What is Buddhism?

An open and inclusive investigation into Buddhism and spiritual cultivation
Bankei
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What is Buddhism?

Postby Bankei » Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:36 pm

What is the defining characteristic of Buddhism? ie how do we know that a certain teaching/practice etc is authentic Buddhism?

Is it only what is in the (Pali) Tipitaka?
or
only that which is in the Tipitaka or Commentaries or sub-commentaries?

or

Is any anything which is in accord with the teachings as in the Tipitaka?

or

Is it any practice which is conducted by Buddhists? (or by ordained monks)?

Bankei
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Re: What is Buddhism?

Postby retrofuturist » Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:38 pm

Greetings Bankei,

Given that you've asked "What is Buddhism?" rather than "What is Theravada?", do you mind if we move this topic to the Dhammic-Free-For-All so that members of other traditions may also speak freely on what they think Buddhism is?

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: What is Buddhism?

Postby Fede » Mon Mar 08, 2010 10:47 pm

Bankei wrote:What is the defining characteristic of Buddhism?

That the interested party is required to rely on him/herself to achieve understanding....

ie how do we know that a certain teaching/practice etc is authentic Buddhism?

We don't. But we practise discernment, examination and scrutiny to see whether it passes muster....

Is it only what is in the (Pali) Tipitaka?
or
only that which is in the Tipitaka or Commentaries or sub-commentaries?
or
Is any anything which is in accord with the teachings as in the Tipitaka?
or
Is it any practice which is conducted by Buddhists? (or by ordained monks)?


It is what you decide it is, after using the kind of appraisal and testing that the Buddha encourages us to use.
It's not what it says.
it's not where it comes form.
it's whether it stands up to examination.
It little matters what the provenance is.

Does it work?
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: What is Buddhism?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:16 pm

Anywhere there is the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path. Some schools and traditions may have added cultural practices and other teachings, but as long as the base is the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path, it is Buddhism, in my opinion.

Since your posts seem to reflect an interest in scripture, here is how I break down the two major Theravada interpretations:

"Modern Theravada" -- Suttanta based, priority to Suttas and Vinaya and for some also the Abhidhamma
"Classical Theravada" -- Tipitaka, Theravada Commentaries and sub-commentaries

Tipitaka, written down about 100 BCE. The Commentaries and sub-commentaries, however, were written down from about 300 CE to the 13th century CE.

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Re: What is Buddhism?

Postby Bankei » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:38 pm

hi Retro

Yes, good idea and thanks.
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Re: What is Buddhism?

Postby Bankei » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:42 pm

Thanks for the replies so far.

What about a practice like that of amulets in modern Thailand. There is no scriptural authority for it, but it is a big part of Buddhism there.

Or Buddha images - none existed at the time of the Buddha, yet it is standard practice for temples to have Buddha images in Thailand - in fact it is considered virtually heretical not to.
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Re: What is Buddhism?

Postby David N. Snyder » Mon Mar 08, 2010 11:48 pm

Bankei wrote:What about a practice like that of amulets in modern Thailand. There is no scriptural authority for it, but it is a big part of Buddhism there.

Or Buddha images - none existed at the time of the Buddha, yet it is standard practice for temples to have Buddha images in Thailand - in fact it is considered virtually heretical not to.


It's all good. If it helps them, it's good, not everyone is noble yet. It is something that we can drop our attachment to at some later date.

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Re: What is Buddhism?

Postby plwk » Tue Mar 09, 2010 1:08 am

My own attempt.... :juggling:
What is the defining characteristic of Buddhism?

Suffering and its cessation

ie how do we know that a certain teaching/practice etc is authentic Buddhism?

There are some ways...traditionally used...here's some examples...
One and Two:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .vaji.html
And the Blessed One spoke, saying:
"In whatsoever Dhamma and Discipline, Subhadda, there is not found the Noble Eightfold Path, neither is there found a true ascetic of the first, second, third, or fourth degree of saintliness.
But in whatsoever Dhamma and Discipline there is found the Noble Eightfold Path, there is found a true ascetic of the first, second, third, and fourth degrees of saintliness.


Then the Blessed One said:
"In this fashion, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu might speak:
'Face to face with the Blessed One, brethren, I have heard and learned thus:
This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or: 'In an abode of such and such a name lives a community with elders and a chief.
Face to face with that community, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or:

'In an abode of such and such a name live several bhikkhus who are elders, who are learned, who have accomplished their course, who are preservers of the Dhamma, the Discipline, and the Summaries. Face to face with those elders, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or:

'In an abode of such and such a name lives a single bhikkhu who is an elder, who is learned, who has accomplished his course, who is a preserver of the Dhamma, the Discipline, and the Summaries. Face to face with that elder, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation.'

"In such a case, bhikkhus, the declaration of such a bhikkhu is neither to be received with approval nor with scorn.
Without approval and without scorn, but carefully studying the sentences word by word, one should trace them in the Discourses and verify them by the Discipline.

If they are neither traceable in the Discourses nor verifiable by the Discipline, one must conclude thus:
'Certainly, this is not the Blessed One's utterance; this has been misunderstood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' In that way, bhikkhus, you should reject it.

