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

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

Postby catmoon » Wed Oct 28, 2009 11:20 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.



Yes. In one discussion someone pointed out a reference to rebirth occurring after the breakup of the body, the argument was denied, and the passage interpreted to mean quite the opposite. That's the point at which I gave up on excluding rebirth doctrine as logically just too much of a stretch. It just seems impossible to me that Buddha was not teaching literal rebirth.

Nonetheless that discussion did end up concluding the rebirth was not essential to Buddhism. People like the Soto Zen folks have apparently been getting along without it for quite some time. Strangely, Bhikku Bodhi was quoted in support of non-essentiality.
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby Vardali » Wed Oct 28, 2009 5:43 pm

catmoon wrote:...
Nonetheless that discussion did end up concluding the rebirth was not essential to Buddhism. People like the Soto Zen folks have apparently been getting along without it for quite some time. Strangely, Bhikku Bodhi was quoted in support of non-essentiality.

I am not versed enough yet in the teachings to have a definite understanding but considering that the Buddha was - as a religious source - talking in a set historical context where rebirth was culturally seen as "given" (in Hinduism), I cannot not rule out that he was speaking more in a cultural context than formulating a "technical requirement" on the path to enlightenment. At least, I have not yet found a reference or explanation that indicates it's necessity to my poor understanding.

However, as the whole rebirth discussion still confuzzles me, I am very interested to understand by what line of argument it is deemed essential (or reversely, non-essential). Would there be any link to the aforementioned discussion you could provide me with (assuming it is not the big rebirth debate, as it seems to focus on the "literalism", not on the "essentialism"). I feel I have already searched for most of the rebirth links here but had not realized that lines of arguments.

Thanks :)

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

Postby pegembara » Thu Oct 29, 2009 3:35 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.



"In any doctrine & discipline where the noble eightfold path is not found, no contemplative of the first... second... third... fourth order [stream-winner, once-returner, non-returner, or arahant] is found. But in any doctrine & discipline where the noble eightfold path is found, contemplatives of the first... second... third... fourth order are found. The noble eightfold path is found in this doctrine & discipline, and right here there are contemplatives of the first... second... third... fourth order. Other teachings are empty of knowledgeable contemplatives. And if the monks dwell rightly, this world will not be empty of arahants."

Maha-parinibbana Sutta



"In the same way I saw an ancient path, an ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times. And what is that ancient path, that ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times? Just this noble eightfold path: right view, right aspiration, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration. That is the ancient path, the ancient road, traveled by the Rightly Self-awakened Ones of former times. I followed that path. Following it, I came to direct knowledge of aging & death, direct knowledge of the origination of aging & death, direct knowledge of the cessation of aging & death, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of aging & death. I followed that path. Following it, I came to direct knowledge of birth... becoming... clinging... craving... feeling... contact... the six sense media... name-&-form... consciousness, direct knowledge of the origination of consciousness, direct knowledge of the cessation of consciousness, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of consciousness. I followed that path.

"Following it, I came to direct knowledge of fabrications, direct knowledge of the origination of fabrications, direct knowledge of the cessation of fabrications, direct knowledge of the path leading to the cessation of fabrications. Knowing that directly, I have revealed it to monks, nuns, male lay followers & female lay followers, so that this holy life has become powerful, rich, detailed, well-populated, wide-spread, proclaimed among celestial & human beings."

Nagara Sutta: The City

Fabrications = all types of mental habits, thoughts, ideas(self/nonself), opinions(rebirth/no rebirth), prejudices, compulsions, and decisions triggered by an object ie. mental concepts
Last edited by pegembara on Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:08 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby BlackBird » Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:04 am

Hi all

This article might be worth a look in, as it pertains to the topics being discussed here:

A critique of "Buddhism with out Beliefs" by Stephen Batchelor - By Ven. Bhikkhu Punnadhammo
http://www.martinebatchelor.org/punnadhammo.htm
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby Paññāsikhara » Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:15 am

BlackBird wrote:Hi all

This article might be worth a look in, as it pertains to the topics being discussed here:

A critique of "Buddhism with out Beliefs" by Stephen Batchelor - By Ven. Bhikkhu Punnadhammo
http://www.martinebatchelor.org/punnadhammo.htm


