Is modernity bad for practice?

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Dec 20, 2012 6:56 pm

Anyway, it is pretty silly to expect the class of people that benefits the most from the current political/economic/social situation: the "white" middle and upper class of the industrialised world, to rebel against the thing that gives them all the political/economic/social benefits that they have. Strangely enough it is always the oppressed, poor and estranged that rebel against the system which is the cause of their suffering. Weird, huh?
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Thu Dec 20, 2012 7:32 pm

Thrasymachus wrote:I say Buddhism is used by most here as escapism because that is what I observe.

When you have a broken leg you need a crutch.

Everyone is broken. Everyone is a convalescent.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Simon E. » Thu Dec 20, 2012 7:45 pm

It seems to me that the ultimate in escapism is thinking that we can somehow fix samsara.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Namgyal » Thu Dec 20, 2012 8:56 pm

Thrasymachus, Most of us have heard everything that you have said before...and actually all of it is irrelevant. The momentum of negative karma for our present civilisation is such that it will obliterated in a century or so, and certainly before five hundred years. This has happened to this world-system many times in the past, and it will happen again many times in the future. As Buddhists we are deeply concerned about the societies in which we presently live, but we are also concerned with future lives, as well all sentient beings throughout the entire cosmos.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Indrajala » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:16 am

Simon E. wrote:It seems to me that the ultimate in escapism is thinking that we can somehow fix samsara.


There's plenty of Buddhists who think this is possible and actively pursue this goal without regard for the realities of impermanence and chaos.

There are also plenty of secular minded people who think it is possible to build a human utopia via technology, science and eradication of opposing worldviews.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Indrajala » Fri Dec 21, 2012 1:19 am

gregkavarnos wrote:Anyway, it is pretty silly to expect the class of people that benefits the most from the current political/economic/social situation: the "white" middle and upper class of the industrialised world, to rebel against the thing that gives them all the political/economic/social benefits that they have. Strangely enough it is always the oppressed, poor and estranged that rebel against the system which is the cause of their suffering. Weird, huh?
:namaste:


Good point.

There will be tipping point sooner or later when enough people are alienated from the system and it fails to be in their interest to cooperate with it.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Sara H » Fri Dec 21, 2012 8:46 am

Huseng wrote:Some time ago I realized that this last generation of elderly lamas represent something special at the moment because they were born and raised in an environment that was effectively pre-modern and pre-industrial, so they never had to contend with materialism (especially in their education system), political theories, atheism, consumerism and a whole string other things that we modern folks have to live with. When they're gone there really won't be anymore Buddhist teachers that were born and raised in a pre-modern environment. That will be a real loss. These fellows are often thought of as particularly special and very unique.

I've come to think that modernity as a whole is bad for practice. Despite all the science, information, medical care and women's rights we have, a lot of what we're brought up with and have to deal with throughout life is contrary to the path. We're brought up in an education system that teaches materialism as the default worldview. We have to think about capitalism versus socialism. We've got entertainment of all sorts to distract us. We have to function in a cash economy and this means working on a schedule rather than at your own pace most of the time. Modernity is exhausting and the system is setup to have people be productive, which means not having the energy and time to devote oneself to spiritual pursuits. The worst is the amount of doubt most modern people have to contend with when facing questions like rebirth, karma and so on.

So is modernity bad for practice? Of course it is up to the individual, but then I still think on the whole modernity is overall detrimental to liberation rather than conducive to it.

Well, in other times people had caste systems, or serfdom, or enforced poverty/aristocracy or other issues involved...
Dominant religions that were/are hostile to Buddhism...

Every age has it's problems.

In Gassho,

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IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
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It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Queequeg » Fri Dec 21, 2012 5:45 pm

Thrasymachus wrote:I had to laugh at that, since that is what I just read recently. However I am nothing like Holden who was quite base and a drinker.


I got a laugh! Ha!

Simon E. wrote:It seems to me that the ultimate in escapism is thinking that we can somehow fix samsara.


Funny - that's what I thought the Buddha tried to do. Of course he found that there was nothing that needed fixing aside from one's own mind.

So, according to some people, the world was supposed to end yesterday. It didn't.

