Sam Harris on Buddhism

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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:47 pm

wayland wrote:It is easily accomplished in the dream state where a whole dualistic environment is created and upheld by mind without any active external sense input.
Good point. But I beg to differ, you see there is brain activity during sleep (ie it has been measured) and we do actually react to external sense input during our sleep: sounds, smells, tactile sensations, tastes, sights (mainly levels of light).
catmoon wrote: believe it is only the most severe cases of coma that show no brain activity. I believe some people have emerged from long comas, with intact memories of all the conversations that took place in their room. Want me to dig up some references?
No thank you, now that you mention it I remembered that I had heard about these sort of accounts before.

But my point is that in the cases where there is no measurable brain activity, but a recovery, then any accounts of mind processes during the period of coma would be clear proof that the mind is not based solely on brain function.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby catmoon » Sun Jan 06, 2013 1:57 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
But my point is that in the cases where there is no measurable brain activity, but a recovery, then any accounts of mind processes during the period of coma would be clear proof that the mind is not based solely on brain function.
:namaste:


Have there been such cases? I'm thinking, doctors are so completely sure that such a patient (zero brain activity) will never recover that they feel morally ok with unplugging the machines, even though life expectancy might be measured in decades. I would think that a single case of recovery from zero brain activity would completely upend this established practice.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Bodhi » Wed Jul 31, 2013 4:10 pm

I truly am sorry for resurrecting this topic discussion. However I can't contain the urge to put in my two cents.

I think it is beyond silly to criticize Sam Harris in this case. Buddhism is very much, in my belief, an on-going philosophical discussion/study of life. Buddhism is known for its flexibility and the ability to adapt and evolve. Buddha, during his time, would have welcomed challenges and criticisms. Buddha originally asked that his students to examine his teaching through the eyes of reasons before accepting it. This alone is a powerful statement and a strong evidence for the fact that he did not condone his teaching as a religion or dogmatic.

Sutras weren't written until hundred of years after the death of the Buddha. If we know anything about history, especially history passed down orally after hundred of years, it changes. Things were added and taken away by whoever responsible for passing it down. We now have 3 main branches of Buddhism (not counting the earlier branches that is no longer in practice). Each branch have many schools/sects of belief, in many cases, these Buddhist schools of thinking contradict and is incompatible with each others. We tend to use the metaphor that these different school of Buddhisms are just many paths to the same destination, however with such contradictions, sometimes I find that each school might as well have a different destination. However, even if it is the same destination, I would say Sam Harris's view on Buddhism, which is defined as a secular view on Buddhism, is just another path to the destination. If each school can have different views on Buddhism, what make these earlier and ancient views more credible than modern view on Buddhism? If anything, modern age was able to utilize the scientific methods to prove the benefits of Buddhist practice such as meditation on the brain. Ancient views on Buddhism have the tendency to incorporate the native religion into Buddhism - Buddhism in India would have Hindu gods incorporated. Chinese would have Taoist, Japanese would have Shinto, and so on and on. Throughout history we have seen Buddhism morphed and evolved into the culture of the time to benefits people. In this case, it is just Buddhism morphed and evolved into a modern approach to best benefits the people of the modern age.

I find it ironic here that we tend to advertise Buddhism as a non-dogmatic practice, however what I witness in this discussion is nothing but dogmatic.

Why is Sam Harris, someone who focus on the materialistic world be interested in Buddhism? That is beyond naive of a question. The reason is because we are part of the material world. I find it funny that you asked such question as if Buddhism is strictly reserved for the religious and the spiritual. How about the fact that Buddhist philosophy and practice such as meditation can impact every day living of a person?
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Jul 31, 2013 7:04 pm

Man, if you're gonna bother writing a screed like that, at least respond with some substance to arguments that are actually being made.

The reason it's largely nonsensical for someone like Harris to be any kind of authority on Buddhism is that he subscribes to a wholly materialistic worldview, where we are basically reduced to only physical characteristics, which makes Buddhism (at best) just a kind of self help, because the final liberation will be death anyway. It's one of the two "Warrior kings" eternalism and nihilism that are mentioned as being superceded by the teachings of the Buddha.


However, even if it is the same destination, I would say Sam Harris's view on Buddhism, which is defined as a secular view on Buddhism, is just another path to the destination. If each school can have different views on Buddhism, what make these earlier and ancient views more credible than modern view on Buddhism?


Because the historical Buddha himself would have likely called it annihilationism/nihilism. There were people in Buddhas time who believed that man was made of the elements and that on their break up consciousness ceases, that there is no Karma etc. He considered his teaching a middle way between those folks and the eternalists...same choices available today essentially. So the argument has nothing to do with "being dogmatic" for it's own sake, and everything to do with what Harris says in terms of Buddhism.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Bodhi » Wed Jul 31, 2013 8:17 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Man, if you're gonna bother writing a screed like that, at least respond with some substance to arguments that are actually being made.

