Western cultural adaptations

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

Western cultural adaptations

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Mar 11, 2014 4:42 pm

In another thread it was written:

Spiny Norman wrote:And of course western Buddhism is developing it's own cultural baggage!


appicchato wrote:In spades... :popcorn:


tiltbillings wrote:For example?


And no one responded about that after that. So I thought it might be interesting to examine some of the Western cultural baggage (or not?) We'll see if this is a good idea or not. :tongue:

I'll get it started with some possibilities and you can add any additional or of course disagree.

1. Less interest in rites, rituals, and ceremonies. This attachment is a hindrance to the Path to awakening (sīlabbata-parāmāso), so perhaps a useful cultural item. Many in the west came to Buddhism out of skepticism and wanting something beyond traditional rites and ceremonies, so perhaps a positive development.

2. Mindfulness meditation for stress-relief, self-help. Perhaps a good skillful means, but it could lead to the practice being relegated to a self-help exercise or a fad and then never take root as a religion in the West.

3. Rebirth as irrelevant, not necessary to the practice or for being Buddhist in the West. The suttas are permeated with discussion of rebirth . . . here I was this person, this was my name, my family, etc. Or perhaps a skillful means as well to allow more people access to the Dhamma and out of suffering who otherwise may not have been interested, feeling that rebirth belief is "too religious" or traditional.

4. Left-wing politics, left of center or socialist. During the time of the Buddha there were several rich merchants who gave land and built monasteries to the Sangha and the Buddha never condemned their acquisition of wealth. On the other hand, left of center politics seems compatible with less attachments, compassion, and generosity.

Personally, I see numbers 1 and 4 as mostly positive developments. Even though I am a capitalist, by U.S. standards I am left-wing since I am anti-war and support health care for all and nationalized utilities, including big oil. Numbers 2 and 3 I think could potentially make the Dhamma a fad, possibly a passing fad like Kabbalah and some other movements which lost a lot of steam.

Thoughts? Additional ones? Disagree? :guns:
Last edited by David N. Snyder on Wed Mar 12, 2014 12:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: changed title of thread
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby binocular » Tue Mar 11, 2014 4:49 pm

Agreed.

5. Compliance with modern Western science and culture, even at the expense of canonical references.
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Mar 11, 2014 5:02 pm

binocular wrote:5. Compliance with modern Western science and culture, even at the expense of canonical references.


That's a good one to add. I admit I am sometimes guilty of that one. :tongue:
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby culaavuso » Tue Mar 11, 2014 6:07 pm

6. Syncretism. It seems quite common for many in the west to pick and choose parts of Buddhism that they like and form a combination of beliefs and practices by similarly picking and choosing from many other religious or spiritual paths as well as picking and choosing parts of scientific thought. This can turn into a belief that all of these religions are really identical while failing to deeply understand and practice any one of them.



David N. Snyder wrote:1. Less interest in rites, rituals, and ceremonies. This attachment is a hindrance to the Path to awakening (sīlabbata-parāmāso), so perhaps a useful cultural item. Many in the west came to Buddhism out of skepticism and wanting something beyond traditional rites and ceremonies, so perhaps a positive development.

It's noteworthy that aversion to rites, rituals, and ceremonies is also indicative of attachment. Much in life is arbitrary and it's easy to fall for the illusion that replacing something unfamiliar and arbitrary with something familiar and arbitrary is somehow less arbitrary.

It's also worth considering that following various rites, rituals, and ceremonies are external means for developing clear awareness, mindfulness, and concentration. It can be helpful to start with external practices to develop these skills before moving to more subtle forms of practice.

David N. Snyder wrote:2. Mindfulness meditation for stress-relief, self-help. Perhaps a good skillful means, but it could lead to the practice being relegated to a self-help exercise or a fad and then never take root as a religion in the West.

