Buddhism and Western Culture

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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby kirtu » Mon Feb 01, 2010 6:43 am

DmitriNet wrote:I would think that bauddha-dharma, being reflective of the fundamental nature of human mind, does not depend on any group of people (like a lineage) any more than the geometry depends on continuous lineages of mathematicians.


Geometry is mundane knowledge that can be easily rediscovered and relearned. BTW, most mathematicians would assert that mathematical advancement can only occur in the context of a mathematical culture.

Buddhadharma is only discovered extremely rarely (1000 Buddhas in this fortunate eon separated by vast time) and most people can't comprehend it. Buddhadharma itself can only be taught originally from an enlightened being and that transmission must be preserved or lost. With the loss of that transmission, that line of lineage is lost. In this way Buddhadharma gradually disappears from the world.

Just scriptural knowledge is not sufficient. Many people cannot understand the differences between the Four Noble Truths and truth taught in other systems.

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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ronnewmexico » Mon Feb 01, 2010 7:46 am

Dnet...

"Ron, does not this imply that the ideas and practices of Buddhism as preserved in scriptures are not sufficient, for following the Noble Path?"

There is no such implication..... The confusing of a personal path with a professional path is occuring. A school of Buddhism must contain a transmission of lienage or teaching authority traceable back to the Buddha himself. All schools do that. Schools do not follow the noble path....they are schools. People are following the noble path not schools of Buddhism. Individuals to be recognized as Buddhists have no restrictions from which can be made the assertation they are or are not Buddhist. It is personal,the simple claim..I am Buddhist is the qualifier personally.

Whatever school you may choose to follow, Bernie Glassman Amercianized types, Shambala Tibetan/ Americanized types they are going to have a established chain of teachers/teachings that trace back to the Buddha.

YOu personally may just follow the Buddhas word and there is nothing wrong with that. YOu may not even follow any schools interpretation, and that is fine as well. You may even write books about these things and that's a OK. But if you are teaching others and identifying yourself as a Buddhist religious teacher(not a academic) you must affiliate with some school who gives you authority to do so. The school must find you meeting their standards whatever they may be, to do so. If you are teaching in a religious context Buddhism, just because you know a whole lot, like perhaps one may start their own Christian school of faith because they simply love jesus, you are not teaching within what others will consider to be a recognized school of Buddhism.

ONce you have authority to teach/lead....certainly you may go where you may within Buddhism as long as the school does not reclaim your authority in some manner.

If you are suchly teaching Buddhism in a religious context and have no verifiable lineage/ leadership role/ or considered ability to transmit teachings within some school of Buddhism.....globally generally you will not be considered any sort of teacher but full of crap. Generally speaking.

So that is how Buddhists seem to qualify such things. The culture Buddhism finds itself in has many variances to include the Western culture at present. All schools coming to America if you check you will find they, even the most strangely looking ones, have this thing....transmission of some form or manner. Check it out yourself.

And be fully advised there do exist schools of Buddhism currently that are self invented ones(even one of the internet variety). Other schools and globally generally peoples, do not recognize them. Generally speaking they are not considered schools of Buddhism and as such they are commonly banned from discussion boards and such. I don't suppose that would ever happen in a Christian theist context, as basically anyone may establish a home grown form of Christianity, and call its name whatever they want.
The concensus Buddhists have always used for this determination is transmission/ lineage/teaching authority, whatever you may want to call it, the authorization to teach/lead from a established school. Once that is granted/established, then one could start their own school if they so desired and had the means and followers. This allows for variance but keeps the core generally intact.
Last edited by ronnewmexico on Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:00 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby catmoon » Mon Feb 01, 2010 7:53 am

TMingyur wrote:
catmoon wrote:I recently attended an all day teaching and was surprised to see how Western it felt. ...

What you are discribing are just outer appearances. If there is "western" distinct from "non-western" then this manifests in phenomena that are more "hidden".

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Yes, the forms have many similarities but the content is radically different. I suppose the questions is then "Does the from of observance affect the content?"
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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ground » Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:18 am

catmoon wrote:
TMingyur wrote:
catmoon wrote:I recently attended an all day teaching and was surprised to see how Western it felt. ...

What you are discribing are just outer appearances. If there is "western" distinct from "non-western" then this manifests in phenomena that are more "hidden".

