Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

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Loving
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Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Loving » Sat May 04, 2019 9:38 am

Through discussion on my post about the secularisation of Buddhism through scientific discovery, I began to perceive that "Buddhism" is a somewhat broader concept than "accepting and obeying Gotama". That is what I want to talk about here. What I mean more specifically is that it does not appear to be essential to Buddhism (especially in our era) to regard the words and deeds of the Buddha as akin to the "Word of God" in Christianity or Islam. This may be, for instance, because the Buddha himself seems to have urged us (a) not to accept him out of reverence, but through our own investigations, and (b) not to cling to viewpoints, but to practice dharma.

Since I am very new to studying Buddhism, I had previously thought that the essence of Buddhism is to regard the awakened Shakyamuni Buddha as quite literally a "Perfect One", one who had no cravings and no sufferings whatsoever, and thus transcended rebirth in a literal cosmic scheme of cyclic reincarnation according to the karma instantiated into one's conduct. Furthermore, on this account, so that we do not think this was all made up by early Buddhists, the Buddha himself assures us that he "woke up" to this reality by his own direct experience (of his past lives, the heavenly and hellish realms, cosmic cycles, nirvana, etc.) through meditation. This provides the basis for trust in Buddha, trust in the cosmic scheme, and trust in living by and spreading the dharma as it was authentically taught. It therefore seemed essential to me that this direct experience, direct knowledge, as recorded in the canon, was a remote possibility for spiritual seekers. If you yourself wake up to, e.g., past lives in full detail, there is no room for doubt; but if you don't wake up to this, and furthermore, nobody ever did, there is plenty of room for doubt. The fact that someone appears to have "woken up" before therefore provides the grounding for the entire metaphysical structure.

But not everybody thinks this way. Since our oldest sources are centuries after the Buddha, we don't know nearly as much as we would like to about the historical figure and his words and deeds. Thus there are a range of interpretations about what the actual teachings were. One such interpretation is that this entire metaphysical structure is a metaphor, say for states of mind (heavenly, hellish, and beyond-heavenly-or-hellish). On an interpretation such as this, not only is it not necessary to believe in reincarnation or nirvana, it's also not essential to trust in anything in particular about the Buddha except that he had a transcendent state of mind. Dharma, on this account, is simply the way to our own transcendent state of being, the paradox in which we no longer search for heaven or hell, and so our search is complete.

Since I have been focusing on trying to understand pre-sectarian Buddhism, I am not really acquainted with the extent that Mahayana Buddhism is a living, evolving tradition. I have only just discovered Engaged Buddhism, for example. If I have one question, I suppose it is this: There is a continuum of traditions, from the Theravadan and forest traditions, through Mahayana, Vajrayana, and Zen, all the way to Engaged Buddhism. I find it relatively very easy to understand the beginning of this continuum: You take your cue from the Buddha himself, decide which scripture represents him, and do exactly as it says. Once we travel through the continuum, however, we get pulled in all different directions, some thinking one thing is important, some thinking another.

Now the question. If it is not historical evidence or metaphysical reasoning, what do all these Buddhists ground themselves in? Where is the "Buddhism" in Engaged Buddhism? How are you supposed to know what the dharma is?

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Queequeg » Sat May 04, 2019 12:48 pm

Buddha taught the cause of suffering and its end.

Keep your eye on the ball.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Miroku » Sat May 04, 2019 12:50 pm

There is a difference between studying buddhism as a practitioner and as a scholar. I'd suggest you pick one. Not saying it is not possible to do both, but it can be hard at the beginning.
A boat delivers you to the other riverbank.
A needle stitches up your clothes.
A horse takes you where you want to go.
Bodhicitta will bring you to Buddhahood.
~ Khunu Lama Rinpoche

Even non-buddhists have many virtuous accomplishments
~ Jigten Sumgon

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Loving » Sat May 04, 2019 2:25 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Sat May 04, 2019 12:48 pm
Buddha taught the cause of suffering and its end.
This is a helpful answer, actually. :D

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by DNS » Sat May 04, 2019 5:31 pm

Loving wrote:
Sat May 04, 2019 9:38 am
Now the question. If it is not historical evidence or metaphysical reasoning, what do all these Buddhists ground themselves in? Where is the "Buddhism" in Engaged Buddhism? How are you supposed to know what the dharma is?
Anywhere there is the Four Noble Truths, which includes the 8-fold path. Wherever you find that, you find Buddha-Dharma. The Path includes the teachings, including the Brahma Viharas (loving-kindness, compassion, joy with others, equanimity).
https://dhammawiki.com/index.php?title=4_Brahma_Viharas

Since this includes compassion, it makes sense that engaged buddhist work would also be considered Buddha-Dharma.

