Concept-free Buddhism

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
[N.B. This is the forum that was called ‘Exploring Buddhism’. The new name simply describes it better.]
User avatar
Rick
Posts: 1621
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:05 am

Concept-free Buddhism

Post by Rick » Sun Oct 05, 2014 4:04 pm

Which school of Buddhism is most concept free? I.e. not reliant on lists, practices, paths, doctrines, laws, dogma.

I realize that there is no Buddhist school that is 100% concept free ... or it wouldn't be Buddhist, or a school, or have anything to say about anything. ;-)

But surely there is a range of embracing of conceptual structure among different Buddhist schools, ja?
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

User avatar
Anders
Posts: 1104
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:39 pm

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by Anders » Sun Oct 05, 2014 5:03 pm

That is more to do with the practitioner than the school.

To eschew lists, practices, etc on the assumption that this makes you 'free from concepts' is a flawed concept. If you need to avoid something to be free of it, you're not really free of it. The freedom is rather in how it is used.

edit: disclaimer - I am primarily a zen practitioner, which traditionally upholds itself as being
  • A special transmission outside the scriptures;
    No dependence on words and letters;
    Direct pointing to the mind of man;
    Seeing into one's nature and attaining Buddhahood.
and does't rely on ritual or dogma either. But I'd argue that any Zen tradition that doesn't use scriptures, that doesn't utilise ritual and that fails to appreciate and thoroughly respect the deepening pointers of exploring 'doctrines' etc. has fundamentally missed the point and quite limited the potential of practise. These things do not exist because they are necessary, but because they are useful. They are akin to training wheels for the hustle and bustle of life. Your ordinary existence is riddled with concepts, received lore and unacknowledged ritual. A proper practise will not tell you to get rid of these, but rather teach you how to use these gracefully, easefully, insightfully - in fact, fully. They are met, are met fully, and released fully. This is freedom from concept and ritual within concept and ritual - a recipe for freedom that actually engages with life.

Actually, I'd even go so far as saying that whilst this wish for freedom from concept is a beautiful thing that is the result of most wonderful aspirations, you have to be really careful about what you might be creating for yourself in pursuing this wish. Your yearning for truth must survive and transcend its own preferences and preconceived ideas of nonconceptuality, non-practise etc. too.
Last edited by Anders on Sun Oct 05, 2014 5:23 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra

User avatar
Rick
Posts: 1621
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:05 am

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by Rick » Sun Oct 05, 2014 5:11 pm

Anders wrote:To eschew lists, practices, etc on the assumption that this makes you 'free from concepts' is a flawed concept.
As are all concepts, everything that is written/said/conceived.

But, surely, embracing lists, practices, formulas is a movement *towards* dependency on conceptual frameworks, no?
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

User avatar
Anders
Posts: 1104
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:39 pm

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by Anders » Sun Oct 05, 2014 5:32 pm

rachmiel wrote:But, surely, embracing lists, practices, formulas is a movement *towards* dependency on conceptual frameworks, no?
I don't see it that way. I think practices like chanting, bowing, rituals in general is in fact a way of practising that is highly tendentious towards nonconceptual practise, because it shows you how to gracefully embody the practise in a more physical way. Communities without ritual often lack this dimension - You can often see a more sloppy way in their countenance and action which comes from not having integrated this more physical dimension. Ironically, their non-dogmatic practise leaves a lot of their inherited assumptions un-answered.

As for lists and such - do it right and I'd say no. If you get a sutra or formula of meditation really under your skin, it actually decreases conceptual profileration. You don't need to wonder about what you're dealing with. A lot of these lists are actually made for smoothing the proliferation of the mind in this regard.

In addition to all that, there is of course the realm of non-conceptuality, natural action, inherent wisdom and so forth. And these of course are quite seminal.

But the question then also is - How do you clarify this? And more importantly, thoroughly integrate this in action (ritual) and speech (concept)? These dimensions are not opposed to each other. On the contrary, to penetrate one, you must find a way to integrate it with the other.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra

krodha
Posts: 2376
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:30 pm

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by krodha » Sun Oct 05, 2014 5:46 pm

Lists, practices, paths, doctrines, laws, dogma, etc., are all conventional supports to help realize your non-conceptual nature. Since they're ultimately merely conventions (like everything else) they shouldn't be an issue and there's really no reason to actively pursue a 'concept free' route. Besides, they're just tools and it's useful to implement tools, we have no problem using our computer in a light and free manner... one should be able to relate to paths, doctrines etc., in the same way. In most cases one ends up making a job far more difficult without the proper tools, same goes for practicing the buddhadharma. 

