W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dhamma

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W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dhamma

Postby Shaswata_Panja » Sun Jan 12, 2014 2:37 pm

This is the general refrain that I get from Western Buddhism/Consensus Buddhism...It is more interested in asserting that its practice is based on atheism and thereby engendering a worldview tinged with negativity , rather than asserting that its worldview bases itself off the very rich philosophy and metaphysics provided for by the Dhamma
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby Feathers » Sun Jan 12, 2014 2:42 pm

Does atheism automatically mean a worldview tinged with negativity then?
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby Sam Vara » Sun Jan 12, 2014 4:34 pm

Shaswata_Panja wrote:This is the general refrain that I get from Western Buddhism/Consensus Buddhism...It is more interested in asserting that its practice is based on atheism and thereby engendering a worldview tinged with negativity , rather than asserting that its worldview bases itself off the very rich philosophy and metaphysics provided for by the Dhamma


I have heard of "Western Buddhism", but never really understood what it meant, or how geography made it differ from other types. I had never previously encountered "Consensus Buddhism". Are they the same? The number of disagreeing westerners on this forum alone would suggest that they are not, but I might be wrong.

Perhaps you could provide us with a definition or two?
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby binocular » Sun Jan 12, 2014 5:08 pm

Shaswata_Panja wrote:This is the general refrain that I get from Western Buddhism/Consensus Buddhism...It is more interested in asserting that its practice is based on atheism and thereby engendering a worldview tinged with negativity , rather than asserting that its worldview bases itself off the very rich philosophy and metaphysics provided for by the Dhamma

Agreed, there tends to be a specific anti-theist (esp. anti-Christian) bias in the thinking of some Western Buddhists. But what would you like to discuss in this thread?


I understand that by "Western Buddhism" is meant the Buddhism found in what is called "the Western world", notably in the US, Europe and Australia; a Buddhism that is either separate from the Buddhist traditions in traditionally Buddhist countries, or westernized variations of the Buddhist traditions from traditionally Buddhist countries.

The term "consensus Buddhism" I've never heard before, but I think it is apt. I understand it as referring to the sort of non-denominational, supra-denominational, universal, general, "true" Buddhism, one not bound to any particular Buddhist school or tradition but instead attempting to transcend them all; the kind of Buddhism that seems quite common in the West.

It's similar to a tendency in Christianity, where many people try to be "just Christians," as opposed to being Roman Catholics, Methodists, Lutherans, Anglicans etc. etc.
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jan 12, 2014 5:37 pm

Shaswata_Panja wrote:This is the general refrain that I get from Western Buddhism/Consensus Buddhism...It is more interested in asserting that its practice is based on atheism and thereby engendering a worldview tinged with negativity , rather than asserting that its worldview bases itself off the very rich philosophy and metaphysics provided for by the Dhamma
So, Buddhism in India accepted and taught theism?
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.

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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby clw_uk » Sun Jan 12, 2014 5:38 pm

Why does atheism = negativity?

After all atheism is just non-belief in a diety, that's it. You can be spiritual and atheist, for example Jainism.
“ 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: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby binocular » Sun Jan 12, 2014 6:16 pm

Do you find the Jains are happy?
Is Richard Dawkins a happy person?
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jan 12, 2014 6:18 pm

Stay on topic. Off topic msg will be removed without comment.
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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sun Jan 12, 2014 6:48 pm

Measuring Things

99. Everybody measures things with the yardstick of his own views.

(Mahāgandhayon Sayādaw)
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby clw_uk » Sun Jan 12, 2014 7:08 pm

binocular wrote:Do you find the Jains are happy?
Is Richard Dawkins a happy person?




You would have to ask them lol


I could turn the question around though and ask you if the pope is happy?

However the point is not to get caught up in the speculative view of "theism" or to get bogged down with being an "atheist". Abandoning speculative views = happiness

Abandoning (the views) he had (previously) held and not taking up (another), he does not seek a support even in knowledge. Among those who dispute he is certainly not one to take sides. He does not [have] recourse to a view at all. In whom there is no inclination to either extreme, for becoming or non-becoming, here or in another existence, for him there does not exist a fixed viewpoint on investigating the doctrines assumed (by others).
...

"They do not speculate nor pursue (any notion); doctrines are not accepted by them. A (true) brahmana is beyond, does not fall back on views."


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .irel.html



Creating an identity around either view will cause stress ;)
“ 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: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby essai » Sun Jan 12, 2014 8:10 pm

Sam Vara wrote:Perhaps you could provide us with a definition or two?