The reason it's largely nonsensical for someone like Harris to be any kind of authority on Buddhism is that he subscribes to a wholly materialistic worldview, where we are basically reduced to only physical characteristics, which makes Buddhism (at best) just a kind of self help, because the final liberation will be death anyway. It's one of the two "Warrior kings" eternalism and nihilism that are mentioned as being superceded by the teachings of the Buddha.


However, even if it is the same destination, I would say Sam Harris's view on Buddhism, which is defined as a secular view on Buddhism, is just another path to the destination. If each school can have different views on Buddhism, what make these earlier and ancient views more credible than modern view on Buddhism?


Because the historical Buddha himself would have likely called it annihilationism/nihilism. There were people in Buddhas time who believed that man was made of the elements and that on their break up consciousness ceases, that there is no Karma etc. He considered his teaching a middle way between those folks and the eternalists...same choices available today essentially. So the argument has nothing to do with "being dogmatic" for it's own sake, and everything to do with what Harris says in terms of Buddhism.



My "screed" of a response is in deed a screed and lacking substance mainly because you are refusing to consider it or read it. My response did include many notable points that you somehow failed to see. I am not actually debating but simply introducing an idea that everybody seems to be afraid of recognizing. An idea that does have some philosophical and even historical substances. I don't think Sam Harris ever want to have any authority on Buddhism which I find it silly that we give people authority over a philosophy of life and living. Actually Sam wouldn't see the point of having authority on Buddhism since he doesn't see it as a religion to start off with. So I think that is a fallacy of an assumption you are attached to and can't let go. All that he is doing is expressing his stance and that he believes the teaching of the Buddha would probably be more beneficial when all the superstitions and rituals are removed.

What is wrong with self-help? You seem to also have a very negative attachment and perspective on the idea. So you think people who are suffering from mental illness or psychological problem such as depression shouldn't find help such as psycho therapy or counseling because they are going to die anyway? I think that is abit short of a thought process. What if Buddha teaching was just that, to help people to find happiness and peace while living? To gain control of their thoughts/mind? Isnt that Nirvana? We do have the tendency to exaggerate notable people throughout history especially if it was pass down orally as a story or a legend. Story teller knows that a story with no excitement or something out of this world is probably not the interesting story to tell. Have you ever play a telephone game? It is a children game where they are lined up then someone whisper a message to the first person and it is passed down, almost always at the end, the original message is morphed and dramatically change to still contain some of the words of the original message but with a complete different meaning/context.

What if Buddha was just truly a philosopher and nothing more? His thought would have been revolutionary during his time just as Socrates would have been in ancient Athens. I am definitely not diminishing the importance of the Buddha or how great he was. He was fantastic and definitely worthy of praise, his ideas were brave radical being that it was a time in which Hinduism was the dominant religion.

Karma originated from Hinduism and there is many interpretation of its meaning. We can generally agree that karma is a term for the idea of causality, but to what degree do we take it. Religious Buddhist in general probably see karma as something that is beyond one life-time and extend to the next, a determining factor that decide where our next rebirth is going to be in Samsara. But what if Karma just simply means there is consequences to all actions such as unskillful deeds result in unpleasant consequences. If you killed someone, you may go to prison for life, or be executed, or you may live with guilt even if you got away. Samsara can also just be a metaphor to different stages in our life. You see, if Buddha was somehow born somewhere in Europe, his teaching probably wouldn't include Karma or Samsara, because these are just Hindus ideas in which he grew up with and that influence his philosophy.

The discussion has everything to do with being dogmatic. You are a great example of that. You hold belief that was probably taught to you by someone who hold authority in which you accepted. Buddhism probably have variety of rituals and ceremonious practice that you also engage in. I don't believe the Buddha would teach people how they can use the wooden fish or which sutras to chant. In fact he asked not to be worshiped and we proceed to worship him as we would worship a supreme god. These are practices and beliefs that was added as Buddhism progress and spread to different regions of the globe. Kind of like wherever Buddhism go, it tends to incorporate the native deity of that region.

I confess, I am a secular Buddhist and I see that rituals and superstitious beliefs are not the original teaching of the Buddha, and taking the same stance with Sam here, it overshadows the wisdom and teaching of the Buddha.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby undefineable » Wed Jul 31, 2013 8:35 pm

Bodhi wrote:I truly am sorry for resurrecting this topic discussion. However I can't contain the urge to put in my two cents.
Not at all - Many here on Dharmawheel are partial to a bit of philosophy ;) . On the other hand, many will feel unqualified to try and explain to you how Buddhism is a family of practice traditions rather than a family of abstract thought traditions. Philosophy is as arguably as peripheral to Buddhism as it is to science.

