Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

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Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby plwk » Sun Sep 12, 2010 4:45 pm

I think that people need to divest themselves of their scientific materialism a-la Richard Dawkins if they are really going to embrace Buddhism and if Buddhism is going to grow validly in the West.

That can only happen, IMO, if Buddhism can successfully answer the objections posed by Dawkins et al. We have show why there's good reason, in this day and age, to cultivate a belief in siddhis, devas, pure lands, hells, disembodied consciousness, a "moral law of the universe" and a whole host of other things which, from a scientific angle, might look either unexplainable or implausible.

Otherwise, I fear, we'll just be replaying the 19th century face-off between science and Christianity. And Christianity lost that one.

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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Indrajala » Mon Sep 13, 2010 1:56 am

This is an uphill battle.

I'll tell you why... because materialist philosophy (which is often inflated to also mean science in many circles) is the state sanctioned doctrine that is taught in most education systems throughout the world.

From that angle rebirth and karma seem unrealistic and just religious fantasies. What seems most realistic for somebody brought up in said system is the working assumptions within materialist philosophy. Materialist philosophy is the default canvas upon which you build your own world view.

Now, if you were to educate a youth in various Buddhist philosophies (and look seriously at counter arguments against materialism particularly thinkers like Dharmakirti), she would probably end up feeling quite justified in assuming rebirth and karma are realistic views to hold. However, even in Buddhist schools in Asia I don't think they really do that. You might end up believing in Guanyin, but that's about it.

The ability of materialist philosophy in recent decades to manipulate the physical world has been impressive, but at the same time the realm of the mind has quite often been ignored. The mental medium which perceives and initiates the processes which builds impressive devices is so often seen as unimportant.

So how do we prove rebirth and karma?

To this we can't observe said phenomena under laboratory conditions, but we can infer the existence of them.

If that doesn't cut it for everybody, then oh well.

In any case in any society you'll have a certain portion of the population which seeks out spiritual pursuits. Whether or not the white robed Brahmins of universities approve or not, Buddhism will still have a strong appeal to many people.
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Astus » Mon Sep 13, 2010 10:20 am

I find it a mistaken route to argue for Buddhism's agreement with physicalism, as it is obviously not. Natural science itself is a set of axioms and rules to observe and analyse matter. Analysing Buddhism can be done on many levels, starting with archaeology and philology, up to sociology and philosophy of religion. Mostly these are not natural sciences, simply because Buddhism is a human mental construct and not a natural phenomenon.

It is a biased view to claim that the West and Western people are totally materialists. It is a view similar to Christians saying that that is the traditional religion and the fundamental source of spirituality. True, materialism and science has been the government sponsored orthodoxy in the West for more than a hundred years now, simply because it could provide the usual magical requirements of healing and weaponry. But as we can see in many "religious" countries, the use of products of scientific achievements does not necessitate a materialist view. And looking at Europe, Christianity still has a strong base while the so called New Age movement - without a better name to cover all the divers views - is growing in its number of followers.

Physicalism demonises non-materialist views just like Christianity does so with other religions. There's no point in trying to prove that Buddhism is OK with any matter based view. Rather, teachers should state clearly that physicalism is a very low level view as it is restricted to the four elements and can't see beyond that, even Christianity beats that, while both of them are outer paths (外道), tirthikas, just like Carvaka and Vedanta.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Sep 13, 2010 12:45 pm

Astus wrote:I find it a mistaken route to argue for Buddhism's agreement with physicalism, as it is obviously not.


FWIW, I'd agree. The post quoted above was not saying that Buddhism should concur with Dawkins. It was saying that the objections from that camp should be successfully answered if the goal is to help "divest people of their scientific materialism".

Natural science itself is a set of axioms and rules to observe and analyse matter.


We may want to be a little careful about equating "physicalism/materialism" with "naturalism". They are not necessarily the same thing. David Chalmers, for instance, proposes a non-materialist but naturalist view of consciousness.

