Myth in Buddhism

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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Apr 10, 2013 4:33 pm

Huseng wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:You are jumping to conclusions. The Karma Kagyu tradition emphasises practice over study that is for sure.


Am I jumping to conclusions? Said sentiments seem common amongst Kagyu and Nyingma folks, at least in my experience.
Yes you are, because you are claiming that because Kagyupa do not emphasise intellectual understanding over practical realisation it means they do not engage in it (and go so far as to label them anti-intellectual). They are not anti-intellectual per se, they just emphasise practical realisation over intellectual understanding. They do not oppose intellectual understanding (which the term "anti-" defines).
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 10, 2013 4:36 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:Yes you are, because you are claiming that because Kagyupa do not emphsise intellectual understanding over practical realisation it means they do not engage in it (and go so far as to label them anti-intellectual). They are not anti-intellectual per se, they just emphasise practical realisation over intellectual understanding. they do not oppose intellectual understanding (which the term "anti-" defines).


Wouldn't you say there is at least the stereotype of bookish intellectuals directed against Gelugpas and Sakyapas?
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sherlock » Wed Apr 10, 2013 4:51 pm

Huseng wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:Yes you are, because you are claiming that because Kagyupa do not emphsise intellectual understanding over practical realisation it means they do not engage in it (and go so far as to label them anti-intellectual). They are not anti-intellectual per se, they just emphasise practical realisation over intellectual understanding. they do not oppose intellectual understanding (which the term "anti-" defines).


Wouldn't you say there is at least the stereotype of bookish intellectuals directed against Gelugpas and Sakyapas?

I have only received the Khon Vajrakilaya transmission from HHST (which is a "Nyingma" transmission within Sakya) but my impression is that the Sakyapas strike a good balance between practice and study. There seems to be more of a tendency for Gelugpas to emphasize intellectual study at the expense of practice. I think the Nyingmapas are much more varied, it varies from lineage to lineage, monastery to monastery.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:12 pm

Huseng wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:Huseng can never be a Buddhist teacher.
Doing so would contradict his philosophy.

As I said, ideally a teacher does not call him/herself as such, but instead it is a title used by their students when addressing them. I'm not propagating a "Dharma of no teacher". I'm questioning the myth of transmission and, more importantly, the question of whether or not having a master is a prerequisite for liberation.


So, you aren't declaring outright that a teacher isn't necessary,
but you are expressing doubts that teacher is necessary?
Hmmmm....okay.

I thought that this was what you were professing:
Huseng wrote: The idea of dharma transmission historically has not functioned as it has been prescribed, though many believe otherwise and don't recognize earlier and present precedents. Descriptively, it is a social construct which legitimizes institutional authority. You are are ostensibly qualified to run the show and teach if you have Dharma transmission. As I said elsewhere, I don't believe in this myth. I would rather see a kind of meritocracy where people are judged capable by virtue of their good qualities, practice and learning.

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Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:17 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:16 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:So, you aren't declaring outright that a teacher isn't necessary,
but you are expressing doubts that teacher is necessary?
Hmmmm....okay.


Do you understand what "prerequisite" means?

A formal master might be unnecessary, but still helpful and beneficial.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:17 pm

Huseng wrote:Wouldn't you say there is at least the stereotype of bookish intellectuals directed against Gelugpas and Sakyapas?
From my experience, the only real beef Kagyupas have with the Gleugpas is poltical in nature, it's got little to do with their Dharma "style".
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Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:22 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:From my experience, the only real beef Kagyupas have with the Gleugpas is poltical in nature, it's got litle to do with their Dharma "style".


Okay, well here in India and in Nepal I have had a different experience.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:31 pm

Huseng wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:So, you aren't declaring outright that a teacher isn't necessary,
but you are expressing doubts that teacher is necessary?
Hmmmm....okay.


Do you understand what "prerequisite" means?
A formal master might be unnecessary, but still helpful and beneficial.


I've never known teachers to make the distinction.
I think you are talking about the nature of the relationship,
that something casual is just as good as some idea of some sort of strict thing.
This doesn't have anything to do with Myth or transmission,
or about the characteristics of the teacher,
but about the dynamics of the teacher-student interaction.

Casual (teacher-student) or formal (master-pupil) all depends on the situation between the two.
My teachers have a lot of "weekend buddhists" for students,
as well as many who are devoted to very intense study and practice, even solitary retreats.
You are right, everyone can benefit from a good teacher
regardless of the level of commitment.
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Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby conebeckham » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:34 pm

Huseng wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:I am sure that hundreds, maybe thousands of people have had full realization without a teacher.
Please name one.
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It is sufficient to call the Buddha your teacher and leave it at that.


Well....therein lies a problem--if you're speaking of Sakyamuni Buddha. One must then decide what part of the canon represents the Buddha, and what part may not, as there's precious little chance of actually meeting Sakyamuni in the flesh.

As noted by others, Sakyamuni had gurus--depending on which version of Buddhist myth one subscribes to, in fact, he was enlightened before he was born!

