Buddhism in a secularised world

Discuss the application of the Dharma to situations of social, political, environmental and economic suffering and injustice.
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Kim O'Hara
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Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by Kim O'Hara » Fri Nov 22, 2019 11:35 pm

I'm putting this in "Engaged Buddhism" because I think it explains one of the roots of the movement, but the whole article is relevant, IMO, to all of us - especially those who have ever felt the pull of Secular Buddhism.
in modern Western Buddhism, for the first time in Buddhist history, it is now possible to construe the purpose of dharma practice as the improvement of one’s psychological well-being or physical health, as a means to experience more harmony in one’s relationships, or as a way to build a more equitable, kind, and peaceful society. In this materialist-compatible version of Buddhism, death is the end, so the only problems are here and now. An endless cycle of birth, suffering, death, and rebirth doesn’t exist, so freedom from it is a not a coherent goal. In today’s science-based world, a buddha’s omniscient cognition or emanative forms seem, frankly, superstitious— part of an ignorant and outdated worldview no more relevant to modern people than ghosts or demons.

In contrast to this closed form of Buddhism, there remains an open one, in which Western Buddhist practitioners still strive for transcendent goals that once made sense within a traditional Buddhist world but that seem oddly incoherent against the backdrop of our daily secular lives. These spiritual practitioners (I include myself among them) experience a normative pull from the secular environment that makes it hard for us to take transcendent goals seriously, even as we actively practice to attain them. Those who seek transcendence in the context of the immanent frame have a brand-new disadvantage, one that Milarepa or Dogen never had to overcome. We have to perform a tug-of-war with ourselves that was never required of our spiritual predecessors. For Milarepa, to strive for awakening was to throw his weight toward the collective sense of cosmic order into which he was born. We, on the other hand, have to pull against ours. ...
:reading: https://tricycle.org/magazine/whats-sta ... es-modern/

:namaste:
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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by KeithA » Fri Nov 22, 2019 11:40 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:
Fri Nov 22, 2019 11:35 pm
I'm putting this in "Engaged Buddhism" because I think it explains one of the roots of the movement, but the whole article is relevant, IMO, to all of us - especially those who have ever felt the pull of Secular Buddhism.
in modern Western Buddhism, for the first time in Buddhist history, it is now possible to construe the purpose of dharma practice as the improvement of one’s psychological well-being or physical health, as a means to experience more harmony in one’s relationships, or as a way to build a more equitable, kind, and peaceful society. In this materialist-compatible version of Buddhism, death is the end, so the only problems are here and now. An endless cycle of birth, suffering, death, and rebirth doesn’t exist, so freedom from it is a not a coherent goal. In today’s science-based world, a buddha’s omniscient cognition or emanative forms seem, frankly, superstitious— part of an ignorant and outdated worldview no more relevant to modern people than ghosts or demons.

In contrast to this closed form of Buddhism, there remains an open one, in which Western Buddhist practitioners still strive for transcendent goals that once made sense within a traditional Buddhist world but that seem oddly incoherent against the backdrop of our daily secular lives. These spiritual practitioners (I include myself among them) experience a normative pull from the secular environment that makes it hard for us to take transcendent goals seriously, even as we actively practice to attain them. Those who seek transcendence in the context of the immanent frame have a brand-new disadvantage, one that Milarepa or Dogen never had to overcome. We have to perform a tug-of-war with ourselves that was never required of our spiritual predecessors. For Milarepa, to strive for awakening was to throw his weight toward the collective sense of cosmic order into which he was born. We, on the other hand, have to pull against ours. ...
:reading: https://tricycle.org/magazine/whats-sta ... es-modern/

:namaste:
Kim
Sigh...this just makes me sad. So arrogant.

_/|\_
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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:00 am

I'd really like some qualification to the 'arrogant' comment. While I can understand that plenty will not agree with the conclusions, it's well-written and earnest article.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by KeithA » Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:22 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:00 am
I'd really like some qualification to the 'arrogant' comment. While I can understand that plenty will not agree with the conclusions, it's well-written and earnest article.
I suppose we all hear what we want to hear. When I read the following:
a buddha’s omniscient cognition or emanative forms seem, frankly, superstitious— part of an ignorant and outdated worldview no more relevant to modern people than ghosts or demons.
I hear arrogance. We aren't nearly as smart as we like to think we are, even in this "modern" age. I suppose I prefer the "not knowing" approach.

