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

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

Postby Sanghamitta » Thu Oct 29, 2009 8:42 pm

While fundmentally disagreeing with not just your arguments Pink Trike but with your entire approach to Dhamma, I would defend your right to express those beliefs. I would however suggest that you read through your posts of the last day or so, you have been very busy on the forum, and I would suggest that it would be possible to read in your posts a lot of frustration , even anger. This is a Theravada forum, you and anyone else are of course free to post your views which differ from mainstream Theravadin views, but dont be surprised if they provoke a response which is (hopefully ) considered, but takes a diametrically opposed view to yours over a number of utterly fundamental issues..I do not disgree with your views because I have not considered what they represent, because over the years I have , and have reached very different conclusions to yours.
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby pink_trike » Thu Oct 29, 2009 8:47 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:I would however suggest that you read through your posts of the last day or so, you have been very busy on the forum, and I would suggest that it would be possible to read in your posts a lot of frustration , even anger.


I'm very familiar with this response...it is usually the first line of defense whenever I suggest that belief is not enough to support belief. No, there's no anger or frustration...just a a lot of respect for critical examination of how we believe what we believe, rather than giving belief a free pass. Take care... :smile:
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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 mikenz66 » Thu Oct 29, 2009 8:57 pm

Hi Pink Trike,
pink_trike wrote: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. ...

Perhaps that sentence in the review is sloppy, and it seems pointless to worry about that, but I think that what Bhikkhu Bodhi is trying to get at is that some the Buddha's teachings place us as a small speck in cosmic time and space and that Batchelor's approach ignores the potential value for some practitioners of having a more expansive view of how big a problem (and how much dukkha) we may be facing.

Of courses, this is elaborated in other places:
http://downloads.wisdompubs.org/website ... review.pdf
Moreover, the process is not only beginningless but is also potentially
endless. As long as ignorance and craving remain intact, the
process will continue indefinitely into the future with no end in sight.
For the Buddha and Early Buddhism, this is above all the defining crisis
at the heart of the human condition: we are bound to a chain of
rebirths, and bound to it by nothing other than our own ignorance and
craving. The pointless wandering on in samsara occurs against a cosmic
background of inconceivably vast dimensions. The period of time
that it takes for a world system to evolve, reach its phase of maximum
expansion, contract, and then disintegrate is called a kappa (Skt: kalpa),
an eon. Text I,4(3) offers a vivid simile to suggest the eon’s duration;
Text I,4(4), another vivid simile to illustrate the incalculable number of
the eons through which we have wandered.

The Suttas he is referring to are some of these:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .html#sn15
“Monks, this samsara is without discoverable beginning. A first point
is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by
ignorance and fettered by craving...

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

Postby pink_trike » Thu Oct 29, 2009 9:14 pm

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Pink Trike,
pink_trike wrote: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. ...

Perhaps that sentence in the review is sloppy, and it seems pointless to worry about that, but I think that what Bhikkhu Bodhi is trying to get at is that some the Buddha's teachings place us as a small speck in cosmic time and space and that Batchelor's approach ignores the potential value for some practitioners of having a more expansive view of how big a problem (and how much dukkha) we may be facing.

Of courses, this is elaborated in other places:
http://downloads.wisdompubs.org/website ... review.pdf
Moreover, the process is not only beginningless but is also potentially
endless. As long as ignorance and craving remain intact, the
process will continue indefinitely into the future with no end in sight.
For the Buddha and Early Buddhism, this is above all the defining crisis
at the heart of the human condition: we are bound to a chain of
rebirths, and bound to it by nothing other than our own ignorance and
craving. The pointless wandering on in samsara occurs against a cosmic
background of inconceivably vast dimensions. The period of time
that it takes for a world system to evolve, reach its phase of maximum
expansion, contract, and then disintegrate is called a kappa (Skt: kalpa),
an eon. Text I,4(3) offers a vivid simile to suggest the eon’s duration;
Text I,4(4), another vivid simile to illustrate the incalculable number of
the eons through which we have wandered.

The Suttas he is referring to are some of these:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .html#sn15
“Monks, this samsara is without discoverable beginning. A first point
is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by
ignorance and fettered by craving...

