Myth in Buddhism

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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby kirtu » Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:12 am

Huseng wrote:What do you guys think about Kumare?
...
The guy basically pretended to be Indian and became a guru, acquiring a following of devoted people who trusted him despite it all being a big sham.


See, we already have this story in Buddhism in different forms - in one of them there was this person how memorized the teachings of an Arhat and then killed the Arhat and took his place. Some time later students of the fake teacher actually attained Arhatship and then knew that their teacher was a fake and tried unsuccessfully to get him to amend his ways.

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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 17, 2013 2:53 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:So, using the same logic that blames the guru-disciple relationship as the source of the problem,
the internet ought to be avoided as well
yet those who are against this tradition
do not seem to have no problem using this scam & virus infested internet
for posting on a web forum.


What a silly argument.

I've been arguing that a master is not a prerequisite for liberation. That doesn't mean we should abandon tradition, or that teachers are not useful to have.

My point is that, clearly, a lot of people project onto others undue qualities which elevate individual teachers well beyond their capacities. The latter then have to fulfil a function within their community with all the demands and expectations of the people under them.

Epictetus said, "If you have assumed a character beyond your strength, you have both played a poor figure in that, and neglected one that is within your powers."

Spiritual seekers, I think, tend to be gullible and not sufficiently critical. When you read statements about how you shouldn't judge others or how you should "empty your cup", it only opens the door for avoidable abuse.



Do I smell some hypocrisy here?


It is your own projection, not mine.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Apr 17, 2013 3:16 am

Huseng wrote:Spiritual seekers, I think, tend to be gullible and not sufficiently critical. When you read statements about how you shouldn't judge others or how you should "empty your cup", it only opens the door for avoidable abuse.
The Tantras are refreshing in that they repeatedly state that a false guru will send you to hell. As will a false disciple for that matter.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Karma Dorje » Wed Apr 17, 2013 3:36 am

Huseng wrote:Epictetus said, "If you have assumed a character beyond your strength, you have both played a poor figure in that, and neglected one that is within your powers."


Or as Oscar Wilde put more succinctly, "Be yourself. Everyone else is taken."

Huseng wrote:Spiritual seekers, I think, tend to be gullible and not sufficiently critical. When you read statements about how you shouldn't judge others or how you should "empty your cup", it only opens the door for avoidable abuse.


Tell me how this is not promoting your own perceived perspicacity, and diminishing others.

I have not gotten into half the trouble being open-hearted as I have being intellectually certain.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Apr 17, 2013 3:39 am

Huseng wrote:
I've been arguing that a master is not a prerequisite for liberation. That doesn't mean we should abandon tradition, or that teachers are not useful to have.
My point is that, clearly, a lot of people project onto others undue qualities which elevate individual teachers well beyond their capacities. The latter then have to fulfil a function within their community with all the demands and expectations of the people under them.
Epictetus said, "If you have assumed a character beyond your strength, you have both played a poor figure in that, and neglected one that is within your powers."
Spiritual seekers, I think, tend to be gullible and not sufficiently critical. When you read statements about how you shouldn't judge others or how you should "empty your cup", it only opens the door for avoidable abuse.

P.T. Barnum said it best:
"There's a sucker born every minute"
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Apr 17, 2013 4:02 am

Huseng wrote: Spiritual seekers, I think, tend to be gullible and not sufficiently critical.

All that one can really say is that some are, and some aren't.

Huseng wrote: When you read statements about how you shouldn't judge others or how you should "empty your cup", it only opens the door for avoidable abuse.

Not necessarily.
1. This isn't necessarily what opens that door.
2. It may open the door to very good things, and more often than not, this seems to be the case.

What you are saying that a teaching which encourages a person to let their guard down,
or to abandon rational thinking, or critical thinking is bad.

This conclusion is arrived at by looking at the examples of persons who became victims,
and determining that what caused their victimization is that they abandoned critical thinking,
became sort of mindless devotees, or were discouraged from questioning their teachers actions.
Fair enough. It may be something that these victims all shared in common.

My question is, is the source of this (abuse) the vulnerability (gullibility) of the victim,
or what has been referred to here as a Buddhist "Myth" (dharma transmission, etc.)
or simply the actions of two or three teachers?

