What's wrong with democracy?

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Queequeg
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What's wrong with democracy?

Post by Queequeg » Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:31 pm

David Brooks opines...
The problem, Deneen argues, started at the beginning...

...the men who founded our system made two fateful errors. First, they came to reject the classical and religious idea that people are political and relational creatures. Instead, they placed the autonomous, choosing individual at the center of their view of human nature.

Furthermore, they decided you couldn’t base a system of government on something as unreliable as virtue. But you could base it on something low and steady like selfishness. You could pit interest against interest and create a stable machine. You didn’t have to worry about creating noble citizens; you could get by with rationally self-interested ones.

...he is wrong...

The difficulties stem not from anything inherent in liberalism but from the fact that we have neglected the moral order and the vision of human dignity embedded within liberalism itself. As anybody who’s read John Stuart Mill, Walt Whitman, Abraham Lincoln, Vaclav Havel, Michael Novak and Meir Soloveichik knows, liberal democracy contains a rich and soul-filling version of human flourishing and solidarity, which Deneen airbrushes from history.

Every time Deneen writes about virtue it tastes like castor oil — self-denial and joylessness. But the liberal democratic moral order stands for the idea that souls are formed in freedom and not in servility, in expansiveness, not in stagnation. It stands for the idea that our covenantal institutions — like family, faith, tradition and community — orient us toward higher loves and common dreams that we then pursue in the great gymnasium of liberty.
Full column here: https://nyti.ms/2EzHCqh

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Re: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by DGA » Sat Jan 13, 2018 1:54 am

There's a tradition of conservative thought that is basically communitarian. The idea was that human nature is basically evil, so you need social controls such as religion and education to rein that in so that people can grow up to be virtuous and everyone can prosper (some more than others. This idea runs through Hobbes and Burke, among others. Think of William F. Buckley and (maybe?) Rockefeller Republicans, sort of. That's what he's invoking here.
Queequeg wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:31 pm
the liberal democratic moral order stands for the idea that souls are formed in freedom and not in servility, in expansiveness, not in stagnation. It stands for the idea that our covenantal institutions — like family, faith, tradition and community — orient us toward higher loves and common dreams that we then pursue in the great gymnasium of liberty.
The problem is twofold. 1. The liberal democratic order established in the U.S. by the "founding fathers" was intended first and foremost to preserve property rights among a specific elite. The entire legal system adapted from Roman law is about the security of property. It's not a communitarian vision. It's closer to the libertarian line that he criticizes in the piece that our harpooneer quoted. Which brings me to 2. Contemporary conservatism has a lot more in common with Hayek, Novak, and Ayn Rand than it does with actual conservatives such as Hobbes or Burke.

Put more plainly, Brooks manages to be both full of shit AND irrelevant, while getting paid handsomely for his work. Well played, Mr. Brooks. For context, this is the kind of conservative David Brooks is, in his own words:

https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/09/t-ma ... world.html

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Re: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:37 am

under the influence of Machiavelli and Locke, the men who founded our system made two fateful errors. First, they came to reject the classical and religious idea that people are political and relational creatures. Instead, they placed the autonomous, choosing individual at the center of their view of human nature.
The foundation of Western individualism was the idea that Christ sacrificed himself for all mankind. This elevates every individual, even the lowly and outcaste, to equality in the eyes of God and was one of the hallmarks of the Christian revolution.

Now it seems to me that Western liberal individualism has kept the idea of the individual but discarded its foundation in Christianity. The individual is now a law unto themself, provided they keep within the bounds of civil society. There is no real foundation for ethical principle other than that implicit in the social contract.

