Correct Interpretation?

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lazy
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Correct Interpretation?

Post by lazy » Fri Sep 12, 2014 12:41 am

Hello again Dharma Wheel, :bow:


Ok, so. I have a question about opinions. I'm not sure that my understanding of what Buddhism is matches that of the people around me. I'd rather try this question out on the internet than in person.

EDIT: "The people around me" would be the DRBA.

Basically, I read between the lines pretty hard, to the extent that it's very possible that I'm interpreting Buddhism totally differently between some of the people around me. I've had mixed responses from sanghans, some agree with me completely and some tell me I'm totally off base. Of course, I think that the people who agree with me are correct, and the people who disagree don't understand correctly. (inb4 :roll:)

So here's how it is:

And please, let's not have a flame war here, these are my honest opinions, so be cool. (Maybe that goes without saying, because everyone on DW is so chill, but better safe than sorry)

I see everything supernatural in sutras as a metaphor. Let's use the Pure Land as an example. I think that reciting the Buddhas name is a great practice. Why? Because reciting mindfully clears my mind; it's like meditation. Also, to me, being mindful of the Buddha means being mindful of someone who is totally selfless and altruistic. It's good habit to be around someone like that, hopefully they'll rub off on you, hopefully you can be like them one day. I don't know whether anyone thinks that there's some dude living in the clouds named Amithaba, whose body is the color of gold, whose eyes are as wide as the clear blue seas, and whose brow illuminates a thousand worlds, but to me, all these things just mean that he has perfected the Way. I don't see Amithaba as a historical or divine character, he's just a personification of self mastery and perfect conduct. As far as the Pure Land is concerned, the nature of all things is the same, so in the eyes of someone who has the skill to not discriminate and to remain unperturbed by states, there is no difference between the Pure Land and the world we're in now (the Saha world or whatever). Also if everyone acts like Amithaba, our world will be kind of a Pure Land.

To me: Rebirth means 'cause and effect'/'footprint', hell means suffering, heaven means bliss.

When I'm reading, the words are like pointers to things inside my head, things that can be derived from universal truisms, like the relative nature of phenomena. I very much doubt that it has literally rained flowers in the past as a result of good dharma talks.

boda
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by boda » Fri Sep 12, 2014 12:52 am

So do you believe that the cessation of suffering is also metaphorical? After all, no one living has ever known such a thing.

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Mkoll
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by Mkoll » Fri Sep 12, 2014 1:15 am

boda wrote:After all, no one living has ever known such a thing.
What makes you so certain?
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Adder
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by Adder » Fri Sep 12, 2014 1:38 am

I'd say the one thing that is inevitable either way is change, so do not identify with that position as 'correct'... perhaps just understand [there is no spoon] it is correct for you at the moment, and that it might be more correct in another interpretation at another time. I think that is a safe way to progress.

lazy
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by lazy » Fri Sep 12, 2014 1:55 am

boda wrote:So do you believe that the cessation of suffering is also metaphorical? After all, no one living has ever known such a thing.
I wouldn't say 'metaphorical'. I'm not sure if it is attainable in such an absolute sense, but it certainly is possible to overcome some suffering and I think it's functional to set the bar as high as possible.

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garudha
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by garudha » Fri Sep 12, 2014 2:19 am

I can't remember where, in which sutra, but I read that the Buddha said he purposefully didn't use metaphors or speak in language that would likely be misunderstood.
It all seems very "scientific", rational and factual to me.

lazy
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by lazy » Fri Sep 12, 2014 3:31 am

garudha wrote:I can't remember where, in which sutra, but I read that the Buddha said he purposefully didn't use metaphors or speak in language that would likely be misunderstood.
It all seems very "scientific", rational and factual to me.
Yeah, Buddhism as I understand it is very, as you say, '"scientific", rational and factual'. But, when I hear old Chinese ladies talking about ghosts and spirits, it doesn't sound very rational anymore. It might be because of a language barrier, but it seems that I am sometimes among some who hold beliefs that I consider to be superstitious.

I really should ask the Dharma Masters about it, but I'm worried of being labelled a heretic.