If the practices lead to some kind of partial or temporary relief from stress, that's still better than nothing. There's a risk that a partial fix will result in many people not seeing a need for the full solution offered by the path, but there's also the possibility that others will see the value from the fragmented portions of the path they encounter and will seek a more complete understanding to take their practice further.

David N. Snyder wrote:3. Rebirth as irrelevant, not necessary to the practice or for being Buddhist in the West. The suttas are permeated with discussion of rebirth . . . here I was this person, this was my name, my family, etc. Or perhaps a skillful means as well to allow more people access to the Dhamma and out of suffering who otherwise may not have been interested, feeling that rebirth belief is "too religious" or traditional.

This often is a problem because of attachment to views of materialism and annihilationism which are called out as wrong view in the suttas. Beliefs in wrong views does not preclude the possibility of practicing other parts of the path (this overlaps with #2 above) and through the practice these understandings can change. There is no requirement of blind faith to practice the Dhamma, so these views are not entirely incompatible with the ability to make a degree of progress along the path.

David N. Snyder wrote:4. Left-wing politics, left of center or socialist. During the time of the Buddha there were several rich merchants who gave land and built monasteries to the Sangha and the Buddha never condemned their acquisition of wealth. On the other hand, left of center politics seems compatible with less attachments, compassion, and generosity.

This is complicated. The Buddha praised compassion and equanimity and not imposing one's preferences on the private choices of others. At the same time there isn't much support in the suttas for using state sponsored force to take wealth that is not given by the rich in order to satisfy a wish for a different wealth distribution. It would seem that developing good will, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity in all areas of life would better agree with the teachings of the suttas. Perhaps part of the answer here is to develop a culture that openly values and rewards willful generosity in order to end the assumption that people must be coerced into generous behavior.

binocular wrote:5. Compliance with modern Western science and culture, even at the expense of canonical references.

This seems to overlap a bit with #1 and #3 above. Regarding culture, it's easy to assume that something familiar and arbitrary is somehow not arbitrary at all. Regarding science, it has provided so many benefits and such an improvement in worldly conditions that it has earned a deep respect and reverence from much of the population. The unfortunate outcome is that it creates the possibility of thinking that every displeasurable experience can be solved by an alteration of worldly conditions. Only after seeing that even the best worldly conditions can still be seen as insufficient does the true value of the Dhamma make itself known. A similar situation exists with the ability for wealth to improve worldly conditions and its inability to ultimately provide a state of unchanging pleasantness.
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby binocular » Tue Mar 11, 2014 7:06 pm

culaavuso wrote:It's noteworthy that aversion to rites, rituals, and ceremonies is also indicative of attachment. Much in life is arbitrary and it's easy to fall for the illusion that replacing something unfamiliar and arbitrary with something familiar and arbitrary is somehow less arbitrary.

It's also worth considering that following various rites, rituals, and ceremonies are external means for developing clear awareness, mindfulness, and concentration. It can be helpful to start with external practices to develop these skills before moving to more subtle forms of practice.


Practicing rites, rituals, and ceremonies requires faith.

I fully agree that various rites, rituals, and ceremonies are external means for developing clear awareness, mindfulness, and concentration. But I think that it is especially when attempting to practice those, that one's lack of faith may surface the most and be the most troublesome.

Moreover, practicing particular rites, rituals, and ceremonies that one knows are foreign to one's culture of origin, is an additional challenge to deal with.
Practicing Buddhist rites, rituals, and ceremonies in Bangkok, Thailand is easy and meaningful, especially if one was born and raised in Thailand. Practicing them in Berlin, Germany, and being someone who was born and raised German and who has no significant ties to people who also practice those rites, rituals, and ceremonies - not so easy, not so meaningful.

So I don't think it is fair to hold it against people from non-Buddhist countries/cultures that they are reluctant about rites, rituals, and ceremonies.


