Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

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Postby plwk » Wed Jun 13, 2012 4:20 am

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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby jundo cohen » Wed Jun 13, 2012 5:34 am

A lovely, sensible, powerful, hopeful teaching by Stephen Batchelor.

Gassho, Jundo
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Wed Jun 13, 2012 5:45 am

I'm glad a lot more people attend talks by HHDL.

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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby jundo cohen » Wed Jun 13, 2012 5:50 am

Well, even more folks turn out for the Rev. Billy Graham.

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or the Haj in Mecca ...

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http://www.tillhecomes.org/more-converts-billy-graham/

It is not a matter of number of ticket holders.

Gassho, Jundo
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby plwk » Wed Jun 13, 2012 5:58 am

:rolling:
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby Quiet Heart » Wed Jun 13, 2012 8:28 am

:smile:
Didn't have time to hear it all before I had to do something else.
I see why to some it might ne controversial....but at first hearing...at least the half I heard...it seems there are some good points, and well worth thinking about.
Will have to withold judgement anyhow until I've had some time to think about them.
But thanks for posting it anyhow
:smile:
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby Jnana » Wed Jun 13, 2012 5:52 pm

A decent talk if one is into that sort of cerebral Western revisionism. Although, quoting Monier Monier-Williams as an example of how the West misunderstands Buddhism is a bit dated. At present, thousands of Westerners have thoroughly trained under the guidance of the best Asian teachers of each tradition, and many have also learned the language(s) of their tradition and work at translation. So things have changed considerably since the days of Monier-Williams.

Batchelor and Peacock's aversion towards the word "religion" is also kinda funny. If John Cleese would have appeared from the audience it could have made for a hilarious skit.
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby Lhug-Pa » Wed Jun 13, 2012 8:50 pm

Huseng wrote:I'm glad a lot more people attend talks by HHDL.

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:good:

Although it is unfortunately also true that many more Neoconservative avid Walmart shoppers attend Billy Graham conferences.

Anyway, doesn't Stephen Batchelor identify as an Atheist? If so, most Atheists are Murthugpa's not Buddhists (and Theists are usually Mutegpa's).

Maybe Stephen Batchelor actually has good intentions rather than having an agenda; and if so, then that's good.

However if "atheists" want to be perceived as holding no position at all, then they ought to just admit that they don't know, and refer to themselves as Agnostics instead (or perhaps as Gnostics, that is if they fully embrace the Madhyamaka view and are actually on the Path).

Well to be more fair here...

Just as Agnostic literally means not-Gnostic; Atheist literally means not-Theist.

But generally "Atheists" are usually more materialistic, nihilistic, or anti-Theistic than they are simply not-Theist. So this is why "atheists" usually fall under what are known as Murthugpas.

This being said, are Stephen Batchelor's views more of a "Murthugpa" type of view, or more of an Agnostic view rather?

Regardless, the Buddha Dharma avoids the blind-alley of the Atheist versus Theist dichotomy; meaning that an aspiring Buddha starts out as an Agnostic, with the end-goal in mind being Total Light or Gnosis (Omniscience, Complete Buddhahood). Well there are said to be higher Bhumis than Total Light, I'm just referring to it as an example.
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby Wesley1982 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 8:53 pm

Tell & Teach & Show the West how Buddhism is misunderstood and people will begin to formulate ideas and response to that.
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby Lhug-Pa » Wed Jun 13, 2012 10:01 pm

By the way:

Murthugpa = Barhaspatya
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby Challenge23 » Wed Jun 13, 2012 10:27 pm

Lhug-Pa wrote:By the way:

Murthugpa = Barhaspatya


It also looks like it is translated as "nihilist". Would that be accurate?
I'm an agnostic in the same sense that Robert Anton Wilson was, except his reaction was laughter. Mine isn't.

I am not a teacher in any tradition, Buddhist or otherwise. Anything that I have posted should not be taken as representing the view of anyone other than my own. And maybe Larry S. Smith of Montgomery, Alabama. But most likely just me.
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu Jun 14, 2012 1:46 am

Jnana wrote:A decent talk if one is into that sort of cerebral Western revisionism. Although, quoting Monier Monier-Williams as an example of how the West misunderstands Buddhism is a bit dated. At present, thousands of Westerners have thoroughly trained under the guidance of the best Asian teachers of each tradition, and many have also learned the language(s) of their tradition and work at translation. So things have changed considerably since the days of Monier-Williams.

Batchelor and Peacock's aversion towards the word "religion" is also kinda funny. If John Cleese would have appeared from the audience it could have made for a hilarious skit.

:thumbsup:
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby Malcolm » Thu Jun 14, 2012 2:27 am

Lhug-Pa wrote:By the way:

Murthugpa = Barhaspatya


Where is your source for this?
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby jundo cohen » Thu Jun 14, 2012 3:05 am

Lhug-Pa wrote: ...

However if "atheists" want to be perceived as holding no position at all, then they ought to just admit that they don't know, and refer to themselves as Agnostics instead (or perhaps as Gnostics, that is if they fully embrace the Madhyamaka view and are actually on the Path).


