Surprises in Buddhism?

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dharmapdx
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Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by dharmapdx » Mon Mar 26, 2018 10:45 pm

Has anyone else been very surprised about certain things they have learned about Buddhism? Did you have preconceived ideas about Buddhism that were kind of shattered as your study progressed?

Here are a few things that have surprised me about Buddhism, and they tend to not exactly be on the metaphysical side….

1. The main thing that has surprised me about Buddhism, and in particular Nichiren Buddhism, is all the fighting. I had a pre-conceived idea about Buddhism being a very quiet, peaceful and contemplative religion. I was therefore not prepared for all the fighting I saw between Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu, and I still find it shocking and disdainful. I am also rather put-off by the constant accusations of "slander" that you hear in Nichiren Buddhism. This sounds so close to Christianity and in particular Catholicism. (I am a former Catholic.) I just had not expected that.

2. The importance of social rank surprised me. Previous to beginning what I consider to be my serious study of Buddhism, I had spent a lot of time studying about anarcho-syndicalism. I often corresponded with Dr. Noam Chomsky himself. One of the most important aspects of anarcho-syndicalism is equality and, in a way, an abolishment of social hierarchy. I suppose I had thought Buddhism would agree with this; I suppose that at some level I had mistaken Buddhism for being anarchism. I was therefore surprised to become involved with Buddhist organizations and see a profound emphasis on social hierarchy. (I attempted to address this topic in this thread: https://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=59&t=27570 But I quickly bowed out when things started to get heated. All I was attempting to say was this: as someone with a background in study of anarchism, and a childhood in radical activist politics, I suppose I had expected Buddhist organizations to be attempting to ABOLISH any type of social hierarchy. When in fact it seems to be the opposite; Asian societies seem to be deeply influenced by Confucianism, which seems to be very much about the importance of social hierarchy. I'm not saying that I think Confucianism and feminism are wrong; what I'm saying is that as someone with a background in anarchism, I am more focused on ABOLISHMENT of social hierarchy rather than a re-arranging of it. Between the Confucian elements in American Buddhism, and the feminist elements in American Buddhism, there is a real emphasis on social hierarchy which I had not expected to be present in Buddhism. I suppose I had mistaken Buddhism for being anarchism, and I need to accept that it is not….)

3. Buddhism is not New Age philosophy. The further I study Buddhism, the more I come to realize that I had an initial idea that Buddhism was about sitting in the field and contemplating the flowers. Prior to studying anarcho-syndicalism, I had been involved with various New Age groups -- all of which had an affinity for Buddhism. The further I go with my study of Buddhism, the more I see that it really is a formal world religion -- quite distinct from the grass-roots philosophy of the America New Age.

4. This one is really unusual, to me at least…. A while ago I read that the younger generation in Asia is not interested in Buddhism, because it is "not cool." In the United States, the study of Buddhism is seen as counterculture, and therefore "cool." But in Asia, Buddhism is "the establishment," and therefore not cool. I was introduced to the figure of Buddha when I was a child in Japan -- but that was it. I simply saw the figure of Buddha. And I was only in Japan briefly as a child. So my introduction to the figure of Buddha was in Japan as a child; but my introduction to the philosophy of Buddhism took place in the United States, within the context of new age American counterculture. So it's very interesting and surprising for me to think about Buddhism through the eyes of young people growing up in Asia where Buddhism is the establishment…. (I recently saw this very surprising article about people being kicked out of Sri Lanka for Buddhist tattoos: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/worl ... 59676.html As an American it is so hard for me to consider that Buddhism and state power are one-in-the-same in some Asian countries.)

5. I will and on a very positive note: One thing that has really surprised me about Nichiren Buddhism in particular is … HOW WELL IT WORKS! 😂

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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by Minobu » Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:03 pm

dharmapdx wrote:
Mon Mar 26, 2018 10:45 pm

1. The main thing that has surprised me about Buddhism, and in particular Nichiren Buddhism, is all the fighting.
There are no perfect organizations on earth.
Egos , jealousies, power trips, greed,not to mention the lower worlds of hell hunger and animality all are poured into the mix in all organizations.

