Myth in Buddhism

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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Apr 08, 2013 3:23 am

shel wrote: I don't believe it's been suggested that all the blame resides with transmission. Not everyone abuses their authority, and transmission is a contributing factor in a range of possible influences.



Well, here is the suggestion, and it's the statement I responded to. And the label of "myth" is specifically in reference to transmission in this thread, so it seems pretty clear:

Huseng wrote:I'm basically saying the myth of transmission is unnecessary and historically has been all too often used to legitimize and affirm power structures. Organized religion is inevitably tied up with money and power regardless of what their official party line is. The institutional form of Buddhism is seldom immune to such corrupting influences.


I suggested to Huseng: "You haven't identified any problem with transmission itself"
By the way, You still haven't actually established that
transmission is a contributing factor to the abuse of authority.
You are just stating that opinion as if it is a fact.

Identifying a problem is one thing,
but simply picking out something that one disagrees with,
and then on that basis arriving at the conclusion
that it therefore must be somewhere at the root of the problem
is just nonsense.
It makes no more sense than saying
"the economy is bad, and I don't like onions,
therefore onions are ruining the economy."

Are you trolling, or are you just not paying attention?
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Last edited by PadmaVonSamba on Mon Apr 08, 2013 3:45 am, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby shel » Mon Apr 08, 2013 3:41 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:You still haven't actually established that
transmission is a contributing factor to the abuse of authority.
You are just stating that opinion as if it is a fact.


Ah, sorry if I've mislead you, PadmaVonSamba. Yes, it is my opinion. I don't know how it could be proven to be factual. :tongue:
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby shel » Mon Apr 08, 2013 3:53 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Identifying a problem is one thing,
but simply picking out something that one disagrees with,
and then on that basis arriving at the conclusion
that it therefore must be somewhere at the root of the problem
is just nonsense.
It makes no more sense than saying
"the economy is bad, and I don't like onions,
therefore onions are ruining the economy."


You're wrong that I disagree with transmission. I truly wish it were true.

As far as transmission being a contributing factor to the abuse of authority... I don't know what to say. Transmission legitimizes doesn't it? How could it not be a contributing factor???
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Mon Apr 08, 2013 4:23 am

gregkavarnos wrote:My point of disgreement with you Huseng is that it seems to me that you feel that transmission is somehow intrinsically open to exploitation and thus is the reason we should be rid of it.


It isn't just open to transmission, but is used for purposes other than verifying someone's spiritual attainments.

I also don't feel it is necessary. If you're spiritually developed and above the fray, then it will show in your behaviour, words and thoughts. This does not require some special title handed down from master to disciple.

When a title supposedly signifying spiritual attainment is used to affirm and/or acquire power, then it opens itself to all too human downfalls.

The argument about its efficacy/relevance or even reality as a technique seems to take a back seat to your (justified, I feel) aversion for how it has been used.


Is it really efficient, though?



It seems to me to be a case of throwing the baby out... but the truth is I am not so familar with transmission as it exists in the Zen traditions, in the Tibetan Vajrayana transmission is open to everybody that has the karmic preponderance to receive it, ie a Lama will give transmission to everybody present but it is not necessarily the case that everybody will receive it (to the same degree).


In Zen you become a Dharma heir by virtue of transmission. It isn't open to all disciples as, say, an empowerment would be.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Mon Apr 08, 2013 4:47 am

jeeprs wrote:Actually, having thought about this overnight, I agree that 'dharma transmission' is mythical in some sense, particularly the notion of an 'unbroken chain' stretching back to the Buddha. What concerns me is that it seems a slippery slope to the declaration that the very idea of enlightenment itself is 'mythical'.


It begs the question of what "enlightenment" means?

In the English language we often think of enlightenment as something akin to the lights going on and this being a permanent, irreversible state.

However, in Mahāyāna thought, a bodhisattva up to a certain point can be subject to retrogression despite having realized emptiness to an extent.