Unlike science, Buddhism never developed an orthodox philosophical framework as far we know, but if you read a lot of Buddhist 'teachings' -typically based more on meditative experience- you should start to see a lot less contradiction than you will if you're comparing, say, svatantrika-madhyamika and yogacara. I wonder how much disunity there really is within Buddhism 'on the ground', and even how much incompatibility there'd really be between its philosophical approaches if they were viewed from the vantage point of the 'fruit' of Buddhist practice, i.e. enlightenment.
Bodhi wrote:However, even if it is the same destination, I would say Sam Harris's view on Buddhism, which is defined as a secular view on Buddhism, is just another path to the destination.
If you define 'a secular view on Buddhism' as one in which science is seen as providing absolute proof of the impossibility of any form of rebirth, then the destination shouldn't be as far off as Buddhism holds it to be, since a single lifetime is seen as an impossibly short amount of time in which to achieve full enlightenment for the vast majority of people. In these days of mindfulness-based cognitive-behavioural therapy etc., it's hard to see how this destination could be either a) distinctively Buddhist or b) inspiring enough to push practitioners anywhere near as far as they felt inspired to push themselves in the past. {Not even the therevada traditions see enlightenment as a complete annihilation btw - See http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html .}

There are other (over-long) threads here (you'll find them using the search term 'Batchelor') where you'll find all of this fleshed out :roll:
Bodhi wrote:If anything, modern age was able to utilize the scientific methods to prove the benefits of Buddhist practice such as meditation on the brain.
:applause:
Bodhi wrote:In this case, it is just Buddhism morphed and evolved into a modern approach to best benefits the people of the modern age.
The majority of those unfamilar with Buddhism -atleast in Europe- will indeed be turned off by statements that treat rebirth/karma etc. as fact, but if we accept what you say here, then it's important that the kind of traditions that have informed most active Dharmawheel members also remain. This is because it's only a matter of time before a student/practitioner is 'de-programmed' enough to realise - for example- that an electrical impulse cannot literally be a thought (unless perhaps the thought is some kind of intimation of an electrical impulse :alien: ). Now which side looks more dogmatic? :rolleye:
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Lhug-Pa » Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:01 pm

.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:13 pm

My "screed" of a response is in deed a screed and lacking substance mainly because you are refusing to consider it or read it. My response did include many notable points that you somehow failed to see. I am not actually debating but simply introducing an idea that everybody seems to be afraid of recognizing. An idea that does have some philosophical and even historical substances. I don't think Sam Harris ever want to have any authority on Buddhism which I find it silly that we give people authority over a philosophy of life and living. Actually Sam wouldn't see the point of having authority on Buddhism since he doesn't see it as a religion to start off with. So I think that is a fallacy of an assumption you are attached to and can't let go. All that he is doing is expressing his stance and that he believes the teaching of the Buddha would probably be more beneficial when all the superstitions and rituals are removed.


What are the superstitions and rituals?

Karma is not a "Hindu thing", it is also very much a Buddhist thing and features heavily in the Pali canon, Karma and Rebirth are integral parts of Buddhist philosophy. I'm not saying one has to accept them, but to turn around and pretend they aren't a big part of Buddhist philosophy is incorrect.

What is wrong with self-help? You seem to also have a very negative attachment and perspective on the idea. So you think people who are suffering from mental illness or psychological problem such as depression shouldn't find help such as psycho therapy or counseling because they are going to die anyway? I think that is abit short of a thought process. What if Buddha teaching was just that, to help people to find happiness and peace while living? To gain control of their thoughts/mind? Isnt that Nirvana? We do have the tendency to exaggerate notable people throughout history especially if it was pass down orally as a story or a legend. Story teller knows that a story with no excitement or something out of this world is probably not the interesting story to tell. Have you ever play a telephone game? It is a children game where they are lined up then someone whisper a message to the first person and it is passed down, almost always at the end, the original message is morphed and dramatically change to still contain some of the words of the original message but with a complete different meaning/context.


Don't start that "you have an attachment to x" nonsense, it's the most common way of avoiding an argument on Buddhist forums and I ain't playing. No, Nirvana is not just gaining control of one's mind, no Buddhists think that either. You can say that's Buddhism if you want, but you don't seem to know what historical Buddhism is, and wish to just replace it with a sanitized version that has all the modern comforts.


