"Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby futerko » Sun Nov 11, 2012 10:43 pm

wtompepper wrote:I’ve been considering this question further, and I wonder if perhaps it is best left alone now. As thus-gone says, people tend to get “more self-protective and reactionary” when confronted. From my perspective, this is a good thing—because it calls attention to how “self”-protective and reactionary they already are, without knowing it. Consider the first page of comments here, before I responded: it would seem the reason for posting my writing was to offer an opportunity for hostile self-protective insults, to, as it were, build a “community” of people who assure themselves of their great compassion by insulting and belittling others whom they take to be less enlightened.

Consider the list of personal insults, and the number of claims that I am “ignorant” of
Buddhism and a poor thinker, without a single example of what exactly I am ignorant of, or any attempt to actually correct my purported poor reasoning. This is, apparently, acceptable, but once I responded the moderator stepped in with a warning. And the personal insults against me continue—these, I guess, are not the kind personal insults the moderator warned she would remove. Are only my comments considered offensive?

So, my own response, bad-tempered and childish as it was, may have done some good completely without my conscious intention. My poor response can perhaps call attention to the enormous hostility and attachment to self already present here, but denied, simply by making it more intense. Perhaps it would be better to allow such “mudslinging” to stand, and not try to sanitize it? To sanitize it would only be to perpetuate the self-delusion that there is no hostility and attachment to self at work here. So often, westerners come to Buddhism exactly because they want to strengthen their attachment to some illusion of a transcendent and spiritual self, and allowing this simmering hostility to stay underground encourages this.

As I expected, I get more of the same: assertions about my level of “attainment,” about my ignorance of Buddhism, but no real effort to engage the question. The assertions that what I am saying has “no precedent” or is a misunderstanding of some term always seem to come from the most ignorant, those who don’t even seem to know that my school of Buddhist it by far the most common one in the history of Buddhism. And our first order of business is never to “attend to one’s own practice,” because this is to reinforce the illusion of self-power, and so the subtle belief in an atman that causes our suffering.

Does anybody have a real example of being truly awakened to the truth of non-self without some kind of upset, disturbance, some temporary pain or discomfort?


This seems quite an insightful post, but it would also appear that everything you've written here equally applies to your original critique as well.
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby CrawfordHollow » Sun Nov 11, 2012 11:11 pm

Mr. Pepper,

I found you article to be of interest, it certaintly points out the modern trend of the "bookstore Buddhist", which may only be a shadow of the real Dharma. It reminds me of how yoga has become mainstreamed over the years; although I know many serious yoga practitioners, for the most part this rich spiritual tradition has been reduced to a weight-loss fad. But I do see some benefit to the "Dharma-light" books out there- although I would be reluctant to call TNH "Dharma-light." Many people in the West aren't ready to commit to a spiritual practice, or may have serious hesitations about religion in general. I think the simple act of being present and mindful could help many, in fact it could even change their lives. The world certaintly wouldn't be worse off if more people were mindful during the day. It could also serve as an introduction to Buddhism. I believe the first book that I read on the Dharma was THN, and that was in high school over fifteen years ago. I have since done retreats, studied Nagarjuna, Chandrakirti, and learned some Tibetan, and I certaintly wouldn't call myself "anti-intellectual." As far as the responses to your posts: what do you expect? Your posts are both defensive and hostile, and you seem to be implying that this hostility actually has the power to awaken people from the illusion of thier grasping and egos. This is not skillful means. I am not implying that you are stupid or ignorant about Buddhism, nor am I questioning your realization or knowledge, although I am still very interested to know what lineage/school you practice. Could you please tell us what school you practice, and then perhaps we could have a better understanding regarding your views on TNH, the Dalai Lama, and every other Buddhist you have been communicating with.
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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby CrawfordHollow » Mon Nov 12, 2012 12:00 am

I also want to add that I definately agree with you on one point Mr. Pepper: the experience of awakening or the realization of non-self is probably not possible without some sort of disturbance, pain, or discomfort.

