Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

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Re: No Adaptation

Postby Indrajala » Mon Sep 20, 2010 4:03 pm

Will wrote:So for now and for many decades in the future we should be practicing, sharing and trying to fathom the Dharma - nothing else.


Easier said than done.

Things inevitably change given time and cultural shifts.

I mean case in point is Buddhist ethics and discipline. As it stands there are plenty of Vinaya rules that are casually ignored and circumvented by the sangha. Should such rules be practised and enforced? Buddha taught them after all.

There are also cultural barriers that arise. In Tang China it was the debate whether monks should have to prostrate themselves before ministers of state and their parents. In the modern day it is trying to get a visa for a Bhikku who earns absolutely nothing but requires a minimum level of income to obtain a visa.

What constitutes dharma also changes. The whole word gets tossed around all too easily. You have dharma talks, dharma bags, dharma instruments, dharma sessions, dharma tapes, etc...

So yes adaptation is required for many components of Buddhism. The essential core teachings must remain intact, but a lot of things have and will continue to adapt to new times and cultures. It has to.
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby catmoon » Tue Sep 21, 2010 1:18 am

plwk wrote:
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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What do you think my fellow Dharma brethren?
How would you respond to the above quote discussions?



I would respond by saying it was obvious bilge.
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby ronnewmexico » Tue Sep 21, 2010 1:56 am

I find it quite amuseing to find science and scientific theory being held up always in todays time and day as truth and reflections of truth.

The science of the day not to many years ago stated maggots and flies generated spontaneously from maneur and water. And how long ago was it we were taught the earth was (the science of the day proved) the center of the universe.

Occasionally even a blind pig finds a truffle or two and can remember where it was laid. Even scientists occasionally loose their preconceptions on things and fine a thing or two of truth, and where that is laid.

But the idea science serves as some ultimate determinate of truth or the scientific community a reflection of a truth finding community...nonsense. Historically science and the scientific community has never evolved by open admission of truths found and realizations gained.
Science largly has advanced the cause of truth finding despite its greater largly evident dispostion to only reinforce what is thought to be known true.

So the pot is calling the kettle black once again.

Dawkins...he knows nothing of buddhism. His arguments and counters are all theistically framed. If ones buddhism is theism then they apply. If not not. Go read his writings and hear his talks on the subject ...see if it applies.

Science....a modern cultural invented perception of science that is. Not the reality of science, not a whit.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby neverdowell » Tue Sep 21, 2010 2:10 am

ronnewmexico wrote:Dawkins...he knows nothing of buddhism. His arguments and counters are all theistically framed.


So true. He's the blind leading the blind. Just 4 years ago I was somewhat a follower of him, having left Christianity behind. Now though, I do think there is truth in Jesus Christ's teachings, mainly what would be called a "heretical" gnostic interpretation. Quotes like "my kingdom is not of this world", "the kingdom of heaven does not come with signs" and "the kingdom of heaven is within" come to mind. I think Jesus understood emptiness and the bliss of abiding in renunciation, compassion and emptiness. Bit off topic but I thought I'd just put it out there.

Back on topic, yes I think Buddhism would give Dawkins a run for his money if he really studied it honestly. But knowing him, he wouldn't give it a fair treatment.

To develop bodhichitta, which is the actual practice, you need to develop such compassion that you simply cannot bear others being tormented by suffering. But in order to develop this compassion, you must know exactly how you yourself are plagued by suffering. And you must understand that the whole of samsara is by nature suffering. But first you must fear the lower realms, for without this you will have no repudiation of celestial and human happiness. You must therefore train your mind in the small- and medium- scope parts of the path. -- Pabongka Rinpoche
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby ronnewmexico » Tue Sep 21, 2010 2:46 am

To my personal opinion if the arguments that Dawkins presents against your form of Buddhism work....your buddhism is theism not buddhism.

And if you want to find arguments and successful logical argument against theism you only need to go as far as many of the early buddhist teachers, to include to my opinion the initiator. Though later authors expanded upon the initial.

