By Scripture/Faith alone?

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By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby plwk » Wed Feb 23, 2011 12:25 pm

This thread was inspired after reading a similar one on the sister site on Dhamma Wheel....

I recall the 'good ole days' when slogans like 'By Scripture/Faith Alone', 'Through Christ Alone' were hammered into my psyche as a Protestant Christian back then and then when destiny saw it fit to see my move into Catholic Christianity, I saw the value of Apostolic Tradition complementing scripture and faith in order to allow my feeble mind to see all angles...

Now as a Buddhist, oft have I heard how either/or a combination...
1. The Sutras are hailed as the 'IT', straight from the 'horse's mouth', the Buddha, and in that alone one finds his/her study, practice and realisation.
2. That the Abhidharma, Sastras (Commentaries/Treatises) and oral instructions of a teacher are all a waste of time, 'adding a head on top of another'
3. That anything written/taught formally i.e Sutras/Abhidharma/Commentaries are to be cast away.

Perhaps, the Sixth Patriarch Hui Neng already saw it happening in his time...
http://www.sinc.sunysb.edu/Clubs/buddhi ... eng10.html
"A bigoted believer in Nihilism blasphemes against the Sutras on the ground that literature (i.e., the Buddhist Scriptures) is unnecessary (for the study of Buddhism). If that were so, then neither would it be right for us to speak, since speech forms the substance of literature.
He would also argue that in the direct method (literally, the straight Path) literature is discarded.
But does he appreciate that the two words 'is discarded' are also literature?
Upon hearing others speak of Sutras, such a man would criticize the speakers as 'addicted to scriptural authority'.
It is bad enough for him to confine this mistaken notion to himself, but in addition, he blasphemes against the Buddhist scriptures.
You men should know that it is a serious offence to speak ill of the Sutras, for the consequence is grave indeed!

"He who believes in the reality of outward objects tries to seek the form (from without) by practicing a certain system of doctrine.
He may furnish spacious lecture-halls for the discussion of Realism or Nihilism, but such a man will not for numerous Kalpas realize the Essence of Mind.

What's your experience? :namaste:
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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Wed Feb 23, 2011 3:49 pm

Exclusivism is the curse of all religions - it gives their adherents the sense that they know the first thing they're talking about to the exclusion of all other people when in fact they don't have the foggiest idea. On the other hand ecumenism breaks everything down into one horrible soup which tastes awful. Maybe wisdom can point us to a middle way?
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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby Will » Wed Feb 23, 2011 9:11 pm

"By their fruits shall thee know them" seems excellent advice.

The Dalai Lama often says something to the effect that "If one is becoming, year by year, more virtuous, more compassionate toward others and ones' vices are being reduced or eliminated, then ones' practice is solid. If the opposite is true, then ones' practice is no good and must be changed."

The sources of our inspiration & guidance vary; as long as our practice has an ennobling effect on us, then the specific sources do not matter.
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby Adamantine » Fri Feb 25, 2011 7:32 am

plwk wrote:This thread was inspired after reading a similar one on the sister site on Dhamma Wheel....

I recall the 'good ole days' when slogans like 'By Scripture/Faith Alone', 'Through Christ Alone' were hammered into my psyche as a Protestant Christian back then and then when destiny saw it fit to see my move into Catholic Christianity, I saw the value of Apostolic Tradition complementing scripture and faith in order to allow my feeble mind to see all angles...

Now as a Buddhist, oft have I heard how either/or a combination...
1. The Sutras are hailed as the 'IT', straight from the 'horse's mouth', the Buddha, and in that alone one finds his/her study, practice and realisation.
2. That the Abhidharma, Sastras (Commentaries/Treatises) and oral instructions of a teacher are all a waste of time, 'adding a head on top of another'
3. That anything written/taught formally i.e Sutras/Abhidharma/Commentaries are to be cast away.