Pretty scorching conclusion to that critique:

There is an urgent need to interpret and present these teachings to the
modern west. This "Buddhism Without Beliefs" has sorely failed to do. The
prescription of this book amounts to an abandonment of the traditional
Dharma and the transformation of Buddhism into a psychotherapy, which like
all psychotherapies, has no goal higher than "ordinary misery." This is a
Buddhism without fruition, without a Third Noble Truth.
Should such teachings prevail then they will still validate the tradition
in a backhanded way; because they will fulfill the prophecies of the
degeneration of the Dharma in this age of decline.
My recently moved Blog, containing some of my writings on the Buddha Dhamma, as well as a number of translations from classical Buddhist texts and modern authors, liturgy, etc.: Huifeng's Prajnacara Blog.
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:20 am

Paññāsikhara wrote:
BlackBird wrote:Hi all

This article might be worth a look in, as it pertains to the topics being discussed here:

A critique of "Buddhism with out Beliefs" by Stephen Batchelor - By Ven. Bhikkhu Punnadhammo
http://www.martinebatchelor.org/punnadhammo.htm


Pretty scorching conclusion to that critique: . . .

Maybe so; however, Batchelor has interesting and provocative things to say and is worth reading or listening to.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

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People live in one another’s shelter.

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

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:36 am

Here's a critique by Bhikkhu Bodhi for the BB fans...

http://www.buddhistethics.org/5/batch1.htm

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

Postby pink_trike » Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:45 am

BlackBird wrote:Hi all

This article might be worth a look in, as it pertains to the topics being discussed here:

A critique of "Buddhism with out Beliefs" by Stephen Batchelor - By Ven. Bhikkhu Punnadhammo
http://www.martinebatchelor.org/punnadhammo.htm


I'm not a fan of Stephen's. I've read some very intelligent, interesting, challenging, and thoughtful critiques of Buddhism without Beliefs, but this one makes my lip curl. If Ven. Bhikkhu Punnadhammo tried some of those moves in a group process environment nobody would let him get away with it. Too slippery and subtly condescending for my taste. I'm reminded of the hyper-gentlemanly Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. who all speak from the same script nearly word for word, parroting position statements with calculated talking points that evade the real issues and points of difference, slipping in subtle exaggerations, subtle pity from an equally subtle position of purity, and innocent amazement...like snakes in butterfly clothing, with seething anger and irrationality just below the surface.

Drop all the superiority and passive-aggressive undermining and then there can be a real meeting of minds.
Last edited by pink_trike on Thu Oct 29, 2009 5:49 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby Dan74 » Thu Oct 29, 2009 4:55 am

It's been said already, but the Dhamma can be stripped back to the bare minimum, of course. It just won't be enough for most of us.
For some very little has sufficed.

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

Postby zavk » Thu Oct 29, 2009 5:18 am

To play devil's advocate... 'stripping back' suggests that we are harkening back to a more 'pristine', more 'authentic', more 'essential' Buddhism. But what if what we are doing in contemporary times--reading and rereading, translating and retranslating, etc, etc--is not so much a 'stripping back' but a 'giving shape to', a kind of crafting?

I just posted this in the other thread on New Age/Western Buddhism:

I mentioned a recent book called The Making of Buddhist Modernism. From the publisher website: http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/s ... 0195183276

A great deal of Buddhist literature and scholarly writing about Buddhism of the past 150 years reflects, and indeed constructs, a historically unique modern Buddhism, even while purporting to represent ancient tradition, timeless teaching, or the "essentials" of Buddhism. This literature, Asian as well as Western, weaves together the strands of different traditions to create a novel hybrid that brings Buddhism into alignment with many of the ideologies and sensibilities of the post-Enlightenment West.

In this book, David McMahan charts the development of this "Buddhist modernism." McMahan examines and analyzes a wide range of popular and scholarly writings produced by Buddhists around the globe. He focuses on ideological and imaginative encounters between Buddhism and modernity, for example in the realms of science, mythology, literature, art, psychology, and religious pluralism. He shows how certain themes cut across cultural and geographical contexts, and how this form of Buddhism has been created by multiple agents in a variety of times and places. His position is critical but empathetic: while he presents Buddhist modernism as a construction of numerous parties with varying interests, he does not reduce it to a mistake, a misrepresentation, or fabrication. Rather, he presents it as a complex historical process constituted by a variety of responses -- sometimes trivial, often profound -- to some of the most important concerns of the modern era.



