Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby Jikan » Sat Feb 23, 2013 3:15 pm

Variations on a theme here:

viewtopic.php?f=69&t=11837&view=unread#p153833

I've seen, here and elsewhere and not only by one participant or group, this position taken: If you are not part of our community, then you have no business commenting on our tradition's teachings, practices, history, or present successes. I think this is just myopic, closed-minded, hubris-filled, head-in-the-sand arrogance, because it gives the one who takes this position a justification (a flimsy one) to stop learning and be willfully ignorant on one side, with the correlative attachment to one's own view reinforced on the other.

History is not kind to communities who are unwilling to listen to well-informed criticisms from outsiders. I'm not talking about baseless gossip here (that can be safely ignored), but analyses grounded in fact or simply alternative perspectives to the ones one is presently informed by.

When you turn away from this sort of pluralism and commit yourself only to those voices that are identified with your community, you've effectively joined the circle of a charismatic leader. Which is a polite way of saying that you're behaving as a cultist. That's no way to get to the truth. It's a way to be controlled, ultimately. The horizon of your learning shrinks, and you are left defending a smaller and smaller piece of turf against the infidels outside.

I advise against this kind of snobbishness. Life is sunnier and more pleasant and more interesting when you are willing to expose yourself to the unfamiliar. Isn't that meditation too?
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby uan » Sat Feb 23, 2013 4:34 pm

Jikan wrote:Variations on a theme here:

viewtopic.php?f=69&t=11837&view=unread#p153833

I've seen, here and elsewhere and not only by one participant or group, this position taken: If you are not part of our community, then you have no business commenting on our tradition's teachings, practices, history, or present successes. I think this is just myopic, closed-minded, hubris-filled, head-in-the-sand arrogance, because it gives the one who takes this position a justification (a flimsy one) to stop learning and be willfully ignorant on one side, with the correlative attachment to one's own view reinforced on the other.

History is not kind to communities who are unwilling to listen to well-informed criticisms from outsiders. I'm not talking about baseless gossip here (that can be safely ignored), but analyses grounded in fact or simply alternative perspectives to the ones one is presently informed by.

When you turn away from this sort of pluralism and commit yourself only to those voices that are identified with your community, you've effectively joined the circle of a charismatic leader. Which is a polite way of saying that you're behaving as a cultist. That's no way to get to the truth. It's a way to be controlled, ultimately. The horizon of your learning shrinks, and you are left defending a smaller and smaller piece of turf against the infidels outside.

I advise against this kind of snobbishness. Life is sunnier and more pleasant and more interesting when you are willing to expose yourself to the unfamiliar. Isn't that meditation too?


This is a great topic, though I'm not sure if you are referring to a specific community, i.e., a specific teacher or Sangha, or to a specific tradition that is a subset of a larger tradition (e.g., Soto Zen or Karma Kagyu), a larger tradition within one of the major vehicles or the traditions of the vehicles themselves.

There seems to be two areas of discussion though - one is on the practices and understandings of a tradition as it relates to a specific topic, e.g., celibacy, or meditation. The other area in a broad sense is Buddhism in practice, and then more specifically, Buddhism in practice as it pertains to specific cases that fall outside what is considered the norm (the stuff of scandals, etc.).

Thoughtful discussions should be allowed on all these points. I think one of the essences of Buddhism is that we are all in samsara and there isn't, even though we like to think so, something more (or less) samsaric. As an example of this, I was recently listening to Dzongsar Rinpoche and he made the point that desire for sex is not somehow "more bad" than a desire for shopping just because it's "sex".

Not to say that there aren't challenges with these types of discussions. Humans bring different level of attachments to the table, we all fall into different logical fallacies in developing our points (not all the time every time), we bring agendas and/or areas that we may be working on or have worked on for ourselves which, while important/relevant in our eyes, may be less so for others, and so on.

One question I'd like to add, is where is the line drawn, especially for those who have taken refuge? At what point does discussion of a scandal (it doesn't have to be sex, it could be financial, etc.) begin to violate vows, if any, by bringing disrepute on a sangha or an ordained monastic? We can say, as long as comments are informed, it's okay, but being on a Buddhist forum, what does "informed" mean, if anything. I'm not trying to be purposefully cryptic, but to point out that as practitioners we are constantly confronted by how little we know or think we know, even at a mundane level.
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby lobster » Sun Feb 24, 2013 4:10 am

Isn't that meditation too?


It is worth contemplating a variety of responses and making an informed understanding . . . And moving on . . .

Power Structures, Misogyny, cultural irrelevance are all part of the Buddhist heritage/baggage.