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Loving » Sun May 05, 2019 8:09 am

DNS wrote:
Sat May 04, 2019 5:31 pm
Anywhere there is the Four Noble Truths, which includes the 8-fold path. Wherever you find that, you find Buddha-Dharma. The Path includes the teachings, including the Brahma Viharas (loving-kindness, compassion, joy with others, equanimity).
Thank you. :)
A core or common vision of Buddhism and dharma is really the essence of the question.

I read something that was very helpful for me: in a 1981 document called One Vehicle for Peace by Ven. Prof. Walpola Rahula Thero that appeared in the Proceedings: Third International Congress World Buddhist Sangha Council, these ten points are described as common ground for all Buddhists:
1. Whatever our sects, denominations or systems, as Buddhists we all accept the Buddha as our Master who gave us the Teaching.

2. We all take refuge in the Triple Jewel: the Buddha, our Teacher; the Dhamma, his teaching; and the Sangha, the Community of holy ones. In other words, we take refuge in the Teacher, the Teaching and the Taught.

3. Whether Theravāda or Mahāyāna, we do not believe that this world is created and ruled by a god at his will.

4. Following the example of the Buddha, our Teacher, who is embodiment of Great Compassion (mahākaruṇa) and Great Wisdom (mahāprajñā), we consider that the purpose of life is to develop compassion for all living beings without discrimination and to work for their good, happiness and peace; and to develop wisdom leading to the realization of Ultimate Truth.

5. We accept the Four Noble Truths taught by the Buddha, namely, Dukkha, the fact that our existence in this world is in predicament, is impermanent, imperfect, unsatisfactory, full of conflict; Samudaya, the fact that this state of affairs is due to our egoistic selfishness based on the false idea of self; Nirodha, the fact that there is definitely the possibility of deliverance, liberation, freedom from this predicament by the total eradication of the egoistic selfishness; and Magga, the fact that this liberation can be achieved through the Middle Path which is eight-fold, leading to the perfection of ethical conduct (sila), mental discipline (samadhi) and wisdom (panna).

6. We accept the universal law of cause and effect taught in the Paṭiccasamuppada (Skt. pratītyasamutpada; Conditioned Genesis or Dependent Origination), and accordingly we accept that everything is relative, interdependent and interrelated and nothing is absolute, permanent and everlasting in this universe.

7. We understand, according to the teaching of the Buddha, that all conditioned things (samkhara) are impermanent (anicca) and imperfect and unsatisfactory (dukkha), and all conditioned and unconditioned things (dhamma) are without self (anatta).

8. We accept the Thirty-seven Qualities conducive to Enlightenment (bodhipakkhiyadhamma) as different aspects of the Path taught by the Buddha leading to Enlightenment, namely:
  • Four Forms of Presence of Mindfulness (Pali: satipatthana; Skt. smrtyupasthana);
  • Four Right Efforts (Pali. sammappadhana; Skt. samyakpradhana);
  • Four Bases of Supernatural Powers (Pali. iddhipada; Skt. rddhipada);
  • Five Faculties (indriya: Pali. saddha, viriya, sati, samadhi, panna; Skt. sraddha, virya, smrti, samadhi, prajna);
  • Five Powers (bala, same five qualities as above);
  • Seven Factors of Enlightenment (Pali. bojjhanga; Skt. bodhyanga);
  • Eight-fold Noble Path (Pali. ariyamagga; Skt. aryamarga).
9. There are three ways of attaining Bodhi or Enlightenment according to the ability and capacity of each individual: namely, as a Śrāvaka (disciple), as a Pratyekabuddha (Individual Buddha) and as a Samyaksambuddha (Perfectly and Fully Enlightened Buddha). We accept it as the highest, noblest and most heroic to follow the career of a Bodhisattva and to become a Samyksambuddha in order to save others. But these three states are on the same Path, not on different paths. In fact, the Sandhinirmocana-sutra, a well-known important Mahayana sutra, clearly and emphatically says that those who follow the line of Śrāvakayāna (Vehicle of Disciples) or the line of Pratyekabuddhayāna (Vehicle of Individual Buddhas) or the line of Tathāgatas (Mahayana) attain the supreme Nirvana by the same Path, and that for all of them there is only one Path of Purification (visuddhi-marga) and only one Purification (visuddhi) and no second one, and that they are not different paths and different purifications, and that Śrāvakayāna and Mahayana constitute One Vehicle One Yana (ekayāna) and not distinct and different vehicles or yanas.

