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 Anders » Sun Jun 13, 2010 1:39 pm

shel wrote:So it's like you would be ok with someone practicing Buddhism (that was actually Hinduism) as a stepping stone for Buddhism.


This is the state of affairs in many cases. 'being ok with' or not strikes me as a judgement that's just plain waste of energy.

The question really is, for ourselves when encountering this, are we going to provide for this to be a stepping-stone for Buddhism(tm)? Oftentimes, poo-pooing with 'this isn't Buddhism' doesn't really accomplish much for the listener.

Of course, it often turns out different in online discussions. Not really face to face, so what is often actually personal debates tend to be laced with generic principles.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby shel » Sun Jun 13, 2010 6:59 pm

mudra wrote:If you don't understand that I don't stand by the principle of nihilism by now then you can't have been paying attention.

That's clear. You stand by the notion that some Buddhism is better than no Buddhism. The problem is that Buddhism Without Beliefs is not just teaching some Buddhism or incomplete Buddhism, it is teaching annihilationist Buddhism. So it would seem that you are either ignoring the annihilationist principles that he teaches or you don't think it's significantly non-Buddhist. Batchelor's student and those who study his teaching will learn annihilationist Buddhism and believe that is true Buddhism, they won't ignore the nihilism in his teaching as you may be doing.

But this seems to be getting more personal than about the reality of there being many roads to Rome. This is getting kind of like "if you aren't with us you're agin us.."

Where we started out was a question of definitions not allegiances.

Don't be silly, Mudra, this isn't personal. I'm just trying to understand how you and Luke can be ok with Batchelor teaching annihilationist Buddhism or rather, why it would ever be necessary to teach annihilationist Buddhism. Meeting students where they're at is one thing, but telling them what they want to hear is something else entirely. If someone likes the idea that the moon is made of cheese are you doing them a favor by saying "yes, the moon is made of cheese and I can recommend a scientific book that teaches this in detail," and trust that one day they'll come to understand that the moon is not made of cheese? I don't understand why anyone would do that.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby mudra » Mon Jun 14, 2010 12:10 am

Shel, really the last word on this:

I don't endorse Batchelor's book. I don't recommend it. I don't say it is Buddhism in the proper sense of the term. I have spoken my opinion of it.

All I am saying is that I am not about to go out on a "ban that book" rampage, because, as explained ad nauseum, people come to the real thing in many mystifying ways. There will always be these kind of things. If people come to explore real Buddhist principles as a result, great. If not, what can we do? Batchelor is not teaching nazism after all.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby shel » Mon Jun 14, 2010 1:17 am

mudra wrote:All I am saying is that I am not about to go out on a "ban that book" rampage

Ok good. Yeah, that would be nutty, and useless. It seemed like you were saying something else before but I must have been mistaken.

people come to the real thing in many mystifying ways

They also come to it without having first been mislead by annihilationists. :rolleye:
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby mikenz66 » Mon Jun 14, 2010 3:55 am

I'm not a huge fan of Stephen Batchelor, but this discussion did induce me to catch up with his recent interview on Buddhist Geeks, which is somewhat interesting:
http://www.buddhistgeeks.com/2010/06/bg ... t-atheist/

And there are some comments from readers/listeners...

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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby noclue » Mon Jun 14, 2010 6:00 am

Batchelor is actively practicing and exploring. He is trying to work out the greatest koan of his life in his way, as a philosopher and thinker. This is more or less a mission impossible, but that's what they said to the mosquito who wanted to bite an iron bull.

I say "Go, Stevo!!!"
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Aemilius » Mon Jun 14, 2010 9:38 am

Huseng wrote:
Samsara is defined as cyclic existence. So if you don't think samsara is real, why practise towards being liberated from it?

If there is no rebirth then kill yourself and you have instant nirvana. No need to practise, to meditate, to uphold morality, to retrain oneself from sensual pleasures: instant cessation of suffering.

Moreover, put simply, ucchedavada or the view of annihilation at death was counted as a wrong and wicked view by the Buddha and every single tradition has affirmed rebirth over thousands of years. It is only in the last few years that materialists have arisen claiming to be Buddhist.

Any self-proclaimed Buddhist denying rebirth is uttering false dharma. There is no Buddhism without rebirth.


Stephen Batchelor ( or some other person) would be a follower of the Middle Way if he would also say that he does not believe that only this life exists. He would have to say it every time he says that he does not believe in reincarnation. And he would have to say it on every other page of his book too. Thus he would avoid being counted a nihilist.