Debate has always been heady in all sects of Buddhism.

It's all a huge turn off....look at this forum...trolling , name calling, negating others' opinions totally , game playing, power trips, egos , jealousies , not to mention the lower worlds of hell hunger and animality all are poured into the mix .......

one should never be surprised when groups of humans get together....
We have come a long way from the utopian Hunter Gatherer days.

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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by Queequeg » Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:30 pm

dharmapdx wrote:
Mon Mar 26, 2018 10:45 pm
1. The main thing that has surprised me about Buddhism, and in particular Nichiren Buddhism, is all the fighting. I had a pre-conceived idea about Buddhism being a very quiet, peaceful and contemplative religion. I was therefore not prepared for all the fighting I saw between Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu, and I still find it shocking and disdainful. I am also rather put-off by the constant accusations of "slander" that you hear in Nichiren Buddhism. This sounds so close to Christianity and in particular Catholicism. (I am a former Catholic.) I just had not expected that.
The schism was traumatic and painful. Add to that, Shoshu presents a particularly unique and dogmatic interpretation, informed by 730 some odd years of debate and competition for patronage.
2. The importance of social rank surprised me... Between the Confucian elements in American Buddhism, and the feminist elements in American Buddhism, there is a real emphasis on social hierarchy which I had not expected to be present in Buddhism. I suppose I had mistaken Buddhism for being anarchism, and I need to accept that it is not….)
Hierarchy has been part of Buddhism from the beginning. The Sangha is organized on seniority. Its a simple objective rule to maintain order which in turn helps to avoid disputes. That's what rules are for. We are social beings and have apparently inborn ideas about how the world should be organized. As adults, we formalize those into the rule of law so that we don't just go killing and terrrorizing each other. The community of Buddhists is no different.

Anarchism is a nice idea, but it requires everyone to be self-regulated and moral. Most of us are mean little animals and so need the rules.
3. Buddhism is not New Age philosophy. The further I study Buddhism, the more I come to realize that I had an initial idea that Buddhism was about sitting in the field and contemplating the flowers. Prior to studying anarcho-syndicalism, I had been involved with various New Age groups -- all of which had an affinity for Buddhism. The further I go with my study of Buddhism, the more I see that it really is a formal world religion -- quite distinct from the grass-roots philosophy of the America New Age.
Definitely not. New Age strikes me as a primitive sensibility that casually appropriates signs that conform to and affirm what a person "feels", rather than being a particularly well considered system leading to advanced states. If I were to try and identify that central sensibility, it seems like an easy-come-easy-go, chase your inspiration, self-affirmation thing. American-ism without the capitalism, at least, hiding that distasteful capitalism in some "sharing the good vibes" fiction.

Buddhism is refuge in the fully awakened one - we do have a teacher who we follow, who laid down a teaching that is decidedly not undefined, within a committed community. We aspire to become his equal, not make him one of us.
4. This one is really unusual, to me at least…. A while ago I read that the younger generation in Asia is not interested in Buddhism
If your grandmother does it, its probably going to seem old and musty like your grandmother.
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

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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by boda » Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:31 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:30 pm
We are social beings and have apparently inborn ideas about how the world should be organized.
We also have an inborn tendency to crave fat, sweet, and other things that are not well adapted to the current state of affairs. We can consciously suppress these cravings to good effect.
Anarchism is a nice idea, but it requires everyone to be self-regulated and moral.
In the sense that we're responsible for our own actions and act in accordance with social norms we are self-regulated. Any social group will possess such norms. How they are enforced doesn't necessarily require a social hierarchy.
Most of us are mean little animals and so need the rules.
And the members of the top of the hierarchy are not little animals who may abuse the rules for their own selfish gain?