But if the sentences concerned are traceable in the Discourses and verifiable by the Discipline, then one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is the Blessed One's utterance; this has been well understood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' And in that way, bhikkhus, you may accept it on the first, second, third, or fourth reference. These, bhikkhus, are the four great references for you to preserve."

Three:
The Dharma Seals [Three Marks of Existence (Pali: tilakkhaṇa; Sanskrit: trilakṣaṇa: Anicca/Anitya, Dukkha/Duhkha & Anatta/Anatman)]
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .budd.html
"All conditioned things are impermanent" — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification."
All conditioned things are unsatisfactory" — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification.
All things are not-self" — when one sees this with wisdom, one turns away from suffering. This is the path to purification."

See also:
http://www.palikanon.com/english/wtb/s_ ... kkhana.htm
http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/intro_bud.htm
In Mahayana, a fourth is added: 'Nirvana is peace'
http://www.sutrasmantras.info/glossary.html
Dharma Seal (dharma-mudrā, 法印).
Buddhist teachings are summarized in Dharma Seals, against which other doctrines should be measured. The Four Dharma Seals are as follows:
(1) processes are impermanent; (2) experiences boil down to suffering; (3) dharmas have no selves; (4) nirvāṇa is silence and stillness.
Because suffering is the consequence of the impermanence of everything in the life of a sentient being, including itself, the second Dharma Seal can be omitted from the list to make the Three Dharma Seals. Five Dharma Seals can be established by adding a fifth Dharma Seal: (5) dharmas are empty. In the Mahāyāna doctrine, all these seals are synthesized into one, the one true reality.

Four:
http://santifm1.0.googlepages.com/fourreliancessutra
“Four reliances: that is,
reliance on the Dhamma not (merely) reliance on the person;
reliance on the meaning not (merely) reliance on the phrasing;
reliance on the suttas whose meaning is already drawn out not (merely) reliance on those suttas whose meaning is to be drawn out (interpreted);
reliance on extraordinary-knowledge not (merely) reliance on (intellectual) discrimination.”

Commentary: http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Four_reliances

Is it only what is in the (Pali) Tipitaka? or only that which is in the Tipitaka or Commentaries or sub-commentaries?

In my own estimation, all are useful, depending on how and what it's used for.

Is any anything which is in accord with the teachings as in the Tipitaka?

On a broader scale, a common thread/idea shared by the Tripitaka: The Four Noble Truths & Noble Eightfold Path
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
'Those who teach a Dhamma for the abandoning of passion, for the abandoning of aversion, for the abandoning of delusion — their Dhamma is well-taught.
"How amazing, sir. How astounding, that there is neither extolling of one's own Dhamma nor deprecation of another's, but just the teaching of the Dhamma in its proper sphere, speaking to the point without mentioning oneself.”

Another view...
http://lotus.nichirenshu.org/lotus/sutr ... chap02.htm
"Shariputra, ever since I attained Buddhahood I have through various causes and various similes widely expounded my teachings and have used countless expedient means to guide living beings and cause them to renounce attachments. Why is this? Because the Thus Come One is fully possessed by both expedient means and the paramita of wisdom.
"Shariputra, the Buddhas of the past used countless numbers of expedient means, various causes and conditions, and words of simile and parable in order to expound the doctrines for the sake of living beings. These doctrines are all for the sake of the one Buddha vehicle. These living beings, by listening to the doctrines of the Buddhas, are all eventually able to attain wisdom embracing all species.
Shariputra, when the Buddhas of the future make their appearance in the world, they too will use countless numbers of expedient means, various causes and conditions, and words of simile and parable in order to expound the doctrines for the sake of living beings. These doctrines will all be for the sake of the one Buddha vehicle. And these living beings, by listening to the doctrines of the Buddhas, will all eventually be able to attain wisdom embracing all species.
"Shariputra, the Buddhas, the World-Honored Ones, who exist at present in the countless hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, and millions of Buddha lands in the ten directions, benefit and bring peace and happiness to living beings in large measure, these Buddhas too use countless numbers of expedient means, various causes and conditions, and words of simile and parable in order to expound the doctrines for the sake of living beings. These doctrines are all for the sake of the one Buddha vehicle. And these living beings, by listening to the doctrines of the Buddhas, are all eventually able to attain wisdom embracing all species.

http://lotus.nichirenshu.org/lotus/sutr ... chap16.htm
"Good men, the scriptures expounded by the Thus Come One are all for the purpose of saving and emancipating living beings. Sometimes I speak of myself, sometimes of others: sometimes I present myself, sometimes others; sometimes I show my own actions, sometimes those of others. All that I preach is true and not false.
"Because living beings have different natures, different desires, different actions, and different ways of thinking and making distinctions, and because I want to enable them to put down good roots, I employ a variety of causes and conditions, similes, parables, and phrases and preach different doctrines. This, the Buddha's work, I have never for a moment neglected.