Mike

HI Mike,

I understand very well the highly refined logic path that is employed to place literal rebirth at the center of Buddhism. I'm just pointing out that it is a circular logic that seems seamless to some people and seems unsophisticated and impotent to others. Both the reviewers used this circular logic, and one used it to rather largely expand the definition of a key word in the 4NT. My point was just that I don't find either of these reviews to be very well-considered...they both were reaching pretty hard.I doubt there is a logic professor anywhere in the world that would let their logic path pass.
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 9:19 pm

mikenz66 wrote: Batchelor's approach ignores the potential value for some practitioners of having a more expansive view of how big a problem (and how much dukkha) we may be facing.

I am not sure Batchelor necessarily ignores the cosmic problem. What he is focusing on, which is legitimate, is what we do directly experience and know know right now. For most people rebirth is a belief, not a knowledge. As a belief it can be inspiring, but what can be even more motivating is the fact that at this moment, I hurt.
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 pink_trike » Thu Oct 29, 2009 11:45 pm

Motivation arises by practicing so that we can clearly and directly observe how we "become" and "die" in every micro moment of the mind stream - and how we unconsciously react to and are driven by this endless repetitious phenomenological process and the disquietude and angst that our habitual reactivity creates within us and outside of us that then ripples through our lives and corrupts everything that appears to us. This cycle of rebirth is knowable. Knowledge is freedom. Fancy hoola hoops not needed. :tongue:
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 Kare » Fri Oct 30, 2009 12:55 am

pink_trike wrote:Motivation arises by practicing so that we can clearly and directly observe how we "become" and "die" in every micro moment of the mind stream - and how we unconsciously react to and are driven by this endless repetitious phenomenological process and the disquietude and angst that our habitual reactivity creates within us and outside of us that then ripples through our lives and corrupts everything that appears to us. This cycle of rebirth is knowable. Knowledge is freedom. Fancy hoola hoops not needed. :tongue:


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

Postby jcsuperstar » Fri Oct 30, 2009 1:27 am

i got into this same argument with namdrol on ES like 5 or 6 years ago...

while i believe in literal rebirth, for me and for many people non literal rebirth is a better reason to practice than literal rebirth. i think its just people have different temperments.

some people are motivated to have insurence for things that may go wrong in the future and others are suffering so much now (or seeing so much suffering now) that they are more focused on what will help them now.

niether one is really better than the other if it gets you to really practice
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the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby pink_trike » Fri Oct 30, 2009 2:52 am

The practice is the same either way - the practice of unchaining from the constant cycle of becoming/dying within the mind stream/body/external environment is the very same as practicing the unchaining from a constant cycle of post-mortem literal rebirths.
Last edited by pink_trike on Fri Oct 30, 2009 5:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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 pink_trike » Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:37 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi Pink Trike,
...some the Buddha's teachings place us as a small speck in cosmic time and space and that Batchelor's approach ignores the potential value for some practitioners of having a more expansive view of how big a problem (and how much dukkha) we may be facing.

I'm not sure I agree that Batchelor's approach really ignores this - how would it even be possible when the whole of Dharma practice points at and reveals this small (but integral) speck in the vastness of space/time for what it is and isn't?
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 pegembara » Fri Oct 30, 2009 5:19 am

"And who is the person who, subject to death, is not afraid or in terror of death?

"There is the case of the person who has abandoned passion, desire, fondness, thirst, fever, and craving for sensuality. Then he comes down with a serious disease. As he comes down with a serious disease, the thought does not occur to him, 'O, those beloved sensual pleasures will be taken from me, and I will be taken from them!' He does not grieve, is not tormented; does not weep, beat his breast, or grow delirious. This is a person who, subject to death, is not afraid or in terror of death.

"Furthermore, there is the case of the person who has abandoned passion, desire, fondness, thirst, fever, and craving for the body. Then he comes down with a serious disease. As he comes down with a serious disease, the thought does not occur to him, 'O, my beloved body will be taken from me, and I will be taken from my body!' He does not grieve, is not tormented; does not weep, beat his breast, or grow delirious. This, too, is a person who, subject to death, is not afraid or in terror of death.