10. We admit that in different countries there are differences with regard to the ways of life of Buddhist monks, popular Buddhist beliefs and practices, rites and rituals, ceremonies, customs and habits. These external forms and expressions should not be confused with the essential teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Wayfarer » Sun May 05, 2019 9:09 am

I think that’s a good statement from Ven. Walpola.

I’d be wary about the idea of ‘obeying’ the Buddha. The source of authority in Buddhism is actually the Dharma itself. One of the cardinal differences between Buddhism and theistic religion is that the consequences of actions occur due to karma and not by imposition from an authority. Certainly the monastic orders have rules, and violation of the rules is taken seriously, but again the ultimate consequence of violation of the rules is reaping the consequences of the action, not a sanction or ‘infringement notice’ (painful though that might be. :smile: )

In regards to the issue of secular interpretations of Buddhism - I think it’s a mistake to regard them as the final word, but it is a useful waystation for those navigating the transition to a Buddhist understanding. Buddhism doesn’t require or impose belief in the same way that theistic religions do, but at the same time, I believe that arguing against the reality of Saṃsāra so as to accomodate Buddhism within a secular framework is another matter (and this is something you do see). It’s a delicate balance at a difficult time in history. As you seem such an articulate and engaged student, I recommend a read of an essay called Beyond Scientific Materialism and Religious Belief, Akincano M. Weber. I think he sketches out a very balanced approach in appraising a secular approach to Buddhism.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Loving » Sun May 05, 2019 11:44 am

Thank you very much for offering this essay and its sources Wayfarer. I have great concern for a well-balanced and inclusive synthesis between East and West, and particularly Buddhism and secularism.

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Loving » Sun May 05, 2019 12:23 pm

On that note, here is a discourse I found illuminating:


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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Brunelleschi » Sun May 05, 2019 1:55 pm

Loving wrote:
Sun May 05, 2019 11:44 am
Thank you very much for offering this essay and its sources Wayfarer. I have great concern for a well-balanced and inclusive synthesis between East and West, and particularly Buddhism and secularism.
Secularism is a waste of time. This is coming from a student of psychology/biological psychology (evolutionary psychology, neuroscience, cognitive science, immunology) etcetera which proponents of secular buddhism often try to invoke to give weights to their arguments. :stirthepot: Reality is life's too short to worry about it. We're all going to grow old, get sick, and then die. Clock's ticking. Faith is an important aspect.

This whole idea that Buddhism is "rational" and "science-y" is a modern invention anyway (since we're on the topic of the historial Buddha). It's a result of colonialism, christian missionary and a protestant view of religion. Traditional Buddhism has much more to do with ritual, astrology, amulets, and "supernatural" powers (i.e. Siddhis) than rational arguments (don't get me wrong I love philosophy and it's partly what got me to love Buddhism).

About the topic of "Engaged Buddhism" - my limited understanding is that it grew due to colonialism. Buddhists were trying to compete with aggressive christian missionaries in places like Sri Lanka, etc.

If you want to try and become an academic - that's a different issue. Queequeg says it best.

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Jerafreyr » Sun May 05, 2019 3:11 pm

When I was very new to Buddhism and examining its surface the Milinda panha (http://buddhanet.net/pdf_file/milinda.pdf) left a great impression on me. After that I found the text Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness (http://www.ibc.ac.th/faqing/files/progr ... ss2014.pdf). I believe after that I studied Nagarjuna a bit, then found a meditation teacher whom restricted me to the Pali suttas (to build a solid foundation). We all have our special sequence of learning it seems.

I never looked to academia for answers because the way they spoke did not incite confidence in me. They are looking for reassurance that can only be found in one who has dedicated their life to finding enlightenment. I hope this helped at least slightly.

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Loving » Sun May 05, 2019 5:36 pm

Thank you Jerafreyr. You helped a great deal. The link to the Milinda Pañha is particularly appropriate, since I am already reading the popular The Monk and the Philosopher for virtually the same kind of insight.

I have a particular tendency to question and disassemble whatever I am reading. For this reason, it did not seem appropriate for me to start with immersion either in contemporary teachings to a lay audience, or in sutras chosen thematically. I would have immediately wondered what the context was, who exactly I am reading, and where this lineage originated; questions which neutralise the very important faith that Brunelleschi mentioned.