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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by Queequeg » Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:42 pm

boda wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:31 pm
Queequeg wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:30 pm
We are social beings and have apparently inborn ideas about how the world should be organized.
We also have an inborn tendency to crave fat, sweet, and other things that are not well adapted to the current state of affairs. We can consciously suppress these cravings to good effect.
These are not bad things in themselves, right? That craving for fat had us chasing protein, and later domesticating it; sweettooth led us to grow sweet things... these led to us having bigger brains and leisure to do things like... dharma. Our apparently inborn sense of fairness seems to have positive effects. That sensibility can also go overboard and become overbearing...

strings on a lute...
Anarchism is a nice idea, but it requires everyone to be self-regulated and moral.
In the sense that we're responsible for our own actions and act in accordance with social norms we are self-regulated. Any social group will possess such norms. How they are enforced doesn't necessarily require a social hierarchy.
I would like to believe that a society on the scale we have could be governed that way. I have seen no evidence to suggest that it is possible. I do want to believe it, though.
Most of us are mean little animals and so need the rules.
And the members of the top of the hierarchy are not little animals who may abuse the rules for their own selfish gain?
Yep. That's the assumption that informed the men who drafted the constitution. They set up a system that they hoped would be idiot and tyrant proof. So far so good, but too soon to tell exactly how good. Might just be anglo culture. :stirthepot:
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

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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by boda » Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:54 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 6:42 pm
strings on a lute...
String instruments are hard to play, unfortunately.

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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by Queequeg » Tue Mar 27, 2018 7:05 pm

Most of us are mean little animals and so need the rules.
And the members of the top of the hierarchy are not little animals who may abuse the rules for their own selfish gain?
Yep. That's the assumption that informed the men who drafted the constitution. They set up a system that they hoped would be idiot and tyrant proof. So far so good, but too soon to tell exactly how good. Might just be anglo culture. :stirthepot:
Sorry. For clarification, I was agreeing that the people at the top of the hierarchy can be animals, too.
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

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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by dharmapdx » Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:31 pm

Thanks for the responses, everyone. This has all given me a lot to think about….

With regard to the social hierarchy in Buddhist organizations, I suppose the deeper issue for me is I suppose I don't understand why Buddhist organizations are even necessary to begin with. Which kind of brings me to the New Age issue I referred to above. Most New Age activities are do-it-yourself, and I suppose I had expected Buddhism to be the same. I can understand for example why a publishing house may be necessary to publish books about Buddhist philosophy. But I guess I had considered that the closest one would need to come to being involved with a Buddhist organization would be to read the books published by the publisher. The publisher being "the Buddhist organization" itself.

I suppose I just need to get it out of my head that Buddhism is a do-it-yourself philosophy. I suppose one reason I have come to believe that it was DIY, is because for the Buddha … it basically WAS. He found his enlightenment while alone in the forest.

With regard to social hierarchy, I wish that having social hierarchy would ensure that the people at the top were humane. But what I have seen -- and this includes Buddhist organizations -- is people who want social status simply for the sake of social status, and then they become tyrants. Buddhism is simply a means to an end for them, the end being social status. For someone who has no interest in social status -- for an anarchist -- this is just entirely unappealing.

Not just unappealing. In my opinion this emphasis on social hierarchy is also superficial.

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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by Queequeg » Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:49 pm

dharmapdx wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:31 pm
Thanks for the responses, everyone. This has all given me a lot to think about….

With regard to the social hierarchy in Buddhist organizations, I suppose the deeper issue for me is I suppose I don't understand why Buddhist organizations are even necessary to begin with. Which kind of brings me to the New Age issue I referred to above. Most New Age activities are do-it-yourself, and I suppose I had expected Buddhism to be the same. I can understand for example why a publishing house may be necessary to publish books about Buddhist philosophy. But I guess I had considered that the closest one would need to come to being involved with a Buddhist organization would be to read the books published by the publisher. The publisher being "the Buddhist organization" itself.

