The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby Indrajala » Sun Aug 12, 2012 11:35 am

Malcolm wrote:We have a very skewed view of Buddhism on the ground in ancient and how it was actually practiced -- we derive our view of Buddhism in India through the lense of a few polemical scholars, ignoring many inconvienient facts. For example, that fact that the Thai court still maintains brahmin priests, and has done so for hundreds of years, etc.


This is an interesting point.

We know that in at least some ancient Indian monasteries there were Devadatta devotees with their gourd "begging bowls" practising alongside Buddhists. Some of the Chinese travellers to ancient India recorded this.

As I understand, Nalanda University, while predominately Buddhist, still housed colleges of various philosophical schools and sciences.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby Michael_Dorfman » Sun Aug 12, 2012 12:06 pm

Malcolm wrote:
deepbluehum wrote:My point is that the western academic notion that the Buddha rejected Vedic culture is a complete distortion.


Which scholars do you have in mind? The most recent work I can think of on the relationship between the Buddha and Vedic culture is Gombrich, and he's certainly not arguing that it is a simple rejection; rather, he argues that the Buddha intentionally echoed and re-deployed Vedic notions in a new, sometimes parodic manner.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby Malcolm » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:03 pm

Michael_Dorfman wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
deepbluehum wrote:My point is that the western academic notion that the Buddha rejected Vedic culture is a complete distortion.


Which scholars do you have in mind? The most recent work I can think of on the relationship between the Buddha and Vedic culture is Gombrich, and he's certainly not arguing that it is a simple rejection; rather, he argues that the Buddha intentionally echoed and re-deployed Vedic notions in a new, sometimes parodic manner.


Primarily 19th century scholars who sought to embed in Buddhism their own protestant values. However, such ideas have become deeply embedded in Buddhism's reception in the west and you often see these ideas repeated:

Buddha rejected the Vedas (he didn't and in fact refers to the Gayatri as the chief of all mantras)
Buddha was a reformer (he wasn't anything of the sort)
Buddha rejected jati and varna (he did not -- but he reframed the idea of a "brahman" as an ethical quality; but this did mean he neglected the value of brahmins in Indian society as a whole)

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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby Malcolm » Sun Aug 12, 2012 2:22 pm

deepbluehum wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Actually, rather then speculate about what Dzogchen texts say, I read them. So I really am in a position to say whether or not there is so called "gnostic" influence on them or not.

Quite frankly, Vedic culture is much more a pressing influence in Dzogchen texts, if anything.

If you want to claim Gnostic influences on Dzogchen, you have to be very specific, give examples -- cite a text, show how some intertextuality -- prove a connection. If you can't, you are just spouting hot air.


I gave you one. It's pretty simple. I guess you didn't want that one.


No, you didn't -- you made a vague and non-specific reference to the biographies of four persons.

Which Gnostics? Which texts? You would be on firmer ground arguing for pre-Muslim Iranian influences such Zorastrianism on Dzogchen. A possible Manichaen influence would be the notion that our bodies contain a "spiritual light". But this spiritual effulgence can easily also been seen as an influence from Shaivism where primordial sound flashes forth as light and then rays ( see Padoux, Vāc, The Concept of the Word in Selected Hindu Tantras). Or, as I perfer to view it, the Dzogchen tantras do not necessarily owe any debt to any tradition, but instead are the product of the realization of Buddhist yogis.

As I said, those who make arguments for external influence on Dzogchen, apart from its obvious grounding in Buddhadharma, do so very speculatively and with a lack of textual support.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby viniketa » Sun Aug 12, 2012 3:04 pm

JKhedrup wrote:Malhotra proposes four key problems with Western concepts from a dharmic point of view:

1. A deficiency of the inner sciences, techniques, methodologies and theories which allow for the exploration of our inner life and consciousness.

2. Anti-intellectualism and an absence of debate, reason and cosmological exploration within the core Christian scriptures.

3. An outward projection of the search for fulfillment, leading to endless expeditions of imperialistic expansion and appropriation.