An arhat is supposed to be completely free of causes for future rebirth, but in history there was the alternative opinion (heresy?) that they are fallible. For example, five heresies are credited to Mahādeva, the nominal founder of the Mahāsāṃghikas:

    Arhats can be led astray by others;
    Arhats are still subject to ignorance (despite their awakened state);
    Arhats are subject to doubt;
    Arhats can be taught by others (and are therefore not omniscient);
    [various forms, all revolving around the notion that] it is [somehow] permissible or good to say "Oh, the suffering!" [etc.]


See http://www.buddhism-dict.net/ddb/

So, given such an alternative perspective, what exactly does it mean to be "enlightened"? In Zen you can say somebody had a kenshō, but this is a single event and experience. Is this "enlightenment" the same as what a stream-enterer experiences?

In my humble opinion, enlightenment is not black and white. There are various stages of dim grey as you work your way up to the pure brilliance which is unexcelled buddhahood. You can, however, gauge your progress based on how less you mentally suffer compared to earlier times. The whole point of the Buddhist project is to remedy suffering. If your mind is at greater ease for having practised and implemented Buddhadharma, then you're a step above where you were before.

As regards being 'above the fray', do you think there is any basis in the traditional distinction which is made between the 'uninformed worldlings' and 'the noble ones'?


I believe there is. The former are subject to involuntary rebirth while the latter are not.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby jeeprs » Mon Apr 08, 2013 7:27 am

Huseng wrote:It begs the question of what "enlightenment" means?


Actually 'begging the question' is 'assuming what you set out to prove'. I don't know if I have done that. What I am saying is that enlightenment - the realization of Nirvana - is something *real*. It is not constructed, assumed, conventional, or anything of the kind, even if myths of various kinds grow up around it.

There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that escape from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, escape from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned.


(Nibbāna Sutta)

Real, not made, not compounded, not conditioned, not caused, not beginning, not ceasing. The enlightened are those who embody the understanding of that, who have realized it through prajñāpāramitā. I think you can find ample support for this interpretation in the Platform Sutra and in the Record of Rinzai, among other texts.

Whilst the depiction of the 'transmission of dharma' might be, in some sense, mythological, the purpose of it is to embody and convey that understanding, which I believe to be real - as distinct from mythical or imaginary. In conveying that understanding, various kinds of symbols, myths, anecdotes, and so on, may be used. But it is aimed at conveying something of real substance. That is the payload. The rest is just the rocket booster. :smile:

Huseng wrote:In my humble opinion, enlightenment is not black and white. There are various stages of dim grey as you work your way up to the pure brilliance which is unexcelled buddhahood. You can, however, gauge your progress based on how less you mentally suffer compared to earlier times. The whole point of the Buddhist project is to remedy suffering.


I quite agree. As to whether 'the experience of kensho' amounts to 'being enlightened' - deep question. It can be understood in terms of 'conversion'. 'Conversion' actually means 'a change of mind' or 'change of heart'. This is written about in the Lankavatara Sutra as 'paravritti', which is, 'the mind turning around on itself'. (Interestingly, it parellels a term from Greek, particularly Platonic, philosophy, called 'metanoia', which has a very similar meaning. I think it actually means 'repentance'.) It is a process that might occupy a whole life, or many lifetimes, in the Buddhist view of things. Whether it is Is it 'gradual' or 'sudden', is a subject of controversy. I think I will straddle the fence on that question by saying 'both'.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Mon Apr 08, 2013 8:27 am

jeeprs wrote:Actually 'begging the question' is 'assuming what you set out to prove'. I don't know if I have done that. What I am saying is that enlightenment - the realization of Nirvana - is something *real*. It is not constructed, assumed, conventional, or anything of the kind, even if myths of various kinds grow up around it.


I do believe that nirvāṇa is possible and is quite real. It is the cessation of suffering and consequently involuntary rebirth. The story of the Buddha's enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree has taken on mythological proportions (as has most events in his life).

For twenty-five centuries people have struggled with the meaning of that event under the tree which has been narrated immeasurable times in countless languages throughout history. The narrative before and after the event has prompted billions of people to pursue liberation or at least aspire for it.