I suppose I just need to get it out of my head that Buddhism is a do-it-yourself philosophy. I suppose one reason I have come to believe that it was DIY, is because for the Buddha … it basically WAS. He found his enlightenment while alone in the forest.

With regard to social hierarchy, I wish that having social hierarchy would ensure that the people at the top were humane. But what I have seen -- and this includes Buddhist organizations -- is people who want social status simply for the sake of social status, and then they become tyrants. Buddhism is simply a means to an end for them, the end being social status. For someone who has no interest in social status -- for an anarchist -- this is just entirely unappealing.

Not just unappealing. In my opinion this emphasis on social hierarchy is also superficial.
You might consider looking at the Vinaya, or the code of conduct governing the Sangha. The only hierarchy is age. The strictest punishment possible, and only by consensus, is expulsion, enforced only by the silent treatment. Also, ideally, morality is a significant aspect of Buddhist education. This has tended to go a long way in regulating the conduct of the sangha and avoiding the kinds of extremes you say you are wary of. Nothing is perfect, though, and some abhorrent behavior is known to have occurred in the sangha from time to time. Seriously, read the Vinaya - your eyes might pop out at some of the stories.

I'm not walking in your shoes, but is it possible you are painting with an excessively broad brush in looking at the society around you?
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

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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by dharmapdx » Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:20 am

Queequeg wrote:
Tue Mar 27, 2018 10:49 pm


You might consider looking at the Vinaya, or the code of conduct governing the Sangha. The only hierarchy is age. The strictest punishment possible, and only by consensus, is expulsion, enforced only by the silent treatment. Also, ideally, morality is a significant aspect of Buddhist education. This has tended to go a long way in regulating the conduct of the sangha and avoiding the kinds of extremes you say you are wary of. Nothing is perfect, though, and some abhorrent behavior is known to have occurred in the sangha from time to time. Seriously, read the Vinaya - your eyes might pop out at some of the stories.

I'm not walking in your shoes, but is it possible you are painting with an excessively broad brush in looking at the society around you?
I think I'm getting a little lost here…. It is a phenomenon that you see in all walks of life: people pursuing social status by whatever means is available to them. Anyone who has been to college knows what I'm talking. It was actually Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus of linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who encouraged me to go to college in the first place. It was a real shock to my system to actually go to college and have to endure professors on power trips WHO WEREN'T EVEN INTERESTED IN THE TOPIC THEY TAUGHT, and who seemed hellbent on making sure no one else would be interested in the topic -- because that might pose competition for them in the future. (Sorry for yelling. I didn't mean to yell there. Caps were meant for emphasis purposes only.)

To bring this back to the topic at hand: "surprises" one has encountered in Buddhism…. It was a surprise to find in Buddhist organizations people who behaved like college professors: people who were not interested so much in the topic at hand (Buddhism), and who didn't seem too terribly interested in facilitating the interest of others in Buddhism, but who DID seem interested in making sure others were aware of their status and authority within the community. I found this to be a surprise. I didn't know this existed in Buddhist.

I suppose another thing to add to the surprises I have found in Buddhism, is the extent to which Confucianism may influence Buddhist institutional structure. I am reminded of something Noam Chomsky said…. After making some statement in praise of the way some things are done in Asian societies, Chomsky then said that he would never want to live in Asia because the societies are "unbelievably oppressive." I can't help but think that Confucianism may be in part responsible for this, as I don't think blind reverence for people simply because they are old, or have seniority, is a good thing.

I don't have any grand vision about how society should be structured. I am simply listing things that have been surprising for me in my study of Buddhism. The further this discussion progresses, the more I realize something else that is kind of surprising to me: at the end of the day, Buddhism is not that different from most of the other world religions. And I can understand why the younger generation in Asia may not be that interested in Buddhism. Perhaps part of the appeal of Buddhism for American Buddhists is that we did not grow up in it, but chose it for ourselves in adulthood.

