Myth in Buddhism

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:17 am

This is little known but according to Plutarch, aside from the famous oracle, Gaius Julius Caesar was warned of his impending death by his wife who had had nightmares about Caesar dying the night before and begged him to stay home that day. Also little known is that Caesar believed his wife and was planning to cut his senate visit short, just deal with essential matters, and then stay home the rest of the day surrounded by guards.

But no one escapes karma.

A few years ago, I heard that two cars were driving towards each other on opposite sides of the road. Suddenly a bear walked into the road in front of Car A. Car A hit the bear. The bear flew across the road and went through the windshield of Car B, killing both passengers immediately. This was only possible because of the exact placement of the cars and their speed. It would hard to recreate the proper conditions.

Huseng wrote:Where is lineage included in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha?
Buddha. We receive his blessings and connect to him through it.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
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."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:25 am

Huseng wrote:Where is lineage included in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha?
Buddha. We receive his blessings and connect to him through it.


How exactly does that work?

Moreover, if you accept general Mahāyāna cosmology, the dharmakāya is ever-present, so what need for human lines of lineage?
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:29 am

Getting back to the topic, I think that's kindof the crux of the thing here Huseng.

It seems your idea is that there is no intuitive knowledge or no what to develop it, and so any and all authority or credential system based on a system of intuitive knowledge, you view to be not accurate.

But if I may say so, if the underlying belief or idea there is that there is no intuitive knowledge or way to develop it,

That idea certainly doesn't meet with scientific studies, and empirical evidence.

Certainly your call to not use it at all (as a part of a system such as Dharma Transmission) is not justified.

While you may not have heard an explanation as to the metaphysical workings of this, as an aside, that does not mean that such an explanation does not exist. And simply because you haven't heard one does not justify the call to abandon a system that has been reported to work well for so many people for so long.

As for the explanation, has it occured to you that you have already read or been told one and simply didn't understand it?

Operating on the assumption that intuitive knowledge actually does exist (for the moment) has it occured to you that some things that are written or said from an intuitive standpoint, must also be understood from an intuitive standpoint in order to be comprehended?

And therefor it is necessary to at least have some training or experience in developing one's intuitive sense before one can understand the explanation?

There are many things in life that have to be actually "done" first in order to have an understanding from which to learn more advanced knowledge or techniques on the subject.

For instance, in linguistics, one must first be able to read and speak the language (at least poorly) before one can have a conversation in it.

Or in skiing or surfing, one has to have at least gone out successfully at least once, and ridden down the mountain, or successfully caught a wave at least once, before one can begin to grasp even the most basic understandings of it.

Until then, you just have to take people's word of people who've done it or who speak it, and people's empirical experience therof.

Even if a thousand people say "yes, this text says such and such", you're still just taking those thousand people's word until you can read it yourself.

At a certain point with certain things we do have to trust in the authority and experience of people who have done them, until we have such experience ourselves.


In Gassho,

Sara.
Last edited by Sara H on Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:37 am, edited 1 time in total.
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IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
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We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:34 am

It's sortof like, you can't describe in words what it's like to feel happy, without using other emotional words, or words that are conditional upon emotional experience.

You can't describe logic and reason in emotional words, that doesn't make sense either.

Similarly I think it's quite possible here, that trying to describe intuitive experience from an intellectual standpoint of logic and reason may not work either.

The prerequisite would seem to be at least some basic literacy (if you will) of intuitive experience.

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 Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:35 am

Sara H wrote:Your idea is that there is no intuitive knowledge or no what to develop it, and so any and all authority or credential system based on a system of intuitive knowledge, you view to be not accurate.


You are misrepresenting me again. Please, again, read what I wrote and actually address points I make.

I don't reject intuitive knowledge and the development thereof. I just reject the idea of institutional authority being based on some imagined intuitive knowledge purportedly passed from master to disciple over numerous generations thus affirming contemporary power structures that don't really match up with modern western values which place great emphasis on democratic decision making and equality. If we don't recognize this and try to transplant Asian power structures and/or reproduce them, we'll end up with a lot of contradictions and avoidable problems.



At a certain point with certain things we do have to trust in the authority and experience of people who have done them, until we have such experience ourselves.


Or have sufficient interests in the status quo so as to benefit from affirming and defending the power structure one has become a part of.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby jeeprs » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:35 am

The curious thing is that you say

Huseng wrote:I'm not rejecting metaphysics, nor am I a positivist.