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yan kong
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by yan kong » Fri Sep 12, 2014 4:03 am

lazy wrote:But, when I hear old Chinese ladies talking about ghosts and spirits, it doesn't sound very rational anymore.
What about it is not rational?
"Meditation is a spiritual exercise, not a therapeutic regime... Our intention is to enter Nirvana, not to make life in Samsara more tolerable." Chan Master Hsu Yun

lazy
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by lazy » Fri Sep 12, 2014 4:29 am

yan kong wrote:
lazy wrote:But, when I hear old Chinese ladies talking about ghosts and spirits, it doesn't sound very rational anymore.
What about it is not rational?
Absence of rationale.

It seems like they're talking about something that's more like Casper the Friendly Ghost than something like a hungry ghost, which I'm quite sure represents suffering.

lazy
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by lazy » Fri Sep 12, 2014 5:03 am

Here's an example of some different viewpoints, using rebirth as an example: (These are not real quotes)

"How do you know that rebirth is real? Can you prove it?"
My perspective: This person doesn't understand what rebirth means.

"I don't do that because a Sutra I read said that I will be reborn as a goat if I do."
My perspective: This person doesn't understand what rebirth means, AND they are superstitious.

"Rebirth is simply a word which is pointing to what is happening every moment as a result of the effects of our actions. If you have witnessed cause and effect you have witnessed rebirth."
My perspective: This person understands what rebirth means.

(Pardon me if my wording isn't very sharp, I'm not a pro. Hopefully you can humor me and read between the lines if my wording isn't super clear.)

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garudha
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by garudha » Fri Sep 12, 2014 8:32 am

If Rebirth does not address the afterlife, the religious question of "what happens after we die?", then where is it covered ?

plwk
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by plwk » Fri Sep 12, 2014 8:47 am

Link
"Now, Kalamas, one who is a disciple of the noble ones — his mind thus free from hostility, free from ill will, undefiled, & pure — acquires four assurances in the here-&-now:

"'If there is a world after death, if there is the fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then this is the basis by which, with the break-up of the body, after death, I will reappear in a good destination, the heavenly world.' This is the first assurance he acquires.

"'But if there is no world after death, if there is no fruit of actions rightly & wrongly done, then here in the present life I look after myself with ease — free from hostility, free from ill will, free from trouble.' This is the second assurance he acquires.
A Safe Bet

plwk
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by plwk » Fri Sep 12, 2014 9:09 am

Well lazy, from my many years of involvement with DRBA, I once asked a near similar question to a senior citizen lay facilitator (who claims he's a disciple of the Founder) in a local branch of DRBA in my country once when he was leading a study group on the late Ven Master Xuan Hua's commentary study on the Amitabha Sutra, on whether one who isn't able to accept the traditional presentation for time being for any reason could be helped to understand it in another way and I got the expected answer in my own paraphrase: 'no, it's just too bad'

Now, having looked at a ton of material that's available in Pure Land teaching and practice over the years & from across many other Buddhist traditions, even within the Chinese Mahayana, I have found that there are other presentations available for such people. If you're interested, just check out the Pure Land sub forum.

Another thing you may want to remember also that when it comes to organised organisations & traditions, its adherents are pretty much obliged to repeat and follow the official tagline for obvious reasons. Yet, from what I have read much on their Founder, he's not the cookie cutter type. If you have a chance, try to strike up an appointment to meet and learn with the Dharma Master Dr Héng Shí (some spell it as 'Heng Sure' or 恆實法師 / héng shí fǎ shī). I hear he's worth a try.

I was once given a valuable advice: don't judge the Buddha Dharma by what old ladies tell you.
Study & practice from the actual texts and from what DRBA oft translate 'kalyanamitra' as 'Good Knowing Advisors'

lazy
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by lazy » Fri Sep 12, 2014 3:52 pm

plwk wrote:Another thing you may want to remember also that when it comes to organised organisations & traditions, its adherents are pretty much obliged to repeat and follow the official tagline for obvious reasons. Yet, from what I have read much on their Founder, he's not the cookie cutter type. If you have a chance, try to strike up an appointment to meet and learn with the Dharma Master Dr Héng Shí (some spell it as 'Heng Sure' or 恆實法師 / héng shí fǎ shī). I hear he's worth a try.

I was once given a valuable advice: don't judge the Buddha Dharma by what old ladies tell you.
Study & practice from the actual texts and from what DRBA oft translate 'kalyanamitra' as 'Good Knowing Advisors'
I read most of the books from the "Three Steps One Bow" series, which was a compilation of Heng Sure and Heng Ch'au's notebooks from their pilgramage from LA to the CTTB, and I really liked what Heng Sure had to say. The way he talked was colloquial and pragmatic, I never found myself wondering whether I was interpreting it correctly or whether he was a superstitious person. Talking to him would probably be the best way to firmly resolve my question, as whether or not laypeople agree with me is kind of irrelevant considering our opinions aren't certified in any way.