You will have to excuse me, I am joining this conversation late and have only skimmed over the posts. The ego is very stubborn and tricky, look how easily we all can become irritated and offended by mere words. What else could that be but ego? I think ultimately it is up to each of us to do the work. Even an enlightened Buddha can't do it for us. I would say the path to realization is not only hard and uncomfortable, but also potentially dangerous and incredibly personal. When you lose your ego you lose everything in a sense. Some people just aren't ready for that type of challenge. Maybe they need to be eased into it a little bit more slowly and gently than others. I think the doctor/patient analogy is very appropriate here. If you are not somebody's doctor then you really have no business interfering with their treatment, do you? I think that you have some talents and ammendable qualities- I wish that I could present my ideas as clearly as you can. I only wish that you could have more appreciation and acceptance of other's practice. I think all practice, regardless of how mundane we may view it, should be celebrated- and certaintly not critisized or discouraged.

Also, I would question anyone's understanding of the Dharma if they lack a universal compassion for all.

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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby viniketa » Mon Nov 12, 2012 1:02 am

In reference to the OP, it does present (skilfully or not) some food for thought.

TNH does publish a number of "Dharma lite" books that are devoid of some of the finer points of the philosophy of Buddhism. This is not a 'bad' thing and is quite skillful, IMO. Not everyone is inclined to lengthy introspection. Such books introduce persons to Dharma who might not otherwise be a 'hearer', planting seeds for fruition at some point. Most likely, such sales also bring revenue for other operations of the sangha. However, such books are not the totality of what TNH has to offer and, if one knows Dharma, many are not as 'lightweight' as might appear at casual glance. Often, they concentrate on different aspects of the 4NT, which is not a 'lightweight' topic for even advanced practitioners.

More troubling is the finger pointing toward a general tendency to anti-intellectualism in Buddhism. (I do not think TNH's books contribute to or are representative of this trend.) Yes, the higher forms of meditative practice transcend intellectualism. Transcendence means 'surpass' or 'move beyond'. I've never seen a sutra or a meditation manual that says conceptual or intellectual thought is annihilated or destroyed. In fact, several sutras, including the Daśabhūmika Sūtra, seem to indicate that intellectual thought is the basis for attainment of the three highest bhūmi.

:namaste:
If they can sever like and dislike, along with greed, anger, and delusion, regardless of their difference in nature, they will all accomplish the Buddha Path.. ~ Sutra of Complete Enlightenment
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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby Jnana » Mon Nov 12, 2012 2:25 am

wtompepper wrote:anatman is taken to entail that there are no "enlightened" individuals ... anyone claiming to be an enlightened teacher is, to me, perpetuating the worst kind of delusion and attachment to self.

Realization of anātman doesn't prevent one from using pronouns, nor does it preclude a buddha from making conventional statements regarding their enlightenment, such as the following from AN 4.36 Doṇa Sutta: "Unsmeared am I by the world, and so, brahman, I'm awake." (Nūpalittomhi lokena tasmā buddhosmi brāhmaṇāti.)

Having now read nearly a dozen of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, I have to say that I think his version of Buddhism is troublingly simplistic, not really helpful at all, and overall damaging to the possibility of any real understanding of Buddhism spreading to the United States.

Getting back to the subject at hand, in your criticism of TNH I've seen no basis for your assertion that his teachings are "damaging to the possibility of any real understanding of Buddhism spreading to the United States." There's a well known verse found at Dhammapada 183 (and Udānavarga 28.1) that is traditionally considered to summarize the Buddha's teachings:

    The avoidance of all wrongdoing,
    The undertaking of what is skillful,
    The cleansing of one’s own mind—
    This is the teaching of the buddhas.

TNH's teachings on mindfulness, etc., fit quite well with these practice injunctions.

wtompepper wrote:Does anybody have a real example of being truly awakened to the truth of non-self without some kind of upset, disturbance, some temporary pain or discomfort?

This is a very different question from the one you posed earlier:

wtompepper wrote:I am quite seriously asking if there are any examples of the kinder, calmer "right speech" approach doing the same?

For which there are numerous examples to be found throughout the Āgamas & Nikāyas of the skillful use of persuasion, debate, admonition, and even intentional silence, in order to lead interlocutors closer toward the developmental path.
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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby catmoon » Mon Nov 12, 2012 3:35 am

Thank you anjali. :namaste:

I would like to close the meta-discussion now and return to the subject of TNH's teachings.

The ground rules are:

No ad homs whether directed at TNH or other users.

No attempts to shock r insult others into sudden realization. This is the internet and long experience has shown it just doesn't work here.
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.
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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby muni » Mon Nov 12, 2012 9:27 am

I should like to quote a lot since there are many lamps here, but there are so many. I put my rambling in some sentences. Critique is a practice which can be useful in some way.

