Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

A forum for discussion of Buddhist ethics.

Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby garudha » Fri Aug 15, 2014 9:15 pm

I wondered if it would be deemed appropriate to openly discuss the doctrine of Śūnyatā (i.e emptyness & unreality of normal life) with a general audience that might not have ever heard such notions before ?

I'm talking about online discussions on other forums, mainly.

Also; If someone asked you what you believe; would it be appropriate to elaborate about doctrine of Śūnyatā to a lay-person ?
:alien: :buddha2: :buddha1: :yinyang: :zzz: :yinyang: :buddha1: :buddha2: :alien:
User avatar
garudha
 
Posts: 644
Joined: Fri Feb 07, 2014 4:33 am
Location: UK

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Jesse » Fri Aug 15, 2014 9:42 pm

What's the point, even experienced buddhist's dont really fully understand it. haha.
"We know nothing at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. The real nature of things we shall never know." - Albert Einstein
User avatar
Jesse
 
Posts: 721
Joined: Wed May 08, 2013 6:54 am
Location: Virginia, USA

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Aug 15, 2014 11:07 pm

You could just direct them to the openly available teachings (Sutta and Sutra) by the Buddha on the subject instead of giving your own limited view.

Another option is to refer them to the teachings of Arya Nagarjuna.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
User avatar
Sherab Dorje
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 9964
Joined: Fri May 14, 2010 9:27 pm
Location: Greece

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Aug 17, 2014 7:58 pm

It's Sutra stuff, there are no limitations on discussing it as far as I know.

That said, unless you are pretty confident in your own understanding (in this case, probably due to reading Nagarjuna, Prajnaparamita Sutras, related commentaries etc.) there's probably not much point in sharing it, especially if you are taking some kind of "personal" interpretation of it...better to have an actual grounding in the kind of analogies and logic used in the traditional materials..IMO.

Also, it's one of those things that many non-Buddhists either don't get at all/aren't interested in, or simply interpret as being nihilism, IME.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2711
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Paul » Sun Aug 17, 2014 10:38 pm

From Berzin's comments on the bodhisattva vows:

(11) Teaching voidness to those whose minds are untrained

The primary objects of this downfall are persons with the bodhichitta motivation who are not yet ready to understand voidness. Such persons would become confused or frightened by this teaching and consequently abandon the bodhisattva path for the path of personal liberation. This can happen as a result of thinking that if all phenomena are devoid of inherent, findable existence, then no one exists, so why bother working to benefit anyone else? This action also includes teaching voidness to anyone who would misunderstand it and therefore forsake the Dharma completely, for example by thinking that Buddhism teaches that nothing exists and is therefore sheer nonsense. Without extrasensory perception, it is difficult to know whether others' minds are sufficiently trained so that they will not misconstrue the teachings on the voidness of all phenomena. Therefore, it is important to lead others to these teachings through explanations of graduated levels of complexity, and periodically to check their understanding.


http://www.berzinarchives.com/web/en/ar ... edges.html
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

-Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
User avatar
Paul
 
Posts: 831
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2010 8:12 pm

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby seeker242 » Mon Aug 18, 2014 12:23 pm

Reminds me of a little story. :smile:

"Once there was a layman who came to Ajahn Chah and asked him who Ajahn Chah was. Ajahn Chah, seeing that the spiritual development of the individual was not very advanced, pointed to himself and said, "This, this is Ajahn Chah."

On another occasion, Ajahn Chah was asked the same question by someone else. This time, however, seeing that the questioner's capacity to understand the Dhamma was higher, Ajahn Chah answered by saying, "Ajahn Chah? There is NO Ajahn Chah!"
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
seeker242
 
Posts: 723
Joined: Sat Mar 17, 2012 2:50 pm
Location: South Florida, USA

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Malcolm » Mon Aug 18, 2014 2:25 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:It's Sutra stuff, there are no limitations on discussing it as far as I know.



In fact it is a breach of bodhisattva vows to discuss emptiness with those who are not mature enough to handle it or who object to the idea.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
User avatar
Malcolm
 
Posts: 12322
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Aug 18, 2014 6:55 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:It's Sutra stuff, there are no limitations on discussing it as far as I know.



In fact it is a breach of bodhisattva vows to discuss emptiness with those who are not mature enough to handle it or who object to the idea.



Thanks for educating me.

I wonder though, how does this apply to public teachings? I've been to public teachings where emptiness is the subject, and a few people int he audience really do not like it, or find it uncomfortable somehow, find it unacceptable...does this mean teachers are at constant risk of breaking their Bodhisattva vows, unless they somehow vet people who come to teachings?
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2711
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Malcolm » Mon Aug 18, 2014 7:00 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:It's Sutra stuff, there are no limitations on discussing it as far as I know.



In fact it is a breach of bodhisattva vows to discuss emptiness with those who are not mature enough to handle it or who object to the idea.



