How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

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How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby catmoon » Wed Oct 28, 2009 12:39 am

MOD NOTE - Originally split from viewtopic.php?f=16&t=2561 (Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism) - Thanks. Retro. :)



I know of some people who have gone all the way back to the 4NT and 8FP and rejected everything that came after. Their version of Buddhism has no rebirth, no karma, no tantra work, no prayers, rituals or statuary. Unfortunately they are kind of tactless which has resulted in them being kicked off almost every respectable Buddhist board.
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Oct 28, 2009 12:57 am

catmoon wrote:I know of some people who have gone all the way back to the 4NT and 8FP and rejected everything that came after. Their version of Buddhism has no rebirth, no karma, no tantra work, no prayers, rituals or statuary. Unfortunately they are kind of tactless which has resulted in them being kicked off almost every respectable Buddhist board.


Well, that would mean they really didn't understand the 4NT & 8FP. Because the 4NT & 8FP includes samma-ditthi, Right Understanding, which includes rebirth, anatta, anicca, etc. and those other things that they "rejected."
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:02 am

Greetings,

(Presumably) knowing the people Catmoon is referring to, they accept the Pali suttas, but may interpret them in ways that deviate from mainstream Theravada interpretations of the Pali Canon. Interestingly, it was from one of those people that I found out about this Ajahn Sujato's article in the first place.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby catmoon » Wed Oct 28, 2009 1:36 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,

(Presumably) knowing the people Catmoon is referring to, they accept the Pali suttas, but may interpret them in ways that deviate from mainstream Theravada interpretations of the Pali Canon. Interestingly, it was from one of those people that I found out about this Ajahn Sujato's article in the first place.

Anyway...

:focus:

Metta,
Retro. :)


It is so. :focus:
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby Paññāsikhara » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:37 am

TheDhamma wrote:
catmoon wrote:I know of some people who have gone all the way back to the 4NT and 8FP and rejected everything that came after. Their version of Buddhism has no rebirth, no karma, no tantra work, no prayers, rituals or statuary. Unfortunately they are kind of tactless which has resulted in them being kicked off almost every respectable Buddhist board.


Well, that would mean they really didn't understand the 4NT & 8FP. Because the 4NT & 8FP includes samma-ditthi, Right Understanding, which includes rebirth, anatta, anicca, etc. and those other things that they "rejected."


:goodpost:
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby catmoon » Wed Oct 28, 2009 3:04 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:
catmoon wrote:I know of some people who have gone all the way back to the 4NT and 8FP and rejected everything that came after. Their version of Buddhism has no rebirth, no karma, no tantra work, no prayers, rituals or statuary. Unfortunately they are kind of tactless which has resulted in them being kicked off almost every respectable Buddhist board.


Well, that would mean they really didn't understand the 4NT & 8FP. Because the 4NT & 8FP includes samma-ditthi, Right Understanding, which includes rebirth, anatta, anicca, etc. and those other things that they "rejected."


:goodpost:



I feel compelled to play devils advocate. They have rationalizations around all those problems. Such as, they claim the term "rebirth" has been broadly mistranslated and it refers to events on a tiny timescale.

I cannot dismiss them as lightly as you do, although I do in fact dismiss them.

BTW I would like to know if references to rebirth, non self and so on occur in earliest versions of the 8FP? Would that be hard to find out?

It's all somewhat relevant I think, since it relates to just how far one can go in stripping practice to the bare essentials. Maybe we can set a reasonable lower boundary on that.
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby pink_trike » Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:08 am

I once heard a very respected teacher (in the Tibetan tradition) say that the whole of the Buddha's teachings are contained within the 4NT/8FP if one understands them deeply and completely. In my understanding, he was saying that everything else is commentary on these and that the longer we study commentary, practice, and contemplate the full experiential (non-conceptual) meaning of the 4NT/8FP the more evident this becomes. This has been my experience over the years...they continue to unpack themselves the longer I study commentary, receive teachings, and practice.