There is nothing certainly wrong with Buddhism being theism, and for many in the west it is. But if it is... your buddhism is then vulnerable to those same arguments buddhists use against theists. So we don't need to go as far as england for such things.

Not to go so far as to advocate for any particular form of buddhism over another, as all have equal validity, but a logically bullet proof buddhism to my opinion is not all that hard to find. If that be not "your will" as some may say..... but your personal intention.
So suchly.... Dawkins and Hitchins arguments largly fall flat.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby neverdowell » Tue Sep 21, 2010 3:10 am

ronnewmexico wrote:There is nothing certainly wrong with Buddhism being theism, and for many in the west it is. But if it is... your buddhism is then vulnerable to those same arguments buddhists use against theists. So we don't need to go as far as england for such things.

Not to go so far as to advocate for any particular form of buddhism over another, as all have equal validity, but a logically bullet proof buddhism to my opinion is not all that hard to find. If that be not "your will" as some may say..... but your personal intention.
So suchly.... Dawkins and Hitchins arguments largly fall flat.


No, my form of Buddhism is not theism. I'm just a Mahayanist learning from all sutras / traditions but with main involvement in the Chinese tradition in "real life". For what it's worth, yes I do find helpful the doctrine of Buddha Nature, even to say it "exists" as for example the Mahaparinirvana Sutra says. I find it more helpful at my stage of the path. But I recognise everything is beyond existence and non-existence as per Madhyamaka. I don't think I am classed as a theist, nor are the vast majority of Buddhists, even if they pray to the Bodhisattvas.

As for Dawkins, what I'm saying is I think he would just mock Buddhism, because it teaches that spirits and hell realms exist, and call it superstition and fearmongering. He would just declare it nonsense, and say something like "same old patriarchal fearmongering". Maybe it's just me, but the ironclad logic of emptiness is pretty hard to understand. There is a huge gap between understanding an argument intellectually and actually being convinced by it. It takes a lot of time and effort even for the most intelligent of minds. He wouldn't look into it long enough to become a "believer."

Well I'd love for him to prove me wrong. Let's hope. It would be a massive boon for Buddhism to say the least. :sage:

To develop bodhichitta, which is the actual practice, you need to develop such compassion that you simply cannot bear others being tormented by suffering. But in order to develop this compassion, you must know exactly how you yourself are plagued by suffering. And you must understand that the whole of samsara is by nature suffering. But first you must fear the lower realms, for without this you will have no repudiation of celestial and human happiness. You must therefore train your mind in the small- and medium- scope parts of the path. -- Pabongka Rinpoche
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby ronnewmexico » Tue Sep 21, 2010 5:09 am

Nothing I am saying, is saying you are a theist. Your practice is your own and I am certainly no expert in your practice. I am stateing a point of logical bent. Buddhism, most forms, speak of the religion as a middle way between the extreams of absolutism(which is the philosophical baisis of theism) and nihilism(which is the denial of real consequence and effect).

The mere presence of the supernatural, is not what defines a relgion as theism. Dawkins argument may have antedotal substance against all supernatural, but the philosophical basis is in atheism. Which is a word or concept coined in the realm of theist england of the 16 hundreds. Not by definition.... against the unnatural but against theism, hence a(non) theism.

The idea of a supernatural; being not a inherantly inspired concept is what a Dawkins cannot understand until he understands the idea of a empty reality of a caused origin. A english person who thinks supernatural or prayer always conceives the inherantly existant being as mover. It is as is of the nature of the origin of the word atheism...always in relationship to theism and nothing more.

So theism is combined unconsciously with the supernatural or unnatural as that is how it is known in england and the west. Part of the difficulty of a westerner becomeing a buddhist is the unconscious attributes of such connotation.

But as we know buddhism may involve things such as prayer buddha nature and devotion which in a theists eye always speaks of inherantly existant beings. ATheism's baisis is again not against the unnatural but against theism...gods or gods(polytheism) which have as characteristic a inherantly existant quality.

It is in the main impossible for most westerners to seperate the two concepts. But no firmly not. Prayer devotion and the mere presence of diety or dakini do not speak to a inherantly existant quality of anything. They may or may not.

