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

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

Postby Malcolm » Thu Dec 12, 2013 4:59 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:So trying to practise what the Buddha taught is now fundamentalism?


Not at all.

Insisting that one must accept as literally true any traditional narratives about the origin of various Buddhist texts (for example, the idea that Nāgārjuna recovers the Prajñāpāramita from the Nāgā realm "under the ocean") is fundamentalism. Insisting that one must accept that Buddha taught Mahāyāna surrounded by millions of bodhisattvas on Rajagriha or that he taught Vajrayāna literally and personally, either inside a stupa in south India, or in some imaginary devaloka is fundamentalism.

My point is that the teachings in these texts must be able to stand on their own and be able to withstand scrutiny on the basis of the ideas presented in those texts on their own without any reference to or dependence upon some imagined authority. In the end, authority is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain. Thus Ganden Chophel said in regards to the question of authority:

"It is a tiger who testifies on behalf of the lion. It is a yak who testifies on behalf of the tiger. It is a dog who testifies on behalf of the yak. It is a mouse who testifies on behalf of behalf of the dog. It is a flea who testifies on behalf of the mouse. Therefore, a flea is the ultimate witness on behalf of all."

Not only that, but the various claims put forth by various factions about what the Buddha taught and where wildly contradict one another, especially when we come to Vajrayāna texts, where, according to late 10th century Indian accounts we have the Buddha flying with his monks to Oḍḍiyāna and granting the Guhyasamaja empowerment to King Indrabhuti, who then, with his kingdom all vanish after achieving enlightenment, only to be replaced by a lake full of nāgās out of which one transforms into a human woman many centuries later, who then travels to South India and imparts the teachings to a South Indian King. (The Nyingma version of the origin of Vajrayāna is completely at odds with this account, involving magical texts that fall from the sky, and so on). I mean these are marvelous stories, but are no more believable than the story of Mahāsiddha Virupa arresting the progress of the sun in the sky while on a drinking binge with his disciple in order to delay the arrival of his bartab.

Therefore, with regard to Buddhist texts, it is my opinion that the best way to approach them, the approach that makes the most sense to me as someone who lives in these texts everyday is to see these texts as products of gradual development and emendation over time. We have many instances of this in the long history of sutra translation into Chinese. I prefer this approach, rather than believing that these texts are a divine revelation imparted completely within the eighty year lifespan of the undoubtedly remarkable human being, Gautama Siddhārtha.

As I see it, Buddhist sutras and tantras are a remarkable record of human beings, some awakened, others not, working out what awakening means. I see it as documentary evidence of a very human process of self-discovery and self-fulfillment.

But I do not think we need to take the legendary and mythological accounts of Buddha's life, or teachings attributed to him as literal, historical fact. We do not even need to take the cosmological myths presented in the Pali canon as fact. Nor do we need to accept the legends Buddha is portrayed as telling about his past lives as fact. In the same I do not believe for an instant that Padmasambhava was, as it is claimed in numerous biographies, born in the center of a lotus blossom somewhere in modern day Pakistan, or that he was three thousand years old and so on. Nevertheless, I happily recite the seven line prayer, understanding that is meaningful symbolically, as myth, etc. But I certainly do not take it to be a literal portrayal of the facts of the life of a person we call Padmasambhava.

We can, if we so choose, accept these myths and legends as literally true, but to insist to others that they must accept these as literal facts is fundamentalism.
Last edited by Malcolm on Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:19 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Malcolm » Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:02 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:...watering Buddhism down with science and New Age philosophies.


BTW, I do neither. Buddhism is Buddhism, science is science. One is a religion, the other is an iterative method for advancing our knowledge of the physical universe. Sometimes their paths intersect, but mostly they do not.

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

Postby smcj » Thu Dec 12, 2013 5:57 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Tsongkhapafan wrote:So trying to practise what the Buddha taught is now fundamentalism?

Insisting that one must accept as literally true any traditional narratives about the origin of various Buddhist texts (for example, the idea that Nāgārjuna recovers the Prajñāpāramita from the Nāgā realm "under the ocean") is fundamentalism. Insisting that one must accept that Buddha taught Mahāyāna surrounded by millions of bodhisattvas on Rajagriha or that he taught Vajrayāna literally and personally, either inside a stupa in south India, or in some imaginary devaloka is fundamentalism…

(edit for brevity)

...We can, if we so choose, accept these myths and legends as literally true, but to insist to others that they must accept these as literal facts is fundamentalism.

