Is modernity bad for practice?

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Nov 29, 2012 5:36 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:Problem with this discussion is that all those involved in it have only lived during the modernist period.

You know what? today, everything beeps. the stove beeps, the phone beeps,
the car beeps, the washing machine beeps, the camera beeps.
beep beep beep. When I was a kid, hardly anything beeped.
Aside from that, I don't think technology is any better or worse, meaning specifically,
a distraction from dharma practice, than it ever was before.
And I don't think technology is making people suffer more either.
it is increasing lifespans which gives a person more time to meditate.
It increases the number of people being born into the human realm
which might be bad for the planet, but great for one's dharma practice to be a human.
And by making warfare more sophisticated,
instead of two thousand people facing each other as they did in battlefields only a hundred years ago,
hacking each other to pieces and shooting at teach other until only a few remain standing,
warfare can be waged mechanically, from thousands of miles away.
this in itself is still awful, perhaps desensitizing, even cruel
but compared with battlefield combat, overall much better.
A lot of problems result from technology too
But, i think, being an excuse for not practicing dharma isn't one of them.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu Nov 29, 2012 6:57 pm

Whenever I see someone wax philosophical over the horrors of the modern age, and present some idealized, neo-luddite view of the past I just look up an article on medieval torture devices, crusaders eating people, public disembowelings etc.

Maybe there are things that are distracting to Dharma practice in terms of the world having more opportunities for clinging to pleasure or being distracted, but in terms of the other end, -human misery and degradation- I think a reasonable argument could be made that modernity has brought some degree of "progress" in some areas, however imperfect, however stacked the deck still is. As an example, today in some societies the use of torture is actually debated..the fact that it is even debated at all is in some sense progress from the past, at one time it was simply the way business was done. Obviously torture is still widespread, but again, the fact that there is even an idea out there of universal human rights etc. is in my opinion a point scored for modernity. However poorly these ideas are practiced, it's hard to argue that from a point of human misery that the past was somehow "better" on the whole.

Beeps do suck though.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby floating_abu » Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:07 pm

Modernity? This conversation is funny. When has it ever not been modern, every age was modern once and every age will continue to be. It's always the same players though, different costumes, different settings, maybe some different props - but same heart principles at work...that's how it works...

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby duckfiasco » Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:34 pm

If anyone waxes nostalgic for the 1600s, just give "Game of Thrones" a read and you'll quickly disabuse yourself of that! :rolling:
Please take the above post with a grain of salt.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby floating_abu » Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:34 pm

greentara wrote:"The idea of going off to a cave somewhere to meditate, or of being alone, is very attractive because as you settle into solitude, you do experience a level of tranquillity through lack of sensory stimulation. It is a kind of sensory deprivation. But that kind of tranquillity is easily disturbed. When the sensory impingements start pounding away at you again, you can get into, ‘Let me go to my cave.’ You can begin to hate people. You see them always as a threat. ‘Here they come again. They’re going to disrupt my samadhi.’ So, this couldn’t possibly be the way to liberation.

The other extreme is to think that you should not go off to the cave and should not practise meditation. Sometimes you hear people say that one need only be natural and let everything happen. This is true if you can do it, but if you don’t even know what is natural yet, it’s difficult to trust yourself."
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby floating_abu » Thu Nov 29, 2012 7:35 pm

Thus-gone wrote:It should be pretty obvious to any intelligent person that blanket statements like "this is bad" or "this is good", that do not admit of any possible complexity or ambiguity, are at best mistaken and at worst propaganda. The question of modernity and its relation to practice (among many other things) is not some simple equation, but a very complex question.


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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Thu Nov 29, 2012 8:40 pm

Thrasymachus wrote:@Shel:
If domination was always the case, will always be, or was there before is immaterial. Science is a corpus of knowledge, a methodology whereby the processes of the cosmos are reduced to small, palpable concepts by humans. We are told this out of impassioned pursuit, but this is not so. The knowledge thus obtained is meant to be utilized, to be acted upon.