The story has summoned into existence stupas, monasteries, hermitages, books, hospitals and so on. The abstract meaning of the Buddha's enlightenment had the causal power to figuratively move mountains; real, substantial and very physical processes at work alongside internal ones in the minds and hearts of people.

When the Buddha taught the Dharma, the world literally shook in the ten directions if you take into account all the results of his speech over the course of twenty-five centuries.

It illustrates the power of speech. The power of story. The potency of myth. In this context I feel it has yielded good and desirable results. The Buddha's enlightenment was real, but the consequential myth that followed echoed through time and space in a hugely profound way. To carry on this story is doing a great service to humanity and all future generations. It inspires hope and good deeds.



Whilst the depiction of the 'transmission of dharma' might be, in some sense, mythological, the purpose of it is to embody and convey that understanding, which I believe to be real - as distinct from mythical or imaginary. In conveying that understanding, various kinds of symbols, myths, anecdotes, and so on, may be used. But it is aimed at conveying something of real substance. That is the payload. The rest is just the rocket booster. :smile:


But the purpose has been lost, hasn't it? The one transmitting the Dharma is supposed to be realized and then recognize someone of equal capacity. The whole narrative is a performance used to affirm institutional authority and to perpetuate it. This is quite different from the story of the Buddha's enlightenment which really offers nobody special authority.

Some myths have greater value than others.

I quite agree. As to whether 'the experience of kensho' amounts to 'being enlightened' - deep question. It can be understood in terms of 'conversion'. 'Conversion' actually means 'a change of mind' or 'change of heart'.


Do existential experiences on or off the cushion really require a special title or religious rite whereby one receives "Dharma transmission"? This is what I have been trying to get at.

You don't need to maintain a line of authority based on people's spiritual experiences. It would be presumably harmless if it was just that, but as we know this idea of transmitting the Dharma is not just about affirming someone's kenshō.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby jeeprs » Mon Apr 08, 2013 9:05 am

Huseng wrote:But the purpose has been lost, hasn't it? The one transmitting the Dharma is supposed to be realized and then recognize someone of equal capacity. The whole narrative is a performance used to affirm institutional authority and to perpetuate it. This is quite different from the story of the Buddha's enlightenment which really offers nobody special authority.


In the past I would have agreed, but now I'm not so sure. Back then, I had been an avid reader of Krishnamurti and his 'pathless land' teaching and I felt the same way about all kinds of institutional teachings, Buddhism included. But I read the Platform Sutra and Record of RInzai in the early 80's, then Nishijima Roshi's book To Meet the Real Dragon in 1987. These had a big impact. I did have a 'realization of emptiness' as a result. But iI wasn't until I took the advice of the Zen teachers and began to sit every day, that real change really started to happen. So now I have a very basic Zen practice. Bow, chant, sit. Just like those books teach. OK, I am not part of the formal institution, and I know that I wouldn't cope with the discipline. But I too don't react well to the really officious types of teachers who brandish their institutional authority. I guess that's why I am not affiliated. But knowing what I know now, I don't think Zen is empty ritual and theatre - provided it is done in the right spirit. Maybe I will find a formal centre one day. (Actually now I think of it, when I decided to take a formal refuge ceremony, to signify my commitment, it was at BLIA, which actually is a Zen, or Ch'an. centre, although I haven't been back since.)

Does it really require a special ceremony? Actually in that refuge ceremony, there is a caution against 'relying on rites and rituals'. Anything can devolve into empty ritualism or going through the motions, or trying to gain some advantage, but it doesn't have to be like that.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Mon Apr 08, 2013 9:33 am

jeeprs wrote:In the past I would have agreed, but now I'm not so sure.


As I said, it is a myth that many believe in. I'm not one of them. However, I'm fine with a myriad of opinions and approaches.

Does it really require a special ceremony? Actually in that refuge ceremony, there is a caution against 'relying on rites and rituals'. Anything can devolve into empty ritualism or going through the motions, or trying to gain some advantage, but it doesn't have to be like that.


And maybe some new communities will inject healthy new aspirations into the system. I hope so, but as it stands I don't see the idea of Dharma transmission as empty ritualism. It does serve a purpose, albeit not what it is supposed to. There is always the prescriptive and then the descriptive.