Perhaps it's my own shortcomings in failing to hear the correct thing, though.

_/|\_
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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by Queequeg » Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:27 am

I'll take a stab at a more in depth answer later, but my pith opinion: secular Buddhism is not actually Buddhism. It is based on wrong views. It is a project to harvest what it can in the service of the materialist creed. It's a Buddhism flavored drink you buy in the checkout line at Whole Foods that does not challenge one's assumptions, most of all the assumption of self, conditioned as it is by it's materialist assumptions. No antagonism felt toward it. Also no interest. I am content being out of step with this society. It has its good points, and is also a disaster in motion.
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 in a secularised world

Post by well wisher » Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:33 am

I think the main problem with such above described approach is that it is too materialistic, and blindly ignores the dangers of seemingly-endless reincarnation cycles, by just outright dismissing the possibility of it. The quote "An endless cycle of birth, suffering, death, and rebirth doesn’t exist" seems outright arrogant, doesn't it?
Maybe it might make the path seem easier with less pressure; but unfortunately hand-waving does not necessarily makes it go away, and there might be limits in progress via practice with such thinking.
By ignoring the concept of reincarnations, it also ignores the fundamental basis for accounting for the differences in conditions and circumstances of birth, in this very world.

Also compare and contrast carefully with the monastic life, and think. There must be reasons why Shakyamuni Buddha had taught and advocate the monastic and simpler life.
In my opinion, a lot of modern troubles & grief & strife stems from the excessive cravings of materialistic pleasures, especially regarding money, and the all seeimgly-forced societal troubles & conflicts & obsessions associated with it.
And a simpler monastic-like lifestyle would be excellent cures against such strife.

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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by narhwal90 » Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:42 am

Don't know about arrogant OTOH the author seems very attached to his ideas, that today's human experience of dharma is somehow different than "before". I'm not a fan of his assertion that today's practitioner has some particular disadvantages that Dogen or Milarepa might or might not have had to overcome- the effrontery of assuming knowledge of someone elses mind & situation bugs me a bit, likewise that world views that might be assumed today are somehow more compelling than those in circulation 1000 years ago. I don't mean to suggest equivalence, but that the author may be as wedded to the assumed correctness of own world view as people were to their own world views back then. Yeah we know some things now about the physical world that were not known then, but every fact revealed also reveals many more unknowns, every decimal place of precision that we can point to further highlights the uncertainties. When an age does not feature the 2 Inexorables of death and taxes then I'd agree something has fundamentally changed.

At least he didn't start in with quantum theory.

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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:44 am

KeithA wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:22 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:00 am
I'd really like some qualification to the 'arrogant' comment. While I can understand that plenty will not agree with the conclusions, it's well-written and earnest article.
I suppose we all hear what we want to hear. When I read the following:
a buddha’s omniscient cognition or emanative forms seem, frankly, superstitious— part of an ignorant and outdated worldview no more relevant to modern people than ghosts or demons.
I hear arrogance. We aren't nearly as smart as we like to think we are, even in this "modern" age. I suppose I prefer the "not knowing" approach.

Perhaps it's my own shortcomings in failing to hear the correct thing, though.

_/|\_
Keith
How i s it arrogant for her to point out a common reaction (as she mentions, also a reaction of some of us who "
believe" in such things) of secular society to traditional Buddhist ideas?

I almost think you are misreading the statement, as all it purports to do is point out that we are conditioned by the conceptual "default setting" of our age.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:58 am

narhwal90 wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:42 am
Don't know about arrogant OTOH the author seems very attached to his ideas, that today's human experience of dharma is somehow different than "before". I'm not a fan of his assertion that today's practitioner has some particular disadvantages that Dogen or Milarepa might or might not have had to overcome- the effrontery of assuming knowledge of someone elses mind & situation bugs me a bit, likewise that world views that might be assumed today are somehow more compelling than those in circulation 1000 years ago. I don't mean to suggest equivalence, but that the author may be as wedded to the assumed correctness of own world view as people were to their own world views back then. Yeah we know some things now about the physical world that were not known then, but every fact revealed also reveals many more unknowns, every decimal place of precision that we can point to further highlights the uncertainties. When an age does not feature the 2 Inexorables of death and taxes then I'd agree something has fundamentally changed.