What's your experience? :namaste:



It's a basic issue of "don't mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon" situation. As Gendun Choepel liked to emphasize, the Buddha after his great Awakening knew his realization was beyond the ability to express in words or concepts... So any of the 84.000 different teachings that are left to us by the Buddha from the very beginning were relative ways to try and point us towards that inexpressible realization. I think confusion around the seeming contradictions in the trends you list above is arising from forgetting these simple facts. So, all of the Buddha's teachings are extremely important, and relative to the capacities of various beings (thus, why some might appear contradictory). They point us in the correct direction, in other words, depending on where our starting point on the map is. If we know where we stand, then we can use the map to get to the location. . And the other point is that the location is off the map altogether. Once you get to a certain point, you need to stop looking at the map in order to look around you and directly experience where you are.
Contentment is the ultimate wealth;
Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby Adamantine » Fri Feb 25, 2011 7:33 am

:geek:
Last edited by Adamantine on Sat Feb 26, 2011 7:27 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:05 am

I reckon that if ones practice, and realisations through practice, verify a teaching (of whatever type) then it's good, but if the teaching says one thing and your practice and realisations during practice say another then maybe one should ditch the teaching (regardless of where, when and who it apparently came from).

Wisdom gained through practice (and yes, study and discussion are also part of practice) will always uncover the truth.

That's what I reckon!
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"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby ground » Fri Feb 25, 2011 5:46 pm

plwk wrote:Now as a Buddhist, oft have I heard how either/or a combination...
1. The Sutras are hailed as the 'IT', straight from the 'horse's mouth', the Buddha, and in that alone one finds his/her study, practice and realisation.
2. That the Abhidharma, Sastras (Commentaries/Treatises) and oral instructions of a teacher are all a waste of time, 'adding a head on top of another'
3. That anything written/taught formally i.e Sutras/Abhidharma/Commentaries are to be cast away.
...
What's your experience? :namaste:


I find texts more important than oral teachings. Oral teachings may be important in addition but cannot replace texts.

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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby conebeckham » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:13 pm

"Texts" and Buddhist Scripture are all, actually, descended from "oral tradition."

In Buddha's time, it was all "oral." The Sutras, as I believe we all know, start with "Thus have I heard," not with "Thus have I read." :smile:

Texts are very important--they are records of the speech and thought of the Buddha (Kangyur, in Tibetan--Sutras (and Tantras, if you subscribe to that sort of thing)) and the speech and thought of his followers (Tengyur, or Shastras).

The Dharma is primarily, I think, a living, experiental transmission. Textual support is invaluable, necessary, and no doubt inevitable, in any case. But let's not forget where it all came from........
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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby ground » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:21 pm

conebeckham wrote:"Texts" and Buddhist Scripture are all, actually, descended from "oral tradition."

In Buddha's time, it was all "oral." The Sutras, as I believe we all know, start with "Thus have I heard," not with "Thus have I read." :smile:

...

The Dharma is primarily, I think, a living, experiental transmission. Textual support is invaluable, necessary, and no doubt inevitable, in any case. But let's not forget where it all came from........


The question was:

What's your experience?


My experience is not of the time of the Buddha but of the present. And my experience is not what others want "the dharma" to be but it is my experience.

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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby Adamantine » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:23 pm

conebeckham wrote:"Texts" and Buddhist Scripture are all, actually, descended from "oral tradition."

In Buddha's time, it was all "oral." The Sutras, as I believe we all know, start with "Thus have I heard," not with "Thus have I read." :smile:

Texts are very important--they are records of the speech and thought of the Buddha (Kangyur, in Tibetan--Sutras (and Tantras, if you subscribe to that sort of thing)) and the speech and thought of his followers (Tengyur, or Shastras).

The Dharma is primarily, I think, a living, experiental transmission. Textual support is invaluable, necessary, and no doubt inevitable, in any case. But let's not forget where it all came from........


Yeah plus when you get to Vajrayana level of transmission
then most of the texts are written in symbolic coded ways
that you'll never be able to derive the true meaning from without
a qualified lineage teacher unfolding it for you-- in this way it is
still mainly an oral transmission lineage: also why receiving the "lung"
for a text is considered important. There is a special link
when the winds of the speech center are invoked by the teacher and
the sound of the syllables are absorbed by the student, etc. In this way I feel
like these types of texts are outlines for the continuation
of the oral tradition, not a replacement for it.
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Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby ground » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:26 pm

For me texts are the standard against which oral teachings are compared. I do not rely on oral teachings that do not comply with the texts.

