"...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Malcolm
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"...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Malcolm » Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:11 pm

JKhedrup wrote:The level of scholarship and debate necessary in the great [Tibetan] instiutions requires a high degree of doubt and critical thinking.


Yes, but it has strictly defined parameters. Despite all the deep learning, critical acumen, and doubt your Geshes may bring to the table, in the end, they are merely expected to master what is already accepted as true according to a consensus. Like musicians, they are merely expected to become expert at playing the scales. They neither expected nor encouraged to open up whole new fields of learning. They are expected merely to be vessels conveying the wisdom of one generation to another, unaltered like an impression from a seal. Now, do not think that in my view this has no value. It definitely has value. It is a part of human culture and learning.

However, most of the classically educated Tibetans I know have a very hard time with the idea of evolution. They have difficulty accepting that modern humans come from Africa, and that all languages also originally come from Africa and that the pattern of human migration from Africa can be mathematically tracked. Indeed, they have difficulty with Science in general (all the while happily using the fruits of scientific endeavor in the form of electricity, cell phones, antibiotics, and so on).

This is largely because up until recently most educated Tibetans are educated into a pre-modern view of the world that includes Mt. Meru, the Buddhist myth of the origin of humans in devas whose bodies gel and thicken due to their craving for the sweet "cream of the earth" (sa zhag) on the surface of the planet and so on.

There is no fault in all this, of course, but it is important to remember that there are bound to be vast differences in the way persons like ourselves, raised and educated in a post-modern civilization will view the world when compared to those who have pre-modern educations.

For example, a common theme among Tibetan teachers is the oft repeated trope:

"...but the science of Buddhism will never change."
-- Dzongsar Khyentse
http://www.lifepositive.com/Spirit/Budd ... 112005.asp

"Why will Buddhism never change?", we ask; and answer as always is "Because Buddhism is based on wisdom."

Of course, anyone who has studied history will instantly recognize this to be a statement that is at best, very naive. Buddhism has undergone constant change and evolution from the beginning.

Even more questionable is the arrogation of Buddhism as a "science". It is not science, it never was and never will be. Buddhism, is, in its best aspect, a yogic tradition; at worst, a religious dogma. Buddhism may indeed have some ideas which are compatible with the worldview informed by modern science, but it equally entertains many beliefs which are not falsifiable in any respect, and hence must be considered non-scientific (which does not mean false, rather merely empirically untestable).

Now, of course, Dzongsar Khyentse can be forgiven for referring to Buddhism as a "science" because of the use of the term adhyātmavidyā (nang rig) translated as so-called "inner science" where the term "science" is used to the translate the term "vidyā".

We must however see statements like Dzongsar Khyentse's for what they are: reactionary rhetoric which misses the target.

Modern science, as we know, is a method of coming up with predicative models. If one's predictions fail, one's model is defective, and one's hypothesis is either abandoned or revised by incorporating the results of one's failure. It is an iterative process, as we all know.

However, there is, in my estimation a religious and cultural insecurity which is responsible for sentiments like Dzongar Khyentse's, a sentiment right at home with similar sentiments about the Bible expressed by Christian Fundamentalists. It is an eternalization of tradition. Stating that Buddhism will never or has never changed is like asserting that words of the Bible or the Koran are infallible.
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Simon E.
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Simon E. » Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:19 pm

I think this is a very succinct and accurate summation Malcolm.
It will not be well received in some quarters of course..and not just by some Asian Buddhists.
There is a cohort of western Buddhists who have convinced themselves that Buddhadharma is important because it conforms at all major points to the scientific model..against the evidence.

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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby heart » Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:50 pm

The idea of evolution is that everything becomes better for most beings. I pretty sure that isn't what is happening in the world or in Buddhism. I rather sit at the feet of Garab Dorje and receive Dzogchen personally.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa

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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Simon E. » Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:56 pm

There is no implication of 'better' in the biological evolution of species, heart.
Dawkins is quite fierce on the issue.

