Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

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SunWuKong
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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by SunWuKong » Wed May 08, 2019 7:32 pm

None of this addresses Non-secular Buddhists borrowing practices from "secular" Buddhism, or vice versa. Which is where artificial categories break down. In the video, Batchelor attempts to explain "Early Buddhism" as essentially secular in nature, but as I've indicated this is because it is being viewed with an essentially western bias and very little understanding about cultural currents in South Asian religious studies. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Kabat Zinn developed mindfulness practices based on teachings he got from Vietnamese and Korean Zen, as well as yoga. I think trying to sort all this out is futile. But my opinion isn't going to matter much anyway.

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boda
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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by boda » Wed May 08, 2019 10:04 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:
Wed May 08, 2019 5:02 pm
boda wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 11:31 pm
Dechen Norbu wrote:
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.
You may have noticed that many health trees are naturally crooked. Trees that grow in poisoned soil die. Anyway, I'm curious about how exactly people express this 'crookedness' in practice. Say we have a 'straight' practitioner and a 'crooked' practitioner. What's the difference in their actual practice? Simply that the former can progress and the latter cannot? Can you site any studies that can support this claim?
Those are very good questions. I'm not sure my answer will be as good, but I can try.

First, though, perhaps we shouldn't abuse the analogy I used. Maybe we can say that when a tree grows crooked, something went wrong. I used the poison analogy because it would affect negatively the growth of the tree from birth from a hidden place (similarly to the hidden metaphysical assumptions that would block the practitioner's progress). I think the gist of it isn't tottaly off the mark, but since I'm not a botanist I couldn't say for sure. If we were talking about keeping bad friends , maybe I would compare them to the wind. Anyway, I think it sufises, but maybe you can suggest a better one.

Now, about the questions themselves. They are very pertinent. If I say that practicing under the influence of a certain belief system other than the one on which Buddhadharma is laid harms progress, the obvious question is how the hell do I know? I mean, obvioisly I don't have a "buddhometer" to evaluate anyone else's realization. It would be great if such an instrument existed.

So, may we tackle this issue? I would say, ask the experts, right? And you could rightly ask, who's to say who's an expert and who isn't? I think it works similarly as with any field of knowledge. The peers know very well who's who in their comunity. For instance, if you ask an advanced mathematician who are the top dogs in his discipline, he'll point you a few. Likewise, if you top notch practitioners know who has real attainments and who only blows his own horn for mundane reasons. Then it's a matter of listening to their advice.

However, those of a more skeptical disposition may think that those supposed experts are but a bunch of religious dudes with vested interests. It's conceivable. With a more thorough look such person would discover that there are people considered very advanced whose mundane gain of upholding a certain interpretation of Dharma is not perceived. Or they are very good at hidding it and have tremendous patience to wait for a decade or more in retreat (some their entire life) so that they can enjoy those alleged mundane benefits or they are actually on to something.

The litmus test is, nevertheless, a DIY method. Try, persevere and find out. But do it as it's been done for many years. If you risk and decide to try one of those new forms of secularized Buddhism, it will be hard for you to draw any conclusions about the traditional stuff based on anything but baseless opinion.

Alright, this is getting long. Let me just try to express some ideas about the difference between a practitioner of the traditional Buddhadharma and of something else. The path starts and ends with right view. A positive feedback loop. View guides practice that refines the view and so on. There will come a point where wrong views will lead you astray and you'll hardly experience further progress. When you practice, there will be obstacles and challanges. There will be signs and certain experiences. When these happen, you'll have to know what to do to move further. Secularized buddhism has no answers for this that I know of.

OK, probably you can poke a lot of holes in my answer, and I invite you to do so. I'm a bit short on time now and if I continued I wouldn't be respecting you and my further comments would lack clarity. So, let's keep this going. I'm sorry if my answer isn't as good as you wished, but that will have to do for the time being.