Karma originated from Hinduism and there is many interpretation of its meaning. We can generally agree that karma is a term for the idea of causality, but to what degree do we take it. Religious Buddhist in general probably see karma as something that is beyond one life-time and extend to the next, a determining factor that decide where our next rebirth is going to be in Samsara. But what if Karma just simply means there is consequences to all actions such as unskillful deeds result in unpleasant consequences. If you killed someone, you may go to prison for life, or be executed, or you may live with guilt even if you got away. Samsara can also just be a metaphor to different stages in our life. You see, if Buddha was somehow born somewhere in Europe, his teaching probably wouldn't include Karma or Samsara, because these are just Hindus ideas in which he grew up with and that influence his philosophy.



You had this knee jerk reaction to the thread, how supposedly dogmatic I am etc.. and yet now you are railing about what "religious Buddhists" probably believe, pot, meet kettle.

The discussion has everything to do with being dogmatic. You are a great example of that. You hold belief that was probably taught to you by someone who hold authority in which you accepted. Buddhism probably have variety of rituals and ceremonious practice that you also engage in. I don't believe the Buddha would teach people how they can use the wooden fish or which sutras to chant. In fact he asked not to be worshiped and we proceed to worship him as we would worship a supreme god. These are practices and beliefs that was added as Buddhism progress and spread to different regions of the globe. Kind of like wherever Buddhism go, it tends to incorporate the native deity of that region.


Are you for real? I got into Buddhism and starting reading about it at the age of 17 (30 years ago), and would have considered myself a "secular Buddhist" for a chunk of that time. My take on Buddhism is my own, I listen to my teachers and try to sift through what they say, but I don't take anything for granted without examination,..but you know what? That includes the assumptions of orthodox materialist like Sam Harris too, there is plenty of assumption to chew in his philosophy..but of course it never gets mentioned because reduction of everything to physical property is the default belief of most people these days, even though it has some big logical holes. While it's true that new, more ritual practice methods were added to Buddhism, things like Karma and Rebirth were there from the beginning, if you dispute this you just don't actually know Buddhism that well.

I confess, I am a secular Buddhist and I see that rituals and superstitious beliefs are not the original teaching of the Buddha, and taking the same stance with Sam here, it overshadows the wisdom and teaching of the Buddha.


I seems like you don't actually know much about what you see as "superstitious beliefs" (i.e. ritual), and that (probably due to never reading the stuff), you are largely unaware that all Buddhism including the oldest Pali Canon writings, make reference to Karma and Rebirth. Or at the least, you have confused actual use of ritual in meditation as being the same thing as what you'd term as folk belief or superstition, those may look similar, but are quite different IMO.

Does that mean you have to accept them? No, of course not, I have my doubts about plenty of it...everyone should have doubts. It does mean however that it's either 1) intellectually dishonest or 2) simply ignorant to claim that things like Karma and Rebirth are some modern thing that Buddhism didn't contain at one time.

In fact he asked not to be worshiped and we proceed to worship him as we would worship a supreme god.


Again, this pulled out of nowhere and I wonder if you have any idea what the historical Buddha taught on this one way or another (near as we can know at least), here's a sample:

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Anyway, everyone's entitled to their beliefs, and I don't blame anyone for skepticism on any count, all reasonable. The thing is, if what Sam Harris (and I guess you) believe is so clearly divergent from many of the important notions of historical Buddhism, why be concerned with calling it Buddhism at all? Why do you even want to identify with it?

Also one last thing, accusing people of dogmatic or close-minded because they disagree with your position is nonsense, if you want to have real conversation. I'm willing to listen to what you have to say in terms of advocating for "secular Buddhism", but i'm not gonna do so based on some kind of guilt trip about me acting dogmatic and what not, either discuss in good faith or don't.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby undefineable » Wed Jul 31, 2013 9:35 pm

Bodhi wrote:To gain control of their thoughts/mind? Isnt that Nirvana?
Why misunderstand Nirvana as mere 'thought control' and not -say- a physical place (which it also isn't)? You'd really need to become 'an authority' to re-define terms like 'nirvana' in this way.
Bodhi wrote:What if Buddha was just truly a philosopher and nothing more?
Then why would most of his teachings -for example the passage I quoted in my last post- come across as anti-philosophical? Your line of speculation is wearing thin here, unless you're using a non-standard definition of the term 'philosopher' :?
Bodhi wrote:But what if Karma just simply means there is consequences to all actions such as unskillful deeds result in unpleasant consequences. If you killed someone, you may go to prison for life, or be executed, or you may live with guilt even if you got away.
If you're a sociopath living in certain times and places, and making use of certain resources, then the likelhood is that you will perform such actions and simply won't face any consequences in your lifetime, least of all guilt.
Bodhi wrote:You see, if Buddha was somehow born somewhere in Europe, his teaching probably wouldn't include Karma or Samsara, because these are just Hindus ideas in which he grew up with and that influence his philosophy.
On the other hand, maybe that's why the Buddha wasn't European. :tongue:
Bodhi wrote:I don't believe the Buddha would teach people how they can use the wooden fish
The what??
Bodhi wrote:In fact he asked not to be worshiped and we proceed to worship him as we would worship a supreme god.
If you want to denigrate Buddhist attitudes to the Buddha, the term 'hero-worship' would be far more accurate.
Bodhi wrote:What if Buddha teaching was just that, to help people to find happiness and peace while living?
"I teach only suffering and the end of suffering" - The Buddha
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Bodhi » Wed Jul 31, 2013 10:46 pm

I responded to undefineable and when I click submit I lost everything because the forum keeps logging me out and when I return I see plenty of response so I will go ahead and post a respond in general to all and clear up what I see as misunderstanding.