"Furthermore, there is the case of the person who has done what is good, has done what is skillful, has given protection to those in fear, and has not done what is evil, savage, or cruel. Then he comes down with a serious disease. As he comes down with a serious disease, the thought occurs to him, 'I have done what is good, have done what is skillful, have given protection to those in fear, and I have not done what is evil, savage, or cruel. To the extent that there is a destination for those who have done what is good, what is skillful, have given protection to those in fear, and have not done what is evil, savage, or cruel, that's where I'm headed after death.' He does not grieve, is not tormented; does not weep, beat his breast, or grow delirious. This, too, is a person who, subject to death, is not afraid or in terror of death.

"Furthermore, there is the case of the person who has no doubt or perplexity, who has arrived at certainty with regard to the True Dhamma. Then he comes down with a serious disease. As he comes down with a serious disease, the thought occurs to him, 'I have no doubt or perplexity. I have arrived at certainty with regard to the True Dhamma.' He does not grieve, is not tormented; does not weep, beat his breast, or grow delirious. This, too, is a person who, subject to death, is not afraid or in terror of death.

"These, brahman, are four people who, subject to death, are not afraid or in terror of death."

AN 4.184 PTS: A ii 173
Abhaya Sutta: Fearless
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
And what is right speech? Abstaining from lying, from divisive speech, from abusive speech, & from idle chatter: This is called right speech.
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby catmoon » Fri Oct 30, 2009 6:27 am

pink_trike wrote: 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.


All I can say is, reread the article. BB made no such argument, never used that fact that something is traditional to justify it. I believe you have misread, and that has caused you to place an argument in BB's mouth that BB would never even consider making.
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Re: Call to arms for reasoned & critical perspective on Buddhism

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Oct 30, 2009 8:59 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."

Quite so, and no amount of discussion whether sophisticated or not alters the truth of that statement, neither can any discussion no matter how sophisticated, (which could mean a well rehearsed and well oiled and circular arguement from any pov ) substitute for what happens on the cushion with qualified guidance in line with the teachings of the Suttas. We are more than logic or illogic. We can debate our preferences concerning the cultural presentation of the 4NT and 8FP until the cows come home. Meanwhile life is still characterised by Dukkha, Anatta And Anicca.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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

Postby Dan74 » Fri Oct 30, 2009 9:29 am

Suppose for a moment that the only sutta that has survived was Bahiya Sutta and the instructions:

"Herein, Bahiya, you should train yourself thus: 'In the seen will be merely what is seen; in the heard will be merely what is heard; in the sensed will be merely what is sensed; in the cognized will be merely what is cognized.' In this way you should train yourself, Bahiya.

"When, Bahiya, for you in the seen is merely what is seen... in the cognized is merely what is cognized, then, Bahiya, you will not be 'with that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'with that,' then, Bahiya, you will not be 'in that.' When, Bahiya, you are not 'in that,' then, Bahiya, you will be neither here nor beyond nor in between the two. Just this is the end of suffering."


Together with:

Where neither water nor yet earth
Nor fire nor air gain a foothold,
There gleam no stars, no sun sheds light,
There shines no moon, yet there no darkness reigns.

When a sage, a brahman, has come to know this
For himself through his own wisdom,
Then he is freed from form and formless.
Freed from pleasure and from pain.


This was enough to help Bahiya cross to the other shore. Is this not Dhamma? Is there something missing from it? Obviously not for Bahiya, there wasn't.

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

Postby vinasp » Fri Oct 30, 2009 1:05 pm

Hi everyone,

In my view this debate seems to be missing something. Theravada Buddhism is two things, it is a popular religion and also a path to liberation. When you ask "What can be rejected" what do you mean ? If you wish to reach enlightenment yourself, and are concentrating on the path to liberation, you may be able to reject all but a few essentials. However, it does not follow from this that Theravada Buddhism should be taught ( here in the West ) in such a way. We live in a society and we have to consider both what is in our own best interest and also what is best for the society in which we live.
The five nikaya's contain many different kinds of teachings, intended for different sorts of people. There are teachings for puthujjana lay followers, and also for ariya savaka lay followers. There are teachings for puthujjana monks and for monks who are ariya savakas. There can not be a teaching which is suitable for everyone.
So the original question needs to be split into two :
1. What can be rejected by someone seeking liberation in this life.
2. How should Theravada Buddhism be taught as a religion today, and should it include or exclude certain things ( for example : rebirth ).