Thanks for educating me.

I wonder though, how does this apply to public teachings? I've been to public teachings where emptiness is the subject, and a few people int he audience really do not like it, or find it uncomfortable somehow, find it unacceptable...does this mean teachers are at constant risk of breaking their Bodhisattva vows, unless they somehow vet people who come to teachings?


I remember HHDL saying that Christians for example, should mind their own business when it comes to emptiness, it is not their school. I think basically, unless some one shows up to a teaching, one does not discuss the Mahāyāna view of reality, but instead one emphasizes dependent origination.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
User avatar
Malcolm
 
Posts: 12322
Joined: Thu Nov 11, 2010 2:19 am

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Aug 18, 2014 7:16 pm

Malcolm wrote:
I remember HHDL saying that Christians for example, should mind their own business when it comes to emptiness, it is not their school. I think basically, unless some one shows up to a teaching, one does not discuss the Mahāyāna view of reality, but instead one emphasizes dependent origination.


This makes sense, thanks.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2711
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Paul » Mon Aug 18, 2014 7:45 pm

This thread makes me wonder about the open discussion of many Buddhist subjects. If you want to see how it can turn out there are many places (ie Taobums ) where people make all kinds of bizarre things out of precious subjects, usually Dzogchen and usually to attack one another.

Another point that I find interesting is that the subject that seems to be the most upsetting in the modern world is karma. Emptiness seems for the most part to be nicely acceptable by modern people, probably thanks to the generally nihilistic undercurrent of the times. Other 'religious' elements also seem to get short shrift.
This nature of mind is spontaneously present.
That spontaneity I was told is the dakini aspect.
Recognizing this should help me
Not to be stuck with fear of being sued.

-Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche
User avatar
Paul
 
Posts: 831
Joined: Sat Feb 13, 2010 8:12 pm

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Mkoll » Tue Aug 19, 2014 12:32 am

Paul wrote:Another point that I find interesting is that the subject that seems to be the most upsetting in the modern world is karma.

And rebirth. Though the two are inextricably linked, IMO.
Peace,
James
User avatar
Mkoll
 
Posts: 584
Joined: Mon May 26, 2014 5:53 am
Location: USA

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Jinzang » Tue Aug 19, 2014 1:38 am

I think that usually the best way to approach emptiness is to present it as the implication of dependent origination and to stress that it doesn't mean that one should disregard moral conduct. If presented that way I think there's little chance of damage.
Lamrim, lojong, and mahamudra are the unmistaken path.
Jinzang
 
Posts: 383
Joined: Mon Jan 31, 2011 3:11 am

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Queequeg » Tue Aug 19, 2014 2:57 am

I took a few courses with Bob Thurman, and he did not shy from discussing sunyata at all. I think he relished pushing people's limits and blowing minds. He was also lecturing to some very bright and intentionally open minded kids. But I don't think he holds back no matter the audience. I can hear his laugh after delivering a punch line... "Hehehehehe"

Most people don't get it, or even care. It'll wash over them.

Seems to me the people to worry for are the timid ones who do get the analysis on hearing about it just a little, but not enough to get a grasp on the Buddha lifeline nor adventurous enough to seek out teachers and more. For those people, the responsibility would not be to hold back, but to share with them and to endeavor to deliver the full message and be there for them in fellowship as they explore its depths. If sunyata does not turn your world out, you're either enlightened or you don't get it. Few of us start out getting it and we owe it to our fellows for getting us through. We repay the gratitude by paying it forward, being a pillar for others. If you can't handle that then you might should refrain from mentioning it.

Then again, I may not get it myself, in which case this is all nonsense.
Queequeg
 
Posts: 420
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Queequeg » Tue Aug 19, 2014 3:38 am

Mkoll wrote:
Paul wrote:Another point that I find interesting is that the subject that seems to be the most upsetting in the modern world is karma.

And rebirth. Though the two are inextricably linked, IMO.


Is rebirth upsetting? My impression is that people in the West think as much about rebirth as reward of heaven or eternal damnation. Cause and effect on the other hand seems more immediately upsetting for people committed to the measure of pleasure...
Queequeg
 
Posts: 420
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Mkoll » Tue Aug 19, 2014 3:46 am

Queequeg wrote:
Mkoll wrote:
Paul wrote:Another point that I find interesting is that the subject that seems to be the most upsetting in the modern world is karma.

And rebirth. Though the two are inextricably linked, IMO.


Is rebirth upsetting? My impression is that people in the West think as much about rebirth as reward of heaven or eternal damnation. Cause and effect on the other hand seems more immediately upsetting for people committed to the measure of pleasure...

"Upsetting" is probably not the best way to put it. Maybe "hard to swallow" is better?
Peace,
James
User avatar
Mkoll
 
Posts: 584
Joined: Mon May 26, 2014 5:53 am
Location: USA

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Queequeg » Tue Aug 19, 2014 5:15 am

If people would even take a bite and spit it out in disgust! That would be progress!