http://cttbusa.org/lotus/lotus14.asp
“Further, Manjushri, in the future ending age, when the Dharma is about to become extinct, the Bodhisattva Mahasattva who receives, upholds, reads, or recites this Sutra should harbor no thoughts of envy, flattery, or deceit.
He should also not ridicule or malign those who study the Buddha Way, nor should he seek their strengths or weaknesses.
If there are Bhikshus, Bhikshunis, Upasakas, Upasikas, those who seek to be Hearers, Pratyekabuddhas, or those who seek the Bodhisattva Way, he should not torment them or cause them to have doubts by saying to them, “You are all very far from the Path, and you will never obtain the wisdom of all modes. Why not? Because you are careless and lax in the Way.” Further, he should not frivolously discuss the Dharma for the sake of argument. ”

Is it any practice which is conducted by Buddhists? (or by ordained monks)?

One can look at their lives and its fruits...as well as our own...
Bhikkhus, if you develop and make much this one thing,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.
What is it? It is recollecting the Enlightened One.
If this single thing is recollected and made much,
it invariably leads to weariness, cessation, appeasement, realization and extinction.

Anguttara-Nikaya: Ekanipata: Ekadhammapali: Pañhamavagga
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Re: What is Buddhism?

Postby Goofaholix » Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:23 am

Buddhism isn't a word the Buddha ever used, he called his teaching Buddha Dhamma.

So if you want to know what "Buddhism" is it's a world religion, it includes what the Buddha taught plus a whole lot more people have added to their religious practice over the centuries, plus a whole lot of populist misconceptions.

But if you are asking what defines Buddha Dhamma that's a whole nother story.
"Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment." - Ajahn Chah
"When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. When we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy." - Ajahn Chah
"Know and watch your heart. It’s pure but emotions come to colour it." — Ajahn Chah

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Re: What is Buddhism?

Postby retrofuturist » Tue Mar 09, 2010 4:25 am

:goodpost:
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: What is Buddhism?

Postby ground » Tue Mar 09, 2010 5:22 am

Bankei wrote:What is the defining characteristic of Buddhism?

Buddhism is a collection of concepts made up by human beings after having been deprived of their teacher.
Therefore everything one meets that is conventionally called "Buddhism" can never represent the authentic teaching of the historical person all "buddhists" are referring to.

Bankei wrote:Is it only what is in the (Pali) Tipitaka?
or
only that which is in the Tipitaka or Commentaries or sub-commentaries?

Both are made up by human beings on the grounds of narratives and memory.

The question really is: Can one rely on the products of human beings other than the original teacher?

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Re: What is Buddhism?

Postby Freawaru » Tue Mar 09, 2010 7:12 am

Hi Bankei,

my attempt:

Bankei wrote:What is the defining characteristic of Buddhism? ie how do we know that a certain teaching/practice etc is authentic Buddhism?


Buddhism (The Buddha's Dhamma) is the teaching that leads to Liberation. So whatever leads to Liberation is Buddhism. The path to Liberation is vipassana. Vipassana is the state one is in during insight meditation and can be stabilized. The one and only requirement for insight meditation is sati-sampajanna (awareness). So whatever helps to develop a stable sati-sampajanna can be considered Buddhism and everything that is not is not Buddhism.

Is it only what is in the (Pali) Tipitaka?
or
only that which is in the Tipitaka or Commentaries or sub-commentaries?


Scripture is limited to it's interpretations. Different persons interpret them differently according to their present state of birth and of development. Thus scripture is only correct if interpreted correctly, namely in the Light of vipassana, leading to Liberation.


Is it any practice which is conducted by Buddhists? (or by ordained monks)?


Neither. One has to test them.

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Re: What is Buddhism?

Postby Prasadachitta » Wed Mar 10, 2010 2:47 pm

As I get a sense of what Buddhism is about I begin to recognize that my notions about religious practices and beliefs are not helpful to rely on. I find it best to let them go as much as possible. I try to take each person and their particular take on things as a unique experience. How one persons take on existence fits with my notions of the categories of religion is something I try to keep as secondary as possible. I think the defining characteristics of groups or philosophies can be a bit problematic when it comes to the practical application of that definition.

Just pondering.

That being said I think "specific conditionality" is the defining principle of Buddhism.

Take Care All

Gabe
"Beautifully taught is the Lord's Dhamma, immediately apparent, timeless, of the nature of a personal invitation, progressive, to be attained by the wise, each for himself." Anguttara Nikaya V.332

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Re: What is Buddhism?

Postby Cittasanto » Wed Mar 10, 2010 9:45 pm

Goofaholix wrote:Buddhism isn't a word the Buddha ever used, he called his teaching Buddha Dhamma.

So if you want to know what "Buddhism" is it's a world religion, it includes what the Buddha taught plus a whole lot more people have added to their religious practice over the centuries, plus a whole lot of populist misconceptions.

But if you are asking what defines Buddha Dhamma that's a whole nother story.


:twothumbsup: :anjali: :twothumbsup:
I thought the Buddha called it dhammavinaya, but neither here nor there really, both have the same sort of inclanation.

some are after Buddhism some after what the Buddha taught.
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."


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