Physicalism demonises non-materialist views just like Christianity does so with other religions.


With respect, I find this to be a rather weak line of argument because it ignores the different bases for knowledge, i.e the "rules of the game". A religious leader can proclaim the truth about the universe (and the wrongness of competing views) simply on the basis of scriptural or institutional authority. The Pope can never be in error, even when he is.

Philosophical propositions (such as materialism) require some sort of rational argument, and they stand or fall on the basis of that argument. It doesn't matter how many university degrees you have; if your argument is bunk somebody will be glad to come along and debunk it. Scientific propositions require a certain methodology, empirical support, peer review etc. Yes, we can say that ultimately these are all just ways of seeing in the dark, but for the purposes of a serious discussion it's a bit too easy. It's like when people go around equating Taoism and Zen, or Buddhism and Advaita, or saying "all religions are the same", etc. Distinctions can be important at the level of conventional reality.

It is a biased view to claim that the West and Western people are totally materialists.


Where I live, in the US, lots of people seem to be evangelicals. Complicating matters further, quite a few of the scientists I know personally are devout Christians.

True, materialism and science has been the government sponsored orthodoxy in the West for more than a hundred years now, simply because it could provide the usual magical requirements of healing and weaponry.


Science's prestige is also due to its ability to explain the physical universe and make independently verifiable claims about how things work. Don't forget that religious faith has also been popular with governments because of its ability to maintain social harmony and, when needed, mobilize people for war.

Huseng wrote:I'll tell you why... because materialist philosophy (which is often inflated to also mean science in many circles) is the state sanctioned doctrine that is taught in most education systems throughout the world.


Maybe that's true in Canada. I don't recall seeing "materialist philosophy" -- or any other kind of philosophy, for that matter -- being taught widely in US schools. We do have recurring educational battles, mostly over various religious and right wing political groups trying to inject their beliefs into the curriculum and classroom.

Huseng wrote:The ability of materialist philosophy in recent decades to manipulate the physical world has been impressive...


I think you are playing too fast and loose with the terminology, Huseng. Earlier you were lamenting that people confuse science with materialist philosophy. Now you are saying that materialist philosophers manipulate the physical world. Methinks you are building a straw man but are unsure about how to name him.

In any case in any society you'll have a certain portion of the population which seeks out spiritual pursuits. Whether or not the white robed Brahmins of universities approve or not, Buddhism will still have a strong appeal to many people.


Does that really tell us much? There's a "certain portion of the population" which believes all kinds of things. Are you implying that spirituality is for the uneducated?

From that angle rebirth and karma seem unrealistic and just religious fantasies. What seems most realistic for somebody brought up in said system is the working assumptions within materialist philosophy. Materialist philosophy is the default canvas upon which you build your own world view.


Personally, I don't think rebirth is the big issue we often make it out to be. The really interesting issue is the nature of consciousness. If consciousness is non-material, or has a non-material aspect, then rebirth is not at all implausible -- it's actually the more likely possibility. So the root argument is over whether, in fact, "mind" is distinct from "brain".

If what we call consciousness is an outgrowth of material processes, or is ultimately reducible to matter, then obviously we have a problem. But even in this case we might argue for a kind of property dualism which allows for rebirth and karma to be valid as experential constructs -- that is, the mind perceives itself as being the product of such a cycle.

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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Astus » Mon Sep 13, 2010 2:07 pm

"The really interesting issue is the nature of consciousness. If consciousness is non-material, or has a non-material aspect, then rebirth is not at all implausible -- it's actually the more likely possibility. So the root argument is over whether, in fact, "mind" is distinct from "brain"."

The idealist-materialist argument doesn't fit here. The Buddha did address the question of the difference or sameness of the body and soul, see: SN 12.35. That's how Buddhism is a Middle Way position.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Sep 13, 2010 3:02 pm

Astus wrote: The idealist-materialist argument doesn't fit here. The Buddha did address the question of the difference or sameness of the body and soul, see: SN 12.35. That's how Buddhism is a Middle Way position.


