Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Dhammanando
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Re: Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

Post by Dhammanando »

Dharmasherab wrote: Sun Apr 25, 2021 9:10 am 'Secular Buddhism' is not a form of Buddhism. Firstly because it does not descend from any established monastic lineage that goes back all the way to the Buddha.
By this criterion the whole of Japanese Buddhism would be "not a form of Buddhism", with the possible exception of the tiny Ritsu (Vinaya) sect. Is this your view?
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Re: Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

Post by Coëmgenu »

I'm going to do a post about this later sometime, I haven't yet decided how to, but essentially the Dharmaguptaka vinaya as a whole became a "dead lineage" for a while in Japan before it was revived by a Shingon Venerable wishing to revive the Ritsu sect which, by that point, had been folded into Shingon. He ordained himself without the presence of any other bhiksus and single-handed reinstated the bhiksusamgha in Japanese Buddhism which AFAIK is not a legal procedure according to the vinaya. It's related to why nuns can't just ordain themselves. He could have gotten monks from China (or even a Theravadin country) to assist with this procedure, but elected not to. I believe the reason is because he believed in mappo and that the Dharma in China was a lost cause. I don't know why they didn't get Theravadins bhikkhus. That would have put at least a veneer of due process behind the matter. Perhaps the Theravadins thought it beyond the pale to assist a non-Theravadin sect, but I have a sinking feeling that the Ritsu Venerable in question didn't consider it an option at all to even approach Theravadins due to Japanese sectarianism. So the entire Dharmaguptaka lineage coming out of Japan is invalid by most traditional reckonings, even the "actually-vinaya-observing" parts of it.

Here is the paper, if I haven't horribly misrepresented it. It's been a while since I read it.

https://www.jstor.org/stable/44362410?r ... mail&seq=1
"...and so concludes the exposition of the originated," spake Thomas the Bodhi Wizard. Then, he summarized in a verse:

"I tell you as I told my darling Auntie Wanda,
'It's all a ball of wibbly-wobbly Dharma-Wharma.'"

They rejoiced and lauded.

(Dharmatā verse from the Sūtra of Dubious Import)
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Re: Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

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Dhammanando wrote: Sun Apr 25, 2021 9:44 am
Dharmasherab wrote: Sun Apr 25, 2021 9:10 am 'Secular Buddhism' is not a form of Buddhism. Firstly because it does not descend from any established monastic lineage that goes back all the way to the Buddha.
By this criterion the whole of Japanese Buddhism would be "not a form of Buddhism", with the possible exception of the tiny Ritsu (Vinaya) sect. Is this your view?
Hi Bhante,

What about the Japanese Zen schools? They (at least claim) that they descended from the Chinese Chan schools, for example Rinzai is a descendant of Linji in China and they trace their lineage back to the Buddha.

IIRC, some monks or priests ordaining in Zen schools receive an ordination certificate, which shows the lineage going back to China, then Bodhidharma and to the Buddha.
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Re: Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

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DNS wrote: Sun Apr 25, 2021 6:45 pm the lineage going back to China, then Bodhidharma and to the Buddha.
better to learn from Buddha, than a lineage
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Re: Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

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DNS wrote: Sun Apr 25, 2021 6:45 pm What about the Japanese Zen schools? They (at least claim) that they descended from the Chinese Chan schools, for example Rinzai is a descendant of Linji in China and they trace their lineage back to the Buddha.
In the case of the monastic ordination lineages of the Theravada, the Dharmaguptaka and the Mulasarvastivada, we're talking history.

In the case of Zen's supposed lineages of Indian and Chinese patriarchs, we're talking pious fiction. It seems that the said lineages were concocted in China to make Buddhism more palatable in a culture heavily steeped in ancestor worship. The historical Mahākassapa would no doubt have been very surprised to learn that he was actually the first Indian Patriarch of Ch'an Buddhism. Similarly Aśvaghoṣa is unlikely to have known that he was an Indian patriarch of the Kegon-shū. And heaven knows how Nāgārjuna managed the tricky task of being patriarch of half a dozen East Asian schools.
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Rūpehi bhikkhave arūpā santatarā.
Arūpehi nirodho santataro ti.