If a person as a buddhist is upset by the logical argument of Dawkins or Hitchins...my comment is the only basis of that is on the basis of a view of theism in buddhism. Otherwise such arguments, and I have heard them....just do not apply. The core argument is again atheism.... not asupernatural, or aprayer or adevotion. Such a connotation is Dawkins personal attribution, not inherant to what is being examined....religions all possible religions.

The baby is thrown out with the bathwater.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby 5heaps » Tue Sep 21, 2010 7:25 am

Lazy_eye wrote:From your post, I gather that Sakya and Gelug have worked out a watertight argument and I'm curious to know what it is!

for someone who cannot distinguish mind through analyzing the objective nonphysicality of one's emotions, concepts, numbers etc the argument "The Proof by the Elimination of Other Possibilities" by Kedrup Je may be very helpful.

the arguments have been around since the start of the logic schools in indian buddhism (ie. Dignaga Dharmakirti etc). but over time people write commentaries for further elaboration and to explicitly address new ways of thinking in people.

a translation is available here: C4Reading.pdf. its under the section Reading 7.Reading 8+9 are Dharmakirti, who is a little harder to read even with a commentary
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Astus » Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:11 am

"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 ground » Tue Sep 21, 2010 8:51 am

plwk wrote:
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.

From here
What do you think my fellow Dharma brethren?
How would you respond to the above quote discussions?


I responded that the Buddhist way is about practicing ethical conduct, concentration and wisdom and that anything called "knowledge" or "wisdom" that is not conducive to either ethical conduct taught by the Buddha or not conducive to concentration or not conducive to both actually is afflictive intelligence but not the "wisdom" taught by the Buddha.

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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Sep 21, 2010 12:35 pm

Huseng wrote:
However, quite often there are people who stretch the whole encouragement of critical thinking to include dismissing whatever they disagree with or fail to properly understand. In our present day you have individuals in print who say that since Buddha encouraged people to not take things on the basis of tradition or lineage, then they have the liberty to dismiss concepts that they find disagreeable such as rebirth and karma. In their minds, since the Buddha encouraged critical thinking, they should critically dismiss whatever they dislike. Their interpret right view in such a light -- their distorted vision of critical thought is right view.

This is one reason why actual Buddhadharma will struggle to root itself in present day industrialized nations. There is increasing hostility towards anything that smells of religion. Hence why a lot of Buddhists like to announce that Buddhism is not a religion but a "way of life" or a "path of practice". The result is zazen and exotic oriental culture sanitized of disagreeable religious elements.


I see what you mean. But do you think it's possible that some may use "Buddhism Lite" as a stepping stone to the real deal? We all have to start somewhere. Unless one's karma creates a natural predisposition towards the Buddha's teachings, most people are not going to get it all right away. Conviction develops gradually -- we see things in the dharma that ring true, and we look into it further. As we look into it further, our trust in the teachings grows. Wasn't this exactly the process which the Buddha outlined in the suttas we were discussing above?

If any of us had full, 100% conviction, with no doubts or uncertainties at all, then we would be stream entrants already.

In my own case, if I hadn't run into some pop dharma as a kid, I might not have formed a favorable view of Buddhism. If I hadn't formed such a view, I might not have been open to trying out meditation. If I hadn't experienced benefits from meditation, I might not have decided to take a more serious look at what the Buddha taught. And so on.

This is likewise a problem even in countries where Buddhism has for centuries existed. Here in Japan it is hard to find Buddhist clergymen who actually address the problem of samsara. My friends from mainland China likewise seem to think Buddhism is a feudal superstition.


How dismaying. Do you see any signs of a resurgence? Maybe we should have a thread called "Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the East".

As the fruits of industrialization and adoption of materialist thinking appear fewer young people in particular will see any point at all in Buddhism. To them it is just a foolish superstition. What's real and real important is money, science and popular culture. If you're given an education where no thought of past or future lives is given, why would you ever spend an ounce of strength on liberating yourself from samsara? The whole point of Buddhadharma is liberation from samsara.