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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Malcolm » Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:57 pm

heart wrote:The idea of evolution is that everything becomes better for most beings.


Not at all.

There are two major definitions here:

1. the process by which different kinds of living organisms are thought to have developed and diversified from earlier forms during the history of the earth.
2. the gradual development of something, esp. from a simple to a more complex form.

The idea of biological evolution is covered by definition one.

Systems of belief and thought, such as Dzogchen, Christianity, Santeria, modern science, communism, free markets, etc. are covered by the definition two.

For example, so called "sems sde" is comparatively simple when contrasted with man ngag sde. Mahāyāna is comparatively more complex than the Buddhism expressed in the Nikāyas.
Last edited by Malcolm on Wed Dec 11, 2013 4:00 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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http://www.sakyapa.net
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

How can you not practice the highest Dharma
at this time of obtaining a perfect human body?

-- Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen

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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Norwegian » Wed Dec 11, 2013 3:58 pm

To quote Wikipedia:

1) "Evolution is the process of change in all forms of life over generations, and evolutionary biology is the study of how evolution occurs. Life evolves by means of mutations (changes in an organism's hereditary information), genetic drift (random change in the genetic variation of a population from generation to generation), and natural selection (the non-random and gradual process of natural variation by which observable traits (such as eye color) become more or less common in a population)."

2) "Evolution is the change in the inherited characteristics of biological populations over successive generations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins."

3) "Human evolution is the evolutionary process leading up to the appearance of modern humans. While it began with the last common ancestor of all life, the topic usually covers only the evolutionary history of primates, in particular the genus Homo, and the emergence of Homo sapiens as a distinct species of hominids (or "great apes"). The study of human evolution involves many scientific disciplines, including physical anthropology, primatology, archaeology, ethology, linguistics, evolutionary psychology, embryology and genetics."

1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Introduction_to_evolution
2: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Evolution
3: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolution

Evolution is not "the idea that everything becomes better for most beings".

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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Malcolm » Wed Dec 11, 2013 4:03 pm

heart wrote:I rather sit at the feet of Garab Dorje and receive Dzogchen personally.


Me too, but it didn't happen and is not going to happen, so why fantasize?
http://www.atikosha.org
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://www.sakyapa.net
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

How can you not practice the highest Dharma
at this time of obtaining a perfect human body?

-- Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen

heart
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby heart » Wed Dec 11, 2013 4:15 pm

So if something "develops" or "evolve" it gets more complicated or diversified or just different but not better except randomly so?

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa

heart
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby heart » Wed Dec 11, 2013 4:18 pm

Malcolm wrote:
heart wrote:I rather sit at the feet of Garab Dorje and receive Dzogchen personally.


Me too, but it didn't happen and is not going to happen, so why fantasize?


Oh, I don't fantasize, just stating what end of evolution has the most value to me.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa

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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Malcolm » Wed Dec 11, 2013 4:20 pm

heart wrote:So if something "develops" or "evolve" it gets more complicated or diversified or just different but not better except randomly so?

/magnus


Better/worse are human judgements. Simplicity/complexity are observable phenomena.
http://www.atikosha.org
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://www.sakyapa.net
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

How can you not practice the highest Dharma
at this time of obtaining a perfect human body?

-- Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen

Malcolm
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Malcolm » Wed Dec 11, 2013 4:22 pm

heart wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
heart wrote:I rather sit at the feet of Garab Dorje and receive Dzogchen personally.


Me too, but it didn't happen and is not going to happen, so why fantasize?


Oh, I don't fantasize, just stating what end of evolution has the most value to me.

/magnus



well, if you like simpler Dzogchen, stick with the bodhicitta texts, since they are most likely the ones which actually have a root in a historical person named "Vajraprahe".
http://www.atikosha.org
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://www.sakyapa.net
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

How can you not practice the highest Dharma
at this time of obtaining a perfect human body?

-- Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen

heart
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby heart » Wed Dec 11, 2013 4:51 pm

Malcolm wrote:
heart wrote:So if something "develops" or "evolve" it gets more complicated or diversified or just different but not better except randomly so?

/magnus


Better/worse are human judgements. Simplicity/complexity are observable phenomena.


Simplicity and complexity are also very relative phenomena and certainly in the realm of human judgement.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa

heart
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby heart » Wed Dec 11, 2013 4:56 pm

Malcolm wrote:

well, if you like simpler Dzogchen, stick with the bodhicitta texts, since they are most likely the ones which actually have a root in a historical person named "Vajraprahe".


I am fine with what I do, thanks. I don't share your or Germano's ideas of the origin of Dzogchen.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa

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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Tsongkhapafan » Wed Dec 11, 2013 5:30 pm

Malcolm wrote:2. the gradual development of something, esp. from a simple to a more complex form.

Systems of belief and thought, such as Dzogchen, Christianity, Santeria, modern science, communism, free markets, etc. are covered by the definition two.

For example, so called "sems sde" is comparatively simple when contrasted with man ngag sde. Mahāyāna is comparatively more complex than the Buddhism expressed in the Nikāyas.


The Mahayana is not an evolution of the Dharma in the Nikayas. Both were taught by Buddha Shakyamuni for different students with different capacities. The Dharma does not evolve because the nature of samsara and nirvana does not change. The meaning of Dharma does not change, but the presentation may do to suit the capacity and lifestyle of those who are listening. For example the lamrim teachings of Venerable Atisha and Je Tsongkhapa present a complete path to liberation and enlightenment that will not change in meaning, but may be presented differently as times degenerate and the wisdom of living beings wanes.

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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby pensum » Wed Dec 11, 2013 5:38 pm

heart wrote:
Malcolm wrote:

well, if you like simpler Dzogchen, stick with the bodhicitta texts, since they are most likely the ones which actually have a root in a historical person named "Vajraprahe".


I am fine with what I do, thanks. I don't share your or Germano's ideas of the origin of Dzogchen.

/magnus


I'm assuming, Magnus, that you don't realize that Vajraprahe is no other than Garab Dorje. In Tibetan texts his name is rendered in Sanskrit as either Prahevajra or in some of the early texts that Malcolm has been researching as Vajraprahe. Or do you disagree that Garab Dorje most likely was an actual person and that the main, if not all (Buddhist anyway, Bon may be an exception), Dzogchen lineages can be traced back to him (which i believe is Malcolm's view)?

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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby heart » Wed Dec 11, 2013 5:59 pm

pensum wrote:
heart wrote:
Malcolm wrote:

well, if you like simpler Dzogchen, stick with the bodhicitta texts, since they are most likely the ones which actually have a root in a historical person named "Vajraprahe".


I am fine with what I do, thanks. I don't share your or Germano's ideas of the origin of Dzogchen.

/magnus


I'm assuming, Magnus, that you don't realize that Vajraprahe is no other than Garab Dorje. In Tibetan texts his name is rendered in Sanskrit as either Prahevajra or in some of the early texts that Malcolm has been researching as Vajraprahe. Or do you disagree that Garab Dorje most likely was an actual person and that the main, if not all (Buddhist anyway, Bon may be an exception), Dzogchen lineages can be traced back to him (which i believe is Malcolm's view)?


Of course know that dear pensum. Germano and Malcolm share the view that Dzogchen, or at least the Upadesa tradition, is an Tibetan invention. I don't share that view. Not because Tibetan invention would in itself be a bad thing, I am pretty sure that there are many elaborations of Tibetan origin in Dzogchen, but because the insistence on lineage in the Tibetan cultural sphere. I also don't think Dzogchen developed from semde to longde to upadesa or that hinayana developed to mahayana and further to vajrayana, it is just a comfortable darwinistic view that our society is full of. But I am not a scholar and what I think is of little consequence.