Yours are good, important questions. Maybe someone more knowledgeable steps in and lends a hand.

See you soon!
Your response is thoughtful and feels sincere and candid. I appreciate that very much.

Your advice to consult an expert is good. I've pretty much done that however. The problem there is that, in the Zen tradition, or at least as the Zen tradition exists in the Southern California region, they have little to say on the matter. Very little attention is put on doctrine. It's all about practice (sitting, chanting, rituals, etc.).

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by mikenz66 » Wed May 08, 2019 11:19 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Tue May 07, 2019 11:38 am
I think that if we're talking about "Engaged Buddhism" as a formal group, it's TNH's group; but if we're talking about it as an approach to dharma, it's far bigger and it's fuzzy around the edges.
Yes, I mean engaged Buddhism in general, not some particular group. My local secularish-Buddhist friends have a real blind spot for engaged Buddhism that is not TNH or climate-change...

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Dechen Norbu
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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Dechen Norbu » Thu May 09, 2019 12:13 am

boda wrote:
Wed May 08, 2019 10:04 pm
Your response is thoughtful and feels sincere and candid. I appreciate that very much.

Your advice to consult an expert is good. I've pretty much done that however. The problem there is that, in the Zen tradition, or at least as the Zen tradition exists in the Southern California region, they have little to say on the matter. Very little attention is put on doctrine. It's all about practice (sitting, chanting, rituals, etc.).
I'm not in a position where I can comment the methods used by Zen teachers over there without risk saying utter nonsense. What I can say is that there are many methods to practice Dharma. There are also many teachers, some better than others, some who resonate better with some audiences, and so on and so forth. So it's hard to comment.

That said, keep close to your heart that ultimately you are the sole responsible for your path. By this I mean that you should investigate, ask questions and always be very honest and straight with yourself and others. If your motivation comes from a good place, there's no bad questions. These days it's not difficult to compare approached between teachers, even when they aren't close.

While some people do very well with the "shut up, sit down and practice", others need more than that. That's why there's doctrine. In itself, all doctrine is just the finger pointing to the moon, not the moon itself, but at least it points in the some direction, hopefully the right one. So it's there to help. There's a caveat, though. You can't get lost in there. It's easy to dive in and lose one's entire life reading, analysing, comparing and what have you, but at some point you do have to sit down. Some times and for some people it's even better to sit down and practice for some time first so that they experience a few things before jumping into more complex doctrine.

One can only do what is possible. You can always hold your beliefs back for a while and start doing practice. If it calms your mind, if you become more caring about others, if it makes you feel less stressed and a sense of freedom and spaciousness starts to install, then you are probably going in the right direction. But then, if you continue, there will come a point where the view is the deal breaker. If you happen to hold views yhat block your progress, you may end up thinking that you peaked out, that you went as far as you can go when, truthfully, you are only at the threshold of the path. If you know how to move along, you'll walk towards the irreversibility of it. Otherwise, you may be lucky for a while, but it all may crumble down later on.

Just imagine, for a moment, that the traditional accounts have some truth in them. Every little seed you plant at each moment by mean of thoughts and actions will bring future consequences. Imagine your substrate consciousness, that which is said not to be brain dependent, continues after you die. Bluntly put, you are stuck in samsara. Unlike what physicalism believes, there's no quasi 3rd noble truth for free. This means that if you die, you don't ceasse existing. You don't get away with it by dying. Puff, all your problems gone. Imagine it isn't so for a while, since science still doesn't know the necessary and suficient causes for consciousness, so all it can do is speculate about its fate. Guys who've been at it for 2 and a 1/2 millennia, give or take, say it's otherwise. You are stuck here. Forever. You are betting your life, friend! Perhaps lives. OR on the other hand, imagine physicalism is right. If you die, puff, all problems solved! The bliss of oblivion. Would you be willing to spend decades practicing and missing other stuff if you have all for free at the end?