McMahan's work demonstrates that we cannot easily 'strip back' two and half thousand years of Buddhism to uncover the most 'pristine' version. Rather, contemporary (Western) Buddhism emerges out of the interplay of various social, cultural, and historical processes--not unlike how we understand the 'self' as shaped by various aggregates. We do not 'strip back' the aggregates to discover an essence, but rather learn to relate to the aggregates in such a way that we come to see them 'as they really are' and thereby relate to them in such a way that the interplay of the aggregates gives shape to Awakening. In this regard, any attempt at 'stripping back' is always already enabled by the 'shaping' processes of culture and history that we are constituted by.
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby pink_trike » Thu Oct 29, 2009 5:47 am

zavk wrote:McMahan's work demonstrates that we cannot easily 'strip back' two and half thousand years of Buddhism to uncover the most 'pristine' version. Rather, contemporary (Western) Buddhism emerges out of the interplay of various social, cultural, and historical processes--not unlike how we understand the 'self' as shaped by various aggregates. In this regard, any attempt at 'stripping back' is always already enabled by the 'shaping' processes of culture and history that we are constituted by.

This would be equally true for those who protect what is imagined to be "traditional" Buddhism...what is actually being protected is a very modern view of "traditional Buddhism" that emerges from the "'shaping' processes of culture and history that we are constituted by". Neither side has truly solid ground.
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Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

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

Postby pink_trike » Thu Oct 29, 2009 6:17 am

mikenz66 wrote:Here's a critique by Bhikkhu Bodhi for the BB fans...

http://www.buddhistethics.org/5/batch1.htm

Mike

Interesting...same circular, closed debate style but much better explained and more directly.

I find this to be a bit odd:

For the Buddha and Buddhist tradition, dukkha really means the suffering of repeated becoming in the round of rebirths, and thus, once one dismisses the idea of rebirth, the Four Truths lose their depth and scope.


I've seen many arguments that stitch literal rebirth to various concepts but I've never seen such a blatant attempt to stitch literal rebirth to "dukkha" . Quite a broad leap. I'm not saying it is or ain't accurate, but broad leaps are kind of sloppy.
Vision is Mind
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Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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

Postby mikenz66 » Thu Oct 29, 2009 7:38 am

Hi PT,

It doesn't seem so odd if you quote the summary of Batchelor's view:
To lift the four Noble Truths out of their original context, shared by the Buddha and his auditors, and transpose them to a purely secular one is to alter their meaning in crucial ways, as Batchelor does when he interprets the first truth as "existential anguish." For the Buddha and Buddhist tradition, dukkha really means the suffering of repeated becoming in the round of rebirths, and thus, once one dismisses the idea of rebirth, the Four Truths lose their depth and scope.

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

Postby catmoon » Thu Oct 29, 2009 12:25 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Here's a critique by Bhikkhu Bodhi for the BB fans...

http://www.buddhistethics.org/5/batch1.htm

Mike



Merciful heavens that man can think and write! Go BB Go! :woohoo:


Yeah, I'm a fan.

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

Postby pink_trike » Thu Oct 29, 2009 5:22 pm

catmoon wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Here's a critique by Bhikkhu Bodhi for the BB fans...

http://www.buddhistethics.org/5/batch1.htm

Mike



Merciful heavens that man can think and write! Go BB Go! :woohoo:


Yeah, I'm a fan.

:clap:

The argument that faith in unknowables is justified because it is traditional doesn't strike me as very deep thinking. This is what his "argument" boils down to...and looks more like a game than critical thinking. So does the Pope's. It's just a closed parroted loop. I don't have the slightest idea whether literal rebirth is true or not, but a closed looping "logic" that is justified on the basis that someone else said it previously doesn't impress me.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
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Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

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

Postby pink_trike » Thu Oct 29, 2009 5:56 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi PT,

It doesn't seem so odd if you quote the summary of Batchelor's view:
To lift the four Noble Truths out of their original context, shared by the Buddha and his auditors, and transpose them to a purely secular one is to alter their meaning in crucial ways, as Batchelor does when he interprets the first truth as "existential anguish." For the Buddha and Buddhist tradition, dukkha really means the suffering of repeated becoming in the round of rebirths, and thus, once one dismisses the idea of rebirth, the Four Truths lose their depth and scope.