But then again for me Buddha Dharma is useful to see that samsara is the tendency to see faults in others. To be able to awaken others, one must be awaken oneself. Whether there is peace by joy, love, compassion in equanimity or not, makes for example a differences whether we are slaves of our misperception or not.

Buddha Sakyamuni knew that all suffer is by ones own grasping mind, not the appaerances are the ones which need to be cleared, but ones attachment to the appearances. He wasn't using gunpowder to eliminate the stubborn mara, even no catapult.

Buddha: Form is emptiness-emptiness is form. Then in the union of appaerances-emptiness are no intellectual fabrications or mental constructs.

The difference between an awakened nature and suffering ones is simple: the first is compassionate action, the last is action based on judgement.


"For things to reveal themselves to us, we need to be ready to abandon our views about them.”

Thich Nhat Hanh.

:thanks: :anjali:
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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby wtompepper » Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:55 pm

To come back to the topic of the essay, then, perhaps a clarification is in order. On the "no-holds-barred" blog where I originally posted this, I took for granted that readers would know that when I said "bad for Buddhism" I meant bad for what I take to be the form of Buddhism most useful to reduce suffering: that is, a "full-strength" version of anatman that rejects any concept of "original enlightenment" or "substrate consciousness" or "true self." It is my position that those are ideas imported from Taoism or other Asian schools of thought, or vestiges of Brahmanical/Vedantic thought, and so weaken our understanding of anatman. If one takes there to be some kind of non-conceptual consciousness which transcends this world, then I think Thich Nhat Hanh teaches this version of Buddhism quite well, particularly in books like The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching. So, I am beginning, in the ongoing discussion on the blog, from my previous essay "Samsara as the realm of Ideology: Naturalizing Buddhism," and other essays as well, where I have argued that such "subtle-atman" schools of Buddhism reproduce, rather than help eliminate, the causes of human suffering.

This is why I don't know that this is possible to pursue here. My interest is in whether, and how, we can help people see the truth of "full-strength" antaman without being abrasive and somewhat obnoxious. The dominant approach here seems to be what I call the "half-strength" version of anatman, which still believes in some kind of essence or consciousness that is permanent and separate from the phenomenal world--and while it may be possible to persuade someone of this version of anatman with kind words (I think Thich Nhat Hanh has succeeded at doing so for many Americans), this is not a goal I would be interested in, because it seems to me that it only makes it that much harder to later accept the full-strength understanding of anatman.
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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby Yudron » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:47 pm

I have read that belief in Tathagatagarbha is fundamental to the Mahayana.
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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby Jikan » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:49 pm

wtompepper wrote:To come back to the topic of the essay, then, perhaps a clarification is in order. On the "no-holds-barred" blog where I originally posted this, I took for granted that readers would know that when I said "bad for Buddhism" I meant bad for what I take to be the form of Buddhism most useful to reduce suffering: that is, a "full-strength" version of anatman that rejects any concept of "original enlightenment" or "substrate consciousness" or "true self." It is my position that those are ideas imported from Taoism or other Asian schools of thought, or vestiges of Brahmanical/Vedantic thought, and so weaken our understanding of anatman. If one takes there to be some kind of non-conceptual consciousness which transcends this world, then I think Thich Nhat Hanh teaches this version of Buddhism quite well, particularly in books like The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching. So, I am beginning, in the ongoing discussion on the blog, from my previous essay "Samsara as the realm of Ideology: Naturalizing Buddhism," and other essays as well, where I have argued that such "subtle-atman" schools of Buddhism reproduce, rather than help eliminate, the causes of human suffering.

This is why I don't know that this is possible to pursue here. My interest is in whether, and how, we can help people see the truth of "full-strength" antaman without being abrasive and somewhat obnoxious. The dominant approach here seems to be what I call the "half-strength" version of anatman, which still believes in some kind of essence or consciousness that is permanent and separate from the phenomenal world--and while it may be possible to persuade someone of this version of anatman with kind words (I think Thich Nhat Hanh has succeeded at doing so for many Americans), this is not a goal I would be interested in, because it seems to me that it only makes it that much harder to later accept the full-strength understanding of anatman.


