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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:57 pm

catmoon wrote:

I agree that dogma shouldn't be mandatory, but I dont think one need look far to find organizations that are trying very hard indeed to make one dogma or another mandatory. It wasn't that long ago that we had a thread right here that was trying to establish a sort of Buddhist creed.
I think that people are simply used to that. And if a person comes from one type of background where things are structured that way, then they often want to see that structure replicated some how. That is demanded by people in order to validate its legitimacy. I don't think this has ever changed.

As Buddhist traditions have evolved around the world over the centuries, they have taken on many of the characteristics of the local cultures where they have flourished. I don't mean the style of decoration or language specifically, but that the teachings are preserved in ways of understanding that people are used to, and that they use in order to understand to their satisfaction.

So, you know, you take very profound teachings to Tibet, for example, talking about the nature of the mind and so forth, and it's like, "Can you phrase that concept as some sort of ferocious-looking monster?" Or, you look at the development of Buddhism in China, which is so fundamentally rooted in a Confucian context that really permeates everything, and you see Dharma teachings take on some of that, with the different levels of heaven and earth and hell all being very well defined.

And so now, in the western scientific world it is the same thing. We demand that Dharma and the institution of Buddhism be logical, rational, and as scientifically valid as possible. At the same time, Buddhism replicates the western European tradition and the American tradition as well. Sometimes it has to. Dharma centers often have their meditation times on Sundays, Sunday mornings, because of the Christian tradition, that is the time almost everybody has off. We also use the Buddhist centers as gathering places, as places to hold memorials, have food pantry drop-offs, even 12-step programs and so on, because we demand that Buddhism as an institution meet some criteria, of being connected to social concerns or whatever. people even see buddhism as a kind of psychological self-help program. If that is what people want from it, then that is the form it often takes. That is how dogma occurs.

So, it is only natural that people are going to come up and say "Isn't Buddhism just like God" and stuff like that all the time, because that is simply their reference point. They have an abstract concept of the oneness of everything, and they stick the tag "god" onto it, because they grew up with that tag stuck on it, and Buddhist talks about no self-no other and things like that, and they see it as being the same thing, even though the concept of an Abrahamic creator-God is not workable in BuddhaDharma. It doesn't fit the equation.

And so Dogma creeps in over time. But it doesn't diminish the teachings, because the teachings are not about dogma. They are about introspection into wisdom and the generation of mindfulness and compassion, and the practice of the teachings is the same as it always was. And the practice is not based on blind faith, but on one's own honest experience.
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Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Fri Apr 13, 2012 2:12 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Malcolm
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by Malcolm » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:58 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote: The fact that someone could eventually mistake the Base for God doesn't make them the same. :smile:
Yes, it remains like the jaundiced view of a conch shell or a white cloth.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by Mr. G » Fri Apr 13, 2012 1:59 pm

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  • How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
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Dechen Norbu
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by Dechen Norbu » Fri Apr 13, 2012 2:43 pm

tobes wrote: I agree with your claims about the study of consciousness. I think you (and probably many others) might be interested in this - Faure critiquing the premises which underpin the Buddhist engagement with neuroscience:

http://sydney.edu.au/sydney_ideas/lectu ... aure.shtml" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I can see why you would write this - "Buddhism's merit rests extensively in some of its most outrageous claims, I believe." It's a cool statement. If pressed, I would probably argue the exact opposite, but I would also never want to deny what you're pointing to.

:anjali:
I'm listening to his talk. There's merit there and it's quite interesting, but I think he should have more clear to himself the difference between definitive teachings and teachings that can/should be interpreted. Expedient means, as I talked above, are well known as such. Not all traditional teachings can be compared to cosmology, either. He doesn't make this mistake, but hints to it. Buddhism could live very well without it because in soteriological terms Buddhist cosmology bares little if any weight. It would also be important for him to make clear the difference between institution- with all the problems we know about it- and core ideas of Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism that he doesn't seem to know in depth.

There's also the public version of Tibetan Buddhism, the version known to the masses, very institutional, ritualistic and so on that performs a public service- although its utility could be debated these days- and the Buddhism you meet once you get close to lamas, which will be a different thing. If you feel a solemn atmosphere when they publicly perform a determinate role and ritual, in private they may relativize it completely. One of the reasons I like ChNN is that he brought forward to the public that attitude you see in other lamas when they deal with small and intimate audiences, while publicly they need to keep up with the system. It's not that ChNN breaks up with it, but publicly he hints often what should be the main point of practice and how our attitude could be. Other lamas know this too, very well, but usually they instruct their direct students about this while the great majority gets the "official and sanctioned version". I'm not saying ChNN is the only one doing this, but he is a good example. I'm not sure if the author was ever aware of this. I'm not sure if he knows that serious practitioners all know this. And perhaps he ends up taking Tibetan Buddhism for something it isn't entirely, assuming the "official and sanctioned version", that has politics and all involved, is equivalent to real theory/ practice. That would be a fatal error.

