Giving up on Buddhism?

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Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby thornbush » Tue May 05, 2009 2:18 pm

Yup folks.....read all about it at: (found this on another site)
Reason given here:
http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/t ... gions.html
Other Comments/Responses:
http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/t ... .html#more

What thinkest you? Comments please.....
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Re: Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby Drolma » Tue May 05, 2009 3:28 pm

He has misunderstood the teachings.

If I believed that his version of what Buddha taught, was what the Buddha actually taught, I guess I might well give up on Buddhism too.

Good example of why it is important not to simply believe everything we hear or feel and think, and investigate very very well. It takes confidence and a truly open and courageous mind to consider the possibility that perhaps the distortions we see are coming from our own misunderstanding.

Hopefully the replies he will receive will high-light those distortions, and encourage him to investigate further before making up his mind.

In the end I hope that he finds something that suits his particular needs and mental disposition.
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Re: Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Tue May 05, 2009 5:52 pm

I read the article by John Horgan, so I'll respond to that one. I see no reason to get angry at him because anger serves no purpose. He seems to have found writing the article a cathartic process and I hope it temporarily brought peace to his busy mind.

In the article Horgan says, "Four years ago, I joined a Buddhist meditation class and began talking to (and reading books by) intellectuals sympathetic to Buddhism." He never says that he ever learned about the doctrine of Buddhism from a real Buddhist teacher. If all he did was talk to westerners who read about Buddhism, read books, and attend a few meditation classes, I can see why his interpretation of Buddhism is so off the mark.

Buddhism is not literary criticism. You can't just say anything you want about it and interpret it any way you like. You have to learn it precisely and carefully from a qualified teacher, so you don't misunderstand its complexities or end up simply bolstering your own resilient ego.

The wide availability of Buddhist books in western countries has been a double-edged sword: On the one hand, it's allowed many westerners (including myself) to have their first contact with Buddhism which later inspired them to seek out qualified Buddhist teachers; on the other hand, too many westerners have spent too many hours thinking about their book-inspired fantasies and criticisms about Buddhism, which may have little to do with real Buddhism in actuality. Sometimes too much information makes people distort the facts because they can't cope with it all--especially when it comes from a completely different culture and time period (hell, I still stagger back in awe when I think about how vast and complicated Buddhist doctrine is; it's no wonder that some people have taken some wrong turns--I certainly have).

Like the Buddha said, "The Dharma is difficult to see and difficult to understand." It's never gotten any easier.
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Re: Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby dumb bonbu » Tue May 05, 2009 6:09 pm

^^ well thought-out posting :good:

it's a shame that the idea he has of Buddhism neglects how much Dharma can benefit the lay-follower amidst the dust of wordly life. it's certainly not imo a teaching of running away from or rejecting this life but facing it truthfully and honestly.

either way, if the path he chooses to follow leads him to place the welfare of others on an equal footing to that of his own then it's of no concern to me what tradition he follows and i just wish him well on his journey :smile:
Although I too am within Amida's grasp,
Passions obstruct my eyes and I cannot see him;
Nevertheless, great compassion is untiring and
illumines me always.
- Shinran


Namu Amida Butsu
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Re: Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby Dazzle » Tue May 05, 2009 6:17 pm

Buddhism is not literary criticism. You can't just say anything you want about it and interpret it any way you like. You have to learn it precisely and carefully from a qualified teacher, so you don't misunderstand its complexities or end up simply bolstering your own resilient ego.



Absolutely, Luke. With Tibetan Buddhism in particular, some people read books and internet resources and then think that is all that is required ,- when in fact they're missing the whole point of essential interaction and transmission. Of course there is some benefit, but the practice of Vajrayana involves offline one to one interaction with an authentic teacher. (and of course at one time people travelled for days on foot and underwent many hardships just to speak to a teacher - Marpa being a good example of that)
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Re: Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Tue May 05, 2009 6:31 pm

I just wanted to add a few more thoughts (good article for discussion, Thorny! :twothumbsup: ).

Horgan say, "science, unlike religion, seeks truth regardless of how it makes us feel." But I don't think he is living up to that ideal himself. Deep down, I think he picks science because it makes him feel good, and he rejects Buddhism because it contains ideas which make him feel uncomfortable. I don't think he's given Buddhism it's due according to the scientific method. For all he talks about science's objectivity, I think he overlooks the implied message of science which is "Gee, look how smart we humans are. We figured out all this stuff!" I think science quite definitely has the ability to lead to philosophies which are human-centered, and great scientists, such as Einstein and Stephen Hawking, have almost become deified in popular culture. So, science has its own objects of worship...