But, from the original post:

Myths are sacred narratives which come to have causal power. They also make people do things, refrain from things and/or charge people with institutional authority over others.


which, as you say

This all has a function of course and has served people well, but at the end of the day we need to recognize that everything is mentally constructed


Which does sound rather 'positivist' to me, really.

But then you say:

Nobody so far in this discussion has provided a metaphysical explanation for how this process works. They say it exists and that they believe in it, but that just means it is a mythical narrative they accept.


So, a question: what would you be looking for in a metaphysical explanation?
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:40 am

Oh my, this thread is moving fast.

Huseng wrote:
Huseng wrote:Where is lineage included in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha?
Buddha. We receive his blessings and connect to him through it.


How exactly does that work?

Moreover, if you accept general Mahāyāna cosmology, the dharmakāya is ever-present, so what need for human lines of lineage?
We gain confidence and faith by thinking that these teachings came from the Buddha himself through a unbroken chain of masters that were transformed by the teachings. With lineage, instead of some guy in robes telling you some teachings, it's the Buddha himself (30 or so people removed).

As for the Dharmakaya, I would counter by asking you why we need human teachers or their books? Surely, we can simply learn from a Sambhogakaya?

Your answer is the same as mine. Teachers and lineage are skillful means for those who cannot perceive Dharmakaya or Sambhogakaya.

Huseng wrote:democratic decision making and equality
You're assuming democracy and equality are good things. Contrary to common belief, these are very modern beliefs. We have done just fine without them for most of known history. Please provide evidence to support your assumptions. :stirthepot:
Last edited by Konchog1 on Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:49 am, edited 2 times in total.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
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: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:43 am

Huseng wrote:I don't reject intuitive knowledge and the development thereof. I just reject the idea of institutional authority being based on some imagined intuitive knowledge purportedly passed from master to disciple over numerous generations


But this is your assumption.

You have no way to verify whether the intuitive knowledge is "imagined" or not, unless you have some experience with doing this.

You're just assuming that it is imagined, and rejecting it out of hand.

And yet from people's reported experience with it, they say it does exist.

You don't have any way to disprove that, although, people who practice this, do say freely that anyone can learn this. And people who have experimented with this and tried it, report back that it does in fact exist.

So where are you?

It leaves you with an opinion that you haven't even tested,

Zen practice says that if you practice this, you can experience it for yourself, and people who have tried it, say "yep, it does exist".

Are you just going to blow away everyone else's experience?

So many people?

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 Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:46 am

jeeprs wrote:Which does sound rather 'positivist' to me, really.


I think mental and spiritual events have causal power that affects the material world, and it obviously goes the other direction as well. The powers of language, symbol and ritual all contribute to reality in profound and verifiable ways. So in that light, I think knowledge gained from mental and spiritual events is equally as important as that gained through one's sensory apparatus.

However, if I reject one metaphysical or intuitive social construct, it doesn't mean I reject all.

Again, as I said, myth is not necessarily untrue. It is a way of encoding values and ideas and encapsulating them for others to receive and transmit onward.

I reject the myth of Dharma transmission. I believe we should be islands onto ourselves.
    DN 16:

    Therefore, Ananda, be islands unto yourselves, refuges unto yourselves, seeking no external refuge; with the Dhamma as your island, the Dhamma as your refuge, seeking no other refuge.


What that means is there is no need to confer institutional authority just by virtue of their possible spiritual experiences. Likewise, a good scholar is not necessarily a good leader. Leaders should be elected by the community they represent rather than having such titles bestowed upon them.

The Buddha himself arranged a system where the sangha decided on things through democratic means. You don't need a metaphysical explanation for this and it just makes sense. There need not be a sacred narrative behind it. It is just practical when done on a small scale of religious practitioners.


So, a question: what would you be looking for in a metaphysical explanation?


I don't think it wise to justify power structures with reference to metaphysical processes.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:48 am

You are an island unto yourself.

All is one, AND all is different.

That doesn't stand against that.

There is still SOMETHING that is transmitted though.

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 Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:54 am

Konchog1 wrote:We gain confidence and faith by thinking that these teachings came from the Buddha himself through a unbroken chain of masters that were transformed by the teachings. With lineage, instead of some guy in robes telling you some teachings, it's the Buddha himself (30 or so people removed).


Not everyone will accept this, though. Even if you do, why should that lineage be decided by the powers that be? Accredited teachers are appointed by the upper echelons who then get their place in the lineage. It is decided by the few. In Zen you receive Dharma transmission. In Tibetan Buddhism you become a lineage holder who has the permission to teach as per the rules established by the few.

