How to reconcile both views?

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How to reconcile both views?

Postby doubledragon » Tue Apr 08, 2014 1:13 pm

Hi, everyone! I am new to the site. I have been studying Buddhism on and off since I was twelve (I'm in my early forties) in different centres, and did a Green Tara initiation two years ago and several months of practice with a tulku of the Gelug lineage.
Since this centre is almost two hours away from my house and for personal reasons I have yet to find the time to resume my practice in a centre closer to my home (the only existing one is of the Kagyu lineage), I'm back to studying on my own, for the time being.
My problem is, I am very comfortable with a personal view that I have of a pragmatic, godless Buddhism which can't quite fit the mold of the Tibetan rites and mithology. I like all schools of Buddhism, but recently read a biography by Alexandra David-Neel. Despite travelling up and down Tibet for many years at the beginning of the past century, she had exactly this same problem: how to reconcile the primitive philosophy of the Buddha as you read it on the sutras, with the colourful, more complex Tibetan cosmology and rituals.
It reminds me a bit of the Catholic belief in saints and angels.
I did the Green Tara initiation because I felt a strong affinity with this bodhisattva, yet I still have many doubts as to how this tradition of chanting mantras to the different Buddhas is in accordance with the actual word of the Buddha.
Like I said, I am new to the site and have this huge doubt. I mean no offence to anyone, I am humbly asking for guidance.
I'll be most thankful if you could provide me with your opinion on this subject or lead me to links where a similar subject has been dealt with. If anyone could also explain to me the difference between the Gelug and Kagyu lineages...
Thank you and Mettha to everyone! :buddha2:
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby yan kong » Tue Apr 08, 2014 3:10 pm

There is really no "godless" Buddhism.
"Meditation is a spiritual exercise, not a therapeutic regime... Our intention is to enter Nirvana, not to make life in Samsara more tolerable." Chan Master Hsu Yun
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby doubledragon » Tue Apr 08, 2014 4:44 pm

Could you please develop your point? Since the Parable of the Arrow in the Majjhima Nikaya, many authors have assumed that the Buddha's unwillingness to engage in a metaphysical discussion more or less implied, if not outright disbelief, at least lack of interest to introduce the idea of a God in his philosophical system.
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Apr 08, 2014 5:01 pm

doubledragon wrote:Could you please develop your point? Since the Parable of the Arrow in the Majjhima Nikaya, many authors have assumed that the Buddha's unwillingness to engage in a metaphysical discussion more or less implied, if not outright disbelief, at least lack of interest to introduce the idea of a God in his philosophical system.



Enlightened beings in the Tibetan tradition aren't "Gods" in the sense of a creator deity or anything of that sort..in the traditional teachings they are represented in a bunch of different ways, some literal, some less literal.. you have to decide for yourself where you sit. Read up the three bodies:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trikaya

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sambhogak%C4%81ya

Samboghakaya is particularly relevant,

Beyond that, i'd find a teacher or at least read a "basics" book on Vajrayana or Mahayana. No offense, but without a basic understanding of Mahayana doctrine, it's hard to even approach a question like this really, your frame of reference will be things like western concepts of God etc., which just don't fit in the scheme.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby yan kong » Tue Apr 08, 2014 5:07 pm

@doubledragon: I'm not educated enough to give you the answer that you want. But I'll say this, while there may not be an idea of a monotheistic god that is the all powerful creator of the universe there all still many indic gods common to all forms of Buddhism and for the Mahayana a good number of Bodhisattva.

Thus I think there is not really a godless Buddhism apart from a new westernized one that had trouble with the idea of the traditional Buddhist pantheon.
"Meditation is a spiritual exercise, not a therapeutic regime... Our intention is to enter Nirvana, not to make life in Samsara more tolerable." Chan Master Hsu Yun
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby PorkChop » Tue Apr 08, 2014 5:48 pm

doubledragon wrote:Could you please develop your point? Since the Parable of the Arrow in the Majjhima Nikaya, many authors have assumed that the Buddha's unwillingness to engage in a metaphysical discussion more or less implied, if not outright disbelief, at least lack of interest to introduce the idea of a God in his philosophical system.