He also makes a critique about the Dalai Lama saying that Buddhism will discard what Science can't prove, as if it was mostly a political matter or then a sell out. It's neither, in my opinion. He also mentions that as Buddhist claims are metaphysical, they can't be put to the test, so in a way what the Dalai Lama says doesn't have much merit. This says a lot to me about why he sees the Dalai Lama's words under such light. It's revealing in fact and it's tied to his apparent lack of differentiation between the secondary (mostly expedient) teachings, that can be changed to suit the audience and the core teachings, that need to be kept as they are. I'm pretty sure the Dalai Lama, as any other lama, wouldn't mind to see these teachings adapted to the new public. It's a matter of communication. This is happening already. I could name a few high lamas who adapt these teachings to the audience without corrupting the core teachings. It's concerning these teachings, especially those who provide explanations about the physical world- role that now belongs to science mostly, and a good job is being done- that the Dalai Lama makes concessions. Sure he does. Why wouldn't he? These teachings have a role when it comes to giving solace to the community or the practitioner, but by far they are no more than expedient means. I can recall ChNN telling a story about him doing a translation for a gelugpa lama who wanted to maintain that the old cosmology should stand. He advised him against it, but he didn't listen. It goes without saying that the gelugpa lama's book didn't have much success. We could then state that the core teachings are metaphysical and so the critique stands. However, the realm of the mind was too metaphysical, especially if we talk about consciousness that was, until a few decades, considered almost a dirty word in science. Presently, it's a hot topic, so science is tackling what used to belong to the realm of metaphysics. So in Buddhism and science there's a common object being approached with different methodologies and theoretical framing, none free of metaphysical assumptions.


I really should take some notes and then discuss them, but overall it seems an interesting talk. I'll keep listening to him soon and probably I'll share my thoughts.

Thanks for the link! It's being really interesting. I'm just stating where I disagree. This doesn't mean that the point he is trying to make isn't valid. But probably an author with a solid background in Tibetan Buddhism would be a better interpreter for such a critique. His background is mostly in Zen Buddhism, that lost the main role in the Buddhism/Science dialogue as he admits. Funny enough is the fact that when most Tibetan Buddhism practitioners listen to someone with a different background talking about it, they usually note that they speak mostly of the, let's call it this way, outer shell of Tibetan Buddhism. This outer shell has a "very colorful" outlook, a lot of dogma attached to it and so on and so forth. Admittedly there were authors in the past and present who got stuck in apologetics concerning this outer shell, similarly to that Gelupga monk ChNN talked about. Nervetheless, the Dalai lama isn't one of them. I find that very positive, not just lip service or a sell out.

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treehuggingoctopus
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by treehuggingoctopus » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:26 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:
Namdrol wrote:
Lhug-Pa wrote:Mint, Dechen Norbu, did you guys happen to hear Rinpoche's teaching on the last day of the recent retreat?

http://www.freezecast.com/replay/index.php" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

He addressed the very topic that you two are debating (in context of course).
Not really -- what he said was is that it was possible to frame "God" as a signifier for one's primordial potentiality (i.e. the basis), but he did not state that this was how theistic traditions would understand it nor that they would accept it in this way.
Exactly.
Sometimes I wonder if some experiences had by theistic mystics weren't close to what ChNN's pointing to and then framed under a theistic view because of the culture where they lived. If you accept that God exists and have such an experience, it wouldn't be so far out considering you had a sort of communion with him or something similar.
I didn't listen to Rinpoche yesterday, but over the recent years I've heard him also argue, and more than once, that he doesn't believe that Jesus understood the word "God" the way theists understand it - that Jesus must have been referring precisely to our primordial potentiality. (ChNN talked about it in 2010 and 2011 in London, for instance.)