If people had any reaction other than offhand dismissal, that would be something. In talking to people we need to take into account their level of understanding. We live in a society where many are paid fabulously to obfuscate cause and effect in order to sell us french fries and milk shakes, and many more internalize those lies. We need to talk to people about cause and effect in their lives now; talking about rebirth is too far beyond the scope!
Queequeg
 
Posts: 420
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Mkoll » Tue Aug 19, 2014 5:44 am

Queequeg wrote:If people would even take a bite and spit it out in disgust! That would be progress!

:rolling:

Queequeg wrote:If people had any reaction other than offhand dismissal, that would be something. In talking to people we need to take into account their level of understanding. We live in a society where many are paid fabulously to obfuscate cause and effect in order to sell us french fries and milk shakes, and many more internalize those lies. We need to talk to people about cause and effect in their lives now; talking about rebirth is too far beyond the scope!

That is true. It's important to know one's audience.

However, even someone who is just beginning to learn about Buddhism will quickly encounter teachings concerning rebirth. This inevitable encounter can lead to some giving up on taking Buddhism seriously or even trying to divest Buddhism of rebirth, e.g. secular buddhism. But of course there's not much to do about that.
Peace,
James
User avatar
Mkoll
 
Posts: 584
Joined: Mon May 26, 2014 5:53 am
Location: USA

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Queequeg » Tue Aug 19, 2014 6:25 pm

Mkoll wrote:However, even someone who is just beginning to learn about Buddhism will quickly encounter teachings concerning rebirth. This inevitable encounter can lead to some giving up on taking Buddhism seriously or even trying to divest Buddhism of rebirth, e.g. secular buddhism. But of course there's not much to do about that.


That is true that rebirth will come up, but there are differences in emphasis depending on the tradition. I come from an East Asian tradition in which rebirth is cast in a very different way compared to the role it plays in Himalayan traditions. We generally consider it beyond the scope of anyone to know how it works - our attitude generally approaches agnosticism. Instead, we emphasize things we can confirm now. We emphasize this life, and when we consider birth and death, our aim is to overcome it by attaining the deathless - through our practices and efforts now. These present activities having beneficial effects now give us confidence they will project positively beyond. I don't need to examine all the sand on the beach to know its general quality - for that I can just look at the sand beneath me feet. I don't need to be convinced of rebirth - I can see that dharma practice now has profound effects in one's life.

Anyway, I don't think that rebirth need be emphasized, nor that its acceptance be a requisite to undertaking Buddhist training. Buddhist truths ring true in the beginning, middle and end. People can and should take what they can use to be happier, and leave what they don't need or want. We have a long, long time to get around to those difficult to accept doctrines. :)
Queequeg
 
Posts: 420
Joined: Tue Jul 03, 2012 3:24 pm

Re: Appropriateness of openly discussing sunyata

Postby Jesse » Tue Aug 19, 2014 9:22 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Mkoll wrote:However, even someone who is just beginning to learn about Buddhism will quickly encounter teachings concerning rebirth. This inevitable encounter can lead to some giving up on taking Buddhism seriously or even trying to divest Buddhism of rebirth, e.g. secular buddhism. But of course there's not much to do about that.


That is true that rebirth will come up, but there are differences in emphasis depending on the tradition. I come from an East Asian tradition in which rebirth is cast in a very different way compared to the role it plays in Himalayan traditions. We generally consider it beyond the scope of anyone to know how it works - our attitude generally approaches agnosticism. Instead, we emphasize things we can confirm now. We emphasize this life, and when we consider birth and death, our aim is to overcome it by attaining the deathless - through our practices and efforts now. These present activities having beneficial effects now give us confidence they will project positively beyond. I don't need to examine all the sand on the beach to know its general quality - for that I can just look at the sand beneath me feet. I don't need to be convinced of rebirth - I can see that dharma practice now has profound effects in one's life.

Anyway, I don't think that rebirth need be emphasized, nor that its acceptance be a requisite to undertaking Buddhist training. Buddhist truths ring true in the beginning, middle and end. People can and should take what they can use to be happier, and leave what they don't need or want. We have a long, long time to get around to those difficult to accept doctrines. :)


It's good to focus on the things we can verify now, but I don't think rebirth is beyond understanding. I think we just always try to understand it from the view-point of a self being reborn. Once you see the self as illusory it becomes a bit easier to understand I think, all that's being reborn is the same illusory nature that makes up our ego's now. that's what I think anyway. :coffee:
"We know nothing at all. All our knowledge is but the knowledge of schoolchildren. The real nature of things we shall never know." - Albert Einstein
User avatar
Jesse
 
Posts: 721
Joined: Wed May 08, 2013 6:54 am
Location: Virginia, USA

Next

Return to Ethical Conduct

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: rory and 2 guests

>