:good:

Malcom, sometimes I agree with your posts, and other times I do not. That one was quite well done imho. Thanks.

I'd only modify your definitions by saying accepting those stories as literally true is fundamentalism. Insisting other do so also is just being a ****head.
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby dzogchungpa » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:04 pm

Malcolm wrote:As I see it, Buddhist sutras and tantras are a remarkable record of human beings, some awakened, others not, working out what awakening means. I see it as documentary evidence of a very human process of self-discovery and self-fulfillment.

108%
ཨོཾ་མ་ཧཱ་ཤུནྱ་ཏཱ་ཛྙཱ་ན་བཛྲ་སྭཱ་བྷཱ་བ་ཨཱཏྨ་ཀོ་྅ཧཾ༔

The thousands of lines of the Prajnaparamita can be summed up in the following two sentences:
1) One should become a Bodhisattva (or, Buddha-to-be), i.e. one who is content with nothing less than all-knowledge attained through the perfection of wisdom for the sake of all beings.
2) There is no such thing as a Bodhisattva, or as all-knowledge, or as a ‘being’, or as the perfection of wisdom, or as an attainment.
To accept both these contradictory facts is to be perfect.
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby heart » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:08 pm

Malcolm wrote:

We can, if we so choose, accept these myths and legends as literally true, but to insist to others that they must accept these as literal facts is fundamentalism.


Ok, so then I am a fundamentalist. I do believe in Nagas, dragons, ghosts, flying siddhas and whatever in science or fairytale that tickle my fancy. I am sorry Malcolm, I guess you mean well, but it just sounds dreadfully boring to bow down to the material world view that you suggest. Always loved myths and legends.

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

Postby smcj » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:14 pm

heart wrote:Ok, so then I am a fundamentalist. I do believe in Nagas, dragons, ghosts, flying siddhas and whatever in science or fairytale that tickle my fancy. I am sorry Malcolm, I guess you mean well, but it just sounds dreadfully boring to bow down to the material world view that you suggest. Always loved myths and legends.
/magnus

Believing in the myth that Nagarjuna retrieved the Prajnaparamita from sea serpents that had been holding them for him like a time capsule is one thing. Believing in the extraordinary accomplishments of some practitioners, or the methodologies they have used, is something else. Imho.
Last edited by smcj on Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:17 pm

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.


Sorry Malcolm I did not see this thread until now, so I am only now responding.

I think the criticism you make is valid in many ways. For example, at the moment I am reading the English version of Losang Konchog's commentary to the famous Root Text on tenents by Jamyang Shayba. I recognize that the way many of the tenents systems are charaterised are not accurate- sometimes they seem to be straw men. How could one go about addressing this particular problem? Dialogue with the holders both the Buddhist and Indian non-Buddhist philosophical schools who the tenents structure supposedly represents. Such a broad dialogue would stimulate more truly original thought.
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby heart » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:18 pm

smcj wrote:
heart wrote:
Malcolm wrote:

We can, if we so choose, accept these myths and legends as literally true, but to insist to others that they must accept these as literal facts is fundamentalism.


Ok, so then I am a fundamentalist. I do believe in Nagas, dragons, ghosts, flying siddhas and whatever in science or fairytale that tickle my fancy. I am sorry Malcolm, I guess you mean well, but it just sounds dreadfully boring to bow down to the material world view that you suggest. Always loved myths and legends.
/magnus

Believing in the myth that Nagarjuna retrieved the Prajnaparamita from sea serpents that had been holding them for him like a time capsule is one thing. Believing in the extraordinary accomplishments of some practitioners, or the methodologies they have used, is something else. Imho.


So you feel siddhas exist but not the siddhis, since they are all defying the laws of science and common sense?

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

Postby smcj » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:24 pm

heart wrote:So you feel siddhas exist but not the siddhis, since they are all defying the laws of science and common sense?

