what is your approach to Dharma?

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DGA
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what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by DGA » Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:30 pm

I want to clarify something that came up in a different thread without mucking up that discussion too much.

There be many, many different approaches to Dharma practice.

One approach is academic. Here, one takes up Buddha Dharma as an object of intellectual inquiry. You learn it by studying books and listening to the lectures of others who study books and similar artifacts.

Another is, say, consumerist. Just as you want environmentally-friendly laundry detergent, so do you want brand-appropriate spirituality in your life. The Dharma book is a useful accessory to carry as a totem signifying your personal brand identity, much as a yoga mat rolling around in the back of your Prius marks you as someone who values fitness.

There are numerous others. I bring up the two above because they may have some value to some. I find value in a lot of academic work on Dharma, particularly histories and translations.

I value a different approach to Dharma from these, even though I am, by trade, an academic. Dharma is an oral tradition. For this reason, you learn it by listening to a teacher teach it, and applying his or her instructions as best you can. We have thousands of years of examples of the traditional method (listening, contemplating, practicing in that order) yielding excellent results.

I'm not saying that academic inquiry into Dharma and Dharma practice are incompatible. There are many examples of excellent practitioners who have done both well simultaneously; I can name some names if you are unconvinced. I am claiming that intellectual work and the transmission of Dharma are qualitatively and functionally different, and as near as I can tell, they yield different results.

This is why I don't take my own independent study of academic articles or dissertations or monographs as explicit instruction for Dharma practice. To my mind, they aren't instruction for Dharma practice. They are artifacts of academia, and should be used for that purpose. Similarly for items that are intended as consumer goods.

What do you think?

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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by Coëmgenu » Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:38 pm

It depends. For instance, I've never ever thought of niànfó, for instance, as something that required any instruction of any sort. Academic niànfó & practical niànfó strike me as the same thing.

But meditation is something that I think you need a teacher for, for the simple reason that I don't want to responsibility of constantly having to ask and answer to myself "Am I doing this properly or am I imagining meditating?" I could not imagine trying a visualization meditation or something of the like based only on a grounding in cultural studies.
Last edited by Coëmgenu on Fri Jan 05, 2018 7:02 pm, edited 1 time in total.
नस्वातो नापिपरतो नद्वाभ्यां नाप्यहेतुतः उत्पन्ना जातु विद्यन्ते भावाः क्वचन केचन
There absolutely are no things, nowhere and none, that arise anew, neither out of themselves, nor out of non-self, nor out of both, nor at random.
सर्वं तथ्यं न वा तथ्यं तथ्यं चातथ्यम् एव च नैवातथ्यं नैव तथ्यम् एतद् बुद्धानुशासनम्
All is so, or all is not so, both so and not so, neither so nor not so. This is the Buddha's teaching.

一切實非實亦實亦非實
非實非非實是名諸佛法

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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by Queequeg » Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:56 pm

DGA wrote:
Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:30 pm
a yoga mat rolling around in the back of your Prius marks you as someone who values fitness.
Not in my Prius, but my Outback (same socio-economic class, but needing more room and AWD)(my sister has the Prius with yoga mat). In my case, the yoga mat more accurately signifies that I haven't cleaned my car since last spring. Maybe it signifies that I have healthy aspirations.

But to your point - or what I can gather about your point - through my wife who is an academic, I've become friends with some people who were previously my instructors in Buddhist Studies. Its interesting to now be able to see the other side - the whole sausage making of academia, discussed over a casual dinner.

Anyways, while there are some practitioner/scholars in the academy, many are not, and their approach to the subject is different than someone who's primary disposition is refuge. I think that if one were to base their own Buddhist practice on academic work, they'd be handicapping themselves. There are aspects of the practice, arguably the most important, that are generally addressed with academic doubt. I find its not conducive to developing right view.

As for the person draped in mala and other outward signifiers - I generally give the benefit of the doubt and ideally think of the aphorism - "fake it til you make it." "In the place of practice - the goal is achieved." Playing Buddhist Sage dress up is not a terrible thing, so long as you remember that's what you are doing.

As for personal appearance - I don't think most people would think "Buddhist" first. I've always kind of kept in down low because it was not cool being Buddhist when I was a kid.
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: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by Ayu » Fri Jan 05, 2018 7:34 pm

I think, scholarship and yoga mats, wellness, health and even devotion do not have to contradict eachother.
Since Dharma is way more than books or personal well-being, since Dharma is literally everything there is, the personal approach differs from the persons and the phases they are going through. It depends on time & person.
So my approach is dependend on the phase I'm in. Mostly it is watching, wondering and trying to cope with Dharma.
Books and yoga mats are tools / helpers.