How much do we drop, what benefits retention? :popcorn:
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby plwk » Sun Feb 24, 2013 4:28 am

O Atula! Indeed, this is an ancient practice, not one only of today:
they blame those who remain silent, they blame those who speak much, they blame those who speak in moderation.
There is none in the world who is not blamed.
There never was, there never will be, nor is there now, a person who is wholly blamed or wholly praised.

Dhammapada
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby Sara H » Sun Feb 24, 2013 4:42 am

Jikan,

Referring to people as "myopic", "closed-minded", "hubris-filled", having a "head-in-the-sand", and "arrogant", etc, is not Right Speech.

The Precept against refraining from Anger is also one of the main Ten Great Precepts.

We can agree to disagree with others and still have compassion for them.


In Gassho,

Sara H.
"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sun Feb 24, 2013 6:48 am

Sara H wrote:Jikan,

Referring to people as "myopic", "closed-minded", "hubris-filled", having a "head-in-the-sand", and "arrogant", etc, is not Right Speech.

The Precept against refraining from Anger is also one of the main Ten Great Precepts.

We can agree to disagree with others and still have compassion for them.


In Gassho,

Sara H.

Hi, Sara,
Jikan did not actually refer to anyone as "myopic", "closed-minded", "hubris-filled", having a "head-in-the-sand", and "arrogant", etc. If you feel that contributor/s to the thread he links to (which is one you started but not one that I have kept on reading) have exhibited these failings, the failings surely deserve attention although, as you say, we still need to have compassion towards the people.

In general I agree with the main point of the OP: that excluding dissenting or 'outside' voices from our discussions is not a good idea. I would put the reason a little differently, however, saying that opening up the discussion always tends to help us test ideas we take for granted or have been (for one reason or another) discouraged from examining.

:namaste:
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Feb 24, 2013 8:38 am

This also connects to, touches on, a deeper issue regarding Buddhism in the West.

Because in the East Buddhism developed in far flung geographic regions,emphasizing different approaches and texts, many different flavours have emerged.

It is unfortunate that the people teaching these various systems do not have more interaction with eachother. It often results in a myopic view of study and we can sometimes see the symptoms of that on forums such as these.

I always try to find common ground. When I talk to other monks and to nuns, for example, we can talk about the Vinaya- Lord Buddha's monastic code. It doesn't matter so much which tradition they are practicing in because although there are different Vinaya lineages the essence of the vows and procedures is very much the same.

There is also the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness, essential in Theravada but also found in the 37 Limbs listed in the Abhisamayalamkara (Ornament of Clear Realizations), that is widely studied in the Tibetan tradition. The Diamond and Heart Sutras- important in both Tibetan and the Chan/Soen traditions. I remember during HH Dalai Lama's teachings on the Diamond Sutra over 200 Korean monks and nuns attended.

If we understood our shared heritage we would have a lot more to discuss. People wouldn't be as pigheaded and defensive when questions were asked, and would be more interested in how others do things.
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I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby Wayfarer » Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:17 am

I think it is also helpful to focus on ideas and principles rather than people and schools. Certainly the various schools think about things very differently but surely the point of debate and discussion is to focus on the teachings and ideas themselves. I like to think of it as 'the marketplace of ideas'.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby dearreader » Sun Feb 24, 2013 10:59 am

Sara H wrote:We can agree to disagree with others and still have compassion for them.


I would like for you to define "compassion" as you keep using this word, but to quote the Venerable Rev. Master Inigo Montoya: "You keep using that word but I do not think it means what you think it means." Name calling and compassion can co-exist. Perhaps you're saying compassion (Karuna) when you mean Metta? Or does your tradition not study the four divine abodes?
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All phenomena are encompassed in even a single point therein,
And the six sense objects are all included within its covers."
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby Shii » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:18 am

dearreader wrote:
Sara H wrote:We can agree to disagree with others and still have compassion for them.


I would like for you to define "compassion" as you keep using this word, but to quote the Venerable Rev. Master Inigo Montoya: "You keep using that word but I do not think it means what you think it means." Name calling and compassion can co-exist. Perhaps you're saying compassion (Karuna) when you mean Metta? Or does your tradition not study the four divine abodes?