That’s why I think the most coherent political philosophy in Western culture is actually that of Catholic social democracy. They retain a natural law ethic but also respect for the individual. However Protestantism as Weber showed became the engine of capitalism, and with the ‘death of God’ money and power become ends in themselves. (Actually another valuable historical study of this is The Unintended Reformation by Brad S Gregory which shows the way in which the Protestant reformation gave rise to our hyper-individual and hyper-pluralist political culture.)
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Re: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:50 am

DGA wrote:Brooks manages to be both full of shit AND irrelevant,
I wonder if you noticed a Brooks column called The Neural Buddhists quite a few years back. I thought it was pretty good.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by Malcolm » Sat Jan 13, 2018 4:02 am

Wayfarer wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:37 am
under the influence of Machiavelli and Locke, the men who founded our system made two fateful errors. First, they came to reject the classical and religious idea that people are political and relational creatures. Instead, they placed the autonomous, choosing individual at the center of their view of human nature.
The foundation of Western individualism was the idea that Christ sacrificed himself for all mankind.


The roots of individualism and liberalism in Anglo democracies stem from, once again, the Scottish Enlightenment -- Smith, Burke, Locke, and Hume. This has nothing to do with Christ or Christianity.
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.

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Re: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by Quay » Sat Jan 13, 2018 4:38 am

Malcolm wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 4:02 am
Wayfarer wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:37 am
under the influence of Machiavelli and Locke, the men who founded our system made two fateful errors. First, they came to reject the classical and religious idea that people are political and relational creatures. Instead, they placed the autonomous, choosing individual at the center of their view of human nature.
The foundation of Western individualism was the idea that Christ sacrificed himself for all mankind.
The roots of individualism and liberalism in Anglo democracies stem from, once again, the Scottish Enlightenment -- Smith, Burke, Locke, and Hume. This has nothing to do with Christ or Christianity.
And one can further support that by noting all four cited men were well educated in Classical Greek and Latin and read Epictetus, Cicero, Seneca, and others whose very lives as well as ideas of individuality and liberalism predated the birth of Christ.
"Knowledge is as infinite as the stars in the sky;
There is no end to all the subjects one could study.
It is better to grasp straight away their very essence--
The unchanging fortress of the Dharmakaya."

– Longchenpa.

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Re: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:03 am

Malcolm wrote:The roots of individualism and liberalism in Anglo democracies stem from, once again, the Scottish Enlightenment -- Smith, Burke, Locke, and Hume. This has nothing to do with Christ or Christianity.
Aside from it being the culture that gave rise to the ‘Scottish Enlightenment’....
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Re: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by Grigoris » Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:15 pm

The problem with democracy is that it was originally (in Ancient Greece) based on two classes of people: the citizens of the state (δημότες, demotes) and the slave class. Participation in the democracy was reserved for citizens. Given that the founders of U$ democracy were slave owners and murderers of the indigenous residents of the land, it comes as no surprise that there is something wrong with democracy.

The other issue is the mistaken attempt to separate politics from economics. Money is power, so when you have oligarchical/monopoly capitalism, democracy is just a faded window dressing, a veneer, a front.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
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Re: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by Malcolm » Sat Jan 13, 2018 4:16 pm

Wayfarer wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:03 am
Malcolm wrote:The roots of individualism and liberalism in Anglo democracies stem from, once again, the Scottish Enlightenment -- Smith, Burke, Locke, and Hume. This has nothing to do with Christ or Christianity.
Aside from it being the culture that gave rise to the ‘Scottish Enlightenment’....
The culture that gave rise to the Scottish Enlightenment was a culture that was throwing off the shackles of religion. We have already discussed deism, and since "individualism" is a trait which tends to be associated with AngloAmerican culture, the influence of Epicurean atheism on the intellectual climate of the 17th and 18th centuries ought not be underestimated, as it often is.
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: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by Malcolm » Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:00 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 12:15 pm
Given that the founders of U$ democracy were slave owners and murderers of the indigenous residents of the land
Well, no this is a misrepresentation of US history.

All of the founders from the south were indeed slaveowners. Most of the founders from the North were not.

With respect to murdering Indians, at that point in history, Indians and Europeans were murdering each other with equal frequency, as we can see in the French-Indian war. By this point (1756), the 1.5 million people in the British colonies had expanded no further than the Appalachian mountains, inhabiting the 100-300 mile strip of land area to the east of them from the Carolinas to what is now Maine, only about a tenth of the total landmass of N. America. Beyond that it was all Indians until the Pacific. Of course, then there is the fact that people like Franklin consulted with the Iroquois Confederacy about their principles of governing, some of which were adapted to the new constitution.