Some of you pine for the destruction of this current order on which you place blame for everything - how are you different from these apocalyptos? Your'e all stuck in some apocalyptic theology of one shade or another - pining for some place other than your present karmic circumstance. Huseng pines for premodern times when people supposedly had more independence of thought - something which as a historian I don't understand at all - there were flashes of enlightenment in the past, but they all ended after short duration, and I strongly suspect that aside from a few elites who touched heaven and left records, the mass of humanity has always groaned along in peasantry/serfdom/un-fulfilling employment of one form or another since the Axial Age, delighting in the minor joys life has to offer the salt of the earth - a little fornication, a little intoxication, a little awe invoking ritual, a little dance, smiles on each others' faces. Thrasymachus as far as I can tell just loathes the self-satisfied yuppie suburbanites packing their skis for their Christmas-New Years getaway (but going to see the Hobbit is an acceptable indulgence?)

All I get is that you guys don't like your life. You want to be somewhere other than this conditioned point in the flow of karma. Your are discouraged and disgusted by the behavior of your fellows. In many cases, rightfully so - humans can be vile, petty creatures. Always have been. Since I'm a betting man, I'll wager whatever you want to put up that it WILL remain so until the last of our species goes out with a whimper.

Now, I don't get this from Thrasymachus, but I do get it from others, that you seem to think there is a more perfect place where your pursuit of enlightenment will be easier. Its called Sukhavati (I just learned the other day that Sukha is the opposite of Dukkha. Hey!). At least that's what Buddhists have called one of these places. There are other fantastic Pure Lands in other directions. Other people call it Heaven, or the Garden of Eden, the Happy Hunting Ground, Valhalla. Post Peak-Oil future primitive. I guess I'll have to be the one that tells you Santa Claus isn't real - these Pure Lands, at least the simple narratives in the Sutras, and whatever else you can conceive, are stories to console. They're as real, simpliciter, as my Turtle Fur Coat.

Dress it in whatever insightful analysis you want - it sounds like the dissatisfaction that follows from dukkha to me.

So, all the bitching, all the analysis about what has gone wrong, what does that amount to? Maybe if you channel it through an academic program you can join a circle jerk at an Ivy university, which has its advantages. More critically, what are you doing about it? Are you tapping into your boundless well of compassionate energy to overcome the inevitable? Or are you just content to watch your fellows wallow in excrement? Or maybe you don't even want to observe your fellows and all you really want to do is go meditate staring at a wall until your feet fall off. That is Hinayana in the most despicable sense of that word. And don't give me this crap about Yogic achievements. We Moderns have some remarkable Yogic achievements - like flying aluminum cans that transport you to the other side of the planet in a matter of hours - with no stopovers!

You guys are obsessed with the particulars of "modernity" but in general, I don't see your lamentations as being much different from the Buddha's concerns shortly after his awakening:

"This Dhamma that I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. But this generation delights in attachment, is excited by attachment, enjoys attachment. For a generation delighting in attachment, excited by attachment, enjoying attachment, this/that conditionality and dependent co-arising are hard to see. This state, too, is hard to see: the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding. And if I were to teach the Dhamma and if others would not understand me, that would be tiresome for me, troublesome for me."


Lucky for us, the Buddha did not give up on us so easily. I don't see him relishing the collapse of his society. How fortunate we are that he didn't go waiting for some more perfect circumstance when people will spontaneously realize how bad they have it and bring about the change we've all been waiting for! Bodhisvaha! Haleluja! He might have waited a really long time, and by now, given the distractions of "Call of Duty" and Porn On Demand, might have just given up, opting to wait for the end of the world.

There is no escape from your present karmic circumstance. If the Buddhist sages are right, if you don't change your karma, you will be confronted with the same circumstances no matter which new location you try to set up shop. The No Oil Future Primitive will be qualitatively just as dissatisfying as now. And the same options will more or less be open to you. Try as you might to separate yourself from the intersection of the Dharmadhatu you find yourself, you can't escape it. If you've paid any attention to the Mahayana message - true enlightenment is not possible separate from the dharmadhatu - from your fellow beings. You have immense opportunity now. Why are you wasting time counting all they ways its not good enough and just get on with it? That is procrastination in a classic sense. I don't know which teachers are poisoning your minds with this pessimism, but you need to turn them off.

Like I wrote before - "Samsara is overwhelming - Wahh!"

Duh, mofo. Duh.

The only question is your resolve, determination, and ability to endure in the process of doing something about it.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby tobes » Sat Dec 22, 2012 4:17 am

Awesome post Queequeg.

It probably takes a historian to dispel some of the wistful fantasies about the past.

Although I think it is worth considering that the Buddha also regularly had discourses with Kings etc; it would not be a stretch to say that he had a concern with structure as well as agency (i.e. with political conditions as well the mental states of his disciples).

