Is modernity bad for practice?

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Nov 27, 2012 4:20 pm

futerko wrote:A large part of its appeal in the west is the degree of rationality to be found there (although Batchelor clearly goes too far in his reaction), but I think that the appeal to reason is the primary way for Dharma to gain a foothold in currently secular cultures.


Actually what we need is not so much intellectual appeals to reason, but yogis and yoginis with their wisdom and eloquent teachings demonstrating the capacity to remedy suffering.

However, on the intellectual side of things a lot of modern ideas will need to be re-evaluated sooner or later as the resource base that enables them comes to an end. We won't have the resource capacity for welfare states, feminism, universal education, consumerism and other such arrangements including even democracy (democracy over time sees to the diffusion of power, so much that too many competing interest groups cripple the state, which can no longer respond sufficiently well to problems).

Buddhism will hopefully be able to offer some solutions as modernity unravels and most of our cherished values and social arrangements become simply infeasible and uneconomical.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Tue Nov 27, 2012 6:58 pm

Huseng wrote:on the intellectual side of things a lot of modern ideas will need to be re-evaluated sooner or later as the resource base that enables them comes to an end. We won't have the resource capacity for welfare states, feminism, universal education, consumerism and other such arrangements including even democracy (democracy over time sees to the diffusion of power, so much that too many competing interest groups cripple the state, which can no longer respond sufficiently well to problems).


This doesn't really fly as stated. Most glaring is that 'consumerism' is mostly regarded as a pejorative description and not a favored modern intellectual value. Welfare is also not looked at enthusiastically. I don't understand what feminism and universal education have to do with sustainability. As for democracy, what is the alternative?

Buddhism will hopefully be able to offer some solutions as modernity unravels and most of our cherished values and social arrangements become simply infeasible and uneconomical.


"Modernity" cannot unravel, unless you're talking about returning to a new Dark Age. Many Western cherished values and social arrangements are already infeasible and always have been, in terms of sustainability. We've merely been living on credit, so to speak.

Buddhism has extremely low popularity and influential capacity in the West, so it seems highly unlikely that it will be of much help in the matter you describe.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby duckfiasco » Tue Nov 27, 2012 7:17 pm

Guys, it'll all be okay :group: Some people we see every day spend their lives in self-made hells. Others we can't see spend them in actual hell realms. You can be sure they're far worse than any new Dark Age. We better get busy with our practice! :cheers:
Please take the above post with a grain of salt.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby futerko » Tue Nov 27, 2012 7:24 pm

Huseng wrote:
futerko wrote:A large part of its appeal in the west is the degree of rationality to be found there (although Batchelor clearly goes too far in his reaction), but I think that the appeal to reason is the primary way for Dharma to gain a foothold in currently secular cultures.


Actually what we need is not so much intellectual appeals to reason, but yogis and yoginis with their wisdom and eloquent teachings demonstrating the capacity to remedy suffering.

However, on the intellectual side of things a lot of modern ideas will need to be re-evaluated sooner or later as the resource base that enables them comes to an end. We won't have the resource capacity for welfare states, feminism, universal education, consumerism and other such arrangements including even democracy (democracy over time sees to the diffusion of power, so much that too many competing interest groups cripple the state, which can no longer respond sufficiently well to problems).

Buddhism will hopefully be able to offer some solutions as modernity unravels and most of our cherished values and social arrangements become simply infeasible and uneconomical.


Your response is by itself based upon rational thought and an appeal to reason (i.e. it is thoroughly modern). Now had you said that the yogis were to use their magical powers to protect us from the evil supernatural being that is Maya, then your "reasoning" would match the content of your argument.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Nov 28, 2012 1:10 am

shel wrote:This doesn't really fly as stated. Most glaring is that 'consumerism' is mostly regarded as a pejorative description and not a favored modern intellectual value. Welfare is also not looked at enthusiastically. I don't understand what feminism and universal education have to do with sustainability. As for democracy, what is the alternative?


Consumerism is still mainstream. Call it low and base, but a lot of modern people devote themselves to home ownership, fashion and other such consumer related activities. Welfare is also a value that is widely cherished in much of the world. This extends from food handouts to shelters for abused women. These are good to have, but when energy becomes scarce, they will not be so readily economical.

Feminism with its ideas of the disposability of men and visions of society are fine in an energy rich world, but not in a world where energy is a lot more expensive and there are not so many resources available. That means gender roles will make sense again.

Universal education as we have it now is designed to produce a homogenized workforce that operates more or less on the same page. After the industrial revolution the idea of universal education was set in motion with the rewarding result that it produced very capable workers to run the industrial machine. As there is less energy available in the future, such a system will become unaffordable and moreover unnecessary and the need for industrial workers and those working in subsequent realms dies down. Again, an organic retreat to older ideas that are feasible in energy poor circumstances.