Really if you're looking to dispense with lists, practices, paths, doctrines, laws, dogma, this means you're looking at these things as something inherent that needs to be abandoned instead of viewing them as conventional supports. Alot of secular type paths fall victim to this mistake, they see some elements of the dharma as unnecessary and seek to transform the teachings into something perhaps more "modern" etc., and all they end up doing is eviscerating the teaching so it is crippled beyond hope of repair and unable to produce its intended results. Those individuals have been conditioned all their lives to see things inherently and therefore cannot relate to doctrine, paths, lists, practices in a free and easy way. Anders is right the freedom is in how you relate to those concepts, not in rejecting them.

User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
Posts: 7947
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA
Contact:

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sun Oct 05, 2014 6:29 pm

Some western Zen sort of brands itself this way, IMO it really isn't - just very minimal. If you're looking for a practice that involves less talk though, look for a Soto Zen place, generally (IME at least) there is very little talking required at all unless you do something like Dokusan. As to whether or not it's "conceptual", hard to say - not sure we can avoid being conceptual until we are just really good meditators...until then I think it's probably best to aim for being for having clarity about where we are conceptual. Trying to force 'nonconceptual' is IME, not going to do anything at all.

Anyway, I figure the conceptual frameworks in most traditions are there for a reason, sexy or not.
"it must be coming from the mouthy mastermind of raunchy rapper, Johnny Dangerous”

-Jeff H.

User avatar
Queen Elizabeth II
Posts: 54
Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2009 8:35 pm

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by Queen Elizabeth II » Sun Oct 05, 2014 7:36 pm

rachmiel wrote:Which school of Buddhism is most concept free?
The Theravada school, due to its greater emphasis on keeping the eight precepts on full moon and new moon days.

Cheers,
Elizabeth Regina

User avatar
Rick
Posts: 1621
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:05 am

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by Rick » Sun Oct 05, 2014 8:00 pm

I fathom the usefulness of conceptual constructs to effect change, to fix what's broken and move towards realization: Use a thorn to remove a thorn, then toss both away. In this sense, it's the holding on to the conceptual framework past its window of helpfulness/necessity that does the damage, not the using of the framework in the first place.

Let me recast my original question:

Is there a school of Buddhism that sees realized existence as existence without concepts? (Including such foundational conceptual structures as: reincarnation, karma, the Noble Truths, etc.)
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

User avatar
Queen Elizabeth II
Posts: 54
Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2009 8:35 pm

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by Queen Elizabeth II » Sun Oct 05, 2014 8:08 pm

Queen Elizabeth II wrote:
rachmiel wrote:Which school of Buddhism is most concept free?
The Theravada school, due to its greater emphasis on keeping the eight precepts on full moon and new moon days.
Oh, bollocks. I now see I’ve misunderstood the OP and gone and committed a non sequitur. འཐད་པར་མི་འགྱུར་རོ།

Well, I’m awfully sorry about that. I’d misplaced my spectacles at the time of posting and misread “concept free” as “concert free”. There’s no doubt that the Theravada holds the fewest concerts of all the schools, but of course that wasn’t what Rachmiel was asking about.

Cheers all,
Elizabeth Regina

User avatar
Queen Elizabeth II
Posts: 54
Joined: Sun Apr 05, 2009 8:35 pm

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by Queen Elizabeth II » Sun Oct 05, 2014 8:22 pm

rachmiel wrote:Is there a school of Buddhism that sees realized existence as existence without concepts? (Including such foundational conceptual structures as: reincarnation, karma, the Noble Truths, etc.)
No, none at all. The pan-Buddhist teaching about concepts is not that the realized person doesn't have them or doesn't make use of them, but simply that he isn't attached to them or deceived by them. C'est tout!

Ciao for now,
Elizabeth Regina

krodha
Posts: 2376
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:30 pm

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by krodha » Sun Oct 05, 2014 9:09 pm

rachmiel wrote:Is there a school of Buddhism that sees realized existence as existence without concepts? (Including such foundational conceptual structures as: reincarnation, karma, the Noble Truths, etc.)
All schools of Buddhism teach that one's ultimate nature as free of all concepts. Karma, rebirth, the path laid out by the four noble truths, all apply to the relative condition of afflicted sentient beings (which is all of us)... only Buddhas are free of karma, rebirth and have no need for the path.

User avatar
Rick
Posts: 1621
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:05 am

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by Rick » Sun Oct 05, 2014 9:36 pm

> Q: Is there a school of Buddhism that sees realized existence as existence without concepts? (Including such foundational conceptual structures as: reincarnation, karma, the Noble Truths, etc.)

> A1: No, none at all. The pan-Buddhist teaching about concepts is not that the realized person doesn't have them or doesn't make use of them, but simply that he isn't attached to them or deceived by them. C'est tout!

> A2: All schools of Buddhism teach that one's ultimate nature as free of all concepts. Karma, rebirth, the path laid out by the four noble truths, all apply to the relative condition of afflicted sentient beings (which is all of us)... only Buddhas are free of karma, rebirth and have no need for the path.

Is A1 = A2?

