The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby Malcolm » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:00 am

deepbluehum wrote:What also comes to mind are texts like "The Sermon on the Mount According to Swami So and So," interpreting Christianity in Hindu terms. Everything this guy blames the West of doing, Hindus did it too. He's doing underhanded Hindu proselytizing. This is exactly the kind of empty debate the Buddha warned of.


No, he is actually being quite above board. He is making a cogent argument about a certain flexibility that Dharmic culture sustains, that Abrahamic cultures cannot.

What he is saying is not new-- for example, Bataille makes a distinction between festival cultures which regularly engage in the destruction of surplus value and hegemonic cultures which supress such destruction (see The Accursed Share). Or exam the interesting essay from Ten Thousand Plateus called Nomadology.

What Malhotra is interested in, among other things, as driving home the fact that western academic myth of the Aryan Invasion Theory, etc. has created many distortions of Indian culture. This is not to say that there are no linguistic continuities between peoples in the so called IE continuum. But languages are not peoples.

Also I find his work appealing, especially as someone who has abandoned Buddhist chauvanism -- and such chauvanism is essentially a Western phenomena.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:02 am

Malcolm wrote:Any similarities in the birth stories of Padmasambhava, Garab Dorje, Jesus and Moses are incidental.

There are no gnostic influences on Dzogchen. Any imagined influences are purely speculative and not grounded in any concrete fact, historical or textual.


You mean to say the textual similarity is not a textual similarity? You love Dzogchen too much. Everything about the origin of tantras is speculative. That's what the Tibetans need to figure out.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby Malcolm » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:05 am

deepbluehum wrote:
What you are ignoring is the fact that Buddha used cultural Aikido on the Hindu world. Which in turn, they did back. This is the "Dharmic world." There was never any real respect for each other. The Buddha's story about the Vedic rite for his funeral is not what you think. There is a nonchalantness about it. If you live in Indian culture you can see this first hand how "respect for others" is given in a nonchalant way. In India, it's path of least resistance. It is way different than adoption. The Thai are playing imitation. The world has a hell of a time with India. India transcends reasons. The Western scholars are correct, Buddha was mocking Vedic cosmology. It's a very Indian kind of humor, very subtle and ironic, but the undertone is a death blow.


Buddha just did what all Indians did -- he had a palate and used it. He was not doing "aikido" of any kind. He was not trying to upset any applecarts. The whole idea that Buddha was trying reject the so called system of varna and jati is complete crap.

The Buddha's recommendations for his funeral was exactly what I said it was. -- shramanas were not expected to conduct in such rites, it was not in their job description.

My point is that the western academic notion that the Buddha rejected Vedic culture is a complete distortion.

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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby Malcolm » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:08 am

deepbluehum wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Any similarities in the birth stories of Padmasambhava, Garab Dorje, Jesus and Moses are incidental.

There are no gnostic influences on Dzogchen. Any imagined influences are purely speculative and not grounded in any concrete fact, historical or textual.


You mean to say the textual similarity is not a textual similarity? You love Dzogchen too much. Everything about the origin of tantras is speculative. That's what the Tibetans need to figure out.



Actually, rather then speculate about what Dzogchen texts say, I read them. So I really am in a position to say whether or not there is so called "gnostic" influence on them or not.

Quite frankly, Vedic culture is much more a pressing influence in Dzogchen texts, if anything.

If you want to claim Gnostic influences on Dzogchen, you have to be very specific, give examples -- cite a text, show how some intertextuality -- prove a connection. If you can't, you are just spouting hot air.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby viniketa » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:12 am

Malcolm wrote:
deepbluehum wrote:Reading a bit about this book. The thing about "mutual respect" is a bit of a slight of hand on his part. He is basically trying to get other religions to respect Hindu ideals.


I don't think his point is that facile. For example, Buddha actually did respect other paths, even if he did not sign off on them.


Though I wouldn't exactly call it 'slight of hand', here, deepbluehum has a point. Malhotra defines 'respect' specifically as 'mutual respect', which means, to him, admitting that all paths lead to the divine. He does this knowing full well Abrahamic religions cannot accord mutual respect due to their exclusivism. Buddha would have had to 'sign off on them' to meet Malhotra's criteria.