At least he didn't start in with quantum theory.
Did you guys even read the entire article? The author is not arguing for "secular Buddhism" or giving preference to a scientific materialist framework at all, I think you've made some misinterpretations.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by KeithA » Sat Nov 23, 2019 1:11 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:44 am
KeithA wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:22 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:00 am
I'd really like some qualification to the 'arrogant' comment. While I can understand that plenty will not agree with the conclusions, it's well-written and earnest article.
I suppose we all hear what we want to hear. When I read the following:
a buddha’s omniscient cognition or emanative forms seem, frankly, superstitious— part of an ignorant and outdated worldview no more relevant to modern people than ghosts or demons.
I hear arrogance. We aren't nearly as smart as we like to think we are, even in this "modern" age. I suppose I prefer the "not knowing" approach.

Perhaps it's my own shortcomings in failing to hear the correct thing, though.

_/|\_
Keith
How i s it arrogant for her to point out a common reaction (as she mentions, also a reaction of some of us who "
believe" in such things) of secular society to traditional Buddhist ideas?

I almost think you are misreading the statement, as all it purports to do is point out that we are conditioned by the conceptual "default setting" of our age.
We just see it differently, friend. Simple as that. I prefer not to attach to either pole. Suggesting that teachings which are basically the bedrock of the Dharma as being "part of an ignorant and outdated worldview" is the very height of arrogance, imho. But, as you say, perhaps I am misreading it.

_/|\_
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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by KeithA » Sat Nov 23, 2019 1:20 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:58 am
narhwal90 wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:42 am
Don't know about arrogant OTOH the author seems very attached to his ideas, that today's human experience of dharma is somehow different than "before". I'm not a fan of his assertion that today's practitioner has some particular disadvantages that Dogen or Milarepa might or might not have had to overcome- the effrontery of assuming knowledge of someone elses mind & situation bugs me a bit, likewise that world views that might be assumed today are somehow more compelling than those in circulation 1000 years ago. I don't mean to suggest equivalence, but that the author may be as wedded to the assumed correctness of own world view as people were to their own world views back then. Yeah we know some things now about the physical world that were not known then, but every fact revealed also reveals many more unknowns, every decimal place of precision that we can point to further highlights the uncertainties. When an age does not feature the 2 Inexorables of death and taxes then I'd agree something has fundamentally changed.

At least he didn't start in with quantum theory.
Did you guys even read the entire article? The author is not arguing for "secular Buddhism" or giving preference to a scientific materialist framework at all, I think you've made some misinterpretations.
Yup. Having read the whole thing, it is well thought out, imho. I reacted to the quoted part in the OP. As you can tell, I have no use for secular Buddhism, which really isn't Buddhism at all. But, I let that bias run away a bit. My apologies.

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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sat Nov 23, 2019 1:21 am

KeithA wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 1:20 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:58 am
narhwal90 wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:42 am
Don't know about arrogant OTOH the author seems very attached to his ideas, that today's human experience of dharma is somehow different than "before". I'm not a fan of his assertion that today's practitioner has some particular disadvantages that Dogen or Milarepa might or might not have had to overcome- the effrontery of assuming knowledge of someone elses mind & situation bugs me a bit, likewise that world views that might be assumed today are somehow more compelling than those in circulation 1000 years ago. I don't mean to suggest equivalence, but that the author may be as wedded to the assumed correctness of own world view as people were to their own world views back then. Yeah we know some things now about the physical world that were not known then, but every fact revealed also reveals many more unknowns, every decimal place of precision that we can point to further highlights the uncertainties. When an age does not feature the 2 Inexorables of death and taxes then I'd agree something has fundamentally changed.

At least he didn't start in with quantum theory.
Did you guys even read the entire article? The author is not arguing for "secular Buddhism" or giving preference to a scientific materialist framework at all, I think you've made some misinterpretations.
Yup. Having read the whole thing, it is well thought out, imho. I reacted to the quoted part in the OP. As you can tell, I have no use for secular Buddhism, which really isn't Buddhism at all. But, I let that bias run away a bit. My apologies.

