Stephen Batchelor - A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

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

Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby mudra » Thu Jun 10, 2010 1:08 am

Contrary to some popular views, being Buddhist isn't simply "hey I like the guy's teaching on the mind stuff", it is a commitment which is signaled by formally taking refuge. When you formally take refuge you do so because you have complete fgaith in the Buddha, his teaching and the community who have taken the step of renunciation or those who have liberated their minds from samsaric view.

Before that happens, there's no injunction, imagined/imposed, on reading the Buddhas teachings, adopting some of them, etc. Why not? But as someone pointed out earlier in this thread, if you don't want to make the commitment why are you so fussed about wanting to be counted amongst "the ranks" of Buddhists?

And how is it that someone who has this commitment to the Buddha, which essentially means acknowledging the Buddha's omniscience/complete enlightenment, all of a sudden starts mucking about with core values which the Buddha explained as valid? This is like a kid in the sand pit who starts telling a building contractor how to lay foundations for a skyscraper.

As to questioning, yes the Buddha endorsed it as a method to deeply and thoroughly understand his teachings. He wasn't interested in breeding parrots, he wanted living beings to understand and integrate the import of what he was teaching.

Get over the conceit that modern intellectualism is more penetrating than the real, profound Buddhadharma. Anyone who thinks that has been doodling in class.


PS: Luke, thank you for posting that. Very lucid.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby shel » Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:08 am

mudra wrote:And how is it that someone who has this commitment to the Buddha, which essentially means acknowledging the Buddha's omniscience/complete enlightenment, all of a sudden starts mucking about with core values which the Buddha explained as valid? This is like a kid in the sand pit who starts telling a building contractor how to lay foundations for a skyscraper.

Hi Mudra,

I agree with what ya say however there seems to be a problem with this quoted portion above. There seems to be some differences between the traditions. Maybe they are slight but there are difference, such as the specifics of Bardo duration etc. How can this be if we're receiving the Dharma accurately? Did someone get it wrong? And if someone got that wrong maybe they got something else wrong.

To use your analogy it's like two contractors telling the kid in the sand pit two different versions of how the skyscraper works. Who is the kid to have faith in?

On the other hand I would not consider the specifics of the Bardo, for instance, to be a "core value." Core values are expressed in many ways.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Yogicfire » Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:45 am

mudra wrote:Get over the conceit that modern intellectualism is more penetrating than the real, profound Buddhadharma. Anyone who thinks that has been doodling in class.


You make some good points, and get straight to the heart of the matter. I do think that we should not take people for granted, thinking that just because they do not hold onto the same cherished beliefs as us that we are somehow better than them, or somehow know more than them, or are 'more of a Buddhist' than them. This is where the arrogance and conceit really comes into play in my view. If we are just practitioners going along and trying our best to work on ourselves, who are we to really criticise others? This is the key point in this discussion.

I understand that some people do have more traditional or firm views on this, and that is not going to change quickly over time. However, this kind of tension between old and new values has been present in every religion or faith since the very beginning... it is part of a natural process.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby mudra » Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:02 pm

shel wrote:
mudra wrote:And how is it that someone who has this commitment to the Buddha, which essentially means acknowledging the Buddha's omniscience/complete enlightenment, all of a sudden starts mucking about with core values which the Buddha explained as valid? This is like a kid in the sand pit who starts telling a building contractor how to lay foundations for a skyscraper.

Hi Mudra,

I agree with what ya say however there seems to be a problem with this quoted portion above. There seems to be some differences between the traditions. Maybe they are slight but there are difference, such as the specifics of Bardo duration etc. How can this be if we're receiving the Dharma accurately? Did someone get it wrong? And if someone got that wrong maybe they got something else wrong.

To use your analogy it's like two contractors telling the kid in the sand pit two different versions of how the skyscraper works. Who is the kid to have faith in?

On the other hand I would not consider the specifics of the Bardo, for instance, to be a "core value." Core values are expressed in many ways.



