Mysticism in buddhism?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Zenny
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Mysticism in buddhism?

Post by Zenny »

Most religions have a mystic tradition,which is somewhat different from the orthodox viewpoint.
Which is the mystic tradition of Buddhism?
Particular relevant since Buddha was obviously a Mystic!
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JamesTheGiant
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Re: Mysticism in buddhism?

Post by JamesTheGiant »

Back in the first half of the 20th century the forest Monks in Thailand and Burma had a reputation for being wild and unknown and really into almost unknown deep meditation, deeper meditation than anyone saw in regular Buddhism in Thailand. But now that kind of life has become much more well-known and it is seen as less mystical.
Apart from that one example I can't really think of any mysticism in Buddhism. Maybe it's ALL kind of mystical since it relies so much on personal experience of altered state of consciousness.
Zenny
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Re: Mysticism in buddhism?

Post by Zenny »

JamesTheGiant wrote: Thu Jun 10, 2021 8:42 pm Back in the first half of the 20th century the forest Monks in Thailand and Burma had a reputation for being wild and unknown and really into almost unknown deep meditation, deeper meditation than anyone saw in regular Buddhism in Thailand. But now that kind of life has become much more well-known and it is seen as less mystical.
Apart from that one example I can't really think of any mysticism in Buddhism. Maybe it's ALL kind of mystical since it relies so much on personal experience of altered state of consciousness.
I did read that forest monks wre coming up with some new views.
Like the existence of a soul.
In theory all meditation/ buddhism should be mystical,I agree,but in reality it seems to be very much slavish adherence to sutras,commentaries and dogma.
Some versions of zen seem somewhat close to mysticism.
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Sam Vara
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Re: Mysticism in buddhism?

Post by Sam Vara »

Gombrich might be a good place to start. In his paper Religious Experience in Early Buddhism (1997), he says that the general western understanding of the Buddha's enlightenment is that it was a mystical experience. He quotes William James on this, who thinks that mystical experiences in various religious and cultural traditions have certain characteristics, the chief of them being ineffability.

Gombrich continues:
But that is not at all how Buddhists see it. When I began to study Theravada Buddhism, both from books and in the field, I found to my surprise that there is nothing in that tradition or culture corresponding to James' idea of the mystical. Neither Pali nor Sinhala contains any word for "mystical" or "mysticism" or for anything remotely like it. Indeed, when I interviewed a famous Theravadan monk in Sinhala and he wanted to speak of mysticism, he had recourse to the English word...What the Buddha achieved is expressed in various ways....what makes his experience important to us is the truth that he discovered and taught; had it been ineffable, he could not have done that...What is, of course, ineffable is the emotional quality of the experience..."
(R.E.E.B., p7)
Zenny
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Re: Mysticism in buddhism?

Post by Zenny »

Sam Vara wrote: Thu Jun 10, 2021 8:49 pm Gombrich might be a good place to start. In his paper Religious Experience in Early Buddhism (1997), he says that the general western understanding of the Buddha's enlightenment is that it was a mystical experience. He quotes William James on this, who thinks that mystical experiences in various religious and cultural traditions have certain characteristics, the chief of them being ineffability.

Gombrich continues:
But that is not at all how Buddhists see it. When I began to study Theravada Buddhism, both from books and in the field, I found to my surprise that there is nothing in that tradition or culture corresponding to James' idea of the mystical. Neither Pali nor Sinhala contains any word for "mystical" or "mysticism" or for anything remotely like it. Indeed, when I interviewed a famous Theravadan monk in Sinhala and he wanted to speak of mysticism, he had recourse to the English word...What the Buddha achieved is expressed in various ways....what makes his experience important to us is the truth that he discovered and taught; had it been ineffable, he could not have done that...What is, of course, ineffable is the emotional quality of the experience..."
(R.E.E.B., p7)
I must say I do respect William James a lot. His books are very well written and contain excellent and practical wisdom. I agree the Buddha was a mystic,but I think mystical experiences are not ineffable and the Buddha obviously communicated his mystical insights and experiences.
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Sam Vara
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Re: Mysticism in buddhism?

