A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

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A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby l_rivers » Sat May 10, 2014 7:57 pm

A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha. A dynamite comparison to the real situation of academics compared to Aristotle and much more enesues, and the blog(a converstion into which you can jump in) begins:

Trusting our sources: manuscripts, archaeology, and what we “cannot know”
Posted on 28 April 2014 by justin — 22 Comments ↓

I am fresh back from the “Buddhism and Social Justice” conference hosted by Leiden University, The Netherlands.

This will be the first in what I hope will be a number of posts in the coming weeks about individual papers and ideas flowing from the conference, posted both here and/or at my own blog, American Buddhist Perspective(s). This post has to do with methodology and how we approach our sources, so I think it is something everyone here can appreciate and, I hope, offer feedback on. At the conference Prof. Steven Collins made the very interesting plea:


http://indianphilosophyblog.org/2014/04/28/trusting-our-sources-manuscripts-archaeology-and-what-we-cannot-know/

:buddha1:
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Sat May 10, 2014 8:45 pm

Honestly? There is already so much controversy, discussion, debate and speculation surrounding the Buddha's existence, that I cannot personally see of what benefit such discussion can bring.

I merely ask myself in situations like this, "what will this directly do to enhance my practice? How will this benefit my progress along the path? "

Could you answer that for me?

:namaste:
:namaste:

You will not be punished FOR your 'emotions'; you will be punished BY your 'emotions'.



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‘Absit invidia verbo’ - may ill-will be absent from the word. And mindful of that, if I don't respond, this may be why....
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby mikenz66 » Sat May 10, 2014 9:31 pm

Thanks for the link. Though I just skimmed it, there are some interesting points there, with reasoned input from people on various sides of the issue.

Whether these issues should have any impact on one's practice I guess depends on how what relative use one makes use of the Pali and/or other Canons, commentaries, modern interpretations, and so on. For some of us the detailed history is not particularly an issue. For others it is seen to be important...

:anjali:
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby l_rivers » Sat May 10, 2014 11:30 pm

Honestly? There is already so much controversy, discussion, debate and speculation surrounding the Buddha's existence, that I cannot personally see of what benefit such discussion can bring.

I merely ask myself in situations like this, "what will this directly do to enhance my practice? How will this benefit my progress along the path? "

Could you answer that for me?



Practice is effort made in increments (walking in the footsteps) to a goal.

These steps are a sequence of practices oriented by attitudes defined by the idea of what the goal is and what conduct furthers that aim.

In 2500 years the World has seen maybe 5 major and 20 minor distinct notions of the nature of enlightenment and what means achieve that end.

What did the Buddha say? Depends on who you ask. Therefore what can we know about the place someone is coming from matters very much. What he was is what we're wanting tho become.

Just ask yourself "Why can't we just do what the Buddha wants us to?" Can't we just do THAT and leave talkity talk behind? What would your practice look like? Would it look like mine? Do all roads lead to Rome... really? Life is short, planning an effective route makes sense.

I think we have to go back to the days everyone was a mainstream practitioner [100-450 CE] and select for ourselves from the 20 or 30 new ideas on the Mahayana New Thought menue and build the Ark from the ground up.
:buddha1:
It's ok to ignor what's below the line - due dilegence as to my background is only fair to offer. I have a bias.
------------
I followed a Guru for 20 years. He taught we were all Buddhas if you just go out of the way. Drop thought. Be there. But Charactor Structure just doen't "drop". It comes back - the samskara inflaming the alayavijnana at the least chafe. He also told us not to read "1st Turning" sutras because they would mislead us. I believe he belived all that, but you know, after he died the sangha imploded as far as spiritual or corporate govenance was concerned. Don't pay attention to that - lets get ready for the new Tulku. If you don't progress or have enough faith - the bad's on you. Asking questions is nuerosis. Not. :meditate:
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby tiltbillings » Sun May 11, 2014 12:28 am

l_rivers wrote: I think we have to go back to the days everyone was a mainstream practitioner [100-450 CE] and select for ourselves from the 20 or 30 new ideas on the Mahayana New Thought menue and build the Ark from the ground up.
No, we do not.
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: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby Sylvester » Sun May 11, 2014 3:36 am

tiltbillings wrote:
l_rivers wrote: I think we have to go back to the days everyone was a mainstream practitioner [100-450 CE] and select for ourselves from the 20 or 30 new ideas on the Mahayana New Thought menue and build the Ark from the ground up.
No, we do not.