Hi Shel,

I think when we speak of core values in Buddhism, it isn't specific details like "how long in the bardo" but more general things like rebirth. How one interprets rebirth is more of a question of different schools which exist to accommodate different ways of thinking etc. But the core remains: cause and effect, rebirth etc.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby mudra » Thu Jun 10, 2010 3:28 pm

Yogicfire wrote:
mudra wrote:Get over the conceit that modern intellectualism is more penetrating than the real, profound Buddhadharma. Anyone who thinks that has been doodling in class.


You make some good points, and get straight to the heart of the matter. I do think that we should not take people for granted, thinking that just because they do not hold onto the same cherished beliefs as us that we are somehow better than them, or somehow know more than them, or are 'more of a Buddhist' than them. This is where the arrogance and conceit really comes into play in my view. If we are just practitioners going along and trying our best to work on ourselves, who are we to really criticise others? This is the key point in this discussion.

I understand that some people do have more traditional or firm views on this, and that is not going to change quickly over time. However, this kind of tension between old and new values has been present in every religion or faith since the very beginning... it is part of a natural process.


I guess I posted that in a much more context orientated frame of mind than it reads as a stand alone statement. I was thinking in the context of the so-called "improvements" and "modernization" of a system of thought and transformation that not only originated from an enlightened mind but has been passed down and commented on by many who have applied the methods and have attained results as a consequence. As to non-Buddhists, they have their own issues, it wasn't what I was addressing.

I was addressing the basics of what defines a Buddhist, it's not about "who is more Buddhist".
The discussion is about a critique of Buddhism without beliefs".
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby kirtu » Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:06 pm

Astus wrote:I have a vision of "Western Buddhism" where the three now separate groups (Theravada, EA Mahayana, Tibetan Vajrayana) merge into one single system and then eventually new schools appear from that amalgamation. For instance a Vipassana group doing Hevajra sadhanas and the teacher lecturing on a koan.


:crazy: That sounds like a nightmare.

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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Yogicfire » Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:13 pm

mudra wrote:
Yogicfire wrote:
mudra wrote:I guess I posted that in a much more context orientated frame of mind than it reads as a stand alone statement. I was thinking in the context of the so-called "improvements" and "modernization" of a system of thought and transformation that not only originated from an enlightened mind but has been passed down and commented on by many who have applied the methods and have attained results as a consequence. As to non-Buddhists, they have their own issues, it wasn't what I was addressing.

I was addressing the basics of what defines a Buddhist, it's not about "who is more Buddhist".
The discussion is about a critique of Buddhism without beliefs".


OK, maybe we are missing each others points here. Something lost in translation.... web translation!

I am not talking about non-Buddhists, and I never have. I am sorry if you thought I was referring to non-Buddhists in some way. I am talking about modern Buddhists. Western Buddhists. If you consider these types of people who may not believe in rebirth to be non-Buddhists, then I can understand where our confusion has arisen from!

As to what defines a Buddhist, I think we have been talking about that for some time. And, obviously our definitions differ somewhat...
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Astus » Thu Jun 10, 2010 4:38 pm

Image
"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: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:02 pm

Yogicfire wrote:OK, maybe we are missing each others points here. Something lost in translation.... web translation!

I am not talking about non-Buddhists, and I never have. I am sorry if you thought I was referring to non-Buddhists in some way. I am talking about modern Buddhists. Western Buddhists. If you consider these types of people who may not believe in rebirth to be non-Buddhists, then I can understand where our confusion has arisen from!

As to what defines a Buddhist, I think we have been talking about that for some time. And, obviously our definitions differ somewhat...


Theravada in Sri Lanka and Pureland Buddhism in Hokkaido, Japan may not agree on much when it comes to what constitutes Buddhism, but both without reservation accept rebirth.

It would be difficult to claim oneself a Buddhist while denying rebirth. From the earliest records until now without exception every school of Buddhism in every culture has accepted rebirth and karma.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby shel » Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:25 pm

mudra wrote:
shel wrote:
mudra wrote:And how is it that someone who has this commitment to the Buddha, which essentially means acknowledging the Buddha's omniscience/complete enlightenment, all of a sudden starts mucking about with core values which the Buddha explained as valid? This is like a kid in the sand pit who starts telling a building contractor how to lay foundations for a skyscraper.