Mike

I find it odd and sloppy logic either way. 500 years of oral tradition and then 21,000 pages of commentary, all piled onto that one word that doesn't have the extended meaning at the root that he asserts as the meaning of the word - there's a disconnect there that requires, imo, a less casual and large, extended assertion re: the meaning of dukkha. Extending the meaning of a word to support a traditional interpretation of the 21,000 pages of commentary and then justifying doing so on the basis of a traditional interpretation of the 21,000 pages of commentary isn't good clean logic...it is a circle of deception...psuedo logic. It strikes me as revisionism that is only supported by a mountain of faith that it "really means" suffering caused by literal rebirth because someone is believed to have said it previously before the 500 years of oral tradition and 21,000 pages of commentary existed. That's quite a load to put on one word. Setting aside any discussion of whether literal rebirth is true or not, Batchelor's definition of dukkha is much cleaner and closer to the root meaning, imo...with considerably less reification.
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Clear Light is Union
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby catmoon » Thu Oct 29, 2009 6:04 pm

pink_trike wrote:
catmoon wrote:
mikenz66 wrote:Here's a critique by Bhikkhu Bodhi for the BB fans...

http://www.buddhistethics.org/5/batch1.htm

Mike



Merciful heavens that man can think and write! Go BB Go! :woohoo:


Yeah, I'm a fan.

:clap:

The argument that faith in unknowables is justified because it is traditional doesn't strike me as very deep thinking. This is what his "argument" boils down to...and looks more like a game than critical thinking. So does the Pope's. It's just a closed parroted loop. I don't have the slightest idea whether literal rebirth is true or not, but a closed looping "logic" that is justified on the basis that someone else said it previously doesn't impress me.


I just reread it. I see no such argument as you mention. BB does not look to tradition for support, but clearly he does look to practical benefits of traditional practices, in order to justify them.
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Oct 29, 2009 7:38 pm

Well said Catmoon. Its a strange world where things traditional have to be defended on a THERAVADA forum. Knee jerk anti traditionalism is as much a dead end as fossilised formalism. No one is forced to consider the claims of the Way Of The Elders, considering those claims is an entirely free choice, and those claims are best judged by their fruits. And the fruit is Ajahn Mun, Ajahn Lee, Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho, Bhikku Bodhi, Ajahn Brahm, Ajahn Munindo etc etc.
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby pink_trike » Thu Oct 29, 2009 8:09 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Well said Catmoon. Its a strange world where things traditional have to be defended on a THERAVADA forum. Knee jerk anti traditionalism is as much a dead end as fossilised formalism. No one is forced to consider the claims of the Way Of The Elders, considering those claims is an entirely free choice, and those claims are best judged by their fruits. And the fruit is Ajahn Mun, Ajahn Lee, Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho, Bhikku Bodhi, Ajahn Brahm, Ajahn Munindo etc etc.

The term "knee-jerk" is insulting and patronizing...it assumes that any questions re: traditional logic patterns are reactionary and not thoughtful. It is designed to shut down dialog...to silence and terminate questions.

Why should any belief be free of needing to substantiate the tradition that the belief is built upon with something other than the belief itself? Tradition can be used to support the belief that Santa Claus crawls down chimneys and travels in a flying sleigh. "I know this is true because those who came before me believed it" isn't enough to substantiate a belief. It is just a closed circular reification of belief. To suggest that tradition is defense enough of belief without substantiating tradition is reified anti-intellectualism. All closed systems corrupt themselves with reification. Logic raises the bar. Mature people test their beliefs by attempting to prove their substance by means other than the belief itself. This is the message, imo, that is at the heart of the Dharma.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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

Postby tiltbillings » Thu Oct 29, 2009 8:13 pm

Please keep the conversation more or less civil.
This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond.
SN I, 38.

Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireas na daoine.
People live in one another’s shelter.

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