You're right to point this out, and yes, part of the confusion in these debates surely has to do with trying to fit the dharma into various Western philosophical containers. This has been a stumbling block for me, personally.

Nevertheless, and despite the Buddha's statements in SN 12:35, some parts of the dharma clearly imply the non-physicality of consciousness; i.e., consciousness can't work in this way if it is identical to matter.

We can be reborn in a formless realm, for instance. We can obtain siddhis which allow us to mentally influence physical phenomena. Also, with a materialist model, it would be hard to explain how the final thought moment in one life could condition the initial thought moment in another life somewhere else (maybe even in a different part of the universe). It's impossible for an individuated mindstream to flow from life to life unless we take as a given that consciousness has a non-material aspect. Otherwise, physics and biology don't leave any room for such an interaction.

Furthermore, if consciousness were not distinct from matter, the "five skandhas" model wouldn't make sense. Four of the aggregates would simply be byproducts of the form aggregate.

Interesting article on this topic (from a Theravada POV) here:

http://daophatngaynay.com/english/philo ... onship.htm

I don't pretend to be well-versed in philosophy, but my gut sense is that in terms of Western models, dharma overlaps partly with materialism (because under normal conditions, mind always co-arises with matter), and partly with dualism (because under some conditions, mind can operate independently of matter and in seeming violation of physical laws). In the West, when we say "dualism" we usually think of Descartes, and obviously dharma is not like that. Western dualism has a strongly eternalistic flavor. But I do see some possible compatibility with "property dualism" or maybe some other varieties. For example, David Chalmers argues that consciousness operates by means of (as yet unidentified) psychophysical laws. Perhaps these are what the Buddha discovered?

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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Astus » Mon Sep 13, 2010 3:54 pm

I think it is important to clarify the actual Buddhist view and don't just let it be watered down to an easier interpretation. It is not specifically difficult to understand the middle way view, it's just unfamiliar.

The mind-matter dichotomy doesn't exist in Buddhism simply because it is not a view based on independent elements but rather on conditioned phenomena. And it is possible to say that in Buddhism there is a consciousness separate from matter but that is a highly superficial statement only good for letting people comprehend some basics about rebirth. But if it is about debating on a deeper level such a position has to be dropped and the correct, explicit teaching has to be taken up.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Indrajala » Tue Sep 14, 2010 2:09 am

Where I live, in the US, lots of people seem to be evangelicals. Complicating matters further, quite a few of the scientists I know personally are devout Christians.


That doesn't matter really. I would argue that owing to the education an American would receive, they would have a dual view in their minds: a religious one and the other one of materialism which they feel is more realistic / reasonable. They might be quite devout Christians, but at the same time they probably have in their reality-world picture a materialist view. They might say they believe in heaven and god, but they probably don't really believe it is a realistic and reasonable view. A lot of religious beliefs are less tied to what one thinks about reality and more about tribal-identity ties. The lot of your clan or tribe professes such beliefs, so you're obligated to uphold them and like a good member profess them against perceived foes. There is an emotional, not intellectual, investment at stake.

Somebody once asked Bush if he would care about his legacy and what his grand children would think of him to which he answered he would be dead so it wouldn't matter. Again, case in point: he doesn't seem to really think he'll exist post-mortem in heaven or anywhere else. He seems to have a view where at death he'll cease to exist.

If you have that kind of view, whether you recognize it or not, it influences your behaviour and how you plan your life.

I mean look at devout Buddhists in Asia: they "invest" in future lives through merit making activities. They honestly at their root core foresee themselves existing after this life and like retirement preparations must be taken.

Now the average Buddhist from a western background probably doesn't place much emphasis on such things even if they profess they believe in rebirth. You might say that it is because of cultural differences and it is of course, but that difference lay in the fact that while in much of Asia (Japan excluded) rebirth for Buddhists is as real as retirement, but for westerners it is just a religious belief that may or may not have any basis in reality.