Compassion is seeing someone as they actually, truly are with an open heart and love. Compassion is seeking to do as little harm as possible. Compassion is seeing the horrific suffering in the world, all the pain and hurt all around you and making a choice contribute to it as little as possible. Compassion is a openness of the heart that nurtures understanding and grows wisdom. Someone who is compassionate does not call names.
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby conebeckham » Tue Feb 26, 2013 12:41 am

It may be true that "someone who is compassionate does not call names," but I think it takes great compassion, and courage, as a fellow Buddhist to criticize the behaviors and actions of those Buddhists who hold positions of authority, in any Buddhist tradition, if one feels those behaviors and actions cause harm to students. This does NOT mean one should not be compassionate toward the person being criticized.

For the record, I think Jikan's "names" were not directed at any individual. Perhaps I missed it. But I do note the ability of a group of people to collectively insulate themselves from critique, by calling on standards of a given tradition or lineage and maintaining that those standards cannot be understood by those outside their tradition. This happens in Vajrayana circles, surely, and in Zen circles, and in any situation where social norms may be somewhat divergent from the outside society's "norm."
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby Jikan » Tue Feb 26, 2013 1:54 am

Shii wrote:Compassion is seeing someone as they actually, truly are with an open heart and love. Compassion is seeking to do as little harm as possible. Compassion is seeing the horrific suffering in the world, all the pain and hurt all around you and making a choice contribute to it as little as possible. Compassion is a openness of the heart that nurtures understanding and grows wisdom. Someone who is compassionate does not call names.


I agree with the thrust of your post. Actually I'd go further: compassion is not only refusing to participate in activities of mind and body that cause suffering, but also actively promoting the end of suffering, promoting practices that "light up your corner of the world" (to use a traditional phrase).

Do you see anyone in this thread calling names?

***

I should say that the tone of my post at the start of this thread is somewhat harsh. I feel strongly about this issue. It is not my intention to call out any one community or tradition or person. In point of fact, while my reflections on this were brought up by a particular thread on DharmaWheel, as I cited above, I should also point out that I am making a self-criticism here. There have been times, more often than I'd like to admit, when I've refused to hear or accept helpful criticism from others because I didn't accept their position as valid. That was just a stupid thing for me to do, and I regret doing it. I would like to discourage others from doing that.
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby Shii » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:19 am

Criticism is one of those things that can be used to tear down and destroy. Is it any wonder then that some try to insulate themselves from such a weapon? It is a natural reaction, out of fear of pain that is observed in these groups. Perhaps even a justifiable reaction.

One must take care with criticism. Like the blade of a sharp knife it cuts easily and such wounds are slow to heal. Use it properly however and it will be a very good tool indeed. Constructive criticism, with the purpose of trying to help, with compassion, can be a very happy and rewarding experience. It takes great compassion, courage and restraint to help the world with this sort of tool.

But I do note the ability of a group of people to collectively insulate themselves from critique, by calling on standards of a given tradition or lineage and maintaining that those standards cannot be understood by those outside their tradition.


Perhaps they can be understood outside the given tradition. It is entirely possible that they can be fully and deeply understood by someone who is not a part of the given tradition. However, have you thought that perhaps, they might be telling the truth? That they believe as a group that one outside the group can not understand something that in there own belief must be understood within the group?

To see things from another's prospective is not easy.


Jikan:

No, I do not see anyone calling names. I see a great deal of anger, which is really hurt love. *smiles gently*

As human beings we fall when we make mistakes. It is nice to have a compassionate hand to help you up, even if you think you do not need it.
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby Jikan » Tue Feb 26, 2013 3:22 pm

I can assure you your speculations on my emotional state are incorrect and irrelevant, but that's not the important point.

It is true that "criticism" can be used to bring people down. Bullying is not the only use to which criticism is put. Consider some examples of alternatives:

Buddha Shakyamuni observed that our existence is characterized by suffering. Further, we are the authors of that suffering through our clinging to certain kinds of bad habits, keeping us bound to the endless cycle of hardship. This is direct criticism. Would you speculate that Buddha Shakyamuni's words are somehow filled with anger, or that he is motivated by anger in making this criticism, and therefore reject his criticism by playing the victim of mean ol' Buddha's bullying? You could, but you would be foolish to do so.

Consider the Surangama Sutra. (we're in the Zen forum, so this text is particularly well-warranted.) The early chapters of this text are devoted to specific and lengthy criticisms of Ananda's approach to spiritual practice. You're an old man, Ananda, and you still don't get it?! What have you been doing with your time... Should Ananda turn away from this criticism, retreat into himself or some fantasy world of sweetness and light, and blame the Buddha for this instruction? He could do so, but luckily for him, he does not. He spends the rest of the sutra pulling his head out of his ass.