I've started a new thread to consider these as first principles. I think the merit an extended discussion. Find it here:

viewtopic.php?f=66&t=10793
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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby duckfiasco » Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:00 pm

I just haven't gotten the impression that TNH is equating anything to another form of atman. After all, since he is a highly knowledgeable and skilled practitioner I doubt he would be unaware of even subtle forms of atman creeping on in. I haven't read "Heart of the Buddha's Teaching" recently but I did just finish "Buddha Mind, Buddha Body". I don't see atman here:
Store consciousness is also a victim. It’s an object of attachment; it’s not free. In store consciousness there are elements of ignorance—delusion, anger, fear—and these elements form a force of energy that clings, that wants to possess. This is the fourth level of consciousness, called manas, which I like to translate as “cogitation.” Manas consciousness has at its root the belief in a separate self, the belief in a person. This consciousness, the feeling and instinct called “I am,” is very deeply seated in store consciousness. It’s not a view taken up by mind consciousness. Deeply seated in the depths of store consciousness is this idea that there is a self that is separate from non-self elements. The function of manas is to cling to store consciousness as a separate self.

Another way of thinking of manas is as adana consciousness. Adana means “appropriation.” Imagine that a vine puts forth a shoot, and then the shoot turns back and embraces and encircles the trunk of the tree. This deep-seated delusion—the belief that there is a self—is there in store consciousness as the result of ignorance and fear, and it gives rise to an energy that turns around and embraces store consciousness and makes it the only object of its love.

Manas is always operating. It never lets go of store consciousness. It’s always embracing, always holding or sticking to store consciousness. It believes store consciousness to be the object of its love. That’s why store consciousness isn’t free. There’s an illusion that store consciousness is “me,” is my beloved, so I can’t let it go. Day and night there’s a secret, deep cogitation that this is me, this is mine, and I have to do everything I can to grasp, to protect, to make it mine. Manas is born and rooted in store consciousness. It arises from store consciousness and it turns around and embraces store consciousness as its object: “You are my beloved, you are me.” The function of manas is to appropriate store consciousness as its own.
...
Thinking without a thinker. Feeling without a feeler. What is our anger without our “self”? This is the object of our meditation. All the fifty-one mental formations take place and manifest without a self behind them that’s arranging for this to appear, and then for that to appear. Our mind consciousness is in the habit of basing itself on the idea of self, on manas. But we can meditate to be more aware of our store consciousness, where we keep the seeds of all those mental formations that are not currently manifesting in our mind.

When we meditate, we practice looking deeply in order to bring light and clarity into our way of seeing things. When the vision of no-self is obtained, our delusion is removed. This is what we call transformation. In the Buddhist tradition, transformation is possible with deep understanding. The moment the vision of no-self is there, manas, the elusive notion of “I am,” disintegrates, and we find ourselves enjoying, in this very moment, freedom and happiness.

I'm not nearly as knowledgeable as many people here, but this seems to be a fairly standard approach in Buddhism and especially Zen: saying what anatman is not to help guide the practitioner in the right direction without swapping one concept for another. I do realize that there was also a movement towards more positive, descriptive language in the form of the Buddha nature and such.

I still see all of this as skillful means, using the concepts familiar to the audience, including the big sticky Self (the Buddha did this as well), and either breaking them down or putting them together in startling ways for the benefit of the listeners. Interpreting any teaching as just another atman I think is an example of faulty understanding of the practitioner, not of a highly attained teacher, such as TNH.
Please take the above post with a grain of salt.
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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby sdw » Fri Nov 16, 2012 12:25 am

wtompepper wrote:Does anybody have a real example of being truly awakened to the truth of non-self without some kind of upset, disturbance, some temporary pain or discomfort?

I would be surprised if anyone answered this affirmatively.

On the other hand, the wisdom to know how to help others toward realization is a quality of realization itself. If we are not fully realized, what success can we expect to have in catapulting others into a state where we ourselves don't dwell?

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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby floating_abu » Tue Nov 20, 2012 7:13 pm

JKhedrup wrote:Bhikkhu Dhammanando, for those of you who know him, posted this on Facebook.
I actually like much of the work of Thich Nhat Hanh (and Alan Watts). But to me there are some points expressed here that ring true. What do you think?