Post by Sam Vara »

Zenny wrote: Thu Jun 10, 2021 8:54 pm
Sam Vara wrote: Thu Jun 10, 2021 8:49 pm Gombrich might be a good place to start. In his paper Religious Experience in Early Buddhism (1997), he says that the general western understanding of the Buddha's enlightenment is that it was a mystical experience. He quotes William James on this, who thinks that mystical experiences in various religious and cultural traditions have certain characteristics, the chief of them being ineffability.

Gombrich continues:
But that is not at all how Buddhists see it. When I began to study Theravada Buddhism, both from books and in the field, I found to my surprise that there is nothing in that tradition or culture corresponding to James' idea of the mystical. Neither Pali nor Sinhala contains any word for "mystical" or "mysticism" or for anything remotely like it. Indeed, when I interviewed a famous Theravadan monk in Sinhala and he wanted to speak of mysticism, he had recourse to the English word...What the Buddha achieved is expressed in various ways....what makes his experience important to us is the truth that he discovered and taught; had it been ineffable, he could not have done that...What is, of course, ineffable is the emotional quality of the experience..."
(R.E.E.B., p7)
I must say I do respect William James a lot. His books are very well written and contain excellent and practical wisdom. I agree the Buddha was a mystic,but I think mystical experiences are not ineffable and the Buddha obviously communicated his mystical insights and experiences.
James considered ineffability to be an essential aspect of mystical experience, so if you don't think that's the case, what makes an experience mystical?
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JamesTheGiant
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Re: Mysticism in buddhism?

Post by JamesTheGiant »

Zenny wrote: Thu Jun 10, 2021 8:47 pm I did read that forest monks wre coming up with some new views.
Like the existence of a soul.
True, some of them did that too, unfortunately. There are still a lot of soul-believers in Thailand. :cry:
Some versions of zen seem somewhat close to mysticism.
Yes, I'd say that's true. Although a lot of Zen mysticism seems to be because they deliberately obsfucate through cryptic language and poetry. Whereas the same experiences in theravada are explained clearly in plain (dull?) unimaginative prose.
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Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta
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Re: Mysticism in buddhism?

Post by Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta »

May I know the definition of mystic/mysticism used in this topic?
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SteRo
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Re: Mysticism in buddhism?

Post by SteRo »

Definition of mysticism

1 : the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics
2 : the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (such as intuition or insight)
3a : vague speculation : a belief without sound basis
b : a theory postulating the possibility of direct and intuitive acquisition of ineffable knowledge or power
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mysticism

Taking item 2 of the definition ("the belief that direct knowledge of ... ultimate reality can be attained through ... insight") buddhism is mysticism.
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Pondera
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Re: Mysticism in buddhism?

Post by Pondera »

Vajrayana - “tantra”
“Monk, the property of light, the property of beauty, the property of the dimension of the infinitude of space, the property of the dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, the property of the dimension of nothingness: These properties are to be reached as perception attainments.[2] The property of the dimension of neither perception nor non-perception is to be reached as a remnant-of-fabrications attainment. The property of the cessation of feeling & perception is to be reached as a cessation attainment."[3]

https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .than.html
SteRo
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Re: Mysticism in buddhism?

Post by SteRo »

Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta wrote: Thu Jun 10, 2021 11:48 pm May I know the definition of mystic/mysticism used in this topic?
See the conventional understanding here. It seems to be a general problem - especially in this section of the forum - that users start threads using private concepts. Then other users join using their own private concepts. That's hilarious. :lol:
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Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta
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Re: Mysticism in buddhism?

Post by Sabbe_Dhamma_Anatta »

SteRo wrote: Fri Jun 11, 2021 4:31 am
Definition of mysticism

1 : the experience of mystical union or direct communion with ultimate reality reported by mystics
2 : the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience (such as intuition or insight)
3a : vague speculation : a belief without sound basis
b : a theory postulating the possibility of direct and intuitive acquisition of ineffable knowledge or power
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mysticism

Taking item 2 of the definition ("the belief that direct knowledge of ... ultimate reality can be attained through ... insight") buddhism is mysticism.

Yes, in that sense, considering together the meanings of both "belief" & "ultimate reality," i also think, buddhism is mysticism for non-ariyas.

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