_/|\_
Keith
No prob, sorry if I seemed nasty with my responses.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by KeithA » Sat Nov 23, 2019 1:23 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 1:21 am
KeithA wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 1:20 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 12:58 am


Did you guys even read the entire article? The author is not arguing for "secular Buddhism" or giving preference to a scientific materialist framework at all, I think you've made some misinterpretations.
Yup. Having read the whole thing, it is well thought out, imho. I reacted to the quoted part in the OP. As you can tell, I have no use for secular Buddhism, which really isn't Buddhism at all. But, I let that bias run away a bit. My apologies.

_/|\_
Keith
No prob, sorry if I seemed nasty with my responses.
No worries. To also be blunt, I have gotten used to that here. :cheers:
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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sat Nov 23, 2019 1:37 am

KeithA wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 1:23 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 1:21 am
KeithA wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 1:20 am


Yup. Having read the whole thing, it is well thought out, imho. I reacted to the quoted part in the OP. As you can tell, I have no use for secular Buddhism, which really isn't Buddhism at all. But, I let that bias run away a bit. My apologies.

_/|\_
Keith
No prob, sorry if I seemed nasty with my responses.
No worries. To also be blunt, I have gotten used to that here. :cheers:
:hug: :techproblem: Sorry, couldn't resist :focus:
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Nov 23, 2019 4:04 am

That writer, Linda Heumann, is one of my favourite authors in contemporary Buddhist writing. She's written some great articles for Tricycle and other magazines. I read that article at the time it was published and thought it first rate. It's not at all suggesting or endorsing secularism as the way to go. (Her articles on Buddhism and phenomenology are also really worthwhile. And the interview with Thupten Jinpa Langri. Oh, and by the way, she is female. Oh, and oh for a career like that :emb: )

When I used to give talks at Buddhist Library, I was always open to the 'secular Buddhist' approach. I see it as a kind of half-way house between the standard-issue materialism of Western culture, and spiritual culture. The idea of rebirth is a show-stopper for some people, but I would say I think it's a mistake to say that people have to believe it. Whenever it came up, I would say to simply keep an open mind - not to rule it out, on one hand, or to become fascinated by it on the other, but just put it to one side. (But I would also say that arguing against it is another matter. That's where I draw the line. I think if you believe it's a 'foreign import' into 'authentic Buddhism', then what you're studying isn't Buddhism.)

I think the major issue for modern culture is that we lack the imaginative space for anything spiritual. Our culture is so outwardly-focussed, so immersed in imagery, technology and sensation, that many of its inhabitants literally can't make any sense out of anything beyond it. It's like in the mad rush and din of a modern city, there can be no perception of what a quiet, still night with no artificial light is like. It can't even be explained. You have to let those spaces open up; it's part of what 'conversion' is about, and these are deep waters to navigate. It certainly doesn't benefit from yet more 'us and them' rhetorics.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by narhwal90 » Sat Nov 23, 2019 4:47 am

I dont' know.. I'm not convinced that the "secularized" world is a special snowflake that makes spreading dharma fundamentally different than anywhere/anywhen else in the world. Opinions on rebirth are not unanimous in the Buddhist community, I would be inclined to bet they sometimes vary substantially within individual schools too. Buddhism competes in the cultural space with all the other systems and its expression changes as it changes the culture- this is repeatedly seen. I suppose one concern is a "secularized" dharma loses something important. OTOH I think its a good experiment- to find out by the various secular efforts how much of we think of as dharma is in fact cultural baggage.

For my part, if even the most reductionist, materialist distillation of dharma gets people to meditate and begin to unstick the mind then we are making progress. Those that find it becoming sterile and unsatisfactory and care to seek elsewhere, will. Likewise will those in more traditional schools who find staying in their own uncomfortable for some reason. Perhaps that is one tangible benefit of the modern sophisticated age- another entirely different school is only a google search away.

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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by Queequeg » Sat Nov 23, 2019 6:25 am

"Since this self is material, composed of elements, the product of mother and father, at death, it is annihilated and perishes, and does not exist after death."

That's more or less the 51st of the 62 wrong views. The materialist ideas about self that are a basic tenet of the secular view were not unknown at the Buddha's time. What is different now is that, as the author points out, this is, more or less, the predominant view.

I'm not particularly convinced that the secular view is any more problematic than any other view that Dharma has been addressed to, except that this is the one we are immersed in and so personally have a difficult time seeing as a (wrong) view. Its a closed system in the sense that its logic can only repeat itself (the proverbial nail to the hammer).