I think that if there is one thing that is all too often taken for granted, it is faith. Many people of religion simply expect that other people will have faith that the religion is the right one and worthy or that what the people of religion tell them is true.
I think this expectation of faith in others is not helpful.
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby binocular » Tue Mar 11, 2014 7:14 pm

7. Protestant-like evangelism.

Some Buddhists, born and raised in the US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa*** have a characteristically evangelic, forceful, superioristic, monologous, domineering attitude to teaching Buddhism to others, much like Christian missionaries have to teaching Christianity.



***Sheesh, I daren't use the term "Western Buddhist" anymore because it has so much cultural baggage that using it lands one in a minefield ...
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby culaavuso » Tue Mar 11, 2014 7:18 pm

binocular wrote:Practicing rites, rituals, and ceremonies requires faith.

Going through the motions doesn't require faith. Faith is just one possible motivation. Other motivations might be to fit in with group behavior or to develop the clear awareness, mindfulness, and concentration necessary to go through the motions properly.

binocular wrote:I fully agree that various rites, rituals, and ceremonies are external means for developing clear awareness, mindfulness, and concentration. But I think that it is especially when attempting to practice those, that one's lack of faith may surface the most and be the most troublesome.

Moreover, practicing particular rites, rituals, and ceremonies that one knows are foreign to one's culture of origin, is an additional challenge to deal with.
Practicing Buddhist rites, rituals, and ceremonies in Bangkok, Thailand is easy and meaningful, especially if one was born and raised in Thailand. Practicing them in Berlin, Germany, and being someone who was born and raised German and who has no significant ties to people who also practice those rites, rituals, and ceremonies - not so easy, not so meaningful.

Performing the rites, rituals, and ceremonies can be meaningful to the extent that it serves a purpose that is believed to be meaningful. Referring to the other motivations above, if the motivation is to fit in with group behavior or to develop clear awareness, mindfulness, and concentration then these things can be directly known in a relatively short period of time. There is no need in that case for faith. Believing that the ceremony itself has some kind of special power might require faith, but such an idea does not seem well supported by the suttas.

binocular wrote:So I don't think it is fair to hold it against people from non-Buddhist countries/cultures that they are reluctant about rites, rituals, and ceremonies.

I think that if there is one thing that is all too often taken for granted, it is faith. Many people of religion simply expect that other people will have faith that the religion is the right one and worthy or that what the people of religion tell them is true.
I think this expectation of faith in others is not helpful.

It's interesting to note that many people who are reluctant about rites, rituals, and ceremonies are actually reluctant because of their faith. They either have faith that because it's a ceremony of a "foreign" religion that it will have some kind of negative spiritual consequence, or they have faith that doing something arbitrary merely for the sake of developing skills such as clear awareness, mindfulness, and concentration is somehow inadequate or might subject them to ridicule. This kind of blind faith is not helpful in developing skillful behaviors. Understanding causes and conditions and using that understanding to shape decisions ultimately is a matter of experience, with faith perhaps indicating what different behaviors might be worth trying to learn more about their results. There's an important difference between viewing something as likely to be true and worth trying as compared to viewing it as absolutely true despite a lack of personal experience.
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby Kare » Tue Mar 11, 2014 7:27 pm

I do not quite like the expression "cultural baggage". I find it somewhat pejorative.

I would rather talk about adaptions. The Buddha taught the Dhamma in order to help people. So how can the teachings be of help for you and for me?

Some "hard core purists" will assert that the only way is to accept every bit of the teaching as it is transmitted, without regard to local culture. But in real life it never happened like that. The Buddha himself did adapt his teachings to the time and culture where he and his direct pupils lived. That is apparent from the way he gave many of the Vinaya rules. He said they were given so that the monks should conform to common people's expectations.