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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby ground » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:42 pm

TMingyur wrote:For me texts are the standard against which oral teachings are compared. I do not rely on oral teachings that do not comply with the texts.

Kind regards


How does an oral teaching comply with a text?

Texts are concatenations of mere symbols without any meaning that evoke meaning when there is contact, i.e. the meeting of eye, eye consciousness and optical symbols.
The same is true for uttered sounds which are also without meaning. Ear and ear consciousness are relevant here.

So the question is: Does the latter resultant meaning correspond to the former. "correspond" does not mean "is identical".

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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby conebeckham » Fri Feb 25, 2011 8:59 pm

I do not rely on oral teachings that do not comply with the texts.


Which texts?
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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby ground » Fri Feb 25, 2011 9:01 pm

conebeckham wrote:
I do not rely on oral teachings that do not comply with the texts.


Which texts?


The relevant ones. Of which I am only going to mention the suttapitaka of the Buddha in the pali canon.

Why these?

Because these describe the activities and teachings of a perfect "bodhisattva-buddha".


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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby conebeckham » Fri Feb 25, 2011 9:33 pm

AOK. :twothumbsup:

I like the irrelevant ones, as well, myself... :spy:
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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby Adamantine » Fri Feb 25, 2011 10:12 pm

TMingyur wrote:
TMingyur wrote:For me texts are the standard against which oral teachings are compared. I do not rely on oral teachings that do not comply with the texts.

Kind regards


How does an oral teaching comply with a text?

Texts are concatenations of mere symbols without any meaning that evoke meaning when there is contact, i.e. the meeting of eye, eye consciousness and optical symbols.
The same is true for uttered sounds which are also without meaning. Ear and ear consciousness are relevant here.

So the question is: Does the latter resultant meaning correspond to the former. "correspond" does not mean "is identical".

Kind regards


I think this is actually getting away from the question of the OP, but I think what you're missing is the entire point of lineage transmission. The texts can certainly be helpful, but without a golden chain of realized beings linking mind streams from the Buddha all the way to you, it is easy to misinterpret, delude oneself about one's own understanding or realization, and so on. There is much more happening when relating to a spiritual friend then simply uttered sounds meeting with ear consciousness. Especially at the higher yanas. There are reasons why some texts are forbidden to read until one receives oral transmission and direct explanation.
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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby conebeckham » Fri Feb 25, 2011 10:33 pm

As for the original question, both Sutras and Shastras are important and beneficial. So, too, are the words of the Gurus I study with. I side with Hui Neng, who you quoted, and whose words seem to sum up the paradox of any exclusivist:

"A bigoted believer in Nihilism blasphemes against the Sutras on the ground that literature (i.e., the Buddhist Scriptures) is unnecessary (for the study of Buddhism). If that were so, then neither would it be right for us to speak, since speech forms the substance of literature.
He would also argue that in the direct method (literally, the straight Path) literature is discarded.
But does he appreciate that the two words 'is discarded' are also literature?
Upon hearing others speak of Sutras, such a man would criticize the speakers as 'addicted to scriptural authority'.
It is bad enough for him to confine this mistaken notion to himself, but in addition, he blasphemes against the Buddhist scriptures.
You men should know that it is a serious offense to speak ill of the Sutras, for the consequence is grave indeed!

"He who believes in the reality of outward objects tries to seek the form (from without) by practicing a certain system of doctrine.
He may furnish spacious lecture-halls for the discussion of Realism or Nihilism, but such a man will not for numerous Kalpas realize the Essence of Mind.

Good stuff, and worth reflecting on.

The speech of the True Gurus is the basis of literature. One cannot escape this.

Atisha, the founder of the Kadampa School, said this:
Friends, until you attain enlightenment the Spiritual Teacher is indispensable, therefore rely upon the holy Spiritual Guide.

Until you realize ultimate truth, listening is indispensable, therefore listen to the instructions of the Spiritual Guide.

Since you cannot become a Buddha merely by understanding Dharma, practice earnestly with understanding.


"Kadampa" we can translate as "Holy Word," and the key emphasis of the Kadampa Gurus, most of us know, was reliance on the Holy Word of the Buddha as primary source. How interesting, then, that Atisha, the founder and inspiration for the Kadampas, recommends "listening" to the instructions of the Spiritual Guide.