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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by justsomeguy » Thu Mar 29, 2018 3:35 pm

dharmapdx wrote:
Mon Mar 26, 2018 10:45 pm
1. The main thing that has surprised me about Buddhism, and in particular Nichiren Buddhism, is all the fighting. I had a pre-conceived idea about Buddhism being a very quiet, peaceful and contemplative religion. I was therefore not prepared for all the fighting I saw between Soka Gakkai and Nichiren Shoshu, and I still find it shocking and disdainful. I am also rather put-off by the constant accusations of "slander" that you hear in Nichiren Buddhism. This sounds so close to Christianity and in particular Catholicism. (I am a former Catholic.) I just had not expected that.
This. This is the main thing that surprised me as a newcomer to Buddhism with only an academic exposure to the religion. Not only am I new to Buddhism, but I came into Nichiren Shoshu. I had no previous knowledge of the various Nichiren sects and certainly had never encountered Soka Gakkai. Whew! It didn't take long to get up to speed. I almost did not come back to the temple at all because of what I perceived as hostility, but like Minobu stated earlier, it was a painful split and it's still very recent and fresh. I've learned to look at it in that light, though I do really wish they would calm down some. As a new Shoshu practitioner who almost never returned, I can say they stand to lose a lot of potential newcomers with the finger-pointing and bitterness. Like yourself, I am a former Catholic and really missed the ceremonial aspects of Catholicism. That's probably what kept me around to be honest.

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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by Queequeg » Thu Mar 29, 2018 5:17 pm

dharmapdx wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:20 am
I think I'm getting a little lost here…. It is a phenomenon that you see in all walks of life: people pursuing social status by whatever means is available to them. Anyone who has been to college knows what I'm talking. It was actually Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus of linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who encouraged me to go to college in the first place. It was a real shock to my system to actually go to college and have to endure professors on power trips WHO WEREN'T EVEN INTERESTED IN THE TOPIC THEY TAUGHT, and who seemed hellbent on making sure no one else would be interested in the topic -- because that might pose competition for them in the future. (Sorry for yelling. I didn't mean to yell there. Caps were meant for emphasis purposes only.)
I've been to lots of college. I've seen all sorts of professors and students. In fact, my wife is a university professor. My in-laws are university professors. My wife being Jewish, I go with her to passover at a family friend's home where me, with two advanced degrees and a professional career, am the least educated and accomplished adult at the table - the others being professors internationally known in their fields. I know, as friends, several university professors, some of whom are bold faced names. If every professor you encountered was on a power trip, I feel sorry for you. I am sorry you did not encounter a caring and nurturing mentor, someone who is excited by their work and happy to share their interests. I assure you, they exist - I've had some of them as my professors.

I see what goes on behind the professor facade. I can tell you, these are people, with massive workloads and professional pressures (Publish or Perish!); insecurities, ambitions, dreams, as well as a wealth of learning to share. They are often teachings courses that are outside their interests and even expertise; dealing with grade grubbing students who simply don't care and are just punching the clock toward a degree. Its rare that anyone is interested in the work that they sweat and bleed for. And they get paid very little in many cases. And this is at elite universities where the students are the cream of the cream.

Did you read any of your professor's papers or books - other than the ones that were assigned? Did you go to office hours to talk to them as people, see what makes them tick? Maybe they blew you off, but did you consider they were having a shitty day and their head of department is getting on their case for not publishing, that they're struggling along in an adjunct position that doesn't pay enough to cover the rent and worry that their contract will not be renewed next year? Teaching is a tough gig. Shitty students don't make it easier.

My point is, maybe there is something else going on; maybe its not all negativity.

Confucianism is not just the stale, oppressive thing you seem to think it is. Respecting elders is not necessarily the oppressive reign of old people you assume.

I'm pointing you to the sources that might give you and idea about what is informing people's conduct. What you assume is just oppression, might be the expression of a social contract based on mutuality.