Comfort-Food Buddhism

Posted by Tom Pepper on August 24, 2012 http://speculativenonbuddhism.com/2012/ ... -buddhism/

Vague Platitudes to Avoid Life’s Hard Questions: Thich Nhat Hanh’s Comfort-Food Buddhism

by Tom Pepper

My first experience with the “mindfulness” craze was in psychology class. Nobody seemed very clear on what mindfulness meant, but they were all sure it was a “Buddhist concept.” It seemed harmless, if not at all helpful, so I ignored it. Until they showed us the educational dvd on mindfulness, which I believe came from the Mindful Awareness Research Center at UCLA.

In this video, a well-meaning psychologist spoke earnestly of how mindfully living “in the moment” would cure everything from ADHD to post-traumatic stress to addictions. When she got to the description of how we should learn to ignore everything but our sensory experiences, I thought, well, she just doesn’t know much about the history of psychology, or she would be aware that such practices have been tried, and nobody can EVER do that. Not even for a moment. And she doesn’t know much about Buddhism, or she would know that such “bare awareness” is not at all what the Buddha meant by sati. Then, she began to describe how one could mindfully walk to the guillotine to be executed, and I laughed so hard I had to leave the room.

I didn’t think much of the new fad of mindful-everything, and figured it was harmless, and irrelevant to Buddhism. I didn’t think any Buddhists were so mistaken about the concept.

Then, I read Thich Nhat Hanh. I discovered that this concept really is coming from a Buddhist, and it became much more troubling to me. I had never read Thich Nhat Hanh until about four years ago, when a study group in my sangha decided to read his Answers from the Heart. I wasn’t much interested in the kind of night-stand Buddhism that is usually found in the books on the shelves at Barnes and Noble. These books seemed mostly interested in making a quick buck off of the American middle-class readers who just want to feel better about themselves without too much effort, and like to think they are more open minded and spiritually advanced than average. I pretty much dismissed Thich Nhat Hanh without reading him.

I sometimes wish I had left it at that.

Having now read nearly a dozen of Thich Nhat Hanh’s books, I have to say that I think his version of Buddhism is troublingly simplistic, not really helpful at all, and overall damaging to the possibility of any real understanding of Buddhism spreading to the United States. His Tuesdays-With-Morrie-style empty platitudes make people think they’ve learned something profound, when they have actually only strengthened their attachments to the delusions that are the real source of misery in our culture. I read Answers from the Heart with a knot in my stomach, wondering: don’t people realize this is just a bunch of banal clichés? Isn’t it obvious he is oversimplifying every problem to the point of absurdity?

Nevertheless, I pressed on with the reading, trying to find something useful in the book, something to say when the study group met. Then, I got to the “Children’s Questions” section, and, well, I lost hope. Let me give a specific example of the problem.

In answer to a child’s question about what “we can do to become enlightened,” Thich Nhat Hanh says:

When you drink your tea, and know that you’re drinking your tea, you’re concentrated, you see that drinking tea is something you like to do. So drinking tea mindfully is a kind of enlightenment. (p. 147)

No, it really isn’t. It may be a kind of contentment, and may be very useful in helping restore peace of mind, relieve stress, and help us go on with our day. But it is NOT enlightenment. Nowhere does the Buddha say that what he means by awakening is enjoying a good cup of tea–or anything even remotely like it. Even if mindfulness was the same as concentration, which it isn’t, neither is it the same as enlightenment. They are not even a beginning, or lower level of, enlightenment. At most, they are a preparation to train the mind, so that we will be able to begin working toward enlightenment. Now, this is an answer to a question by a child, and we could say that this is just skillful means, that he is encouraging the child on toward that fantastic castle-city. But my problem is that this is the same thing he says in all his books, repeatedly, not just to children, and he never gives any indication that he sees this as only a first step. For Thich Nhat Hanh, drinking tea, chopping carrots, and looking at flowers simply is what the Buddha meant by enlightenment.

This may be comforting to the bookstore Buddhist who wants to believe her garden parties or his golf swing really is the end of the Buddhist path. But it is very, very clear from everything that the Buddha says about his own awakening that he had something much more in mind. And it may not always be so easy to accept.

Certainly what Thich Nhat Hanh says sounds, at first, like wonderfully “wise” answers—until we realize he hasn’t told us anything we couldn’t get out of a fortune cookie. For instance, when he discusses “engaged Buddhism,” he tells us to encourage our leaders to “understand the world situation” (103), and to “bring about awareness”(104), but he never says anything specific about what would help, or what exactly should be done. Who doesn’t think that leaders who understand the problem would be a good thing? There’s nothing Buddhist about that. What about discussing a Buddhist position on the absurd naiveté of the voluntarist idea that leaders could change the world if they just wanted to? What is the Buddhist position on the problem of structure and agency in social formations? These are harder questions, clearly, and require more than fortune-cookie answers.

