How much simplification is necessary?

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How much simplification is necessary?

Postby Luke » Sat Oct 03, 2009 2:33 pm

I found this quote from the late Nyingma lama Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche: "In this decadent age, because of their limited intelligence and lack of determination, people need to practice the Dharma in an essentialized form."

Do you agree or disagree with this quote? Does Buddhism need to be simplified in our modern age? Or is it possible to leave it in its more complex, traditional form?

How much can Buddhism be simplified while still remaining Buddhism?

Which simple Buddhist practices do you feel are the most powerful and useful for modern people?

I'll answer my last question. I think doing Tonglen focusing on one's own emotions is an excellent meditation which does many things at once: you're focusing on your breathing so you get the benefits of shamatha, you're learning more about the nature of your mind and thoughts as they really are since you're observing them, you can transform your mood from a bad one to a good one with continued practice, and you're benefiting other beings by breathing out positive energy for them.
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Re: How much simplification is necessary?

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Oct 10, 2009 2:53 am

I think it can be done in stages, that is teach some of the simpler points first and then later move on to the more advanced concepts. I think there are some Vajrayana traditions that attempt to do this.

Breath meditation is good as is sensations meditation as taught by S. N. Goenka and then later more advanced concepts, Dependent Origination, etc. can be studied and practiced.
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Re: How much simplification is necessary?

Postby Luke » Tue Oct 13, 2009 7:17 pm

I've realized that I certainly benefited from simplified presentations of Buddhism when I was a teenager. I was entranced with the book "The Three Pillars of Zen" when I was 16. That book said nothing about the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, Dependent Origination, the Six Paramitas, etc., but it did give a short account of the life story of Shakyamuni Buddha and then explained some Zen teachings and writings.

From that book, I gained that viewpoint that reading sutras was not important and that meditation was paramount. It wasn't until I started poking around in Buddhist forums online a few years ago that I realized how vast Buddhist philosophy was.

Currently, I'm trying to educate myself more about standard Buddhist topics and I'm now fascinated with Tibetan Buddhism, but I think that faith in the Buddha's enlightenment is the most important thing. Perhaps, the next most important is faith in one's teacher. From these two roots, many blessings come.
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Re: How much simplification is necessary?

Postby Clueless Git » Wed Jan 13, 2010 11:32 am

Luke wrote:I found this quote from the late Nyingma lama Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche: "In this decadent age, because of their limited intelligence and lack of determination, people need to practice the Dharma in an essentialized form."

Do you agree or disagree with this quote?.

I agree with it but NOT for the obvious reasons ..

There is a thing called "Illusory Superiority" AKA "above average effect". Basicaly that is summat along the lines of the more dense in the head a person actualy is then the cleverer they think they are.

M'personal observation is that that results, for the vast majority, in complexity being confused with cleverness/intelligence/greater understanding, et-al. A competition for complexity thus often ensues with any genuine understanding becoming increasingly lost the more complex things get.

If I am correctly reading "essentialised form" to be summat akin to the old 'KISS' addage of "Keep It Simple, Stupid" then I figure that the vast majority would benefit greatly from that.
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Re: How much simplification is necessary?

Postby marina » Wed Jan 13, 2010 2:54 pm

Does essential mean simplified? The definition of essentialism from Wikpedia is :
"In philosophy, essentialism is the view that, for any specific kind of entity, there is a set of characteristics or properties all of which any entity of that kind must possess. Therefore all things can be precisely defined or described.
In simple terms, essentialism is a generalization stating that certain properties possessed by a group (e.g. people, things, ideas) are universal, and not dependent on context. For example, the essentialist statement 'all human beings are mortal'.

Probably it is more concentrated and adopted to the new conditions of life than simplified? I think that our world changed a lot from Buddha's times, conditions changed, people changed, most of us could not devote full life to leave in temple and most probably the changing world also tell us that our practice should be more concentrate and essential since practice between everyday duties is different than in temple.
I think that basics are necessary, they show the Path; but the forms of practices could change. Actually that the way that my Teacher study us: based on world of Buddha's and great masters but form of old known practices is developed for new conditions of our world.
I think that practice is livivng thing that should change and develop together with world.
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Re: How much simplification is necessary?

Postby catmoon » Wed Jan 13, 2010 6:41 pm

I'm not sure that any simplification is a necessity.

But my practice is simple. I meditate. I build metta. I study emptiness, the 4NT and check the eightfold path from time to time. I do a few rounds of mantras most days.

A simple practice doesn't have to be deficient. A complex practice doesn't necessarily lose sight of the path.

In short, neither the simple nor the complex is THE way.