Democracy results from a failure of earlier system to address and solve problems. From chaos a society will elect to put all their power into a single authority which then has the ability to create some degree of stability and order. In due time such a kingship fails for various reasons and the result is a junta or aristocracy running things. In due time this also fails leading to people demanding, or just by necessity, running things themselves as small groups (in our day this is political parties and interest groups). In time this fails as well and the cycle repeats itself. This is Polybius' theory of the cycle of government systems, which is actually quite on the mark when examining history.

The dispersion of power eventually renders democracy unfit to solve problems and chaos ensues. There is no set time frame for this, but it happens sooner or later. I don't really think democracy as we have it now is sustainable because citizenry are dependent emotionally and materially on states which are either corrupt despite being elected or simply hounded by too many competing power groups to get anything done. Just look at the democratic response to climate change!



"Modernity" cannot unravel, unless you're talking about returning to a new Dark Age.


That's exactly what I'm talking about.

We're transitioning right now from an era of cheap energy (oil) to expensive energy (tar sands, heavy crude, etc...) and in the long-term even those fossil fuels have their economic and physical limits, to say nothing of environmental consequences. Alternative energy sources don't have the same energy return on invested energy and ultimately if you do the numbers they can't support our standard of living. Think of the trillions of dollars of infrastructure that depends on petroleum. Nuclear has its limits and depends on fossil fuels as well.

We overshot our resource base and the complexity of our societies is becoming unaffordable. Voluntary simplification seldom happens and the stress eventually topples the system. Throughout history this is how societies rise and fall. Rome is the classic example. When a society collapses, you get a subsequent dark age.

We're not immune to the vicissitudes of history. Progress is not linear.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:01 am

I guess that I don't understand what the point is, Huseng. Was there ever a time or place where our current modern conveniences would be wisely abstained from? Some individuals might have abstained, but most likely out of fear rather than wisdom. Indeed, how could a wise choice be made unless the consequences of the choice were known?
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Nov 28, 2012 2:39 am

shel wrote:I guess that I don't understand what the point is, Huseng. Was there ever a time or place where our current modern conveniences would be wisely abstained from? Some individuals might have abstained, but most likely out of fear rather than wisdom. Indeed, how could a wise choice be made unless the consequences of the choice were known?


My point above is that regardless of how we feel about modernity and how much we might cherish some aspects of it, it will start unraveling and we'll have to address the new circumstances as they arise in an intelligent manner. The paradigm shift will bring vast amounts of suffering (look at what is happening in Greece and imagine that on a global scale), and hopefully Buddhism will be able to offer some degree of remedy for the psychological strain that will accompany economic, social and environmental decline.

So, it might be best to abandon a lot of modern conveniences and assumptions ahead of time. This means preserving health, families and communities.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby jeeprs » Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:15 am

The simple reason modernity is antagonistic to spiritual practice, is because there is no concept of 'ignorance' and therefore no understanding of the need for wisdom. There is no concept of moral law, as such. Moral laws are of course represented in the Judeo Christian heritage, and maintained by the believers in those faiths, but in the scientific-secular view of life, all such things are the result of evolutionary adaptions, and have no intrinsic reality. This relativizes all morality. Of course liberalism will respect the individual conscience so if you advocate Buddhism, it is constitutionally protected as freedom of religion. But at the same time, it subjectivizes it by saying that it is 'a matter of private conscience'.

As long as the dark foundation of our nature, grim in its all-encompassing egoism, mad in its drive to make that egoism into reality, to devour everything and to define everything by itself, as long as that foundation is visible, as long as this truly original sin exists within us, we have no business here and there is no logical answer to our existence. Imagine a group of people who are all blind, deaf and slightly demented and suddenly someone in the crowd asks, "What are we to do?" The only possible answer is, "Look for a cure". Until you are cured, there is nothing you can do. And since you don't believe you are sick, there can be no cure."


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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby futerko » Wed Nov 28, 2012 3:38 am

"The whole universe has four great cycles: creation, remaining, destruction, and finally voidness. These four periods are together called a mahakapla, a great aeon. In the end the universe will be totally destroyed seven times by the element of fire, and once by the element of water.
…The fire will consume the lower realms, such as the hells, and will move up through the higher realms until it reaches the Brahma Realm, the world of long-living gods. Above the Brahma Realm are other god realms where the gods live for ten million years or more. The young gods will ask their elders, "What is this great fire consuming everything?" and the old gods will say, "Don't worry. This has happened many times before. It won’t harm us, but disappear again." In short, whatever we now conceive of as the universe will be completely destroyed and finally disappear. At the conclusion of this mahakapla, the entire world system will vanish." (Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, The Union of Mahamudra and Dzogchen, p.61)

I find that somewhat puts things in perspective. If you do take the view of rebirth and other realms seriously, it would seem there's no good reason to sweat the small stuff.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Wed Nov 28, 2012 6:01 am

Huseng wrote:
shel wrote:I guess that I don't understand what the point is, Huseng. Was there ever a time or place where our current modern conveniences would be wisely abstained from? Some individuals might have abstained, but most likely out of fear rather than wisdom. Indeed, how could a wise choice be made unless the consequences of the choice were known?