Who knows if the human desire for domination will always be. Not everyone desires domination today. People change, cultures change and species change. Realizing the impact of expressing the desire can help us to change.

"Science is a corpus of knowledge, a methodology whereby the processes of the cosmos are reduced to small, palpable concepts by humans." You mean something like reducing the meaning and purpose of the entire universe to "awakening"? Granted awakening is only palpable to pretty much no one.

There is a great series on television called Tribal Odyssey. One on program they had some Pacific islands primitive tribe. The whole entire episode was about how they cut down a tree for a canoe, so they had a whole celebration replete with songs, dancing, prostrations and ceremony to satiate the Spirit of the Trees. Sure their society was no utopia, they likely had domination, but how much could they have? At most they could conquer the next tribe. The United States and a few key allies meanwhile administer, oppress and rob most the globe and the average American shares an unwarranted level of consumption and has the average body mass of 1.5 people. Yet still we are an intensely dissatisfied people for the all that trouble, effort and misery. Our science has freed us from their type of denigrated superstition, but when they did a tiny bit of work for an entire tribe to make a canoe or a few canoes, they stopped and sang and celebrated to please their spirits. To modern tastes, it seems a waste and inefficient to go to all that trouble for something that likely doesn't objectively exist. In our minds it considered much better to work faster with no stop to please pesky animistic spirits, even if the only those few enjoying the fruits of surplus labor enjoy all that wealth.

This is merely a cultural difference, Thrasymachus. Many of the rituals that we engage in our cultures today would surely puzzle 'primitive' Pacific islanders in their apparent silliness and wasted effort.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby tobes » Thu Nov 29, 2012 10:10 pm

jeeprs wrote:
Tobes wrote:Dharma has many translations, as you point out, but I think in this context, 'way' is better than law. And 'the way' is important, principally for what it leads to - not for what it is in itself.


The translation of 'dharma' as 'moral law' or 'moral principle' is not controversial.

According to our secular-scientific mindset, there is nothing to lead to and, accordingly, no 'way'.



Sure, but in attacking a secular-scientific mindset, why do you need to assert Buddhist ethics as universal?

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby tobes » Thu Nov 29, 2012 10:17 pm

jeeprs wrote:
Where is it denied? Why is the Buddha the 'World-Honoured one', the 'teacher of Gods and men'? What of the legends of the appearance of the Buddhas on 'all the life bearing orbs of the cosmos'? Whence the notion that the Buddhas incarnate endlessly for 'the benefit of all sentient beings'? In what sense is Buddhism not a 'universal religion'?

My response to that it that is really found only in the unconditioned - and that always lies beyond assertion (and also: beyond action, beyond merit, beyond consequence - beyond ethics).


...and certainly beyond the premisses of scientific materialism.


By virtue of what is the Buddha a world honoured one and by virtue of what could Buddhism be considered a universal religion? Surely it is in the universality of his awakening, not the particularity of his highly contextual teachings.

I'm not defending materialism here - of course the possibility of attaining the unconditioned is beyond the premises of scientific materialism.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Thu Nov 29, 2012 10:46 pm

tobes wrote:the possibility of attaining the unconditioned is beyond the premises of scientific materialism.


Because to attain the unconditioned metaphysical premises are required? What premises are material?
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby tobes » Thu Nov 29, 2012 10:55 pm

shel wrote:
tobes wrote:the possibility of attaining the unconditioned is beyond the premises of scientific materialism.


Because to attain the unconditioned metaphysical premises are required? What premises are material?


1/Not necessarily. My own view is that they are a tremendous help though.

2/None. But some premises assert the parametres of the empirical as their sole locus, others do not.


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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Thu Nov 29, 2012 11:07 pm

Observation or experience rather than theory or pure logic might, but not necessarily, limit the possibility of attaining the unconditioned. Who could argue with that.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby jeeprs » Thu Nov 29, 2012 11:09 pm

tobes wrote:in attacking a secular-scientific mindset, why do you need to assert Buddhist ethics as universal?


