Is modernity bad for practice?

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Dec 05, 2012 12:32 am

What is the sound of one finger wagging?
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby futerko » Wed Dec 05, 2012 12:38 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:What is the sound of one finger wagging?

I think it sounds a bit like...
"I have absolutely no interest in philosophy... Supposing I get on with the sadhana which I am committed to this morning instead ?"
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby jeeprs » Wed Dec 05, 2012 2:32 am

Viniketa wrote:I've not read Anderson, but in "deconstructing" modernity, aren't we really just exploring what it means to be modern?


In a way, yes, but I think the application of 'deconstruction' has some similarities to Buddhist analysis. In the Buddhist practice, you examine the doings of the mind and body by clear awareness of them, seeing them exactly as they are. It is not necessarily a verbal-analytical process. Of course 'postmodernism' is much more intellectual but I hope it can also be informed by an ability to see how our narratives about life condition our way-of-being. 'Being modern' consists of attitudes (as well as also habitual patterns of action and so on.) So rather than simply taking those for granted or acting instinctively from them, we are becoming aware of those attitudes which are cultural constructs or vikalpa. In this sense there is some common ground between the two traditions.

That said, I quite agree that post-modern analysis often ends up in meaningless verbiage. (Have a look at the Pomo Prose Generator.) This is because the ethical dimension is absent and everything just comes down to opinion and verbiage. That's why the Madhyamikas are a long way ahead of the game, in my book.

(I would like to study Graham Priest but I think his are the kinds of books that would benefit from formal instruction.)
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:10 am

Actually postmodern theorists find narrative to be a helpful tool for understanding ethics because narrative is always about particular lived experiences in all their complexity rather than the assignment of an idea or norm to separate and individuated actions.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby jeeprs » Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:22 am

But as I understand it, they reject 'meta-narratives', of which I am sure the Enlightenment of the Buddha is one.

Wikipedia wrote:A metanarrative refers in critical theory, and particularly in postmodernism, to a supposedly comprehensive explanation, a narrative about narratives of historical meaning, experience or knowledge, which offers a society legitimation through the anticipated completion of an (as yet unrealised) master idea.

The term was brought into prominence by Jean-François Lyotard in 1979, with his claim that the postmodern was characterised precisely by a mistrust of the grand narratives (Progress, Enlightenment emancipation, Marxism) which had formed an essential part of modernity.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:31 am

We should not trust grand narratives, unless they're trustworthy. :smile:
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby viniketa » Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:47 am

jeeprs wrote:In the Buddhist practice, you examine the doings of the mind and body by clear awareness of them, seeing them exactly as they are. It is not necessarily a verbal-analytical process. Of course 'postmodernism' is much more intellectual but I hope it can also be informed by an ability to see how our narratives about life condition our way-of-being. 'Being modern' consists of attitudes (as well as also habitual patterns of action and so on.) So rather than simply taking those for granted or acting instinctively from them, we are becoming aware of those attitudes which are cultural constructs or vikalpa. In this sense there is some common ground between the two traditions.


Studying sutras, commentaries, and histories of Buddhist thought can be quite intellectual. Such pursuits are not the do-all, end-all of practice, but certainly a component of practice in many traditions. I don't hold that deconstruction is a futile activity, just not a "post-modern" activity, per se. I agree that deconstructive analysis can be quite helpful in exposing the "roots" of some of habits of thinking, and can be very informative to practice.

jeeprs wrote:That said, I quite agree that post-modern analysis often ends up in meaningless verbiage. (Have a look at the Pomo Prose Generator.) This is because the ethical dimension is absent and everything just comes down to opinion and verbiage.


Well, that site is a spoof, of course. I think we must be careful not to lump postmodern studies together any more than we do other types of study and analysis. One can find "good" and "bad" examples of work in any field. Also, we must be aware that accusations against "moral relativism" as a philosophy and "analytical relativism" as a method are largely based in misunderstandings of those fields. Not to mention that neither field is an identity with "postmodernism".

jeeprs wrote:(I would like to study Graham Priest but I think his are the kinds of books that would benefit from formal instruction.)