My point above is that regardless of how we feel about modernity and how much we might cherish some aspects of it, it will start unraveling and we'll have to address the new circumstances as they arise in an intelligent manner. The paradigm shift will bring vast amounts of suffering (look at what is happening in Greece and imagine that on a global scale), and hopefully Buddhism will be able to offer some degree of remedy for the psychological strain that will accompany economic, social and environmental decline.

So, it might be best to abandon a lot of modern conveniences and assumptions ahead of time. This means preserving health, families and communities.


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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Wed Nov 28, 2012 6:22 am

jeeprs wrote:The simple reason modernity is antagonistic to spiritual practice,...

Modernity is not antagonistic to spiritual practice. Are there not literally millions of spiritual practitioners today?

... is because there is no concept of 'ignorance' and therefore no understanding of the need for wisdom.

There are many many philosophical, religious, spiritual and scientific concepts today. Wisdom is valued, but probably not as much as it should be. That has nothing directly due to not knowing religious doctrine.

There is no concept of moral law, as such. Moral laws are of course represented in the Judeo Christian heritage, and maintained by the believers in those faiths, but in the scientific-secular view of life, all such things are the result of evolutionary adaptions, and have no intrinsic reality.

Have no intrinsic reality? Moral intrinsic reality in Buddhism is based in cause and effect, yes? That's how it is in the scientific-secular view also.

This relativizes all morality.

If Buddhist moral law is absolute, who makes the absolute laws?
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Yudron » Wed Nov 28, 2012 6:23 am

Huseng wrote:
shel wrote:I guess that I don't understand what the point is, Huseng. Was there ever a time or place where our current modern conveniences would be wisely abstained from? Some individuals might have abstained, but most likely out of fear rather than wisdom. Indeed, how could a wise choice be made unless the consequences of the choice were known?


My point above is that regardless of how we feel about modernity and how much we might cherish some aspects of it, it will start unraveling and we'll have to address the new circumstances as they arise in an intelligent manner. The paradigm shift will bring vast amounts of suffering (look at what is happening in Greece and imagine that on a global scale), and hopefully Buddhism will be able to offer some degree of remedy for the psychological strain that will accompany economic, social and environmental decline.

So, it might be best to abandon a lot of modern conveniences and assumptions ahead of time. This means preserving health, families and communities.


I don't share your pessimism. I'm not optimistic, either. Things just cycle up and down in this human realm. :|
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby jeeprs » Wed Nov 28, 2012 6:31 am

Shel wrote:Moral intrinsic reality in Buddhism is based in cause and effect, yes? That's how it is in the scientific-secular view also.


I beg to differ. The idea of the laws of science do not extend at all to questions of ethics. According to the secular-scientific worldview, ethics are grounded in Darwinian principles, in other words, they serve only the purposes of survival. In fact, there is no purpose other than survival. According to the strict scientific materialists, life itself originated fortuitously. (Interestingly, this very idea is criticized as ucchevavada in the Brahmajāla Sutta. Bikkhu Bodhi actually remarks 'this has become the dominant outlook of the present-day materialist, which he takes to be the dictum conclusively proven by modern science’ in his commentary on same.)

The divorce between science and ethics, or facts and values, goes back to David Hume, and his famous distinction between 'is' and 'ought'. Since then the predominant view of Western philosophy is that the Universe is absent of any intrinsic meaning or purpose. These are strictly human notions and are attributable solely to evolutionary requirements.

I have argued this point at length on secular forums, of course there is a divergence of views, but those who identify themselves as atheist generally always insist that the notion of morality is a human invention that can be explained in evolutionary terms. As a Buddhist, I feel obliged to disagree with that outlook.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:51 am

jeeprs wrote:
Shel wrote:Moral intrinsic reality in Buddhism is based in cause and effect, yes? That's how it is in the scientific-secular view also.


I beg to differ. The idea of the laws of science do not extend at all to questions of ethics. According to the secular-scientific worldview, ethics are grounded in Darwinian principles, in other words, they serve only the purposes of survival. In fact, there is no purpose other than survival. According to the strict scientific materialists, life itself originated fortuitously. (Interestingly, this very idea is criticized as ucchevavada in the Brahmajāla Sutta. Bikkhu Bodhi actually remarks 'this has become the dominant outlook of the present-day materialist, which he takes to be the dictum conclusively proven by modern science’ in his commentary on same.)

