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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:14 am 
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Yogicfire -

Perhaps it is spread a bit thick but perhaps that's because I feel there is a certain lack of clarity about refuge. Taking refuge in the Three Jewels yet having the assumption that the Buddha was limited doesn't jibe.

as to basic premises and systems:
- 4 noble truths. (implying cyclic existence/rebirth etc)
- getting control over delusions/freeing oneself from them through ethics, concentration and wisdom which all leads to liberating and transforming the mind.
- using study reflection and meditation as tools in that system.

Saying that because there is debate over issues like Buddha nature implies there is no 'basic buddhist system' is like saying if people argue over whether electric cars are better than gasoline cars, or whether fords are better than toyotas, that there is no such thing as a car.
Yet the basic system of a car is applied to all of those: chassis, wheels, engine, steering, braking etc.

Nor does mere the fact that one takes refuge make one a member sangha. That's another mistaken concept. If you have attained aryahood, sure. If not ordination is the only way to be a member of the sangha.

Yeah I'm very conservative on certain basic things.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 5:29 pm 
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Mudra, yes, I think we can safely say that you are -very- conservative about certain points of doctrine and practice. As I am fairly liberal, the gap between us seems wide I feel!

For example, I completely fail to understand what you mean when you say that people who take refuge are not part of the sangha. It seems ridiculous to me. But, that is another fascinating topic that we may have to take up another time, or we will be endlessly digressing. I can also see that you might see some of my statements as being ridiculous from your point of view as well!

I don't think that the Four Noble Truths are directly related to rebirth either. As I have already mentioned before, in the zen tradition all these "core teachings" concerning the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold path, and a ton of Buddhist theory and practice is all utilised with little or no reference to rebirth - it is just not relevant to this tradition. A zen teacher would ask you to focus on the here and now, rather than debate on if rebirth is true or not, it just wouldn't be a factor at all in defining one's Buddhist practice.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 5:31 pm 
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Yogicfire wrote:
I don't think that the Four Noble Truths are directly related to rebirth either. As I have already mentioned before, in the zen tradition all these "core teachings" concerning the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold path, and a ton of Buddhist theory and practice is all utilised with little or no reference to rebirth - it is just not relevant to this tradition. A zen teacher would ask you to focus on the here and now, rather than debate on if rebirth is true or not, it just wouldn't be a factor at all in defining one's Buddhist practice.


You ever actually sit down and read Dogen?

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 5:40 pm 
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Yogicfire wrote:
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.


Whether or not a person believes in rebirth or not is their freedom. However, if a person within the community should deny rebirth or deny that the Buddha taught it or claim that at death a sentient being is completely annihilated, this would be spreading false and wrong views and any Buddhist organization would have the freedom to enact appropriate procedures to have said person ejected from the community. It is one thing to say, "I don't believe in rebirth" and another to deny it while claiming to be Buddhist.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 5:44 pm 
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Huseng wrote:
You ever actually sit down and read Dogen?


Don't you know the popular Zen book's title: "Sit Down and Shut Up" - not "Sit Down and Think" or "Sit Down and Read" or "Sit Down and Study". Just shut up and sit Properly. And this kind of utilitarian/practical attitude makes belief unnecessary, thus people can think whatever they want, until they can sit in the Correct Zazen Posture it is Zen, it is Buddhahood.

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"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 6:01 pm 
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Astus wrote:
Huseng wrote:
You ever actually sit down and read Dogen?


Don't you know the popular Zen book's title: "Sit Down and Shut Up" - not "Sit Down and Think" or "Sit Down and Read" or "Sit Down and Study". Just shut up and sit Properly. And this kind of utilitarian/practical attitude makes belief unnecessary, thus people can think whatever they want, until they can sit in the Correct Zazen Posture it is Zen, it is Buddhahood.


I've heard the same remark from a Japanese priest -- that "Buddhism is about this very moment", but I've never seen such an emphasis in a classical Zen or Chan text, let alone sutra or sastra. I imagine such a sentiment of "being in this very moment, right here, right now" as a kind of core message originates from here in Japan and was carried along to the west at some point, but that doesn't make it valid or even useful. I regularly argue with Zen priests about these kind of things and point out their very flawed remarks. Most people looking to Zen for spiritual satisfaction sanitized of religion lack knowledge about Buddhism in general. In the English speaking world few read Japanese and fewer read the actual Chinese texts, so the message and image of Zen is monopolized by a very small group of writers.