Just gonna toss this out there....
Anguttara Nikaya 11.12 (Av328) from Pali Suttas wrote: "Furthermore, you should recollect the devas: 'There are the devas of the Four Great Kings, the devas of the Thirty-three, the devas of the Hours, the Contented Devas, the devas who delight in creation, the devas who have power over the creations of others, the devas of Brahma's retinue, the devas beyond them. Whatever conviction they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of conviction is present in me as well. Whatever virtue they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of virtue is present in me as well. Whatever learning they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of learning is present in me as well. Whatever generosity they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of generosity is present in me as well. Whatever discernment they were endowed with that — when falling away from this life — they re-arose there, the same sort of discernment is present in me as well.' At any time when a disciple of the noble ones is recollecting the conviction, virtue, learning, generosity, and discernment found both in himself and the devas, his mind is not overcome with passion, not overcome with aversion, not overcome with delusion. His mind heads straight, based on the [qualities of the] devas. And when the mind is headed straight, the disciple of the noble ones gains a sense of the goal, gains a sense of the Dhamma, gains joy connected with the Dhamma. In one who is joyful, rapture arises. In one who is rapturous, the body grows calm. One whose body is calmed experiences ease. In one at ease, the mind becomes concentrated.

"Of one who does this, Mahanama, it is said: 'Among those who are out of tune, the disciple of the noble ones dwells in tune; among those who are malicious, he dwells without malice; having attained the stream of Dhamma, he develops the recollection of the devas.'"
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby doubledragon » Wed Apr 09, 2014 10:21 am

Hello to everyone and thank you for guiding my neophyte steps in Buddhism.
I have a hard time dealing with things which I can't see or have not been scientifically proved to exist. Let's say that my experience with my Tibetan teacher has made me aware of another supernatural layer to Buddhism I had not been much aware of till then. A side to Buddhism which resorts to incantations and talks about supraphysical entities which up till then I thought did not quite match the teaching of the Buddha.
I would like to be able to provide the exact quotation, but sorry, I'm awful with quotations, though I've made it a point to mark down everything I read from now on, since my engagement with Buddhism is serious and I have noticed that every one keeps a quotation handy to prove their points here.
I am sure Walpola Rahula, T.W. Rhys Davids and Thich Nhat Nanh state that Buddhism is esentially a godless philosophy. Rhys Davids claims that the adittion of pantheon of supraterrenal beings was a later addition because both the Indian and the Tibetan could not do away with their need for deities.
Your posts certainly provide food for thought to me!
I hope nobody takes offence at my initial scepticism. Like I said, I am learning and it's not my intention to offend anyone's convictions.
Thank you so much!
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Apr 09, 2014 10:47 am

I understand your struggle. I am a fairly 'secular' Buddhist, although I'm not materialist. I am not personally drawn to Tibetan Buddhism, although there are many individual Tibetan Buddhist ideas, schools, books, and so on, that I have utmost respect for. But I am not drawn to the ritualism and iconography of Tibetan Buddhism and there are other schools of Buddhism which take a similar view.

I don't think you'll ever reconcile Buddhism with scientific materialism but there there is no intrinsic conflict between Buddhism and science. A couple of relevant books on this topic - The Universe in a Single Atom: The Convergence of Science and Spirituality by H.H. The Dalai Lama, and The Quantum and the Lotus: A Journey to the Frontiers Where Science and Buddhism Meet Matthieu Ricard.

Besdies the most important Buddhism is the 'inner science' of awareness. That really doesn't require any complex external supports, it has been practiced for millenia by people from all cultures and backgrounds, in everyday life. It can be very simple without a lot of visible signs and symbols and still be completely real.

:namaste:
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby Seishin » Wed Apr 09, 2014 10:56 am

Buddhism, from it's inception, has included deities. Some believe these to actually exist whilst some believe these are teaching 'aids', a bit like a childrens story to teach you right from wrong. The reason Buddhism is considered 'godless' is because it negates the need to believe in a creator god, where-as other religions say that belief in a creator god or god-like figure is a requirement.

