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Dhamma Wheel • View topic - Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation

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

Postby Jechbi » Tue Oct 27, 2009 3:43 pm

zavk wrote:I really applaud his arguments about the need for critical self-reflexivity, and I think this applies to all of us, irregardless of the tradition we identify with.

Right. That's why I applauded your comment.
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby Jechbi » Tue Oct 27, 2009 4:02 pm

pink_trike wrote:This, imo, shows a large misunderstanding regarding how myths were carefully constructed to include a mythic surface layer that reflected literal objective truths stored in discreet folders and underlays within the myth...the mythic layer being a _precise_ symbolic representation of actual events and theoretical conclusions, but told in a way that would most efficiently imprint on the collective consciousness for passage forward into future generations over vast stretches of time. This architectural function begins to fail at some point along the trajectory forward as people begin to forget that there is an underlay and the surface becomes a distorted broken version of the original message as the symbolic begins to be taken as literal truth.

This is a really cool idea, but for me it raises the question of when those "actual events" occurred (long before Gotama's time?), what those event were (precisely), and who was there at that time to record them precisely and encode them in symbolism for us. Probably impossible to answer.

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tiltbillings wrote:It is commentaries all around. Can't get away from them.

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

Postby Modus.Ponens » Tue Oct 27, 2009 4:47 pm

Dugu wrote:I agree with Ajahn Sujato. That's why I only study the Sutta Pitaka.


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

Postby Individual » Tue Oct 27, 2009 6:30 pm

pink_trike wrote:In one sense the debate boils down to "who owns Buddhism?"

But since no "who" can be found, the question of "ownership" is trivial.
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby Dugu » Wed Oct 28, 2009 12:35 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Dugu,
Dugu wrote: I believe the Sutta Pitaka already has everything you need to lead a holy life and reach Enlightenment.

Yes, but I was also talking about the Commentary to those Suttas. To be consistent I presume you ignore the commentary of Ajahn Sujato and other modern teachers?

Metta
Mike


I was strictly referring to Abhidhamma. There is one wisdom that the Buddha taught was not to pursue things that isn't conducive to the holy life such as when some disciples want to know whether the universe is eternal or not eternal, whether there is a god or not, etc... the Buddha refuse to answer these questions because it is not going to help them to be liberated. And I believe the Buddha has already taught all we need to know to follow the path in the Sutta Pitaka and we should focus on following the path than indulge more on understanding the nature of reality which can be a hinderance to your practice if you are not careful. Not to say it can't help, you may gain some extra insights from studying Abhidhamma but it really isn't necessary. That's all I am saying. :)
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby pink_trike » Wed Oct 28, 2009 2:50 am

Jechbi wrote:This is a really cool idea, but for me it raises the question of when those "actual events" occurred (long before Gotama's time?), what those event were (precisely), and who was there at that time to record them precisely and encode them in symbolism for us. Probably impossible to answer.

Not impossible, but certainly difficult to address at any intelligent level of discourse within what has become a closed system that has a prevailing standard of "Buddha said it, I believe it".
Last edited by pink_trike on Wed Oct 28, 2009 3:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Oct 28, 2009 3:10 am

Greetings,

Some recent interesting (yet off-topic) posts have been split into a new topic...

How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=2568

Thanks.

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)


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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 tiltbillings » Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:01 am

Dugu wrote: I was strictly referring to Abhidhamma. There is one wisdom that the Buddha taught was not to pursue things that isn't conducive to the holy life such as when some disciples want to know whether the universe is eternal or not eternal, whether there is a god or not, etc... the Buddha refuse to answer these questions because it is not going to help them to be liberated. And I believe the Buddha has already taught all we need to know to follow the path in the Sutta Pitaka and we should focus on following the path than indulge more on understanding the nature of reality which can be a hinderance to your practice if you are not careful. Not to say it can't help, you may gain some extra insights from studying Abhidhamma but it really isn't necessary. That's all I am saying.

And you are saying all this based upon a careful study and practice of the actual Abhidhamma Pitaka texts?
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:07 am

Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:And you are saying all this based upon a careful study and practice of the actual Abhidhamma Pitaka texts?


Wouldn't the instruction of the Simsapa Sutta, in conjunction with observations such as that made by Ajahn Sujato regarding the Abhidhamma Pitaka be sufficient basis for Dugu's comments (whether or not one chooses to agree with them, or their underlying assumptions)?

To extend the analogy, would someone need to undertake a careful study and practice of the actual Mahayana texts in order to decide they were not essential for enlightenment? If so, why?

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 tiltbillings » Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:18 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:And you are saying all this based upon a careful study and practice of the actual Abhidhamma Pitaka texts?


