Is modernity bad for practice?

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby tobes » Mon Nov 26, 2012 2:47 am

Jnana wrote:
tobes wrote:I'll grant you that that if the objective of your meditation is achieving the jhanas, then the mountaintop is infinitely superior; you would be explicitly be withdrawing from the senses, and in the latter two, from any kind of form.

But if the objective of your meditation is gaining insight into emptiness, then there is no need to withdraw from the senses and the various worlds of form.

It's a very glib juxtaposition you make - if you're in the forest your mind could be occupied with the most perverse of sexual fantasies, and if you're online you could be conducting a webcast enlightening hundreds of dharma students. In both cases, what do you think really matters?

Most of the great Buddhist teachers have spent considerable time, even the majority of their lives, in retreat. Resorting to the wilderness is also included in numerous practice injunctions. For example, Tilopa:

    KYE MA! Listen with sympathy!
    With insight into your sorry worldly predicament,
    Realising that nothing can last, that all is as dreamlike illusion,
    Meaningless illusion provoking frustration and boredom,
    Turn around and abandon your mundane pursuits.

    Cut away involvement with your homeland and friends
    And meditate alone in a forest or mountain retreat;
    Exist there in a state of non-meditation
    And attaining no-attainment, you attain Mahamudra.



I'm not denying that there are great ascetic traditions in many Buddhism's.

But to take even the tradition you cite here - for every Milarepa in a cave, there are a hundred Kagyupa's in noisy monasteries.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby tobes » Mon Nov 26, 2012 3:00 am

Huseng wrote:
tobes wrote:But the point is, we need to ask why 'modernity' has been so receptive to Buddhism, when it is in so many other ways, strongly secular and aggressive hostile to organised forms of religion?


The modern west is receptive to the non-organized form of Buddhism. What most people have encountered hasn't been traditional monasticism with all its bureaucracy and enforced discipline, but a rather easily digested individually-tailored spirituality with no immediate clergy to say otherwise. Writers can write whatever they want and it is unlikely people inside the major institutions will actually say much. I reckon in much of Asia Buddhist intellectuals don't really care what western revisionists have to say. One Chinese monk (fluent in English) once said to me, "Westerners usually just get things wrong." I'm inclined to agree.

The general image of "Buddhism" in the modern west is not all that different from yoga or tai chi. There's no cause for hostility towards such things.

Modern Asia though has been incredibly hostile towards Buddhism. Look at all the communist regimes, or the hostility towards Buddhism in 19th century Japan.


Sociology says otherwise. Sure, where Buddhism is represented as a mass cultural phenomena, it appears mainly as an aesthetic entity. But to remain only at the level of analysis is to miss what's really happening on the ground - or on the cushion, so to speak.

You give no account at all for the fact that Buddhism in the west is highly institutionalised - across many different traditions, and that the vast majority of western Buddhists - who you are disparagingly 'inclined to agree that they just get things wrong' belong to organised centres. Most of those centres are not revisionist at all.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby tobes » Mon Nov 26, 2012 3:08 am

Huseng wrote:
tobes wrote:But if the objective of your meditation is gaining insight into emptiness, then there is no need to withdraw from the senses and the various worlds of form.


Actually there is. There is no prajñā without dhyāna. The latter enables the appropriate mental fitness which realizes emptiness. What you suggest is just an intellectual understanding of emptiness. Dhyāna is also key because one needs a point of reference from which to understand the form and formless realms.



I granted in my first post that concentration is necessary (for that insight); and also, that mountains are better places to concentrate than cities.

What I'm pointing to, is that it does not matter what the phenomenal content of that insight is - when we move from the objective of attaining jhana's to attaining insight into the emptiness of things.

To say this in language is of course merely an intellectual statement - but it is not arbitrary, and it points to something which is not merely an intellectual understanding.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby deepbluehum » Mon Nov 26, 2012 3:14 am

Jnana wrote:
tobes wrote:I'll grant you that that if the objective of your meditation is achieving the jhanas, then the mountaintop is infinitely superior; you would be explicitly be withdrawing from the senses, and in the latter two, from any kind of form.