If one has a deep enough interest, one could take that article on Nāgārjuna, alone, and with some study come to understand it. This isn't say "formal instruction" wouldn't be helpful...

shel wrote:Actually postmodern theorists find narrative to be a helpful tool for understanding ethics because narrative is always about particular lived experiences in all their complexity rather than the assignment of an idea or norm to separate and individuated actions.


Yes, there are those who feel the "grand theories" of modernity are false constructs in themselves, and there is some accuracy in that. We've learned that society and history aren't as nice and neat and linear as some "grand narratives" would lead us to believe. Again, however, there are many problems with simply trying to replace macro-level theory with local analysis. To move beyond the modern, we need to connect the two. There are many new developments in thinking about such connections.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby viniketa » Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:55 am

jeeprs wrote:But as I understand it, they reject 'meta-narratives', of which I am sure the Enlightenment of the Buddha is one.


One would be hard-pressed to find a grander narrative than the bodhisattva ideal of enlightenment of all sentient beings. :thinking:

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby futerko » Wed Dec 05, 2012 3:57 am

jeeprs wrote:But as I understand it, they reject 'meta-narratives', of which I am sure the Enlightenment of the Buddha is one.

Wikipedia wrote:A metanarrative refers in critical theory, and particularly in postmodernism, to a supposedly comprehensive explanation, a narrative about narratives of historical meaning, experience or knowledge, which offers a society legitimation through the anticipated completion of an (as yet unrealised) master idea.

The term was brought into prominence by Jean-François Lyotard in 1979, with his claim that the postmodern was characterised precisely by a mistrust of the grand narratives (Progress, Enlightenment emancipation, Marxism) which had formed an essential part of modernity.


Priest's work is highlighting just such a paradox. The claim that there is no meta-position is itself a meta-position, whereas explicitly taking a meta-position falls straight back into discourse. Maybe that's why Shakyamuni refused to be swayed on such questions requiring meta-answers?
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby viniketa » Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:08 am

futerko wrote:Priest's work is highlighting just such a paradox. The claim that there is no meta-position is itself a meta-position, whereas explicitly taking a meta-position falls straight back into discourse. Maybe that's why Shakyamuni refused to be swayed on such questions requiring meta-answers?


I agree. In almost every field of thought today, we are finding that paradox and "fuzziness" are essential features of the limits to modern thinking. Śākyamuni knew these limitations 2600 years ago; the catuṣkoṭi is his method of communicating that.

In the West, we are only now learning how to incorporate paradox and fuzziness into our analyses.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby jeeprs » Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:16 am

Indeed! The talk I saw (at Science and Non Duality conference in 2009) was called 'Joyful Irony: Post-modern and Buddhist Perspectives'. It was very clever in showing up how Madhyamika converges with many aspects of postmodernism (and even others such as Wittgenstein). One of the major points was that 'the realization of emptiness' is not like a climactic 'awakening experience' (which was very much assumed by many of the other speakers at that conference.) And also there was an emphasis on the central role of compassion, which is not stressed so much in the post-modern writings. But overall it was a great talk.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby futerko » Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:19 am

viniketa wrote:
futerko wrote:Priest's work is highlighting just such a paradox. The claim that there is no meta-position is itself a meta-position, whereas explicitly taking a meta-position falls straight back into discourse. Maybe that's why Shakyamuni refused to be swayed on such questions requiring meta-answers?


I agree. In almost every field of thought today, we are finding that paradox and "fuzziness" are essential features of the limits to modern thinking. Śākyamuni knew these limitations 2600 years ago; the catuṣkoṭi is his method of communicating that.

In the West, we are only now learning how to incorporate paradox and fuzziness into our analyses.

:namaste:


Another facet to this may be seen in Thich Nhat Hanh's description of interbeing, "The one can be seen in the all, and the all can be seen in the one."
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby viniketa » Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:25 am

jeeprs wrote:Indeed! The talk I saw (at Science and Non Duality conference in 2009) was called 'Joyful Irony: Post-modern and Buddhist Perspectives'. It was very clever in showing up how Madhyamika converges with many aspects of postmodernism (and even others such as Wittgenstein). One of the major points was that 'the realization of emptiness' is not like a climactic 'awakening experience' (which was very much assumed by many of the other speakers at that conference.) And also there was an emphasis on the central role of compassion, which is not stressed so much in the post-modern writings. But overall it was a great talk.