Methinks he's a follower of Eric Cheetham, author of Fundamentals of Mainstream Buddhism. What Cheetham calls "Mainstream Buddhism" was everything pre-Mahayana, ie euphemism for "Hinayana". And his delightfully misleading book on Mainstream Buddhism then stuffs us with late Sarvastivadin stuff from the Abhidharmakośa and presents that as "Mainstream Buddhism". :rofl:

I demand a refund, plus cost of funds!
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby l_rivers » Sun May 11, 2014 5:10 am

l_rivers wrote: I think we have to go back to the days everyone was a mainstream practitioner [100-450 CE] and select for ourselves from the 20 or 30 new ideas on the Mahayana New Thought menue and build the Ark from the ground up.

No, we do not.



Pardon me, I misspoke. I ought rather to say “I recommend others adopt the approach I recommended above if they see its advantages as I do.”

But in light of the fact that there has been at least 5 very different approaches to 5 very different interpretations of what enlightenment is, being the Buddhism in which Nirvana is interpreted as cessation, Buddhism as is represented by the Theravada, and the late Mahayana distinctions of the emptiness school, the yogacara, and the Chinese Chan as well as diverse pure land approaches and at least 30 distinct subdivisions of these then you realize that the discussion is just not between academia and Buddhists as to what constitutes Buddhism, there is a distinction between Buddhists which leads someone who is attracted to Buddhism to make a kind of due diligence in investigation.

If you do not, do you say “all paths get there, it's just a matter of how long, or for what people that path is suited to?” If so, then you are left with the question “what ingredients need to be present for a Buddhist path to work?”

If you must decide what ingredients need to be present in a Buddhist path to make it a Buddhist path that works, then you are back to adopting the goal of an academic who tries to discover the history and methods of Buddhism in as nonpartisan away as possible. If, on the other hand, you leave the past choice up to karma connection to guru, you are shifting too far from “works” to “faith”, (to use some Christian language), for my comfort. And I want to accept that, I am uncomfortable with shifting from works to face as a context for my own comfort level.

I feel, to use a kitchen and cooking metaphor, that due diligence requires an inventory of stock and in working knowledge of the equipment. But I don't want to be one more spiritual fascist. But I do think there is room for some more approaches to Buddhism than those already in the Dewey decimal system. Academic Buddhism isn't academic.
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby Mkoll » Sun May 11, 2014 5:28 am

l_rivers wrote:If you do not, do you say “all paths get there, it's just a matter of how long, or for what people that path is suited to?” If so, then you are left with the question “what ingredients need to be present for a Buddhist path to work?”


The Noble Eightfold Path and the Four Noble Truths are common to most, if not all, Buddhist schools. My opinion is that a lot of the later philosophical and exegetical expansions to the basic core of the Buddha's teachings are not particularly helpful, at best. I don't intend to slight those additions and later traditions, it's just my view.

I don't think the Buddhist Path is particularly complex. It's just very hard to actually practice the Path very well.
Peace,
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby tiltbillings » Sun May 11, 2014 5:31 am

l_rivers wrote: . . .
That is a very nice; however, you have not really made a case for your position.
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: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby Dan74 » Sun May 11, 2014 6:32 am

The way it looks from here (being a pretty deluded practitioner of a bit over a decade) is that while further along the path, thing may start to get complicated, for me, the practice is very simple. I am guessing that these complications are likely due to semantic differences and occasionally to some vestigial 'abiding'. Of course, there's a good chance that I am missing something.
_/|\_
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby Qianxi » Sun May 11, 2014 7:35 am

Steven Collins wrote:Don’t touch early Buddhism. It doesn’t exist. We don’t know anything about it. Anything you say about it is a complete fantasy.

This is such an annoying assertion, turning people away from a vital area of study.

Then there's this weird
Steven Collins wrote:But, if you start out a lecture course or a book with early Buddhism, necessarily, whatever your fantasy, the rest of the book is going to look like a degeneration, or an accommodation, or something else.