What I said was
jeeprs wrote:(In the secular-scientific worldview) 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.


I think you took exception to the word 'intrinsic'. In any case, the key idea is 'lawful': that is, real, part of reality, not subsidiary to the purposes of survival, nor simply a matter of social convention.

Tobes wrote:By virtue of what is the Buddha a world honoured one and by virtue of what could Buddhism be considered a universal religion?


The Buddhist answer is: by virtue of awakening to pratītyasamutpāda, the Law of Conditioned Origination. From the Buddhist perspective, this is indeed a universal law, and it governs the affairs of every living being, even those in other realms.

There is no compulsion for you to believe that this is a law, but I think it is safe to say that Buddhists generally do so consider it.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Thu Nov 29, 2012 11:23 pm

jeeprs wrote:What I said was
jeeprs wrote:(In the secular-scientific worldview) 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.


I think you took exception to the word 'intrinsic'. In any case, the key idea is 'lawful': that is, real, part of reality, not subsidiary to the purposes of survival, nor simply a matter of social convention.

It sounds like you're trying to say that moral law exists by itself, that it exists even where no sentient beings exist. Metaphysical and unchanging?
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby catmoon » Thu Nov 29, 2012 11:30 pm

@ Tobes:


I am wondering if you would agree that your gist could be phrased as follows:

A modern highly technological society is a very different environment from a pre-tech, agrarian one. Dharma can be practiced equally well in either, but we are a bit short in the skillful means department these days. This shortage makes current, urban practice a bit difficult.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby kirtu » Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:41 am

Huseng wrote:I've come to think that modernity as a whole is bad for practice. Despite all the science, information, medical care and women's rights we have, a lot of what we're brought up with and have to deal with throughout life is contrary to the path. We're brought up in an education system that teaches materialism as the default worldview. We have to think about capitalism versus socialism. We've got entertainment of all sorts to distract us. We have to function in a cash economy and this means working on a schedule rather than at your own pace most of the time. Modernity is exhausting and the system is setup to have people be productive, which means not having the energy and time to devote oneself to spiritual pursuits. The worst is the amount of doubt most modern people have to contend with when facing questions like rebirth, karma and so on.


We can change that an create an actual Shambhala on Planet Earth. This doesn't mean that we can transform established countries into Shambhala though but we can build an actual enlightened society that isn't rooted in either a materialistic or a medieval mind view.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby catmoon » Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:26 am

kirtu wrote:
We can change that an create an actual Shambhala on Planet Earth. This doesn't mean that we can transform established countries into Shambhala though but we can build an actual enlightened society that isn't rooted in either a materialistic or a medieval mind view.

Kirt


And should we succeed, we'd think of it as THE modern society, and we'd look at previous societies as sort of barbarian.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby jeeprs » Fri Nov 30, 2012 2:59 am

shel wrote:It sounds like you're trying to say that moral law exists by itself, that it exists even where no sentient beings exist. Metaphysical and unchanging?


If you say 'where does this law exist?', the answer is the same as when you ask where the Buddha 'goes' when he dies. That answer that is given rhetorically as 'where does the fire go, when it is extinguished'? (more here.)

So the law doesn't 'exist where no sentient beings exist' - but it will never fail to operate wherever they do, and furthermore, it is through its operation that they come into existence in the first place. Even so it is never a question of 'where it exists' or whether it is 'external or internal' and so on.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby songhill » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:12 am

Modernity (i.e., the state of being modern) is bad for Buddhism, overall, if we are talking about secular modernity (secular modernity assumes the superiority of human reason as compared with other means of knowledge).
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Fri Nov 30, 2012 3:26 am

songhill wrote:Modernity (i.e., the state of being modern) is bad for Buddhism, overall, if we are talking about secular modernity (secular modernity assumes the superiority of human reason as compared with other means of knowledge).


Actually it's the prerogative of modernity to compare reason with other means of knowledge.
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