Indian thought in general was very advanced, and as his name implies, Śākyamuni was foremost among the thinkers. The talk sounds interesting, I'll have to see if there is some sort of transcript...

futerko wrote:Another facet to this may be seen in Thich Nhat Hanh's description of interbeing, "The one can be seen in the all, and the all can be seen in the one."


This is a reference to the manifold nature of "reality"; as such, it is a comment on the limitations of categorical, compartmentalized thinking.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby jeeprs » Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:31 am

Here is some info on that presenter, Tomas Sander.

http://nonduality.org/tag/tomas-sander/

I notice he is associated with Nalandabodhi.

I don't know if he is still giving those sessions but it was the highlight of the conference for me.

Greg Goode was also a great presenter.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby viniketa » Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:36 am

jeeprs wrote:Here is some info on that presenter, Tomas Sander.


Thanks for the info! :thanks:

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby viniketa » Wed Dec 05, 2012 4:48 am

There doesn't seem to be a transcript of that 2009 presentation, but I found this info on talks he's given since and a podcast:

The Mahayana emptiness teachings are considered key for attaining liberation from cyclic existence. Yet their difficulty has made them less intuitive than they might be. This class will offer insights from the Western tradition that can come to the assistance of the Western student. We will learn several Western emptiness meditations and experience how they can foster joy, lightness, compassion, and freedom.

This class was presented in condensed form at the 2009 Science and Nonduality Conference in San Rafael, California.


Podcast: http://www.theidproject.org/media/podca ... mas-sander

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Wed Dec 05, 2012 5:03 am

viniketa wrote:
shel wrote:Actually postmodern theorists find narrative to be a helpful tool for understanding ethics because narrative is always about particular lived experiences in all their complexity rather than the assignment of an idea or norm to separate and individuated actions.


Yes, there are those who feel the "grand theories" of modernity are false constructs in themselves, and there is some accuracy in that. We've learned that society and history aren't as nice and neat and linear as some "grand narratives" would lead us to believe. Again, however, there are many problems with simply trying to replace macro-level theory with local analysis. To move beyond the modern, we need to connect the two. There are many new developments in thinking about such connections.


I don't see the need for replacing macro-level theory with local analysis. They are merely different views.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby futerko » Wed Dec 05, 2012 5:16 am

shel wrote:
viniketa wrote:
shel wrote:Actually postmodern theorists find narrative to be a helpful tool for understanding ethics because narrative is always about particular lived experiences in all their complexity rather than the assignment of an idea or norm to separate and individuated actions.


Yes, there are those who feel the "grand theories" of modernity are false constructs in themselves, and there is some accuracy in that. We've learned that society and history aren't as nice and neat and linear as some "grand narratives" would lead us to believe. Again, however, there are many problems with simply trying to replace macro-level theory with local analysis. To move beyond the modern, we need to connect the two. There are many new developments in thinking about such connections.


I don't see the need for replacing macro-level theory with local analysis. They are merely different views.


Because of their interdependent relationship. In Buddhism the macro theory is emptiness as ultimate truth and the local analysis is of appearances as illusory...

If we take them as separate then we get an idea of a separate layer of something called "emptiness" - seen as either a vacuum or an agency, which produces either nihilism or eternalism.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:40 am

You're saying that emptiness is a narrative, not a fundamental truth? If so, are the Four Noble Truths also part of a narrative?
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby futerko » Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:47 am

shel wrote:You're saying that emptiness is a narrative, not a fundamental truth? If so, are the Four Noble Truths also part of a narrative?


The narrative would be the causal chain, dependent origination, with emptiness as the meta-truth about it. If you take just the meta-truth without understanding its foundation then you run into all kinds of absurdities, and conversely if you take just the narrative then you have no way out of the cycle.
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