“Bhikkhus, the formless is more peaceful than the form realms.
Cessation is more peaceful than the formless realms.”
(Santatarasutta, Iti 73)
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Dharmasherab
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Re: Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

Post by Dharmasherab »

Dhammanando wrote: Sun Apr 25, 2021 9:44 am
Dharmasherab wrote: Sun Apr 25, 2021 9:10 am 'Secular Buddhism' is not a form of Buddhism. Firstly because it does not descend from any established monastic lineage that goes back all the way to the Buddha.
By this criterion the whole of Japanese Buddhism would be "not a form of Buddhism", with the possible exception of the tiny Ritsu (Vinaya) sect. Is this your view?
This is an important pointer which I did overlook but thanks for highlighting this.
To my knowledge they do have a priestly order which descended from its monastic order that was abolished during a past Japanese dynasty. So its not entirely lay based and has some clerical involvement instead of the complete absence of it.
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Re: Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

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Coëmgenu wrote: Sun Apr 25, 2021 12:23 pm ... I don't know why they didn't get Theravadins bhikkhus. That would have put at least a veneer of due process behind the matter. Perhaps the Theravadins thought it beyond the pale to assist a non-Theravadin sect, but I have a sinking feeling that the Ritsu Venerable in question didn't consider it an option at all to even approach Theravadins due to Japanese sectarianism. ...
The more pragmatic answer to your implied question could be the difficulties of international travel in the mediaeval period. Where would he have had to go to find a Theravadin community? Thailand?

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Re: Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

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SarathW wrote: Thu Mar 18, 2021 9:52 am Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?
What is the meaning of "secular"? Does it refer to secularity of today? If yes, to what cultural secularity of today does it refer?
Speaking from the perspective of European secularity there doesn't exist a secular buddhism. Why? Because no tenet of the buddhist doctrine is acceptable in today's secularity of European culture.
"Secular buddhism" is a myth. Those that claim "secular buddhism" are outside of any established secularity but are taking their private likes and dislikes as a measure of secularity in "secular buddhism". But no such secularity does exist outside of the minds of self-proclaimed "secular buddhists".
So there is [doctrinal] buddhism and because buddhism is a religion buddhism is based on beliefs.
Deviating from [doctrinal] buddhism isn't secular but deviant.
Now of course one may drop all buddhist doctrines but preserve some of its methods. Where can this be found? In today's psychotherapy. But that does not render psychotherapy "secular buddhism" because psychotherapy does not advocate any buddhist doctrine.
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Re: Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

Post by Cause_and_Effect »

Kim OHara wrote: Sun Mar 28, 2021 1:28 am Buddhism is also a science, however, and science is secular. :smile:
In fact "secular" Buddhists abandon more of the "science" part of Buddhism than of the "philosophy" or "psychotherapy" parts, and take varying positions on the "religious" part.
Cosmology is one tipping point. The whole Buddhist description of the world centred on Mt Meru has been falsified by science, just as the whole Biblical creation-in-seven-days has been falsified. Many Christians deal with it by reinterpreting Genesis as poetic, not literal, truth. Doing the same with Mt Meru seems like a reasonable way forward, especially since the Buddha's culture did not make such a strong distinction between the two.
And saying "Believe in the literal truth of Mt Meru or you're out!" is an incredibly good way of shutting people out of the dhamma and its advantages.
We just can't call them "Theravada" or "Mahayana" but we could call them secular Buddhists.
It's not a horribly bad label but I have to ask -
Is that useful to them? To you? Why?
Is it fair to them?
Does it unite people or divide them?

:namaste:
Kim
Mount Sumeru is Indian medieval mythology, it's not part of the Buddha's original teachings.

This is shown by the fact that the myth exists in both Hindu and Jain teachings.

Recall that the Pali Cannon was written half a millenia after the Buddha's passing.
And there is a clear heirrachy of the recording of the Nikayas, the first 3 Nikayas being more authoritative; that is the Digha, Majjhimma and Samyutta Nikaya.

By the time we get to the Anguttarra Nikaya things have to be considered more carefully for authenticity.

There is no such teaching about mount Meru in the earlier agamas and many scholars have considered mount meru not an authentic teaching.
It served a purpose for people at the time to visualize their world in line with Indian mythology.

The Buddha's teaching on the 31 planes of becoming is his real teaching on cosmology, as well as his teaching of seeing aeons of cosmic expansion and contraction when recalling his past lives. This is aligned with some modern theories about cyclic universe.

Mount Sumeru does not appear in any of these early teachings and is a later addition from the medieval period by the canon compilers, placed deliberately in the 4th Nikaya compilation to be clear it is not a central or original teaching of the Buddha.

The actual teachings of the Buddha's cosmology have been reinforced by some understandings of modern science. Some teachings such as perceiving higher planes of reality are beyond the reach of scientific testing but accessible only through developed mind.
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Re: Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

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Cause_and_Effect wrote: Tue Jul 27, 2021 2:21 am Mount Sumeru is Indian medieval mythology, it's not part of the Buddha's original teachings.