Many people see deities, bodhisattvas and the like as archetypes to emulate (or not emulate in some cases), rather than historical or physical beings.

There are many modern teachers who are ignoring or re-interpreting these aspects in order to appeal to a more rational/materialistic society, which is why people like yourself tend to be left confused, even upset, when they find that Buddhism is riddled with dieties, bodhisattvas, nagas etc etc. and prayers and veneration of such beings. 'Secular' Buddhism is a new thing I believe, and not necessarily a bad thing either. I think you can gain a hell of a lot from Buddhism without believing in other worlds and deities etc. I think the problem comes from authors who paint Buddhism as something it has never been.

Such beings are also not unique to Mahayana Buddhism and are found in the Pali Canon, the Agamas and Ghandaran texts.

Gassho,
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby ovi » Wed Apr 09, 2014 11:20 am

Buddhism isn't theist. You can uphold the Kalama Sutta and you won't reject the teaching. Just don't completely skip certain practices simply because they don't seem to be true. You can consider them to be expedient means, they make you come closer to the realization of truth. When it is said that in an adjoining hell beings who seek a home walk a path filled with razor teeth, it is not difficult to understand its meaning. Regardless of how you understand its meaning, it is a cause for your future realization. I for instance consider myself to be an atheist, yet I study mostly Tibetan Buddhism.
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby Astus » Wed Apr 09, 2014 12:19 pm

I think the first big step is to accept that Buddhism is not a "practical philosophy" as late 19th century colonists liked to present it to the Western intellectual elite, but an Asian religion. And if we move Buddhism under the category of religion it is not surprising at all that it is full of religious things like rituals, spirits, deities, magic spells, holy places, relic worship, etc. And you may find all that from the very beginning. It doesn't mean you have to accept ancient Indian beliefs in order to benefit from the Buddha's teachings. However, there's nothing you need to do about traditional concepts you see in Asian Buddhist communities where people pray in front of statues and pictures for health and prosperity.

It all depends on what one's goal is with Buddhism. Think of it as a supermarket where you have a large selection of services. It is completely up to you to choose whatever you like. You can do chanting, prostrations, visualisations, philosophy, all sorts of meditation, and many other things. These are not differing views to reconcile, they are methods. The view itself is quite universal within Buddhism, the Four Noble Truths, the Three Marks, Dependent Origination, the 37 Factors of Enlightenment, etc.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby KeithBC » Wed Apr 09, 2014 12:53 pm

Don't spend too much time with interpretations of Tibetan Buddhism from 19th century and early 20th century writers. They were operating under a prejudice that Tibetan Buddhism was "corrupt". Modern interpreters have a better understanding.

Meditational deities are constructs of the mind. They are not "out there". They are in you. When you meditate on Chenrezi (Avalokiteshvara, Kuan Yin), for instance, he (she in the case of Kuan Yin) is the embodiment of your own compassion. By giving your compassion a form, you become more aware of it and strengthen it.

As a scientist, I have a firm disbelief in anything supernatural. If something happens, it is natural. If it isn't natural, it doesn't happen. Once I understood the place of meditational deities, I had no problem with Tibetan Buddhism.

If that doesn't work for you, no problem. The Buddha taough 84,000 versions of the Dharma just so everyone could find one that works for them.

Om mani padme hum
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby seeker242 » Wed Apr 09, 2014 1:20 pm

Is there a reason why they need to be reconciled to begin with? If you have trouble believing in something other than what is actually seen or heard, proven with science, etc., why can't the question be left open? Does there really need to be a yes or no answer right now? If so, why? Isn't leaving the mind open to possibilities the proper "scientific approach" to begin with? Carl Sagan once said, with regards to things like this, "It's really ok to reserve judgment. Which really mean it's ok to say "I don't know" and leave it at that. :smile:
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby PorkChop » Wed Apr 09, 2014 3:06 pm

doubledragon wrote:A side to Buddhism which resorts to incantations and talks about supraphysical entities which up till then I thought did not quite match the teaching of the Buddha.