But if the objective of your meditation is gaining insight into emptiness, then there is no need to withdraw from the senses and the various worlds of form.

It's a very glib juxtaposition you make - if you're in the forest your mind could be occupied with the most perverse of sexual fantasies, and if you're online you could be conducting a webcast enlightening hundreds of dharma students. In both cases, what do you think really matters?

Most of the great Buddhist teachers have spent considerable time, even the majority of their lives, in retreat. Resorting to the wilderness is also included in numerous practice injunctions. For example, Tilopa:

    KYE MA! Listen with sympathy!
    With insight into your sorry worldly predicament,
    Realising that nothing can last, that all is as dreamlike illusion,
    Meaningless illusion provoking frustration and boredom,
    Turn around and abandon your mundane pursuits.

    Cut away involvement with your homeland and friends
    And meditate alone in a forest or mountain retreat;
    Exist there in a state of non-meditation
    And attaining no-attainment, you attain Mahamudra.


Then there's Saraha saying, "if you can't get realization among your women folk, then..." There's always a counterpoint.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Nov 26, 2012 3:15 am

Thrasymachus wrote: Modernity is bad period, not just for dharma practice, but for everything.


Thrasymachus wrote:
...it is beyond asinine to point out that a person with a critique of technology, modernism or progress actually uses a pc or internet. Obviously the few peoples left in this world, that live intimately in nature in small tribal bands, don't even have a concept of the internet, so they cannot critique it, but I can.


So, you are the exception to the rule.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby duckfiasco » Mon Nov 26, 2012 3:18 am

I mainly wrote that in response to Thrasymachus. I sensed a whole lot of frustration at the very least in his posts, so sometimes it can be good to remember our aspiration to benefit all beings, including oneself. That way, things don't become too colored a certain way. :cheers:
Please take the above post with a grain of salt.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby deepbluehum » Mon Nov 26, 2012 3:20 am

Huseng wrote:I reckon in much of Asia Buddhist intellectuals don't really care what western revisionists have to say. One Chinese monk (fluent in English) once said to me, "Westerners usually just get things wrong." I'm inclined to agree.

The general image of "Buddhism" in the modern west is not all that different from yoga or tai chi.


Asian elitism duly noted. I suppose that comes from the conditioning of Asian teachers. I know that is how it is. My Tibetan lama favors Asian culture and instructs his Western students to learn Asian culture. But recently, it has dawned on him that the West's less attached sense of family dealings, and more independence and freedom of careers and many other things emphasizing freedom and individual space to grow and change is actually amazingly great. Asia hasn't totally figured out how to grok the West and vice versa, but that is changing. The West has many very brilliant minds and sincere ones at that. Definitely a very profound Western Dharma can grow here. I don't agree with the condescending attitude toward the West and her dharma practitioners. There's no need to pidgeon-hole and over-generalize.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Nov 26, 2012 3:27 am

Thrasymachus wrote:If it was up to me, and I could get enough money, I would have my own meager apartment, and I wouldn't pay for internet and just use it minimally at the local library, so I could allow my mind to regain its composure and the ability for greater single pointed focus by minimizing greatly negative external influences. Obviously if someone's neuroplasticity has adapted down to the level of a tossed salad from too much television and internet, it has obvious impacts on meditation practice.


Why bother with an apartment at all,m much less the free computer at the library?
And why isn't it up to you? Nobody is forcing you to turn on a TV or log onto the internet.
I lived for years in a cheap apartment with no TV, no refrigerator, no car.
I think I did have a phone. And a cassette player.
I still do not have a "smart phone", and I only watch TV when somebody else in the house is already watching it,
except that now i have a few DVDs that I watch.
I won't disagree with you that simplifying your world is good for your mind.
But don't blame everybody else just because you would rather complain than meditate.