And they require thought, which Thich Nhat Hanh consistently discourages. I began counting all the disparaging remarks about “philosophy” and “rationalism” and “intellectuals,” but really, there’s no point. I think Thich Nhat Hanh’s anti-intellectualism is pretty obvious in all his books. On his understanding of the dharma, the Buddha believed thinking was the source of our problems, and just sipping a cup of tea in the garden would clear everything right up. Now, Americans hate thinking, so I can see why this is popular. To quote Heidegger, is there any greater anxiety today than the anxiety in the face of thinking? But the Buddha doesn’t seem to have this terror of mental effort. The figure of the Buddha presented in the Pali canon clearly knew all the major philosophical trends of his time, and developed a fairly sophisticated one of his own. It isn’t all that complex, but it is very difficult because it is thoroughly counter-intuitive, and requires not just thought, but also practice. This is an important point. We need to both practice, and to be able to think clearly about what we are practicing and why. Samadhi, in fact, seems to originally have served as mental training to produce the powers of mind necessary for complex philosophical thought in a non-literate culture, where one couldn’t just take notes or “google” something.

Like many self-help Buddhists, Thich Nhat Hanh is adept at telling people what they want to hear, and making it sound profound. When he tells the luxury-car-driving nuclear warhead designer to keep his job, because he will do it mindfully, I wanted to scream. Really, go ahead and facilitate mass murder, just do it in a mindful fashion? Would he have said the same to Himmler, when he was drawing up the plans for more efficient mobile gas chambers? Weapons-dealing is one of the things the Buddha most explicitly says is NOT right livelihood. So sure, go ahead and keep whatever job you have, and don’t worry about whether you are producing bad karma; but, you should realize that you will never become enlightened, are not practicing Buddhism, and will contribute to the dukkha of countless other people. But, hey, as long as you are mindful while driving your Mercedes, right?

Answers from the Heart is full of evasions, vacuous platitudes, and empty clichés. Consider some of the questions in the “spiritual practice” section. When someone asks what “looking deeply” means, he defines it as “being deeply aware”(66). Yeah, real helpful. “What is the best way to nourish our bodhicitta?” We should desire to ”help awaken other people, relieve their suffering, and bring them happiness”(68). Okay, this is a (vague) definition of what bodhicitta is, but it doesn’t tell us how to acquire it, and tells us nothing about what will really bring people happiness. All this feel-good empty advice is not just harmless, because it makes people think they are actually learning Buddhism, when they are learning nothing at all. Thich Nhat Hanh merely helps people strengthen their existing tendency to avoid facing the hard questions and solving the hard problems, the tendency to be only as “engaged” as we can be while we watch reality television and surf the internet, drive our luxury cars and drink our tea. We only need to wish people well, not do anything about it that might actually put a crimp in our lifestyle. Instead of challenging people to face the truth, Thich Nhat Hanh produces the worst kind of capitalist post-modern ideology, and calls it Buddhism.

So, one final point, on the idea of anatman. Thich Nhat Hanh absurdly conflates ideas of a “healthy sense of self,” self esteem, and a sense of superiority, and then suggests that what is really meant by “no-self” is simply not being a narcissist. Having compassion is our “true nature of no-self”(75). This ridiculously oxymoronic phrase is the worst explanation of anatman I have ever seen, and I’ve read some bad ones. No-self means realizing that we have an essential true nature of compassion? Yikes! If he was going for the Zen paradox here (to realize no-self is to realize our essential self), that would be bad enough, but clearly this particular example is just a case of convoluted thinking.

I used to be indifferent to Thich Nhat Hanh, thinking he was a harmless popularizer; but the more I read of his books, the more I think he is one of the worst things to happen to Buddhism in America since Alan Watts. People are just getting over the idea that Buddhism means dropping acid and having sex with your students. Now they are likely to think it means sipping tea and looking at flowers, and general anti-intellectual American complacency. Maybe that’s just a feature of the audience–the baby boomers are getting old. Thich Nhat Hanh, though, seems consistently better able to reinforce delusions than remove them.