To loosely define what secular Buddhism is.

Secular Buddhism is an agnostic/atheistic/non-theistic approach to Buddhism. Secular Buddhism reject the metaphysical/supernatural aspect of Buddhism. What is the metaphysical/supernatural aspect of Buddhsim? That includes rebirth in literally sense, karma that goes beyond one life time, deities or celestial realms, heaven or hell, etc. Secular Buddhism focus on the original discourse of the Buddha without the influence of religious belief that had attached itself onto the teaching as time goes by. Using rationality to openly discuss, disagree, agee and debate the philosophical teaching of the Buddha.

Also I have seen quite a few comments that assumed I haven't studied Buddhist sutras. I came from a Vietnamese Buddhist family, later on I took interest in Buddhism and had extensively study Buddhism mainly in Mahayana, I was engaged and active at the monastery I used to attend and even teach and open Dharma discussion classes. I practiced Pure Land and later on Chan which is just Chinese for Zen. I am not some westerner with some hippies idea trying to corrupt Buddhism as most of you seem to fear. I just came to a different realization of what I THINK Buddhism is which is secular view on Buddhism.

There are plenty of contradictions between Buddhism branches such as Theravada reject Pureland/Amitabha Buddha, Mahayana includes many Buddha as Theravada only focus and accept one Buddha - Shakyamuni/Gautama, Therevada believes a practitioner can only attain the 2 forms of enlightenment - Arhat and Pratyeka Buddha as oppose to Mahayana which also believe that practitioner can become Bodhisattva and then Samyaksam Buddha.

What I am simply stating is that what is accepted as now the teaching Buddha, doesn't matter what tradition, have beliefs added by others hundred of years after the death of the buddha. However we somehow give these traditions, developed much later on, the authority to define what Buddhism is or what Buddha taught, when they contradict themselves. In fact if we study how Buddhist traditions and belief evolved throughout history, you will see that there were a lot of arguments and disagreement between different traditions. So what give them more credibility? Just a simple fact that they had been around longer?

I never denied Karma, nirvana, or samsara as a part of Buddhism. I simply give it a different interpretation. I know what historical Buddhism is and I rejected it...because it is historical. One thing we know about Buddhism is that it generally morphed into a culture and a time easily and took on the cultural belief as its own, and maybe that was okay back in those days because it was a time driven by strong religious belief. That was the skillful means of Buddhism to reap the most benefits given the place and time. However we are in a modern age in which we are more comfortable having rational examination of the philosophy and an age in which science are now exponentially advancing to explains phenomenons that used to see as something mystical. So no I do not see it as a modern comfort but just more compatible.

I find it ironic and silly to say secular Buddhism can't claim as Buddhism just simply because we do not hold the same belief as older tradition of Buddhism which made claims and belief hundred years after the Buddha's death. As far as I'm concern, Buddhism is just another philosophy just as utilitarianism or humanitarianism are just philosophy.

Either way, I am not here to attack traditional Buddhism that hold metaphysical beliefs, whatever works for you. However, being older tradition doesn't give it the monopoly on defining what Buddhism is or even what he taught.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Jul 31, 2013 11:10 pm

It's not older tradition v.s newer, it's that "secular Buddhism" which rejects ideas like karma and rebirth makes the entire point nil, why bother being Buddhist if Karma and Rebirth aren't real? What exactly does Buddhism do that secular humanism needs, it seems fine without it for those that accept the materialist view of the world.

Secular Buddhism focus on the original discourse of the Buddha without the influence of religious belief that had attached itself onto the teaching as time goes by. Using rationality to openly discuss, disagree, agee and debate the philosophical teaching of the Buddha.


Ok, well then I challenge you to describe exactly which parts are "religious belief" and which parts where there originally, since the Pali Canon also includes much of the "religious" stuff. The "original discourses" contain all the same stuff minus things like Mahasattvas, Bodhisattvas etc..plenty of mysticism in the Pali Canon, 5 or 6 realms, karma, rebirth, hell, heavens etc.