It might change over time. It might not. I think Chan might become more readily recognized. We might have a situation where predominately Chinese based Chan traditions maintain orthodox Buddhist ideas while Zen goes the way of yoga in the west: a cheap watered down version of an exotic eastern spiritual practise remade and neatly packaged for a consumer audience.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 6:13 pm 
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Huseng wrote:
You ever actually sit down and read Dogen?


I have read very little of Dogen. But, I do know that there is quite some discussion within zen concerning views on rebirth, and the ideas in the Shobogenzo, and the Bendowa, and what they mean to Buddhist practice. This is from Rev. Shohaku Okumura, Director of the Soto Zen Education Centre (and a graduate of Komazawa by the way):

I don't understand that if there is no atman (permanent self) beside this impermanent body and mind, what is chanting, "I take refuge in Buddha." after the death of this body and mind? Anyway, if this is a contradiction, Buddhism itself has had this contradiction from the very beginning until today. Many Buddhist philosophers have tried to clarify this point and no one has been completely successful.

I am not going to try to create a new theory to explain this contradiction. I don't believe in rebirth and yet, I don't negate it. There is no basis to believe or negate it. What I can say for sure is, "I don't know." The important thing for me is to practice in this lifetime as the Buddha instructed in the Dhammapada, "To refrain from anything bad and practice everything good. Purify your mind. This is the teaching of the seven Buddhas." If there is rebirth, it is all right, I will try to practice in the same manner. If there is no-rebirth, I don't need to do anything after my death. So I don't need to think about it in that case. Even if I don't believe rebirth as a person, I don't negate the principle of cause and result. What I am doing now will have result even after my death. My practice is a result of my teacher's practice.

This is how I answered the question about rebirth until recently. But after I became fifty, I found that I have a wish to live the next life, simply because this lifetime seems too short to practice the buddha way. For example, I have been working on the translation of Zen Buddhist texts from Japanese to English, and there is too much work for me to do in this lifetime. Also my life seems too short a span to fully understand the true meaning of Buddha's, Dogen's and other teachers' words. I need much more time to translate all the texts I want to introduce. I wish to be reborn as a Buddhist again and continue to work on it. I think this is because I am aging and have found my limitations. Probably the belief in the Bodhisattva's henyaku-shoji (transforming life-and-death); ceaseless practice life after life because of their vows was originated in this awakening to the limitations of our personal lives.


http://www.thezensite.com/ZenTeachings/ ... kumara.htm

One of the points that I would make from all this, is that many aspects of Buddhist teaching and practice are not so easy to pin down as we might think. We all are on a journey, and the way we understand the teachings is directly related to our own realisations, experiences and wisdom. It is a journey that doesn't contain clear signs at all times, and sometimes we get lost, come across a new way of understanding something, see things from a different part of the forest, and it all is relevant and not to be dismissed. It is deeply personal, and the way that we connect to different aspects of the buddhadharma is not to be so easily described or rejected by others. We do have to walk for ourselves, as the Buddha himself said.

Knowing the work that I have to do on myself, I find it incredibly hard to know how I could really judge others so clearly, and precisely, when in reality, my own view is partly obscured! And, I am accepting and rejecting different ideas as I go along, trying to make my way through the forest, just like the Rev Okumura, and countless others.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 6:46 pm 
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Yogicfire wrote:

I have read very little of Dogen.



Then your remark...

Quote:
As I have already mentioned before, in the zen tradition all these "core teachings" concerning the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold path, and a ton of Buddhist theory and practice is all utilised with little or no reference to rebirth - it is just not relevant to this tradition. A zen teacher would ask you to focus on the here and now, rather than debate on if rebirth is true or not, it just wouldn't be a factor at all in defining one's Buddhist practice.


...is based on the statements made by who? Modern representatives of either Soto or Rinzai?

Quote:
[i]I don't understand that if there is no atman (permanent self) beside this impermanent body and mind, what is chanting, "I take refuge in Buddha." after the death of this body and mind? Anyway, if this is a contradiction, Buddhism itself has had this contradiction from the very beginning until today. Many Buddhist philosophers have tried to clarify this point and no one has been completely successful.


He seems to have no understanding of how only whereby lacking atman can any being at all exist due to the process of causality or dependent origination. Furthermore, he seems to assume the mind, being impermanent, is tied to the demise of the body.