4. An insatiable and misguided quest for freedom without giving up the dualistic self.

(Malhotra, Being Different page 145- print edition)

I think that number four is the most compelling point here, especially since this is a board about Buddhism and spirituality. Here Malhotra talks about external change as opposed to internal change as being the method by which Abrahamic faiths seek their purpose:

"Much of Western thinking presupposes an inherent tension between self and other at both the individual and collective levels. Such tension breeds a deep rooted anxiety about the way things are and feeling that some external change is needed. This perceived deficiency, which some scholars argue is a particularly Western manifestation of dukkha... may take many forms, including material, psychological and intellectual. To search outside the self for a palliative for this deficiency is one of the fundamental illusions challenged by Buddhism and several other dharmic traditions.

The dualist self and its accompanying anxiety feed off and mutually antagonize eachother The stronger the ego grows, the more anxious it becomes about what it does not possess, its very nature being to remain ever discontent. Conversely, the greater the anxiety, the more powerful the self becomes as it seeks what it does not have but desperately desires. This process is indefinite and self-defeating, because it is founded on a synthetic notion of selfhood
(Malhotra, 148)


Thank you, JKhedrup, for the quotes and the point. :twothumbsup:

Not only is Western culture "founded on a synthetic notion of selfhood', it celebrates and has pride in it. Though #4 in this list, is may well be a prime causation of the other three. I wonder if he speaks to Western 'individualism' being equated with 'freedom'?

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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby mañjughoṣamaṇi » Sun Aug 12, 2012 5:15 pm

tobes wrote:I agree that there seems to have been a kind of pluralism in ancient in India, which is something that has at various junctures waxed and waned through to modern times. I think it is one of the most beautiful and inspiring things about India, old and new.

But you know, it was kind of there in the west too. All the monotheisms's interacted with each other and ancient Greek philosophy; those interactions were indeed also highly flexible, amidst periods of inflexibility too.


One need only look to the 2nd century Christian saint Justin Martyr's reinterpretation of the concept of the spermatikos logos, which offers an interesting parallel to the 10 yāna scheme that begins with the vehicle of gods and men, to see that there was room for pluralism that extended even beyond monotheistic faiths and classical philosophy.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 6:05 pm

JKhedrup wrote:Malhotra makes what is for me a compelling argument about the "errors of Western religion." (Before this is harped on as being politically incorrect, take note of Malhotra's stated objective to turn analysis on its head, ie. use Dharmic paradigms to analyze Western spirituality and culture, as a counter-movement to the prevailing trend)

Malhotra proposes four key problems with Western concepts from a dharmic point of view:

1. A deficiency of the inner sciences, techniques, methodologies and theories which allow for the exploration of our inner life and consciousness.

2. Anti-intellectualism and an absence of debate, reason and cosmological exploration within the core Christian scriptures.

3. An outward projection of the search for fulfillment, leading to endless expeditions of imperialistic expansion and appropriation.

4. An insatiable and misguided quest for freedom without giving up the dualistic self.

(Malhotra, Being Different page 145- print edition)

I think that number four is the most compelling point here, especially since this is a board about Buddhism and spirituality. Here Malhotra talks about external change as opposed to internal change as being the method by which Abrahamic faiths seek their purpose:

"Much of Western thinking presupposes an inherent tension between self and other at both the individual and collective levels. Such tension breeds a deep rooted anxiety about the way things are and feeling that some external change is needed. This perceived deficiency, which some scholars argue is a particularly Western manifestation of dukkha... may take many forms, including material, psychological and intellectual. To search outside the self for a palliative for this deficiency is one of the fundamental illusions challenged by Buddhism and several other dharmic traditions.

The dualist self and its accompanying anxiety feed off and mutually antagonize eachother The stronger the ego grows, the more anxious it becomes about what it does not possess, its very nature being to remain ever discontent. Conversely, the greater the anxiety, the more powerful the self becomes as it seeks what it does not have but desperately desires. This process is indefinite and self-defeating, because it is founded on a synthetic notion of selfhood
(Malhotra, 148)


yeah I agree with the point about inner science, that was first made by Thurman
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 6:07 pm

Michael_Dorfman wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
deepbluehum wrote:My point is that the western academic notion that the Buddha rejected Vedic culture is a complete distortion.