When Buddhism spread to cultures outside India, lots of adaptions were made to Chinese culture, to Japanese culture etc. Was that wrong? I do not think so. People needed the Dhamma to be of help in their own lives, in China or Tibet or wherever, so it was very sensible of them to make adaptions instead trying to trying to imitate the Indian way of life. This created many forms of "cultural baggage", or sensible adaptions of the Dhamma, as I would rather call it. Admittedly some of the adaptions may have been less wise, but the principle holds. Adaptions to new cultures made the Dhamma into a relevant and living force in the lives of people who were not born and bred in the Indian culture. The result is that every living tradition of Buddhism today consists of a core Dhamma with cultural adaptions added.

When Buddhism came west, other adaptions were made. It would make no sense for people born and bred in a Western culture to try to imitate Thai, Indian or Chinese culture D(although some try). Western culture is different, so it is sensible not to adopt every adaption that was made to other cultures. This means that we have to let go a lot of "cultural baggage". And in order to make the Dhamma relevant in our own lives, we have to adapt it to our own culture - we have to add some "baggage" of our own. There is nothing new in this. It has happened all through the history of Buddhism.

But it is no simple task. It may be difficult to decide if a certain point of practice or doctrine belongs to the core Dhamma or if it is the result of some Asian adaption. Therefore it is good to discuss what is the core, what is Asian adaptions, and what kind of adaptions we should make. Some of the adaptions we already have done may be good, others less so. But the principle stands. Western people have exactly the same right to adapt the Dhamma to their own lives as people in Asian cultures have been doing for thousand(s) of years. We need to study the Dhamma carefully to try to find the real core. And we should learn from the different adaptions made in the living traditions. Then we may be able to see how the core Dhamma can be fit into our own culture so that it becomes a living and transforming force in our lives. We can, and should, discuss and criticize this or that specific adaption. But this criticism should not turn into a criticism of the idea of process itself of making adaptions. "Pure and unadapted Buddhism" is a fiction that belongs in a museum.
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby daverupa » Tue Mar 11, 2014 7:27 pm

:goodpost:

Scholasticism, Secular Humanism, epistemological rationalism, Romanticism, laicism... all aspects of the Western heritage which didn't exist ca 400 BCE. And the list goes on...
    "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: Western cultural baggage

Postby binocular » Tue Mar 11, 2014 7:41 pm

culaavuso wrote:Going through the motions doesn't require faith.

Maybe not the first (few) time(s), but eventually, it does.
One can, just for kicks, take a piece of paper and cut it into one thousand pieces - and this requires no faith. Doing it every day, for months, does require faith, though.

Faith is just one possible motivation. Other motivations might be to fit in with group behavior

If one is indeed already a member of such a group or feels inspired to become one.
But if one is not a member of such a group nor feels inspired to become one, fitting in with group behavior will not be a motivator.

or to develop the clear awareness, mindfulness, and concentration necessary to go through the motions properly.

It is a matter of faith to accept that going through the motions will lead to developing clear awareness, mindfulness, and concentration.

Performing the rites, rituals, and ceremonies can be meaningful to the extent that it serves a purpose that is believed to be meaningful.

But that belief is not a given.

Referring to the other motivations above, if the motivation is to fit in with group behavior or to develop clear awareness, mindfulness, and concentration then these things can be directly known in a relatively short period of time.

Re underlined part - that is not my experience.


There's an important difference between viewing something as likely to be true and worth trying as compared to viewing it as absolutely true despite a lack of personal experience.

I find that viewing something as absolutely true despite a lack of personal experience, is at the core of religiosity, including Buddhism.
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby Aloka » Tue Mar 11, 2014 9:05 pm

culaavuso wrote:It's noteworthy that aversion to rites, rituals, and ceremonies is also indicative of attachment. Much in life is arbitrary and it's easy to fall for the illusion that replacing something unfamiliar and arbitrary with something familiar and arbitrary is somehow less arbitrary.

It's also worth considering that following various rites, rituals, and ceremonies are external means for developing clear awareness, mindfulness, and concentration. It can be helpful to start with external practices to develop these skills before moving to more subtle forms of practice.


The various Buddhist traditions/schools can have quite different kinds of rites, rituals and ceremonies. Are you saying from your own experience that following any of these can develop clear awareness, mindfulness and concentration?