Otherwise I strongly agree with Huseng. I have thought it is a proof of rebirth that you do not become glad when you hear someone has commited a suicide ! I think the sadness (of suicide news) means that you unconsciously know where the person is heading for.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Yogicfire » Mon Jun 14, 2010 10:32 am

Anders Honore wrote:
Yogicfire wrote:
Anders Honore wrote:The main problem with Bachelor is the he presents his ideas as agnostic. When in fact they are not agnostic, but actively (and revisionally) reductionist.

Imo, Agnostisicism is completely a-oh-kay with Buddhism in these regards. But for it to be have been properly agnostic, Bachelor should have written the book "Buddhism with Tentative Beliefs" instead of "Buddhism without Beliefs".


Well put. I am not sure about the phrase "tentative" beliefs, though. I think if I had a stab at the title it would be "Buddhism with Appropriate Beliefs".


How do you connect agnosticism with appropriateness? I connect tentative beliefs with it because I reckon someone who has genuine doubts about things like rebirth & karma, but nonetheless retains an open mind about thhe possibility of it, can still work with them as tentative hypotheses (which may prove appropriate to hold for other reasons than their factuality in such a case) for people who genuinely do not wantto commit to the verity of any given belief system.

I've said in many a philosophy discussion that pragmatism is the logical outcome of skepticism and I think the same can be applied here. Maybe that's how you figure appropriateness into the picture? At any rate, I think the tentativeness of a belief would be more paramount to the dedicated agnostic (at least on a personally level) than the appropriateness of it.


I would lean towards connecting appropriateness to some form of active agnosticism in the sense that we are talking about people who are on a journey on the Buddhist path. They are actively taking on board teachings, unsure about others, and perhaps placing a few on the back burner. This is a natural process, and the point should be made that we are not in effect talking about people who are bad mouthing the faith, or acting like some undesirable heretics. We are talking in the main, I think, about people who are simply trying to put it all together, in their own time, at the appropriate time.

My example a few pages back of the zen teacher also had this element within it. He started out fairly agnostic towards rebirth, but as he grew older that view was modified somewhat. People do change, and views can evolve. They don't have to be set and unchangeable.

So, from this point of view, I wouldn't refer to most of these people as 'dedicated agnostics', as people who I have met, or known about who had some reservations about certain teachings such as rebirth, were more in a process of exploration and discovery, rather than demonstrating close-minded thinking.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Aemilius » Mon Jun 14, 2010 2:03 pm

It is told in the sutras that the content of Tathagata Shakyamuni's enlightenment is that he sees his former births. It is also said that Arhats and those who attain to other degrees of enlightenment also see this as an integral part of enlightenment. It maybe that the karmic hindrances of humanity are so heavy that it is impossible for most people to understand enlightenment, even theoretically.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby mudra » Tue Jun 15, 2010 12:21 am

Aemilius wrote:It is told in the sutras that the content of Tathagata Shakyamuni's enlightenment is that he sees his former births. It is also said that Arhats and those who attain to other degrees of enlightenment also see this as an integral part of enlightenment. It maybe that the karmic hindrances of humanity are so heavy that it is impossible for most people to understand enlightenment, even theoretically.


:anjali:
With you on that!
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jun 15, 2010 1:17 pm

Yogicfire wrote:I would lean towards connecting appropriateness to some form of active agnosticism in the sense that we are talking about people who are on a journey on the Buddhist path. They are actively taking on board teachings, unsure about others, and perhaps placing a few on the back burner. This is a natural process, and the point should be made that we are not in effect talking about people who are bad mouthing the faith, or acting like some undesirable heretics. We are talking in the main, I think, about people who are simply trying to put it all together, in their own time, at the appropriate time.


The problem is that some such people are teachers, published authors and representatives of Buddhist organizations.

They haven't figured a lot of stuff out and they're attempting to lead people.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby LastLegend » Fri Apr 29, 2011 1:45 pm

Rebirth is a result of karma, and by believing in karma we will restrain ourselves from doing terrible things. And really Buddhism is built on karma. To become Buddha is also karma because we have to cultivate the path in order to become Buddha. So in layman terms, if you grow orange, you will have orange. It would be a problem for a Buddhist to engage in doing terrible things.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Jikan » Fri Apr 29, 2011 1:54 pm

Huseng wrote:
The problem is that some such people are teachers, published authors and representatives of Buddhist organizations.