Which scholars do you have in mind? The most recent work I can think of on the relationship between the Buddha and Vedic culture is Gombrich, and he's certainly not arguing that it is a simple rejection; rather, he argues that the Buddha intentionally echoed and re-deployed Vedic notions in a new, sometimes parodic manner.


yeah Gombrich is spot on
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 6:40 pm

Malcolm wrote:
deepbluehum wrote:I gave you one. It's pretty simple. I guess you didn't want that one.


No, you didn't -- you made a vague and non-specific reference to the biographies of four persons.

Which Gnostics? Which texts? You would be on firmer ground arguing for pre-Muslim Iranian influences such Zorastrianism on Dzogchen. A possible Manichaen influence would be the notion that our bodies contain a "spiritual light". But this spiritual effulgence can easily also been seen as an influence from Shaivism where primordial sound flashes forth as light and then rays ( see Padoux, Vāc, The Concept of the Word in Selected Hindu Tantras). Or, as I perfer to view it, the Dzogchen tantras do not necessarily owe any debt to any tradition, but instead are the product of the realization of Buddhist yogis.

As I said, those who make arguments for external influence on Dzogchen, apart from its obvious grounding in Buddhadharma, do so very speculatively and with a lack of textual support.


I'm referring to the story that Garab Dorje's mother bore him in a virgin birth. Then he was a spiritually precocious child who won debates with monks. Jesus' mother was a virgin; he was spiritually precocious and won debates with the Saducees. This story is a retelling of Horus/Isis.

But I agree with the other influences you cite. Those are all at play, better yet interplay.

The way I see it is there's no beginning to dharma. All we have is an old conversation between many old traditions. There is no neat boundary for anyone to live in. Take the Black Throma system. It's Dzogchen right? Well how come the Mahamudra lineage has a practice of Vajrayogini arising without seed syllables or mantras? There's no real line there. Even the mind/nature of mind thing is just efficiency.

You have Dzogchen Tantras, but Bon Dzogchen don't need 'em. Why did they come out, what is there point? By the 8th Century Buddhism was in trouble and the Vedic world was making a huge comeback. Makes sense to produce some new and improved Vedas. Just sayin'. Just sayin' we can't really know. Padmasambhava did refer to Vima's as the pandita's system.

What is essential to dharma ain't documents, as Malhotra points out. It's the living transmission from someone who embodies that knowledge. And it is knowledge, directly perceivable by anyone who puts in the time with the methods. When we are talking about the direct perception of objective reproducible truth, the history behind the method is only an interesting aside. What is the story behind E=MC2 or the discovery of Penicillin? Who cares.

This brings me to how the West was won and why the East has a powerful lesson to learn from the West. The real freedom that we all want as Westerners and Easteners, in both senses, will happen when the East really does look at these methods as scientific and gives up on the silly guru devotion, exclusivism, protectionism, divine authority, etc. For example, Malhotra criticizes the West for only looking for factual historical records in texts, whereas, the East relies more properly on the living guru. I think there's a deeper lesson there from the West and science, that, IF, the practice, experiment, etc., IS IN FACT factual, then one SHOULD, be able to reproduce the results by reading a cogent report, i.e., from a scientific journal, or from an instruction manual. This is the precise Western methodology that has allowed peer review of scientific experiments. If a scientist wants to reproduce an experiment, she does not have to go bow to the scientist and request the method. She can read it in Scientific American, etc. Then, she can give the report on her findings, and if they match, then, the results are given more weight.