Quote:
I am not going to try to create a new theory to explain this contradiction. I don't believe in rebirth and yet, I don't negate it. There is no basis to believe or negate it. What I can say for sure is, "I don't know." The important thing for me is to practice in this lifetime as the Buddha instructed in the Dhammapada, "To refrain from anything bad and practice everything good. Purify your mind.


Anyone from any religion can purify their minds, but without right view it is all futile. One might achieve the highest peak of existence in the arupa-loka, but the ultimate result is falling back down onto the rougher side of the wheel of life.

Also it is curious that he is quoting a Pali scripture and saying following the Buddha's instructions is important to him, yet he is denying a fundamental teaching of the Buddha. I suppose he is picking and choosing which teachings he likes? If anyone is guilty of contradiction, it is him. To say the Buddha's instructions are important and then be agnostic about rebirth and denying its importance is complete foolishness.


Quote:
One of the points that I would make from all this, is that many aspects of Buddhist teaching and practice are not so easy to pin down as we might think.


If one properly studies, reflects and practises both meditation and morality, then the whole process of being a mere dweller in samsara to Buddhahood (or Arhatship in the case of Sravakayana) can be neatly mapped out and this has been done in numerous traditions.


Quote:
Knowing the work that I have to do on myself, I find it incredibly hard to know how I could really judge others so clearly, and precisely, when in reality, my own view is partly obscured! And, I am accepting and rejecting different ideas as I go along, trying to make my way through the forest, just like the Rev Okumura, and countless others.


Such vague and sympathetic remarks are a new trend in Buddhism. If you read actual scriptures and texts you'll almost always find the authors (of any period or culture) saying without reservation their thoughts and making clear unsympathetic judgements about others and more often than not the judgements are very critical and harsh. These are so old and usually in dead languages that few would find them personally offensive, but if you raise the same arguments against people now you'll be called insensitive, judgemental and arrogant.

In any case, dwelling on how you're wandering through a forest and how remarkable such a spiritual path of uncertainty is your freedom, but don't expect me to be sympathetic towards such sentimental nonsense. The Buddhadharma if properly understood is an almost mechanical process that functions as a therapy where the problem of suffering is addressed and the cure is prescribed through various means which are explained in detail without hesitation.

Abiding in a "forest" and feeling wonder at your own uncertainty while praising others own doubtful attitudes is hardly a reasonable and rational approach towards the disease of samsara. What you describe is more like a visit to judgement-free self-help session than an actual methodology to end suffering.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:12 pm 
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Astus wrote:

Interestingly the article doesn't even mention rebirth, at least not by name.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 7:57 pm 
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Question came up as I was browsing the thread...

Let's say you had a friend who is coming from a secular and rationalistic background, with all the conceptual limits this entails, but who has seized on Buddhism as a possible spiritual path. Let's say you know with some certainty that this person is only capable of the following:

-- Batchelor's "agnostic Buddhism"
-- Zen Lite
-- Some other form of non-supernatural Buddhism
-- Secular humanism (perhaps with meditation or yoga as a complement)
-- Nihilism

What would be the best option here, and why? (Given that none of them are ideal). Again, this person can only choose from the above; at this point, the "religious" elements in Buddhism are too big a leap. Human birth is rare and your friend has encountered the dharma, even if in an incomplete form. He or she might not encounter it again for many eons.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:30 pm 
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Lazy_eye wrote:
Let's say you had a friend who is coming from a secular and rationalistic background, with all the conceptual limits this entails...

Hi Lazy_eye,

If you can clarify one point please, are "religious" concepts limitless?


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:32 pm 
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Huseng,

I think that there are already so many books in English to study, starting with the Pali Canon through Madhyamaka and Yogacara, up to Zen and Vajrayana, that if one cares to study them, a thorough understanding of Buddhism is available without learning a second language. Plus translations are coming in a better quality and higher speed. So I don't find language barrier a valid excuse.

At the same time, it is unrealistic to expect the majority of Buddhists and to be Buddhists to go deep into complicated teachings. But those who want to be Dharma teachers should definitely do that. Then those Dharma teachers can come up with a teaching acceptable to a larger audience. This is something already in progress, western teachers educating western students. But education is not so highly valued in Buddhism as in other parts of western society. Silent retreats, empowerments and koan interviews sell a lot better than a Sunday school on the Awakening of Mahayana Faith.

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"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 8:39 pm 
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Yogicfire,

When I first read that by Rev. Shohaku Okumura I was pretty much amazed how can one be a Dharma teacher and in the Zen tradition without being clear about elementary teachings like rebirth and dependent origination. If that is not comprehended how could one ever think of understanding such a highly sophisticated text as the Shobogenzo? Perhaps I should reconsider my views about the Dharma Ending Age.