There are also what's known as "essence" teachings in the Tibetan tradition that consists of 1 or 2 stanza summations of the entirety of the teachings. One that I have a very strong connection to is just 5 lines long. Most essence teachings aren't released to beginners and are considered "inner" or "secret" because the essence can't easily be grasped by people who are new to the path...the simplicity causes confusion and overwhelms an untrained mind. But once one has a certain amount of knowledge and awareness of the nature of mind these essence teachings deliver themselves "unpacked" for a wallop of concentrated realization that "nail" the meaning to awareness. This suggests to me that it's reasonable to assume that the 4NT and 8FP may also be regarded as essence teachings of a particular sort, but they are approached differently than the more explicit Tibetan essence teachings...they are used to kickoff the path and are gradually unpacked with additional study and practice. It doesn't make sense to me that they would be incomplete.
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:12 am

catmoon wrote:
BTW I would like to know if references to rebirth, non self and so on occur in earliest versions of the 8FP? Would that be hard to find out?


The Chapter of the Eights is considered the oldest chapter of the Suttanipata which is considered the oldest text of the Sutta Pitaka, no Noble Eightfold Path found there. You might want to start your investigation there.

As for the persons who dismiss literal rebirth, trying to turn any mention of rebirth in the suttas into some sort of figurative speech, they do not show very good scholarship, nor do they really make any sense out of the Buddha's teachings.
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: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby David N. Snyder » Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:06 am

catmoon wrote: BTW I would like to know if references to rebirth, non self and so on occur in earliest versions of the 8FP? Would that be hard to find out?
It's all somewhat relevant I think, since it relates to just how far one can go in stripping practice to the bare essentials. Maybe we can set a reasonable lower boundary on that.


There are numerous places where rebirth and anatta are referred to in the first four Nikayas, which are considered as authentic and pre-sectarian by perhaps everyone.

"He recalls to mind his various temporary states in days gone by – one birth, or two or three or
four or five births, 10 or 20, 30 or 50, a 100 or a 1,000 or a 100,000 births, through many cycles
of cosmic contraction and cosmic expansion . . . Now there comes a time, when sooner or later,
after the lapse of a long, long period of contraction, this world-system passes away. And when
this happens beings have mostly been re-born in the World of Radiance, and there they dwell
made of mind, feeding on joy, radiating light from themselves, traversing the air, dwelling in
glory; and thus they remain for a long, long period of time. Now there comes also a time,
friends, when sooner or later, this universe begins to re-evolve by expansion." (The Buddha,
Brahmajala Sutta, Digha Nikaya, Sutta Pitaka)


Yet, there is a controversy among some, if the Buddha actually taught rebirth. :thinking: :tongue:

Here is one of the places where the 8FP is discussed in the Samyutta Nikaya:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby Paññāsikhara » Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:53 am

tiltbillings wrote:
catmoon wrote:
BTW I would like to know if references to rebirth, non self and so on occur in earliest versions of the 8FP? Would that be hard to find out?


The Chapter of the Eights is considered the oldest chapter of the Suttanipata which is considered the oldest text of the Sutta Pitaka, no Noble Eightfold Path found there. You might want to start your investigation there.

As for the persons who dismiss literal rebirth, trying to turn any mention of rebirth in the suttas into some sort of figurative speech, they do not show very good scholarship, nor do they really make any sense out of the Buddha's teachings.


Though, from memory, it does mention the state of "not coming again to the womb" as the goal.
And, that in which one is "not seen by the King of Death".
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Oct 28, 2009 6:12 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
catmoon wrote:
BTW I would like to know if references to rebirth, non self and so on occur in earliest versions of the 8FP? Would that be hard to find out?


The Chapter of the Eights is considered the oldest chapter of the Suttanipata which is considered the oldest text of the Sutta Pitaka, no Noble Eightfold Path found there. You might want to start your investigation there.

As for the persons who dismiss literal rebirth, trying to turn any mention of rebirth in the suttas into some sort of figurative speech, they do not show very good scholarship, nor do they really make any sense out of the Buddha's teachings.