Now, since the West is largely unfamiliar with Buddhist thought, we spend a lot of time on elementary things because there are so many beginners around. Like me. It seems wise to begin as simply as possible. And it also seems wise to avoid complexity unless there is a compelling reason.

When I approached Buddhism, Zen was the only version that existed in my universe. I would have found it overwhelming to try to absorb the differences between the four schools of Tibetan Buddhism, Nichiren, Pureland, Theravada, Zen vs Cha'an, Thai Forest monks, NKT and on and on. Instead, I found some nice little books on Zen that contained meditation instructions. Very useful.
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Re: How much simplification is necessary?

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:12 pm

I'm with David on this. I don't think Buddhism needs to change to meet our needs, there's so many options for practice and study.

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Re: How much simplification is necessary?

Postby Blue Garuda » Wed Jan 13, 2010 8:25 pm

Luke wrote:I found this quote from the late Nyingma lama Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche: "In this decadent age, because of their limited intelligence and lack of determination, people need to practice the Dharma in an essentialized form."




I have heard this elsewhere, that we live in 'degenerate times' - mainly from Tibetan Buddhists. Hindus may say we are in the Kali Yug, a dark age, which is maybe the source of the idea.

There are now commentaries simplifying commentaries made in the past, which in turn were simplifying even older teachings etc. I think in modern times we do need simplified and more 'sexy' texts to spread Buddhadharma. Many Tibetan teachers have published such books, made teachings available online etc. I applaud it, as some of the teachings are simply beyond words.

Now, we can approach this in two ways:

We can regard these simplifications as a replacement for the older more complex texts.
OR
We can see them as an accessible introduction which encourages us to read the older scriptures. I suggest this is what a minority of new Buddhists will do, which leaves them with a very predigested menu.

Now, whilst this may be true for, say, Je Tsongkhapa or Chandrakirti, is it true for Shakyamuni?

Looking at the Pali Canon and early Sanskrit texts, they seem to be fairly easy to follow, especially with a good teacher to hand.

Could it be that the reason we need to simplify teachings is that over time monks have deliberately made their works more and more inaccessible and complex in order to increase their own value?

Or worse, out of ego, could it be that they were dissatisfied with simplicity and wanted to show that they could be as clever and complex in their thinking as the rival sects?

I don't have an answer, but it does seem that over time teachings have become more inaccessible, that cultures have grafted on superfluous beliefs and practices, and that now there is need for a simplification of that complexity.

This may be better achieved, but maybe less fun, by simply going back to examine the Pali canon and early Mahayana scriptures. ;)
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Re: How much simplification is necessary?

Postby catmoon » Thu Jan 14, 2010 8:35 pm

About the above sig line: Whenever I see the word "vajrapani" the image of a loaf of Italian bread pops into my mind, but the loaf is the size of the universe.

The human mind. Can't live with it, can't live without it... :smile:
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Re: How much simplification is necessary?

Postby ronnewmexico » Thu Jan 14, 2010 8:54 pm

People are not seperate from this..."In this decadent age, because of their limited intelligence and lack of determination, people need to practice the Dharma in an essentialized form."

If it is what one is, if one is decadent, the practice will thusly be limited to an essentialized form.

Some practice dharma as a insurance policy of sorts.
Some practice dharma just to be reborn human, that is their desire.
Some practice dharma just to go to a heaven realm.
Some practice dharma to become enlightened.
Most all want to effect compassionate action when possible.

That one is preferable to another is arbitrary as it is a personal issue. ARe more of one kind present than another at differing times in history....most certainly.
Can such be characterized thusly as more degenerate than another on this basis...perhaps, but only with the carevat that how and why one practices dharma is solely, even for those of the most high mind, a personal issue.

Most to my view and experience in the west want to go to heaven or rebirth in a fortunate state helping others to the best of their ability and circumstance, on the way. Ultimate enlightenment....if possible within the contraints of our lives. But to change all in this pursuit, as perhaps a MIllarepa...no this is not their desire.

Is that better or worse than another view.....to my opinion no. This is in their heart of hearts what they want. They do not want to leave what we create, and stop creating these things.

Nothing wrong with that.

Is that partial to perhaps a more highly minded view such as attaining full enlightenment, less able to produce reduction of suffering ultimately.....certainly.

But it is not a question on what is high or low or good or bad but of personal preference.
Most prefer this realm(or god realm) and things of this realm(or god realm), abeit in a differing more compassionate form....that is their choice.

Choices are choices nothing more. The statement is invariably true. What we apply to the statement its inferals and assumptions are not necessarily.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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