Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby Anders » Fri Feb 08, 2013 8:43 pm

Williams' 'defection' seems fairly straightforward to me. He has correctly analysed the implications of rebirth and non-self. And from this concluded that he does not want to live in a universe where this could be true. "I want to believe" seems to be the driving force here.

Whether that is good or bad or whatever is neither here nor there. I hope he finds greater fulfilment in Christianity than he could find in Buddhism.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby lojong1 » Fri Feb 08, 2013 11:39 pm

Anders wrote:Williams has correctly analysed the implications of rebirth and non-self.

:jawdrop:
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby Karma Dorje » Sat Feb 09, 2013 12:10 am

Look, the man has clearly suffered some sort of blunt force head trauma. The only proper response from Buddhists to his conversion is obviously compassion.
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby Simon E. » Sat Feb 09, 2013 12:35 am

For me one of the most interesting aspects of the whole thing is the degree to which it clearly gets under the skin of some people. Its almost as though for some its a personal slight.
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Feb 09, 2013 12:51 am

It didn't get under my skin. What struck me is the way that two people can read something so differently. Williams writes a great textbook on Mahayana but seems to have this pathological fear of being reborn as a cockroach. I just don't understand how he could come to that view. As a student of Buddhist meditation, this is not something that has ever struck me as remotely possible. Besides, there are fates worse than death iin Catholic soterioligy too.

Hey I'm with that maverick evangelical pastor who wrote a book called Love Wins. At the end of the day compassion Is the only thing that counts. Whatever brings you closer to it is valuable. So it doesn't bother me what you call it or how you conceive of it. As it happens Buddhism has done that for me, but I am sure the Buddhist approach is to counsel people to go with what they really feel passionate about.
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby Karma Dorje » Sat Feb 09, 2013 1:03 am

Simon E. wrote:For me one of the most interesting aspects of the whole thing is the degree to which it clearly gets under the skin of some people. Its almost as though for some its a personal slight.


I don't get the sense that the man converting gets under people's skin. I think what does is that when a perceived scholar markets such puerile interpretations of something he should know very well contrasting it with an equally one-dimensional understanding of Catholicism, it's shocking in exactly the same way as our recent discussion of Kennard Lipman. One assumes from his work that he knew what he was talking about and this book makes a strong case to the contrary. Whether it's head trauma, aneurysm or early onset Alzheimer's is immaterial.

If you actually read the man's arguments it's mirth-inducing, not aggravating. There are good reasons for being a Buddhist and good reasons for being a Catholic. Williams has managed to successfully skirt both.
Last edited by Karma Dorje on Sat Feb 09, 2013 1:10 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby Simon E. » Sat Feb 09, 2013 1:09 am

Hmmm.
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby Anders » Sat Feb 09, 2013 8:11 pm

lojong1 wrote:
Anders wrote:Williams has correctly analysed the implications of rebirth and non-self.

:jawdrop:


What he says about rebirth is exactly true of the Buddhist model. It is indeed the end of any imagined 'me'.

jeeprs wrote:It didn't get under my skin. What struck me is the way that two people can read something so differently. Williams writes a great textbook on Mahayana but seems to have this pathological fear of being reborn as a cockroach. I just don't understand how he could come to that view. As a student of Buddhist meditation, this is not something that has ever struck me as remotely possible. Besides, there are fates worse than death iin Catholic soterioligy too.



That is not what I got from what he wrote. Rather, it seems his concern with Buddhism is that He, Paul Williams, though reborn, will not be reborn as a continuous entity. The fear, it seems rather, is fear of not enjoying a lasting self.
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby futerko » Sat Feb 09, 2013 8:59 pm

Anders wrote:...will not be reborn as a continuous entity.
Although that's probably a plus if you are reborn as a cockroach!
we cannot get rid of God because we still believe in grammar - Nietzsche
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby Karma Dorje » Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:35 pm

Anders wrote:That is not what I got from what he wrote. Rather, it seems his concern with Buddhism is that He, Paul Williams, though reborn, will not be reborn as a continuous entity. The fear, it seems rather, is fear of not enjoying a lasting self.


But what is completely missed is the understanding that the so-called entity "Paul Williams" is a completely illusory fiction in the first place, hence this is really an ostrich's response. He has to completely ignore all of the arguments against self-entity in order to cling to this notion. I am gobsmacked that he can spend so much time thinking about these things without generating an iota of realization of anatma.
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby Tom » Sat Feb 09, 2013 9:51 pm

Anders wrote:Williams' 'defection' seems fairly straightforward to me. He has correctly analysed the implications of rebirth and non-self. And from this concluded that he does not want to live in a universe where this could be true. "I want to believe" seems to be the driving force here.


:good: ... I get a similar impression that his decision boiled down to a question of faith and preference...also I think his critique of Santideva's position is quite telling with regards to not only his problem with the status of persons in Buddhism but also it having a convincing argument for the cultivation of virtues such as compassion.
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby Wayfarer » Sat Feb 09, 2013 10:35 pm

Anders wrote:That is not what I got from what he wrote. Rather, it seems his concern with Buddhism is that He, Paul Williams, though reborn, will not be reborn as a continuous entity. The fear, it seems rather, is fear of not enjoying a lasting self.