Kind regards


Yes, the forms have many similarities but the content is radically different. I suppose the questions is then "Does the from of observance affect the content?"


Yes it does, but to what degree?

The error comes in when outer appearance is equated with content implying 100%.

Actually an outer appearance that contrasts with one's own cultural habits may be conducive to letting go habitual preconceptions for one person and repulse another person.

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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ronnewmexico » Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:23 am

What is this supposed to mean...

"letting go habitual preconceptions for one person and repulse another person."

Is that supposed to read letting go of habitual......
"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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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ground » Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:31 am

ronnewmexico wrote:What is this supposed to mean...

"letting go habitual preconceptions for one person and repulse another person."

Is that supposed to read letting go of habitual......


I guess to insert "of" is correct. what is meant is "drop"
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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ronnewmexico » Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:40 am

So what that means is, the cultural contrast can lead one in a positive manner, to do away with habitual preconceptions, while it may lead another in a negative manner, to repulse.

I don't want to say I agree, as I know where that leads....but is that what is stated? I will leave it at that....yes or no?
"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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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ground » Mon Feb 01, 2010 9:45 am

ronnewmexico wrote:So what that means is, the cultural contrast can lead one in a positive manner, to do away with habitual preconceptions, while it may lead another in a negative manner, to repulse.

I don't want to say I agree, as I know where that leads....but is that what is stated? I will leave it at that....yes or no?


If we omit "in a negative manner" due to its - IMO - inacceptable ambiguity in this context then this is the intended meaning, yes.
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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby Nemo » Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:37 am

I have noticed that some narcissists have used "Western Buddhism" as a screen for their character flaws. Saying you need no Guru in Vajrayana and that materialism is part of the path, etc. Their arguments seemed to boil down to Westerners being smarter than everyone else and therefore able to change Dharma for the better. They use Dharma to give their personal philosophy credence and traction. I call them phonies and ask them nicely to stop calling their personal opinions Buddha Dharma. Often they don't stop though. Eastern Mysticism and telling people what they want to hear can be very lucrative.
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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ground » Mon Feb 01, 2010 2:55 pm

Nemo wrote:Their arguments seemed to boil down to Westerners being smarter than everyone else and therefore able to change Dharma for the better.

The view that "Westerners are smarter than everyone else" is certainly invalid. However equally invalid would be the view that Westerners cannot contribute to making dharma more accessible for fellow westerners and that this can be accomplished by people with a non-western culture background only.

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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby DmitriNet » Mon Feb 01, 2010 4:36 pm

ronnewmexico wrote:Dnet...

"Ron, does not this imply that the ideas and practices of Buddhism as preserved in scriptures are not sufficient, for following the Noble Path?"

There is no such implication..... The confusing of a personal path with a professional path is occuring.


Thanks for the clarification. The confusion was there.

A school of Buddhism must contain a transmission of lienage or teaching authority traceable back to the Buddha himself. All schools do that.

I never read or heard a good justification of this tradition. Is there?

And, Ron, no worries, I'm not about to invent a school of Buddhism or even teach Buddhism to anyone or write any books on Buddhism. I am aware of those things that motivated your long post, but they are more indicative of the fact that Buddhism is being adapted to relatively new cultural context.

The question I posed was this: imagine that all practitioners of Buddhism were to
disappear, and the only thing remaining is a book shelf of Buddhist text of your choice. Would those texts be enough for to re-establish Buddhism in at least one form?

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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ronnewmexico » Mon Feb 01, 2010 8:14 pm

It would be enough to allow Buddhism to exist in one form, to my opinion.

That form however is not in a religious context. And not to state that there is anything wrong with B Buddhism as philosophy psychology or any of those things. But as religion, Buddhism could not extend simply from a book or a intellectual understanding.

Buddhism as religion contains many aspects that cannot be contained in a book.

So as a religion, a school of Buddhism extends from teacher to student who becomes teacher who teaches student(very generally), and on and on. Keep in mind in Buddhism the oral transmission perhaps has more relevence to the religion than other faiths. As particular circumstance this is how the religion has evolved. Keep in mind in ancient India of the day there existed very many similiar viable and challenging religions and philosophies with which Buddhism competed. To provide a source of distinction, in the form of a student teacher relationship and a empowerment to teach became very important.