I'll read through those links you shared.

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Kaccāni
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by Kaccāni » Fri Sep 12, 2014 4:01 pm

To me buddhism appears very down to earth and rational. Experience based and verifiable. However there are certain terms for observations in the workings of perception, that when translated, and with a modern day scientific background, seem to create interpretational problems. You'll have to see that you get your understanding consistent and clear, but it's all not worth anything, if you can't match it up with personal experience, which in the end is that what counts.
Shush! I'm doing nose-picking practice!

lazy
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by lazy » Fri Sep 12, 2014 4:14 pm

garudha wrote:If Rebirth does not address the afterlife, the religious question of "what happens after we die?", then where is it covered ?
I don't understand your question. I think that the world keeps spinning after we die, and that we return to the dirt. We're just part of an elaborate chemical reaction, a 'manifestation of the four elements'. The only difference between dirt and humans is that humans think that they're something more than dirt.

My answer to the question "what happens after we die?" is "plurium interrogationum; your presupposition is fallacious".

lazy
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by lazy » Fri Sep 12, 2014 5:50 pm

Gwenn Dana wrote:To me buddhism appears very down to earth and rational. Experience based and verifiable. However there are certain terms for observations in the workings of perception, that when translated, and with a modern day scientific background, seem to create interpretational problems. You'll have to see that you get your understanding consistent and clear, but it's all not worth anything, if you can't match it up with personal experience, which in the end is that what counts.
So if someone thinks that the Pure Land is more than a conceptual device and is more like the Christian Heaven (i.e. being an actual place that an ethereal -- and suspiciously fully clothed -- version of the body goes after death) is that something that you consider experience based and verifiable?

I like Pure Land practice, I think that it is experience based and verifiable, but I think that my intent in the practice and my concept of the mechanics and the outcome of the practice are different than those of others. My practice is one of meditation, habituation, and aspiration; the practice of some seems to be that of a request for divine intervention, with the inclusive implication that there is something divine that can intervene.

I'm sure I'm not alone in my perspective, but I'm not sure if I'm part of the majority or if I'm aligned with the 'proper dharma' or whatever.

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Monlam Tharchin
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Fri Sep 12, 2014 8:30 pm

We should be careful of putting our own cleverness in the place we accuse others of putting gods or supernatural things.
Labeling teachings as metaphorical or provisional lets us dictate what is real, i.e. what we'll allow to challenge our current worldviews, even though by all accounts, we haven't done a very good job so far of extricating ourselves from delusion and suffering.

lazy
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by lazy » Fri Sep 12, 2014 10:44 pm

duckfiasco wrote:We should be careful of putting our own cleverness in the place we accuse others of putting gods or supernatural things.
Labeling teachings as metaphorical or provisional lets us dictate what is real, i.e. what we'll allow to challenge our current worldviews,
Yeah, I think I'm doing this. When I'm reading things I hear what I want to hear, and as a result I think I might be ignoring the beliefs of others, which is why I've made this thread.
duckfiasco wrote: even though by all accounts, we haven't done a very good job so far of extricating ourselves from delusion and suffering.
This is also applies to me, but I don't understand the correlation. I think that practice is more important than study, but I don't believe that practice makes the paranormal verifiable.


It seems like you're saying something really important, but I don't fully appreciate or understand it. Could you clarify/elaborate?

lazy
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Re: Correct Interpretation?

Post by lazy » Fri Sep 12, 2014 11:30 pm

Ok. So, I was in the Media Forum and I saw this:
dzogchungpa wrote:
phpBB [video]
So this guy talks about Buddhism for 22 minutes and doesn't once say a term more esoteric than 'Buddhism'; he doesn't say 'rebirth' or 'ghost' or 'Bodhisattva'. If VM Hua gives a lecture, the first sentence is talking about how the Bodhisattva of Great Strength causes earthquakes.

Is this just a huge stylistic difference, or are these different types of Buddhism?

EDIT: I did some research and see that this video is Tibetan Buddhism, but is it really that different? Is it not sort of all the same at the core? Impermanence and selflessness, being a good person? I'm still unclear.

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