Come to think of it, the twilight language of Dzogchen could be used to substantiate such a claim - i.e., that Christianity for over two thousand years hasn't had a clue regarding the real meaning of its core metaphors.
Dechen Norbu wrote:It means that the mystic interpreted his experience, that by far is not the end of the path, under a certain worldview. His interpretation may even block him from further progress and give origin to statements like Augustines's “si comprehenderis, non est Deus”, “if you can understand it, it is not God” and all the resulting dissertations, theologically framed, that result from such insights and, in my opinion, lead nowhere.
It's a tragedy, isn't it? 'Spiritual' practice which leads you to . . . writing dissertations :crazy:
. . . there they saw a rock! But it wasn't a rock . . .

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Dechen Norbu
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by Dechen Norbu » Fri Apr 13, 2012 3:31 pm

:lol:

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Uniltiranyu
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by Uniltiranyu » Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:33 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:It's what it is, whether you like it or not. I'm not to blame for your soft spot concerning Christianity. Your little apologetic arguments can't be used to dismiss any reasonable critic to a worldview that includes an Abrahamic god, not mattering the justifications Christians tried to put forward. There's no way of it making sense for a Buddhist. Just though you might benefit from knowing that. There's nothing wrong with a small identity crisis, mint, as long as we overgrow it, not letting it drain our whole energy that could be put to better use. You either walk in one side of the road or the other. Walk in the middle and you'll be squashed. So be a good Christian/theist or a good Buddhist. A bad hybrid is of little worth and pays no justice to either side.

The Christian God reveals a mandala of wrathful and peaceful lineages from the void, uses a naga to present a wish-fulfilling gift to a bone-lineage woman, reveals the truth of suffering to Adam and Eve, who wrap themselves in Fig (Bodhi) leaves in God's presence, and eventually that God reveals his rainbow form to Man as a final covenant. Are you that sure that the two beliefs really are that far apart? Faithful Christians go to their High Priests to receive Communion, whilst faithful Buddhists attend empowerment to receive initiation from Rinpoches. Christ dwells in your Sacred Heart in one faith, whilst a Yidam with consort dwells there in the other. In practice, I'm not so sure they differ that greatly, as each is very dependent on a Guru/Priest figure to guide you to revelation/insight. Theory is one thing, but what that Guru/Priest does to you in your moment of non-self, and his moment of non-duality, will trump your interpretation of what you think is happening.

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Dechen Norbu
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by Dechen Norbu » Fri Apr 13, 2012 9:50 pm

Well, you surely have a set of very original views, what can I say? :lol:
Nevertheless those are your interpretations. It would be very hard to find justification for them in any canon. The views you describe are neither from the religions of the book or Buddhism. You try to reconcile them, but I'm afraid you can't. Perhaps the bridge is ethics, and even there you find many differences, especially when it comes to the foundation of ethics, wisdom.

I honestly believe tolerance is living with the difference, not ignoring it or pretending it isn't there. It's when getting along healthily with others who think in ways irreconcilable with ours that we show true tolerance. Not making case of the differences and reducing all to the same, as if in the end all was equal, is a dangerous form of relativism that shows at most good will, but never mature tolerance. At least that's how I see it.

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conebeckham
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by conebeckham » Fri Apr 13, 2012 10:28 pm

Kooks, all of ya....that's what I think! :smile:

Well...most of you....
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")

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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by PadmaVonSamba » Fri Apr 13, 2012 11:25 pm

The God of the Old Testament has unresolved anger and jealousy issues. A worthy god should be able to work that out. So it is not surprising to me that his children have the same problems because he is their father and families tend to pass these problems along. So, war all the time. God needs to go visit Buddha and learn how to calm his mind and let go of some of all this "me" "me" "me" bullshit that he is clinging to. Maybe have some tea. When he does that then I will consider this idea that God and Buddhism are the same. Until then, I will concede that, like the rest of us, he has Buddha nature buried underneath a lot of ego. Until then, I will concede that, like the rest of us, God has no more "real" existence than anybody else.
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LastLegend
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by LastLegend » Fri Apr 13, 2012 11:43 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:The God of the Old Testament has unresolved anger and jealousy issues. A worthy god should be able to work that out. So it is not surprising to me that his children have the same problems because he is their father and families tend to pass these problems along. So, war all the time. God needs to go visit Buddha and learn how to calm his mind and let go of some of all this "me" "me" "me" bullshit that he is clinging to. Maybe have some tea. When he does that then I will consider this idea that God and Buddhism are the same. Until then, I will concede that, like the rest of us, he has Buddha nature buried underneath a lot of ego. Until then, I will concede that, like the rest of us, God has no more "real" existence than anybody else.