Still, wouldn't you say there's a fair amount of concern, particularly among young people, regarding environmental issues, factory farming, social injustice, and many other societal/issues? Many of these match up quite well with Buddhist ethics.

Also, although liberation from samsara is the ultimate point, I'm not sure I'd agree it's the whole or only point. The Buddha also taught the way for present-life happiness and the way to a good rebirth. The books by Hsing Yung which I've read seem to have this "triple level" Buddhism in mind.

Incidentally, the teachings I just outlined are unpopular in English language Buddhist publications.


Yep, "renunciation" and "restraint" aren't exactly topping the charts. But that's why I think it's important that we don't frame it as a black-and white choice between mindless indulgence and total renunciation; i.e., either ordain or party like it's 2099. There are steps in between, degrees of renunciation anyone can practice regardless of their life circumstances. The buddhadharma can be applied to all situations.

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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Sep 21, 2010 3:17 pm

ronnewmexico wrote: The mere presence of the supernatural, is not what defines a relgion as theism. Dawkins argument may have antedotal substance against all supernatural, but the philosophical basis is in atheism. Which is a word or concept coined in the realm of theist england of the 16 hundreds. Not by definition.... against the unnatural but against theism, hence a(non) theism.

The idea of a supernatural; being not a inherantly inspired concept is what a Dawkins cannot understand until he understands the idea of a empty reality of a caused origin. A english person who thinks supernatural or prayer always conceives the inherantly existant being as mover. It is as is of the nature of the origin of the word atheism...always in relationship to theism and nothing more.


Hmm. That's not how it looks to me, at least. I'd argue that loss of faith in God is a byproduct of a more general loss of belief in anything which smacks of the supernatural and the metaphysical. When natural laws appear to suffice, there's less and less room for God. Is there still room for karma?

It's not as though Western "secular materialists" are OK with the supernatural as long as it doesn't involve a God figure. If the materialist POV is correct -- and I'm not saying it is -- it applies to any non-theistic religion as well. After all, we have devas in Buddhism, not to mention great bodhisattvas.

Of course atheists have been around for centuries, but prior to the modern era they were on the intellectual fringe.

That's why, if we want to counter the prevailing trend:

we to 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.


Because the trend is to doubt any of these things on the grounds that they are non-observable, non-rational, non-falsifiable and, essentially, made redundant by modern explanations.

To give one example: it's common among Buddhists to say that past life karma explains things like geniuses and child prodigies (or, on the other side, people with severe impairments). The "skeptical" view would not be that such an explanation is wrong -- it would be that the karmic explanation is unnecessary (because genetics and sociology are sufficient to say why these things happen).

I'm not endorsing a secular/skeptical view, but rather trying to outline what I see as the challenge. And let me add that this is not about what Buddhists believe, but about the wider audience.
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby neverdowell » Tue Sep 21, 2010 3:54 pm

What Lazy_Eye said. The problem as I can see it is a general skepticism of anything supernatural, that is, beyond the pale of scientific orthodoxy. Richard Dawkins is a hardcore scientist, who either can explain phenomena from scientific evidence/results, or will wait until science can explain it. So you can defend Buddhism and its logic of emptiness and the possibility of karma and spirits and hell realms etc, but people like Dawkins just won't have the time for it.

You would need to pit Richard against someone who's very articulate at presenting emptiness in perhaps several of its Buddhist presentations (definitely not me...), and he would have to be in the mood for an almost purely philosophical conversation, rather than a scientific one.

To develop bodhichitta, which is the actual practice, you need to develop such compassion that you simply cannot bear others being tormented by suffering. But in order to develop this compassion, you must know exactly how you yourself are plagued by suffering. And you must understand that the whole of samsara is by nature suffering. But first you must fear the lower realms, for without this you will have no repudiation of celestial and human happiness. You must therefore train your mind in the small- and medium- scope parts of the path. -- Pabongka Rinpoche
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby shel » Tue Sep 21, 2010 4:55 pm

Neverdowell,

When Dawkins speaks of God etc he's departing from science and entering philosophy. There's no scientific approach for proving or disproving the existence of God and the like. So rest assured he is indeed in the mood for a philosophical chat.