GreenTara, Marpa certainly had teachers--I can assure you. Maitripa and Naropa (though I know there's some dispute about that), and the Phamting Brothers, and many others- after all, Marpa went to India for a reason!

I also want to echo Buddhasoup's words--this is a valuable conversation, and has largely been a thoughtful one. But I am positive that Huseng values meditation, and likely has done more of it than those who are exhorting him to stare at a wall. Sara, I'm talking to you. Your assumption that Huseng is merely an "Intellectual Buddhist" is misplaced, I think.

It would seem to me that if one believes a teacher is necessary, then "transmission" is also a given. That is what any teacher does, right? Transmits something to the student? Now, of course the student must be an active participant, and the mode of transmission, not to mention the material being transmitted, can differ in description pretty radically--from the Theras, to the Vajrayana lineages, to the Zen Transmission, to monastic vows, etc., etc.

Perhaps we need to define what exactly this transmission Huseng takes issue with is? As I said earlier, I believe in transmission--it is a viable and living part of my tradition. But I also take issue with a "transmission of authority" over institutions, etc.--or, at least, I see the potential pitfalls and abuses of such a vesting, if wisdom is not a determining factor in such vesting of authority.

That, to me, is the main issue.

As an aside, I think there is some truth to the "Study/Practice" generalizations that are made regarding the Tibetan lineages--historically, and institutionally, we can't deny that the Gelukpas traditionally require long study prior to engaging in Tantra. These days it's different, but that was the tradition in Tibet, for sure. Contrast that with the Ngakpa model of Nyingmapas. But these are generalizations---study is essential in Kagyu and Nyingma, and meditation practice is equally essential, even to those starting with the Lam Rim.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby uan » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:36 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Huseng wrote:Wouldn't you say there is at least the stereotype of bookish intellectuals directed against Gelugpas and Sakyapas?
From my experience, the only real beef Kagyupas have with the Gleugpas is poltical in nature, it's got litle to do with their Dharma "style".


Hence the Rime movement within TB, to get beyond the sectarianism.

One of the problems of pointing to the little internecine battles of traditions we are not part of - we use some surface elements of them to prop up points that we try to make elsewhere, but on closer inspection, it's just another in the line of myths we create for ourselves. This is where being self taught can lead to problems - one doesn't know when one is going, intellectually, off the rails. Confirmation bias is also another real danger.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby uan » Wed Apr 10, 2013 5:54 pm

This discussion seems to be missing the real myths that Buddhism tries to address, either intellectually or through practice.

There is the myth of "things as they are."
Then there is the myth of "how things should be."

There is also the the myth that the words we (I'm) using, let alone the large concepts we (I) use, are being understood the way we (I) understand them, or mean for them to be understood.

One example brought a few pages back was on the idea of "secret", as in "secret teachings." It's a poor choice of words in that it really doesn't capture the essence, at least from my experience and instructions, of what is meant. It is more along the lines of "differential calculus is a secret teaching to a high schooler learning Algebra and Geometry." It's more about the student being prepared to handle the material. A high schooler could sit in on a calculus class, but it they don't know Algebra, of what use will it have or understanding will they get from it? The same is true with certain practices.

Yet often, secret teachings are used as an example of the exclusive nature of certain schools of Buddhism, etc, where it's implied that the casual Buddhist is being kept away from trainings as a form of control (which may be true in some cases).

There are probably many other similar examples of how we don't understand the language in the same, and some more relevant to certain individuals, and less relevant to others.

Regards to teachers/gurus. From my own experience, many gurus/teachers actually look upon themselves less as 'teacher" and more as spiritual guides. In part it is an awareness of the duality involved if one gets to into a teacher/student paradigm, especially as something that is static and unchanging. In part it is the knowledge that ultimately the student has to discover the Buddha nature within him/herself. (please note, this is from my own experience, which specifically does NOT include American Zen traditions or schools :) )
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby shel » Wed Apr 10, 2013 7:15 pm

uan wrote:This is where being self taught can lead to problems - one doesn't know when one is going, intellectually, off the rails.


It's not like a spiritual guide will be an instant remedy to such a problem. It may take just as long to get 'back on the rails' by own's own power, and indeed this would be far better in any case, because there wouldn't be the crutch of the guide.

Confirmation bias is also another real danger.


This can happen in any situation where we want to believe. Myths are alluring, they tap deep seated archetypal impulses, and because of that it might be fair to say we all want to believe them, to some degree.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby jeeprs » Thu Apr 11, 2013 2:41 am

Conebeckham wrote: Your assumption that Huseng is merely an "Intellectual Buddhist" is misplaced, I think.


Actually I think I can own up to having made the distinction between 'mystics and scholastics' in relation to this point

Huseng wrote:I don't understand this deep prejudice against written words. Scriptures were penned down so people could read them. Reading is not unlike listening in that you receive and comprehend the ideas of another. Arguably written words are better in some contexts because you can always reread and clarify the meaning of words you don't understand.


and further down the same page

Huseng wrote:However, with discourse and logical analysis it is very clear whether somebody has understood the subject or not, and they can be called out on their wrong interpretations as well.