With a quick Google search, I immediately stumbled on this interview with David Chapman, the blogger who seems to be credited with creating or popularizing the term "Consensus Buddhism". He goes over the problem he intended to highlight by coining the term, and ties it, in part, to a variety of Western Buddhism that rose up in the 60's and 70's with the Baby Boomer generation and hippie cohort (some of the earliest large-scale adopters in the west who laid the ground-work for talking about Buddhism in English outside of academia). I am not sure where to start in summarizing it (plus, it doesn't deal with the atheism-question directly), but it's surely an interesting read if you have a few minutes.

"Western Buddhism" of course is a trickier beast to consolidate a definition for, because it isn't a young term coined by a single blogger with a specific intent. I think, with Western Buddhism, all we can generally talk about is Buddhism practised in the Americas, Europe, Australia/NZ or perhaps even anywhere that Buddhism arrived in the era of globilization. This includes a variety of traditions, each with their own unique origin story—some traditions were brought back by westerners who travelled east, some were brought with immigrant communities, and some were specifically exported to the west by eastern monastics/missionaries—and their own unique historical baggage. However, Chapman seems to suggest that Consensus Buddhism has its own desire to one day make the words "Western Buddhism" refer to a single, unified tradition. This makes sense giving its origins, no? If you're looking at Western Concensus Buddhism as being rooted in the Buddhism that was available to the west in the 60's and 70's, between the generation that adopted it (i.e. Baby Boomers, who sociologists would argue, as a generational cohort, valued individuality and team-building) and the Buddhism that was available to them (i.e. more Mahayana and Zen than Theravada due to historical immigration restrictions against South Asians—Japanese Zen in particular coming from a very competitive religious landscape) you have a collection of value-sets and social markers that were already given to concensus-building. Of course, while this might hint at where Concensus Buddhism's push for a single, encompassing "Western Buddhism" comes from, with the sheer amount of variety in Buddhism in the West, the term really doesn't lend itself to generalization, like we see in the OP.

@Shaswata_Panja, I'm curious if you're able to narrow down your experience specifically to the history of Buddhism in your region/community, or the starting points of the sources you read (magazines, websites, message boards, etc...), because I only see Buddhism really engaging the atheistic debate in some western traditions. It has never come up in either of the Canadian Theravada communities I frequent, for example.

Otherwise, I admit I've seen the word "atheism" carry a politically-charged, adversarial connotation in many circles (most obviously, those connected to evangelical Abrahamic traditions, where it is considered a moral-imperative to proselytize to some degree). Out of sensitivity to this, I've always been hesitant to vocally identify myself as an "atheist" when I am in mixed company. I'll usually settle for just calling myself a Buddhist, explaining that my tradition is not-all-that-interested in metaphysical debate, and leaving it at that. If pressed, I sometimes will clarify my position as "nontheism", hoping the rarity of the word carries less sting for the theist who is used to conflicting with "atheism".

I don't do this because I feel guilty that my atheistic metaphysical position is in anyway negative. It isn't. There is nothing inherently negative about an atheistic world view. In a vacuum, it's only a mundane belief—entirely distinct from the atheistic political position. I only recognize that there is a polarized conflict to work around, and that I don't value the issue at hand enough to let myself get drawn into it.

The real question to me is, why do the Buddhists referred to in the OP value the issue so much when Buddha himself emphasized that metaphysical certainty is inconsequential to the path?

Apologies for my wordiness,
-SA
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby tiltbillings » Sun Jan 12, 2014 8:44 pm

essai wrote:. . .
"Western Buddhism" . . . .
"Western Buddhist atheism" does not exist in a vacuum. Its roots are in Indian Buddhism.

http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/jackson.htm
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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.

"We eat cold eels and think distant thoughts." -- Jack Johnson
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby culaavuso » Sun Jan 12, 2014 8:52 pm

essai wrote:Out of sensitivity to this, I've always been hesitant to vocally identify myself as an "atheist" when I am in mixed company. I'll usually settle for just calling myself a Buddhist, explaining that my tradition is not-all-that-interested in metaphysical debate, and leaving it at that. If pressed, I sometimes will clarify my position as "nontheism", hoping the rarity of the word carries less sting for the theist who is used to conflicting with "atheism".


I find the distinction between atheism and nontheism to be an important one in meaning, and not just in word choice. As I understand the terms, "nontheism" is a lack of belief in god, while "atheism" is a belief in a lack of god. By this interpretation, "nontheism" is not-all-that-interested in metaphysical debate, while "atheism" is interested and takes a firm position in that debate.
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby essai » Sun Jan 12, 2014 10:02 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
essai wrote:. . .
"Western Buddhism" . . . .
"Western Buddhist atheism" does not exist in a vacuum. Its roots are in Indian Buddhism.