Though, from memory, it does mention the state of "not coming again to the womb" as the goal.
And, that in which one is "not seen by the King of Death".

Sort of blows up the "figurative speech" crowd's arguments.
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: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Oct 28, 2009 7:40 am

Greetings Tilt,

Agreed, with the exception of "not seen by the King of Death" which I think it very amenable to a momentary birth/death explanation.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Oct 28, 2009 7:55 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,

Agreed, with the exception of "not seen by the King of Death" which I think it very amenable to a momentary birth/death explanation.

Metta,
Retro. :)

I don't think so. The problem is that these texts appear within a cultural context. "Seen by the King of Death" is likely an idiom, in an idiom rich language, meaning having literally died.
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: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby James the Giant » Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:06 am

How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?


Nichiren Buddhists strip the Buddhas' teachings right back to one single line of the Lotus Sutra where it says something like "if a person even says one word of the Lotus Sutra, they are destined to attain Buddhahood."

No Four Noble Truths, no Eight-fold Path, no precepts, no meditation, no nuthin'. Just chanting Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo. (The title of the Lotus Sutra)
Okay, there is more, but it all comes down to chanting really.
Last edited by James the Giant on Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:07 am

Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,

Agreed, with the exception of "not seen by the King of Death" which I think it very amenable to a momentary birth/death explanation.

Metta,
Retro. :)

I don't think so. The problem is that these texts appear within a cultural context. "Seen by the King of Death" is likely an idiom, in an idiom rich language, meaning having literally died.


That wouldn't make sense though in this sort of context...

http://www.mahindarama.com/e-tipitaka/K ... np2-10.htm

"Rouse yourself! Sit up! What good is there in sleeping? For those afflicted by disease (suffering), struck by the arrow (craving), what sleep is there?
"Rouse yourself! Sit up! Resolutely train yourself to attain peace.[1] Do not let the king of death,[2] seeing you are careless, lead you astray and dominate you.

"Go beyond this clinging,[3] to which devas and men are attached, and (the pleasures) they seek. Do not waste your opportunity. When the opportunity has passed they sorrow when consigned to Niraya-hell.

"Negligence is a taint, and so is the (greater) negligence growing from it. By earnestness and understanding withdraw the arrow (of sensual passions)."

-- vv. 331-334

Notes

[1] "Peace" is a synonym for Nibbana, the final goal. [Go back]
[2] The king of death (maccuraja), or Mara (death), is the personification of everything that binds us to this world and prevents the gaining of deliverance. [Go back]
[3] This clinging to pleasures of the senses. [Go back]


That said, I'm mindful of us keeping on topic, lest we end up with more split topics.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:19 am

James the Giant wrote:
How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?


Nichiren Buddhists strip the Buddhas' teachings right back to one single line of the Lotus Sutra where it says something like "if a person even says one word of the Lotus Sutra, they are destined to attain Buddhahood."

No Four Noble Truths, no Eight-fold Path, no precepts, no meditation, no nuthin'. Just chanting Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo. (The title of the Lotus Sutra)
Okay, there is more, but it all comes down to chanting really.


I doubt that.

Often, for most traditional Buddhist schools, it is not a case of "stripping" away much at all, as in keeping some parts but discarding others.

Rather, for most traditional Buddhist schools, it is about developing a heirarchy of teachings, and establishing some as more definitive (nitartha) over others which are implicit (neyartha). Then, they would argue that placing the implicit interpretation above the explicit statements, is a gross mistake. Still, they retain the implicit, and do not abandon it, or claim it to be false, or not Dharma.

This sort of traditional Buddhist hermeneutics is very ancient. Unfortunately, I seldom see English language using Buddhists apply it, or really understand it much. Though, many will use the specific nitartha / neyartha split of their own chosen school. Unfortunately, most do not know the basis for the split, and how it is worked out by other schools.

eg. "Theravada" is usually along the lines of the theories (vada) of the Elders (thera) are to be used in interpreting and understanding the Tipitaka.
"Madhyamaka" is usually along the lines of applying the sastras of Nagarjuna and Aryadeva, etc. to unpack all teachings.