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Kim O'Hara » Wed Dec 26, 2012 1:03 am

tobes wrote:Awesome post Queequeg.

+1

:twothumbsup:
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Dec 26, 2012 1:20 am

Queequeg wrote:Huseng pines for premodern times when people supposedly had more independence of thought - something which as a historian I don't understand at all - there were flashes of enlightenment in the past, but they all ended after short duration, and I strongly suspect that aside from a few elites who touched heaven and left records, the mass of humanity has always groaned along in peasantry/serfdom/un-fulfilling employment of one form or another since the Axial Age, delighting in the minor joys life has to offer the salt of the earth - a little fornication, a little intoxication, a little awe invoking ritual, a little dance, smiles on each others' faces.


You smacked that strawman pretty good.

As to what I really think...

Modernity has brought with it standardized universal education which culls a lot of critical thinking, especially in regard to how people decide to structure their lives and their values. Universal education created citizens out of untamed masses that were much more independent and autonomous. This allows for an orderly complex society and all the material benefits that come with it, but then for the purposes of practising Buddhadharma that might not be so optimal as we are so readily able to discern in our present day.


All I get is that you guys don't like your life.


I'm generally content with where my life is going now. I just dislike many aspects of modernity. I am being hypocritical of course because here I am using a PC on the net which is a product of modernity and social complexity. Nevertheless, I see much of modernity as destructive to both human communities and the environment on a scale that even ancient warlords like Genghis Khan could not have managed.

This little short life I am living at the moment is just a blip in cosmic time, so whether I like my circumstances or not is really irrelevant given how I'll die sooner or later and next life I'll be who knows where.



So, all the bitching, all the analysis about what has gone wrong, what does that amount to?




Understanding and discernment allows for reliable decision making.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Mon Jan 07, 2013 9:33 pm

Huseng wrote:As to what I really think...

Modernity has brought with it standardized universal education which culls a lot of critical thinking, especially in regard to how people decide to structure their lives and their values. Universal education created citizens out of untamed masses that were much more independent and autonomous. This allows for an orderly complex society and all the material benefits that come with it, but then for the purposes of practising Buddhadharma that might not be so optimal as we are so readily able to discern in our present day.

Huseng,

You claim that modernity and standardized universal education culls critical thinking, but then go on to critique modern values and how people structure their lives in modernity. Lifestyles and values don't really have all that much to do with critical thinking. A 'bad' or selfish person can be skilled in critical thinking. It is also not clear how or why independence and autonomy would be either beneficial or problematic to practicing Buddhadharma.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sun Feb 03, 2013 12:32 pm

Huseng wrote:Modernity has brought with it standardized universal education which culls a lot of critical thinking, especially in regard to how people decide to structure their lives and their values. Universal education created citizens out of untamed masses that were much more independent and autonomous. This allows for an orderly complex society and all the material benefits that come with it, but then for the purposes of practising Buddhadharma that might not be so optimal as we are so readily able to discern in our present day.

Hi, Huseng,
That paragraph makes three very similar claims and all of them are wrong, IMO.
I will start with the second: "Universal education created citizens out of untamed masses that were much more independent and autonomous." That betrays a gross misunderstanding of pre-modern life. In the small, static communities typical of every pre-modern culture (up to and including peasant communities of modern Europe and small rural communities of modern USA), social pressure to conform is intense and systematic. It is rewarded by acceptance and co-operation, leading to survival, while failures are penalised by ostracism and, frequently, death. (Stoning adulterers has, to my certain knowledge, a 2000 year history.)
Your first: "Modernity has brought with it standardized universal education which culls a lot of critical thinking, especially in regard to how people decide to structure their lives and their values." In your typical village/tribal culture, you had no choice in "how to structure your life and values" unless you were willing to take your chances outside your own community. If you were born in rural Ireland, you were Catholic. Simple. In your typical modern technological mass-market society you can be pretty much whatever you want, so long as you are smart enough to think outside the box. One of my friends is a Malaysian Indian woman married to an Irish Catholic, teaching Indonesian in an Australian state primary school and putting her spare energy into learning Tango. No problem.
Your third: "This allows for an orderly complex society and all the material benefits that come with it... " A traditional society was, for all its inflexibility, orderly and complex. On Uposatha day you went to temple; when you met Uncle Noi, your wai was exactly so deep; and the right day to plant the rice was decided after lengthy consultations with experts. That stability underpinned the survival of the community and, in a good year, its wealth.