If they really believed in past and future lives (and I mean they honestly thought it was a realistic view to hold and not just a religious belief), they would plan their lives much differently. The other thing that demonstrates what I'm talking about is the tendency to constantly talk about "living in the present moment" and even professing that the whole point of Buddhism is "about this present moment" without paying much attention or even completely dismissing rebirth. This reflects, whether people recognize it or not, a widespread view that rebirth is unrealistic and just a religious belief. What is real is big bang theory and neurology -- Buddhist metaphysics is just religion.





I'll tell you why... because materialist philosophy (which is often inflated to also mean science in many circles) is the state sanctioned doctrine that is taught in most education systems throughout the world.


Maybe that's true in Canada. I don't recall seeing "materialist philosophy" -- or any other kind of philosophy, for that matter -- being taught widely in US schools. We do have recurring educational battles, mostly over various religious and right wing political groups trying to inject their beliefs into the curriculum and classroom.



Creationism might be taught in the school, sure, but the rest of science curriculum is probably no different than in Canada.



Huseng wrote:The ability of materialist philosophy in recent decades to manipulate the physical world has been impressive...


I think you are playing too fast and loose with the terminology, Huseng. Earlier you were lamenting that people confuse science with materialist philosophy. Now you are saying that materialist philosophers manipulate the physical world. Methinks you are building a straw man but are unsure about how to name him.



I'm not saying applied materialist philosophy has no utility.


In any case in any society you'll have a certain portion of the population which seeks out spiritual pursuits. Whether or not the white robed Brahmins of universities approve or not, Buddhism will still have a strong appeal to many people.


Does that really tell us much? There's a "certain portion of the population" which believes all kinds of things. Are you implying that spirituality is for the uneducated?


I implied no such thing and stop reading such things into my statements.

I said, "...you'll have a certain portion of the population which seeks out spiritual pursuits."

There are a lot of people in the world of ivory tower intelligentsia who think religion is complete rubbish. They might disapprove of any kind of spirituality. Nevertheless, a certain portion of any population, regardless of their education level or social background will crave some kind of spiritual lifestyle. That goes for highly educated persons as well as the illiterate poor.


From that angle rebirth and karma seem unrealistic and just religious fantasies. What seems most realistic for somebody brought up in said system is the working assumptions within materialist philosophy. Materialist philosophy is the default canvas upon which you build your own world view.


Personally, I don't think rebirth is the big issue we often make it out to be. The really interesting issue is the nature of consciousness. If consciousness is non-material, or has a non-material aspect, then rebirth is not at all implausible -- it's actually the more likely possibility. So the root argument is over whether, in fact, "mind" is distinct from "brain".



No, rebirth is a big issue. It was the problem Shakyamuni addressed.
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Sep 14, 2010 6:21 am

Huseng,

Since I've apparently misread your statements, it's only fair that you return the favor by misreading mine. :) When I wrote that rebirth is not the big issue we make it out to be, I wasn't suggesting it is not a central part of the dharma. What I meant was that the heated debates about rebirth are really, at root, debates over the nature of consciousness. When people have trouble accepting rebirth, it is almost always because they are assuming a physicalist framework.

I believe we agree on this, actually.

What I disagree with is your continual mudslinging against science and education, as though a few choice epithets could wish away what is in fact a serious challenge that humanity has to deal with: how to incorporate the revelations of science into our worldviews without destroying the basis for spirituality. We're all grappling with this issue in one way or another. One avenue is to look for some sort of synthesis a la "agnostic Buddhism" which you disdain so much. The problem, as I'm sure you'll point out, is that this can end up reinterpreting the dharma in ways that place it far from the lived tradition and the Buddha's original intent.