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"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:01 pm 
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Lazy_eye wrote:
Question came up as I was browsing the thread...

Let's say you had a friend who is coming from a secular and rationalistic background, with all the conceptual limits this entails, but who has seized on Buddhism as a possible spiritual path. Let's say you know with some certainty that this person is only capable of the following:

-- Batchelor's "agnostic Buddhism"
-- Zen Lite
-- Some other form of non-supernatural Buddhism
-- Secular humanism (perhaps with meditation or yoga as a complement)
-- Nihilism

What would be the best option here, and why? (Given that none of them are ideal). Again, this person can only choose from the above; at this point, the "religious" elements in Buddhism are too big a leap. Human birth is rare and your friend has encountered the dharma, even if in an incomplete form. He or she might not encounter it again for many eons.

Yes, yes, I agree. That's why I said earlier:
Luke wrote:
First of all, I think Batchelor's work may have value if it serves as a "stepping stone" to real Buddhism (as for example, Eckhard Tolle's or Deepak Chopra's books might).

Just like we wouldn't criticize a fat person for walking instead of running because this was the best he could do at the time and it's certainly better than doing nothing at all.

Although those of us who are more traditional in our Buddhist views might get irritated with someone who got stuck in the "Stephen Batchelor phase," I do agree that it's probably better than no Dharma at all.

Like Astus said in one of his earlier posts, even hearing the name of the Buddha produces great benefits.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:14 pm 
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Lazy_eye,

That is a good and timely question. I don't think we should reinvent the wheel. The Buddha taught a gradual path and at that time rebirth was not accepted by everyone in India. Here's a little intro to his gradual training. So it has (1) generosity, (2) virtue, (3) heaven, (4) drawbacks, (5) renunciation and (6) the four noble truths. In the Tibetan traditions this approach manifests as the four thoughts that turn the mind to the Dharma: (1) precious human birth, (2) death and impermanence, (3) causality and karma, (4) drawbacks of samsara; after this may come the four noble truths and awakening the bodhicitta.

I say that the above methods are very well usable today too. But to answer your question specifically, I say it is best to learn vipassana meditation. Because through that one can learn to actually observe the meaning of the above teachings, and of course a lot more. By seeing for himself that the Buddha's teaching is true it is easy to accept even so called supernatural things too.

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"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)

"Neither cultivation nor seated meditation — this is the pure Chan of Tathagata."
(Mazu Daoyi, X1321p3b23; tr. Jinhua Jia)

“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; T2076p461b24-26)


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 9:33 pm 
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Luke wrote:
Luke wrote:
First of all, I think Batchelor's work may have value if it serves as a "stepping stone" to real Buddhism (as for example, Eckhard Tolle's or Deepak Chopra's books might).

Just like we wouldn't criticize a fat person for walking instead of running because this was the best he could do at the time and it's certainly better than doing nothing at all.

Although those of us who are more traditional in our Buddhist views might get irritated with someone who got stuck in the "Stephen Batchelor phase," I do agree that it's probably better than no Dharma at all.

I think you're missing the point, Luke. Eckhard Tolle, Deepak Chopra, the Secret, Chicken Soup for the Soul, etc etc, are not claiming to be Buddhist. The title of the book is Buddhism Without Beliefs.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 10:20 pm 
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shel wrote:
I think you're missing the point, Luke. Eckhard Tolle, Deepak Chopra, the Secret, Chicken Soup for the Soul, etc etc, are not claiming to be Buddhist. The title of the book is Buddhism Without Beliefs.

As I already stated earlier, I think that "Buddhism without Beliefs" is not really Buddhism and that the title is a misnomer which was used because it's catchy and gets attention. I don't think Buddhism without beliefs is anymore possible than sailing without wind is.

Anyway, in my previous post, I was responding to Lazy_eye who was talking about a whole spectrum of possible beliefs.


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 11, 2010 10:41 pm 
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Luke wrote:
shel wrote:
I think you're missing the point, Luke. Eckhard Tolle, Deepak Chopra, the Secret, Chicken Soup for the Soul, etc etc, are not claiming to be Buddhist. The title of the book is Buddhism Without Beliefs.

As I already stated earlier, I think that "Buddhism without Beliefs" is not really Buddhism and that the title is a misnomer which was used because it's catchy and gets attention. I don't think Buddhism without beliefs is anymore possible than sailing without wind is.