They haven't figured a lot of stuff out and they're attempting to lead people.


like so...

viewtopic.php?f=64&t=3949&view


***

For all that, though, I think Batchelor makes at least one interesting claim in Buddhism w/o Beliefs: his emphasis on practicing together, on building a "culture of awakening," is laudatory. I wish he had been more specific about it, more committed... really less agnostic in this aspect of his book as well.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Fri Apr 29, 2011 5:00 pm

Hummm, it may happen that by stepping a piece of crap we may end up looking down and discover the diamond standing just next to it... :thinking:
That's all I have to say about this matter... :mrgreen:
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Jikan » Fri Apr 29, 2011 6:19 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:Hummm, it may happen that by stepping a piece of crap we may end up looking down and discover the diamond standing just next to it... :thinking:
That's all I have to say about this matter... :mrgreen:


"sometimes a blind squirrel finds a nut"
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Indrajala » Sat Apr 30, 2011 1:44 am

Dechen Norbu wrote:Hummm, it may happen that by stepping a piece of crap we may end up looking down and discover the diamond standing just next to it... :thinking:
That's all I have to say about this matter... :mrgreen:


That doesn't justify charlatanism.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Sat Apr 30, 2011 4:21 am

No. I think the guy is deluded that's all. I wouldn't consider him a charlatan. Only a fellow deeply biased by materialist metaphysics.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Sat Apr 30, 2011 4:33 am

Huseng, you want to see real crap?
There. Buddhism Lite at its best (or, as I like to call it, psychobullshit dharma):
Not that I disagree with EVERYTHING, but as this is a trend, there you have it.

(from: http://www.zenforuminternational.org/vi ... =64&t=6557)

-----------------------------
I have a confession to make: I don't believe in Buddha.

It may be shocking for a Buddhist priest to say so, as shocking as hearing a Catholic priest say he "doesn't believe in Jesus". But it's true nonetheless. I am a Buddhist priest who thinks "Buddha" is largely bunk and baloney.

At least, I think there's a lot of "bull" to how Buddha is typically portrayed. I think many of the utterly fantastic Mahayana Sutra stories of Buddhas are ridiculous ... hyper-exaggerated ... just unbelievable! (meaning that they cannot be literally believed any more than children's fairy tales). The imagery is incredibly beautiful ... but the tale just incredible nonsense, purely the product of human imagination. I think the image of a "Perfect Buddha" ... either in this world or some Buddha Land ... as a flawless being beyond all human weakness, conflict and ignorance ... is a fable, a religious myth. I think most of the old miracle filled stories are well meaning fictions, sometimes holy lies, and the golden statues and paintings of Buddhas are but depictions of exaggerated dreams.

Oh, I believe that there was a man who lived whom we now call "the Buddha", but I think what happened over the centuries' is his victimhood to a process of hagiography. A Buddha or Ancestor dies (same for Jesus, saints and holy men in other religions) and ... century by century ... those in the religion (looking from afar at what the attainments actually were on the part of their "religious icon" and with need to depict the top value of the religion) go over the top, start to imagine, fantasize and exaggerate the wonderful nature of the teacher and teaching into something super-human. A flesh and blood teacher who was merely "Great, Profound and Wonderful" must unfortunately becomes someone "Magical, Miraculous and Mythical" ... all to the point of Malarky. The worshipful dip the man in gold, remove all human qualities and gradually turn their hero into a statue, a super-hero. As a result, "Buddha" is no more real than "Beowulf" or "Batman".

However ... my doubts about make believe "Buddhas" are not important to my Buddhist practice in the least.

As well, although I do not believe in imaginary Buddhas ... I believe in Buddhas.

Better said, I know Buddha for a fact!

How? What? Let me explain.

I believe in ... I KNOW ... Buddha in many ways, each Real as Real can be.

One way is to see that such Buddhas (Bodhisattvas too) exist as a paradigm, an ideal, a goal representing the best of the human condition to which men and women can aspire. As I said in a talk last week on Kannon, the symbol of Compassion: It does not matter that she "may not be really real", for we make Kannon "really real" in life:


I had a hard time, for many years, incorporating into my practice many figures such as Kannon and Jizo ...

I have come to see "them" as archtypes, representing real characteristics of human life and (since we are just the universe) thus the universe.