Hi Mudra,

I agree with what ya say however there seems to be a problem with this quoted portion above. There seems to be some differences between the traditions. Maybe they are slight but there are difference, such as the specifics of Bardo duration etc. How can this be if we're receiving the Dharma accurately? Did someone get it wrong? And if someone got that wrong maybe they got something else wrong.

To use your analogy it's like two contractors telling the kid in the sand pit two different versions of how the skyscraper works. Who is the kid to have faith in?

On the other hand I would not consider the specifics of the Bardo, for instance, to be a "core value." Core values are expressed in many ways.

Hi Shel,

I think when we speak of core values in Buddhism, it isn't specific details like "how long in the bardo" but more general things like rebirth.

Is rebirth a general thing? If it is then maybe Batchelor has a general belief about it. I don't know what he believes, I haven't read any of his work, but contrary to the title of his book he must believe some things.

How one interprets rebirth is more of a question of different schools which exist to accommodate different ways of thinking etc.

Maybe Batchelor interprets rebirth in a way to accomodate a different way of thinking?

But the core remains: cause and effect, rebirth etc.

Is rebirth a core value or an expression of a core value?
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Indrajala » Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:38 pm

shel wrote:Is rebirth a core value or an expression of a core value?


Rebirth is a problem the Buddha addressed whereupon he crafted a system of therapy that could be utilized to solve that problem.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby shel » Thu Jun 10, 2010 5:47 pm

Huseng wrote:
shel wrote:Is rebirth a core value or an expression of a core value?


Rebirth is a problem the Buddha addressed whereupon he crafted a system of therapy that could be utilized to solve that problem.

Then maybe the rebirth teaching could be interpreted as an expression of the cessation of suffering core value?
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby catmoon » Thu Jun 10, 2010 7:54 pm

shel wrote:
Huseng wrote:
shel wrote:Is rebirth a core value or an expression of a core value?


Rebirth is a problem the Buddha addressed whereupon he crafted a system of therapy that could be utilized to solve that problem.

Then maybe the rebirth teaching could be interpreted as an expression of the cessation of suffering core value?



So does Batchelor subscribe to the idea that rebirth occurs on a very short timescale, like a fraction of a second? I'm wondering how he would deal with the definition of Right View that seems to include classical rebirth.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby mudra » Fri Jun 11, 2010 12:55 am

kirtu wrote:
Astus wrote:I have a vision of "Western Buddhism" where the three now separate groups (Theravada, EA Mahayana, Tibetan Vajrayana) merge into one single system and then eventually new schools appear from that amalgamation. For instance a Vipassana group doing Hevajra sadhanas and the teacher lecturing on a koan.


:crazy: That sounds like a nightmare.

Kirt


:rolling: Kirt, with you on that!!!!
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby mudra » Fri Jun 11, 2010 1:09 am

shel wrote:
Huseng wrote:
shel wrote:Is rebirth a core value or an expression of a core value?


Rebirth is a problem the Buddha addressed whereupon he crafted a system of therapy that could be utilized to solve that problem.

Then maybe the rebirth teaching could be interpreted as an expression of the cessation of suffering core value?



Shel, if we were to be correct then we would say that rebirth is a core premise on which the entire Buddhist system is built - as is cause and effect, and it's subcategory karma.

Without these premises you don't have a Buddhist system, you have a system which has borrowed from Buddhism.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby mudra » Fri Jun 11, 2010 1:32 am

Yogicfire wrote:
OK, maybe we are missing each others points here. Something lost in translation.... web translation!

I am not talking about non-Buddhists, and I never have. I am sorry if you thought I was referring to non-Buddhists in some way. I am talking about modern Buddhists. Western Buddhists. If you consider these types of people who may not believe in rebirth to be non-Buddhists, then I can understand where our confusion has arisen from!

As to what defines a Buddhist, I think we have been talking about that for some time. And, obviously our definitions differ somewhat...