The part of Massachusetts in which I live, the hills west of the Connecticut river, was uninhabited by the 17th century because of the constant wars the Pocumtuc confederacy had with the Mohawks who lived in the Hudson Valley. When the first European settlers arrived in 1764 in Ashfield, my town, there was literally no one living here or anywhere around. The whole Berkshire region was uninhabited because of the constant warfare the tribes of the Connecticut river and Hudson Valley were waging against each other for generations before Europeans arrived. Also smallpox definitely took its toll on the local tribe. Their remnant survives as the Abenaki Indians of Vermont.

http://www.dickshovel.com/pocu.html
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: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by Grigoris » Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:47 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:00 pm
Well, no this is a misrepresentation of US history.

All of the founders from the south were indeed slaveowners. Most of the founders from the North were not.

With respect to murdering Indians, at that point in history, Indians and Europeans were murdering each other with equal frequency, as we can see in the French-Indian war. By this point (1756), the 1.5 million people in the British colonies had expanded no further than the Appalachian mountains, inhabiting the 100-300 mile strip of land area to the east of them from the Carolinas to what is now Maine, only about a tenth of the total landmass of N. America. Beyond that it was all Indians until the Pacific. Of course, then there is the fact that people like Franklin consulted with the Iroquois Confederacy about their principles of governing, some of which were adapted to the new constitution.

The part of Massachusetts in which I live, the hills west of the Connecticut river, was uninhabited by the 17th century because of the constant wars the Pocumtuc confederacy had with the Mohawks who lived in the Hudson Valley. When the first European settlers arrived in 1764 in Ashfield, my town, there was literally no one living here or anywhere around. The whole Berkshire region was uninhabited because of the constant warfare the tribes of the Connecticut river and Hudson Valley were waging against each other for generations before Europeans arrived. Also smallpox definitely took its toll on the local tribe. Their remnant survives as the Abenaki Indians of Vermont.

http://www.dickshovel.com/pocu.html
I see that the rationalisation based on the legal concept of terra nullius is happily applied by the offspring of white colonialists in America too.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by Quay » Sun Jan 14, 2018 5:46 am

Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence, 41 were slave owners. By the time the Constitution was signed, half of the signers were slave owners. My direct ancestor who signed both (and was one of only three men to have signed those and the original Petition to the King) owned slaves and he was from Delaware. By trade he was mostly a lawyer and investor though he did have landed interests principally in Maryland and, according to his papers, gave little thought to having slaves for work, the family having been used to the tradition of indentured servitude that long existed in Europe.

What is of note to me from men like him of the era relative to democracy is that they did not want certain traditions to continue or flourish, and one of those was slavery. The compromise they crafted in the Constitution was terribly imperfect and led directly to the Civil War, but few historians these days can think of any other way it would have worked out, given the times, especially the Signer's very 18th century intellectual fear of "the common man" and pure democracy, preferring at best representative democracy with strict controls on voting, or even better, a republic with several layers of protections to keep out the dreaded mob. In this way the were imitating the original Greek system of at least two classes of people with only one of them to govern or seen as fit to govern. So one can say it's not until very recently that the U.S. has really had a go at real democracy and if one is a cynic you can say well! and look where it has gotten us! :)
"Knowledge is as infinite as the stars in the sky;
There is no end to all the subjects one could study.
It is better to grasp straight away their very essence--
The unchanging fortress of the Dharmakaya."

– Longchenpa.