Collins has expressed similar ideas before http://sujato.wordpress.com/2013/11/08/ ... he-buddha/
Steven Collins wrote:It is my view that, given the complete impossibility of knowing what ‘early’ Buddhism was, the practice of offering speculative pictures of it inevitably casts all subsequent Theravada history in a pejorative light, which is a bad thing.


I believe this is nonsense. Even if you ignore the first 500 years of Buddhism, studying any period of time leaves you with earlier developments and later developments. Does study of Buddhaghosa somehow cast the 20th century vipassana movement in a negative light? Of course it doesn't.
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Sun May 11, 2014 10:47 am

l_rivers wrote:
Honestly? There is already so much controversy, discussion, debate and speculation surrounding the Buddha's existence, that I cannot personally see of what benefit such discussion can bring.

I merely ask myself in situations like this, "what will this directly do to enhance my practice? How will this benefit my progress along the path? "

Could you answer that for me?



Practice is effort made in increments (walking in the footsteps) to a goal.

These steps are a sequence of practices oriented by attitudes defined by the idea of what the goal is and what conduct furthers that aim.

In 2500 years the World has seen maybe 5 major and 20 minor distinct notions of the nature of enlightenment and what means achieve that end.

What did the Buddha say? Depends on who you ask. Therefore what can we know about the place someone is coming from matters very much. What he was is what we're wanting tho become.

Just ask yourself "Why can't we just do what the Buddha wants us to?" Can't we just do THAT and leave talkity talk behind? What would your practice look like? Would it look like mine? Do all roads lead to Rome... really? Life is short,
planning an effective route makes sense.

I think we have to go back to the days everyone was a mainstream practitioner [100-450 CE] and select for ourselves from the 20 or 30 new ideas on the Mahayana New Thought menue and build the Ark from the ground up.
:buddha1:
It's ok to ignor what's below the line - due dilegence as to my background is only fair to offer. I have a bias.
------------
I followed a Guru for 20 years. He taught we were all Buddhas if you just go out of the way. Drop thought. Be there. But Charactor Structure just doen't "drop". It comes back - the samskara inflaming the alayavijnana at the least chafe. He also told us not to read "1st Turning" sutras because they would mislead us. I believe he belived all that, but you know, after he died the sangha imploded as far as spiritual or corporate govenance was concerned. Don't pay attention to that - lets get ready for the new Tulku. If you don't progress or have enough faith - the bad's on you. Asking questions is nuerosis. Not. :meditate:


Ah. Very good. quite articulate even if somewhat verbose.

It however completely failed to answer my question.
:namaste:

You will not be punished FOR your 'emotions'; you will be punished BY your 'emotions'.



Image

Pay attention, simplify, and (Meditation instruction in a nutshell) "Mind - the Gap."
‘Absit invidia verbo’ - may ill-will be absent from the word. And mindful of that, if I don't respond, this may be why....
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby waterchan » Sun May 11, 2014 11:10 am



According to that link, Prof. Steve Collins states:
Don’t touch early Buddhism. It doesn’t exist. We don’t know anything about it. Anything you say about it is a complete fantasy. But, if you start out a lecture course or a book with early Buddhism, necessarily, whatever your fantasy, the rest of the book is going to look like a degeneration, or an accommodation, or something else.


This kind of denialism has been thoroughly debunked and laid to rest in the The Authenticity of the Early Buddhist Texts by Bhikkhu Sujato and Bhikkhu Brahmali. I've been following the critical response to this book and it's funny how each and every criticism of the book is a pure ad hominem that goes along the lines of "The authors were Theravada monks, therefore they couldn't have arrived at any other conclusion".
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby Qianxi » Sun May 11, 2014 1:03 pm

TheNoBSBuddhist wrote:Honestly? There is already so much controversy, discussion, debate and speculation surrounding the Buddha's existence, that I cannot personally see of what benefit such discussion can bring.

I merely ask myself in situations like this, "what will this directly do to enhance my practice? How will this benefit my progress along the path? "

Could you answer that for me?