Siddhas exist, or they did up until the late 20th century. Hopefully they still do. Siddhis exist also.
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby dzogchungpa » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:56 pm

I have no doubt that siddhas and siddhis exist even now, but I think it's quite likely that many of the traditional stories about them should not be taken literally.
ཨོཾ་མ་ཧཱ་ཤུནྱ་ཏཱ་ཛྙཱ་ན་བཛྲ་སྭཱ་བྷཱ་བ་ཨཱཏྨ་ཀོ་྅ཧཾ༔

The thousands of lines of the Prajnaparamita can be summed up in the following two sentences:
1) One should become a Bodhisattva (or, Buddha-to-be), i.e. one who is content with nothing less than all-knowledge attained through the perfection of wisdom for the sake of all beings.
2) There is no such thing as a Bodhisattva, or as all-knowledge, or as a ‘being’, or as the perfection of wisdom, or as an attainment.
To accept both these contradictory facts is to be perfect.
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Malcolm » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:18 pm

heart wrote:
So you feel siddhas exist but not the siddhis, since they are all defying the laws of science and common sense?

/magnus


I think we can all agree that the only important siddhi is the supreme siddhi, i.e., awakening.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

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

Postby smcj » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:20 pm

Malcolm wrote:I think we can all agree that the only important siddhi is the supreme siddhi, i.e., awakening.

:good:
Seems like you're on a roll today.
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby conebeckham » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:21 pm

Agree with ^
And would point out that I think some of the other Siddhis belong to the realm of "Underwater-Reptilian-sutra-guardians-and-lakes-turning-into-women Dept." though I enjoy the stories. I mean, really, the Eye Salve? :shrug:
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby smcj » Thu Dec 12, 2013 8:09 pm

conebeckham wrote:Agree with ^
And would point out that I think some of the other Siddhis belong to the realm of "Underwater-Reptilian-sutra-guardians-and-lakes-turning-into-women Dept." though I enjoy the stories. I mean, really, the Eye Salve? :shrug:

I was at a Kalu R. retreat where a guy asked if R. could do miracles. Ken McLeod said, "Did you see the double rainbow over the lake today?" (clear blue skies) The guy groaned and Ken said, "Oh I see, you're not impressed" and laughed.
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby conebeckham » Thu Dec 12, 2013 8:27 pm

See, SMCJ, I've experienced things that I felt were miraculous, things similar to that (What I call "Woo Woo" stories--anyone wanna hear about the Rainstorm and Rainbows following HHGK's appearance at Mirik several years back? No? How about...oh, nevermind)....but two points: First, The most miraculous thing is a Human Being who puts self-interest aside for the benefit of others. Second, It's one thing to be inspired by stories, and hopefully to understand the import behind them as well...it's another thing to Swallow the Kool Aid to the point that somehow "thinking for oneself" is a bad idea. Buddha himself advised, right?

(Edited to get SMCJ's initials in proper order...sorry, mate.)
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Karma Dorje » Thu Dec 12, 2013 8:36 pm

Insisting that someone *else* subscribe to one's own viewpoint is problematic, whether the content of their viewpoint is traditional or post-modern.

I am entirely with Magnus on this. As the Bard noted,

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.


I am quite happy with the traditional accounts of siddhis, siddhas, etc. One can say that the only important siddhi is the supreme siddhi, but that is sidestepping the question of whether these abilities are fantasies or actual (insofar as anything in phenomenal existence is actual). They do not eclipse the supreme siddhi, but do provide a means to help others.

If I got to a doctor, I am happy to use an allopathic model to understand the contents of my experience. If I go into the data center, I am happy to use the TCP/IP model. If I go to the Louvre, the models of art history and criticism. I feel no desire to make one grand model that incorporates all. What a tremendous bother. Use what is appropriate in the moment and put it back when you are finished.

I don't insist that others subscribe to my theories. In fact, I don't give a rat's arse whether they do or not. I use what works for me according to what I have been taught and I don't waste time on system building.
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby Malcolm » Thu Dec 12, 2013 8:39 pm

Karma Dorje wrote:
I am quite happy with the traditional accounts of siddhis, siddhas, etc.


O, I am happy with them too, they are fun to read.

Do I think they ever happened...miracles of loaves and fishes anyone? Raising Lazarus from the dead? Flying to Jerusalem on an ass? Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon...?

Quite frankly, I have never seen any human being swim through the earth, fly through mountains, fly in the air (except in a plane, etc.), stand in the middle of bonfire unharmed, walk through a wall, stick a kīla in a rock, leave a footprint in a stone (and I have seen highly respected Tibetan Lamas laugh at the supposed photographed "miracles" of other lamas who claim to have done so (no not saying who)) and so on.

As I said, they are fun stories, but in the end the real siddhis are the human qualities of compassion,love and awakening: in other words, the things that make us more human, not superhuman. Apart from the supreme siddhi, the other siddhis are just parlor tricks, even if they are true.