Yes sir!
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

Bodhidharma [my translation]
―I come to the East to transmit this clear knowing mind without constructing any dharma―

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tobes
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by tobes » Sat Apr 14, 2012 12:09 am

LastLegend wrote:
tobes wrote:
However, what worries me, is that this epistemological double standard leaves neo-Buddhism open to the charge that it is functioning more or less as an ideology.

:anjali:
I see. It is important to refrain from pointing finger. Good reminder.

What else is on your mind? Any particular Buddhist teachings that you want to put on a trial of rational footing?
Sorry LL, I missed this one.

I think I'm just saying: don't apply epistemological standards to other traditions, unless you're also prepared to apply them to your own tradition. So, if one does not accept that Buddhism ought to on a purely rational footing, then one ought not expect or demand other traditions to be on a purely rational footing.

:anjali:

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tobes
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by tobes » Sat Apr 14, 2012 12:13 am

Namdrol wrote:
Well, given that I was raised by a professor of philosophy, I am entitled to be incredibly reductive about it.

N
No you're not. That should only make you appreciate that you have to make a well founded case for your claims, not just assume their validity because you've had some exposure to the tradition.

Philosophy is not an aristocracy. Merit by argument, not by who raised you.

:anjali:

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tobes
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by tobes » Sat Apr 14, 2012 12:19 am

Dechen Norbu wrote:
I really should take some notes and then discuss them, but overall it seems an interesting talk. I'll keep listening to him soon and probably I'll share my thoughts.

Thanks for the link! It's being really interesting. I'm just stating where I disagree. This doesn't mean that the point he is trying to make isn't valid. But probably an author with a solid background in Tibetan Buddhism would be a better interpreter for such a critique. His background is mostly in Zen Buddhism, that lost the main role in the Buddhism/Science dialogue as he admits. Funny enough is the fact that when most Tibetan Buddhism practitioners listen to someone with a different background talking about it, they usually note that they speak mostly of the, let's call it this way, outer shell of Tibetan Buddhism. This outer shell has a "very colorful" outlook, a lot of dogma attached to it and so on and so forth. Admittedly there were authors in the past and present who got stuck in apologetics concerning this outer shell, similarly to that Gelupga monk ChNN talked about. Nervetheless, the Dalai lama isn't one of them. I find that very positive, not just lip service or a sell out.
My computer crashed halfway through the talk last week, so I've only heard the first bit ~ thought he was making fairly common sense claims. There was a more substantial talk on the matter at LSE over the summer, which would potentially be more controversial on these boards too....I'll chase it up.

:anjali:

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tobes
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by tobes » Sat Apr 14, 2012 12:27 am

Here's the LSE talk:

http://www2.lse.ac.uk/newsAndMedia/vide ... px?id=1298" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

You have to go to the "latest 500" list and scroll down to find it. It was on 11th Jan 2012.

I found it interesting for how it illustrated the contemporary obsession with "psychological happiness" and how the media appropriates Buddhism into that paradigm - he made a good critique of that (and of the pseudo science wrapped up in it).

As for the actual substance of his claims, and the continued dialogue with science - I'm more or less agnostic. It neither bothers me nor excites me. But I think people here will find it interesting.

:anjali:

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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by LastLegend » Sat Apr 14, 2012 12:30 am

tobes wrote: I think I'm just saying: don't apply epistemological standards to other traditions, unless you're also prepared to apply them to your own tradition. So, if one does not accept that Buddhism ought to on a purely rational footing, then one ought not expect or demand other traditions to be on a purely rational footing.

:anjali:
Sounds good. Now I understand you are talking to most Buddhists on this forum.
But in my opinion, Buddhist teachings are very rational.
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)

Bodhidharma [my translation]
―I come to the East to transmit this clear knowing mind without constructing any dharma―

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Paul
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by Paul » Sat Apr 14, 2012 12:45 am

LastLegend wrote:
tobes wrote: I think I'm just saying: don't apply epistemological standards to other traditions, unless you're also prepared to apply them to your own tradition. So, if one does not accept that Buddhism ought to on a purely rational footing, then one ought not expect or demand other traditions to be on a purely rational footing.