For me personally, it was absolutely vital to first understand that Buddhism is not an "ism" at all, not a system of doctrine, but a path; and that is the necessary lens through which I can look for dharma in my own experience. Without this insight, the teachings may be construed as a formal belief-system, a series of propositions any one of which may be assaulted by the intellect.

This is one of the characteristics of academia (that is secular), and perhaps a reason it appears so inimical to faith. In academia it is customary to translate worldviews into propositions, then examine logical relationships between these propositions, and derive more general propositions on which they are based. Then, having done this, the secular academic thinker attempts to bash down these propositions in order to test the solidity of the structure. This is an attempt, perhaps misguided, to arrive at a stable form of truth through logical reasoning. You may consider my OP as including an example of this approach and way of thinking (where the proposition in question is that there is direct knowledge of rebirth and cosmology).

As you might imagine, this creates a reductionist attitude in the minds of those who take it seriously, because they are continually trying to polish a core of truth that is unassailable (this is, in fact, an illusion, although this is not widely known). This is the secular scientistic realist materialist tendency. It says about other beliefs "It may or may not be true, but I won't believe it until it is demonstrated to me". Or it even says "If it's not demonstrated, it's not credible". These are some of the problems of the academic approach. But it is not evil to see the distinctions the academic makes. The problem is the intention that's associated with much of academia, the excessive grasping at arguments and views.

Dharma, as I understand it, is not fully reducible to a simple set of rules, and certainly not to a particular set of beliefs. As such, it is not in the spirit of the path to analyse Buddhism in this way and attempt to find unassailable truth, truth according to particular non-Buddhist criteria. Now that I understand this, I am free from the attempt.

Thank you again Jerafreyr for the link to the dialogue. It looks very interesting.

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by mikenz66 » Sun May 05, 2019 8:43 pm

Loving wrote:
Sun May 05, 2019 12:23 pm
On that note, here is a discourse I found illuminating:

You might be interested in Sam Vara's comments, given that he was at the talk:
https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=34201

:heart:
Mike

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Kim O'Hara » Mon May 06, 2019 5:23 am

Brunelleschi wrote:
Sun May 05, 2019 1:55 pm
Loving wrote:
Sun May 05, 2019 11:44 am
Thank you very much for offering this essay and its sources Wayfarer. I have great concern for a well-balanced and inclusive synthesis between East and West, and particularly Buddhism and secularism.
...This whole idea that Buddhism is "rational" and "science-y" is a modern invention anyway (since we're on the topic of the historial Buddha). It's a result of colonialism, christian missionary and a protestant view of religion. Traditional Buddhism has much more to do with ritual, astrology, amulets, and "supernatural" powers (i.e. Siddhis) than rational arguments ...
But "traditional" Buddhism is not necessarily the best guide to what the Buddha actually taught. For better or for worse, it's the Buddha's teachings filtered through generations of monastics in several different societies and infused with folk traditions and superstitions of each society it has passed through.
It's true that the whole notion of "returning to the original teachings" is akin to Protestantism, but it's also true that our best approximation to the original teachings (according to the scholars) are the Pali/Sanskrit sutras and that they are more "rational and science-y" than traditional Buddhism.
To each his (her) own!
About the topic of "Engaged Buddhism" - my limited understanding is that it grew due to colonialism. Buddhists were trying to compete with aggressive christian missionaries in places like Sri Lanka, etc.
Not really. Most people see Thich Nhat Hanh as its most influential proponent. Here is an introduction:
Lion's Roar wrote:Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967, after playing a central role in the Vietnamese peace movement. He is the author of over one hundred books, including Love in Action, Peace Is Every Step, The Miracle of Mindfulness and No Death, No Fear. He currently lives at Plum Village Monastery in France. —John Malkin

John Malkin: Will you describe the origins of Engaged Buddhism and how you became involved in compassion-based social change?

Thich Nhat Hanh: Engaged Buddhism is just Buddhism. When bombs begin to fall on people, you cannot stay in the meditation hall all of the time. Meditation is about the awareness of what is going on-not only in your body and in your feelings, but all around you.