Again, the Buddha suggested the Dharma as the refuge. He never appointed a successor:

    MN 108:

    “Is there, Master Ananda, any single bhikkhu who was appointed by Master Gotama thus: ‘He will be your refuge when I am gone,’ and whom you now have recourse to?”

    “There is no single bhikkhu, brahmin, who was appointed by the Blessed One who knows and sees, accomplished and fully enlightened, thus: ‘He will be your refuge when I am gone,’ and whom we now have recourse to.”

    “But is there, Master Ananda, any single bhikkhu who has been chosen by the Sangha and appointed by a number of elder bhikkhus thus: ‘He will be our refuge after the Blessed One has gone,’ and whom you now have recourse to?”

    “There is no single bhikkhu, brahmin, who has been chosen by the Sangha and appointed by a number of elder bhikkhus thus: ‘He will be our refuge after the Blessed One has gone,’ and whom we now have recourse to.”

    “But if you have no refuge, Master Ananda, what is the cause for your concord?”

    “We are not without a refuge, brahmin. We have a refuge; we have the Dhamma as our refuge.”






As for the Dharmakaya, I would counter by asking you why we need human teachers or their books? Surely, we can simply learn from a Sambhogakaya?


Technically we can and probably often do without realizing it.

Legitimate teachers and good books offer wisdom which conditions the mind toward liberation. As a lowly mundane person it works well enough for the time being.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:55 am

Sara H wrote:There is still SOMETHING that is transmitted though.


Prove it.

See, this is the thing about metaphysical claims in Buddhism: some are easily demonstrated (like rebirth because of all the cases of kids recollecting past lives plus inference and in deep meditation past life memories surfacing) while others are entirely based on belief and common agreement.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:56 am

Huseng, perhaps it would be helpful for people to understand your reasoning for why you feel that the intuitive knowledge transmitted signified in Dharma Transmission is imagined?

I mean if you don't reject all intuitive knowledge
it doesn't mean I reject all.


Then why do you reject the idea that there could be an institutional authority based on an intuitive knowledge?

That doesn't seem rational.

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 Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 5:59 am

Sara H wrote:Then why do you reject the idea that there could be an institutional authority based on an intuitive knowledge?


Clearly there is institutional authority based on intuitive knowledge.

And clearly there are problems with such an arrangement.

Authority exists only by virtue of consent. There's nothing particularly metaphysical about that.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:03 am

Huseng wrote:Not everyone will accept this, though. Even if you do, why should that lineage be decided by the powers that be? Accredited teachers are appointed by the upper echelons who then get their place in the lineage. It is decided by the few. In Zen you receive Dharma transmission. In Tibetan Buddhism you become a lineage holder who has the permission to teach as per the rules established by the few.
Ah, so you are (in theory) not opposed to lineages. Just the means of their creation and preservation.

I wholeheartedly agree! Traditionally, the lineage holder was the appointed by his Guru on virtue of his being the best student. I believe that any other form of selection is inferior and even unacceptable.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
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."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Jnana » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:13 am

PorkChop wrote:
Jnana wrote:What strict definition would that be?

By strict definition, I mean the 9 points you listed....

I don't consider that to be a "strict definition," and didn't qualify it as such. Mentioning it as "an example of Buddhist ecumenicism" doesn't imply that it's the final word on the subject, or that it's the only example.

PorkChop wrote:
Jan Nattier wrote:During Shakyamuni Buddha’s own lifetime there was only one notion of what constituted awakening. The Buddha was seen as far greater than his followers, primarily because he had discovered the path to awakening for himself and thus made things far easier for those who would follow in his footsteps. But the nature of awakening itself—understood, in a general sense, as “seeing reality as it is”—was believed to be in every case identical. Indeed, Shakyamuni himself was, like his awakened followers, referred to as an arhat (literally “one who is worthy of respect”).

In other words, the view point that the awakening's the same and if the awakening's the same, the knowledge would be the same.

While the nirvāṇa realized is the same (i.e. liberation from saṃsāric rebirth), it's speculative to assert that the Buddha or the first generation of disciples considered the Buddha's knowledge and compassion to be no different than that of his disciples. The arhat disciples themselves are explicitly said to have differing qualities, excel in different ways, and have different types of knowledge and meditative attainments, etc. It's quite reasonable that the Buddha surpassed his disciples in his teaching abilities such as the ability to attract and connect with students from various walks of life in meaningful ways. This can be seen in the narratives recorded in the Āgamas & Nikāyas.