Like I said, I haven't walked in your shoes, so maybe its all as you say. I'm suggesting some things that might help you understand what you are looking at. I realize this thread is about your impressions, so... I guess I'll bow out here.
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

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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by markatex » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:12 pm

I don’t think anything surprised me. People are people, wherever you go. I’m not an anarchist because I generally have a fairly low opinion of the average person. Even lower is my confidence in the average person’s ability to govern him or herself to any functional degree.

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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by dharmapdx » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:30 pm

With regard to my experience with academics and college professors, as I mentioned above it was Noam Chomsky (referred to by the New York Times as "arguably the most important living intellectual"), who encouraged me to attend college to begin with. Suffice it to say that my interaction with him was extremely positive, and I did indeed meet about one or two professors at college who were kind to me and who were actually interested in the subject they were teaching. My point being: yes, of course, I met some good college professors.

My situation was extremely unique and idiosyncratic. I had more than 20 years of experience in the field I attempted to major in (I had literally already read some of the texts, and had actually known and worked with some of the people mentioned in some of the texts), and the person who gave me the most problems and made my existence almost impossible -- was the head of the department, who also happened to be the wife of the mayor, who was the cousin of the governor of the state. She was threatened by my previous experience in the field and hell-bent on throwing every hurdle in my way and making my life miserable. My experience in the field was a threat to her status in the department and in the university and in the town at large, as I had actually been trained (in a non-academic setting) by the people who I trained her in graduate school. This is actually the point in my life when I really became interested in Nichiren Buddhism, as the story of a solitary man persecuted by a brutal ruling elite … really resonated with me at the time. I believe my practice of Nichiren Buddhism is what got me through college.

I ended up changing majors, and my time at the university was capped by being personally invited to the office of the president of the university -- where we discussed the history of the holocaust and the fact that he had been born in an internment camp. Being treated like royalty by the president of the university almost made up for the fact that the rest of my experience with this particular university was nightmarish.

And now I'm back to the point I made to begin with: some people are on power trips. I was surprised to find this in Buddhism. I suppose I was naïve and childishly idealistic in my reverence for Buddhist people. As the saying goes, "people are people." And if it seems like I'm being very negative, please notice my last bullet point in my first post: One of the things that surprises me is that despite all of the negative things I have noticed in Buddhist institutions, the practice itself STILL WORKS FOR ME! As Noam Chomsky once said, "The world is a complex place … Life doesn't come in neat, tidy little packages...."

With regard to Confucianism: I certainly agree that everyone deserves respect, including the elderly. But just because someone is elderly doesn't mean they are knowledgeable of a certain topic. I am just not interested in status for status's sake.

Queequeg wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 5:17 pm
dharmapdx wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 4:20 am
I think I'm getting a little lost here…. It is a phenomenon that you see in all walks of life: people pursuing social status by whatever means is available to them. Anyone who has been to college knows what I'm talking. It was actually Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus of linguistics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who encouraged me to go to college in the first place. It was a real shock to my system to actually go to college and have to endure professors on power trips WHO WEREN'T EVEN INTERESTED IN THE TOPIC THEY TAUGHT, and who seemed hellbent on making sure no one else would be interested in the topic -- because that might pose competition for them in the future. (Sorry for yelling. I didn't mean to yell there. Caps were meant for emphasis purposes only.)
I've been to lots of college. I've seen all sorts of professors and students. In fact, my wife is a university professor. My in-laws are university professors. My wife being Jewish, I go with her to passover at a family friend's home where me, with two advanced degrees and a professional career, am the least educated and accomplished adult at the table - the others being professors internationally known in their fields. I know, as friends, several university professors, some of whom are bold faced names. If every professor you encountered was on a power trip, I feel sorry for you. I am sorry you did not encounter a caring and nurturing mentor, someone who is excited by their work and happy to share their interests. I assure you, they exist - I've had some of them as my professors.