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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby tobes » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:14 am

Malcolm wrote:
tobes wrote:
If we are to speak of a western univeralism, surely it is a/ the ideology of liberal-democracy and b/ the political economy of neo-liberalism. The vast majority of Indian students head to western institutions to learn about demand, supply, finance and management. This has nothing to do with German idealism, history or monotheism - and everything to do with the logic of utility.

And in India, this logic has become extremely powerful - if there is a national undercurrent at the moment, it is: economic growth, I.T., infrastructure, wealth creation. Little of that is Vedic.

So I just think Malhotra has the wrong end of the stick here.



All of these things that you mention are a logical extension of the ideological currents that begins with the Englightenment. Malhotra addresses the Indian capitulation to the exact type of Western Universalism you mention above.


That's not really a given - the dominance of western liberalism and market economics might be more related to material power relations rather than something ideal. But I take your/ Malhotra's general point.

I'll refrain from commenting any further, because it is a bit idiotic to do so without reading him. But I suppose, as a parting comment, if we are in the terrain of trying to theorise about globalisation and its relation to material and ideal history, we really have to recognise that it's a damn messy and complex beast.

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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby Malcolm » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:15 am

viniketa wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
deepbluehum wrote:Reading a bit about this book. The thing about "mutual respect" is a bit of a slight of hand on his part. He is basically trying to get other religions to respect Hindu ideals.


I don't think his point is that facile. For example, Buddha actually did respect other paths, even if he did not sign off on them.


Though I wouldn't exactly call it 'slight of hand', here, deepbluehum has a point. Malhotra defines 'respect' specifically as 'mutual respect', which means, to him, admitting that all paths lead to the divine. He does this knowing full well Abrahamic religions cannot accord mutual respect due to their exclusivism. Buddha would have had to 'sign off on them' to meet Malhotra's criteria.

:namaste:



No, I don't think so -- he adresses this point and includes Carvaka and Lokayati schools as well. You guys have not read this book carefully enough.

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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby viniketa » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:17 am

tobes wrote:So I just think Malhotra has the wrong end of the stick here.


This methaphor looses me. What is 'the stick', what are the 'ends', and which 'end' does Malhotra hold?

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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby viniketa » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:21 am

Malcolm wrote:No, I don't think so -- he adresses this point and includes Carvaka and Lokayati schools as well. You guys have not read this book carefully enough.


In my case, that's quite possible as I don't actually have the book yet. :tongue:
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:23 am

Malcolm wrote:Also I find his work appealing, especially as someone who has abandoned Buddhist chauvanism -- and such chauvanism is essentially a Western phenomena.


I get it. It is appealing and he makes a good point. But my point is that he doesn't realize he is pushing his own ideology on other people. That's not mutual respect either. He's basically saying, Hey West, you have to agree all paths are equal. Well, their paths say that ain't so. So he's not respecting that. What he is not seeing is that all we can do is tolerate one another. As shitty as that sounds, it's the best we can do.

Here's another point I'm trying to make. Views are just views, empty, and ultimately useless. Your dropping Buddhist chauvanism is laudible for a Hindu, I mean a Dzogchenpa. Just jokin. Seriously, Buddhists totally F'd up Buddha original intent that his people stay out of debates. The earliest suttas are focused much on that, not to adopt views and then drop views and then pick up some other views, "like a monkey letting go of one vine just to grab another." Whenever you are dealing with views, you are dealing with a web of other views. This non-chauvanism is a view. Hindus do that. But they do it with an ulterior motive, and that is to get you to agree that Sanskrit seed syllables emanate from God and their rishis had that conversation with God. You are also doing that with Dzogchen. Basically Dzogchen is very Hindu like.

Buddha replied, silly boys; you still ain't got nirvana; if you want nirvana you have to let go of this idea of primordial privilege. India, in fact, never truly took Buddha up. All that very deep seated genetic superiority going back into primordial times they feel about their families would not allow them to drop the varna system. So what you think is a kind sense of sharing among the people is completely blind to the utter disdain they have for one another.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:24 am

Malcolm wrote:Actually, rather then speculate about what Dzogchen texts say, I read them. So I really am in a position to say whether or not there is so called "gnostic" influence on them or not.

Quite frankly, Vedic culture is much more a pressing influence in Dzogchen texts, if anything.

If you want to claim Gnostic influences on Dzogchen, you have to be very specific, give examples -- cite a text, show how some intertextuality -- prove a connection. If you can't, you are just spouting hot air.