Incidentally, I doubt it would do any good to present someone like Dawkins with emptiness, no matter how articulately it was presented. Don't you think that it would be better to experience?
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Re: Adaptation: 'Buddhism' in the West

Postby ronnewmexico » Tue Sep 21, 2010 6:31 pm

LE

"I'd argue that loss of faith in God is a byproduct of a more general loss of belief in anything which smacks of the supernatural and the metaphysical. "

Buddhism generally is not about belief in god but belief in the unnatural may be a significant part. The automatic consideration of god(inherant existant beings things) to equal the supernatural is what I am talking about. Buddhist dieties devas do not apply.

Actually your response is a indicator of that exact manner of thinking, expressing the equation which is unconsciously present. A buddhist may for instance loose aspect of belief in diety or such as a indicator of spiritual progress and realization. Thusly advancing in the spiritual through expansion of a consideration of empty aspect. A theist may do no such thing. So a parallel between theism and nontheistic relgion on the supernatural is not present. Suchly present is a example of Millarepa and the cave demoness and the progression of many particular buddhist vehiciles such as forms of Mahamudra which progress from foundational supernatural considerations to plain flat study of mind .

Secondly
People do not generally loose belief in the supernatural because of any new or recent scientific explaination of things.....that contention is absurd and perposterous. I can elaborate if necessary. That is the implication of what you are stateing. I say name one who has done such a thing...I have never found a single one.

Thirdly if you want to argue something, I'd not pretend to not argue it by stateing what you would do if some hypothetical is present..." I'd argue "
What I state is really stated. If you want to argue it.... argue it, if not.... not. A future tense does not apply.

Finally.... again it all depends upon context. If ones karma is a belief and not a observation it is indeed subject to all the successful arguments against belief which may be found, supported and advanced...and they are myriad. If it is a observation, a fact proven by such.....belief does not apply.
Convince me karma must be belief because someone, to my opinon of lesser observational capacity, says it must be so....and I will equate karma with theists tilt on the supernatural and god.

Till then I stand by my point. Everything I find in the scientific community builds upon my spiritual views of karma and other things. If I ever found a opposition I would study exactly how I wrongly understand my spiritual, not the scientific if fact.

People with misconstrued views of karma due to incorrect untrue observations...of course their views are eventually contradicted by science. They are wrong. I personally hold no belief in karma. It exists..flat plain and simple as reaction is caused by action..I can elaborate. Belief it is not...not a whit.

All spiritual understanding are exactly that in similiarity. NO conflict not a whit if your observations of a spiritual nature are valid. I personally believe not one singular thing and never will. I will not be lessened by those who believe things into being and then state all holding similiar views by effect must likewise be believing those things to be true. That is a assembly worker stateding he is a engineer because both produce cars in some fashion.

And I am the lesser of the least in my minimal understandings of things in the buddhist way of looking at things. But compared to a theist....far advanced.

As a aside and addition....We always tend to fault the confliction of things, not the circumstance which produces the apparent contradiction. As one example... at the finest of the finest, smallest level... scientists may find what they are studying by greates effect due to such small size of the intended object of observation always..... the observor not the observed. Suchly explains the seemingly human type observational behaviors of what is now thought to be the smallest of the small particles .....such is how science is limited, by the relationship.

Suchly the spiritual study will always remain superior to the scientific. It is simply not so limited. Belief...it is unnecessary. What is so considered supernatural is so normal it is astounding, and will eventually be found scientifically despite such limitation so. For the most part. Theoritical scientific study of such things presently would approximate certainly in most all human minds the supernatural. It is just beyond the natural scientifically is how things are.

To what extent is the feeling belief, other power, inherant existance, is at all necessary implicit in the subject object relationship we self create? Why do we not simply state...we do not understand why?
It seems clear to simply state we do not know....implies limitiation relationship and thusly contradicts the foundational basis of our thinking.....self and other. WE cannot allow so we create this fantasy of belief.

So dawkins is right and wrong seemingly.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
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