I see what goes on behind the professor facade. I can tell you, these are people, with massive workloads and professional pressures (Publish or Perish!); insecurities, ambitions, dreams, as well as a wealth of learning to share. They are often teachings courses that are outside their interests and even expertise; dealing with grade grubbing students who simply don't care and are just punching the clock toward a degree. Its rare that anyone is interested in the work that they sweat and bleed for. And they get paid very little in many cases. And this is at elite universities where the students are the cream of the cream.

Did you read any of your professor's papers or books - other than the ones that were assigned? Did you go to office hours to talk to them as people, see what makes them tick? Maybe they blew you off, but did you consider they were having a shitty day and their head of department is getting on their case for not publishing, that they're struggling along in an adjunct position that doesn't pay enough to cover the rent and worry that their contract will not be renewed next year? Teaching is a tough gig. Shitty students don't make it easier.

My point is, maybe there is something else going on; maybe its not all negativity.

Confucianism is not just the stale, oppressive thing you seem to think it is. Respecting elders is not necessarily the oppressive reign of old people you assume.

I'm pointing you to the sources that might give you and idea about what is informing people's conduct. What you assume is just oppression, might be the expression of a social contract based on mutuality.

Like I said, I haven't walked in your shoes, so maybe its all as you say. I'm suggesting some things that might help you understand what you are looking at. I realize this thread is about your impressions, so... I guess I'll bow out here.

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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by dharmapdx » Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:57 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 5:17 pm


Did you read any of your professor's papers or books - other than the ones that were assigned? Did you go to office hours to talk to them as people, see what makes them tick? Maybe they blew you off, but did you consider they were having a shitty day and their head of department is getting on their case for not publishing, that they're struggling along in an adjunct position that doesn't pay enough to cover the rent and worry that their contract will not be renewed next year? Teaching is a tough gig. Shitty students don't make it easier.
The implication that my difficulties in the university may have derived from the suspicion that I may have been a "shitty student" … is exactly what I'm referring to. Social status is everything in a university setting (perhaps as in Confucianism), and for someone such as me (an undergraduate) to point out an injustice -- brings suspicion on ME. The people in power -- professors -- are given the benefit of the doubt.

No, I wasn't a shitty student. I was an excellent student, so excellent that one professor actually -- affectionately -- referred to me as "Doctor." And that was actually the problem: I was such an excellent student that I ran the risk of outshining some of the professors. As I did end up doing towards the end of my time at the university, when I was extended the honor of being invited to meet with the president of the university in his office.

In case it sounds like I'm bragging, as an INFJ and someone interested in anarchism, I really am not that interested in social status…. I'm not bragging. I'm analyzing. You know, why did most college professors I interacted with at this particular university treat me so badly? Maybe because they were jealous?

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Queequeg
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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by Queequeg » Thu Mar 29, 2018 11:03 pm

dharmapdx wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:57 pm
The implication that my difficulties in the university may have derived from the suspicion that I may have been a "shitty student" …
No, that juxtaposition was inartful. "Shitty students" was meant as a general term, not meant to include you. My bad.
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

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dharmapdx
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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by dharmapdx » Thu Mar 29, 2018 11:37 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 11:03 pm
dharmapdx wrote:
Thu Mar 29, 2018 10:57 pm
The implication that my difficulties in the university may have derived from the suspicion that I may have been a "shitty student" …
No, that juxtaposition was inartful. "Shitty students" was meant as a general term, not meant to include you. My bad.

Thanks, dude. Still love you, bro. LOL.

One day I called my mentor, Dr. Ken Wapnick, and told him about what I was going through at the University. I said to him in exasperation, "You would think having a PhD would make someone broaden their horizons." In an almost timid, off-the-record tone, Ken responded to me, "Usually, it does the opposite. They get the degree and then use it as a defense." I felt as though he was giving me a trade secret here. LOL. Ken's doctorate was in psychology.

