inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #76 of 214: those Andropovian bongs (rik) Mon 11 Jun 12 08:20
    
I can't see as you have anything to apologize for.   I prefer to see this 
as an inquiry rather than a debate.   And every post her has given me 
something worth thinking about.
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #77 of 214: Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Mon 11 Jun 12 08:22
    
If the idea is that I have to take animism with the rest, then I'll just go
do my own thing. That's a vestigial limb from pre-language times with no 
place in a modern worldview.
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #78 of 214: (fom) Mon 11 Jun 12 08:33
    
No one said you "have to take animism," did they?
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #79 of 214: Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Mon 11 Jun 12 08:43
    

Post 72:

Some scholars think they can separate out "Buddhism" and
 "Hinduism" from the indigenous animism, but others question this
 dissection.  I think it amounts to throwing the baby out with the
 bathwater.
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #80 of 214: Patrick Madden (padlemad) Mon 11 Jun 12 09:01
    
(rocket) slipped.

Heckuvajob, people. Greatly enjoying the discussion.

I wonder about the difficulties that Westerners like myself might
face, arising purely as a result of scientific skepticism, when
embarking on (say) 100k prostrations to a visualised refuge tree full
of tantric deities and long-dead (but visualised still very much alive)
masters. That practice is also about devotion, another area I suspect
we generally (at least I do) find highly problematic.

You can't do the prostrations properly while also keeping a section of
your mind going, "Well, this is really just make-believe: I know
Padmasambhava's been feeding the worms for centuries." You have to jump
in with both feet. So I might ask, is there a middle way between
either abandoning skepticism or jettisoning the efficacy of tantric
practice?

And then I guess I answer my own question. Skepticism, like all the
other forms of resistance that arise in a challenging practice, is
grist for the mill in that scenario: another buttress of ego that's
gonna give. Perhaps the answer is the mind that arises when you just
let go of skepticism and that buttress collapses, which I imagine is
quite a groundless space.
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #81 of 214: Patrick Madden (padlemad) Mon 11 Jun 12 09:04
    
(To clarify: I don't mean you abandon skepticism and become a true
believer, just that you let go of whatever superstition-negating
beliefs  the skepticism was holding, into a mind that simply may not
know one way or the other.)
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #82 of 214: those Andropovian bongs (rik) Mon 11 Jun 12 09:18
    
I have a different interpretation of that paragraph, which would be that 
when we look at the whole of Buddhism, there it all is. 

When you look at Christianity, you also have a stack of stuff to sort 
through.  There are Christians who endeavour to love one another, turn the 
other cheek when attacked, and "Render unto Caesar...", which is to say, 
let the government be the government, and we'll take care of each other.  
And on what looks to me to be the other extremem, there are the 
prosyletizing, Christian soldiers who would love to force everyone to live 
according to their intrepretation of Christianity, and who think that 
Jesus will make you rich if you achieve merit with him.

People will argue about what the "real" Christianity is, but let's face 
it.  It's all Christianity.

Buddhism is a kernel of teachings with 2500 years of interpretations, and 
yes, accretions and holdovers from the culture in which Buddhism arose.  
My interest is in remembering who I am, and seeing clearly, and the 
deities, demons, and mysticism are of no interest to me.   But the Four 
Noble truths look to me to be how things are.  Really.   And the only 
thing I take on faith is that the eightfold path is effective in dealing 
with the essential not-rightness, decribed by those truths.  And the 
pragmatist in me is saying "so far, so good".    
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #83 of 214: those Andropovian bongs (rik) Mon 11 Jun 12 09:18
    
2 slips from padlemad.
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #84 of 214: (fom) Mon 11 Jun 12 09:37
    
#79 ya got me there!

But I think rik's interpretation -- that it's all Buddhism -- is pretty 
sound.

But also: 
As I look around my living room I don't see statues of saints or buddhas, 
or anything like that. But I have a photo on the wall of some jazz 
musicians, and a book of Shakespeare (Collected Works, from college) in a 
prominent place in a bookcase along with several editions of the Chicago 
Manual of Style, and numerous pieces of furniture whose long-gone 
designers I revere. Is that all so different from having a statue of 
Padmasambhava? Is my devotion to Charles and Ray Eames all that different 
from someone's devotion to a saint or boddhisattva? 
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #85 of 214: Eric Rawlins (woodman) Mon 11 Jun 12 10:29
    
Felicity's question is a very good one.