My mind initially turns to Mulamadhyamikakarika. I suppose that Nagarjuna does not address the particulars of the secular view, but his analytical method is easily addressed to any tenet system to reveal its conditionality and its emptiness without needing to "update the Dharma."

This is to say, I'm not so sure there is all that much to alter or adapt.

What the author is concerned about is our tendency, as Westerners raised in a secular view, to fall back into the secular view. I don't think this is peculiar to those steeped in the secular view. I think Brahmins who converted to Buddhism struggled with similar issues - the tendency of Vedanta type ideas to pop up in Buddhism provides examples of this struggle.

When I was a teenager I read the Autobiography of Malcolm X and it made a huge impact on me. Here was a Happa writing, "BLACK POWER" across the grip tape of his skateboard. Later, I read some other books on black identity from the sixties - some I recall - The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin, and Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver. It was Cleaver who identified the struggle of blacks seeking authentic identity at that time in a way that struck me. After realizing that so much of his identity was defined by white culture, white value systems, etc. Cleaver decided to reject it, and basically went punk rock, rejecting everything and trying to destroy everything he associated with that. He observed, though, that after rejecting all this "white" stuff, he had nothing. Without some other ideas to take its place, he slipped back into his old way of thinking. To an extent, the Autobiography of Malcolm X, because he actually had a change of mind, breaking with Elijah Mohamed and the Nation of Islam while he was working with Alex Haley, you see this process of rejecting a set of ideas happen on the page. Haley described how Malcolm wanted to actually go back and revise the parts recounting his experience of becoming a Black Muslim and his views on Elijah Mohamed, but Haley convinced him to leave it. It made for a powerful narrative - we see the transformation chapter by chapter, until he was killed. Like Cleaver, Malcolm was grasping for meaning at the end of his life. He had left a tenet system, but was struggling to find a new one that matched his insights about everything that he gained on the Hajj. Baldwin tells a similar story.

What I'm trying to point out is, as Narwhal touched on above, things are not as simple as the author portrays them. The West is full of diversity, and if I really wanted to push it, I might question - is the author really just talking about a certain Western experience that is upper middle class white? The kind of upper middle class white educated in liberal arts colleges? I don't think Jack Kerouac, for instance, who was raised devout Catholic, struggled with the problems the author describes when he entered the Buddhist path (as dubious as that path was).

Also, she's coming from a Tibetan Buddhist back ground... I'm not so sure that say, someone who has entered a Zen tradition is going to necessarily have the same disconnect with Secularism. Zen is in many respects doctrinally and aesthetically stripped down. The Single Practice Japanese traditions likewise are stripped down.

I don't want to ramble on more, but I think what underlies the East Asian traditions is actually a particular Mahayana logic - the logic of the Ekayana that was specifically addressed to the apparent irreconcilable diversity in the Buddhist communities of the 1 c. BCE to 1 c. CE. Simply stated - the Ekayana takes suchness (not emptiness nor conditioned) as the base and considers everything else some distortion of suchness. This Ekayana logic is, I would argue, more readily adaptable to addressing whatever "distortion" is afflicting at the time. It doesn't take any teaching other than suchness as definitive - everything else is a dependent cure. Rebirth is a cure for the assumption of finitude. Nirvana is a cure for the eternity of rebirth. Ekayana took in East Asia, I think, because the Indian trappings that Buddhism carried were hard to swallow for the Chinese who already had thousands of years of intellectual history when Buddhism arrived - a world view deeply at odds with the Buddhist view, as complete and universal as any Secular View for a modern Westerner. Dharma had to be stripped down to its essentials because that Indian stuff was just too far out to accept, and Ekayana theory provided the framework to do that.

I think Ekayana will be extremely helpful to address the ills of the wrong views prevalent in the modern West.
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 in a secularised world

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sat Nov 23, 2019 6:33 am

Simply stated - the Ekayana takes suchness (not emptiness nor conditioned) as the base and considers everything else some distortion of suchness.
What exactly is the distinction between emptiness and suchness? Is this an East Asian thing? While I don' hear "suchness" a lot on the Tibetan traditions, It think an analog would the inseparability of appearances and emptiness. To me saying something like this is like saying "we take form as the base, not emptiness"..something of a non-sequitur, as they are a union, and recognition of the union would be what I would term "suchness".