You can look past Zen and go back to the intellectual and spiritual roots from whence it was born. Like I said, you see it in Chinese schools like Huayan (Cheng'guan was also a Chan patriarch), Tiantai and to some degree in Sanlun. They're pejoratively called "scholastic" by at least Soto Zen, but nevertheless Chan was born from earlier developments. In them we don't see the idea of Dharma transmission.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Namgyal » Mon Apr 08, 2013 11:04 am

Huseng wrote:
    Myths are "stories about divine beings, generally arranged in a coherent system; they are revered as true and sacred; they are endorsed by rulers and priests; and closely linked to religion. Once this link is broken, and the actors in the story are not regarded as gods but as human heroes, giants or fairies, it is no longer a myth but a folktale. Where the central actor is divine but the story is trivial ... the result is religious legend, not myth." [J. Simpson & S. Roud, "Dictionary of English Folklore," Oxford, 2000, p.254]

In the Highlands, many still believe in 'da shealladh' the second sight, and some still make offerings to 'daoine sidhe', the 'Fair Folk'. So what is a myth?
Huseng wrote:If you're spiritually developed and above the fray, then it will show in your behaviour, words and thoughts. This does not require some special title handed down from master to disciple.When a title supposedly signifying spiritual attainment is used to affirm and/or acquire power, then it opens itself to all too human downfalls.

It is up to an individual to test the veracity of chiefs and holymen.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Mon Apr 08, 2013 11:11 am

Namgyal wrote:In the Highlands, many still believe in 'da shealladh' the second sight, and some still make offerings to 'daoine sidhe', the 'Fair Folk'. So what is a myth?


See my original post above for the definitions.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Namgyal » Mon Apr 08, 2013 11:45 am

Huseng wrote:Myth means a story or anything delivered by word of mouth that is regarded as holy, sacred, spiritual and/or endorsed by sufficient numbers of people to make it socially potent.

A shepherd once warned me about a remote haunted glen and when I came across it my hunting dogs became possessed with terror and started barking and growling at something. Of course I turned back immediately, and not because it was a 'socially potent story'. Every academic definition of 'myth' that has been posted means nothing, because the real world is more far-out than any legend. As for Zen lineage holders, you simply have to test them for yourself...I have confirmed that Glen X is uncanny, so I won't try to visit it again, likewise I have confirmed that Master Y has no obvious uncanny powers so I won't visit him again either.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Apr 08, 2013 1:46 pm

Huseng wrote:When a title supposedly signifying spiritual attainment is used to affirm and/or acquire power, then it opens itself to all too human downfalls.


Let's look at the breakdown of this statement:

-----------A--------------------- -------------------B--------------------- -----------------C-------------
title of spiritual attainment ---> used to affirm /acquire power ---> opens to human downfalls.

You are discrediting (A) the title of spiritual attainment itself
by suggesting that it automatically opens to (C) human downfalls
but you are interjecting a condition:(B) used to affirm /acquire power.
Essentially,
Transmission = misuse = abuse.

However, we can say that anything which is used to affirm /acquire power opens itself to human downfall.
Thus, transmission itself cannot be shown to be a problem specifically
and data indicates that transmission, with or without affirmation /acquisition of power,
leading directly to "opening to human downfall" is rare.

So far, only two examples have been cited (on another thread).

It is a faulty argument,
and one that is unsubstantiated.

What you could argue is that transmission should not automatically include
affirmation /acquisition of power as part of the package.
But, I am not sure that this has been established either.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby tingdzin » Mon Apr 08, 2013 6:05 pm

Interesting discussion, but in my opinion some contributors are mixing issues that should be considered separately.

First, in my opinion, any Buddhist who wants to keep an actively functioning intellect AND be a thorough practitioner must develop the realization that there are two ways of understanding things, which are both valid but which are, on the face of it, incompatible. One of these is based on reasoned critical intelligence, and the other is more intuitive, and works on a level that could be called more profound. (Lest this provoke more off-topic discussion, I am not at all referring two the Two Truths here). The second of these seems to be what Huseng is calling the "mythic" aspect of Buddhism. This, at its worst, can degenerate into mere stories meant to reinforce somebody's political or social agenda, but a myth can also be a convenient capsulized explanation of very profound subjects, a shorthand way to deeper levels of reality.