Wouldn't the instruction of the Simsapa Sutta, in conjunction with observations such as that made by Ajahn Sujato regarding the Abhidhamma Pitaka be sufficient basis for Dugu's comments (whether or not one chooses to agree with them, or their underlying assumptions)?

I see people dismissing the Abhidhamma Pitaka texts without really knowing what is in them or how they function. As for Ajahn Sujato, he is an interesting guy, but why dismiss something out of hand based upon what someone else says? As for the Simpasa Sutta, how is it the the Abhidhamma Pitaka texts (and here I am NOT talking about later Abhidhamma expositions) step outside what the Buddha taught as being necessary for awakening?

To extend the analogy, would someone need to undertake a careful study and practice of the actual Mahayana texts in order to decide they were not essential for enlightenment? If so, why?

If you have no idea what is in them, how would you know?
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"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 retrofuturist » Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:28 am

Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:As for the Simpasa Sutta, how is it the the Abhidhamma Pitaka texts (and here I am NOT talking about later Abhidhamma expositions) step outside what the Buddha taught as being necessary for awakening?


I could not add anything new and relevant which has not already been covered in the Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate, regarding whether it is classifiable under "those things that I have known with direct knowledge but have not taught".

tiltbillings wrote:
To extend the analogy, would someone need to undertake a careful study and practice of the actual Mahayana texts in order to decide they were not essential for enlightenment? If so, why?

If you have no idea what is in them, how would you know?


You would know, because the Buddha and the Arahants did not use them. Note the difference between "not essential for enlightenment" and "not conducive to enlightenment". You can logically say something is "not essential for enlightenment" without having a clue about whether or not it is "conducive to enlightenment". Hence, why I thought your interrogation of Dugu's comment was not particularly well targeted in terms of its logic.

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 mikenz66 » Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:45 am

Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:Wouldn't the instruction of the Simsapa Sutta, in conjunction with observations such as that made by Ajahn Sujato regarding the Abhidhamma Pitaka be sufficient basis for Dugu's comments ...

Since this is, after all, a Theravada Forum, it might be reasonable to consider going beyond the "lowest common denominator" approach advocated by Ajahn Sujato and at least consider the logically consistent position that that the Theravada Tipitika and Commentaries are accurate and those of the other sects are not.

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

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:50 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:As for the Simpasa Sutta, how is it the the Abhidhamma Pitaka texts (and here I am NOT talking about later Abhidhamma expositions) step outside what the Buddha taught as being necessary for awakening?


I could not add anything new and relevant which has not already been covered in the Abhidhamma Pitaka authenticity debate, regarding whether it is classifiable under "those things that I have known with direct knowledge but have not taught".

I have not been following that thread, so I have no idea what arguments have been made there. I have no problem with accepting the idea that the Buddha did not teach the texts in the Abhidhamma Pitaka, but that deoes not mean that what is containted in those texts runs counter to the teachings of the Buddha either in letter or spirit.

tiltbillings wrote:
To extend the analogy, would someone need to undertake a careful study and practice of the actual Mahayana texts in order to decide they were not essential for enlightenment? If so, why?

If you have no idea what is in them, how would you know?

You would know, because the Buddha and the Arahants did not use them. Note the difference between "not essential for enlightenment" and "not conducive to enlightenment".

What is essential for awakeing? Is every sutta in the Sutta Pitaka an essential necessity for awakeing? Could what is essential be recast in a way that is skifulfull and appropriate to the situation?

There are reasaons to not accept the Mahayana sutras as Buddha-word, but I do not find it very meaningful to do so without some idea of what one might find in them. I do not find it at all appropriate to dismiss the Abhidhamma Pitaka texts without a clue as to what they say and how they are to be used.

You can logically say something is "not essential for enlightenment" without having a clue about whether or not it is "conducive to enlightenment".

If one has not a clue as to what is actually contained within a text, then there is no basis to say it is not essential for awakening.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"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 tiltbillings » Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:51 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Retro,
retrofuturist wrote:Wouldn't the instruction of the Simsapa Sutta, in conjunction with observations such as that made by Ajahn Sujato regarding the Abhidhamma Pitaka be sufficient basis for Dugu's comments ...

Since this is, after all, a Theravada Forum, it might be reasonable to consider going beyond the "lowest common denominator" approach advocated by Ajahn Sujato and at least consider the logically consistent position that that the Theravada Tipitika and Commentaries are accurate and those of the other sects are not.

How would you know that?
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"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 retrofuturist » Wed Oct 28, 2009 4:58 am

Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:You can logically say something is "not essential for enlightenment" without having a clue about whether or not it is "conducive to enlightenment".

If one has not a clue as to what is actually contained within a text, then there is no basis to say it is not essential for awakening.