Moreover, with regard to the Lotus Sūtra, Nattier characterizes it as "a very atypical text" even among Mahāyāna sūtras, which due to it's unusual content may very well have been considered shocking among the larger community of Indian Buddhists in the first or second century C.E. Thus, the positions it advocates for are hardly representative of mainstream Indian Buddhism of that period or any prior historical period.

PorkChop wrote:
Jnana wrote:The Mahāyāna sūtras represent various different perspectives.

Pretty dismissive statement in regards to arguably the most influential sutra in East Asian Mahayana Buddhism.

It's not dismissive at all. It's a characterization shared by many modern scholars working with Mahāyāna sūtras (translating, etc.). It's also acknowledged in certain sūtras themselves (e.g. the "three turnings of the wheel" hermeneutic in the Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra).
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:14 am

Huseng wrote:
Sara H wrote:There is still SOMETHING that is transmitted though.


Prove it.

See, this is the thing about metaphysical claims in Buddhism: some are easily demonstrated (like rebirth because of all the cases of kids recollecting past lives plus inference and in deep meditation past life memories surfacing) while others are entirely based on belief and common agreement.


No they are not, they are based on trying it and see.

You can try this for yourself and see if it proves true.

For myself, I've already proved this true, as I've based it from my own experience.

Whether it proves true for you or not I cannot say.

But, it does seem irrational to say that people who have tried this and say it has proved true are not telling the truth.

It's one thing to be skeptical, it's another to outright say it's false.

In Gassho,

Sara

Huseng wrote:
Sara H wrote:Then why do you reject the idea that there could be an institutional authority based on an intuitive knowledge?


Clearly there is institutional authority based on intuitive knowledge.


And clearly there are problems with such an arrangement.


No that's not clear. As PadmaVonSamba pointed out way earlier in this thread, you have not demonstrated a clear cause and effect linking that explains how you feel that Dharma Transmission is the cause of a problem.

Authority exists only by virtue of consent. There's nothing particularly metaphysical about that.


Yes, and people entirely volunteer and consent to do this and train, They know that going into this there is an authority in Zen.

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 Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:20 am

Sara H wrote:No they are not, they are based on trying it and see.

You can try this for yourself and see if it proves true.


Some nice young men from the Church of Latter Day Saints said the same thing to me about praying to their god.



But, it does seem irrational to say that people who have tried this and say it has proved true are not telling the truth.

It's one thing to be skeptical, it's another to outright say it's false.


What's true for you will not necessarily be true for me.

I'm fine with diversity (freedom of speech is important), though I reserve the right to criticize and condemn.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby jeeprs » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:21 am

Thanks. One more question. In the OP you state

Huseng wrote:I would rather see a kind of meritocracy where people are judged capable by virtue of their good qualities, practice and learning.


I wonder if you would care to comment on this passage, in relation to the story of the accession of Hui Neng as the Sixth Zen Patriarch. According to the legend, when the Fifth Patriarch called for disciples to illustrate their understanding of the Way, Shenxiu responded:

身是菩提樹, The body is a Bodhi tree,
心如明鏡臺。 The mind a standing mirror bright.
時時勤拂拭, At all times polish it diligently,
勿使惹塵埃。 And let no dust alight.

(I don't write Chinese, this was copied verbatim from Wikipedia as I believe you can read it.)

The rejoiner from Hui Neng was:

菩提本無樹, Bodhi is fundamentally without any tree;
明鏡亦非臺。 The bright mirror is also not a stand.
本來無一物, Fundamentally there is not a single thing —
何處惹塵埃。 Where could any dust be attracted?

As is well-known, it was Hui Neng's answer which was selected, albeit in the midst of great turmoil and conflict.

Now I would say that your model of 'good qualities, practice and learning' would be much better approximated by the first of these poems.

Would you agree?
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:27 am

Huseng wrote:
Sara H wrote:No they are not, they are based on trying it and see.

You can try this for yourself and see if it proves true.


Some nice young men from the Church of Latter Day Saints said the same thing to me about praying to their god.


So?

How do you know that practice doesn't legitimately work for some people?


You know, the only thing I've gotten out of this, is that it seems:

* You view institutional authority to be wrong.

* and so Institutional authority in Buddhism (and Zen) also to be wrong. (by extension)


Or perhaps it's just institutional authority when it comes to teaching the development of intuitive knowledge?

Are you saying that you believe the development of intuitive knowledge cannot be taught? Or cannot be taught in an institutional way?
(and so reject any form of that)

And/or there is not someone who can be an authority on that to help teach the development of it?

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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