But of course, this is what sells. The bookstore Buddhist wants comfort, not challenge. She wants to be reassured that the only test of the truth of anything is whether it corresponds to what she already believes (this is what the Kalama Sutta says, right?). And that “the Buddha says” that “intellectualizing” is the source of suffering, and that we must accept everything in the world, including our own mind, and never make an effort at improvement. The Buddha says these things, right? It’s on that plaque I bought at T.J. Maxx, it must be true. Thich Nhat Hanh has paved the way for a whole host new teachers who spout platitudes in soft voices at retreats and sell their books online. Everyone’s afraid to ask them a question, because pointing out that what their saying is simplistic or just plain wrong is rude. And, if you do it, they get irrationally angry, call you names, and start listing their “qualifications,” then condescendingly smirk at your ignorance. After witnessing this once or twice, most people just won’t dare to ask a question. They choke down the cloying comfort-food version of Buddhism, and when they can’t stomach any more move on to something else.

Enough with the mindfulness already. There’s nothing wrong with thinking! For millennia, even Buddhists did a lot of it.


I think this is just a sensationalist piece, and the advantage of sensationalism is it draws in the audiences. Ergo, Daily Mail of the UK.

The Editor said make them angry or make them angry -- but just get a reaction. Bringing this post here adds to the publicity of Pepper (nice name btw) so so be it but I wouldn't take this post seriously by any means.

It takes heart to understand the teachings, and the mind can rip anything apart - even God.

This post does remind me though of the sadness I feel for teachers who choose to put themself out there, lions and cubs eat your heart out, there's no animal species like the human.

Best wishes and may all being swiftly attain unexcelled, true liberation - which is to say, as TNH rightly points out, the true heart of compassion and wisdom.

Abu
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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby muni » Tue Nov 27, 2012 8:53 am

viniketa wrote:The stubborn streak of anti-intellectionalism in Buddhism, to my understanding, can be traced to the erroneous idea that all "conceptual" thought is mistaken (and obscuring) and must therefore be abandoned totally and permanently. This is a common theme I see running through many conversations just on DW alone, not to mention many other online and offline discussions.

Why do we not see "bodhi" emphasized in Buddhist thought?

:namaste:


By rejecting the intellect we will not run far! Holding on it, neither.

One decides to learn to swim and studies first by himself all possible swimming technics and has a vast knowledge about the chemistry of the water particles and many more. And so he/she is sitting on the boarder of the swimming pool with all that knowledge, already graduation surpassed.

:namaste:
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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby muni » Tue Nov 27, 2012 12:06 pm

I definitely don't think master Thich Nhat Hanh is comforting samsara by sweet language. And he is not living in fear or hope.
Our habits to see only in complexities teaching, keeps the wisdom behind simple words hidden. But our mind is flexible, habits are fleetings.

H H Dalai Lama for example is teaching sometimes in very easy way and sometimes in a very complex one. Both teachings can result in understanding by right conditions, all depends of own mind. Both are wisdom, whether very elaborated teachings as simple ones like look to a flower, you are like a flower (even no flower calls itself a flower) = impermanence, dependency, emptiness...contemplation.

"We see a wise as an old professor. But wisdom is nature's vast freshness, as fresh as a child, not conditioned". :oops: I forget now who said this.

Two cents. :namaste:
Last edited by muni on Tue Nov 27, 2012 12:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby greentara » Tue Nov 27, 2012 12:53 pm

You can have comfort food Buddhism or Hinduism for the middle class and celebs. You can oversimplyfy any teaching; for eg Deepak Chopra spends much of his time writing and lecturing from his base in California. He charges $25,000 per lecture performance, where he spouts out a few platitudes and give spiritual advice while warning against the ill effects of materialism.
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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby muni » Tue Nov 27, 2012 1:39 pm

An example by Buddha.

"When Buddha was in Grdhrakuta mountain he turned a flower in his fingers and held it before his listeners. Every one was silent. Only Maha-Kashapa smiled at this revelation, although he tried to control the lines of his face.

Buddha said: "I have the eye of the true teaching, the heart of Nirvana, the true aspect of non-form, and the ineffable stride of Dharma. It is not expressed by words, but especially transmitted beyond teaching. This teaching I have given to Maha-Kashapa."

:namaste:
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Re: "Comfort Food Buddhism" a critique of

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Nov 27, 2012 8:14 pm

So there was actually a mind-to-mind transmission happening, not just looking at the flower...
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
-Sakya Pandita
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