And yes, a good teacher in meatspace is most important, because human beings learn best by those mirror neurons, I believe.
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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by SunWuKong » Fri Jan 05, 2018 11:39 pm

I’m merely grasping the dharma like 2 horns of ax ox - one is samatha/samadhi , the other is Prajna/Wisdom. No time for academics or consumerism.
"We are magical animals that roam" ~ Roam

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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by Queequeg » Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:31 am

SunWuKong wrote:
Fri Jan 05, 2018 11:39 pm
I’m merely grasping the dharma like 2 horns of ax ox - one is samatha/samadhi , the other is Prajna/Wisdom. No time for academics or consumerism.
I heard that if you kiss the ox on the nose, he'll give you a ride.
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: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sat Jan 06, 2018 1:29 am

I try to internalize what I learn in order to have experiences which make playing around with questions and ideas less important....that's the best I've got as far as approaches go.
"it must be coming from the mouthy mastermind of raunchy rapper, Johnny Dangerous”

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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by DGA » Sat Jan 06, 2018 1:41 am

SunWuKong wrote:
Fri Jan 05, 2018 11:39 pm
I’m merely grasping the dharma like 2 horns of ax ox - one is samatha/samadhi , the other is Prajna/Wisdom. No time for academics or consumerism.
This is good.

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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by DGA » Sat Jan 06, 2018 1:44 am

Queequeg wrote:
Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:56 pm
As for personal appearance - I don't think most people would think "Buddhist" first. I've always kind of kept in down low because it was not cool being Buddhist when I was a kid.
I think this is a healthy approach.

With regard to academics: I've met some highly-regarded faculty in Buddhist Studies who are clearly committed practitioners. They have a certain shine about 'em. There's a path for everyone: academics, plumbers, uncle Louie, &c

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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by DGA » Sat Jan 06, 2018 1:45 am

Ayu wrote:
Fri Jan 05, 2018 7:34 pm
Mostly it is watching, wondering and trying to cope with Dharma.
:heart:

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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Jan 06, 2018 3:19 am

My approach was from the need to find out what this 'enlightenment' thing was about. At aged about 18 or so, I became convinced that it was real, and important, and that it was important to know about it. I was often puzzled that not many other people felt like that, when it seemed obvious to me. Being a sixties person, I grew up with the Beatles - I think aged around 11 or 12, I got blue jeans, basketball sneakers, and a copy of Revolver. It was the first time in my life that I felt I was part of something. At that time, due to The Beatles and their discovery of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and also because of, shall we say, certain "entheogenic' factors, 'enlightenment' was in the air, so to speak. So I got Paramahansa Yogananda's book, then others. I was given a Krishnamurti book for a birthday. By aged about mid-twenties, it seemed to me that Buddhism had the best 'product offering', all things considering, and that feeling was largely based on Zen Mind Beginner's Mind, of which I think I had a first edition. (I eventually visited and stayed overnight at SFZC, in 2009).

Other people I knew had actually took off to India and Asia - one guy I knew went to Dharamsala and learned Sanskrit. But I just stayed in my hometown and tried to learn about 'enlightenment' through reading about it, and then, eventually, learning about actual meditation (frist from a kind of New Age type centre, and then via retreat at Wat Buddha Dhamma). I did a degree in Comparative Religion and related subjects, but I never had the academic credentials to make any kind of career in it. But along the way I had various conversion experiences, some of which were very vivid. Like once, at a perfectly ordinary party, I went out in the backyard, and suddenly felt India - just over there, just over the horizon, but I could literally feel it. Something got adjusted at that moment. Another time I got a sudden insight into anatta-śūnyatā - in my experience, such epiphanies always occur instantaneously and then vanish again, but afterwards, something has changed. Eventually I was fortunate to do the MA course in Buddhist Studies, only about 4-5 years ago although again, I haven't really managed to put it to use; I'd like the opportunity to use it if I could.

So I see myself as a dedicated and mainly self-educated lay practitioner. I intend to keep going with it that way, I think in future I would benefit from doing some long retreats and becoming part of a more formal community.

Incidentally I generally have a very positive view of the academics who taught me. I got taught Pali and a number of other units by a guy called Mark Allon, who is an acknowledged expert in early Buddhist texts. Absolute delight to listen to. My only regret is that the course had to finish, but then I guess, everything does. :smile:
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by rory » Sat Jan 06, 2018 4:37 am

The Huayan School's (Flower Garland, Avatamsaka, Kegon) main practice is to study the Avatamsaka sutra, so academic study has been key for some time. The Tiantai school is based on studying the Lotus sutra. And of course let's not forget the great history in China and Japan of textual commentaries from such greats as Zhiyi (Chih-I, Chigi). I was just reading a dissertation on Pure Land practice in Medieval Japan and an important point was that Japanese sects back then: Tendai, Shingon, Hosso were more like university disciplines that were studied equally by monks and elite laypeople. And yes they studied texts. So this assertion that Buddhism is primarily an oral tradition is just silly.

As for Pure Land, for mainstream Pure Land anyone can practice it, you don't need a teacher. All you need is faith, same with a mantra concerning Amida or Kannon-sama, anyone can chant with faith and practice with enormous benefit. Also Nichiren Buddhism. This is why these two schools are so popular as you can be poor, sick, not a genius, busy with heavy family responsibilities; no dharma $ needed for fancy empowerments or monastery retreats .