Deciding that elaborate rituals and ceremonies aren't beneficial for ones development,doesn't necessarily mean that there is aversion to them, it can just mean setting them aside.
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby Ben » Tue Mar 11, 2014 9:46 pm

David, an interesting subject and one that I have been delving into deeply, of late.
Like Kare, I would not have used the term 'baggage'. Here is so,etching that might pique some interest:

What many Americams and Europeans often understand by the term "Buddhism", however, is actually a modern hybrid tradition with roots in the European Enlightenment no less than the Buddha's enlightenment, in romanticism and transcendental ism as much as the Pali canon, and in the clash of Asian cultures and colonial powers as much as in mindfulness and meditation. Most non-Asian Americans tend to see Buddhism as a religion whose most important elements are meditation, rigorous philosophical analysis, and an ethic of compassion combined with a highly empirical psychological science that encourages reliance on individual experience. It discourages blindly following authority and dogma, and little place for superstition, magic, image worship, and gods, and is largely compatible with the findings of modern science and liberal democratic values. While this picture draws on elements of traditional forms of Buddhism that have existed in Asia for centuries, it is in many respects quite distinct from what Buddhism has meant to Asian Buddhists throughout its long and varied history. The popular western picture of Buddhism is neither unambiguously "there" in ancient Buddhist texts and lived traditions nor merely a fantasy of an educated elite population in the West, an image with no corresponding object. It is rather an actual new form of Buddhism that is the result of a process of modernisation, westernisation, reinterpretation, image-making, revitalisation, and reform that has been taking place not only in the West but also in Asian countries for over a century. This new form of Buddhism has been fashioned by modernising Asian Buddhists and western enthusiasts deeply engaged in creating Buddhist responses to the dominant problems and questions of modernity, such as epistemic uncertainty, religious pluralism, the threat of nihilism, conflicts between science and religion, war, and environmental destruction.
The emergence of Buddhist thought on these problems is the product of a unique confluence of cultures, individuals, and institutions in a time of rapid and unprecedented transformation of societies. Many modernising interpreters of Buddhism, both Asian and western, have proffered the theme of the rescue of the modern West - which they have claimed has lost its spiritual bearings through modernisation - by the humanising wisdom of the East. In order for the rescue to succeed, however, Buddhism itself had to be transformed, reformed, and modernised - purged of mythological elements and "superstitious" cultural accretions. Thus the Buddhism has become visible in the West and among urban, educated populations in Asia involve fewer rituals, deemphasises the miracles and supernatural events depicted in Buddhist literature, disposes of or reinterprets image worship, and stresses comparability with scientific, humanistic and democratic ideals. At the same time, these recent forms of Buddhism have not simply dispensed wit all traditional elements in an effort to accommodate to a changing world but have re-invented them.

-- David McMahan, The making of Buddhist modernism.
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby Kasina » Tue Mar 11, 2014 9:49 pm

daverupa wrote::goodpost:

Scholasticism, Secular Humanism, epistemological rationalism, Romanticism, laicism... all aspects of the Western heritage which didn't exist ca 400 BCE. And the list goes on...


:goodpost:
"This world completely lacks essence;
It trembles in all directions.
I longed to find myself a place
Unscathed — but I could not see it."


Sn 4.15 PTS: Sn 935-951 "Attadanda Sutta: Arming Oneself"

"You will be required to do wrong no matter where you go... This is the curse at work, the curse that feeds on all life..."

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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby pilgrim » Tue Mar 11, 2014 10:08 pm

binocular wrote:7. Protestant-like evangelism.

Some Buddhists, born and raised in the US, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa*** have a characteristically evangelic, forceful, superioristic, monologous, domineering attitude to teaching Buddhism to others, much like Christian missionaries have to teaching Christianity.
.