Ken was the president of the Foundation for A Course in Miracles. I started reading ACIM when I was 21 years old: https://www.acim.org/Wapnick-Memorial.html I started practicing chanting while attending his classes. ACIM and Buddhism have some similarities. Ken was like a father to me.

(Sorry about that. Enough with the topic of academia.)
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narhwal90
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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by narhwal90 » Fri Mar 30, 2018 12:43 am

I was never a very good student, the profs that I responded to most generally taught more vocational topics. My work is a variety of types of engineering with a focus on implementation so I never spent a lot of time in doctoral sorts of venues, though I did enjoy some of the arts & humanities. That said, in a shop it becomes obvious pretty quickly who the skilled & effective people are, be it software, car service or assembling aerospace hardware. Informal sorts of status generally accrue along those lines which can constitute something like a heirarchy. Just like anywhere else ego and personality can be a big problem or a big asset, and there are plenty of experienced people who inexplicably can work for years on a project and not know anything more about how it works when they're finished than when they started. Then there are others who go from zero to hero. The administrative/management hierarchy is quite real of course, it can be conducted competently or be h3ll on earth- just like anywhere else I think.

I guess I don't understand what the op is getting at wrt social hierarchy, I just don't have obvious correlates in my experience. My project team ranges from about 20 to 50 people depending on how many removes are considered and I work with them M-F,9-5. There are the project leads, system engineering, subject matter experts, management etc, lines of authority are reasonably clear and there are maybe 3 management layers, plenty of goals and schedules with all the contradictions and unknowns. OTOH I am careful to stay technical and out of the corporate drama. Outside of work I volunteer in a couple different groups doing different things; probably work on a weekly basis with a hundred or so folks. There are some who contribute more, some less, which is fine- their "day jobs" aren't relevant, the individual efforts have their leaders but at the end of the day folks go home. Maybe we are fortunate and the groups aren't fashionable enough to attract public figures with big egos to distort the situation. One of the groups is a catholic charity- there is the Father, the diocese shows up from time to time at which point everybody does the things then gets back to business when they leave, there are the church ladies too etc but thats not much of a hierarchy. In SGI, there are the leaders and appointments and so on, but I can't bring myself to care much... I share what seems appropriate & constructive for the circumstance and study where and how I please.

As far as surprises, I think i have been more amazed at the diversity & complexity of the practices & doctrines- plenty to study and learn and do no matter where one turns.

markatex
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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by markatex » Fri Mar 30, 2018 2:29 am

I have some issues with all the filial piety stuff, which I guess comes from Confucianism, maybe. Partly because of problems with my family of origin, and partly because I have issues with authority figures (including Buddhist ones). But hierarchy in and of itself doesn’t bother me. I actually think it’s necessary for a functional society.

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Re: Surprises in Buddhism?

Post by Ogyen » Fri Mar 30, 2018 4:13 am

I've had a few shockers ... I do understand people are people whenever you go and that 90% mean well albeit ignorance has a way of deviating the course of action to unskillfulness, bigotry, and prejudice.

Major shocker #1: the amount of abuse that happens in monasteries from rape to abusive treatment in the stronger to weaker... Saddening.

Major shocker #2: sexism is the same (rampant) as it is everywhere else.

Major shocker #3: institutionalized Buddhism is the same as any other religion with all its drawbacks, human politics, and sects.

Major shocker #4: how online Buddhists treat each other. Many are just as self-righteous and even less compassionate than Christians (hey at least they preach God is love, mean buddhists tell people their pain is an illusion, and that they don't really exist... :jawdrop: ).. I had a major brain freeze trying to understand this... It was truly shocking. (I'm not referring to DW)

Major shocker #5: how many practitioners in their own traditions lack respect for other traditions that differ from THEIR Dharma... Like Theravadans who say Sutra is basically some scholars opinions, or mahayanists who think the only authority is shakyamuni and that every other Buddha is an invention, or that termas are dreams and delusions, and all those types of situations...

The list goes on...

:meditate:
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"To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never, to forget." –Arundhati Roy

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