Thus, to have a report arise not from factual circumstances, but from a revelation, is instant bunk. I believe, that the methods of Buddha, Hindu and Buddhist tantra and Dzogchen do involve factual matters. Thus, I do not recognize divine ownership. Mythic stories about dharma origins and mythic encoding are a time capsule of medieval culture and before. It is no longer necessary. I hold that all methods, if they are factually efficacious, should be reproducible from texts, as is the case with the Pali methods. I feel this is EXTREMELY important to the survival of dharma in the West. It is not about watering dharma down or appropriating it. It is about cleaning it up, and potentially making it work much better.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 6:56 pm

PS There is a misconception that the efficacy of mantras depends on hearing it from the guru. In the Vedic culture what gave the mantras and other recitations their force was either 1) their repetition or 2) natural resonance. Actually 1) and 2) are both about resonance. Later, tantra came up with secret mantras, basically, because tantra was a reaction to the varna system and needed a way to be exclusive and needed to hide their antinomian practices. Anyone can pick up any mantra and make it work as long as that mantra has had continuous use since it began or if the mantra naturally resonates with whatever signal. If you want to make use of some new mantra, one and more would need to spend time repeating it vast numbers of times to build up force behind the wave.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby Malcolm » Sun Aug 12, 2012 7:48 pm

deepbluehum wrote:
I'm referring to the story that Garab Dorje's mother bore him in a virgin birth. Then he was a spiritually precocious child who won debates with monks. Jesus' mother was a virgin; he was spiritually precocious and won debates with the Saducees. This story is a retelling of Horus/Isis.



First, the Jesus story is not Gnostic. Second, Buddha's mother was a virgin birth, also the Buddha was a precocious scholar. So you do not need to look to the middle east for the pattern of the Garab Dorje's story, nor that of Padmasambhava. Both of the latter biographies are grounded in the Mahasamghika sources for the Buddha's birth story, etc.

But I agree with the other influences you cite. Those are all at play, better yet interplay.


I was not citing them as influences, actually — there is absolutely no evidence to support such influences on Dzogchen teachings. There is merely some speculation by scholars working in the 1950's and 60's such as RA Stien and so on, who were working from inadequate understandings of the texts and the traditions.


The way I see it is there's no beginning to dharma. All we have is an old conversation between many old traditions. There is no neat boundary for anyone to live in. Take the Black Throma system. It's Dzogchen right? Well how come the Mahamudra lineage has a practice of Vajrayogini arising without seed syllables or mantras? There's no real line there. Even the mind/nature of mind thing is just efficiency.


Krodhakali's kama tradition is through Padampa Sangye. This is why it is associated with Cho. Throma in the Dudjom system is a pure vision of Saraha -- it technically is not a treasure teaching.

You have Dzogchen Tantras, but Bon Dzogchen don't need 'em.


There are many, many Bon Dzogchen tantras. And even so, there is clear intertextuality between so called "Buddhist" and Bon Dzogchen.

What is essential...


Now you are just dissembling because you shot off your mouth without any evidence to back up your point. :oops:

I hold that all methods, if they are factually efficacious, should be reproducible from texts...


This results in a sterile practice that produces not results. You cannot learn these things from books. The books are there to reinforce the oral tradition, not substitute for it.
Last edited by Malcolm on Sun Aug 12, 2012 8:04 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby Malcolm » Sun Aug 12, 2012 7:51 pm

deepbluehum wrote:PS There is a misconception that the efficacy of mantras depends on hearing it from the guru.



There are differences in how mantras are regarded in Buddhadharma and in Sanatana Dharma. It is best not to conflate the two.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 8:34 pm

Malcolm wrote:First, the Jesus story is not Gnostic. Second, Buddha's mother was a virgin birth, also the Buddha was a precocious scholar. So you do not need to look to the middle east for the pattern of the Garab Dorje's story, nor that of Padmasambhava. Both of the latter biographies are grounded in the Mahasamghika sources for the Buddha's birth story, etc.


It was Gnostic Christians in the area at the time, not some others. Buddha's mother wasn't a virgin. He was born from her side. The Sangha later added in the miraculous conception part. Overall, virgin birth stories were en vogue back then. There is no sutta in the Pali cannon that lends credence to this story. The Mahapadana sutta only talks about "appearing in the womb," but it doesn't mean miraculously. It means in the normal way.

Krodhakali's kama tradition is through Padampa Sangye. This is why it is associated with Cho. Throma in the Dudjom system is a pure vision of Saraha -- it technically is not a treasure teaching.