I gave you one. It's pretty simple. I guess you didn't want that one.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby tobes » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:25 am

Malcolm wrote:
deepbluehum wrote:Reading a bit about this book. The thing about "mutual respect" is a bit of a slight of hand on his part. He is basically trying to get other religions to respect Hindu ideals.



I don't think his point is that facile. For example, Buddha actually did respect other paths, even if he did not sign off on them.

What Malhotra was pointing out was that in general, in ancient India there was a cultural flexibility that could accomodate a pluralistic religious and social culture in ways that Abrahamic religions just cannot.

But when we read Indian polemics through western eyes, we tend to reify these debates into evangelisms that are just not present.


This is kind of true and kind of not true.

I agree that there seems to have been a kind of pluralism in ancient in India, which is something that has at various junctures waxed and waned through to modern times. I think it is one of the most beautiful and inspiring things about India, old and new.

But you know, it was kind of there in the west too. All the monotheisms's interacted with each other and ancient Greek philosophy; those interactions were indeed also highly flexible, amidst periods of inflexibility too.

It's too simple for mine, to conclude: India pluralistic, West reductive.

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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby viniketa » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:28 am

tobes wrote: if we are in the terrain of trying to theorise about globalisation and its relation to material and ideal history, we really have to recognise that it's a damn messy and complex beast.


Indeed it is. And the material always embodies, in some way, the ideal. Malhotra just wants Dharmic ideals to be recognized in the midst of the cacophony.


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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby tobes » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:32 am

viniketa wrote:
tobes wrote:So I just think Malhotra has the wrong end of the stick here.


This methaphor looses me. What is 'the stick', what are the 'ends', and which 'end' does Malhotra hold?

:namaste:


One end of the stick is that the universalising tendency of the West is some kind of objectivist epistemology which denies other modes of understanding or encountering what Indian-Buddhist standpoints really 'do' or how they work (i.e. it denies the inner/subjective domain).

The other end of the stick is that the universalising tendency of the West has nothing to do with epistemology /historicity (i.e. nothing to do with academic modes of inquiry), and everything to do with political economy and material power relations (esp colonialism).

I am saying he is wrongly holding the first end of the stick.

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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:35 am

Malcolm wrote:Actually, rather then speculate about what Dzogchen texts say, I read them. So I really am in a position to say whether or not there is so called "gnostic" influence on them or not.


I actually have been working on reading Dzogchen texts in Tibetan. It's slow. But I'm dedicating serious time to it.

A theme that comes up a lot in Dzogchen is spontaneous perfection. Okay. This is not something I need to cite a text. This is a very broadly used notion. This theme fits very well with the gnostic notion of divine grace. There there is, in a sense, a genesis of divinity in all of us. Its urge is to emerge. That is the idea. The Gnostic idea is to submit to it. Also, at the time when Dzogchen starting coming into Tibet from the West, so was Nestorian Christianity coming from the West into China. Dzogchen definitely encountered Gnostic Christianity. Garab Dorje's story is so similar to Jesus virgin birth story and his winning debates as a child with the Sadducees, etc. If you are seriously objective you just cannot overlook stuff like that.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby viniketa » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:43 am

tobes wrote:One end of the stick is that the universalising tendency of the West is some kind of objectivist epistemology which denies other modes of understanding or encountering what Indian-Buddhist standpoints really 'do' or how they work (i.e. it denies the inner/subjective domain).

The other end of the stick is that the universalising tendency of the West has nothing to do with epistemology /historicity (i.e. nothing to do with academic modes of inquiry), and everything to do with political economy and material power relations (esp colonialism).

I am saying he is wrongly holding the first end of the stick.


Actually, I don't think his argument is that simplistic. The inner/outer objectivism quote actually comes from Robert Thurman. Malhotra is using it as a springboard to get at some differences in Western vs. Indian ideology. But then again, I've also only read parts of the book, so I will come back to this later.

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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:43 am

Malcolm wrote:Buddha just did what all Indians did -- he had a palate and used it. He was not doing "aikido" of any kind. He was not trying to upset any applecarts. The whole idea that Buddha was trying reject the so called system of varna and jati is complete crap.


It's not crap. He said explicitly that it is action not birth that makes you a brahmin, etc. He was saying that their system was crap.