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Re: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by DGA » Sun Jan 14, 2018 5:56 pm

Wayfarer wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:03 am
Malcolm wrote:The roots of individualism and liberalism in Anglo democracies stem from, once again, the Scottish Enlightenment -- Smith, Burke, Locke, and Hume. This has nothing to do with Christ or Christianity.
Aside from it being the culture that gave rise to the ‘Scottish Enlightenment’....
I would argue that much of the Scottish Enlightenment is in line with the trends Weber analyzes as the Protestant Work Ethic, which is to say the sentiments at work in the construction of what we call capitalism now. Adam Smith's theory of moral sentiments may be the best example of this. Hume's atheism is the counterargument to this claim, to which I say: Hume's atheism is the least influential or impactful aspect of the Scottish Enlightenment, convincing as it may be.

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Re: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by DGA » Sun Jan 14, 2018 5:57 pm

Wayfarer wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:50 am
DGA wrote:Brooks manages to be both full of shit AND irrelevant,
I wonder if you noticed a Brooks column called The Neural Buddhists quite a few years back. I thought it was pretty good.

I missed that one. I'll take a look.

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Re: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by Malcolm » Sun Jan 14, 2018 7:24 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 11:47 pm
Malcolm wrote:
Sat Jan 13, 2018 10:00 pm
Well, no this is a misrepresentation of US history.

All of the founders from the south were indeed slaveowners. Most of the founders from the North were not.

With respect to murdering Indians, at that point in history, Indians and Europeans were murdering each other with equal frequency, as we can see in the French-Indian war. By this point (1756), the 1.5 million people in the British colonies had expanded no further than the Appalachian mountains, inhabiting the 100-300 mile strip of land area to the east of them from the Carolinas to what is now Maine, only about a tenth of the total landmass of N. America. Beyond that it was all Indians until the Pacific. Of course, then there is the fact that people like Franklin consulted with the Iroquois Confederacy about their principles of governing, some of which were adapted to the new constitution.

The part of Massachusetts in which I live, the hills west of the Connecticut river, was uninhabited by the 17th century because of the constant wars the Pocumtuc confederacy had with the Mohawks who lived in the Hudson Valley. When the first European settlers arrived in 1764 in Ashfield, my town, there was literally no one living here or anywhere around. The whole Berkshire region was uninhabited because of the constant warfare the tribes of the Connecticut river and Hudson Valley were waging against each other for generations before Europeans arrived. Also smallpox definitely took its toll on the local tribe. Their remnant survives as the Abenaki Indians of Vermont.

http://www.dickshovel.com/pocu.html
I see that the rationalisation based on the legal concept of terra nullius is happily applied by the offspring of white colonialists in America too.
I am not rationalizing anything. These are the facts. Eastern Forest Native Americans, unlike Europeans, did not have a concept of property. Instead, they had a concept of usufruct. Their wars were frequently over who had the right to use a given tract of land. Ownership just did not occur to them. However, the tribes fought many brutal wars with each other that had nothing at all to do with European colonialism.

They further thought the European concept of "property" was very strange, since they had a slash and burn type of agriculture and land management strategy. Thus, they also thought the European practice of growing plants in animal manure was disgusting.

In short, at least in New England, there was a total lack of understanding on both sides.

To your point about Terra Nullius, the Pilgrims and others of their era were pretty much steeped in ideas of divine mandate -- they did not assume, after they landed, that New England was unpopulated, they imagined themselves Israelites, as is show in this introduction to Increase Mather's account of King Phillip's War:
That the Heathen people amongst whom we live, and whose Land the Lord God of our Fathers hath given to us for a rightfull Possession, have at sundry times been plotting mischievous devices against that part of the English Israel which is seated in these goings down of the Sun, no man that is an Inhabitant of any considerable standing can be ignorant.


My point is that because of a long standing war that preceded the English occupation of New England, the region in which I lived was in fact a no man's land, (not in the sense of terra nullius, but because it was too dangerous to live here prior to the end of the French Indian war) between Pocumtuc and the Mohawk tribes. So, the point here is that in the eyes of settlers, the Americas were not terra nullius, as Cook declared of Australia, but rather, it was land bequeathed by God to the "English Israel," meaning Puritans.