And, I think, your assertion is that it is the "myth" which is the culprit.
But I think this is a backwards approach, for reasons I have explained.
I think the victims would be victims in any variety of situations,
because their vulnerability and gullibility is already a quality they carry with them,
and the perpetrators (of abuse) would be perpetrators even if they had never heard of Buddhism.
The fact that they meet at a Zendo or whatever, is unfortunate
but really has little to do with the actual cause and effect.
It appears to matter more than it does, merely because of where it occurs.
Since abuse in a dharma context is especially repugnant to Buddhists,
it is natural to see some aspect of that context (the "myth") as more significant than it actually is.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 17, 2013 4:15 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:My question is, is the source of this (abuse) the vulnerability (gullibility) of the victim,
or what has been referred to here as a Buddhist "Myth" (dharma transmission, etc.)
or simply the actions of two or three teachers?


I have continually pointed to the transference of institutional authority cloaked in the mythical narrative of dharma transmission.

Historically this has been about power, not benevolent aid of sentient beings.

Contemporary spiritual seekers can easily buy into the narrative of someone being above the fray by virtue of having institutional recognition and consequently stop critical assessment of people.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby jeeprs » Wed Apr 17, 2013 7:03 am

I think what has surprised me in your attitude in this thread is the notion that 'dharma transmission' can't be anything other than a myth. I agree that it is something that can be and has been a source of institutional abuse, but I don't think that is all it is. I would have expected that to be said on the philosophy forums I post to, but not on this site.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 17, 2013 7:22 am

jeeprs wrote:I think what has surprised me in your attitude in this thread is the notion that 'dharma transmission' can't be anything other than a myth. I agree that it is something that can be and has been a source of institutional abuse, but I don't think that is all it is. I would have expected that to be said on the philosophy forums I post to, but not on this site.


I think it is a myth and social construct.

If you can demonstrate otherwise with reference to metaphysical processes, by all means.

There have been others in the past who attempted to understand similar processes with reference to metaphysics. For instance, the idea of "precept essence" as a non-manifest form dharma transmitted from master to disciple which must be maintained lest it be lost. I don't find this convincing.

A myth is not necessarily untrue. It is a narrative which encodes tradition and values. These are clearly important to a lot of people.

I just don't believe this one.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Apr 17, 2013 10:32 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Any time you trust someone it can be abused, the more trust the more it can be abused.

Not news to anyone, but it doesn't do anything to obscure the wonderful things that can also come from trust, which should be acknowledged as well, if we are going to talk about the guru-disciple relationship being responsible for things.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby jeeprs » Wed Apr 17, 2013 11:32 am

Huseng wrote:I think it ['dharma transmission'] is a myth and social construct.


Is there any aspect of Buddhism about which the same could not be said?
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 17, 2013 11:48 am

jeeprs wrote:Is there any aspect of Buddhism about which the same could not be said?


Buddhism as an organized human religion is full of myths, narratives and so forth just like any other tradition really. Science has the same thing with their narrative of progress, a past dark age of ignorance and a future techno-utopia to look forward to complete with a cast of great thinkers past and present. Buddhist religions have their sacred symbols, stories, figures and lineages which the members believe in and feel connected to.

Buddhadharma on the other hand is the remedy for suffering. The myths, narratives and institutions, while a necessary vessel with which to transport the teachings from generation to generation, are secondary to Dharma.

I'm an advocate of both, though I have come to see Buddhism as all too human and fallible. I think we need to recognize the warts and not subscribe to mythical narratives that don't actually reflect reality. If we don't, then you end up with some people trying to project a false image and telling their underlings to have faith (and in many cases obey). This provokes passive-aggressive behaviour, schisms, hard feelings and intelligent people walking away because of the BS.

Dharma on the other hand is beyond the mundane and functions as a remedy for suffering. You can decorate it, sing songs about it and have great rituals celebrating it (I encourage this), but at the end of the day that's all secondary. Institutions are the leaky vessels which let the teachings get to the next generation, so ideally we'll have vessels in decent condition. Also, the more the better ... it is easier to smash one giant vessel at once than many small ones.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby plwk » Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:28 pm

I dunno huseng but I guess since one cannot go against the grain of vested authority and politics, it's best to just walk the road alone until one meet one's equals than spend one's time getting caught between the elephant and the bull when that time could have been used for more important stuff...