Anyway, in my previous post, I was responding to Lazy_eye who was talking about a whole spectrum of possible beliefs.

Granted the title of Stephen Batchelor's book was designed to be sensational, the man clearly has Buddhist beliefs. However I believe that he is dead serious about it being Buddhism, unlike the rest of the spectrum that was mentioned. He's not adding to the spectrum, his efforts are in fact towards changing Buddhist beliefs.

Would it be OK with you if he were successful in changing Buddhist beliefs?


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 12:58 am 
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Yogicfire wrote:
Mudra, yes, I think we can safely say that you are -very- conservative about certain points of doctrine and practice. As I am fairly liberal, the gap between us seems wide I feel!

For example, I completely fail to understand what you mean when you say that people who take refuge are not part of the sangha. It seems ridiculous to me. But, that is another fascinating topic that we may have to take up another time, or we will be endlessly digressing. I can also see that you might see some of my statements as being ridiculous from your point of view as well!

I don't think that the Four Noble Truths are directly related to rebirth either. As I have already mentioned before, in the zen tradition all these "core teachings" concerning the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold path, and a ton of Buddhist theory and practice is all utilised with little or no reference to rebirth - it is just not relevant to this tradition. A zen teacher would ask you to focus on the here and now, rather than debate on if rebirth is true or not, it just wouldn't be a factor at all in defining one's Buddhist practice.


Hi Yogic fire - I don't think the gap is so wide. We are all trying to figure out how we are actually going to be enlightened/free. So we have some differences of opinion. What we are discussing is more a question of definitions. If someone wants to take bits of Buddhism and apply them without the rest it really is fine. As was pointed out above by Luke, it's better than no Dharma at all. From a Buddhist point of view people are free to choose what they want, and honestly speaking I rejoice when people get something out of Buddhism even if they don't necessarily want to take refuge.

But what puzzles me is why the insistence on being acknowledged as a full fledged Buddhist when you don't want to accept it in total? So why not take those elements and just create another thing and define it as such? Is it a question of Buddhism having good brand recognition?

I realize that it might come across as being hard headed fundamentalism, but I'm more concerned about the proper definitions of terms so that we don't end up with a degeneration of the 'language', in other words gobbledygook.

For example the term Sangha refers to the community of those who have completely renounced personal worldly involvement by taking monastic ordination, as opposed to lay ordination as householders or in the original Magadhi/Sanskrit/Pali terms: upasaka/upasika. The only exceptions to this are those beings who have attained liberation from Samsaric existence or "Aryas" - hence the term Arya Sangha. If you do want to have sense of community I think it is fine to use the term community - it is a correct application of the term. And if Western Buddhists want to have a community I think it is very helpful. But why use an Indian Buddhist term incorrectly? Why not reserve that term for what it means?

Why all this is important is that terms are codes for concepts which are used in a system. And until we attain complete freedom from the need for concepts let's at least keep them straight, otherwise the system doesn't work. Imagine if people just started making their own traffic rules. Let's not get allergic to concepts - they are tools. Granted we don't need to worship them, but we need to know how to use them and what they can do. We work with them in Buddhism in skillful (hopefully) manners in order to experience beyond that.

Please let's not get lost in this "In Zen there is no need for concepts" rubbish because the very fact that there are terms like Zazen, Roshi, Koan, "here and now" etc points to concepts. They work with the concept that less is more. (Look Ma, they even have books!). They might be barer but they are concepts. Instant enlightenment does happen - after a lot of hard work.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 12, 2010 1:13 am 
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shel wrote:
Luke wrote:
Luke wrote:
First of all, I think Batchelor's work may have value if it serves as a "stepping stone" to real Buddhism (as for example, Eckhard Tolle's or Deepak Chopra's books might).

Just like we wouldn't criticize a fat person for walking instead of running because this was the best he could do at the time and it's certainly better than doing nothing at all.

Although those of us who are more traditional in our Buddhist views might get irritated with someone who got stuck in the "Stephen Batchelor phase," I do agree that it's probably better than no Dharma at all.

I think you're missing the point, Luke. Eckhard Tolle, Deepak Chopra, the Secret, Chicken Soup for the Soul, etc etc, are not claiming to be Buddhist. The title of the book is Buddhism Without Beliefs.


Luke has already answered this, and I must concur with the sentiment Luke expresses above.

So I was thinking, how about we suggest to Stephen Batchelor that he just adds a question mark to his title?


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