Another solution is to protect the integrity of the dharma by putting up a kind of shield against rationalism, science and modernity, fending these off with the appropriate ad hominem attacks, straw man arguments and whatever else comes to hand. The problem is that this is a reactionary position. The POV put forward by you, and to some extent by Astus, sounds very similar to the standard line of the religious conservatives here in the US: namely, that the schools have been taken over by pointy-headed scientists and white-robed brahmins who are eagerly feeding us all the poison of scientific materialism. That's right out of Glenn Beck and his lot. (I suspect that's not your intention, but perhaps you are not fully aware of the political context within the US).

Of course these people are arguing from a Christian perspective, but that doesn't make it any less reactionary when it comes from a Buddhist perspective. The only difference is that the dharma is new in the West so it gives us the opportunity to hash out the same arguments which got hashed out in the 19th century, mostly to religion's detriment.

May I also add that although we're flinging around some pointed words here, I don't mean any personal disrespect. I know you're a dedicated dharma practitioner and scholar; I admire that and always find your posts instructive. This is just how the dialectical process goes. Perhaps we'll stumble on a solution.

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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Indrajala » Tue Sep 14, 2010 7:54 am

Since I've apparently misread your statements, it's only fair that you return the favor by misreading mine. :) When I wrote that rebirth is not the big issue we make it out to be, I wasn't suggesting it is not a central part of the dharma. What I meant was that the heated debates about rebirth are really, at root, debates over the nature of consciousness. When people have trouble accepting rebirth, it is almost always because they are assuming a physicalist framework.

I believe we agree on this, actually.


Fair enough.


What I disagree with is your continual mudslinging against science and education, as though a few choice epithets could wish away what is in fact a serious challenge that humanity has to deal with: how to incorporate the revelations of science into our worldviews without destroying the basis for spirituality.


I have not thrown mud against science and education. Your criticism is invalid and unjustified. I am quite fine with science in an education system and youth should know biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and so on, but without some basis in even basic philosophy, whether it be eastern or western or somewhere in-between, the tendency towards a materialist vision of reality and the absolute lack of morality it essentially promotes will continue.

We're all grappling with this issue in one way or another. One avenue is to look for some sort of synthesis a la "agnostic Buddhism" which you disdain so much. The problem, as I'm sure you'll point out, is that this can end up reinterpreting the dharma in ways that place it far from the lived tradition and the Buddha's original intent.


The problem is that ordinary beings often assume they're capable of reinterpreting what was taught by an enlightened Buddha. They're not. The core components of Buddhadharma -- rebirth, dependent origination, emptiness, karma, etc... -- remain essentially intact throughout most of Buddhist history across any number of cultures. Those core components cannot be removed. The people who claim they can and will do away with them, like Batchelor for example, are simply deluded. You might appreciate such revisionism, but it isn't Buddhism and it isn't what Buddha or any of his enlightened disciples taught.


Another solution is to protect the integrity of the dharma by putting up a kind of shield against rationalism, science and modernity, fending these off with the appropriate ad hominem attacks, straw man arguments and whatever else comes to hand.


What you propose is not a solution, but a clever way of justifying your own opinion by showing how potentially ridiculous a conservative Buddhist position might seem: anti-science, medieval and not unlike fundamentalist Christianity in the USA.


The problem is that this is a reactionary position.


Look at the present day world: science is used to manufacture legal forms of smack which are marketed like a skilled art to a populace who are fed poisons and horrible foods and no wonder end up depressed, meanwhile industrialization is completely and utterly wrecking the planet and global eco-system. "Modernity" is a complete *$#@ing failure. The standards of living go up along with suicide rates. The beloved economic system of our present day, corrupt and rotten as it is, is built on the corpses and lashed backs of African slaves and exploited men and women.

We have every reason to react against what many intellectuals like to call "progressive" and "modern". They might say things are getting better and we have "hurdles" to overcome, but looking at the big picture things are getting worse. Pollution, psychological deterioration, war, corruption, famine and new and sophisticated forms of policing and murder. The industrial war machine creates "terrorists" and the terrified people allow their money to pay for new arms. The objective pool of knowledge which science has provided is readily tapped to manufacture more and more fancy ways of taking lives.