The motif of Transmission in Zen is a good case in point. Most scholars, including some Zen Masters, do not accept that the traditional line of Zen Ancestors before Buddhism came to China reflects any sort of cold historical reality; nevertheless, for practitioners of Zen, transmission is a fact. I am not here talking about the transmission of who gets to run the institutional show and keep the money and all that; ideally maybe the two should be the same, but in fact this is not always so. For Zen practitioners, a very good commentary on the real meaning of transmission comes in the koan "Shakyamuni Holds up a Flower" (what if no one but Ananda or everyone else in the assembly had smiled?), and Shibayama Roshi has very pointed things to say about it in his book "Zen Comments on the Mumonkan". Also in my opinion, if one really wants to be a thorough Zen practitioner, one has to be able to disregard all the secondary aspects of "transmission" and relate wholly to the main point, letting the political/economic/social chips fall where they may.

To take some examples from Tibetan Buddhism, various illustrious figures such as Padmasambhava and Milarepa are the subjects of "biographies" which may have very little to do, historically, with what the situation on the ground was like during their lives. Sometimes, episodes in these biographies clearly show an ulterior motive. Nevertheless, other illustrious and genuinely accomplished figures have had visions of such beings which helped them in their own accomplishment. We can't just say that these visions were hallucinations and leave it at that, or we are cutting ourselves of from a fruitful tradition; on the other hand, if we have any intelligence we cannot simply accept others' (or even our own) such experiences at face value, or we risk being caught in delusion.

This is quite a deep subject, actually. Historically, the reflex rejection of all myth is, I expect, part of the profound shift in worldview that accompanied the Protestant Reformation, which made possible great leaps in science in technology but also was responsible for the loss of a lot of depth in religion, but that's a different topic.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby conebeckham » Mon Apr 08, 2013 6:29 pm

Huseng wrote:In Buddhist religions there are many such myths, many of which are provided metaphysical dimensions to justify and sanctify their existence.


I think that in a sense all religions, and not merely all Buddhist Religions, don't merely "contain" myths--they ARE myths. However, the Dharma, in the sense of Ultimate Reality, or the Way Things Are, The Reality as Perceived by Buddhas, is not myth.

One example is the theory that there is a "precept essence" that is conveyed from master to disciple when an ordination or lay precepts are given. In one Vinaya school it is understood as a "non-manifest form dharma", i.e., a material thing that is passed on down the lineage, which furthermore must be maintained through confession lest it be lost. This easily prompts real life actions and likewise sanctions authority which will be respected and comes with various perks. The males with the higher level of ordination are supposed to sit ahead of everyone else in the assembly.

This all has a function of course and has served people well, but at the end of the day we need to recognize that everything is mentally constructed. Becoming overly emotionally invested in myths is often detrimental to personal and collective well-being.


Well, with regard to "vows," I believe there is a "mental accrual" or "force of habit," or some sort of "mental deposit" which occurs when a sentient being engages in taking vow, with intentionality and forethought. Of course, whether one has taken or received such "transmission" is entirely impossible to discern from the point of view of an outsider. And this relates to the larger issues of transmission, and of "myth," as we can discuss further on....

The idea of dharma transmission historically has not functioned as it has been prescribed, though many believe otherwise and don't recognize earlier and present precedents. Descriptively, it is a social construct which legitimizes institutional authority. You are are ostensibly qualified to run the show and teach if you have Dharma transmission.

As I said elsewhere, I don't believe in this myth. I would rather see a kind of meritocracy where people are judged capable by virtue of their good qualities, practice and learning.


I don't know much about Zen, but I do know there are various "levels" of transmission and/or authorization. I believe that the "transmitter" must be capable of judging the transmittee, in order to discern if the transmittee possesses the virtues of qualities, learning, practice, etc.