Materialist Buddhism simply doesn't exist as an historical entity, not to say it's wrong of and within itself, we each get to figure out our own beliefs. I don't think it's Buddhism though. For sure, if someone thinks the "original discourses" don't contain these concepts, they haven't read them, or they just wish to present as something they are not for their own agenda.

I never denied Karma, nirvana, or samsara as a part of Buddhism. I simply give it a different interpretation. I know what historical Buddhism is and I rejected it...because it is historical. One thing we know about Buddhism is that it generally morphed into a culture and a time easily and took on the cultural belief as its own, and maybe that was okay back in those days because it was a time driven by strong religious belief. That was the skillful means of Buddhism to reap the most benefits given the place and time. However we are in a modern age in which we are more comfortable having rational examination of the philosophy and an age in which science are now exponentially advancing to explains phenomenons that used to see as something mystical. So no I do not see it as a modern comfort but just more compatible.


Well to me it actually just seems pointless. Again, if I want to take on the materialist view of the world, the purpose of our lives etc., then I will just embrace that view. In fact, I did for years.

I've come to believe it has some major holes though, and while I don't have surety about plenty things within Dharma, I have come to the conclusion that it's existential, inference-based arguments about things like Karma, rebirth, and the nature of phenomena are actually more convincing in regard to consciousness, purpose of life, and causality than reductionism to the purely physical - which is what normally comes along with "secular Buddhism", and is what makes it so contradictory. If one believes that most of Buddhism is wrong minus sort of some materialist-friendly psychology, then there is no real point in being Buddhist, again secular materialism is a better philosophy for that worldview, it is more consistent and suited. That is why i'm sort of perplexed by people not wanting to simply leave Buddhism behind who hold these views. And further, why those people even care about the terms Buddhist, Buddhism etc.

.... it the monopoly on defining what Buddhism is or even what he taught.


Sure that's reasonable. However, if we go by the best historical records available, a good chunk of the "religious stuff" is in fact, exactly what he taught, and can be found in the oldest texts. There's always the argument that these also went through much alteration, but they are what we have. In addition as I mentioend earlier materialism existed in Buddha's time and he considered it to be a wrong view.

For me that pretty much sums it up, you can argue till your blue in the face about Mahasattvas, Pure Lands, folk belief and whatever else..but unless you have some explanation for why the historical Buddha (near as we know) rejected the philosophy like that of the Carvakas, then there is no reason to entertain this materialist Buddhism as valid as a form of Buddhism, hell, call it "Buddhistic Materialism" if you want lol. That conclusion that can be reached without touching anything but the Pali Canon, no need for Mahayana doctrine or anything to know that the "original teachings" you are claiming back up your point are a path between nihlism and eternalism, and that modern materialism equates pretty well to nihilism from a Buddhist standpoint.
"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
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Lhug-Pa » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:06 am

If adherents of the belief in scientistic materialism & intellectual reasoning want to take the parts of Buddhism that work for them and discard the rest, then more power to them if it truly lessens their suffering.

At the same time, adherents of the belief in scientistic materialism & intellectual reasoning don't have any ground for asserting that the Buddha Dharma is a materialist philosophy & that karma, rebirth, clairvoyance, supra-dimensional beings, etc. were merely skillful means implemented by the Buddha Shakyamuni (or that his message was altered etc.). Not to say that the Buddha Shakyamuni didn't ever implement Skillful Means, but he certainly wasn't a materialist or annihilationist .

Add yes, I'm purposefully using the term scientistic as opposed to scientific, not as a criticism of the Scientific Method itself, but as a criticism of some of those who claim to implement the Scientific Method in a complete way. In fact, I'd say that Buddha Dharma scriptures have a much more substantial basis for containing the actual Scientific Method than does the rhetoric of a lot of contemporary "scientists" on the corporatocracy's payroll with their selective "Scientific Method". Well even if some or even many of the latter are applying the Scientific Method in an objective manner, they're often threatened or paid-off to shut up about their findings. There are a number of whistle-blowers who will attest to this (related to findings on cleaner more-efficient energy, findings that contradict staunch materialist views, etc.) even though their message gets suppressed & ridiculed and obviously doesn't get any attention from the corporatist mainstream media.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Ramon1920 » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:19 am

A very long time ago I had some interest in what Western(and Asian) philosophies had to say. I spent a lot of time debating with other people with a similar philosophical interest, trying to hash out the details of God, freewill, the soul, morality, and reality at large with convoluted dialogues that drew out practical matters into non-viable absurdity.

When I started learning the Buddha's doctrine I realized previously I had been dealing with childish philosophies that led no where and were significantly inferior.
I don't even bother investigating them now.