So you do very well to question. Be critical and see if there are premises you are accepting that should also be investigated. Remember that intellect alone won't carry you there. Still don't stress too much. The answers you need take time. I hope you have it. One way or the other, there's not much you can do about it beyond searching for good info, a good teacher and start doing it slowly.

Best of luck!

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Loving » Thu May 09, 2019 4:58 am

I'm going to be honest. I don't care whether or not the ancients had it "right", or scientists have it "right". Whether we are a ghost in a machine or all things are centred in the mind, whether we have free will or all is determined or both, whether we inhabit an infinite or a finite cosmos or a simulation or a dream or hallucination, it does not take away from the fact that there is a fundamental mystery going on here, and any "theory" you could make to describe it is essentially nothing but a voice emanating from an unknown source.

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by SunWuKong » Fri May 10, 2019 5:41 am

Loving wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 4:58 am
I'm going to be honest. I don't care whether or not the ancients had it "right", or scientists have it "right". Whether we are a ghost in a machine or all things are centred in the mind, whether we have free will or all is determined or both, whether we inhabit an infinite or a finite cosmos or a simulation or a dream or hallucination, it does not take away from the fact that there is a fundamental mystery going on here, and any "theory" you could make to describe it is essentially nothing but a voice emanating from an unknown source.
Possibly so! But it should be good for a laugh, right?
"We are magical animals that roam" ~ Roam

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Fri May 10, 2019 6:09 am

The point of having the right view is to create a container for the actual practice (which doesn't mean just formal practice of course, it subsumes everything), which is the "living" part of Dharma, confusing the container with what it holds is a recipe for continued circling.
His welcoming
& rebelling are scattered,
gone to their end,
do not exist.
Knowing the dustless, sorrowless state,
he discerns rightly,
has gone, beyond becoming,
to the Further Shore.

-Lokavipatti Sutta

Loving
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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Loving » Fri May 10, 2019 8:03 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 6:09 am
The point of having the right view is to create a container for the actual practice (which doesn't mean just formal practice of course, it subsumes everything), which is the "living" part of Dharma, confusing the container with what it holds is a recipe for continued circling.
That was very well-put. Thank you. :smile:

Does anyone see a commonality between Buddhist right view and the philosophy of pragmatism? I notice some Western Buddhists like to quote William James, who was a pragmatist. The school is commonly attributed slogans like "The measure of whether something is true is whether it works" (although it is naive to take this simple reduction at face-value).

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Re: Buddhism and the Historical Buddha

Post by Dechen Norbu » Fri May 10, 2019 2:37 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 6:09 am
The point of having the right view is to create a container for the actual practice (which doesn't mean just formal practice of course, it subsumes everything), which is the "living" part of Dharma, confusing the container with what it holds is a recipe for continued circling.
Hi Johnny!

That might be a possible interpretation of right view, as a theory consisting of set of beliefs we should accept before the other factors of the 8fold Noble Path, but a very reduced one. Consider that all of them are not steps, but factors simultaneously present and intertwined.
Right view, Samma Ditthi, is both the beginning and the end of the Path. The Buddha, in the Mahasatipatthanasutta, defined the path factor of right view expressly in terms of the four truths: "What now is right view? It is understanding of suffering dukkha, understanding of the origin of dukkha, understanding of the cessation of dukkha and understanding of the way leading to the cessation dukkha."
So, even if the 8fold Path starts with a conceptual understanding of the Four Noble Truth through the media of thought and reflection, it reaches its climax in a direct realization of those same truths. Thus it can be said that the right view of the Four Noble Truths forms both the beginning and the culmination of the way to the end of suffering. It's not simply the container. Usually, when I think about the analogy you used, the container and the water, I think about different presentations (the container) of the Buddhadharma (water). These different presentations might vary from styles of teaching to different schools and so on, while the profound meaning of the teachings remain the same, pretty much like water being the same whatever the shape of the container you put it in.

Best wishes!

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