There are days when I wonder if being an atheist is any easier...
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:35 pm

plwk wrote:I dunno huseng but I guess since one cannot go against the grain of vested authority and politics, it's best to just walk the road alone until one meet one's equals than spend one's time getting caught between the elephant and the bull when that time could have been used for more important stuff...


Sure, but in the English speaking world we got room to navigate.

We don't have to reproduce traditional Asian power structures.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Wed Apr 17, 2013 12:52 pm

Huseng wrote:Historically this has been about power, not benevolent aid of sentient beings.


I'll make this a little more gentle.

That's an extraordinary claim, and as I am aware of what evidence is available (or rather the lack thereof) to support it, I know that there is no extraordinary evidence to back up such a claim.

It is a personal opinion, and one not supported by the historic record, by empirical evidence, by personal accounts, by the vast majority of Zen practitioners experiences, or even by scientific studies that have shown that people who do traditional Zen practice have measurable health and psychological benefits.

So the scientific evidence, shows that traditional Zen practice, actually has the opposite effect of what you are asserting.

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"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:07 pm

Here's one study.

This one's on psychological benefits.
http://www.livescience.com/2829-study-z ... -mind.html

Here's another, this one's on physical health benefits.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/20 ... 103357.htm


Hmm, physical and psychological health benefits?

That sounds like it fits the traditional definition of "aid" to me.

And I do believe human beings fit the category of "sentient beings".

In Gassho,

Sara
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby jeeprs » Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:07 pm

The takeaway for me in this debate is the power of belief.

I first approached Buddhism mainly because I thought it was a teaching based on first-hand experience, rather than belief. After all, Christianity is about 'believe and be saved'. Like many people of my generation, after turning away from the Church, dabbling with psychedelics and having some inexplicable experiences, I turned to Buddhism because I thought it taught 'learning by experience' which wasn't dependent on some pie-in-the-sky idea.

I still think that, but at the same time, encountering this divergence of views, I realize that 'belief' plays a pivotal role here too. If, as has been stated, 'everything is a mind construction', then really there is no way to adjuticate beliefs, because there's nothing 'out there' to measure it against. It is just my 'mind construction' versus yours.

But that conclusion doesn't really seem satisfactory to me. So without dragging over old coals, I decide to believe that the Zen teaching of 'dharma transmission' amounts to something more than belief, or a mental construction, or a myth. But maybe it is something you have to be willing to believe, so there we are, back at the start. And from that particular endless loop, I can't see any way out.

'The Buddha twirls a flower'.

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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:12 pm

Huseng wrote: Contemporary spiritual seekers can easily buy into the narrative of someone being above the fray by virtue of having institutional recognition and consequently stop critical assessment of people.

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Agreed. But again, you are merely asserting that this is the direct result of that narrative.
It is a very interesting claim.
Unsubstantiated, but interesting nonetheless.

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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Apr 17, 2013 1:20 pm

Huseng wrote: I think we need to recognize the warts and not subscribe to mythical narratives that don't actually reflect reality.


Yeah. Our reality is real!
Not like some myth reality that is only a projection of the mind!
:rolling:
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Apr 17, 2013 5:18 pm

Belief, faith, whatever you want to call it has always played a role in Buddhism as far as I know, it's not the same sort of faith as Christianity or something I guess, but it's there obviously.

You could argue that all transmission is "false" in a way really, whether you are reading a book, following a teacher or whatever, it all takes place in the world of tricks, none of it is ultimately "real", including Shakyamuni Buddha. I guess the difference is that if you operate more on the side of reason than faith, you are less susceptible to the bad side of 'belief' in a guru or teacher. On the other hand, maybe you are more likely to listen to yourself a bit too much, to subscribe to the infallibility of reason. In either case it involves a kind of faith where there is a source you believe can point you to the ultimate, but the source itself obviously is an illusion, or at least it's kind of...two dimensional.

On a conventional level, it would be good if people were less immediately accepting of gurus, and more critical I guess..but the same could be said of everything, it's our condition to look critically at things that perhaps we don't need to, while holding off on critical thinking with the things we should.
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