Consider the shout of Lin Chi. Do you suppose his disciples wandered around like self-pitying little solipsists under a cloudy sky, blaming the master for being what they imagine as a mean ol' angerpuss rather than taking in the meaning of their interactions with him and trying to grow up?
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby uan » Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:22 pm

Good to know that all who criticize here are Buddhas and enlightened masters deploying skillful means to strike to the heart of the very obscurations blocking each earnest practitioner's paths and leading them to enlightenment.

_/\_
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby conebeckham » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:37 pm

Shii wrote:
But I do note the ability of a group of people to collectively insulate themselves from critique, by calling on standards of a given tradition or lineage and maintaining that those standards cannot be understood by those outside their tradition.


Perhaps they can be understood outside the given tradition. It is entirely possible that they can be fully and deeply understood by someone who is not a part of the given tradition. However, have you thought that perhaps, they might be telling the truth? That they believe as a group that one outside the group can not understand something that in there own belief must be understood within the group?

To see things from another's prospective is not easy.


Unless you're Buddha, I'd say it's pretty much impossible. But one person can have several perspectives. In any case, I think it depends on what the object of critique is....I think there are some things which can be examined, regardless of whether one is within, or without, a given group. Your statement is interesting, though, because it equates "telling the truth" with their BELIEF that the object of critique cannot be understood outside their norms. I do think that "insiders" DO believe they are telling the truth when they say that critique is invalid from outside. But it's precisely this "truth" they should be examining. I think it's a good rule of thumb, that when someone feels threatened by critique, to the point that they feel the need to defend the object of criticism with such a defense ("You can't understand OUR relation to the object of criticism from outside our norms"), that it's time for an examination of their "Truth" and their belief.

I think this is Jikan's point, actually. And I don't see anger in his posts, or even disrespect. I see a hypothetical situation, and the "names" he uses--"arrogant," "myopic," etc., are apt descriptions of the potential attitudes and behaviors of hypothetical people in that situation. I don't think it's "Wrong Speech," and I don't think Jikan has broken any precept regarding expressing or not expressing anger. And what's interesting is how it seems that some feel targeted by this hypothetical model, to the point that they must resort to responding with outlines of various precepts. We're all in this "Buddhist Group" so, as "insiders," we're supposed to take such things as "truths." But have we really examined these? Do we really understand "Right Speech" and it's opposite? Can we really say whether someone is "angry," or "refraining from anger?" Can we even use these "truths" as yardsticks to measure others, or perhaps, only ourselves?
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby conebeckham » Tue Feb 26, 2013 5:42 pm

uan wrote:Good to know that all who criticize here are Buddhas and enlightened masters deploying skillful means to strike to the heart of the very obscurations blocking each earnest practitioner's paths and leading them to enlightenment.

_/\_



Would that it were so, Uan.
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby Jikan » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:10 pm

uan wrote:Good to know that all who criticize here are Buddhas and enlightened masters deploying skillful means to strike to the heart of the very obscurations blocking each earnest practitioner's paths and leading them to enlightenment.

_/\_


Where did I claim or even imply I was such? I'm simply arguing for the willingness to listen to criticism from others, even when we don't want to, as Ananda took the Buddha's advice to heart.

Comments like yours are good examples of the kind of behavior I'm trying to argue against. (Again, I'm trying to criticize behavior and not persons.) You've found a way to dismiss what I've said on the basis of your assumptions regarding my position. If you present me as some sort of internet pretender who claims to be an arya, then you've given yourself permission to feel good about ignoring what I've said.

***

I'd like to thank Cone, by the way. It's clear to me he gets what I'm trying to say, which tells me that I'm not completely off the reservation in how I've articulated this idea so far.
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby shel » Tue Feb 26, 2013 6:23 pm

For what it's worth...

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences. Loyalty to the group requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking. The dysfunctional group dynamics of the "ingroup" produces an "illusion of invulnerability" (an inflated certainty that the right decision has been made). Thus the "ingroup" significantly overrates their own abilities in decision-making, and significantly underrates the abilities of their opponents (the "outgroup").

Antecedent factors such as group cohesiveness, faulty group structure, and situational context (e.g., community panic) play into the likelihood of whether or not groupthink will impact the decision-making process.

Groupthink is a construct of social psychology, but has an extensive reach and influences literature in the fields of communication studies, political science, management, and organizational theory, as well as important aspects of deviant religious cult behavior.
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Re: Who gets to comment on what? Why should I listen?

Postby dzogchungpa » Tue Feb 26, 2013 7:28 pm

Frankly, it seems like most people on Buddhist boards use words like "compassion" as sticks to beat other people with.
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