If you want to practice vajrayana (which is DGA's subtext, he left Tiantai for TB) then you need a guru/teacher for oral transmission to practice.
gassho
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Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by boda » Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:05 am

DGA wrote:
Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:30 pm
What do you think?
How to determine whether results are excellent or less than excellent? Let me guess: only a teacher knows.

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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by Simon E. » Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:11 pm

DGA wrote:
Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:30 pm
I want to clarify something that came up in a different thread without mucking up that discussion too much.

There be many, many different approaches to Dharma practice.

One approach is academic. Here, one takes up Buddha Dharma as an object of intellectual inquiry. You learn it by studying books and listening to the lectures of others who study books and similar artifacts.

Another is, say, consumerist. Just as you want environmentally-friendly laundry detergent, so do you want brand-appropriate spirituality in your life. The Dharma book is a useful accessory to carry as a totem signifying your personal brand identity, much as a yoga mat rolling around in the back of your Prius marks you as someone who values fitness.

There are numerous others. I bring up the two above because they may have some value to some. I find value in a lot of academic work on Dharma, particularly histories and translations.

I value a different approach to Dharma from these, even though I am, by trade, an academic. Dharma is an oral tradition. For this reason, you learn it by listening to a teacher teach it, and applying his or her instructions as best you can. We have thousands of years of examples of the traditional method (listening, contemplating, practicing in that order) yielding excellent results.

I'm not saying that academic inquiry into Dharma and Dharma practice are incompatible. There are many examples of excellent practitioners who have done both well simultaneously; I can name some names if you are unconvinced. I am claiming that intellectual work and the transmission of Dharma are qualitatively and functionally different, and as near as I can tell, they yield different results.

This is why I don't take my own independent study of academic articles or dissertations or monographs as explicit instruction for Dharma practice. To my mind, they aren't instruction for Dharma practice. They are artifacts of academia, and should be used for that purpose. Similarly for items that are intended as consumer goods.

What do you think?
I too operate entirely according to the Oral tradition. in my case as practised within the Vajrayana.
I have not read a Sutra of any kind for decades. This is not an inverse boast..just a fact.
I don't read Sutras..but I know a man who has internalised them. And I do my best to follow his instruction.
I have no ideas or opinions of my own about Dharma..I wouldn't presume.
Just for emphasis, I don't think this is a universal template to be followed by everyone.
Back to fishin' folks... :namaste:

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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by SunWuKong » Sun Jan 07, 2018 12:34 am

boda wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:05 am
DGA wrote:
Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:30 pm
What do you think?
How to determine whether results are excellent or less than excellent? Let me guess: only a teacher knows.
Haha if your life is miserable you’d be wrong calling it excellent. I know, we ought not to judge, but seriously, if our practice has a certain balance to it you might consider it excellent.
"We are magical animals that roam" ~ Roam

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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by DGA » Sun Jan 07, 2018 3:30 am

boda wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:05 am
DGA wrote:
Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:30 pm
What do you think?
How to determine whether results are excellent or less than excellent? Let me guess: only a teacher knows.
Maybe. Depends.

I'd like to know how you'd answer your own question, though.

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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by boda » Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:04 am

DGA wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 3:30 am
boda wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:05 am
DGA wrote:
Fri Jan 05, 2018 6:30 pm
What do you think?
How to determine whether results are excellent or less than excellent? Let me guess: only a teacher knows.
Maybe. Depends.

I'd like to know how you'd answer your own question, though.
Roughly put, by degrees of happiness, or suffering, of course.

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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by dzoki » Sun Jan 07, 2018 11:11 am

For me Dharma has only sinlge purpose - a liberation from self-made prison of dualistic mind, that is samsara; which has nothing to do with academic studies, hobby or lifestyle and wellness. From the viewpoint of Dharma all of these are mere worldly activities - a waste of time and totally besides the point. You can see this repeated by many past realized ones. If you want a fancy lifestyle which nicely complements your beautiful ideas, then I think new age is much better fit - otherwise it is like using a chainsaw for cutting a cake. Academic studies in general are just accumulation of many concepts and so are far away from gaining direct experience and realization. As Milarepa said: "Whether someone has eaten well can be determined by looking at his body, whether someone has practiced Dharma can be determined by how strong his self-clinging is." So please do yourself a favor and do not waste a time on these things that only proliferate conceptualizations. You will be much happier.

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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by DGA » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:09 pm

boda wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:04 am
DGA wrote:
Sun Jan 07, 2018 3:30 am
boda wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:05 am


How to determine whether results are excellent or less than excellent? Let me guess: only a teacher knows.
Maybe. Depends.

I'd like to know how you'd answer your own question, though.
Roughly put, by degrees of happiness, or suffering, of course.
I think we agree on principle. In fact, what you are describing is more or less how I assessed for myself that I was wasting time studying Dharma on my own, and that my own learning changed dramatically when I applied myself to learning under a competent teacher.

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Re: what is your approach to Dharma?

Post by Grigoris » Sun Jan 07, 2018 8:48 pm

boda wrote:Roughly put, by degrees of happiness, or suffering, of course.
One can live quite happily by immersing themselves in worldly dharma, so unfortunately that is not a valid measure.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

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