Rebirth and morality.

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

Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Huifeng » Sat Jun 05, 2010 3:58 am

Mahayana teachings with a heavy emphasis on emptiness and "no living being" were all made in the context of mainstream Buddhism of the time, eg. Agamas with Abhidharma explanation. The two balanced each other nicely. A similar situation continued throughout the introduction of Dharma into China, and forms the underlying basis of all the Chinese schools, Chan included. I often note that the present introduction of some of these schools into the west is not always done with the accompaniment of those other mainstream teachings. Moreover, where the teachings in India and China, etc. were given in a general context of "there is a living being which survives death", Buddhism had to push the other way, to the idea of ultimately no being. However, in the west, the default view is the opposite. By continuing to push in the manner useful in Asia, that which leans to one extreme is pushed even further to that extreme. The balance is lost, and the middle path is often lost, too. Such people misinterpret the Dharma to simply conform with the extreme of annihilism (ucchedavada), because that is the delusion they themselves hold.

In traditional Buddhist hermeneutics, the distinction between conventional expression and ultimate truths is a useful resolution to this problem. Remember, "conventional expression" does not mean "some made up story to fool the stupid", however. Moreover, its application requires considerable familiarity with the teachings.
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jun 05, 2010 7:55 am

Huifeng wrote:Moreover, where the teachings in India and China, etc. were given in a general context of "there is a living being which survives death", Buddhism had to push the other way, to the idea of ultimately no being. However, in the west, the default view is the opposite. By continuing to push in the manner useful in Asia, that which leans to one extreme is pushed even further to that extreme. The balance is lost, and the middle path is often lost, too. Such people misinterpret the Dharma to simply conform with the extreme of annihilism (ucchedavada), because that is the delusion they themselves hold.



Thank you Venerable Huifeng for your reply. I always appreciate your opinion and insight.

One thing I've noticed reading modern Chinese Buddhist books is a totally different emphasis from what you typically see in English language Buddhist texts. For example Venerable Master Shengyan, whose work I have come to appreciate, stresses to the reader that people do not become ghosts (鬼) at death and this is not a Buddhist teaching. This of course is tailored for Chinese readers who would be prone to having such a view due to their cultural background. For the typical English language reader such a statement would be unnecessary, but then on the other hand trying to explain rebirth without self almost always triggers arguments because so many westerners unconsciously hold the view of ucchedavada.
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Astus » Sat Jun 05, 2010 9:12 am

That's why it happens that in the west Theravada and Vajrayana can produce religious Buddhists while Zen in most of the cases is a weekend therapy session.
"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: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Huifeng » Sat Jun 05, 2010 9:20 am

Huseng wrote:
Huifeng wrote:Moreover, where the teachings in India and China, etc. were given in a general context of "there is a living being which survives death", Buddhism had to push the other way, to the idea of ultimately no being. However, in the west, the default view is the opposite. By continuing to push in the manner useful in Asia, that which leans to one extreme is pushed even further to that extreme. The balance is lost, and the middle path is often lost, too. Such people misinterpret the Dharma to simply conform with the extreme of annihilism (ucchedavada), because that is the delusion they themselves hold.



Thank you Venerable Huifeng for your reply. I always appreciate your opinion and insight.

One thing I've noticed reading modern Chinese Buddhist books is a totally different emphasis from what you typically see in English language Buddhist texts. For example Venerable Master Shengyan, whose work I have come to appreciate, stresses to the reader that people do not become ghosts (鬼) at death and this is not a Buddhist teaching. This of course is tailored for Chinese readers who would be prone to having such a view due to their cultural background. For the typical English language reader such a statement would be unnecessary, but then on the other hand trying to explain rebirth without self almost always triggers arguments because so many westerners unconsciously hold the view of ucchedavada.


I don't know if you originally mean to write "Yinshun" instead of "Shengyen", but this idea was part of Yinshun's teaching (see Way to Buddhahood) for instance.

That is the gist behind the 人生佛教 - ie. it is for humans, while they are alive.