I can keep going. There are tons of quotes in the early sutras.
There's even a few mantras like The Divine Mantra and the Atanatiya protection mantra/dharani.

doubledragon wrote:Rhys Davids claims that the adittion of pantheon of supraterrenal beings was a later addition because both the Indian and the Tibetan could not do away with their need for deities.


With all due respect Rhys Davids' view is entirely out of date and based on a mistaken view of a completely rational Buddhism that never really existed outside of the minds of the first post-Age of Enlightenment westerners to encounter Buddhism and some sympathetic Buddhist reformers. The reformers I'm talking about refer to people like King Mongkut of Thailand and the monks in Sri Lanka who successfully debated Christian evangelists in the 1800s, turning the Christians' own accusations of superstition back on them.

TNH has spent a lot of time stripping his presentation of Buddhism of anything that makes westerners uncomfortable, that doesn't mean it was always the case.

That being said, the entire theme of Buddhism is that we don't exist the way we think we do and that would apply to any supernatural beings. The point of the teachings of supernatural beings is also different in Buddhism from most other religions - as you do not have to appease these supernatural beings or worry about judgement by them. Often, they represent something that you should cultivate within yourself (which was what my earlier quote was teaching btw).
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby Seishin » Wed Apr 09, 2014 3:26 pm

PorkChop wrote: The point of the teachings of supernatural beings is also different in Buddhism from most other religions - as you do not have to appease these supernatural beings or worry about judgement by them.


I think that's worth highlighting :thumbsup:
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby doubledragon » Wed Apr 09, 2014 6:52 pm

Thank you sooo much for all the answers! Both sides of the equation have been perfectly addressed and now I feel as if I had invented the wheel.
I feel I can move more freely within my personal belief of Buddhism now, accepting everything that comes my way, without any prejudice or judgment and without pretending to think I have to understand it all.
I can learn to live in the question mark for grey areas I am not so sure about yet, and focus on how Buddhism has improved my life up until now and keeps doing so.
I have been curious about secular Buddhism for a while, but the more spiritual schools attract me too, so why not take the best of both?
I'll have to put my oldies by Rhys Davids to rest despite its quaint charm, and focus on a new bibliography.
I'm sorry I can't come up with the right words, guys, but this has been a most enlightening exchange. I can still prostrate to Tara and Kuan Yin as manifestations of my own inner compassion without feeling weird, but also apply the principles of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path with rigorous scientific objectivity.
I don't feel the need to reconcile both view anymore, but somehow the pieces have grooved together.
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby dakini_boi » Wed Apr 09, 2014 7:19 pm

I recommend the book Introduction to Tantra by Lama Yeshe. He was a great Gepugpa lama. He does a great job of explaining the significance of Vajrayana practices.
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby PorkChop » Wed Apr 09, 2014 8:39 pm

doubledragon wrote:I can still prostrate to Tara and Kuan Yin as manifestations of my own inner compassion without feeling weird, but also apply the principles of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path with rigorous scientific objectivity.
I don't feel the need to reconcile both view anymore, but somehow the pieces have grooved together.


:good: :twothumbsup:
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Apr 09, 2014 8:44 pm

http://www.amazon.com/The-Practice-Lojo ... 1590303784

This is a book on Lojong, not tantra, but IMO it's an especially good book if you are both somewhat culturally a rationalist, but interested in Mahayana/Vajrayana.

For a readable book on tantra regarding these questions, I really enjoyed Bokar Rinpoches Chenrezig: Lord of Love.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: How to reconcile both views?

Postby dzogchungpa » Wed Apr 09, 2014 8:58 pm

doubledragon, may I ask how you view the Buddhist doctrines of rebirth and karma?
Note that, in the higher tantras, there is talk of a self and an I, even though in the lower teachings the absence of self and the absence of I is what is always proclaimed. - Tony Duff
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