Where does technology start?
The printing press?
The bronze age?
Technology isn't the problem.
It is one's own mind that one has to work with.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Jnana » Mon Nov 26, 2012 4:27 am

tobes wrote:I'm not denying that there are great ascetic traditions in many Buddhism's.

But to take even the tradition you cite here - for every Milarepa in a cave, there are a hundred Kagyupa's in noisy monasteries.

The reference was to great teachers, not the larger mediocrity. Recent examples would include Xuyun and Ju Mipham.

The development of the bodhisattva path and the realization of buddhahood requires the mastery of the four dhyānas (catvāri dhyānā), the four formless attainments (catasra ārūpyasamāpatti), the cessation attainment (nirodhasamāpatti), and the five higher knowledges (pañcābhijñā). Needless to say, this degree of yogic mastery requires a significant amount of meditative training.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby duckfiasco » Mon Nov 26, 2012 4:53 am

Jnana wrote:
tobes wrote:I'm not denying that there are great ascetic traditions in many Buddhism's.

But to take even the tradition you cite here - for every Milarepa in a cave, there are a hundred Kagyupa's in noisy monasteries.

The reference was to great teachers, not the larger mediocrity. Recent examples would include Xuyun and Ju Mipham.

The development of the bodhisattva path and the realization of buddhahood requires the mastery of the four dhyānas (catvāri dhyānā), the four formless attainments (catasra ārūpyasamāpatti), the cessation attainment (nirodhasamāpatti), and the five higher knowledges (pañcābhijñā). Needless to say, this degree of yogic mastery requires a significant amount of meditative training.

Well I'll just hang up my hat then :toilet:
Please take the above post with a grain of salt.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby kirtu » Mon Nov 26, 2012 4:56 am

Jnana wrote:
tobes wrote:I'm not denying that there are great ascetic traditions in many Buddhism's.

But to take even the tradition you cite here - for every Milarepa in a cave, there are a hundred Kagyupa's in noisy monasteries.

The reference was to great teachers, not the larger mediocrity. Recent examples would include Xuyun and Ju Mipham.


But Xuyin and Mipham were really extraordinary. Out of the hundreds in the noisy monasteries, many could generate real virtue and some could attain real insight.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Jnana » Mon Nov 26, 2012 5:09 am

kirtu wrote:But Xuyin and Mipham were really extraordinary. Out of the hundreds in the noisy monasteries, many could generate real virtue and some could attain real insight.

Sure. Monastic training is beneficial. Solitary retreat is even more beneficial, provided that the practitioner is ready for that level of practice.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Jnana » Mon Nov 26, 2012 5:12 am

duckfiasco wrote:Well I'll just hang up my hat then :toilet:

Just proceed one step at a time. :smile:
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Nov 26, 2012 5:50 am

tobes wrote:You give no account at all for the fact that Buddhism in the west is highly institutionalised - across many different traditions, and that the vast majority of western Buddhists - who you are disparagingly 'inclined to agree that they just get things wrong' belong to organised centres. Most of those centres are not revisionist at all.


Not institutionalized to any major extent. We got "Dharma Centers" and few actual monasteries complete with the whole lay and monastic bureaucratic arrangements.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Nov 26, 2012 6:01 am

deepbluehum wrote:Asian elitism duly noted.


You just smacked a strawman.



The West has many very brilliant minds and sincere ones at that.


I don't deny that, but a lot of what gets tossed around as "Buddhism" online and in the print media is just wrong. The popular revisionism and secularization of Buddhist traditions especially so. If you tried to teach such nonsense at a Buddhist college in Asia they'd first feel sorry for you, and then ask you to stop (or just assume that since you're a foreigner you haven't been properly taught and hence safely dismiss whatever you're saying as uneducated blabbering).



Definitely a very profound Western Dharma can grow here. I don't agree with the condescending attitude toward the West and her dharma practitioners. There's no need to pidgeon-hole and over-generalize.