Almost any work with a "centrist" position must take in mind the start point of the audience. This is unlike extreme positions, when you can just push anybody in the same direction.

As the Lankavatara says:
Better to hold a view of the "self" as great as Mt Sumeru,
Than to mistakenly take up the annihilist position of wrongly grasped emptiness.


Had that as my sig in E-Sangha for some time. Maybe I should fetch it back again ...
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jun 05, 2010 10:29 am

Huifeng wrote:I don't know if you originally mean to write "Yinshun" instead of "Shengyen", but this idea was part of Yinshun's teaching (see Way to Buddhahood) for instance.

That is the gist behind the 人生佛教 - ie. it is for humans, while they are alive.



Venerable

Ven. Shengyan also addresses the issue of ghosts and souls in 《正信的佛教》 from page 64 under the heading “佛教相信靈魂的實在嗎?”.

Here is a relevant quote:

“在中國的民間,對於靈魂的迷信,更是根深柢固,並且還有一個最大的錯誤,以爲人死之後靈魂就是鬼,靈魂與鬼,在中國民間的信仰中,乃是一個糾纏不清,分割不開的大問題。”


Ven. Yinshun also addressed the same issue as you pointed out.

In any case, with Chinese Buddhists the typical problems are notably different from those facing westerners. You might have to warn them not to deal with spirits and so on, but with westerners it is often a case of pulling them away from nihilistic visions of the Buddhadharma.
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jun 05, 2010 10:33 am

Astus wrote:That's why it happens that in the west Theravada and Vajrayana can produce religious Buddhists while Zen in most of the cases is a weekend therapy session.


The latter is probably due in part to the nature of Buddhism in present day Japan.
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Astus » Sat Jun 05, 2010 11:00 am

Could be. But from the East Asian section it is thanks for the Japanese that Buddhism came west. Even Seung Sahn and Shengyan was told by the Japanese to go to America. It is a double-edged sword, so to say. It is interesting to note that Shengyan was in contact with the Harada lineage in Japan where Bantetsugu Roshi told him to go to America.

What could balance the situation is a movement of Dharma teachers who lecture on texts already available in English. While there are dozens of Lotus Sutra and Diamond Sutra translations a good commentary is hard to find. Only Xuanhua produced explanations for those texts but those are more for a Chinese audience than westerners. Or is it just me who find them too long, too boring and superficial?
"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: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Huifeng » Sat Jun 05, 2010 11:18 am

Astus wrote:...

What could balance the situation is a movement of Dharma teachers who lecture on texts already available in English. While there are dozens of Lotus Sutra and Diamond Sutra translations a good commentary is hard to find. Only Xuanhua produced explanations for those texts but those are more for a Chinese audience than westerners. Or is it just me who find them too long, too boring and superficial?


As Nattier (2003) has pointed out, western studies of Mahayana texts are basically those which fulfill two criteria, they are presently still extant in Skt, and they form an important part within Japanese Buddhism.

Ven Hsuan Hua's teachings were all originally oral teachings, and I'm sure that the feeling of his oral teachings would have a somewhat different feeling and effect to English translations thereof in a book.

We need more good translators working with Chinese / Japanese sources who have more of a sympathetic attitude toward the Dharma (hint hint), than being scholars out to make a name for themselves. McRae once noted that whereas most Western scholars of Tibetan and Theravada have strong inclinations towards these teachings themselves, and probably Zen too, the same cannot be said of Chinese sources.

:focus:
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jun 05, 2010 11:21 am

Astus wrote:What could balance the situation is a movement of Dharma teachers who lecture on texts already available in English. While there are dozens of Lotus Sutra and Diamond Sutra translations a good commentary is hard to find. Only Xuanhua produced explanations for those texts but those are more for a Chinese audience than westerners. Or is it just me who find them too long, too boring and superficial?


I think commentaries in general are meant to be reading aids rather than enjoyable literature on their own.

In general when someone reads a sutra (as in study rather than recite) they have a commentary on hand as a kind of running instruction manual detailing the meaning of various words or even explaining unclear grammar patterns.