We have every right to react to this.



The POV put forward by you, and to some extent by Astus, sounds very similar to the standard line of the religious conservatives here in the US: namely, that the schools have been taken over by pointy-headed scientists and white-robed brahmins who are eagerly feeding us all the poison of scientific materialism.


Scientific materialism inadvertently injects poisonous ways of thinking into people. It promotes a wrong view of ucchedavada which eradicates any basis for genuine ethics.




That's right out of Glenn Beck and his lot. (I suspect that's not your intention, but perhaps you are not fully aware of the political context within the US).


Astus is Hungarian. I am a Canadian living in Japan. What Glenn Beck says is largely irrelevant to me and I imagine Astus as well.
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Astus » Tue Sep 14, 2010 10:37 am

Buddhism is a religion. I understand that religion sounds anti-scientific for many but actually that is not necessarily so. All the older European universities were established by the Church herself and even today there are Christian schools with a high standard of education. Of course, I'm talking about the European situation where the American style evangelical Christianity is a minority and doesn't have much impact beyond the level of the plebs. Just an example, the current governing party in Germany is the "Christian Democratic Union", they have a female president, and it is still a normal Western-European liberal democratic country, where prostitution and gambling is legal, personal drug use is not a criminal act, and symbols and compulsory practices of religion (cross, prayer, etc.) are banned from state schools. This is just to show that religion and Christianity is not necessarily anti-scientific and anti-modern. At the same time, it seems to me that a large portion of traditional western Christians (mainly Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Calvinists) are quite secular and materialist in thinking, as Huseng said, they take "religious beliefs" separately from "scientific facts".

I personally have never really been fond of the idea that science is the source of true knowledge. Yes, science is good for certain things, just like the skills needed for shoemaking and housebuilding. But that's all, it is a craftsmanship, a technique, but neither philosophy, nor spirituality. But what happened is that there were people, philosophers (like the positivists), who tried to prove that true, factual and real knowledge comes only through science, anything beyond that is superstition. And this is where the fight between science and religion starts. A simple engineer who knows how to build bridges has little to argue with theological concepts, they're two different areas. But if you say that true knowledge comes only from the knowledge of building bridges, therefore theology is nonsense, the problem is born.

The very idea that there's anything to be proved scientifically in a religion is nonsense. It's like using chemistry to analyse a poem. And just as literature is not for or against science, why should the situation with Buddhism be different?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Sep 14, 2010 12:43 pm

Huseng wrote:"Modernity" is a complete *$#@ing failure.


Your view is too black and white. Modernity is a failure in some areas, a success in others. Likewise, we can't look at any past era and say that it was completely a success or a failure. This is samsara.

Life for most of history has been quite miserable for all kinds of people who didn't get born into the right caste, got caught up in the innumerable wars, fell victim to famine, etc. In most eras you may not have had the choice to be doing what you are doing now; you might have been forcibly recruited by the emperor's army or obliged by circumstance to spend your life as a laborer or peasant. Past eras sometimes appear better than they were because we are not actually stuck living in them; present eras sometimes appear worse than they are, for the reverse reason.

In the modern era, moreover, the dharma is available to more people than ever before. Is that bad? Many of us have apparently reaped the fruits of positive karma, allowing us to be born here and have dharma discussions.

Look at the present day world: science is used to manufacture legal forms of smack which are marketed like a skilled art to a populace who are fed poisons and horrible foods and no wonder end up depressed, meanwhile industrialization is completely and utterly wrecking the planet and global eco-system. The standards of living go up along with suicide rates. The beloved economic system of our present day, corrupt and rotten as it is, is built on the corpses and lashed backs of African slaves and exploited men and women.