:namaste:

Looking at how a practice is described in the suttas, and also comparing that description to parallel descriptions in the traditions of other early Buddhist schools can give you a new perspective that may or may not be useful practically. Bhikkhu Analayo in this talk http://dharmaseed.org/teacher/439/talk/14214/ tells a story of how comparative textual study helped clarify the practice of 'mindfulness of the body' for him. He has a recent book on the subject called Perspectives on Satipaṭṭhāna.
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Sun May 11, 2014 3:48 pm

Doubtless.

I want the OP to explain how the subject to which he is specifically alluding to, can improve my practice or positively affect it.


:namaste:
:namaste:

You will not be punished FOR your 'emotions'; you will be punished BY your 'emotions'.



Image

Pay attention, simplify, and (Meditation instruction in a nutshell) "Mind - the Gap."
‘Absit invidia verbo’ - may ill-will be absent from the word. And mindful of that, if I don't respond, this may be why....
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby Mkoll » Sun May 11, 2014 6:20 pm

TheNoBSBuddhist wrote:Doubtless.

I want the OP to explain how the subject to which he is specifically alluding to, can improve my practice or positively affect it.


:namaste:


I don't think that is their intention. I think at least part of their intention is to make a name for themselves by sparking vehement debates with their controversial claims and theories. I imagine that for some, the scholar's life must get boring sometimes...

:guns:
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby ArkA » Sun May 11, 2014 6:41 pm

Read Learning vs. Practice on page 31 about scholars and meditators.
I'll restart my yearlong meditation retreat on 15th June 2014, hence will not be here.

"Bhikkhus, there are these three things that shine when exposed, not when concealed. What three? (1) The moon. (2) The sun. (3) The Dhamma and discipline proclaimed by the Tathagata."
- Anguttara Nikaya, 3.131, Paticchanna Sutta

"Silence is the language of God; all else is poor translation."
– Rumi

Introduction: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=20572
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby TheNoBSBuddhist » Sun May 11, 2014 7:01 pm

Mkoll wrote:
TheNoBSBuddhist wrote:Doubtless.

I want the OP to explain how the subject to which he is specifically alluding to, can improve my practice or positively affect it.


:namaste:


I don't think that is their intention. I think at least part of their intention is to make a name for themselves by sparking vehement debates with their controversial claims and theories. I imagine that for some, the scholar's life must get boring sometimes...

:guns:


I am not concerned with their intention but the fact that they are unable to respond positively to my request is sufficient for me to know that such examination and ruminative speculation is of no use to me whatsoever.
Thus in being unable to respond, he has in fact responded perfectly.

:namaste:
:namaste:

You will not be punished FOR your 'emotions'; you will be punished BY your 'emotions'.



Image

Pay attention, simplify, and (Meditation instruction in a nutshell) "Mind - the Gap."
‘Absit invidia verbo’ - may ill-will be absent from the word. And mindful of that, if I don't respond, this may be why....
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Re: A Vital new debate of What can we know of the Buddha.

Postby Mkoll » Sun May 11, 2014 7:35 pm

Arka,

Very interesting read, thanks for the link. This passage was illuminating:

Manorathapūraṇī148 states that around 20 B.C.E.—about 500 years after The Buddha's enlightenment—a discussion arose
among the bhikkhus of Great Monastery (Mahā Vihara) in Sri Lanka: “Whether learning (pariyatti) was the root of The
Buddha's teaching or whether it was practice (paṭipatti).” Finally, the preachers (dhammakathikas) defeat the practitioners
(paṃsukūlikas) gaining supremacy over the practice.149 Succeeding this decision, Sri Lankan and south Indian scholar bhikkhus endeavour on compiling and accumulating a huge body of secondary literature, namely, chronicles,
commentaries, sub commentaries, sub-sub commentaries, textbooks, manuals, and etc.150 This new thought, surprisingly
contrary to the original and old Buddhism. Perhaps, because it was easier to be a scholar bhikkhu than to be a saint—
easier said than done. Unfortunately this decision marked a decline in Theravada. One of the main causes of the decline of
The Buddha's Dispensation is inexperienced teachers teaching the Dhamma or sometimes non-Dhamma, inexperienced
both in learning151 and practice.
Peace,
James
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