Jainism per example is very similiar to Buddhism in many core beliefs yet it is differientated by its adherance to a soul concept. Many forms of Hinduism who draw in the majority from Brahamism of the Buddhas day are also very similiar to Buddhism. So there had to exist a means to protect the teachings from a corruption. In western theistic cultures Christianity for example had not a significant challenge philosophically from polytheistic religions. So they evolved in a differing manner. One protected through overall structure(the orthodoxy of Christian religion in the main) one protected through transmission of dharma, the teacher to student relationship.

That we are in the west does not infer this aspect of Buddhist religiion is no longer applicable or necessary and in fact all recognized legitimate schools of Buddhism(by concensus opinion) do presently contain this aspect. In fact I conjecture our present circumstance in the West probably resembles more closely the initial Buddhist religions circumstance due to the vast amounts of competing philosophies than most cultural experiences in Buddhist history.
"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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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby kirtu » Mon Feb 01, 2010 10:23 pm

DmitriNet wrote:The question I posed was this: imagine that all practitioners of Buddhism were to disappear, and the only thing remaining is a book shelf of Buddhist text of your choice. Would those texts be enough for to re-establish Buddhism in at least one form?


No - all that would remain would be the words of Buddhism. As mentioned people would have a difficult time telling the difference between it and Jainism or even Hinduism.

Interestingly I came across this extract from a translation of the Platform Sutra (which is of course not actually a sutra):

Good and learned friends, perfect understanding and insight are inherently within each person. But because of the delusion of their (conditioned) minds, they are unable to attain self-enlightenment. They must seek out a great and learned friend who will show them the way and help them see their true nature. Good and learned friends, enlightenment is the completion of wisdom.


The mythology of teaching extending back to Lord Buddha is debated. In the Vajrayana tradition there have been instances of the revival of a lineage through visionary transmission, for example. My former Zen teacher stated on more than one occasion that Zen could be revived by the awakening of a single person even given a break in transmission. Given people's difficulties in distinguishing between samadhi experiences and degrees of enlightenment, I question this claim.

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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ground » Tue Feb 02, 2010 4:55 am

DmitriNet wrote:The question I posed was this: imagine that all practitioners of Buddhism were to
disappear, and the only thing remaining is a book shelf of Buddhist text of your choice. Would those texts be enough for to re-establish Buddhism in at least one form?


Nice speculation offer. I think that it necessarily depends on the text. If it would be the pali canon then a development similar to the one that occurred during the last 2500 years would start again. But it would take much more time since people nowadays are not very interested in religious stuff.
A text of a later phase could not function as a primer of "buddhism".

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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby DmitriNet » Wed Feb 03, 2010 3:01 am

From the discussion above it is clear that we need to differentiate between Buddhism as religion and Buddhism as a personal practice.

Thornbush, which of the two your original question was about?
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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby DmitriNet » Wed Feb 03, 2010 3:37 am

TMingyur wrote: I think that it necessarily depends on the text. If it would be the pali canon then a development similar to the one that occurred during the last 2500 years would start again. But it would take much more time since people nowadays are not very interested in religious stuff.
A text of a later phase could not function as a primer of "buddhism".

There is a whole bookshelf to fill, so Pali canon and anything else you'd like.

Kirt states that texts will never be enough, or, that at least, chances of renaissance of Buddha Dharma will be so slim that we'll have to wait aeons.

Kirt, are there any reasons to your statement, other than the fact that few practitioners have their own ways to tell one unusual state of consciousness from another? If I understood your statements correctly,
to tell samadhi from stages of enlightenment only an enlightened person can?

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Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ground » Wed Feb 03, 2010 6:37 am

DmitriNet wrote:
TMingyur wrote: I think that it necessarily depends on the text. If it would be the pali canon then a development similar to the one that occurred during the last 2500 years would start again. But it would take much more time since people nowadays are not very interested in religious stuff.
A text of a later phase could not function as a primer of "buddhism".

There is a whole bookshelf to fill, so Pali canon and anything else you'd like.

Okay, let's reduce it.
The sutta pitaka may do considering that the abhidamma is already a later development and if we concede that vinaya pitaka either is optional or consider it to be the effect of the suttas. We may even reduce it further to one Nikaya e.g. Majjhima Nikaya which is one book and contains all essentials.


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