So anyways, this idea of picking and choosing what you like out of a practice and abandoning the rest is a really foolish way to go about things. If you're going to let the afflictions choose what to practice and what not, what to believe and what not, you're going to end up having the same lot you've always had. There's no point in reshaping Buddhism to fit your proclivities, just make your own religion and call it something else.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby undefineable » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:21 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I don't take anything for granted without examination,..but you know what? That includes the assumptions of orthodox materialist like Sam Harris too, there is plenty of assumption to chew in his philosophy..but of course it never gets mentioned because reduction of everything to physical property is the default belief of most people these days, even though it has some big logical holes.
This kind of dogma is nothing to be ashamed of. It keeps the majority -who aren't inclined to spend too much energy on philosophy- sane. But while it's one thing to rightly conclude that scientific evidence suggests that no aspect of the mind survives death, it's quite another to conclude that scientific evidence provides absolute proof of this. The distinction may seem trivial, but what really makes the assumption dogmatic is that if we are honest with ourselves about what we already know -rather than pretending we don't know it by appealing to authority ( see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dogma )- then we are left with a category of phenomena -conscious experience and agency- that behaves unlike any other we know of, in as much as it simply 'pops' in and out of existence without any apparent precedence or succession by phenomena similar enough (to the intervening phenomenon) to constitute direct causes or consequences.

@Bodhi: 'Secular Buddhism' as you describe it will be too dogmatic for some tastes. The main reason for this is that hellish/heavenly worlds and literal rebirth (whether in those worlds, as a human or animal, or whatever else) along with their accompanying karma-vipaka -all of which Buddhism proposes to be natural rather than supernatural btw (fyi)- haven't been and indeed can't be disproven by science sufficiently for us to reject the possibility that they exist. A second reason is that it's hard to know what 'the original discourse of the Buddha' actually was -let alone whether or why any later teachings should be considered worthless- given how hard it is to know exactly what to make of much of the tripitaka without further background, and particularly if (like you) we assume its corruption by what the English call 'Chinese Whispers'? {P.s. When I mentioned 'teachings' earlier, I was referring mainly to writings and dharma-talk transcripts by present-day lineage-holders etc. rather than sutras - whose proper interpretation generally tends to be harder to sense.} Besides all this, if you're going to apply pure reason to a complex teaching like the 5 skandhas, then why not use first-person experience as well - especially given the fact that it's probably the closest we can get (in such subjective matters) to the empiricism that grounds the scientific method.

Secular Buddhism, though, seems to be a good 'marketing strategy' for dharma at the moment. As more-'seasoned' Buddhists find themselves remaining confident -for example- that a literal Mount Meru has neither anything to do with the gist of the teachings nor any potential existence, then a 'more-nuanced' approach -in which the difference between 'cultural accretions' and Buddhadharma is clearly seen- becomes possible.
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Bodhi » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:27 am

I am going stop responding after this post. As with the first sentence of your response. It seems evident that you either didn't completely read what I wrote or just simply ignoring it. Secular Buddhism do not reject ideas such as Karma, however there is an interpretation that leave out all the mysticism. I repeated myself many times in previous response but,you seem to keep ignoring it. I also think there is more to Buddhism than just Karma or rebirth or samsara. What about the 4 noble truths or meditation? There are so much to Buddhism that doesn't have to involve metaphysics or supernatural.

You kept referring back to the Pali Canon, but as I said scriptures weren't written down until hundred of years after the Buddhas death. The Pali Canon didn't exist until 500+ years after the death of Siddhartha Gautama.I don't know why you see as if that's the ultimate reliable historical record worth citing.

You are somehow under this impression that Buddhism isn't worth practicing if there is really just one life time. I believe that when I die my consciousness seized to exist. However I still find that practice Buddhism such as contemplating on what cause my suffering, such as my arrogance and desire, I can still lead a happy life that I think is worth living. I still find meditation helpful with my anxiety and decision making which lead to positive consequences. I don't accept everything Buddha taught. I believe he wants it to be an open discussion and observation of life. That give me insight in life.
Wherever you are, that is where the mind should be. Always be mindful, and be your own master. This is true freedom. - Grand Master Wei Chueh
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:35 am

Bodhi wrote:I am going stop responding after this post. As with the first sentence of your response. It seems evident that you either didn't completely read what I wrote or just simply ignoring it. Secular Buddhism do not reject ideas such as Karma, however there is an interpretation that leave out all the mysticism. I repeated myself many times in previous response but,you seem to keep ignoring it. I also think there is more to Buddhism than just Karma or rebirth or samsara. What about the 4 noble truths or meditation? There are so much to Buddhism that doesn't have to involve metaphysics or supernatural.

You kept referring back to the Pali Canon, but as I said scriptures weren't written down until hundred of years after the Buddhas death. The Pali Canon didn't exist until 500+ years after the death of Siddhartha Gautama.I don't know why you see as if that's the ultimate reliable historical record worth citing.

