Myth in Buddhism

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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:31 am

jeeprs wrote:Now I would say that your model of 'good qualities, practice and learning' would be much better approximated by the first of these poems.

Would you agree?


I don't know, but look at it this way...

It seems most of the cast of that story were neurotic. The fact that Huineng had to flee while being pursued says something about the quality of the community. It is fiction, of course, but still the story itself accepts the status quo of lineage transmission being the sole prerogative of an individual rather than the community.

It isn't surprising given the cultural context. Ancient China saw strict hierarchy and order of precedence coupled with autocracy as virtuous and worthwhile, so the Buddhists likewise adopted this as with few exceptions it was the only world-view they knew. This helps to explain why the democratic principles as laid down by the Buddha were never implemented in China.

In their world someone with good qualities was elected for leadership by the man above him, not by the community he was to represent. This was the same in politics as it was in religion.

In 2013 we don't need to reproduce this power structure. It is culturally incompatible with democratic values as well, so will cause long-term problems if not addressed.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:35 am

Sara H wrote:How do you know that practice doesn't legitimately work for some people?


Their arguments were unconvincing. If it works for them, cool, but I'm under no obligation to accept their claims and ideas. The same goes for what you're proposing.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby jeeprs » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:40 am

Thanks. I think you have explained your view very well. You see it solely in terms of power-structures, historical institutions and the like. I have always been struck by the radical meaning of Hui Neng's message, which, you would think, actually undercuts the kind of monastic institutionalism that 'Shenxiu' represented. But, there you go. We all see different things.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:47 am

Huseng wrote:In their world someone with good qualities was elected for leadership by the man above him, not by the community he was to represent.
That is how the military and many businesses work.

Huseng wrote:In 2013 we don't need to reproduce this power structure. It is culturally incompatible with democratic values as well, so will cause long-term problems if not addressed.
1. Higher leaders appointing lower leaders is incompatible with democracy and will cause long term problems
2. Promotions in the military and businesses occur solely through higher leaders appointing lower leaders
3. Therefore, the militaries and businesses of democratic counties are incompatible with democracy and will cause long term problems

Purely out of curiosity, what is your opinion on people like Henry VII and Catherine II who were neither appointed nor elected, but seized leadership through their power and the force of their personality?
Last edited by Konchog1 on Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:51 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby PorkChop » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:48 am

Jnana wrote:
PorkChop wrote:
Jnana wrote:What strict definition would that be?

By strict definition, I mean the 9 points you listed....

I don't consider that to be a "strict definition," and didn't qualify it as such. Mentioning it as "an example of Buddhist ecumenicism" doesn't imply that it's the final word on the subject, or that it's the only example.

So you would consider an example of Buddhist ecumenicism that did not include the 8th point?

Jnana wrote:While the nirvāṇa realized is the same (i.e. liberation from saṃsāric rebirth), it's speculative to assert that the Buddha or the first generation of disciples considered the Buddha's knowledge and compassion to be no different than that of his disciples. The arhat disciples themselves are explicitly said to have differing qualities, excel in different ways, and have different types of knowledge and meditative attainments, etc. It's quite reasonable that the Buddha surpassed his disciples in his teaching abilities such as the ability to attract and connect with students from various walks of life in meaningful ways. This can be seen in the narratives recorded in the Āgamas & Nikāyas.


Spent half the evening trying to find a quote from Nakamura's Indian Buddhism book that I had read paraphrased by a self-described "modern Theravadan" who didn't think there was a difference between the two. While I did find a lot of quotes to the effect that the entire concept of the Buddha changed drastically over time, I couldn't find a quote resembling what was paraphrased and I have to assume it was a mis-reading by the paraphraser. It's an interesting book if you ever get the chance.

Jnana wrote:Moreover, with regard to the Lotus Sūtra, Nattier characterizes it as "a very atypical text" even among Mahāyāna sūtras, which due to it's unusual content may very well have been considered shocking among the larger community of Indian Buddhists in the first or second century C.E. Thus, the positions it advocates for are hardly representative of mainstream Indian Buddhism of that period or any prior historical period.


When did this become about mainstream Indian Buddhism of any period whatsoever (aside from when you mentioned 2 Sthavira schools accepting the 3 forms of Bodhi)?
My point for bringing up the Lotus Sutra is that I didn't/don't see it as polemics, and any sort of "ecumenicism" that dismisses it (or Ekayana) out of hand is completely disregarding a large portion of current-day Buddhism in general (let alone a majority of East Asian Mahayana).
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:49 am

jeeprs wrote:Thanks. I think you have explained your view very well. You see it solely in terms of power-structures, historical institutions and the like. I have always been struck by the radical meaning of Hui Neng's message, which, you would think, actually undercuts the kind of monastic institutionalism that 'Shenxiu' represented. But, there you go. We all see different things.


If the community at the time didn't want Huineng as their patriarch, why didn't he respect their wishes and let them elect their own leader? As the story goes, they got rather upset by what happened. So, feeling justified in what his master did, he went on the run instead of addressing the community he was supposed to be leading. Huineng is painted as the victim, whereas he was really going against the wishes of the community which kindly looked after him and had another person in mind to lead them.

If they had democratically elected their own community leader, then they could have avoided the whole escapade.