I agree. While I am extremely doubtful of certain aspects of Buddhist Teachings without regard to whether or not the historical Buddha actually taught them as such (for example, I tend to doubt and not cling to very detailed descriptions of the workings of rebirth, and believe that the Buddha as a man of his day and society may have been mistaken in such a claim even if he said it) and do not find such aspects of the Buddhist Teachings either necessary or relevant to my Practice, nonetheless I remain not completely closed off to the possibility that such may be so, could be true (and honor the right of anyone else to believe so) ... an open minded skeptic though thinking such things unlikely ... and therefor would term myself an "agnostic" on such issues. I would also describe myself as agnostic on many other things that people claim in the world, from space aliens having built the pyramids to that other holy man having actually walked on water and turned loaves into fishes (Each might be, could have been true, so let's not completely close off the possibility of the space aliens as ancient Egyptians, although I believe there is little evidence besides peoples' claims). This is certainly neither "nihilism" nor "eternalism" as I see it, for one is not bound by such philosophical views and each is tossed into the wonderful flowing dance of Emptiness. I feel that I am Practicing at the Heart of the Teachings, without regard to particular claimed doctrines.

On the other hand, since perhaps EVERYONE here at the Mahayana-Vajrayana Dharma Wheel, in some way, may be practicing flavors of Buddhism very VERY different in key ways from what the historical Buddha taught (though each may believe that they are practicing in a way at the Heart of the Teachings without regard to whether or not particular claimed doctrines that the Buddha may have said where actually said by him or not, and given the great evidence of change over time in Buddhism, maybe nobody here at Dharma Wheel really limits their practice dependent on whether the historical Buddha taught the exact way they Practice or not) ...

... and since perhaps EVERYONE here at Dharma Wheel does not find certain aspects of the Buddhist Teachings either necessary or relevant to their Practice "at the Heart of the Teachings" without regard to whether the historical Buddha actually instructed so or not ... and may doubt or reject certain Teachings and Practices which other Buddhists find to be in line with "what the Buddha taught" (perhaps, in fact, actually taught) ...

EVERYONE here at Dharma Wheel, whether they care to admit it or not, is either a "Buddhist Agnostic" or "Buddhist Atheist" in their own way, with regard to some of the Buddha's Teachings.

Oh, Stephen Batchelor and folks like him could do things the "old fashioned way", namely, write a new "Sutra" under religious inspiration and "channeling" the Buddha wherein, for example, the Buddha is heard to actually reject his earlier teachings on literal rebirth and such as "just expedient means for the folks who needed to hear such tales" (in fact, Sutras making such point do exist!) ... then claim to discover the "Sutra" under a tree where Manjushri left it ...

... but instead, perhaps (just perhaps) Stephen Batchelor and folks like him are being more honest about it when simply saying "I doubt that old doctrine, don't believe it even if the Buddha actually said it or is claimed to have said it in some older book, and I don't feel it necessary to Practice in such way".

Looking at things that way, perhaps we should change the name of this place to:

"DHARMA WHEEL, a Buddhist discussion forum for Buddhist Atheists and Agnostics of many flavors"?

Gassho, Jundo
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby shel » Thu Jun 14, 2012 3:25 am

jundo cohen wrote:EVERYONE here at Dharma Wheel, whether they care to admit it or not, is either a "Buddhist Agnostic" or "Buddhist Atheist" in their own way, with regard to some of the Buddha's Teachings.


A little peacock once said, "one is not bound by such philosophical views and each is tossed into the wonderful flowing dance of Emptiness." :tongue:
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jun 14, 2012 3:41 am

I had read several of Bachelor's books and thought highly of them, particularly his account of Buddhism coming to the West. I have also gone to a lecture by him. But I parted ways with his Buddhism Without Belief and then with his latest on Buddhist Atheism.

I am currently enrolled in postgraduate studies in Buddhism, and I observe that not all the Buddhologists are oriented towards the spiritual or religious aspects of the teachings - nor do I expect that from them. They are generally expert scholars in one or another field. Bachelor is a lot like a lecturer or academic in the field of comparative religion, with the difference that he explicitly claims to be engaged as a religious - or anti-religious - practitioner of it, and also without the background in comparative religion, although he is obviously highly learned.

He has made many claims that a number of other scholars, and Buddhist scholastics, are very critical of. In particular, there is his argument about 'the cultural accretions' of Buddhism, by which he seems to include 'the idea of rebirth'. This claim is that originally, Buddha did not explicitly teach rebirth, but that it was added to the tradition, due to the fact that it was endemic to the cultural fabric within which Buddhism developed.

But he hasn't said this on the basis of any new textual discoveries, or anything of the kind. These and many other claims he makes are all based on an appeal to common sense, which in Bachelor's case, appears to be common sense according to a modern secular thinker for whom science provides the main criterion of judgement as to what is to be considered real. His approach embodies many unstated assumptions of this kind.