I'm reading Fazang's commentary on the Brahma Net Sutra Bodhisattva precepts and he makes a lot of unnecessary comments. For example he states the obvious that eating your own flesh doesn't constitute a violation of the vegetarian precept. Interesting the later author who plagiarized Fazang cut out that bit. I can imagine him thinking, "Um, that's a bit too obvious ... we'll just cut that line out."
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jun 05, 2010 11:24 am

Huifeng wrote:We need more good translators working with Chinese / Japanese sources who have more of a sympathetic attitude toward the Dharma (hint hint), than being scholars out to make a name for themselves. McRae once noted that whereas most Western scholars of Tibetan and Theravada have strong inclinations towards these teachings themselves, and probably Zen too, the same cannot be said of Chinese sources.

:focus:


Venerable, when you were at Xilai Temple for that sutra translation conference, about what percentage of those scholars were Buddhist?

I listened to all the mp3 recordings of the proceedings and discussions and while interesting, I wondered how many of the present day academics dealing with Chinese sources are any bit Buddhist.
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Astus » Sat Jun 05, 2010 11:42 am

Master Huifeng,

Yes, I'm sure it is the oral nature that makes the difference. I guess bringing up stories at the time of a speech is a good thing but in writing not necessarily.

By the way, I'm not good in translating things. I may be able to use Chinese texts but very slowly (simply because I've never really studied it systematically neither do I practice). And the main reason is I'm not fond of translating. Plus, I only do it to Hungarian and not English (but rather from it).

Huseng,

I'm fine with traditional commentaries, useful stuff, even those parts that seem unnecessary.
"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: Rebirth and morality.

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Jun 06, 2010 3:33 am

Astus wrote:That's why it happens that in the west Theravada and Vajrayana can produce religious Buddhists while Zen in most of the cases is a weekend therapy session.



I have had the privilege of practicing with three different zen/chan groups and that was not my experience. In all cases there was chanting and scripture as part of every service and the teachers took particular care to stress that zen was not psychology and that he/she was not a therapist. Is your comment above based on experience or prejudice?
Ride the horse in the direction its going.

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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Astus » Sun Jun 06, 2010 3:35 pm

m0rl0ck,

Those who say that Christians (or from any other religion outside Buddhism) can authentically practice Zen are teaching a therapy, a mental fitness training and not Buddhadharma. And Sanbo Kyodan (the majority of western Zen teachers belong to it) is like that, while Kwan Um Zen is close to it because they accept the idea but they don't have Christian Zen teachers as far as I know. And there are others who believe Zen is something universal rather than something specifically Buddhist.
"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: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Sun Jun 06, 2010 4:47 pm

Moderator's note: This thread is in the Dharma Free For All. Please be aware that this forum is a little more free and people can express themselves openly. If you are offended by words here, please do use the report function or it may behoove you to avoid this particular section.

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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby m0rl0ck » Sun Jun 06, 2010 4:49 pm

Well since you didnt mention any in particular i guess you werent speaking from experience.

Astus wrote:m0rl0ck,

Those who say that Christians (or from any other religion outside Buddhism) can authentically practice Zen are teaching a therapy, a mental fitness training and not Buddhadharma. And Sanbo Kyodan (the majority of western Zen teachers belong to it) is like that, while Kwan Um Zen is close to it because they accept the idea but they don't have Christian Zen teachers as far as I know. And there are others who believe Zen is something universal rather than something specifically Buddhist.




All the zen i have ever practiced was distinctly buddhist here in the not so big city of cleveland ohio in the usa. That is just since about '93 or so, but ill be on the lookout for that fake zen you all keep talking about, after all if you dont have standards, how can you exclude the riff raff?

EDIT: All of the zen teachers i have practiced with have been very explicit that zen is not therapy or psychology. That it is a method for seeing ones true nature and not a personal development or self help course.


I love this story:

Black-Nosed Buddha

A nun who was searching for enlightenment made a statue of Buddha and covered it with gold leaf.
Wherever she went she carried this golden Buddha with her.