I hate to say it, but these generalizations often apply. From personal experience I know this to often to be case. That's why I agreed with the aforementioned Chinese monk. It isn't condescending if it is often true. The stereotype of privileged occidentals coming East to learn Dharma, but not really taking it seriously (spiritual tourism?) holds some degree of weight.

If you travel around Asia and get to know a lot of people from various traditions you may or may not come to the same conclusions as I have.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby tobes » Mon Nov 26, 2012 8:50 am

Jnana wrote:
tobes wrote:I'm not denying that there are great ascetic traditions in many Buddhism's.

But to take even the tradition you cite here - for every Milarepa in a cave, there are a hundred Kagyupa's in noisy monasteries.

The reference was to great teachers, not the larger mediocrity. Recent examples would include Xuyun and Ju Mipham.

The development of the bodhisattva path and the realization of buddhahood requires the mastery of the four dhyānas (catvāri dhyānā), the four formless attainments (catasra ārūpyasamāpatti), the cessation attainment (nirodhasamāpatti), and the five higher knowledges (pañcābhijñā). Needless to say, this degree of yogic mastery requires a significant amount of meditative training.


Sure. I don't deny this. I deny that the conditions of modernity are any more of an obstacle than other conditions which impede that development.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby tobes » Mon Nov 26, 2012 8:59 am

Huseng wrote:
tobes wrote:You give no account at all for the fact that Buddhism in the west is highly institutionalised - across many different traditions, and that the vast majority of western Buddhists - who you are disparagingly 'inclined to agree that they just get things wrong' belong to organised centres. Most of those centres are not revisionist at all.


Not institutionalized to any major extent. We got "Dharma Centers" and few actual monasteries complete with the whole lay and monastic bureaucratic arrangements.


A lot of those centres have connections to actual monasteries. But the point is that you want to reify western dharma practitioners as ignorant individualists, without recognising that most belong to sangha's, and most build up deep relationships within those sangha's - such an orientation is communal.

I think it is a bit arrogant to claim, on the basis of your personal experience, that in comparison with Asian Buddhists, westerners tend to be x, y or z.

The sociological evidence points to a very rich tapestry of standpoints, motivations and understandings of Buddha-dharma in the west.

It is not x or y or z. It is x and y and z and a and b and c etc.

There are revisionists, there are traditionalists, there are reformists, there are romanticists, there are wise practitioners, there are stupid ones.

I don't see what is to be gained by playing some east good/west bad kind of game.

It's just clumsy and without foundation.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby plwk » Mon Nov 26, 2012 9:18 am

I don't see what is to be gained by playing some east good/west bad kind of game.
You don't? I can think of one....political mileage. Politicians in my country do it all the time, normally when they run out of topics, deflect attention from actual national issues or to swing votes from the religious conservatives/fanatics...
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Indrajala » Mon Nov 26, 2012 9:19 am

tobes wrote:It's just clumsy and without foundation.

:anjali:


I agree. I'm not doing that though.

I'm simply saying that first of all there is some truth to the stereotype in Asia that western Buddhists tend to be off the axle a bit. This is not universal let alone 100% accurate, but time and again I encounter western Buddhists with distorted and wrong views who think they are perfectly acceptable. Rebirth is a core issue. Except for Japan, it isn't an issue in any Asian culture as far as I know. If someone doesn't believe in it, they just say so and leave it at that. With a lot of westerners they say, "I don't believe in it and here's why I don't think we need it and should remake a new kind of Buddhism sanitized of what we find disagreeable." Look at guys like Batchelor and his sympathizers.

Secondly, the west doesn't have near the level of complexity and bureaucratic apparatus as Asian institutions do. Western Buddhism is nowhere near as institutionalized as it is in Asian countries, hence I object to your "highly institutionalized" remark -- it not a fact as you suggest.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Nov 26, 2012 10:14 am

-- Neither, I or any other single person makes social reality, and I certainly don't create social conditions or social structures. Thus it is beyond asinine to point out that a person with a critique of technology, modernism or progress actually uses a pc or internet.

"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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