I really don't get any feeling from Bachelor of 'realized emptiness'. David Loy comments:

for Batchelor emptiness of inherent existence—shunyata—is “just a conceptual and linguistic abstraction…. The aim of meditation for Dharmakirti [or at least for Batchelor] was not to gain mystical insight into emptiness, but to arrive at an unfiltered experience of the fluctuating, contingent, and suffering world.”

Although Batchelor denies neither anatta nor shunyata, the explanations he offers (with reference to his own experiences) are pale versions of two of the most basic Buddhist concepts, which are crucial for understanding the personal transformation that is the aim of Buddhist practice. Any Buddhism that minimizes their importance is open to the charge of throwing out the baby with the bathwater.


Source

I think what is actually happening, in effect, is that Bachelor is a kind of trojan horse for the 'new atheism' to smuggle its way into Western Buddhism. There will be many takers for his approach, because, again, it puts the analytical intellect at the centre of the whole story.

But even without going into philosophical depths, one can question Bachelor's depiction of Buddhism purely on technical and scholarly grounds.
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby jundo cohen » Thu Jun 14, 2012 3:51 am

jeeprs wrote:
I think what is actually happening, in effect, is that Bachelor is a kind of trojan horse for the 'new atheism' to smuggle its way into Western Buddhism. There will be many takers for his approach, because, again, it puts the analytical intellect at the centre of the whole story.

But even without going into philosophical depths, one can question Bachelor's depiction of Buddhism purely on technical and scholarly grounds.


Hi,

What you say is so.

Or, perhaps, Batchelor could be correct in his assumptions. In fact, whether it is a " cultural accretion" or not ... and even if the historical Buddha believed it firmly and taught it or not ... Batchelor could be correct in his assumptions.

The claim that "science does not have all the answers" is also (to me anyway) beyond doubt. I am no fan of blind "scientism", nor of folks like Richard Dawkinds and the like, and it seems to me that "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." But that does not mean that everything must be true, however fantastic and counter to the intellect, simply because it is claimed by a holy book and a religion's founder. Whether the historical Buddha actually believed and taught the doctrine is not the deciding factor, because the historical Buddha might have been wrong on that point.

Gassho, Jundo
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jun 14, 2012 4:01 am

But, good sir, the facts of the matter in this case are amply documented. Whether or not one believes in re-birth I just don't think the claim that 'the Buddha didn't really teach re-birth' stacks up. Nor do I think that considering what it means amounts to blindly swallowing the dogma, either.

I think the most likely explanation for what we see here is that rebirth is actually deeply taboo in Western culture, both on scientific and religious grounds. The Christian church anathematized the teaching in the fourth century, and it obviously subversive to the current scientific worldview. So it is a kind of inconvenient truth for your trendy skeptics like Bachelor, better to try and explain it away.

Thanissaro Bikkhu has a very thorough post on this topic on Access to Insight.

I wouldn't have any problem with Bachelor saying 'here is a humanist secular philosophy based on Buddhism, that is especially suitable for Western audiences'. What I (and many others) have a major problem is him saying 'Look, this is what Buddhism really means once I have rescued it from superstitious beliefs such as rebirth'. Sorry, not buying that.
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby jundo cohen » Thu Jun 14, 2012 4:22 am

jeeprs wrote:I wouldn't have any problem with Bachelor saying 'here is a humanist secular philosophy based on Buddhism, that is especially suitable for Western audiences'. What I (and many others) have a major problem is him saying 'Look, this is what Buddhism really means once I have rescued it from superstitious beliefs such as rebirth'. Sorry, not buying that.


Hi Jeeprs,

You don't have to buy it ...

... and we don't have to buy what may be (just may be, for not anyone is the final word on this except perhaps the Buddha ... whatever he actually said depending on who one listens to, and assuming the historical Buddha was always right in his every single opinion even then!) the possible superstitious beliefs or even possiblly sometime quaint views or outright mistakes by the Buddha. To each her own, and one man's "superstitious beliefs" are another man's "Sacred Doctines".

Fortunately, there is room in Buddhism, and this vast reality, for all of us.

Gassho, Jundo
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Re: Uncertain Minds: How the West Misunderstands Buddhism

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Jun 14, 2012 5:08 am

I suppose ethical relativism is a hard thing to avoid in the current situation, but I detect a certain irony insofar as you are the one representing a lineage and wearing the vestements and accoutrements of the tradition, yet at the same time the one saying the Buddha 'makes mistakes'. I could never bring myself to say that, although I certainly can accept that there are plenty of mistakes made by Buddhists.

I am quite sympathetic to the notion of many lives. I often wonder who my ancient ancestors were, roaming around those frozen plains of Europe and wearing bison hides. And sometimes I think, they were simply another version of myself, with all the various cares and woes of men, all their problems and hopes and so on, as exist in all times and places. It makes it a lot easier to comprehend if you look at it in this way. We are plainly part of a process - where does that start and end, eh? I suspect it began, in a very real sense, long before this earth congealed. 'We are stardust'.

On the other hand, a famous Vedanta teacher, who died in 1960, always insisted 'there is no rebirth nor any hereafter. That is the simple truth. Find out who you are now'. I always took that to heart too. :smile:
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