These are grave problems, but not all of them are new problems. You think war, exploitation and slavery didn't exist in prior eras?

We have every reason to react against what many intellectuals like to call "progressive" and "modern". They might say things are getting better and we have "hurdles" to overcome, but looking at the big picture things are getting worse. Pollution, psychological deterioration, war, corruption, famine and new and sophisticated forms of policing and murder. The industrial war machine creates "terrorists" and the terrified people allow their money to pay for new arms. The objective pool of knowledge which science has provided is readily tapped to manufacture more and more fancy ways of taking lives.

We have every right to react to this.


If you look at the trends you describe, they largely reflect the combination of technological advancement with an anachronistic mentality. That's why, when you attack the scientific perspective, you are actually feeding the problem rather than helping to solve it.

A rejection of reason will do nothing to stem the bloodshed, the flow of arms, or the logic of war. On the contrary.

Scientific materialism inadvertently injects poisonous ways of thinking into people. It promotes a wrong view of ucchedavada which eradicates any basis for genuine ethics.


Again, you keep equating science and materialism. There is no mysterious plot in the Western school system to teach students a philosophy called "materialism". Show me some examples from the state curriculum where ucchedavada is espoused.

You're using this straw man to soften the real thrust of your argument, which is that science misleads people into Wrong View and therefore is a pernicious development in human history.

Astus is Hungarian. I am a Canadian living in Japan. What Glenn Beck says is largely irrelevant to me and I imagine Astus as well.


Not irrelevant at all. What happens in the US can affect the entire globe.
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Indrajala » Tue Sep 14, 2010 1:27 pm

Life for most of history has been quite miserable for all kinds of people who didn't get born into the right caste, got caught up in the innumerable wars, fell victim to famine, etc. In most eras you may not have had the choice to be doing what you are doing now; you might have been forcibly recruited by the emperor's army or obliged by circumstance to spend your life as a laborer or peasant. Past eras sometimes appear better than they were because we are not actually stuck living in them; present eras sometimes appear worse than they are, for the reverse reason.



I never said past eras were utopias. I said modernity has been a complete failure.




In the modern era, moreover, the dharma is available to more people than ever before. Is that bad? Many of us have apparently reaped the fruits of positive karma, allowing us to be born here and have dharma discussions.


There is "dharma" and then there is dharma. I have access to the complete Chinese canon. I can open up one of thousands of sutras and commentaries at moment's notice. Does that make scholarship easier? Of course it does. Does it make Buddhist practice easier? Not really.

We might have access to canons, video lectures and internet forums, but that's just a deceptive aspect of our degenerate era. Things look quite well, but in reality they are not. More people have access to "dharma" but good look finding genuine teachers or for that matter enlightened individuals.

The average English speaking Buddhist out there without expertise in the academic study of Buddhism is prone to pick up Batchelor's books and be deceived. There is so much crap online and floating around bookstores being called "dharma".




These are grave problems, but not all of them are new problems. You think war, exploitation and slavery didn't exist in prior eras?


Did I say they didn't exist in prior eras?



If you look at the trends you describe, they largely reflect the combination of technological advancement with an anachronistic mentality. That's why, when you attack the scientific perspective, you are actually feeding the problem rather than helping to solve it.

A rejection of reason will do nothing to stem the bloodshed, the flow of arms, or the logic of war. On the contrary.



I have not attacked scientific perspectives nor have I rejected reason.



Scientific materialism inadvertently injects poisonous ways of thinking into people. It promotes a wrong view of ucchedavada which eradicates any basis for genuine ethics.


Again, you keep equating science and materialism. There is no mysterious plot in the Western school system to teach students a philosophy called "materialism". Show me some examples from the state curriculum where ucchedavada is espoused.


Reread what I said. I wrote scientific materialism. I have made a clear distinction between science and materialism, but you have continually misread what I wrote and erroneously announce I am conflating the two.

