Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Red Faced Buddha » Fri Oct 05, 2012 4:35 am

I'll admit he's right on a few counts.There's no historical evidence that Dharmakara existed.However,that doesn't mean he's doesn't exist.Christianity is based on a myth as well..Anyway,I don't think it's important whether Amitabha existed or not,I think it's what he represents(hard-work,selflessness,etc.)is in truth divine enough.
A person once asked me why I would want to stop rebirth. "It sounds pretty cool. Being able to come back. Who wouldn't want to be reborn."
I replied. "Wanting to be reborn is like wanting to stay in a jail cell, when you have the chance to go free and experience the whole wide world. Does a convict, on being freed from his shabby, constricting, little cell, suddenly say "I really want to go back to jail and be put in a cell. It sounds pretty cool. Being able to come back. Who wouldn't want that?"
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Nighthawk » Fri Oct 05, 2012 6:38 am

Red Faced Buddha wrote:I'll admit he's right on a few counts.There's no historical evidence that Dharmakara existed.However,that doesn't mean he's doesn't exist.Christianity is based on a myth as well..Anyway,I don't think it's important whether Amitabha existed or not,I think it's what he represents(hard-work,selflessness,etc.)is in truth divine enough.

If it is a myth how can we explain all the cases of practitioners and sages throughout the centuries who have had real life experiences of Amitabha through meditation and when approaching death? It would be complete arrogance to claim that what they experienced were hallucinations. One can say the same thing about the experiences of disciples and saints of Christianity but that path is a different one which leads to different results.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Namgyal » Fri Oct 05, 2012 9:55 am

In Buddhist academic circles, Dr. Williams credibility is zero. Firstly, he developed his own extreme and intolerant version of the Tibetan 'rangtongpa' view, then when he found that he couldn't dominate others with it as he had hoped, he converted to Catholicism, which he found to be a more effective support for his own extremism.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Mr. G » Fri Oct 05, 2012 12:44 pm

Raksha wrote:In Buddhist academic circles, Dr. Williams credibility is zero.


This is completely untrue.
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    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Namgyal » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:00 pm

His book 'Mahayana Buddhism' is well respected, but on a personal level it is a different story. I can only write from my own experience as a former Buddhist academic in the UK; I've often heard former colleagues laughing and hooting at him (admittedly behind his back). This is due to his years of castigating others from an extreme and untenable Tibetan Buddhist viewpoint, then suddenly having a bizarre volte-face in favour of Catholicism. If you believe that such ridicule on the part of his peers is a sign of credibility then clearly we have a difference of opinion.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Mr. G » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:14 pm

Raksha wrote:His book 'Mahayana Buddhism' is well respected, but as a scholar it is a different story. I can only write from my own experience as a former Buddhist academic in the UK; I've heard numerous former colleagues laughing and hooting at him on many occasions (admittedly behind his back). If you believe that such ridicule on the part of his peers is a sign of respect then clearly we have a difference of opinion.
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His books are used by the majority of universities in their introductory Buddhism classes. Though there are issues of interpretation, the research is fine. I could care less about academics gossiping like little girls behind a man's back, instead show me a published paper lambasting the majority of his academic work.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Namgyal » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:31 pm

Is it really possible to separate an individual from their work? Mary Wollstonecraft wrote an excellent early feminist work, 'A Vindication of the Rights of Women'(1792) but when it emerged after her death that her own life had fallen far short of the standards she exhorted in others, her credibility was destroyed. As for 'gossiping like little girls', I'm afraid that is the academy, it is no more than the collective opinions of one's peers. Lastly, I should point out that, in terms of veracity, the fact that the majority of people hold a particular view or opinion (or prefer a particular text) is irrelevant. Lots of people believe lots of nonsense.
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Red Faced Buddha » Fri Oct 05, 2012 1:39 pm

Nighthawk wrote:
Red Faced Buddha wrote:I'll admit he's right on a few counts.There's no historical evidence that Dharmakara existed.However,that doesn't mean he's doesn't exist.Christianity is based on a myth as well..Anyway,I don't think it's important whether Amitabha existed or not,I think it's what he represents(hard-work,selflessness,etc.)is in truth divine enough.

If it is a myth how can we explain all the cases of practitioners and sages throughout the centuries who have had real life experiences of Amitabha through meditation and when approaching death? It would be complete arrogance to claim that what they experienced were hallucinations. One can say the same thing about the experiences of disciples and saints of Christianity but that path is a different one which leads to different results.


Um,first of all,I did not say Amitabha was a myth.I was saying that even if he was a myth,and never historically existed,it wouldn't matter to me because of the traits Amitabha represents are enlightened.Secondly,what real life experiences.The only one I've heard of is that Thich Quang Duc,that monk who recited the Amitabha Sutra before he immolated himself :anjali: .
A person once asked me why I would want to stop rebirth. "It sounds pretty cool. Being able to come back. Who wouldn't want to be reborn."
I replied. "Wanting to be reborn is like wanting to stay in a jail cell, when you have the chance to go free and experience the whole wide world. Does a convict, on being freed from his shabby, constricting, little cell, suddenly say "I really want to go back to jail and be put in a cell. It sounds pretty cool. Being able to come back. Who wouldn't want that?"
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby Nighthawk » Sat Oct 06, 2012 2:52 am

Red Faced Buddha wrote:
Um,first of all,I did not say Amitabha was a myth.

I wasn't trying to imply that it's what you meant. I just wanted to make a point.
Secondly,what real life experiences.The only one I've heard of is that Thich Quang Duc,that monk who recited the Amitabha Sutra before he immolated himself :anjali: .

Check out these links.
viewtopic.php?f=60&t=9035
http://www.freesangha.com/forums/genera ... d-stories/
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Re: Paul Williams critique of Pure Land

Postby plassma » Wed Oct 10, 2012 5:25 am

I haven't posted on this board in a while but I just wanted to submit that I have ethical qualms about quoting something that someone said to you in a private conversation "off the record" in such a public setting.

EDIT: Also wanted to say that Mr. G is correct: Paul Williams's work is very highly regarded throughout academic Buddhist studies. His book on the doctrinal foundations of Mahayana Buddhism is an absolute landmark achievement.
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