When I was a novice in Vietnam, we young monks witnessed the suffering caused by the war. So we were very eager to practice Buddhism in such a way that we could bring it into society. That was not easy because the tradition does not directly offer Engaged Buddhism. So we had to do it by ourselves. That was the birth of Engaged Buddhism.
:reading: https://www.lionsroar.com/in-engaged-bu ... -with-you/

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Wayfarer » Mon May 06, 2019 5:45 am

Loving wrote:On that note, here is a discourse I found illuminating...
Aha, well, that essay I linked to is on a Dharma education site of which Stephen Bachelor is one of the founders. Actually I have a lot of respect for Bachelor, I've seen him speak and have read a few of his books. But he has become something of a figurehead for an almost aggressive style of secular Buddhism outlined in his well-known books, Buddhism Without Beliefs and more recently Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist.

I don't really agree with Bachelor's philosophy, but at the same time, as I said before, I think he presents a waystation, so to speak, which might help some engage with Buddhism whilst putting aside at least some of the deeper questions (particularly about 'the life beyond'). And another point I will make in favour of Bachelor, is that he is never strident or tub-thumping, and will generally publish critical reviews (of which there are more than a few!) from more traditionally-minded Buddhists, of what he writes. Apart from being well-read, he's an urbane, friendly and approachable man, from my experience of him.
Loving wrote:This is one of the characteristics of academia (that is secular), and perhaps a reason it appears so inimical to faith. In academia it is customary to translate worldviews into propositions, then examine logical relationships between these propositions, and derive more general propositions on which they are based. Then, having done this, the secular academic thinker attempts to bash down these propositions in order to test the solidity of the structure. This is an attempt, perhaps misguided, to arrive at a stable form of truth through logical reasoning.
Mainly agree, but with one caveat, which is that since about mid-last Century, there actually are quite a number of 'scholar-practitioners' in Buddhism - that is, people with academic postings who also profess Buddhism. That is very different from (say) pre-war comparative religion, which was much more aligned with the social sciences approach - that the scholar is attempting to understand the phenomena of the religion under investigation in a hands-off and purportedly objective manner. But I think the arrival of some of the sixties types on the scene well and truly overturned that applecart. Off the top of my head, such names include Jay Garfield and his frequent collaborator Guy Newland, Rupert Gethin, and of course Robert Thurman.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Brunelleschi » Mon May 06, 2019 7:12 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 5:23 am
Brunelleschi wrote:
Sun May 05, 2019 1:55 pm
Loving wrote:
Sun May 05, 2019 11:44 am
Thank you very much for offering this essay and its sources Wayfarer. I have great concern for a well-balanced and inclusive synthesis between East and West, and particularly Buddhism and secularism.
...This whole idea that Buddhism is "rational" and "science-y" is a modern invention anyway (since we're on the topic of the historial Buddha). It's a result of colonialism, christian missionary and a protestant view of religion. Traditional Buddhism has much more to do with ritual, astrology, amulets, and "supernatural" powers (i.e. Siddhis) than rational arguments ...
But "traditional" Buddhism is not necessarily the best guide to what the Buddha actually taught. For better or for worse, it's the Buddha's teachings filtered through generations of monastics in several different societies and infused with folk traditions and superstitions of each society it has passed through.
It's true that the whole notion of "returning to the original teachings" is akin to Protestantism, but it's also true that our best approximation to the original teachings (according to the scholars) are the Pali/Sanskrit sutras and that they are more "rational and science-y" than traditional Buddhism.
To each his (her) own!
Well, "according to scholars". The point is that there is obviously an element of faith. I think Malcolm had a good approach, if it helps you - great. If not, then better to spend your time elsewhere.

Anyway, my point is that if you want to use evolutionary psychology, cognitive science, and neuroscience to increase your faith in Buddhism then ok that's great but it will probably not be enough. I personally find that how the brain was formed by evolution - our reality is highly subjective - and how the brain is constantly gathering and classifying information is akin to alot of what Buddha Gautama was teaching. However, there are many aspects to practice - and some of it will probably rely on other factors than if Buddhism aligns perfectly with the latest article in Nature.

It is also about the emotional aspect.In Islam there is a concept of the prayer. One purpose is to get your "thinking" out of your head and into your heart. I think that's a valuable lesson.
Kim O'Hara wrote:
Brunelleschi wrote:About the topic of "Engaged Buddhism" - my limited understanding is that it grew due to colonialism. Buddhists were trying to compete with aggressive christian missionaries in places like Sri Lanka, etc.
Not really. Most people see Thich Nhat Hanh as its most influential proponent. Here is an introduction:
Right, like I said I have a limited understanding of that "branch". Wasn't Catholicism a big factor as well? E.g. in Taiwan.