:anjali:
Sounds good. Now I understand you are talking to most Buddhists on this forum.
But in my opinion, Buddhist teachings are very rational.
I agree that Buddhist teachings are very rational, but I'd say that it doesn't actually matter if they are rational or not. The aim of them isn't rationality - it's escape from suffering. Rationality's just a bonus and not really that important IMHO.
Look at the unfathomable spinelessness of man: all the means he's been given to stay alert he uses, in the end, to ornament his sleep. – Rene Daumal
the modern mind has become so limited and single-visioned that it has lost touch with normal perception - John Michell

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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by Uniltiranyu » Sat Apr 14, 2012 12:46 am

Dechen Norbu wrote:Well, you surely have a set of very original views, what can I say? :lol:
Nevertheless those are your interpretations. It would be very hard to find justification for them in any canon. The views you describe are neither from the religions of the book or Buddhism. You try to reconcile them, but I'm afraid you can't. Perhaps the bridge is ethics, and even there you find many differences, especially when it comes to the foundation of ethics, wisdom.

I honestly believe tolerance is living with the difference, not ignoring it or pretending it isn't there. It's when getting along healthily with others who think in ways irreconcilable with ours that we show true tolerance. Not making case of the differences and reducing all to the same, as if in the end all was equal, is a dangerous form of relativism that shows at most good will, but never mature tolerance. At least that's how I see it.

I am happy with the differences.

So you don't consider Padmasambhava's Initiation to be a part of Buddhism? Guru Rinpoche seems relevant to Tibetans and their view of the world just as Genesis is important to Christians. Go read these two texts for yourself, and make your own decision regarding their similarity or difference. My view is that each of those texts point directly to the results of transmission; and you either see that or you don't. That's the only reason I claim that they are similar, and nothing in my practice has arisen to dissolve that perspective. If God is a creator, he creates mandalas, just like the Wisdom Dakini when she cuts her breast and belly to reveal the peaceful and wrathful lineages within the void.

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Sherab
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by Sherab » Sat Apr 14, 2012 1:31 am

tobes wrote:I think I'm just saying: don't apply epistemological standards to other traditions, unless you're also prepared to apply them to your own tradition. So, if one does not accept that Buddhism ought to on a purely rational footing, then one ought not expect or demand other traditions to be on a purely rational footing.

:anjali:
As I see it,

enlightened beings do not shy away from using irrational approaches as long as they are useful in bringing particular sentient beings closer to the state of enlightenment. It is called skilfull means. And it is called skilfull means because these approaches arise from their Wisdom. Of course, the intended recipients of such approaches do not see the approaches as irrational, because they can't. And they can't because the causes and conditions are not there for that to happen.

However, when it comes to approaching the real reality, there is only one way - the provisional path of meditation and the actual path of "non-meditation" or "no effort". There will be those who disagree with me here. That is okay as it is just my own view. But certainly, the real reality is not and cannot be reached by philosophy or mere intellectualization. This is made quite clear in the teachings. Yet this does not necessarily imply that such teachings are beyond logic and cannot be harmed by logic. In other words, meditation or non-meditation as a path is not seen as irrational. Again, there will be those who will disagree with me here.

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tobes
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Re: Buddhism on God

Post by tobes » Sat Apr 14, 2012 2:31 am

Sherab wrote:
tobes wrote:I think I'm just saying: don't apply epistemological standards to other traditions, unless you're also prepared to apply them to your own tradition. So, if one does not accept that Buddhism ought to on a purely rational footing, then one ought not expect or demand other traditions to be on a purely rational footing.

:anjali:
As I see it,

enlightened beings do not shy away from using irrational approaches as long as they are useful in bringing particular sentient beings closer to the state of enlightenment. It is called skilfull means. And it is called skilfull means because these approaches arise from their Wisdom. Of course, the intended recipients of such approaches do not see the approaches as irrational, because they can't. And they can't because the causes and conditions are not there for that to happen.

However, when it comes to approaching the real reality, there is only one way - the provisional path of meditation and the actual path of "non-meditation" or "no effort". There will be those who disagree with me here. That is okay as it is just my own view. But certainly, the real reality is not and cannot be reached by philosophy or mere intellectualization. This is made quite clear in the teachings. Yet this does not necessarily imply that such teachings are beyond logic and cannot be harmed by logic. In other words, meditation or non-meditation as a path is not seen as irrational. Again, there will be those who will disagree with me here.
Sure, but just be aware that you're using predicates - enlightened beings, Wisdom, real reality and so forth, which people outside of the language game of Buddhism probably wouldn't accept or understand as an adequate basis for a logical discussion.

So it seems to me somewhat unreasonable to deny people from other traditions the use of predicates which make sense within their own language game, but which also are probably not an adequate basis for a logical discussion.

See where I'm coming from?

:anjali:

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