And I agree entirely with Rik's #82. How could any belief system
sufficiently deep to be worth discussing *not* take on different
flavors in different cultures and times? How could it *not* respond to
the same forces that operate on society at large?
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #86 of 214: Paul Belserene (paulbel) Mon 11 Jun 12 11:44
    
The story of Buddhism coming to Tibet is a story that involves
building a monastery, with the walls going up stone by stone during the
day, and the local demons or spirits tearing it down stone by stone
during the night. Until Padmasambhava found a way to "bind by oath" the
devas and rakshasas, which I understand to mean that Buddhism has
recognized and embraced the unique qualities of the place - each and
every place - that it has been transplanted in. 
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #87 of 214: Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Mon 11 Jun 12 12:20
    

>  I wonder about the difficulties that Westerners like myself might
 face, arising purely as a result of scientific skepticism, when
 embarking on (say) 100k prostrations to a visualized refuge tree full
 of tantric deities and long-dead (but visualized still very much alive)
 masters. 

Right. I cannot take that stuff seriously. I suspect that most of us would,
if pressed, admit as much. These are echoes of a distant time that are 
highly poetic, but incomprehensible if subjected to analysis (how can you 
be dead and still be alive?)

It's a very religion-like trait (so return to that strand of the 
conversation for a moment) to insist that you have to accept the whole 
package, or none at all. 

So "your Western Buddhism is an intellectual construction", while meant to 
be derision, is pretty much the way it actually is -- what's the 
alternative? Buddhism is pure and unadulterated truth of the world the way 
it really is? Please. That boast, made by basically all religions, is one 
of the ugliest and more destructive aspects of religious bullying, 
equivalent to "don't try to figure this out for yourself."

It is, on the contrary, an attribute of philosophy that worldviews are 
meant to be challenged; that unquestioning acceptance of systems is a bad 
thing, that well-reasoned beliefs withstand intense scrutiny.

So I prefer to simply disregard the animism elements as an unfortunate 
by-product of historical accretion. Hope that's OK.
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #88 of 214: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Mon 11 Jun 12 12:50
    
Nothing's ever all that pure.

I've been part of a 4th Way group, working in the Gurdjieff tradition.
Not at all dogmatic, but those folks do strongly discourage comparing
Gurdjieff's approach to others, though he was explicitly influenced by
Buddhism (et al). If you accept that there's a fundamental truth or
reality, then you'd think these different approaches would just be
looking at the same thing, from different perspectives.

Then there are approaches that are more about embracing a comfortable
illusion. I don't blame anyone for embracing a comforting illusion...
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #89 of 214: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Mon 11 Jun 12 12:54
    
>when
>embarking on (say) 100k prostrations to a visualised refuge tree full
>of tantric deities and long-dead (but visualised still very much alive)
>masters.

Actually when I read Will's post as well as this one I see a bit of a Western
bias, ironically, because in both cases the Western framing of religion
as a "belief system" (particularly in the Christian sense of belief)
shines forth. Where does it say that you have to take this refuge tree
literally, rather than as a metaphor? Who is telling you that skepticism
isn't compatible with these practices? In fact, going back thousands of
years in Buddhist thought, philosophy, and practice, the idea of skepticism
is not only acceptable but in fact, required, in any serious investigation
or study or practice of Buddhism.
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #90 of 214: for dixie southern iraq (stet) Mon 11 Jun 12 12:58
    
Before we evolved into language users, we worked on instincts and
genotype and were clear on our motives and wishes. When we began to
speak and could understand past, future, and logical contradiction, we
became confused and invented religion.
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #91 of 214: Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Mon 11 Jun 12 13:00
    

> the idea of skepticism
 is not only acceptable but in fact, required, in any serious investigation
 or study or practice of Buddhism.

Well, that's my take on it. When that skepticism collides with mysticism, 
it's anyone's guess who will win0 (example: I finally got the "not two, 
and not one" thing, which is totally at odds with logic but I think is 
true anyway).
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #92 of 214: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Mon 11 Jun 12 14:42
    
I suppose what I'm getting at is that skepticism, strictly speaking, ought
to be the foundation, the fundamental ground of any investigation of
anything, and that's not only acceptable in Buddhism historically but even
insisted upon in many traditions. But this has to apply across the board;
that is, if you are interested in intellectual rigor. It can apply, for
instance, towards our notion of conventional consensus reality --- one ought
to be skeptical of that, as well.