Years passed and, still carrying her Buddha, the nun came to live in a small temple in a country where there were many Buddhas, each one with its own particular shrine.
The nun wished to burn incense before her golden Buddha.
Not liking the idea of the perfume straying to the others, she devised a funnel through which the smoke would ascend only to her statue. This blackened the nose of the golden Buddha, making it especially ugly.

Ride the horse in the direction its going.

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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Astus » Sun Jun 06, 2010 7:17 pm

m0rl0ck,

Sr. Elaine MacInnes, a Catholic nun and Dharma-heir of Yamada Koun, says the same about the goal of Zen as you do (see: Teaching Zen to Christians, p. 71-80). Robert Kennedy, Jesuit monk and Dharma-heir of Bernie Glassman, confirms the same ideal: "Zen practice helps us to realize our true nature and to liberate our mind from concepts and images." (Zen Spirit, Chirstian Spirit, p. 28).

I didn't mean it is a self-help therapy develop a better personality - although it is a good thing too. But such stripped Zen contains the idea that this true nature to be realised is available without correct view. It is a misunderstanding of the Zen definition that it is outside of teachings.
"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: Rebirth and morality.

Postby kirtu » Sun Jun 06, 2010 11:59 pm

Astus wrote: And Sanbo Kyodan (the majority of western Zen teachers belong to it) is like that, while Kwan Um Zen is close to it because they accept the idea but they don't have Christian Zen teachers as far as I know.


I would have to disagree with you on both points. However my disagreement is only about Daido Roshi specifically and my experiences at Zen Mountain Monastery and Bobbie Rhoads (sitting sesshin with her) and what I have read by Kwan Um Teachers.

Some other Sanbo Kyodan teachers I would basically agree have sought to place Zen teaching in a kind of non-Buddhist position.

I think though that this is really a separate issue from karma and morality.

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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby kirtu » Mon Jun 07, 2010 12:20 am

Gorampa in his summary at the end of his presentation of Mahayana view in "Freedom From Extremes" can be read to support both general positions outlined here:
Position 1: karma is required for Buddhist morality
Position 2: morality can be derived from the generation of compassion:

So the essential point is as follows. According to the Madhyamaka school each of the three vehicles must possess a middle path that avoids the two extremes. [Foe example] the Ratnavali has explained that, for the Hinayana, [it is the fact that things] do not ultimately exist that frees one from the extreme of eternalism, and [it is the fact that] conventionally karmic cause and effect are not denied that frees one from the extreme of nihilism. The Mahayana, based on that [Hinayana interpretation of the meaning of the "middle way", then goes on to teach] (1) a special philosophical view in regard to the nature of reality that is the freedom from all dualistic thoughts, such as exists/does-not-exist; (2) compassion focused on sentient beings and (3) the generation of the Mahayana attitude. Joining these three together and meditating on them, one ultimately attains the result, which is this: that, while immersed in the dharmadhatu - the freedom from proliferations - there emerges, effortlessly and spontaneously, the welfare of sentient beings that are as pervasive [in number] as the very limits of space.


However it should be noted that Gorampa would not agree with me (that this excerpt could be used to support both positions) as he and all Tibetan Buddhist teachers would stress that the higher teachings rest upon the lower teachings as a base (i.e. karma itself woulds never be denied).

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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby shel » Mon Jun 07, 2010 5:07 am

Astus wrote:And there are others who believe Zen is something universal rather than something specifically Buddhist.


Just to clarify, are you suggesting that what Buddhism and Zen are based on is not universally true?
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Re: Rebirth and morality.

Postby Astus » Mon Jun 07, 2010 10:34 am

Kirt,

Yes, Daido Loori is an exceptional Zen teacher not just within Sanbo Kyodan but the whole west. But, sadly, he's the exception. Others like Glassman, Merzel or Aitken are not like that. This has relevance to the present discussion as it shows how people can believe there is Buddhism without rebirth.
"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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