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Loving » Mon May 06, 2019 10:56 am

mikenz66 wrote:
Sun May 05, 2019 8:43 pm
You might be interested in Sam Vara's comments, given that he was at the talk:
https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=34201
Thanks Mike :D. I also took your cue and listened to a talk by Ajahn Amaro. He has a strong grasp of the cultural dynamics; and he projects a distinct sincerity.
Kim O'Hara wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 5:23 am
Most people see Thich Nhat Hanh as its most influential proponent.
Yes. I want to unequivocally say that my OP question "Where is the 'Buddhism' in Engaged Buddhism?" is in no way meant to impugn or criticise the movement. Thich Nhat Hanh, on the contrary, is a teacher and icon in whom I have absolute confidence and admiration. Actually, along the lines of Brunelleschi's point, he has written a book about the meaning and application of prayer (The Energy of Prayer), which I plan to read.
Wayfarer wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 5:45 am
... since about mid-last Century, there actually are quite a number of 'scholar-practitioners' in Buddhism ... such names include Jay Garfield and his frequent collaborator Guy Newland, Rupert Gethin, and of course Robert Thurman.
Thanks for these names! It's refreshing to know there are people well-versed in both approaches. While I described what might be called an "attitude of scholarship", scholarship is in essence only a method. Since it is a method, it can in principle be mastered without being worshipped—whether in the Buddhist practitioner who is also a neuroscientist, or the creationist who is also a biologist. I have the impression that Buddhism is particularly well-suited to such a dual approach because its content is ethical, not physical, and so it does not have a doctrinal stake in arguing with what scholarship and scientific method uncovers.

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Kim O'Hara » Mon May 06, 2019 11:45 am

Brunelleschi wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 7:12 am
...
Kim O'Hara wrote:
Brunelleschi wrote:About the topic of "Engaged Buddhism" - my limited understanding is that it grew due to colonialism. Buddhists were trying to compete with aggressive christian missionaries in places like Sri Lanka, etc.
Not really. Most people see Thich Nhat Hanh as its most influential proponent. Here is an introduction:
Right, like I said I have a limited understanding of that "branch". Wasn't Catholicism a big factor as well? E.g. in Taiwan.
You're probably thinking about Humanistic Buddhism if you're thinking about Taiwan. It's a movement which is more "engaged" with lay concerns than some others, true, but doesn't use the label as TNH does, and doesn't have any direct connection with "Engaged Buddhism" as such. Here's wikipedia's overview - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Humanistic_Buddhism.

But I still don't know of any connection to colonialism or Catholicism. :broke:

:namaste:
Kim

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Thomas Amundsen » Mon May 06, 2019 3:50 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Mon May 06, 2019 5:23 am
But "traditional" Buddhism is not necessarily the best guide to what the Buddha actually taught. For better or for worse, it's the Buddha's teachings filtered through generations of monastics in several different societies and infused with folk traditions and superstitions of each society it has passed through.
It's true that the whole notion of "returning to the original teachings" is akin to Protestantism, but it's also true that our best approximation to the original teachings (according to the scholars) are the Pali/Sanskrit sutras and that they are more "rational and science-y" than traditional Buddhism.
To each his (her) own!
"According to the scholars" is kind of a big thing to bracket out, on a forum for Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism.

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Dechen Norbu
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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Dechen Norbu » Mon May 06, 2019 7:13 pm

There's nothing wrong with the scientific method.
The problem lies in the metaphysical assumptions left unchecked that underlie scientific materialism. These run so deep and we adopted them from such an early age that they became invisible. This closes doors you won't imagine when it comes to insight.

One of the most problematic premises is the assumption that there is an universe out there that exists objectively on its own and a subject right here that is truly existent. Seems more or less inocuous, no? Yet, until you grow out of this belief you'll block your progress. So how do you do it? Some people find it easy as their minds are less prone to doubt and don't dwell too much on these subjects. Others, usually those who have enough intellectual skills to reason correctly, fortunately have literary support to make them question at an intellectual level those premises. When reasons are found, first intellectually, then through insight, to question these hidden assumptions, interesting things start to happen.

So, in a nutshell, the biggest problem of secularized buddhism is not so much that it tries to earn scientific validation, but that at his root lies hidden a metaphysical belief system that makes progress and the wisdom it entails impossible. It's like trying to grow a tree by planting it in poisoned soil. Even if it survives, it will be seriously crooked.

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