So Saraha taught Dzogchen? Like I said, there's tremendous exchange going on. Dzogchen has inherited much from the 84 Mahasiddhas. It doesn't come from no where or from themselves.

There are many, many Bon Dzogchen tantras. And even so, there is clear intertextuality between so called "Buddhist" and Bon Dzogchen.


The Zhang Zhung Nyen Gyud is the source of Bon Dzogchen, but it's not so much a tantra as a clearly written manual.

Now you are just dissembling because you shot off your mouth without any evidence to back up your point. :oops:


Now you're just being silly. My point is that you think Dzogchen is the new Vedas and Dzogchenpas are the new rishis. Dzogchen is a confabulation of many things just like all other dharma is, and none of it has any historical validity. You can't negate the possible Christian Gnostic influence on that story, any more than I can prove it. But it's still possible. Here you are talking out of both sides of your mouth. First, Westerns need to understand dharma culture, and there you are with your Western historical text oriented attitude.

I hold that all methods, if they are factually efficacious, should be reproducible from texts...


This results in a sterile practice that produces not results. You cannot learn these things from books. The books are there to reinforce the oral tradition, not substitute for it.
[/quote]

1) Because many of the books aren't clear and purposely leave out details so you have to rely on someone. 2) BS, it can be done, and it is being done, some books are clear.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby Pero » Sun Aug 12, 2012 8:43 pm

deepbluehum wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
DBH wrote:I hold that all methods, if they are factually efficacious, should be reproducible from texts...


This results in a sterile practice that produces not results. You cannot learn these things from books. The books are there to reinforce the oral tradition, not substitute for it.

1) Because many of the books aren't clear and purposely leave out details so you have to rely on someone. 2) BS, it can be done, and it is being done, some books are clear.

Really? And who has done it?
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 8:44 pm

Malcolm wrote:
deepbluehum wrote:PS There is a misconception that the efficacy of mantras depends on hearing it from the guru.



There are differences in how mantras are regarded in Buddhadharma and in Sanatana Dharma. It is best not to conflate the two.


You can imagine what you like.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 9:05 pm

Pero wrote:
deepbluehum wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
This results in a sterile practice that produces not results. You cannot learn these things from books. The books are there to reinforce the oral tradition, not substitute for it.

1) Because many of the books aren't clear and purposely leave out details so you have to rely on someone. 2) BS, it can be done, and it is being done, some books are clear.

Really? And who has done it?


Take the Suttanta tradition for example.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby Pero » Sun Aug 12, 2012 9:11 pm

deepbluehum wrote:
Pero wrote:
deepbluehum wrote:1) Because many of the books aren't clear and purposely leave out details so you have to rely on someone. 2) BS, it can be done, and it is being done, some books are clear.

Really? And who has done it?


Take the Suttanta tradition for example.

As far as I can tell that is a Sutra thing and you were talking about Dzogchen.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 9:45 pm

Pero wrote:
deepbluehum wrote:
Pero wrote:Really? And who has done it?


Take the Suttanta tradition for example.

As far as I can tell that is a Sutra thing and you were talking about Dzogchen.


I'm talking about Dharma and dzogchen is not an exception.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby Pero » Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:05 pm

deepbluehum wrote:
Pero wrote:
deepbluehum wrote:Take the Suttanta tradition for example.

As far as I can tell that is a Sutra thing and you were talking about Dzogchen.

I'm talking about Dharma and dzogchen is not an exception.

Not all things work the same way. Anyway, you're saying no one has done it. Thanks.
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Re: The Pitfalls of Western analysis of "Dharmic Traditions"

Postby deepbluehum » Sun Aug 12, 2012 10:21 pm

Pero wrote:
deepbluehum wrote:
Pero wrote:As far as I can tell that is a Sutra thing and you were talking about Dzogchen.

I'm talking about Dharma and dzogchen is not an exception.

Not all things work the same way. Anyway, you're saying no one has done it. Thanks.


You're putting words in my mouth to suit your bias. If you like, take the example of Dudjom Lingpa. He had no guru, unless you count dreams, which I don't.
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