In the end, if we agree that none but the Buddha can truly see clearly and completely into the minds of others (and even this is a debated point, of course), such processes of judgement would have to rely on some sort of "norms," which acquire the power of myth over time.

I believe transmission SHOULD be a meritocracy, frankly. In all forms of transmitted Buddhism, including Zen, and Vajrayana. And though there is a myth, a framework, a cultural accretion which becomes employed, in the end, these Buddhist traditions are, and must be, Living Traditions, maintained by Humans (and other sentient beings?) who have some capacity to judge. Huseng, even in a meritocracy, someone must judge a potential candidate on their merits, yes?

The problems and issues you refer to, with regard to misuse or abuse of power, authority, etc., are due to Humans who have, to one degree or other, lost some (or all, even!) of their capacity to act as a judge. It is also possible that this loss becomes somehow incorporated into the system over time, as well. Buddha spoke about this, though, so it should be no surprise that it occurs, and will continue to occur, as time goes on.

As a Vajrayana practitioner, I feel quite strongly that transmission of "Pointing Out Instructions," "Ngotro," "Rigpai TselWang," "The Fourth Empowerment," or whatever you want to call it, is the essential " core" of Dharma relationship. These techniques, as well as Zen's "Transmission Outside the Scriptures," I'd guess, are more relevant, to me, than any scriptural study or "learning," or any practice based entirely on such written words. This is not to discredit such study or learning, and I believe that great insight may be gained in that regard. I've got to note, however, that even scriptural study of the sutras and shastras belong to the transmission "myth," as well, at least in Tibetan Vajrayana traditions. They are part of a living tradition, which relies on communication between beings--a two-way communication, really. That's my perspective, at least.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby shel » Mon Apr 08, 2013 6:40 pm

tingdzin wrote:Historically, the reflex rejection of all myth is, I expect, part of the profound shift in worldview that accompanied the Protestant Reformation, which made possible great leaps in science in technology but also was responsible for the loss of a lot of depth in religion, but that's a different topic.


Interesting, Tingdzin. Are you suggesting that seeing something as a myth is automatically rejecting whatever that is?

By 'loss of depth' I believe you mean loss of meaning. Actually, a loss of meaning occurs with a shift in values, or a degradation of values as seems to be the case here (transmission in Zen only means having a glimpse of Buddha nature, for example). Not that a glimpse of Buddha nature is meaningless, it's just that the Eightfold Path contains so much more depth or core values than are expressed in a mere glimpse of Buddha nature.

It really has nothing to do with intellect vs intuition.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby tingdzin » Mon Apr 08, 2013 7:31 pm

The "reflex rejection of all myth" is what caused the reaction Huseng got when he talked about myth in Buddhism. He didn't mean "myth" as something untrue, but that's what people take it as. Obviously, I don't feel that way.

A "shift in values" is an OK way of saying it. "Desacralization" is another. I don't think "loss of meaning" is a particularly useful way of describing the phenomena I am speaking of.

As far as your opinion of "transmission": some people do seem to claim that "a glimpse of Buddha nature" (whatever that is) is all there is to it. If it could be put into the soiled and greasy currency of words, though, it would also become less than sacred. One of the major causes of the lack of the sacred in modern society is precisely the attitude that every experience can be reduced to words.

"Intuition" is also a loaded word -- it can mean mere feelings and emotions, but what I am referring to is far deeper than such superficialities.

Perhaps you should try to see what others are trying to get at instead of setting up straw men that you can feel good about knocking down.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby shel » Mon Apr 08, 2013 8:33 pm

tingdzin wrote:The "reflex rejection of all myth" is what caused the reaction Huseng got when he talked about myth in Buddhism. He didn't mean "myth" as something untrue, but that's what people take it as. Obviously, I don't feel that way.

Myths are by nature unverified or unverifiable. This is interesting as it applies to the subject of transmission, because the meaning of transmission is apparently open to a range of qualities. From what I've read, by some accounts it doesn't even require a glimpse of Buddha nature (or whatever), but essentially only a good master/disciple relationship.