That depends on what "it" is... the text itself or the wisdom obtainable from the text? I was talking of the text itself, as I assume Dugu was.

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 tiltbillings » Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:19 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,

tiltbillings wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:You can logically say something is "not essential for enlightenment" without having a clue about whether or not it is "conducive to enlightenment".

If one has not a clue as to what is actually contained within a text, then there is no basis to say it is not essential for awakening.


That depends on what "it" is... the text itself or the wisdom obtainable from the text? I was talking of the text itself, as I assume Dugu was.

The text as the container of what might or might not be essential, but if you do not know what is in the text, how do you know?

We take on faith that something is essential to awakening until we awaken, then we know, but my point is that dismissing the Abhidhamma Pitaka texts without knowing what is in them might not be the wisest thing to do.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"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 retrofuturist » Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:29 am

Greetings Tilt,

Sure... but the focus of Ajahn Sujato's article is not on what is conducive to enlightenment (a worthwhile subject in itself, yes, but not this one), but on identifying what the Buddha taught and did not teach, and the role that myths in Buddhist history have played in obfuscating the two.

Ajahn Sujato wrote:All of these are myths, and do not deserve serious consideration as explanations of historical truth. Their purpose, as myths, is not to elucidate facts, but to authorize religious convictions.


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 Paññāsikhara » Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:42 am

retrofuturist wrote:You would know, because the Buddha and the Arahants did not use them.


Well, if we take this line of approach, the Buddha' didn't even "use" the suttas or the vinaya, either.
And there were quite a few Arhats before the vinaya appeared.
In fact, the first five Arhats only heard one or two suttas before their awakening.

Can we thus argue that the vast majority, if not all, of the suttas, along with the vinaya, are dispensible too?

Obviously not, nor do I mean that this is what you are saying. However, taking certain lines of logical thought to their natural conclusions, can often lead to results that are rather over the top.

Moreover, unless one assumes that the only "arhats" in existence, are those in the Suttas, there probably have been more than a few Arhats over the centuries that did in fact use the Abhidhamma, and commenatarial material, etc. too.

Moreover, with respect to the Simsapa Sutta notion of dhamma that is not taught, there is also a flip-side of dhammas that were taught but are no longer extant: One can also argue that not all of the Buddha's teachings are included in the Sutta and Vinaya Pitakas, either. I'd say that he would have taught a huge amount of basic Dhamma to large groups of lay persons, that is, somewhat surprisingly, not to be found in the Sutta pitaka. So, what happened to a large number of these teachings? Well, they are preserved, though perhaps in a somewhat different form, in latter texts, such as the Jatakas, Avadanas, etc. Now, this is basically just material that was compiled at the same time as the Abhidhamma, and early parts of the commentaries too. Do we then throw all that out as well? Without even looking at it?
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby tiltbillings » Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:45 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings Tilt,

Sure... but the focus of Ajahn Sujato's article is not on what is conducive to enlightenment (a worthwhile subject in itself, yes, but not this one), but on identifying what the Buddha taught and did not teach, and the role that myths in Buddhist history have played in obfuscating the two.

I know, but I was responding to a very specific comment that characertized the Abhidhamma in a way that suggested not really knowing what was in the actual texts:
Dugu wrote: I was strictly referring to Abhidhamma. There is one wisdom that the Buddha taught was not to pursue things that isn't conducive to the holy life such as when some disciples want to know whether the universe is eternal or not eternal, whether there is a god or not, etc... the Buddha refuse to answer these questions because it is not going to help them to be liberated. And I believe the Buddha has already taught all we need to know to follow the path in the Sutta Pitaka and we should focus on following the path than indulge more on understanding the nature of reality which can be a hinderance to your practice if you are not careful. Not to say it can't help, you may gain some extra insights from studying Abhidhamma but it really isn't necessary. That's all I am saying.
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.

dheamhan a fhios agam

"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 mikenz66 » Wed Oct 28, 2009 6:02 am

Hi Tilt,
tiltbillings wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Since this is, after all, a Theravada Forum, it might be reasonable to consider going beyond the "lowest common denominator" approach advocated by Ajahn Sujato and at least consider the logically consistent position that that the Theravada Tipitika and Commentaries are accurate and those of the other sects are not.

How would you know that?

Sorry, perhaps I wasn't clear. Let me re-phrase it:
"It is logically possible that the Theravada Commentaries are correct, and the other sects are wrong. This is, of course, the view of the Theravada Tradition..."

Ajahn Sujuato and his ilk are using the working assumption that:
"The correct things are those which everyone agrees on".

This is a useful way to analyse the data, but does not necessarily lead to the "correct" conclusion. Obviously one could quote historical examples in science and other areas where the majority turned out to be wrong.

Mike
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