It is true that one who criticizes those who seek recourse to scripture for proof is denigrating not only him/herself, but also the Dharma....Hui Neng makes this point. But it is also appropriate to recognize the primary source.

Frankly, It has been my experience that scriptures can appear contradictory, unless it is explained by those who hold the oral lineage. thus, my tongue-in-cheek comment about "irrelevant" scriptures. We are fortunate that we live in a time when there are still Gurus who can communicate the intent of the teachings, and even in some cases the ultimate meaning, and that we are not merely sitting in "spacious lecture halls," discussing "realism or nihilism." That, or hanging out in libraries, or (gasp!) Buddhist chat rooms trying to learn something from the written word. :smile:
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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby ground » Sat Feb 26, 2011 4:53 am

Adamantine wrote:I think this is actually getting away from the question of the OP, but I think what you're missing is the entire point of lineage transmission.

Maybe, maybe not.

Adamantine wrote:The texts can certainly be helpful, but without a golden chain of realized beings linking mind streams from the Buddha all the way to you, it is easy to misinterpret, delude oneself about one's own understanding or realization, and so on.

The texts are a manifestation of "lineage". Meaning always is what is synthesized on the basis of meaningless symbols. Who synthesizes?

Adamantine wrote:There is much more happening when relating to a spiritual friend then simply uttered sounds meeting with ear consciousness. Especially at the higher yanas. There are reasons why some texts are forbidden to read until one receives oral transmission and direct explanation.

There is always happening either what you want to happen or what simply happens. But the sphere of "wanting to happen" or "allowing to simply happen" are the aggregates. The latter are taught to be "clinging" or not.
Actually there is no need for texts beyond the words of the Buddha in the pali canon. The latter are not "forbidded" and the Buddha did teach what needed to be taught, not more and not less.
Discovery on the basis of "interest" and "being drawn toward" is "transmission". "Direct encounter of meaning" is "direct explanation".

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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby ground » Sat Feb 26, 2011 5:20 am

DN 16 Mahāparinibbāna Sutta:

And there the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Now, bhikkhus, I shall make known to you the four great references. Listen and pay heed to my words." And those bhikkhus answered, saying:

"So be it, Lord."

Then the Blessed One said: "In this fashion, bhikkhus, a bhikkhu might speak: 'Face to face with the Blessed One, brethren, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or: 'In an abode of such and such a name lives a community with elders and a chief. Face to face with that community, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or: 'In an abode of such and such a name live several bhikkhus who are elders, who are learned, who have accomplished their course, who are preservers of the Dhamma, the Discipline, and the Summaries. Face to face with those elders, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation'; or: 'In an abode of such and such a name lives a single bhikkhu who is an elder, who is learned, who has accomplished his course, who is a preserver of the Dhamma, the Discipline, and the Summaries. Face to face with that elder, I have heard and learned thus: This is the Dhamma and the Discipline, the Master's Dispensation.'

"In such a case, bhikkhus, the declaration of such a bhikkhu is neither to be received with approval nor with scorn. Without approval and without scorn, but carefully studying the sentences word by word, one should trace them in the Discourses and verify them by the Discipline. If they are neither traceable in the Discourses nor verifiable by the Discipline, one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is not the Blessed One's utterance; this has been misunderstood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' In that way, bhikkhus, you should reject it. But if the sentences concerned are traceable in the Discourses and verifiable by the Discipline, then one must conclude thus: 'Certainly, this is the Blessed One's utterance; this has been well understood by that bhikkhu — or by that community, or by those elders, or by that elder.' And in that way, bhikkhus, you may accept it on the first, second, third, or fourth reference. These, bhikkhus, are the four great references for you to preserve."
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 63#p117663


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Re: By Scripture/Faith alone?

Postby Adamantine » Sat Feb 26, 2011 5:55 am

TMingyur, It's sounding more and more like you subscribe to the view that the Mahayana and Vajrayana sutras and tantras are not authentic Buddhist scripture, and that only the Pali cannon is trustworthy. Since Dharma Wheel is specifically for a discussion on Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, I am a bit confused if this is indeed the case.
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