In addition to the simple nitartha / neyartha split, there are others. I quite like a four-fold model that comes out of the NW in maybe about the 3rd century or so. It is quite broad, and thus slightly less rigid.
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:27 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,That wouldn't make sense though in this sort of context...


Yes, well, I will retract my statement about being seen by King of Death - Mara - as being an idiom for death; however, the the attempts at figurative reading of "rebirth" language in the suttas requires far, far too much convolution of the language to be convincing, and ignoring far, far too much that is quite literal in its statements.
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: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:34 am

James the Giant wrote:
How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?


Nichiren Buddhists strip the Buddhas' teachings right back to one single line of the Lotus Sutra where it says something like "if a person even says one word of the Lotus Sutra, they are destined to attain Buddhahood."

No Four Noble Truths, no Eight-fold Path, no precepts, no meditation, no nuthin'. Just chanting Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo. (The title of the Lotus Sutra)
Okay, there is more, but it all comes down to chanting really.

For any number of reasons, one being the Lotus Sutra itself, it very hard to take that at all seriously in the context of early Buddhist history. Nichiren, a very difficult character in Buddhist history, represents a very late understanding of things within a very specific cultural milieu and within a very specific sectarian point of view that is completely foreign to what one finds within the Pali texts.
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: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby James the Giant » Wed Oct 28, 2009 8:41 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
James the Giant wrote:
How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?


Nichiren Buddhists strip the Buddhas' teachings right back to one single line of the Lotus Sutra where it says something like "if a person even says one word of the Lotus Sutra, they are destined to attain Buddhahood."

No Four Noble Truths, no Eight-fold Path, no precepts, no meditation, no nuthin'. Just chanting Nam Myo Ho Renge Kyo. (The title of the Lotus Sutra)
Okay, there is more, but it all comes down to chanting really.


I doubt that.

Often, for most traditional Buddhist schools, it is not a case of "stripping" away much at all, as in keeping some parts but discarding others.

Rather, for most traditional Buddhist schools, it is about developing a heirarchy of teachings, and establishing some as more definitive (nitartha) over others which are implicit (neyartha). Then, they would argue that placing the implicit interpretation above the explicit statements, is a gross mistake. Still, they retain the implicit, and do not abandon it, or claim it to be false, or not Dharma.

Yeah thanks for correcting me, you're quite right of course. From an outsider's perspective it just looks like they have abandoned the rest of the Dhamma. I should also have limited my comments to just Soka Gakkai International too, not Nichiren Buddhism in general.
Then,
saturated with joy,
you will put an end to suffering and stress.
SN 9.11
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby nowheat » Wed Oct 28, 2009 9:40 am

TheDhamma wrote:
catmoon wrote:I know of some people who have gone all the way back to the 4NT and 8FP and rejected everything that came after. Their version of Buddhism has no rebirth, no karma, no tantra work, no prayers, rituals or statuary. Unfortunately they are kind of tactless which has resulted in them being kicked off almost every respectable Buddhist board.


Well, that would mean they really didn't understand the 4NT & 8FP. Because the 4NT & 8FP includes samma-ditthi, Right Understanding, which includes rebirth, anatta, anicca, etc. and those other things that they "rejected."

Though they (I) might turn around and say that from the perspective of one who sees the consistency of the Buddha's teaching in the 4NT and 8FP and has evidence from the suttas that the Buddha did not teach Right Understanding as including rebirth, those who believe karma and rebirth are part of the path don't really understand the 4NT and 8FP.

Sure, all of the dhamma is contained in the 4NT and the 8FP. All of the dhamma is contained in the Three Marks of Existence. That's because if you really understand any one of those things, all the rest follow from it. It's one truth, the dhamma is. Once you see it, you see it all.

Sorry if I am being tactless in baldly stating my perspective. :namaste:
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