced for years to then find out that the texts, views, or practices they held with faith may not be taught by the Buddha. I think that is important conversation to have with Mahayana practitioners, but not in the context that Mr. Ruhe presents his critiques.


There is sometimes of a 'cultural' disconnect regarding this scripture issue. I suspect that most Zen practitioners wouldn't not give a hoot whether the sutras were written by Shakyamuni Buddha or someone else. They are not concerned with the author's name, but the content. Conversely they may be puzzled by the incessant need to quote and refer, argue over Buddhavacana and various translations that is seen in Theravada. Is paying attention to the present moment and seeing the kilesas arise so complicated?

Now I am being 50% a devil's advocate here - I dig textual studies and I care what the Pali canon says. But I can see how someone could possibly practice very well and not do either of those.
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