Many phenomena of mind and reality are very subtle, and I would simply
assert without proof, just based on my own experience and investigation,
that careful, skeptical investigation can and will reveal many very
surprising things about the nature of reality. So it may well be that,
for instance, doing prostrations to dead teachers may be simply a metaphor,
or perhaps there's something to the idea that in some way there's an
aspect of the dead teachers still around, in some way which is not fully
understood. The point is, there's no requirement at least in the schools
I have studied that one must "believe" in such things. If you went to most
teachers in these traditions and said, "I don't believe this stuff" they
might give you many rejoinders, but no legitimate teacher would say, "well,
you must believe this."

In other words, to the extent I've experienced "mystical" phenomena it has
been because I've been thorough and skeptical, not in spite of it.
Skepticism one might say is the root of mysticism, rather than the
reverse. Naturally, there are many traditional beliefs in certain sects of
Buddhism which I haven't investigated, but I've never encountered any
credible teacher who insists on blind belief --- such a notion is in some
ways a contradiction in terms --- most of these things can't even be understood
until you have investigated them directly, so what does it even mean to
"believe" or "not believe" in it? You can't even define it without direct
experience or understanding.
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #93 of 214: Patrick Madden (padlemad) Tue 12 Jun 12 03:42
    
Nice post, thanks, Mitsu.
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #94 of 214: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Tue 12 Jun 12 04:02
    
After dipping my toe in the Buddhist waters in the 60's, am I the only
one that was later drawn in by the work of Joseph Campbell? I don't
think of him as a teacher of Buddhism as much as an evangelist. But he
greatly impacted my development along those lines.
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #95 of 214: Pseud Impaired (mitsu) Tue 12 Jun 12 14:36
    
Another point I'd make is that the fundamental, most central principles of
the illusory nature of the self, practice/samadhi, and so on --- principles
which apply in the case of contemplative practice, really don't depend on
"believing" in strange phenomena or mythology. You can look into them, or
not, etc. I have actually experienced some really weird things, but then
again they're from my perspective interesting in the same way, say, quasars
or sea anemones or other phenomena are interesting. If you happen to study
with a teacher who is interested in such things, you can explore these
phenomena, but I don't think it's necessary to be a serious Buddhist.

The cultural/ritualistic practices, on the other hand, have more currency
in the context of the social and societal impact of Buddhism as a cultural
tradition. In fact most laypeople in Asia don't really know much about the
contemplative practices the monks and nuns do (as I mentioned, in Japan
most "Zen Buddhists" don't actually sit zazen, they just go to temple and
hear a monk give a talk once a week, like going to church). It's rather
interesting that in America, what's caught on are the contemplative practices;
it's as though lay Buddhists in America are "semi-professional" Buddhists,
unlike typical lay Buddhists in Asia. But contrary to the idea that this
makes American Buddhism less authentic, in many ways this brings American
Buddhism closer to the origins of Buddhism in the sanghas back in the original
Buddha's time: communities of actual practitioners. In the context of actual
practice, belief or disbelief isn't that important, investigation and
practice is important. This is not an American invention: it's part of
Buddhist tradition and teaching going back millennia.
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #96 of 214: Chris Marti (cmarti) Tue 12 Jun 12 17:19
    
Yep  ;-)
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #97 of 214: Renshin Bunce (renshin-b) Tue 12 Jun 12 17:42
    
It's said that Suzuki-roshi wanted to come to America because he felt
Zen had grown decadent in Japan.  And that when the time came for him
to choose between the Japanese congregation he'd been brought over to
lead, and the Americans who'd found him, he chose the Americans because
they sat zazen and the Japanese didn't.
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #98 of 214: Susan Sarandon, tractors, etc. (rocket) Tue 12 Jun 12 18:27
    
Excellent series of posts.

(<jonl>, do you mind if I quote your "Then there are approaches that
are more about embracing a comfortable illusion. I don't blame anyone
for embracing a comforting illusion..." with full attribution and
context in a talk I'm giving on restaurants? It's perfect.)
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #99 of 214: Jon Lebkowsky (jonl) Tue 12 Jun 12 20:41
    
Sure, no problem! (Trying to imagine the connection with
restaurants...)
  
inkwell.vue.444 : Buddhism on (and off) the WELL
permalink #100 of 214: Ted Newcomb (tcn) Wed 13 Jun 12 05:01
    
I don't know if it's the time or place, or a combination of both that
enabled the spread of Buddhism in the U.S. A lot of great posts here on
both the push and the pull, from Asia to the West. Our culture
produces a lot of stress, so it's not surprising that meditation and
mindfulness were two things people could immediately respond to in
Buddhist thinking. 

Buddhism seems to be ideally eclectic and able to absorb local and
cultural adaptations into its whole. Could you talk a bit about that?
  

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