I apologize if I made it sound like the case, and, yes, surely, this is a topic that deserves more attention in the atheistic debates I see day to day.

culaavuso wrote:I find the distinction between atheism and nontheism to be an important one in meaning, and not just in word choice. As I understand the terms, "nontheism" is a lack of belief in god, while "atheism" is a belief in a lack of god. By this interpretation, "nontheism" is not-all-that-interested in metaphysical debate, while "atheism" is interested and takes a firm position in that debate.

Thank you for presenting this distinction. I feel then that many of the effective "nontheists" I've observed only know to identify their position as atheist, which is interesting if they are not in fact interested in the debate, but are still being drawn in anyway due to the labels they use. In popular usage in English at least, I can see "atheism" being understood as an umbrella term for both positions, and this makes me wonder if Pali words exist that tackle the distinction or add anything to the conversation.
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jan 12, 2014 10:49 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
essai wrote:. . .
"Western Buddhism" . . . .
"Western Buddhist atheism" does not exist in a vacuum. Its roots are in Indian Buddhism.

http://ccbs.ntu.edu.tw/FULLTEXT/JR-PHIL/jackson.htm

This seems like a useful summary, though I haven't yet had time to read it in detail. I think it's important in this discussion to distinguish between a materialist view (which the Buddha rejected) and a theistic creator-god view (which he also rejected). In a Western context "atheist" tends to mean a materialistic view that rejects a creator god. It's not clear to me what exactly the OP means by Atheism-materialism and it would be useful to clarify.

:anjali:
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby Goofaholix » Sun Jan 12, 2014 11:22 pm

mikenz66 wrote:This seems like a useful summary, though I haven't yet had time to read it in detail. I think it's important in this discussion to distinguish between a materialist view (which the Buddha rejected) and a theistic creator-god view (which he also rejected). In a Western context "atheist" tends to mean a materialistic view that rejects a creator god. It's not clear to me what exactly the OP means by Atheism-materialism and it would be useful to clarify.


It's a false dichotomy, there are all kinds of views between one exxtreme and another and a-theism does not necessarily mean materialism.

The thing is Buddhadhamma works in all kinds of contexts and with all kids of views provided that the view doesn't dominate or become an irrelevant distraction.

If the ancient Indian were told to leave their cultural and philsophical baggage at the door first then Buddhist practice wouldn't have spread, if the westernerner were told the same it wouldn't have spread to the west.
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby mikenz66 » Sun Jan 12, 2014 11:28 pm

Goofaholix wrote:It's a false dichotomy, there are all kinds of views between one extreme and another and a-theism does not necessarily mean materialism.

Yes, that's what I was trying to say. They are two views need to be considered separately.

:anjali:
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby clw_uk » Mon Jan 13, 2014 12:26 am

It's a false dichotomy, there are all kinds of views between one exxtreme and another and a-theism does not necessarily mean materialism.



Indeed! Someone can be an atheist because they are a deist
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby pulga » Mon Jan 13, 2014 2:58 am

Sinhala Buddhism has assimilated Vishnu into its cosmology, only that it doesn't take him to be eternal. But I wonder a bit whether that really matters. If there is a god that rules over you -- as well as a whole host of lesser gods who have influence over your life -- a god with a lifespan beyond human comprehension, just how significantly different is that from theism? God is a concept as is the world, but we don't go about denying the existence of the world.
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Re: W. Buddhism is based more on Atheism-materialism than Dh

Postby culaavuso » Mon Jan 13, 2014 3:14 am

pulga wrote:Sinhala Buddhism has assimilated Vishnu into its cosmology, only that it doesn't take him to be eternal. But I wonder a bit whether that really matters. If there is a god that rules over you -- as well as a whole host of lesser gods who have influence over your life -- a god with a lifespan beyond human comprehension, just how significantly different is that from theism?


Is the path of practice based around individual effort for the sake of release from samsara, or is the path of practice based around ritual and appeasing that god for the sake of personal gain in this or a future life? That would seem to provide a significant difference. The Buddha spoke of devas and Brahma and a whole host of lesser gods that are not eternal but have lifespans and power beyond human comprehension, yet he taught a path of practice to transcend even the state of those deities since they too were still caught in samsara and subject to birth, aging, illness, and death. It doesn't seem to me that adding Vishnu into that mix fundamentally changes the message.
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