If not, which is right?
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

DGA
Former staff member
Posts: 9253
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm
Contact:

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by DGA » Sun Oct 05, 2014 9:39 pm

both are right, both are true. That's the two truths: ultimate and provisional.

Concepts like "two truths" are fundamental to understanding Buddhism. And understanding anything, really.

"no concepts" is also a concept.

krodha
Posts: 2376
Joined: Mon Nov 28, 2011 10:30 pm

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by krodha » Sun Oct 05, 2014 9:42 pm

A1 and A2 are essentially synonymous. A1 is addressing the individual who has knowledge of their ultimate nature and A2 is addressing the nature.

User avatar
Rick
Posts: 1621
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:05 am

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by Rick » Sun Oct 05, 2014 10:22 pm

Kind of cool how the two responses so lovelily illustrate the two aspects of truth, eh? :-)

This all makes good sense to me. Given my predilection for cutting to the chase, the concepts and sundry paraphernalia of Buddhism interest me far less than that to which they point. Each to his/her own, yes?
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
Posts: 7947
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA
Contact:

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Mon Oct 06, 2014 1:59 am

rachmiel wrote:Kind of cool how the two responses so lovelily illustrate the two aspects of truth, eh? :-)

This all makes good sense to me. Given my predilection for cutting to the chase, the concepts and sundry paraphernalia of Buddhism interest me far less than that to which they point. Each to his/her own, yes?

Inseparability of the two truths (as Jikan mentioned) .....you aren't gonna just run smack into ultimate truth without SOME sort of method, which inolves concepts.

Again though, if you really just want to sit and do formless meditation with less structure or framework, i'd check out a western Soto Zen type of place, IME both teachers and students at these places tend to be VERY focused on the idea that what they are doing "cuts through concepts"..I don't agree with them necessarily, but I'll bet you WILL find yourself discussing sutra less, and spending less time talking etc.

I personally consider Mahamudra and Dzogchen stuff (though all i've done there is read, I have no Dzogchen practice experience) to be the real deal, but technically I think one could argue that there is a lot more "concept" there than Zen in terms of a notion of progression. IME though, some of the "conceptual" Mahamudra meditations have been orders of magnitude more effective at pointing towards experiences that were less conceptually framed..YMMV.

Also, my understanding is that in some ways, seeing "concepts" as things to move past or eliminate, can actually be a kind of obstruction, just like viewing discursive thoughts that way, as something that you have to "move past" or elminate. Ironically, some teachings on "non conceptual" and formless meditations mention this very thing as a kind of bump in the road.
"it must be coming from the mouthy mastermind of raunchy rapper, Johnny Dangerous”

-Jeff H.

User avatar
Anders
Posts: 1104
Joined: Tue Apr 07, 2009 12:39 pm

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by Anders » Mon Oct 06, 2014 7:29 am

rachmiel wrote:This all makes good sense to me. Given my predilection for cutting to the chase, the concepts and sundry paraphernalia of Buddhism interest me far less than that to which they point. Each to his/her own, yes?
Basically, what you should be looking for is a teacher who embodies what you're looking for. Then see if you have confidence in his being able to point this out to you after a while. What his school might be is less relevant. A good teacher won't even need words to demonstrate it to you (though in all likelihood he'll use plenty of them to supplement).
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra

User avatar
Dan74
Founding Member
Posts: 2386
Joined: Mon Oct 08, 2012 3:59 pm
Location: Lyss, Switzerland

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by Dan74 » Mon Oct 06, 2014 8:33 am

I guess the trouble with 'wanting to cut to the chase' is that more often than not it is spiritual materialism in yet another guise - it is wanting. So perhaps best to examine what it is that wants to cut to the chase.

_/|\_

User avatar
seeker242
Posts: 1293
Joined: Sat Mar 17, 2012 2:50 pm
Location: South Florida, USA

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by seeker242 » Mon Oct 06, 2014 12:54 pm

rachmiel wrote:Which school of Buddhism is most concept free? I.e. not reliant on lists, practices, paths, doctrines, laws, dogma.

I realize that there is no Buddhist school that is 100% concept free ... or it wouldn't be Buddhist, or a school, or have anything to say about anything. ;-)

But surely there is a range of embracing of conceptual structure among different Buddhist schools, ja?
Early Chinese Zen. From the likes of Mazu, Huang Po, Joshu, etc.
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!

User avatar
Rick
Posts: 1621
Joined: Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:05 am

Re: Concept-free Buddhism

Post by Rick » Mon Oct 06, 2014 1:58 pm

Dan74 wrote:I guess the trouble with 'wanting to cut to the chase' is that more often than not it is spiritual materialism in yet another guise - it is wanting. So perhaps best to examine what it is that wants to cut to the chase.

_/|\_
A buncha neurons firing away in a conditioned pattern? The machine in the ghost? :-)
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

Locked

Return to “Dharma in Everyday Life”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Tiago Simões and 25 guests