Human Need.

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Human Need.

Postby Jikan » Wed Sep 15, 2010 3:16 pm

If you were asked to explain the Mahayana view (or at least "a" Mahayana view) of human need, or even better a general theory of need for all sentient beings, where would you begin? What texts would you look to?

It's relatively straightforward to describe the ultimate needs of beings, which would have to do with enlightenment.

But what about provisional needs, for food, shelter, and water, but also further up Maslow's pyramid?

This would be a useful thing to be able to explain to people who want to know just how one can be useful to the totality others in an everyday way, as in engaged Buddhism in particular.

Thoughts?
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Re: Human Need.

Postby kirtu » Wed Sep 15, 2010 4:05 pm

Haven't taken a look at Maslow in a while but the Mahayana (as well as the Theravada) is dedicated to both the temporal and ultimate happiness of all beings. The SGI and other groups (often Nichiren but not just by any means) chanting for prosperity and well-being in this life is totally valid as an example. Then in many cases Buddhist masters devoted a great deal of time to physically improving the environment of other people.

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Re: Human Need.

Postby Jikan » Thu Sep 16, 2010 2:38 pm

kirtu wrote:Haven't taken a look at Maslow in a while but the Mahayana (as well as the Theravada) is dedicated to both the temporal and ultimate happiness of all beings. The SGI and other groups (often Nichiren but not just by any means) chanting for prosperity and well-being in this life is totally valid as an example. Then in many cases Buddhist masters devoted a great deal of time to physically improving the environment of other people.

Kirt


This is a good place to start. But how does one describe what those needs might be, and in a given situation, decide which needs get met? Given the choice and with scarce resources, do you guild the Buddha statue or do you educate your daughters--which is more meritorious?
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Re: Human Need.

Postby palchi » Thu Sep 16, 2010 5:32 pm

Jikan wrote:
This is a good place to start. But how does one describe what those needs might be, and in a given situation, decide which needs get met? Given the choice and with scarce resources, do you guild the Buddha statue or do you educate your daughters--which is more meritorious?


You educate your daughters - and your sons. If you have children, ensuring that they are able to develop to their full potential is your first responsibility. Everything else follows from there... And if your children are educated they in turn have a chance to use their education for the benefit of sentient beings... It's not only children's need, it's their right!
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Re: Human Need.

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Thu Sep 16, 2010 11:57 pm

Jikan wrote:If you were asked to explain the Mahayana view (or at least "a" Mahayana view) of human need, or even better a general theory of need for all sentient beings, where would you begin? What texts would you look to?

It's relatively straightforward to describe the ultimate needs of beings, which would have to do with enlightenment.

But what about provisional needs, for food, shelter, and water, but also further up Maslow's pyramid?

This would be a useful thing to be able to explain to people who want to know just how one can be useful to the totality others in an everyday way, as in engaged Buddhism in particular.

Thoughts?


The first thought that comes to mind for me, given the question, is that Maslow's theory covers human needs and the suffering that can be incurred when the most basic needs aren't met (leading up to higher needs). Likewise, Mahayana Buddhism recognizes the suffering that humans endure and offers medicine for this ailment. In this instance Maslow and Mahayana Buddhism are quite in synch in that there's a recognition of suffering and a quest to end it.

Children are marvelous dharma practice and for many people, the centerpiece of practice. Our children give us the opportunity to practice patience, compassion, selflessness, and if we extend the feelings we have towards our own children outward, towards all beings, we can strive to develop bodhicitta.

So in short, current psychological theories are frequently in synch with Buddhism as I humbly understand it. When His Holiness the Dalai Lama was asked to define Buddhism, his answer was, "Common sense." I don't have a reference handy but can locate it if need be.

This is my very humble opinion, to be taken with a grain of salt. May all beings be free of suffering and the causes of suffering /\

Kindly,
Laura
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Re: Human Need.

Postby Huifeng » Fri Sep 17, 2010 5:42 am

I always considered that the word "need" or "necessity" needed some sort of qualification, eg. "one needs XXX in order to YYY". This is because some have the default qualification of "in order to live / survive", but others have other criteria. Helps to make these explicit. This would also work with a Buddhist (particularly Mahayana) model, based on various this worldly, other worldly, liberative, or universally liberative goals.
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Re: Human Need.

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Sep 17, 2010 12:34 pm

Jikan wrote:[ how does one describe what those needs might be, and in a given situation, decide which needs get met? Given the choice and with scarce resources, do you guild the Buddha statue or do you educate your daughters--which is more meritorious?


Wonder if it might be worth looking at two contemporary, and contrasting, examples of "dharma in action" -- namely, the Maitreya Project and Tzu Chi. What are the strengths (and shortcomings, if any) of each? In what way does each reflect Mahayana doctrine, or some subset within Mahayana practice, such as engaged Buddhism?

Just looking at it superficially, the Maitreya Project seems to have been conceived with a "hierarchy of needs" in mind. It's expected to help the local economy and will include education and health facilities, but of course the most striking aspect of it will be the 500-foot Buddha statue. So the emphasis is ultimately more on the transcendent. The possible shortcomings of this approach have been a subject of public debate -- there is a controversy over land acquisition and displaced farmers -- but I can see the doctrinal foundations for it in, for instance, Book 11 of the Avatamsaka Sutra (the section titled "Purifying Practices" in the Cleary translation).

I'm more partial, myself, to what Tzu Chi is doing but it's interesting to consider the merits of both.
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Re: Human Need.

Postby Astus » Fri Sep 17, 2010 3:55 pm

I think the reply could be the five desires: drink-food, sleep, sex, fame, wealth.
"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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