A "shift in values" is an OK way of saying it. "Desacralization" is another. I don't think "loss of meaning" is a particularly useful way of describing the phenomena I am speaking of.

It may help to keep in mind that the "desacralization" in this case is being performed by those with the utmost 'depth', the transmitted teachers themselves. How can shallowness be expressed by depth? The contradiction is resolved in understanding that we are essentially talking about meaning and not just insight or whatever.

As far as your opinion of "transmission": some people do seem to claim that "a glimpse of Buddha nature" (whatever that is) is all there is to it.

Sorry I was unclear, that's not my opinion.

If it could be put into the soiled and greasy currency of words, though, it would also become less than sacred. One of the major causes of the lack of the sacred in modern society is precisely the attitude that every experience can be reduced to words.

Sacred means dedicated to a religious purpose and so deserving veneration. I think maybe one of the major causes of the lack of the sacred in modern society is that many religious leaders have been found to be undeserving of veneration. Why now in modernity? Maybe because in modernity we categorize things like secular/religious, or rational/irrational/transrational, etc.

"Intuition" is also a loaded word -- it can mean mere feelings and emotions, but what I am referring to is far deeper than such superficialities.

Intuition is not mere feelings and emotions. That would be a misunderstanding, though in a sense any kind of mental process could be described as feeling, in my opinion. Is the proper, but dirty word :tongue: , insight?

Perhaps you should try to see what others are trying to get at instead of setting up straw men that you can feel good about knocking down.

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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby jeeprs » Mon Apr 08, 2013 9:52 pm

tingdzin wrote:Historically, the reflex rejection of all myth is, I expect, part of the profound shift in worldview that accompanied the Protestant Reformation, which made possible great leaps in science in technology but also was responsible for the loss of a lot of depth in religion, but that's a different topic.


Excellent post. The discovery of the physical realities of the Universe and biological evolution really signifies a deep shift within which the notion of the constitution of reality underwent a profound shift. I think it is central to the discussion.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Mon Apr 08, 2013 10:32 pm

shel wrote:
Sara H wrote:Referring to Dharma Transmission as a myth in this sense, is like refering to college professors who have PHD's being qualified to teach sudents, who's qualifications can be confirmed by other professors and people with PHD's as a "story that people believe in".


The power of the dharma transmission myth comes from the belief that it's an unbroken lineage traced all the way back to the Buddha himself. There is no equivalent to this in academia. The theoretical equivalent would be something like if Einstein taught, and at some point acknowledged that one of his students was qualified to teach at his level, and then that student did the same, and so on. It would be expected that any of Einsteins successors could perform at least at his level, otherwise they would not be certified. If the line broke down or became degraded at some point but continued anyway the 'transmission' would then become a myth, because decedent teachers would no longer be like Einstein in capability. They would be idealized and their implied (via transmission) capabilities would be an exaggeration.


A tree comes from a seed, which came from a tree, which started as a seed, which came from a tree, which started as a seed, which came from a tree, which started as a seed...

And so on, and so on, back ad infinitum to the start of life on Earth, and before that there was pro-life, amino acids and so forth.

A Professor was taught by teachers who were taught by teachers who were taught by teachers, who were taught by teachers, who were taught by teachers, who were taught by teachers who may have been taught by Masters who apprenticed under masters, who apprenticed under Masters, and so on and so forth.

It exists in academia, its just not recorded.


Even if you pick something up from a book, somebody still wrote the book, and is so teaching you that way.

In Zen, it's easier to keep track of, because it's passed from person to person, not from "many-people to one person" the way it is in college academia.

In Zen there is a final person (the Teacher) who signs off on it.

If you were to look at the signature on the college degree of anybody. And then find that person's records and look at the signature on their college degree, and then find that next person, and find the person on the signature of their college degree, and so on, you would find an actual similar lineage in academia. It's just that the lineage isn't actively recorded.

In this sense, it's more like the old-world apprenticeship systems.

But a carpenter was taught by somebody who was taught by somebody who was taught by somebody, and so on and so forth.

Even a do it yourself manual was written by someone.

An unrecorded lineage doesn't mean that that there is no lineage in western thought.

There most certainly is.

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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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