This is shown by the fact that the myth exists in both Hindu and Jain teachings.
So Mount Sumeru is Indian medieval mythology but not devas with lifespan of many eons? :shrug: :roll:
Cause_and_Effect wrote: Tue Jul 27, 2021 2:21 amRecall that the Pali Cannon was written half a millenia after the Buddha's passing.
So the above appears to imply there is really nothing in the Canon that can be held to be authoritative? :shrug:
Cause_and_Effect wrote: Tue Jul 27, 2021 2:21 amAnd there is a clear heirrachy of the recording of the Nikayas, the first 3 Nikayas being more authoritative; that is the Digha, Majjhimma and Samyutta Nikaya.
The above appears unsubstantiated, particularly since the Digha appears the most questionable.
Cause_and_Effect wrote: Tue Jul 27, 2021 2:21 amThe Buddha's teaching on the 31 planes of becoming is his real teaching on cosmology, as well as his teaching of seeing aeons of cosmic expansion and contraction when recalling his past lives. This is aligned with some modern theories about cyclic universe.
The above again appear unsubstantiated. For example, SN 22.79 appears to be the only sutta explaining in detail what is commonly translated as "recollecting past lives" but it does not appear to be about "past lives". Also, the Pali word "nivasa" translated as "lives" does not appear to mean "lives".
Cause_and_Effect wrote: Tue Jul 27, 2021 2:21 amThe actual teachings of the Buddha's
The actual teaching of the Buddha is described as follows:
sandiṭṭhiko dhammo hoti akāliko ehipassiko opaneyyiko paccattaṁ veditabbo viññūhī

A directly visible Dhamma... the Dhamma directly visible, immediate, inviting one to come and see, applicable, to be personally experienced by the wise
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Re: Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

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DooDoot wrote: Thu Jul 29, 2021 11:51 am So Mount Sumeru is Indian medieval mythology but not devas with lifespan of many eons?
Mount Sumeru

Mount Kailash (Kailasa) is known as Mount Meru in Buddhist texts.
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Re: Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

Post by Coëmgenu »

Kim OHara wrote: Tue Jun 29, 2021 10:43 am
Coëmgenu wrote: Sun Apr 25, 2021 12:23 pm ... I don't know why they didn't get Theravadins bhikkhus. That would have put at least a veneer of due process behind the matter. Perhaps the Theravadins thought it beyond the pale to assist a non-Theravadin sect, but I have a sinking feeling that the Ritsu Venerable in question didn't consider it an option at all to even approach Theravadins due to Japanese sectarianism. ...
The more pragmatic answer to your implied question could be the difficulties of international travel in the mediaeval period. Where would he have had to go to find a Theravadin community? Thailand?
I'm not sure what the state of Sri Lankan or Thai Theravada was at the time he was writing. The Shingon practitioner in question, as far as I'm aware, made absolutely no attempt to seek out a valid ordination lineage anywhere outside of Japan. Depending on when he lived in Japan, leaving Japan and returning could get him executed though. I suppose I've some more reading to do. Rev Saicho and Ven Kyukai were both able to leave Japan and return in their day, because isolationist policies were lighter in their day. I'll have to look up if state isolationism was a thing yet in this other man's time.
"...and so concludes the exposition of the originated," spake Thomas the Bodhi Wizard. Then, he summarized in a verse:

"I tell you as I told my darling Auntie Wanda,
'It's all a ball of wibbly-wobbly Dharma-Wharma.'"

They rejoiced and lauded.

(Dharmatā verse from the Sūtra of Dubious Import)
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Re: Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

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Dhamma Chameleon wrote: Mon Mar 22, 2021 10:34 am If someone strives honestly and diligently to practice the eightfold path and considers the Buddha their teacher, what is the problem? What business is it of mine to accept them or not? Accept them to what?
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Re: Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

Post by TRobinson465 »

Yeah, i mean ultimately its a manner of opinion. This is why the religious freedom/tolerance thing took hold in the west. Catholics thought protestants werent really christians and protestants thought catholics werent really christians. Even though they basically agreed with each other on +90% of doctrine, they literally spent hundreds of years killing each other over the small things they didnt agree on.

Although I would say the differences between secular Buddhism and established Buddhist traditions is actually quite large compared to the differences between the protestants and catholics who slaughtered each other. Personally i still consider secular Buddhists who follow buddhist practices but are agnostic on issues like rebirth to be Buddhists because its not like you have to believe in Buddhism in its entirety to be Buddhist, there are traditional Buddhists today that hold agnostic views on certain buddhist concepts like what exactly Mara beings are for instance.

I'm not really a fan of secular buddhists who actively preach atheistic views on basic Buddhist concepts and that the Buddha's statements on metaphysics were really intricate secular metaphors that 99% of the population just misinterpreted. But i dont think its beneficial for me cling to what qualifies as Buddhist or not. if they say theyre buddhist theyre probably telling the truth, but of course theres varying degrees of practice for those who claim that title.

I remember one sutta where the Buddha told ananda that ananda wasnt qualified to try to judge where people would be reborn after they die because he doesnt know all the intricicies of thier kamma from earlier in thier life or something. I think such a principle of not judging works for this case.
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Re: Can we accept secular Buddhism as Buddhism?

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belief in the afterlife is right view


which is necessary to progress
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