You are somehow under this impression that Buddhism isn't worth practicing if there is really just one life time. I believe that when I die my consciousness seized to exist. However I still find that practice Buddhism such as contemplating on what cause my suffering, such as my arrogance and desire, I can still lead a happy life that I think is worth living. I still find meditation helpful with my anxiety and decision making which lead to positive consequences. I don't accept everything Buddha taught. I believe he wants it to be an open discussion and observation of life. That give me insight in life.


If the Pali Canon is not worth citing as the teaching of the historically knowable Buddha, then what historical record is worth citing? What exactly were you talking about with regard to the "original teachings" if not the Pali Canon..Is there something else written down more reliable than it that gives an indication of what the historical Buddha taught?

I replied to the points I had something to say about, if they didn't meet your specifications i'm sorry. In turn though, you also didn't address of what I brought up, including my main point of contention, which is that modern materialism is nihilism by Buddhist standards, and for this reason is worth viewing as being at odds with Dharma.

It was all in good faith man, sorry it upset you.
"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
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby undefineable » Thu Aug 01, 2013 12:55 am

Bodhi wrote:There are plenty of contradictions between Buddhism branches _ _
It would be disappointing if a supposed master of one ‘branch’ were petty enough to claim outright that the other branch’s level/realm/Buddha was impossible, or stupid enough to claim that it was incompatible with the Buddha’s teachings. A Buddhist philosopher, on the other hand, might be forgiven _
Bodhi wrote:I know what historical Buddhism is and I rejected it...because it is historical.
Sorry to state the obvious, but Secular Buddhism is inevitably historical from the point of view of the distant future.
Bodhi wrote:One thing we know about Buddhism is that it generally morphed into a culture and a time easily and took on the cultural belief as its own
Buddhism added beliefs with which it was compatible, but I don’t know it ever shed core beliefs (or even perspectives) just to fit the culture.
Bodhi wrote:Buddhism is just another philosophy
Again, that’s factually incorrect – A philosopher is supposed to rely on reason without resorting to insights gained from meditation or wherever. Likewise, Buddhist meditation is clearly not a form of reasoning, so a Secular Buddhism that includes meditation cannot be just a philosophy {In fact, the meditative element is necessarily separate from the philosophical one in this picture.}

I wish you every happiness and success on a path that suits you. :namaste:
"Removing the barrier between this and that is the only solution" {Chogyam Trungpa - "The Lion's Roar"}
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Aug 01, 2013 1:30 am

The idea has occurred to me that 'belief in re-incarnation' is not really a religious belief or a matter of religion whatever. To those cultures within which reincarnation is accepted, it is a simple fact of existence, as simple as any other observation about the nature of human existence. I mean, common sense tells us if, for instance, you live an unhealthy life and are prone to bad habits, you will get ill. If you abuse people and are untrustworthy, your life will be miserable, and so on. These are not 'religious beliefs' even though religious teachings might have something to say about them.

When it comes to re-birth, I find the idea intuitively appealing. If you observe the cycle of birth and death over many generations, what you see is exactly death and rebirth, not only of humans, but also many other things in nature - animals, rivers, harvests, forests, and so on. The idea of rebirth is, I am sure, deeply connected with that notion of the cyclic nature of existence - tides, seasons, and so on.

We moderns have become completely disconnected from these things, of course, living in an artificial environment, and having a view of life which is highly mediated by education and electronic media. So, to us, who see things in terms of movies and modern dramas, instead of the natural cycles of life, rebirth seems like some grand costume drama, which is why its exponents in the popular media, often seem to fancy that they lived their previous lives as the Queen of Sheba or Napolean Bonaparte, rather than the suffering living being that 99.99999% of people actually are.

So then re-birth does indeed begin to seem like a 'religious belief'. We have a very strong notion of what constitutes 'religions' and, conversely, what is 'secular, scientific, sensible'. And within the cultural context these ideas seem quite logical. But I don't think the likes of Sam Harris have anything like the subtlety of thought to really comprehend the depth of such ideas. Instead, to them, it is very simple matter: religion = supersition, recieved opinion, regressive thinking; science = experimental verification, logical analysis, material causation. But they are often quite unaware of the historical drama in which they themselves are players.

In this life, anyway.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Aug 01, 2013 1:43 am

:good: :good: :good:
"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
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Re: Sam Harris on Buddhism

Postby Monsoon » Thu Aug 01, 2013 2:13 am

I rather liked :
I practiced Pure Land and later on Chan which is just Chinese for Zen.
The Chinese will be thrilled to finally know the truth of this - just pulling your leg a bit, but only a bit.

Reincarnation is... well, I'll come back to this later perhaps.


The Universe is the ultimate recycling machine, nothing is wasted.
Let peace reign!

Metta,

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