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

Postby pensum » Thu Dec 12, 2013 9:53 pm

Malcolm wrote: in the end the real siddhis are the human qualities of compassion,love and awakening: in other words, the things that make us more human, not superhuman. Apart from the supreme siddhi, the other siddhis are just parlor tricks, even if they are true. M


And that's the thing, even if the more miraculous occurrences do happen, even in the best of circumstances they can only be witnessed firsthand by a handful of people and so have little effect if any in alleviating the suffering of others. In fact, the greater likelihood is that such miracles would only lead to jealousy, power, feelings of inadequacy, fantasy, distraction and all the rest which just cause further misery for oneself and others. It seems that it was not without reason that when listing the siddhis which may result from a practice they almost invariably include warnings to not seek such powers as ends, to not talk about them if they do arise, and so on.

On the other hand, compassion, devotion, patience, not judging, not accepting or rejecting, being free of hope and fear, etc.--these are not only the things that truly destroy samsara and benefit both oneself and others, but not actualizing these simple unspectacular qualities is what brings about the downfall of great and small alikel. As Tulku Urgyen often repeated, "The true sign of practice is that you are naturally and effortlessly without fixation. Also, that you are endowed with devotion, compassion and pure perception, just like the sky is filled with the warmth of sunlight." When these arise naturally and spontaneously they touch everyone equally and free of bias, and the benefits even if imperceptible are immeasurable.

Never once did i ever hear Tulku Urgyen say that it was important to attain any siddhis, but rather the very opposite: "Do not attach any importance to temporary experiences, none whatsoever. There is only one thing to be confident in, the true state of realization that is unchanging like space. Understanding this is of utmost importance."

It's the little things that take us down in the end, but if one takes care of the little stuff, then perhaps the miracle that is at the root of all of samsara and nirvana will be recognized and enjoyed for the bliss that it truly is.
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Re: "...but the science of Buddhism will never change."

Postby heart » Thu Dec 12, 2013 10:15 pm

Malcolm wrote:
heart wrote:
So you feel siddhas exist but not the siddhis, since they are all defying the laws of science and common sense?

/magnus


I think we can all agree that the only important siddhi is the supreme siddhi, i.e., awakening.


Of course, but they are not parlor tricks.

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

Postby heart » Thu Dec 12, 2013 10:18 pm

pensum wrote:
Malcolm wrote: in the end the real siddhis are the human qualities of compassion,love and awakening: in other words, the things that make us more human, not superhuman. Apart from the supreme siddhi, the other siddhis are just parlor tricks, even if they are true. M


And that's the thing, even if the more miraculous occurrences do happen, even in the best of circumstances they can only be witnessed firsthand by a handful of people and so have little effect if any in alleviating the suffering of others. In fact, the greater likelihood is that such miracles would only lead to jealousy, power, feelings of inadequacy, fantasy, distraction and all the rest which just cause further misery for oneself and others. It seems that it was not without reason that when listing the siddhis which may result from a practice they almost invariably include warnings to not seek such powers as ends, to not talk about them if they do arise, and so on.

On the other hand, compassion, devotion, patience, not judging, not accepting or rejecting, being free of hope and fear, etc.--these are not only the things that truly destroy samsara and benefit both oneself and others, but not actualizing these simple unspectacular qualities is what brings about the downfall of great and small alikel. As Tulku Urgyen often repeated, "The true sign of practice is that you are naturally and effortlessly without fixation. Also, that you are endowed with devotion, compassion and pure perception, just like the sky is filled with the warmth of sunlight." When these arise naturally and spontaneously they touch everyone equally and free of bias, and the benefits even if imperceptible are immeasurable.

Never once did i ever hear Tulku Urgyen say that it was important to attain any siddhis, but rather the very opposite: "Do not attach any importance to temporary experiences, none whatsoever. There is only one thing to be confident in, the true state of realization that is unchanging like space. Understanding this is of utmost importance."

It's the little things that take us down in the end, but if one takes care of the little stuff, then perhaps the miracle that is at the root of all of samsara and nirvana will be recognized and enjoyed for the bliss that it truly is.


TUR bringing forth genuine and deeply felt devotion in your heart pensum might actually qualify as a siddhi, don't you think? Not to mention directly introducing you to your natural state, again and again. Emaho!

/magnus
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