In my experience, the opposite seems to be true. Most western Buddhists I know seem to be horrified at any hint of effort to spread the faith. Whereas in the suttas we find many instances where the Buddha called for his disciples to go forth for the welfare of gods and men and to refute false teachings. (Mahavagga of vinaya Pitaka, MahaParinibbana sutta, Ditthi sutta, etc)
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue Mar 11, 2014 10:09 pm

Ben wrote:David, an interesting subject and one that I have been delving into deeply, of late.
Like Kare, I would not have used the term 'baggage'. Here is so,etching that might pique some interest:


I agree with you and Kare. It should have been 'adaptations' not baggage. I was borrowing the 'baggage' term from the other thread. :mrgreen:

Good posts from you, Kare, and the rest. Lots of things to consider.
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby Ben » Tue Mar 11, 2014 10:14 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:
Ben wrote:David, an interesting subject and one that I have been delving into deeply, of late.
Like Kare, I would not have used the term 'baggage'. Here is so,etching that might pique some interest:


I agree with you and Kare. It should have been 'adaptations' not baggage. I was borrowing the 'baggage' term from the other thread. :mrgreen:

Good posts from you, Kare, and the rest. Lots of things to consider.


No problem, David.
I highly recommend the book that I quoted from in my above quote for those who might be interested in the evolution of Buddhism after it's contact with the west.
Also excellent is "The birth of Insight" by Eric Braun.
With metta,
Ben
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby culaavuso » Tue Mar 11, 2014 10:34 pm

Aloka wrote:
culaavuso wrote:It's noteworthy that aversion to rites, rituals, and ceremonies is also indicative of attachment. Much in life is arbitrary and it's easy to fall for the illusion that replacing something unfamiliar and arbitrary with something familiar and arbitrary is somehow less arbitrary.

It's also worth considering that following various rites, rituals, and ceremonies are external means for developing clear awareness, mindfulness, and concentration. It can be helpful to start with external practices to develop these skills before moving to more subtle forms of practice.

The various Buddhist traditions/schools can have quite different kinds of rites, rituals and ceremonies. Are you saying from your own experience that following any of these can develop clear awareness, mindfulness and concentration?

Following along with any detailed set of bodily, verbal, and/or mental fabrications can develop clear awareness, mindfulness, and concentration. Similarly the development of at least mindfulness is involved with even non-detailed acts that are done at regular intervals. Simply remembering to perform the action at the appropriate time can develop mental faculties in that case. These two cases seem to include a significant portion of rites, rituals, and ceremonies.

Aloka wrote: Deciding that elaborate rituals and ceremonies aren't beneficial for ones development,doesn't necessarily mean that there is aversion to them, it can just mean setting them aside.

I agree. They may be set aside for a number of reasons. There's nothing inherently wrong with picking them up and there's nothing inherently wrong with setting them aside. It's just worth considering in the context of evaluating the drawbacks of clinging to rites, rituals, and ceremonies that replacing clinging with aversion also has drawbacks.
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby Anagarika » Tue Mar 11, 2014 10:59 pm

Kare wrote:When Buddhism spread to cultures outside India, lots of adaptions were made to Chinese culture, to Japanese culture etc. Was that wrong? I do not think so. People needed the Dhamma to be of help in their own lives, in China or Tibet or wherever, so it was very sensible of them to make adaptions instead trying to trying to imitate the Indian way of life. This created many forms of "cultural baggage", or sensible adaptions of the Dhamma, as I would rather call it. Admittedly some of the adaptions may have been less wise, but the principle holds. Adaptions to new cultures made the Dhamma into a relevant and living force in the lives of people who were not born and bred in the Indian culture. The result is that every living tradition of Buddhism today consists of a core Dhamma with cultural adaptions added.