*** :juggling: a light interlude :juggling: ***
A blindfolded Christian priest is given two vanilla milk shakes: one made by a scientist and one made by a Buddhist. Which one will taste better? Which one will taste more holy and pure? It's the showdown of the century!
:woohoo:
:alien: ***** :alien:

Ahem, where was I? :shrug: Oh, yes. :idea: Now let me discuss Florien's brief comments.

Florien says, "Doctrines of reincarnation, detachment, karma and the like have always struck me as ridiculous or wishful/dreadful thinking." Despite these remarks still leaving a bad taste in the mouth of any Buddhist, I can relate more to Florien because I am still wrestling with my own attempt to understand Buddhism correctly so that I avoid exactly these feelings.

Sometimes I do wonder how simply thinking nice thoughts or receiving a lama's blessings can affect anything. I believe the ancient masters, but I am still looking for a good explanation. On the surface, these ideas do sound like wishful thinking.

I am still struggling to understand karma and rebirth precisely and correctly. When looked at from a certain perspective,these things certainly can seem dreadful (I won't veer way off topic, but perhaps a "Karma and Rebirth" thread would be a good idea). I think mainly the "dreadful" aspect comes from the feeling that you inherited all this negative karma from past lives which you can slowly remove, but can't take back.

It's like inheriting a mansion which is completely filled with manure from a dead relative. It takes months to shovel it all out by yourself, years to do the detailed cleaning, and perhaps several lifetimes to completely get rid of the smell.

Image

*****
Student: Master, I want to learn the Dharma!

Master: Wonderful! Here's a shovel.

Student: What should I do with it?

Master: Start digging!
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Re: Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Tue May 05, 2009 6:55 pm

thornbush wrote:Yup folks.....read all about it at: (found this on another site)
Reason given here:
http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/t ... gions.html
Other Comments/Responses:
http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/t ... .html#more

What thinkest you? Comments please.....


This is a great discussion. May I ask who Andrew Sullivan is?
Thanks :smile:
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Re: Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue May 05, 2009 6:56 pm

Hm. I read it this morning. And while I don't agree (because I don't share the writer's basic assumptions), it struck me as a fairly accurate portrayal of Buddhism as seen from a materialist point of view.

He makes this perspective very clear in the last paragraph -- he believes we are "incidental, accidental" beings in a universe of sheer happenstance. If this is one's view, I think it's very true Buddhism will pose problems...and these will be more or less the same ones that bothered Horgan. That is: supernaturalism, belief in a moral order to the universe, karma/rebirth, and turning away from worldly desires in order to become liberated (i.e. the eightfold path). None of this is really compatible with a mind=matter, present-life-only view of existence.

From such a perspective, "liberation" is just escapism. We're stuck here for the duration of our lifespans, and the best thing we can do is get together and improve material conditions on the planet, or at least pursue happiness for ourselves and our families/friends. What possible use could it be to go meditate in a forest, or spend quality time chanting nembutsu? There's work to be done, peopuhl...

So in a nutshell, I see him as a materialist talking to other materialists and saying "hey, Buddhism is really not what we thought it was; actually, it's a religion". Isn't he right?
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Re: Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby Drolma » Tue May 05, 2009 7:32 pm

"Luke"

Sometimes I do wonder how simply thinking nice thoughts or receiving a lama's blessings can affect anything. I believe the ancient masters, but I am still looking for a good explanation. On the surface, these ideas do sound like wishful thinking.


If Hitler had meditated on equanimity and thought nice thoughts, his actions would have taken a different direction. His thinking over and over again nasty thoughts about the Jewish people and about riding the world of the Jewish race, affected a whole lot of lives.
Whatever you focus on, becomes your reality....

Teachers, traditions and techniques all serve the one purpose - helping you unveil what is already within you. If you think it is out there, you miss the point.

The benefits can only be tested through the practice itself. :smile:

I like what Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron says about receiving blessings:

Receiving the blessings of the Buddhas doesn't mean that something tangible comes from the Buddha and goes into us. It means that our minds are transformed through the combined effort of the teachings, the guidance of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, and our own practice. "Requesting the Buddhas' blessings" has the connotation of requesting to be inspired by them, so that our minds and actions are transformed and become more beneficial.