/magnus
"To reject practice by saying, 'it is conceptual!' is the path of fools. A tendency of the inexperienced and something to be avoided."
- Longchenpa

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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Malcolm » Wed Dec 11, 2013 6:44 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:
The Mahayana is not an evolution of the Dharma in the Nikayas.


It is not an evolution of the Dharma in the Nikayas, it is an evolution of the Dharma outside of the Nikāyas.

Both were taught by Buddha Shakyamuni...


Impossible, I say.

The Dharma does not evolve because the nature of samsara and nirvana does not change.


The Dharma has demonstrably evolved over the centuries in order to cope with changes in human cultures, economics, and civilizations. It is changing now as we speak. To refuse to see this is voluntary blindness.

The meaning of nirvana has changed over time (once a desiderata, then an extreme to be avoided). Even the meaning of samsara has changed (once something to eschew, then something not be abandoned).

The meaning of Dharma does not change, but the presentation may do to suit the capacity and lifestyle of those who are listening.


There is no such thing as "inherent meaning".

For example the lamrim teachings of Venerable Atisha and Je Tsongkhapa present a complete path to liberation and enlightenment that will not change in meaning, but may be presented differently as times degenerate and the wisdom of living beings wanes.


The very meaning of "Buddhahood" has changed over time.

++++++++

Basically, Buddhism and Buddhists are facing the crisis of modernity.

Like Christianity, Buddhism has no hope of relying upon the pre-modern myths and fables which provided its narratives. The vast majority of modern people simply will not accept the narratives traditional Buddhisms have proffered for explaining our world. Buddhism[s], which once provided a complete explanation of the universe, is/are no longer capable of doing so.

Buddhism, like Christianity before it, will be forced to discover new meaning for itself, and will need to forge new narratives for itself, if it hopes to survive in the modern world. Of course Buddhism has the materials at hand to do so, like Christianity.

In other words, the validity or absence of validity of Mahāyāna does not depend on its origen legend. If Mahāyāna depends on its origin legends for its validity, then it is intellectually moribund and philosophically meagre. If on the other hand Mahāyāna does not depend upon its origin legend for its validity, then it is intellectually vital and philosophically robust. The same observation can be made about those who require the origin legend of Mahāyāna to be literally true, they are neither intellectually vital nor philosophically robust because they are incapable of defending Mahāyāna ideas purely on their own terms without recourse to some imagined authority.

The corollary however does not hold; the successful defense of Mahāyāna ideas on their own terms does not validate the legends of Mahāyāna origins.

Again, this begs the question: just how many Mahāyānas are there? How many Vajrayānas are there?

In short, Buddhism's "grace" period or probationary period in the West is over and done with. In order for Buddhism to hold its own in the free market of ideas, it must be able to do so without any recourse to traditional authority. If it fails at this, it will fail the test of modernity and as human civilization continues to advance and develop, Buddhism will become yet another footnote to history.

In order to prevent that from happening, Buddhists must in fact be the harshest critics of Buddhism.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

How can you not practice the highest Dharma
at this time of obtaining a perfect human body?

-- Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen

Malcolm
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Malcolm » Wed Dec 11, 2013 6:49 pm

heart wrote:
Of course know that dear pensum. Germano and Malcolm share the view that Dzogchen, or at least the Upadesa tradition, is an Tibetan invention. I don't share that view. Not because Tibetan invention would in itself be a bad thing, I am pretty sure that there are many elaborations of Tibetan origin in Dzogchen, but because the insistence on lineage in the Tibetan cultural sphere. I also don't think Dzogchen developed from semde to longde to upadesa or that hinayana developed to mahayana and further to vajrayana, it is just a comfortable darwinistic view that our society is full of. But I am not a scholar and what I think is of little consequence.
/magnus


What you call the view that Germano and I share is in fact the Western academic consensus, current even among Western academics who nevertheless are practitioners.