This is an interesting thread, and I enjoyed Kare's posting, and agree with its core points. I offer the idea that these locale adaptions can be the first steps of a very slippery slope toward the dilution and extinguishing of the Dhamma. I have this sense that the Canon Dhamma is a fairly pure medicine, and that as this medicine traveled through Japan and into the west, it became adapted, diluted, embellished, and reformulated to the point that the medicine was no longer the same product; it was an entirely different prescription altogether. Ven. Thanissaro, I recall, has analogized these adaptions to a game of "telephone," where the message becomes garbled to the point of nonrecognition as it passes from speaker to speaker to speaker. I believe that this reformulation and corruption did occur with the Dhamma, and that what many people in Japan, and the west, for example, as 'Buddhism' is really some hybrid form of practice that may, or may not, lead to the release that the Buddha intended for his disciples.

At the risk of being seen as an orthodox jerk, I feel that there needs to be a real effort to communicate this Dhamma prescription in its purest form possible. If the Dhamma is being "telephoned," I feel we need to call it out as such. I was watching an Ajahn Brahm video the other day, and he discussed a Zen parable, and then went on to say that in "real Buddhism, we understand that..." Talk about a fastball across the plate. Perhaps as the Dhamma really takes a foothold in the west, the time has come to no longer sit quietly as the Dhamma gets twisted to the point of nonrecognition. While many people have benefitted, and still benefit, from zazen for example, maybe the time has come to suggest that some attention be paid to the path that the Buddha taught, and suggest that some adaptions have taken us off the path in the west, and that the roadmap for the journey is as easy to find as in the Sutta Pitaka.
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Postby daverupa » Tue Mar 11, 2014 11:08 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:... Canon Dhamma ... I feel that there needs to be a real effort to communicate this Dhamma prescription in its purest form possible.


The Canon in toto is already a 'game of telephone' spanning about five hundred years or more; even slimming this down to the Nikayas leaves a century and a half. And, in this respect, the oral tradition is not well-characterized as a game of telephone. The Nikayas are the first step of cultural adaptation, frozen-ish ca. the Second Council.

And you know, we can see the Abhidhamma as the second step of cultural adaptation taken with the Nikayas; our own is some Nth iteration of cultural adaptation of that very core material.

I feel as though we have better access to and understanding of this material now than many earlier iterations, in fact...
    "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: Western cultural baggage

Postby culaavuso » Tue Mar 11, 2014 11:23 pm

daverupa wrote:The Canon in toto is already a 'game of telephone' spanning about five hundred years or more; even slimming this down to the Nikayas leaves a century and a half. And, in this respect, the oral tradition is not well-characterized as a game of telephone. The Nikayas are the first step of cultural adaptation, frozen-ish ca. the Second Council.


This is useful to consider in the light of the canonical story of the First Council, long before the first texts were put in writing, wherein there was already a degree of confusion regarding what was the core and what was cultural accretion.

Mahīśāsaka Vinaya wrote:Kassapa again interrogated Ānanda: ‘If we agree that the sekhiyas are lesser and minor training
precepts, some bhikkhus will say that up to the four pāṭidesanīyas are also lesser and minor training
precepts. If we agree that the pāṭidesanīyas are lesser and minor training precepts, some bhikkhus will say
that up to the pācittiyas are also lesser and minor training precepts. If we agree that the pācittiyas are lesser
and minor training precepts, some bhikkhus will say that up to the nissaggiya pācittiyas are also lesser and
minor training precepts. Now we have these four kinds of opinions, how can we gain certainty?’
Kassapa then said: ‘If we don’t know what the characteristics of the lesser and minor rules are and
mistakenly rescind them, members of other sects will say: ‘The Dhamma of the ascetics, sons of the
Śakyan, is like smoke. While their Teacher was alive they practiced what was laid down, but straight after
the Parinibbana they were not willing to train.’
Kassapa then said in the midst of the Sangha: ‘We have now already gathered the Dhamma. What
Buddha has not established should not be mistakenly established; what is already established should not
be deviated from. As the Buddha instructed we should sincerely train.’
Last edited by culaavuso on Tue Mar 11, 2014 11:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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