But even in the Christian teaching, the 'lasting self' is precisely what has to be relinquished, given up. The inner meaning of both traditions is the same on that point. "For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it." Matt 16:25. 'I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.' Gal 2:20.

It is really not that different to the inner mening of renunciation.

I think Prof Williams didn't really get to that breakthrough moment of realising emptiness. Accordingly he is still thinking on the conceptual, discriminative level and evaluating ideas in symbolic terms, and in terms of belief rather than direct perception. I'm not saying there's anything the matter with that, and as others have said - I don't want to say that I am looking down on that kind of perception - I can only wish him happiness. But that is the only way I can evaluate his statements.
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby uan » Sun Feb 10, 2013 6:59 am

jeeprs wrote:[Accordingly he is still thinking on the conceptual, discriminative level and evaluating ideas in symbolic terms, and in terms of belief rather than direct perception.


I'm curious at which stage on the path, or Bhumi, do we give this up?
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby Wayfarer » Sun Feb 10, 2013 9:43 am

In my experience, not so much 'giving up' as 'seeing through'. This is not to say that symbolic understanding is not important in its own way. But, recall the 'finger point at the moon'.
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby uan » Sun Feb 10, 2013 5:07 pm

So then, at what stage do we "see through"? Even the "moon" is still a finger until we actually "see through" or experience that state directly.
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby Konchog1 » Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:45 pm

uan wrote:
jeeprs wrote:[Accordingly he is still thinking on the conceptual, discriminative level and evaluating ideas in symbolic terms, and in terms of belief rather than direct perception.


I'm curious at which stage on the path, or Bhumi, do we give this up?
The First Bhumi which is gained on the path of seeing
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby Greg » Sun Feb 10, 2013 7:58 pm

He mentions another reason in his book which hasn't come up yet: he feels that Buddhism doesn't adequately answer the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?" He writes that he finds the idea of a Creator to be a satisfying answer to that question. But (strangely to me) he causally waves of the question of why is there a Creator rather than no Creator. He seems happy to just go with a "turtles all the way down" outlook.

He also has a long passage where he outlines why he thinks it is very unlikely that the gospels were falsified, so therefore they must be true. That line of thinking was even more surprising to me, coming from a respected academic, because it was so amateurish.
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:23 pm

Greg wrote:... he feels that Buddhism doesn't adequately answer the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

That is indeed the most fundamental question of life. Perhaps the reason some here are still musing about Mr. Williams is that they haven't answered it yet to their own satisfaction.

It is the most fundamental, but perhaps not the most urgent question, however. Other far more urgent questions exist such as - there are billions of mouths to feed, and how do we do that? Perhaps we can learn something from others about approaching such urgent questions also. The great emergency of becoming a cockroach is perhaps even less important than the great emergency of the world's pain.
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby dzogchungpa » Wed Feb 13, 2013 11:26 pm

Karma Dondrup Tashi wrote:
Greg wrote:... he feels that Buddhism doesn't adequately answer the question "Why is there something rather than nothing?"

That is indeed the most fundamental question of life. Perhaps the reason some here are still musing about Mr. Williams is that they haven't answered it yet to their own satisfaction.

From "Day By Day With Bhagavan", p. 154:
A visitor asked Bhagavan, “How has srishti (creation)
come about? Some say it is due to karma. Others say it is the
Lord’s lila or sport. What is the truth?”
Bhagavan: Various accounts are given in books. But is
there creation? Only if there is creation, we have to explain
how it came about. All that, we may not know. But that we
exist now is certain. Why not know the ‘I’ and the present and
then see if there is a creation?
ཨོཾ་ཏཱ་རེ་ཏུཏྟ་རེ་ཏུ་རེ་སྭཱཧཱ༔
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Re: Buddhist Scholar Paul Williams Conversion to Catholicism

Postby gordtheseeker » Thu Mar 14, 2013 10:08 pm

Anders wrote:Williams' 'defection' seems fairly straightforward to me. He has correctly analysed the implications of rebirth and non-self. And from this concluded that he does not want to live in a universe where this could be true. "I want to believe" seems to be the driving force here.

Whether that is good or bad or whatever is neither here nor there. I hope he finds greater fulfilment in Christianity than he could find in Buddhism.


Good points. As a newcomer to Buddhism I seem to have had the opposite experience. I was a Christian for many years and found I couldn't come to terms with the idea of 'heaven'. I just couldn't ever totally have faith in that. It was also one of my greatest fears that there wouldn't be a heaven or conscious afterlife. When I finally confronted this fear and accepted/dealt with it, it was a huge weight of my shoulders and it then lead me to Buddhism which seemed to make sense and gave me a peace (at least so far) that I lacked before.
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