And because of their vows to liberate all sentient beings, if we create the causes, we can benefit.
:bow:



"The blessings and power of all the buddhas is saturating us inside and out at every moment. At the same time, we are preoccupied with the eight mundane concerns - after a while we die.
We missed our oportunity to attend to the blessings of the buddhas.
The view of the practice of the pure illusory body is that the buddhas are always trying to get our attention and bring us to enlightenment.
We fail to pay attention.
William James said that what we attend to becomes our reality. Samsara never wears out. We are deeply habituated to perceiving everything that happens to us as either good or bad fortune, and if we attend to the eight mundane concerns, they become our reality.
In the meantime we could be on the fast track to enlightenment.
The view of the practice of the pure illusory body is to recognize that every single moment offers the best all the buddhas have to offer.
This is as good as it gets, right now. "


~ B Alan Wallace.
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Re: Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Thu May 07, 2009 9:33 pm

There's another aspect underlying all of this. It's always hard to rebel against one's own culture and Buddhism is a pretty huge rebellion against both materialism and Christianity. For some people, it's simply too hard to continue to practice a religion which none of their friends and relatives understand and which contains ideas which go against everything they've been taught to believe since birth.

To me, Horgan's essay is clearly a statement that he is giving up the "foolish rebellion of his youth" and is now reaffirming his commitment to the prevailing philosophies of his culture. In many ways, he's just like a politician who says simple statements which are exactly what most of the people in his culture want to hear.

"Christianity is good," "I believe in the importance of the sanctity of marriage," "frivolous lawsuits are bad," "foreign countries are bad," "buying bigger guns is good," "I have values," "911 was bad," etc. It's not hard for politicians to know what the right applause lines are in their culture. It's not an intelligent presentation of logic and facts; it's simply a social bonding ritual.

Imagine if a Senator stood up before Congress and made the very simple statement "I am a Buddhist." There would be stunned silence and then perhaps some booing. People wouldn't know how to react because such a statement is simply not on the script of what Americans are supposed to say publicly.

In his article, Horgan is mainly saying, "I was temporarily confused, but now I came back to my senses." Not only does he "come back to his senses," but he comes back to the warm embrace of the culture of his birth--whose ideas he no longer wants to exhaust himself fighting against.

Conformity is easy. Nonconformity is hard. It's not surprising that so many, like Horgan, chose the former.

This is why we take refuge in the Sangha: our fellow sangha members give us the strength, support, and courage to continue on our Buddhist path to escape the mighty pull of samsara. Without the Three Jewels, people cannot hope to do any better than Horgan did.

Let's all take refuge in the Sangha! (Yes, I am bonding with all of you.)
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Re: Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby termite » Sat May 09, 2009 7:37 pm

The left monk in the second row is out of step. ;)

Nice post, Luke. :)
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Re: Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby Luke » Sat May 09, 2009 9:22 pm

termite wrote:The left monk in the second row is out of step. ;)

Nice post, Luke. :)

Thanks. It felt good to write something again. Right now, I teach English to foreigners, so I always have to hold back and simplify my language while I'm working. In fact, it's simply nice to talk to people who understand American English again. I'm quite isolated in a former Soviet Bloc country at the moment.

:cheers:
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Re: Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby genkaku » Sat May 09, 2009 9:59 pm

Am I missing something? I can't seem to find the original article. All I get from the links is comments on a point of view I don't seem to see.
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Re: Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby dumb bonbu » Sat May 09, 2009 10:27 pm

hi genkaku, the first link - it does indeed look like readers responses from the layout but the two quotes on that page from respectively, John Hogan and Daniel Florien are in fact what readers are responding to in the second link.

hope that helps :smile:
Although I too am within Amida's grasp,
Passions obstruct my eyes and I cannot see him;
Nevertheless, great compassion is untiring and
illumines me always.
- Shinran


Namu Amida Butsu
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Re: Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby genkaku » Sun May 10, 2009 1:22 am

dumb bonbu wrote:hi genkaku, the first link - it does indeed look like readers responses from the layout but the two quotes on that page from respectively, John Hogan and Daniel Florien are in fact what readers are responding to in the second link.

hope that helps :smile:


Thanks DB ... but not the article in its entirety ... is that right?
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Re: Giving up on Buddhism?

Postby thornbush » Sun May 10, 2009 3:58 am

Dear Genkaku,

My apologies for the brief excerpts, as I thought that with those brief stubs, it was enough to start off a discussion and the full links to both writers could be found by clicking on the blue fonted "From" and 'Daniel Florien" in the first link. Here's the full article:
John Horgan's article and Daniel Florien's expansion of the same article plus his own musings here

Thank you for highlighting this.
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