However, your conclusion is (IMO) okay: practice was easier back then. Well, sometimes. You had to be born into the right community to even hear of the dharma, and it had to be relatively well off (i.e. not starving) for people to have the spare time to practice.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby corrine » Sun Feb 03, 2013 8:06 pm

These ideas are fine for the young, fit and able. However, they exclude the old and disabled and anyone with serious physical issues. I am old and I work with mostly older volunteers. Very, very few of them could do this. Most of them have some sort of disability. This happens with age and my volunteers range from 47 to 94. Average age about 70. I can think of only one or two who would be able to participate in a retreat with the lack of facilities which you propose. So these retreats would be highly restrictive.

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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby Ramon1920 » Wed Feb 06, 2013 5:04 am

Whoa! Lots of posts. Well here's my 2 cents on this.

It's always been hard,... Modernity has lots of benefits for learning, definite HUGE disadvantage for concentration. But the work has to be done. Those who's predecessors prepared the ground work for them in previous lives have inclinations and buried goodies, and everyone else has a persistent suffering that will have them always scavenging for something to ease their pain. If you think if it's hard now though, just consider the uncertainty to end this wandering later.

I'm really worried myself about losing my mental faculties, sometimes my mind is so foggy and disoriented and I can't keep track of things as they happen, I can't even trust my body to keep my gross mind together for me to practice the rest of my life, it's so easy to lose a precious human life.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:15 pm

define "MODERNITY"
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Wed Feb 06, 2013 10:41 pm

Modernity typically refers to a post-traditional, post-medieval historical period, one marked by the move from feudalism (or agrarianism) toward capitalism, industrialization, secularization, rationalization, the nation-state and its constituent institutions and forms of surveillance (Barker 2005, 444).

Conceptually, modernity relates to the modern era and to modernism, but forms a distinct concept. Whereas the Enlightenment (ca. 1650–1800) invokes a specific movement in Western philosophy, modernity tends to refer only to the social relations associated with the rise of capitalism. Modernity may also refer to tendencies in intellectual culture, particularly the movements intertwined with secularization and post-industrial life, such as Marxism, existentialism, and the formal establishment of social science. In context, modernity has been associated with cultural and intellectual movements of 1436–1789 and extending to the 1970s or later (Toulmin 1992, 3–5).

The movement towards secularization may be of particular relevance to this topic.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Feb 07, 2013 2:51 am

shel wrote:Modernity typically refers to a post-traditional, post-medieval historical period, one marked by the move from feudalism (or agrarianism) toward capitalism, industrialization, secularization, rationalization, the nation-state and its constituent institutions and forms of surveillance (Barker 2005, 444).

Conceptually, modernity relates to the modern era and to modernism, but forms a distinct concept. Whereas the Enlightenment (ca. 1650–1800) invokes a specific movement in Western philosophy, modernity tends to refer only to the social relations associated with the rise of capitalism. Modernity may also refer to tendencies in intellectual culture, particularly the movements intertwined with secularization and post-industrial life, such as Marxism, existentialism, and the formal establishment of social science. In context, modernity has been associated with cultural and intellectual movements of 1436–1789 and extending to the 1970s or later (Toulmin 1992, 3–5).

The movement towards secularization may be of particular relevance to this topic.


So, has the time period from the 15th century up to now been good for your dharma practice?
I think in 600 years, some days have better for meditating than others.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby shel » Thu Feb 07, 2013 8:42 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
shel wrote:Modernity typically refers to a post-traditional, post-medieval historical period, one marked by the move from feudalism (or agrarianism) toward capitalism, industrialization, secularization, rationalization, the nation-state and its constituent institutions and forms of surveillance (Barker 2005, 444).

Conceptually, modernity relates to the modern era and to modernism, but forms a distinct concept. Whereas the Enlightenment (ca. 1650–1800) invokes a specific movement in Western philosophy, modernity tends to refer only to the social relations associated with the rise of capitalism. Modernity may also refer to tendencies in intellectual culture, particularly the movements intertwined with secularization and post-industrial life, such as Marxism, existentialism, and the formal establishment of social science. In context, modernity has been associated with cultural and intellectual movements of 1436–1789 and extending to the 1970s or later (Toulmin 1992, 3–5).

The movement towards secularization may be of particular relevance to this topic.


So, has the time period from the 15th century up to now been good for your dharma practice?


I can barley remember what I had for lunch yesterday.
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Re: Is modernity bad for practice?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Feb 08, 2013 1:56 am

"modernity" is a vast and vague time span,
"bad" is a vast and vague description
"practice" is a vast and vague concept.
.
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