That was the context in which I made the distinction between 'scholastics and mystics'. I didn't mean to disparage the scholarly approach - what I was trying to do was make a distinction, which I think is germane to this particular debate, for the simple reason that the 'founding myth' of Zen speaks of 'the subtle dharma gate that does not rest on words or letters but is a special transmission outside of the scriptures.' So such an approach might have no attraction for one who understands the subject through scriptural analysis, dialectic and debate. I didn't say it was worse or better - simply different.

But at the bottom of it, there is this lovely image - The Buddha holds up a flower and smiles, and one of the disciples smiles - 'gets it', so to speak. It is really quite a simple idea, which looses a lot of its meaning when it becomes subject to debate.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 11, 2013 2:59 am

uan wrote:This is where being self taught can lead to problems - one doesn't know when one is going, intellectually, off the rails. Confirmation bias is also another real danger.


Plenty of people with teachers have clearly gone off the rails. Some of them are prominent authors, too.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby uan » Thu Apr 11, 2013 4:47 am

Huseng wrote:
uan wrote:This is where being self taught can lead to problems - one doesn't know when one is going, intellectually, off the rails. Confirmation bias is also another real danger.


Plenty of people with teachers have clearly gone off the rails. Some of them are prominent authors, too.


I'd agree.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 11, 2013 9:40 am

Who would volunteer for years of intense mental torture and abuse, even beatings?


I've noticed a tendency amongst Buddhists to justify the abuse they suffered from their superiors as something edifying and ultimately worthwhile. It is like a kind of coping mechanism to explain the irrational and horrid behaviour of someone they are or were emotionally invested in.

This again incidentally just demonstrates the unreliable quality of emotions, which are fundamentally irrational and untrustworthy. They are the source of much misery and false happiness.

I know one monk who said as a novice his master would sometimes come in and beat him for no apparent reason. He was physically and it seems verbally abused by his master. He thinks it was for the best and there was some hidden meaning behind it that helped him mature or something.

Really it was probably that as a novice his master was likewise beaten and he was just repeating the same behaviour come the time he could exercise authority over a child. It is a common phenomenon. This is why generally abusive parents were abused as children themselves.

Trying to introduce religious meaning to psychotic behaviour is a recipe for further neurosis.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Namgyal » Thu Apr 11, 2013 10:10 am

Huseng wrote:
Who would volunteer for years of intense mental torture and abuse, even beatings?

..justify the abuse they suffered from their superiors as something edifying and ultimately worthwhile...a recipe for further neurosis.

I deleted the quoted post because I guessed, correctly, that it would be open to misunderstanding. Anyway, you were too quick and managed to paste some, so...
1) Pride prevents you from submitting to a superior Master. Inexperience means that you cannot gauge the gulf between us and them. Some day you will have to submit anyway, so you should start searching now.
2) Emotions are not weaknesses, indeed the whole purpose of practice is to be open-hearted. Perhaps you are just too proud to weep?
3) Transmission is a kind of 'ju-ju' that you clearly know nothing about, some can use the 'download' but many cannot, so what? Just because you have personally encountered one dodgy Ch'an 'Grandmaster', and one sectarian Tibetan monk does not make them respresentatives of the whole of Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 11, 2013 10:22 am

Namgyal wrote:1) Pride prevents you from submitting to a superior Master. Inexperience means that you cannot gauge the gulf between us and them. Some day you will have to submit anyway, so you should start searching now.


While I am guilty of the sin of pride, I do have a teacher and I am serving him right now in India. You need not make false characterizations about me based on your ignorant assumptions about me.

Again, I insist that a master is not a prerequisite for liberation, though it is quite often beneficial and helpful for all parties involved.

2) Emotions are not weaknesses, indeed the whole purpose of practice is to be open-hearted. Perhaps you are just too proud to weep?


No, the point of practice is liberation from suffering. Emotions are equatable to suffering.

3) Transmission is a kind of 'ju-ju' that you clearly know nothing about, some can use the 'download' but many cannot, so what? Just because you have personally encountered one dodgy Ch'an 'Grandmaster', and one sectarian Tibetan monk does not make them respresentatives of the whole of Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism.


Again, you are misrepresenting me. You need to reread my arguments above about why exactly I feel that a master is not a prerequisite for liberation and how historically this seems to have largely been the assumption up until late or post-Gupta times in India.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 11, 2013 11:05 am

jeeprs wrote:But at the bottom of it, there is this lovely image - The Buddha holds up a flower and smiles, and one of the disciples smiles - 'gets it', so to speak. It is really quite a simple idea, which looses a lot of its meaning when it becomes subject to debate.


I agree.

Funny thing is that in Japan a lot of time and money is put into researching and debating such myths in a very secularized fashion by scholars in Buddhist Universities.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Namgyal » Thu Apr 11, 2013 11:18 am

Huseng wrote:I do have a teacher and I am serving him right now...I insist that a master is not a prerequisite for liberation

You are clearly in two minds about this issue.
Huseng wrote:the point of practice is liberation from suffering. Emotions are equatable to suffering.

So practice is liberation from emotions?
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