The divorce between science and ethics, or facts and values, goes back to David Hume, and his famous distinction between 'is' and 'ought'. Since then the predominant view of Western philosophy is that the Universe is absent of any intrinsic meaning or purpose. These are strictly human notions and are attributable solely to evolutionary requirements.

I have argued this point at length on secular forums, of course there is a divergence of views, but those who identify themselves as atheist generally always insist that the notion of morality is a human invention that can be explained in evolutionary terms. As a Buddhist, I feel obliged to disagree with that outlook.
And with respect, as a Buddhist, I would argue that they are right.

Of course, I do not know the arguments you posted against the Materialists so I will make assumptions:

Morality is a human invention that can be explained in evolutionary terms. Morality isn't karma. Morality are rules. Karma is a natural force. In other words, Buddhist morality is a means to an end: to avoid harmful karma and generate beneficial karma. Not an end in of itself: rules and rituals followed because 'I'm Buddhist and have to follow Buddhist rules'.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby jeeprs » Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:55 am

Karma is not recognized as 'a natural force' by Western philosophy or science, because their conception of what is natural doesn't accomodate it.

Would you agree that the definition of 'beneficial karma' is 'what is beneficial for the survival of the species'? Or do you think 'karma' has other meanings as well?
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Nov 28, 2012 7:58 am

jeeprs wrote:Karma is not recognized as 'a natural force' by Western philosophy or science, because their conception of what is natural doesn't accomodate it.
Yes... But I was speaking from our point of view

jeeprs wrote:Would you agree that the definition of 'beneficial karma' is 'what is beneficial for the survival of the species'? Or do you think 'karma' has other meanings as well?
No, beneficial for the individual. For example, the karma to have wealth.
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Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Nov 28, 2012 8:47 am

shel wrote:Modernity is not antagonistic to spiritual practice. Are there not literally millions of spiritual practitioners today?


And how many arhats and first-stage or above bodhisattvas do we readily see?

Quantity does not mean quality.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:29 am

jeeprs wrote:
Shel wrote:Moral intrinsic reality in Buddhism is based in cause and effect, yes? That's how it is in the scientific-secular view also.


I beg to differ. The idea of the laws of science do not extend at all to questions of ethics.

The idea of scientific principles do not extend at all to questions of ethics. What does that mean?

There are various scientific principles. There can be various ideas about scientific principles.

Whatever you're trying to say, the fact is that ethics can be studied scientifically. Theories can be developed and with experimentation, validated learning or scientific principles might be shared. Please try to keep in mind that scientific principles are not set in stone, they can change with new understanding.

According to the secular-scientific worldview, ethics are grounded in Darwinian principles, in other words, they serve only the purposes of survival. In fact, there is no purpose other than survival.

If "Darwinian principles" are scientific principles, and ethics are grounded in Darwinian principles, it would seem that scientific principles do extend to questions of ethics, contrary to your previous sentence. Whatever the case, I think it might be more accurate to say that according to at least one secular view, and perhaps some scientific views, ethics are based in gene propagation. This is just one way of looking at it of course, but it can be a very useful way of looking at it. There are other ways of looking at it.

The divorce between science and ethics, or facts and values, goes back to David Hume, and his famous distinction between 'is' and 'ought'.

There has never been a divorce between facts and values. Obviously, facts do not all have the same value, and value can be quantified. The marriage between facts and values can't be broken, even by Hume.

Since then the predominant view of Western philosophy is that the Universe is absent of any intrinsic meaning or purpose.

What is the intrinsic meaning or purpose in the Universe according to Buddhism???

These are strictly human notions and are attributable solely to evolutionary requirements.

You're not suggesting that this is a scientific view are you?

I have argued this point at length on secular forums...

Frankly your point is not at all clear. I suggested that moral "intrinsic reality" in Buddhism is based in cause & effect, and that the scientific-secular view is also. You mentioned Darwinian principles of evolution, well, isn't that principle of evolution based in cause & effect? One thing leads to another and eventually an ape evolves into a homo sapien...
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:32 am

Huseng wrote:
shel wrote:Modernity is not antagonistic to spiritual practice. Are there not literally millions of spiritual practitioners today?


And how many arhats and first-stage or above bodhisattvas do we readily see?

Quantity does not mean quality.


How can modernity be blamed for that? Any reliable statistics on the quantity of arhats and first-stage or above bodhisattvas in the premodern world?
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby muni » Wed Nov 28, 2012 9:35 am

ground wrote:Honestly - from the heart - only practice is bad for non-practice.

:meditate:


:meditate: :!:

Ah yes. If not there is distraction by speed, planning, preparing of events; mind running away by images of the future or recollections, remembrances of the past. It is said that there can only be awareness of the mind and its fullness 'in the present moment'.
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