Academics have been discussing for the last hundred years how religions function as "social control systems". Probably it was Weber who started the debate, by saying that heaven and hell were taught to lay people in order to make them behave themselves.
But what worked in the past will not always work today. People are better educated and the scientific world-view still dominates our culture. Those who are attempting to introduce Theravada Buddhism as a popular religion into our culture need to ask whether rebirth repels more people than it attracts.

Best wishes, Vincent.
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby PeterB » Fri Oct 30, 2009 1:43 pm

I dont think anyone is trying to introduce Theravada Buddhism as a popular Religion. Given the nature of popular preoccupations no form of Buddhism is going to appeal to more than a minority at anytime. That is not elitist, its just a recognition of the facts. Neither should be of any concern if the doctrine of Rebirth repels or attracts. The job of each generation is to understand Buddhist doctrine and to explain it to those interested. The Dhamma has looked after itself for 2500 years, it will continue to do so because it corresponds to that which is profoundly true and which can be verified by anyone who practices the range of meditative practises that Buddhism is the custodian of.
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby enkidu » Fri Oct 30, 2009 2:23 pm

Please pardon my ignorance, but I was unaware that it is possible to talk about the first noble truth suffering without talking about the three kinds of suffering: gross suffering, the suffering of change, and the pervasive suffering of conditioned existence. I was unaware that the second noble truth conditioned existence can be discussed without the twelve links of dependent origination describing the functioning of karmically-compelled rebirth, thereby showing the possibility of the third noble truth cessation of Samsara. I was unaware that the fourth noble truth the eightfold path leading to the cessation of Samsara, along with the first second and third, could be comprehensible without karma.

I don't see how eliminating karma and rebirth leaves a practical eightfold path to liberation, or a comprehensible set of four noble truths and am more than a little curious how any such system may retain the label "buddhism."

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

Postby PeterB » Fri Oct 30, 2009 2:31 pm

You are not alone in your ponderings enkidu.
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby Kare » Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:13 pm

If anything should make me believe in rebirth, it must be this eternal rebirth-debate, which seems to be eternally reborn whenever buddhists meet! :lol:

But the debate is confusing two very different issues and mixing them up.

The first of these issues is: Does rebirth occur?
The second is: Did the Buddha believe in rebirth?
The third is: Is the teaching of rebirth necessary for Buddhism?

Does rebirth occur? If it does, then rebirth is a fact of nature, totally independent of monks and suttas. If we wish to find out if something occurs in nature, or not - then we do not consult suttas or ask learned monks. We ask science. Science is the appropriate tool for examining nature. And if science can demonstrate that rebirth is a universal fact in nature, then we should accept it. Till now, I have seen no such demonstration.

Did the Buddha believe in rebirth? This is open to debate. There are suttas that indicates he did. We do not know for certain how many of those suttas are authentic. Still, it is a fact that rebirth does not figure in the 4NT or the 8FP. Maybe the Buddha believed in rebirth - I can not say for sure. If then rebirth is a fact of nature, then the Buddha was right, and we should accept it. If. however, rebirth does not occur, then the Buddha was wrong on this point, and we should also be willing to accept that.

And this brings us to the third question: Is the teaching of rebirth necessary for Buddhism? I would state most emphatically that it is not. The 4NT, the 8FP, the vipassana practice, the paticcasamuppada, the teaching of anicca-anatta-dukkha .... you can pick out any central elements of Buddhism, and you will find that they work extremely well both with and without referring to rebirth.

So - back to the first question: Does rebirth occur? I do not think so - but I also consider the question to be of little importance. The Dhamma is an extremely useful tool in this life, and IF another life should occur, then THAT would be THIS life, and then we'll just have to get down to practice again. So let's just get on with our practice, here and now, for as many heres and nows as should happen.
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Re: How far back can you strip the Buddha's teachings?

Postby enkidu » Fri Oct 30, 2009 3:58 pm

Kare wrote:So - back to the first question: Does rebirth occur? I do not think so - but I also consider the question to be of little importance.


Is there an unbroken lineage that holds this view?
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