In other words: When we feel in our hearts and act upon Love and Compassion, thereby Love and Compassion exist as real, concrete aspects of the world which our hearts and acts create. There is no "inside" or "outside" ultimately, thus what is inside you is just as much "the universe" and concrete reality as the moon, gravity and the stars. That is "Kannon", in that way a real and concrete aspect and 'force' of the world. Her 1000 helping hands are our hands, and our actions make her real in the world.



As with Bodhisattvas, so it is with the Buddha, all the Buddhas. Wisdom and Compassion realized in each of us is the realization (meaning both "the discovery" and "the making real") of Buddha in the world. We make Buddha real, Kannon and the other Bodhisattvas too. (Mara and the Devil too if we act badly).

Next, I believe in the Buddha when I prove the worth of the Buddha's Teachings in my own life. The proof here is right in life's pudding. The Teachings are the Truth of Buddha that we can each verify in our lives. The Heart of the Buddha's teachings ... the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, Non-Self, Non-Attachment, Dependent Origination, the Middle Way, so much more, ... are all here now and can be known to all of us ... worth the whole ticket of admission!

What's more, I recognize that the fantastic stories, the idealized images of Buddhas ... even the most incredible allegories and hallucinatory images of the Mahayana Sutras ... are merely attempts to convey these wondrous Truths and Teachings, to show their power. Even if I do not take the Sutra stories literally, I can dig what they are trying to say behind the wild way they do it. In that way, even the most bizarre image found in some Sutra tale is True if the Teaching it attempts to convey is True.

And ultimately, although I do not believe at all in so-called "Awakened Buddhas who have mastered the Dharma 100% and are Perfect Beings beyond all human flaws" ... I believe through and through in "Awakened Buddhas who have mastered the Dharma 100% and are Perfect Beings beyond all human flaws".

Huh? Sounds like a contradiction there? Sounds like I am speaking out of both sides of my no sided mouth? Well, get over it. This Buddhist Way allows for countless "contradictions" held in total harmony!

You see, I believe in Buddhas who are Perfectly Buddha, Perfectly Reality ... beyond small human concepts of the "pure" and "impure", fully manifesting and enlivening the Dance of Emptiness. That is a kind of Purity and Perfection when there is dropped all human judgments of the stained vs. the pure. I believe in Buddhas who are always moral, never breaking a Precept ... for there is no Precept that can ever be broken, nothing to steal or do violence to, and no separate 'other' to take or injure in any way. Yes, Virginia, there is a Buddha beyond all thought of lack or flaw! In fact, in the realm of Real Buddha, even small minded judgments of "real" and "unreal" cleanly drop away.

And when we couple this Great Buddha with the Buddhas we make real in our lives ... by manifesting Wisdom and Compassion in our thoughts, words and acts ... we have a way to manifest that Perfect Buddha right here in the Saha world. We do our best in this life to live Compassionately by the Precepts avoiding harm. We fill ourselves with Prajna Wisdom, seeing this world for the 'dream within a dream' it truly is. At the moment, Buddha and all the Great Bodhisattvas are also real as real can be, walking the earth.

The extreme and exaggerated stories of Buddhas' powers are but a mental mirror reflection of human imperfections, extrapolated to the ultimate by men based on seeing what men are now not. These images are themselves just 'Made in Samsara'. Paintings of 'Nirvana' are themselves imperfect goods of Samsara! Yet, there is Nirvana, this Perfection swallowing all small human mirages of perfection and imperfection ... and such is Buddha!

Thus, Buddhas are but fables and lies, Buddhas are human aspirations, Buddhas are True Teachings, Buddhas are Whole and Complete beyond "full" or "lack", Buddhas live and breathe in the world when we live and breath like Buddhas.


The Buddhist Path is Real



Liberation is Real



Buddha is Real
---------------------------------------------
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby ground » Sat Apr 30, 2011 4:59 am

Well people have different ways of expressing the inexpressible. Some of these ways may appear offensive to some.
Some may prefer to make themselves feel more comfortable among the alleged truths of tenets, trying to build firewalls around them ...

Whatever is being expressed ... it is the manifestation of the aggregates.

Kind regards
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Indrajala » Sat Apr 30, 2011 6:46 am

Dechen Norbu wrote:Huseng, you want to see real crap?
There. Buddhism Lite at its best (or, as I like to call it, psychobullshit dharma):
Not that I disagree with EVERYTHING, but as this is a trend, there you have it.


It is normally called "adharma" or false dharma. :namaste:
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