Someone who takes refuge in the Three jewels is a Buddhist, someone who hasn't isn't. Taking refuge implies trust in the core values and premises of the system. Implying and stating otherwise indicates you don't trust them. As regards the Buddha jewel, as a Buddhist one should have the conviction that although the Buddha taught different things to beings of different tendencies and capacities, the core premises he based it on are one's that he himself validated by direct experience, ie during the process of enlightenment under the Bodhi tree (and even before) when he had direct experiences of first the full extent of 'his own' karma and then the karma of all living beings and the cause and effect of all things. If you can't wrap your head around the fact of the Buddha's omniscience/full enlightenment then that is fine - just don't think of yourself as a Buddhist. Better think of yourself as a Buddhist sympathizer.

From the original post:

In regard to his criticism of the rebirth idea, while admitting that the Buddha himself was not agnostic on this issue (p.35,) Mr. Batchelor maintains that he was "still constrained by the world view of his time." (p.94) There are fundamental assumptions being made here that cannot be shared by most traditional Buddhists. One is the implied trivialization of the Buddha's enlightenment. Another is that the modern materialist world view is superior to the metaphysical understanding of ancient India.


Why is it important to take refuge if you are doing Buddhist practices? Simply because it is the base which allows the realizations to arise. It doesn't imply a cessation of investigation. It's the beginning of a yet deeper one.

Ironically, contrary to so-called "modern Buddhist" view, not accepting core premises is more an indication of close mindedness than open mindedness. One wants to be "in the ranks" without having truly investigated and reflected on these issues. Simply writing them off because they are beyond your wish/ability to explore on your own is hardly scientific. That's just an old fashioned form of 'empirical' pseudo-science.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Indrajala » Fri Jun 11, 2010 1:41 am

shel wrote:
Huseng wrote:
shel wrote:Is rebirth a core value or an expression of a core value?


Rebirth is a problem the Buddha addressed whereupon he crafted a system of therapy that could be utilized to solve that problem.

Then maybe the rebirth teaching could be interpreted as an expression of the cessation of suffering core value?


Rebirth is to be understood as a literal phenomena.

It really is quite simple.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby shel » Fri Jun 11, 2010 1:54 am

Huseng wrote:
shel wrote:
Huseng wrote:Rebirth is a problem the Buddha addressed whereupon he crafted a system of therapy that could be utilized to solve that problem.

Then maybe the rebirth teaching could be interpreted as an expression of the cessation of suffering core value?


Rebirth is to be understood as a literal phenomena.

There are all sorts of literal phenomena. Do we value all phenomena equally? of course not.

It really is quite simple.

To a Buddha I suppose it is. For the rest of us, as Mudra says, faith may be in order.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Yogicfire » Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:07 am

mudra wrote:
Yogicfire wrote:Someone who takes refuge in the Three jewels is a Buddhist, someone who hasn't isn't. Taking refuge implies trust in the core values and premises of the system.


I think you are laying it on a bit thick here. Modern Buddhists all take refuge in the Three jewels, and that is not in question. Now, moving onto the "core values and premises" of the system, what exactly is that? I would very much like you to state unequivocally that you have a system in mind, because I actually don't think that one exists. In every major and minor tradition there will be differences, and some are quite clear and distinctive. Some examples off the top of my head: was the Buddha a human or divine figure? Can we be enlightened in one lifetime or not? Is it possible for laypeople to be enlightened? Do we have Buddha-nature or not? And so on..... the answers to these kinds of questions will indicate how we feel about Buddhism personally, and they are quite distinctive and not the same.

This is where the idea of fluidity within the boundaries of dogma and teaching comes into play. Concerning rebirth, I don't think that not believing in it should lead someone to denying people the right to see themselves to be Buddhist. Just as I don't see how one can unequivocally say that just because someone believes in Buddha-nature that means that they are not really, truly Buddhist.

At the end of the day, trying to come up with some core values is a somewhat arbitrary exercise. And, I say this because even if we agree on some sort of core values, the way we interpret and understand them in practice is likely to be quite different.

Lastly, I do agree that rebirth is an important concept within Buddhism, and even to me it seems strange that some Buddhists would not believe in it. However, it seems to be going too far to exclude them from the sangha for not believing in rebirth, that just doesn't seem right to me.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Astus » Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:47 am

"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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