I don't really buy the Ekayana claim, other than some evidently proprietary definition of suchness, I don't really see how it's a "solution" any more than any other Buddhist concept.
someone who has entered a Zen tradition is going to necessarily have the same disconnect with Secularism.
Certainly not in more de-natured "Western" versions of Zen. I mean I know these things may not be central in Zen traditionally, but the basic Buddhist worldview was also a backdrop of Zen traditions. It doesn't appear so here because of some very specific things having to do with (mostly American) culture.
Jack Kerouac, for instance, who was raised devout Catholic, struggled with the problems the author describes when he entered the Buddhist path (as dubious as that path was).
How much of a practitioner was Kerouac? I mean, there are lots of fanciful writings about "Buddhism" from that era that are barely recognizable as anything actually Buddhist. He had all kinds of orientalist ideas about it. I don't think the struggle with secularism is white-only...but it might be classed based to some degree. So far though, upper and middle class people have a lot to do with the transmission of Dharma to the West though, so it's natural the struggles related to them would come to fore.

Anyway, Kerouac had a pretty idealized, silly picture of Buddhism..whatever it's larger cultural significance.
What I'm trying to point out is, as Narwhal touched on above, things are not as simple as the author portrays them.
How did she portray things as simple?
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by Queequeg » Sat Nov 23, 2019 6:48 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 6:33 am
Simply stated - the Ekayana takes suchness (not emptiness nor conditioned) as the base and considers everything else some distortion of suchness.
What exactly is the distinction between emptiness and suchness? Is this an East Asian thing?
Maybe. I don't think so. Its basically Madhyamaka. There's one interpretation of Nagarjuna that he just taught Emptiness. There's another that interprets even his teachings on emptiness as implying something else. Emptiness, after all, is not nothing. Its referred to as Suchness.
It think an analog would the inseparability of appearance and emptiness. I don't really buy the Ekayana claim, other than some evidently proprietary definition of suchness, I don't really see how it's a "solution" any more than any other Buddhist concept.
Proprietary? Talking about not being able to think outside of a paradigm. Do you know anything about Ekayana? I'm going to guess not. By the time Buddhism was transmitted to Tibet, the Ekayana teachings had been overshadowed by later developments. If you're interested - its there in the early Mahayana texts - Lotus, Avatamsaka, Vimalakirti, etc. the Buddhism was first transmitted to China.
someone who has entered a Zen tradition is going to necessarily have the same disconnect with Secularism.
Certainly not in more de-natured "Western" versions of Zen. I mean I know these things may not be central in Zen traditionally, but the basic Buddhist worldview was also a backdrop of Zen traditions. It doesn't appear so here because of some very specific things having to do with (mostly American) culture.
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I'd suggest it was adaptable into what you say you see in the States because of what it was coming from Japan. The austere aesthetics and stripped down doctrines associated with zen didn't just happen post WWII. That goes back to the middle ages. Goes back to China, and the necessity of keeping up Dharma while being persecuted and on the run. Daoist influences helped.
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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Queequeg
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Re: Buddhism in a secularised world

Post by Queequeg » Sat Nov 23, 2019 6:58 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sat Nov 23, 2019 6:33 am
Jack Kerouac, for instance, who was raised devout Catholic, struggled with the problems the author describes when he entered the Buddhist path (as dubious as that path was).
How much of a practitioner was Kerouac? ...

Anyway, Kerouac had a pretty idealized, silly picture of Buddhism..whatever it's larger cultural significance.
I think he was pretty serious for a while. But as I wrote, his "Buddhist" path was "dubious."

But, if you're going to go there, I'd say the Buddhist path a lot of Westerners take up is dubious, tinged with all the baggage brought to it, all the orientalist ideas, the interest in foreign food and clothing (what does Simon call them? Momo Buddhists?)
What I'm trying to point out is, as Narwhal touched on above, things are not as simple as the author portrays them.
How did she portray things as simple?
That the Secular perspective is this monolithic problem that affects all Western Buddhists. Look, she's making an argument in an article about a particular aspect of the Western Buddhist experience. She makes good points. I think a good deal of the problem is that Buddhism for her is Tibetan Buddhism, which is far out no matter what the standard. And its one of the badges of identity, as far as I can tell, for Tibetan Buddhists. Am I wrong to point this out? Seems obvious to me.
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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