Hobbes notes:
And though a People comming into possession of a land by warre, do not alwaies exterminate the antient Inhabitants, (as did the Jewes,) but leave to many, or most, or all of them their Estates; yet it is manifest they hold them afterwards, as of the Victors distribution; as the people of England held all theirs of William the Conquerour.
Locke, coming later, deals with the notion of individual property as a function of labor rather than conquest:
Sect. 30. Thus this law of reason makes the deer that Indian's who hath killed it; it is allowed to be his goods, who hath bestowed his labour upon it, though before it was the common right of every one. And amongst those who are counted the civilized part of mankind, who have made and multiplied positive laws to determine property, this original law of nature, for the beginning of property, in what was before common, still takes place; and by virtue thereof, what fish any one catches in the ocean, that great and still remaining common of mankind; or what ambergrise any one takes up here, is by the labour that removes it out of that common state nature left it in, made his property, who takes that pains about it. And even amongst us, the hare that any one is hunting, is thought his who pursues her during the chase: for being a beast that is still looked upon as common, and no man's private possession; whoever has employed so much labour about any of that kind, as to find and pursue her, has thereby removed her from the state of nature, wherein she was common, and hath begun a property.
Locke also addresses the limitations of usufruct:
Before the appropriation of land, he who gathered as much of the wild fruit, killed, caught, or tamed, as many of the beasts, as he could; he that so imployed his pains about any of the spontaneous products of nature, as any way to alter them from the state which nature put them in, by placing any of his labour on them, did thereby acquire a propriety in them: but if they perished, in his possession, without their due use; if the fruits rotted, or the venison putrified, before he could spend it, he offended against the common law of nature, and was liable to be punished; he invaded his neighbour's share, for he had no right, farther than his use called for any of them, and they might serve to afford him conveniencies of life.
And his attitudes towards the peoples of the Americas, here:
Sect. 41. There cannot be a clearer demonstration of any thing, than several nations of the Americans are of this, who are rich in land, and poor in all the comforts of life; whom nature having furnished as liberally as any other people, with the materials of plenty, i.e. a fruitful soil, apt to produce in abundance, what might serve for food, raiment, and delight; yet for want of improving it by labour, have not one hundredth part of the conveniencies we enjoy: and a king of a large and fruitful territory there, feeds, lodges, and is clad worse than a day-labourer in England
.

Now, Locke's ignorance of Natives in America is of course staggering. But his attitudes reflect the general 17th and 18th century attitudes towards the Americas, and indeed, his understanding of the cultures of the Americas is one of the main points upon which he hangs his conception of the state of nature.

Naturally, in Buddhadharma we also have the idea of a state of nature, the origin of government when someone takes more than their usufruct rights should allow them, indeed in this there is much in common between the Aggañña Sutta and Locke's notions of the evolution of the property from labor, and the evolution of the state from the need to protect that property.
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: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by Grigoris » Sun Jan 14, 2018 8:55 pm

I am not rationalizing anything. These are the facts.
Ownership is not a fact, it is a mode of relation to an object based on a particular philosophy/world view.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: What's wrong with democracy?

Post by Malcolm » Sun Jan 14, 2018 9:28 pm

Grigoris wrote:
Sun Jan 14, 2018 8:55 pm
I am not rationalizing anything. These are the facts.
Ownership is not a fact, it is a mode of relation to an object based on a particular philosophy/world view.
Oh, you mean it is a convention. Of course. In Western civilization, ownership, once conferred by sovereigns, is now conferred by the State. All conventions.

But it is a fact if I build a fence on my neighbor's property, they are going to take me to court. That is a convention too, and a court case I am likely to lose.

And the fact is that the Crown granted 40 acre tracts of lands to veterans of the French Indian war in what are now called the Hill Towns of Western Massachusetts. And it is a fact that prior to that war, no one lived here because it was too dangerous due to the long standing conflict between the Pocumtuc and Mohawk tribes. Indeed, tensions were sufficiently high that the Pocumtuc tribe built elaborate fortifications with palisades and ditches to (unsuccessfully) fend off attacks from the Mohawks.
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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