The Buddha's recommendations for his funeral was exactly what I said it was. -- shramanas were not expected to conduct in such rites, it was not in their job description.

My point is that the western academic notion that the Buddha rejected Vedic culture is a complete distortion.

M


He didn't have anything to replace it. He didn't care. He explicitly said saying mantras and doing pujas ain't nothing. He explicitly said his people shouldn't do that. But you're right, he didn't reject Vedic culture in the way the Western academics want to. They want to make Buddha an Indian Stoic plus an Indian Jesus with his caning of the money changers. You have to understand how in India you go along with something because you don't care. His radicalism came in the form of discussions. He didn't do anything about it other than teach his own people how he wanted. The one scholar is right, he used irony as a weapon. He was very dismissive of Vedic cosmology among other things.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:49 am

Malcolm wrote:My point is that the western academic notion that the Buddha rejected Vedic culture is a complete distortion.


Really every view is a distortion. What you are pushing is a distortion. The one and only way to stop distorting, according to Buddha, was let views go.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 3:03 am

Malcolm wrote:Quite frankly, Vedic culture is much more a pressing influence in Dzogchen texts, if anything.


That's clear to some extent, mostly as to the Dzogchen tantras. 1) Using mantras comes from the Vedas. 2) The micro/macro self-similarity comes from the Vedas. 3) Pujas comes from the Vedas. 4) Primordial revelation comes from the Vedas. Mahayana, Vajrayana and Dzogchen all use some or more of these themes. Basically, as some scholars have noted, Vajrayana is Hinduism for export, b/c of the genetic requirements to be in a caste, for instance.

This is what leads to a very genuine inquiry into what method was Buddha trying to teach? One's curiosity is genuinely piqued, could that have been better? A correct rendering of the anapanasati is very different than the breath yoga taught by most buddhist teachers. It is pure rigpa practice, which is why it leads directly, naturally and effortlessly through the jhanas and into nirvana.

But look. In the suttas, Buddha talked about the appearances of lights. He approved of it, and taught what can make them stop and what can make them continue. He talked about visualizing the four colors as representing the four elements. Like Dzogchen, he did not approve of shrines and statues of himself. Dzogchen takes it back to nirvana. In many other ways, as well, Dzogchen is much closer to the original intent of the Pali teachings than even Vajrayana and Mahayana.

So you can see how in these traditions there is a continuous Aikido, or say a Hegelian dialectic going on all the time. It all comes down to what is relevant and useful at the moment.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Aug 12, 2012 4:58 am

Malhotra makes what is for me a compelling argument about the "errors of Western religion." (Before this is harped on as being politically incorrect, take note of Malhotra's stated objective to turn analysis on its head, ie. use Dharmic paradigms to analyze Western spirituality and culture, as a counter-movement to the prevailing trend)

Malhotra proposes four key problems with Western concepts from a dharmic point of view:

1. A deficiency of the inner sciences, techniques, methodologies and theories which allow for the exploration of our inner life and consciousness.

2. Anti-intellectualism and an absence of debate, reason and cosmological exploration within the core Christian scriptures.

3. An outward projection of the search for fulfillment, leading to endless expeditions of imperialistic expansion and appropriation.

4. An insatiable and misguided quest for freedom without giving up the dualistic self.

(Malhotra, Being Different page 145- print edition)

I think that number four is the most compelling point here, especially since this is a board about Buddhism and spirituality. Here Malhotra talks about external change as opposed to internal change as being the method by which Abrahamic faiths seek their purpose:

"Much of Western thinking presupposes an inherent tension between self and other at both the individual and collective levels. Such tension breeds a deep rooted anxiety about the way things are and feeling that some external change is needed. This perceived deficiency, which some scholars argue is a particularly Western manifestation of dukkha... may take many forms, including material, psychological and intellectual. To search outside the self for a palliative for this deficiency is one of the fundamental illusions challenged by Buddhism and several other dharmic traditions.

The dualist self and its accompanying anxiety feed off and mutually antagonize eachother The stronger the ego grows, the more anxious it becomes about what it does not possess, its very nature being to remain ever discontent. Conversely, the greater the anxiety, the more powerful the self becomes as it seeks what it does not have but desperately desires. This process is indefinite and self-defeating, because it is founded on a synthetic notion of selfhood
(Malhotra, 148)
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
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