Ideas of ucchedavada will inevitably follow when youth are taught standard biology and more specifically human physiology without also being taught philosophy. The former two quite clearly refute the possibility of rebirth as the idea is that consciousness and your human experience is entirely limited to a single lifespan in a single body.


You're using this straw man to soften the real thrust of your argument, which is that science misleads people into Wrong View and therefore is a pernicious development in human history.


Again, I said scientific materialism. I am quite fine with science and appreciate it. I have made a difference between materialism and science.
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Sep 14, 2010 2:12 pm

Huseng,

During a recent discussion you wrote:

Huseng wrote:In such an environment where the views of materialist science are hailed as supreme -- and coincidentally the leading proponents of this school of thought are positioned as authorities on what is real and true -- rebirth, and a lot of the Buddhist model really, for most people will just be belief rather than being a realistic view grounded in reasoned observation and consideration.


http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=66&t=1661

I have followed your posts for a long time now and you have a history of using the terms "science", "scientific materialism", "materialist science", "materialist philosophy" etc more or less interchangeably. This confusion of terms is what I am trying to clarify. Even in this thread you claimed that:

The ability of materialist philosophy in recent decades to manipulate the physical world has been impressive...


I assume here you mean science, as philosophy per se is not capable of manipulating the physical environment.

I never said past eras were utopias. I said modernity has been a complete failure.


And that is an unbalanced position. You're free, of course, to hold it. But it means rejecting wholesale all the advancements as well as the pitfalls of modernity. For example, the eradication of smallpox, the ability to treat leprosy, improvements in literacy, the human rights movement, womens' rights, the ability to do C-sections and prevent many wives and mothers from dying in childbirth, legally enshrined respect in some countries for "conscientious objection" and other positions of conscience...the list is lengthy.

Can we really say that modernity has failed completely?
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby catmoon » Wed Sep 15, 2010 8:57 am

Well, if you ask modernity to put and end to suffering, it's pretty debatable whether or not progress has been made. However, a sizable dose of Shantideva made a pretty big impact on my anger and temper.
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed Sep 15, 2010 11:32 am

catmoon wrote:Well, if you ask modernity to put and end to suffering, it's pretty debatable whether or not progress has been made. However, a sizable dose of Shantideva made a pretty big impact on my anger and temper.


Nice post! :applause:

Maybe (to get back to the OT), this is a good way to answer Dawkins, Hitchens et al? That way we give science its due while showing there are problems which dharma can better address.
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby kirtu » Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:01 pm

catmoon wrote:Well, if you ask modernity to put and end to suffering, it's pretty debatable whether or not progress has been made.


Modernity has objectively put an end to the suffering of millions, perhaps billions via medicine and tangible improvements in the human condition.

It has also set the stage for the complete destruction of the planet by human forces (not that that is inevitable) and has also objectively sentenced untold millions to death through war and hunger - both completely avoidable states.

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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby conebeckham » Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:52 pm

Modernity has not put an end to anyone's suffering.

Although it has certainly improved the "quality of life" in many ways, and has put an end, or markedly decreased, SPECIFIC types of suffering, the root suffering-the suffering that really underlies it all--the cause of samsara--has not been rooted out one iota by "modernity."
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby shel » Wed Sep 15, 2010 5:42 pm

kirtu wrote:[Modernity] has also objectively sentenced untold millions to death through war and hunger - both completely avoidable states.

No war or hunger prior to modernity? Wow, we really missed the boat!

And actually in modernity we have the technological capacity to end world hunger, whereas we did not prior to modernity.
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby shel » Wed Sep 15, 2010 5:44 pm

conebeckham wrote:Modernity has not put an end to anyone's suffering.

Although it has certainly improved the "quality of life" in many ways, and has put an end, or markedly decreased, SPECIFIC types of suffering, the root suffering-the suffering that really underlies it all--the cause of samsara--has not been rooted out one iota by "modernity."

Dear Conebeckham,

Have you or anyone you know rooted out the cause of suffering?
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