So called sems sde and klong sde are contemporary, they are but two branches of the same teaching of the same Tibetan teacher, Vairocana -- there is nothing philosophically remarkable about klong sde that separates it from so called sems sde. In short, sems sde and klong sde are different streams of the same basic teaching.

Man ngag sde however is a different matter. It is not a Tibetan "invention". That is too crude. It is a reworking of Dzogchen based on the second contact of Tibetan civilization with late Indian Vajrayāna. It is essentially gsar ma rDzogs chen.

M
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http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://www.sakyapa.net
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

How can you not practice the highest Dharma
at this time of obtaining a perfect human body?

-- Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen

Malcolm
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Malcolm » Wed Dec 11, 2013 6:55 pm

pensum wrote:
heart wrote:
Malcolm wrote:

well, if you like simpler Dzogchen, stick with the bodhicitta texts, since they are most likely the ones which actually have a root in a historical person named "Vajraprahe".


I am fine with what I do, thanks. I don't share your or Germano's ideas of the origin of Dzogchen.

/magnus


I'm assuming, Magnus, that you don't realize that Vajraprahe is no other than Garab Dorje. In Tibetan texts his name is rendered in Sanskrit as either Prahevajra or in some of the early texts that Malcolm has been researching as Vajraprahe. Or do you disagree that Garab Dorje most likely was an actual person and that the main, if not all (Buddhist anyway, Bon may be an exception), Dzogchen lineages can be traced back to him (which i believe is Malcolm's view)?


Yes, it is my view that these persons: Garab Dorje, Manjushrimitra and Shri Simha are historical persons. It is also my view that Dzogchen as an intimate instruction must come from that source. I do not imagine however that all the texts attributed to Garab Dorje are actually by him.
http://www.atikosha.org
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://www.sakyapa.net
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

How can you not practice the highest Dharma
at this time of obtaining a perfect human body?

-- Jetsun Dragpa Gyaltsen

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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby dzogchungpa » Wed Dec 11, 2013 7:24 pm

Malcolm wrote:Now, of course, Dzongsar Khyentse can be forgiven for referring to Buddhism as a "science" because of the use of the term adhyatmavidya (nang rig) translated as so-called "inner science" where the term "science" is used to the translate the term "vidya".

How gracious of you. :roll:
Malcolm wrote:We must however see statements like Dzongsar Khyentse's for what they are: reactionary rhetoric which misses the target. . . .
However, there is, in my estimation a religious and cultural insecurity which is responsible for sentiments like Dzongar Khyentse's, a sentiment right at home with similar sentiments about the Bible expressed by Christian Fundamentalists. It is an eternalization of tradition. Stating that Buddhism will never or has never changed is like asserting that words of the Bible or the Koran are infallible.

Here is your quotation with a little more context from that interview:
You see, I think I should follow Buddhism, not Tibetan'ism'. Tibetanism will change because it is a culture, and cultures change, but the science of Buddhism will never change. As long as I am not contradicting Buddhism, I shouldn't really care whether the culture is being disrupted or not. Because perhaps the so-called valued Tibetan tradition that we are trying so hard to preserve today may have seen its last progressive thinking some 500 years ago!

If you read a little further in the interview you will find:
Do you think there is a 'new Buddhism' now, because though the teachings are what the Buddha gave 2,500 years ago, their contexts are changing?
We have to do this, and it is okay. Of course there is a challenge through the older generation, and the way they teach and practise. As long as the main philosophy of Buddhism remains intact, everything else can go.

and:
Your lineage is unique in Tibetan Buddhism because it is non-sectarian. How are you carrying forward this tradition?
I have studied within the four Tibetan Buddhist schools and have received teachings from all of them. I aspire to receive teachings from the Theravada Buddhist tradition and Zen; I did learn a little bit but it was not enough.I have so much respect for Jainism and Hinduism.

Does that sound like "reactionary rhetoric" from someone suffering from "religious and cultural insecurity"? I am very sympathetic with what you have said in this thread, but honestly I feel that you are misrepresenting DJKR.
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