Even though it is largely fiction, it still says something about their way of thinking. It was fine back then, but not in the liberal democratic world.

But of course in ancient China legitimacy was obtained largely through lineage and sanction of higher powers. The emperor himself ruled either through legitimately inheriting the throne or claiming the mandate of heaven. In Buddhist institutions in East Asia you obtained ecclesiastical authority through court sanction and/or appointment by your predecessor.

Again, we don't have to reproduce any of this.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 6:58 am

Konchog1 wrote:1. Higher leaders appointing lower leaders is incompatible with democracy and will cause long term problems
2. Promotions in the military occur solely through higher leaders appointing lower leaders
3. Therefore, the militaries of democratic counties are incompatible with democracy and will cause long term problems


Naw. I think the military is different because discipline is a matter of life and death. What works in one place will not necessarily work elsewhere. The context of organized religion in the west now isn't tied up with monasticism so much anymore, so military-style organizational structures are unnecessary.


Purely out of curiosity, what is your opinion on people like Henry VII and Catherine II who were neither appointed nor elected, but seized leadership through their power and the force of their personality?


What works in small religious communities will not necessary work elsewhere. Organizational structures for politics might differ a lot from religion, guilds, families, etc...

In some cases benevolent dictatorships are desirable such as in a time of crisis. I'm not familiar enough with Henry VII and Catherine II. In some contexts having a monarchy is better than a democracy. A constitutional monarchy has a lot of advantages.

It really depends on the circumstances.

In the 21st century we're all mostly living in democratic cultures with democratic values, so we should adapt accordingly. I wouldn't have expected Tang Dynasty Chan Buddhist monks to implement the democratic model as outlined in the Vinaya.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:12 am

Huseng wrote:
Sara H wrote:How do you know that practice doesn't legitimately work for some people?


Their arguments were unconvincing. If it works for them, cool, but I'm under no obligation to accept their claims and ideas. The same goes for what you're proposing.


No you're not under any obligation to accept their claims and ideas. I don't believe I've ever heard a Zen master say that you or anyone else was so obligated.
Nor have I ever heard a Zen master state, or have seen it to be any sortof common universal Zen policy to state that Zen is the one and only practice that should work for everyone, or that everyone else must do as the only legitimate, or effective way to practice spirituality or Buddhism.

And, I would politely point out, that to continue with this analogy, you havn't been just taking the neutral stance of saying that their path doesn't work for you. (implying that you're "cool" with it)

You've been actively saying that they (or in the actual case of Zen, as this analogy goes) should change the way they do things also.

Even though "the way they do things" may work perfectly well for them.

You're advocating that a system that people have reported to be effective for most people who do it should be discarded because one person (in the case of yourself) or a select few don't like it or find that it's helpful for them. Even though there are a plethora of alternatives available if one doesn't want to practice Zen.

I also am not clear on your argument.

could you please clarify the questions below:

One) Do you acknowledge that this practice does legitimately work for some people, or recognize that they have stated so from their own experience?

Two) are you saying you view the idea of institutional authority to be wrong, and so Institutional authority in Buddhism (and Zen) also to be wrong (by extension)?

Three) or are you saying that in your opinion it's just institutional authority when it comes to teaching the development of intuitive knowledge?

Four) Are you saying that you believe the development of intuitive knowledge cannot be taught? Or cannot be taught in an institutional way?
(and so reject any form of that)

And

Five) And/or there is not someone who can be an authority on that to help teach the development of it?

Thank you.

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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:20 am

Huseng wrote:
Konchog1 wrote:1. Higher leaders appointing lower leaders is incompatible with democracy and will cause long term problems
2. Promotions in the military occur solely through higher leaders appointing lower leaders
3. Therefore, the militaries of democratic counties are incompatible with democracy and will cause long term problems


Naw. I think the military is different because discipline is a matter of life and death. What works in one place will not necessarily work elsewhere. The context of organized religion in the west now isn't tied up with monasticism so much anymore, so military-style organizational structures are unnecessary.


Purely out of curiosity, what is your opinion on people like Henry VII and Catherine II who were neither appointed nor elected, but seized leadership through their power and the force of their personality?


What works in small religious communities will not necessary work elsewhere. Organizational structures for politics might differ a lot from religion, guilds, families, etc...

In some cases benevolent dictatorships are desirable such as in a time of crisis. I'm not familiar enough with Henry VII and Catherine II. In some contexts having a monarchy is better than a democracy. A constitutional monarchy has a lot of advantages.

It really depends on the circumstances.

In the 21st century we're all mostly living in democratic cultures with democratic values, so we should adapt accordingly. I wouldn't have expected Tang Dynasty Chan Buddhist monks to implement the democratic model as outlined in the Vinaya.
In other words you're saying that if Buddhism in the West starts to focus on monasticism or the entire Western world experiences overnight coup d'tats and become dictatorships, you will promote lineages and traditional rules of succession?
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: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:30 am

Konchog1 wrote:In other words you're saying that if Buddhism in the West starts to focus on monasticism or the entire Western world experiences overnight coup d'tats and become dictatorships, you will promote lineages and traditional rules of succession?


Monasticism according to the Vinaya is actually quite democratic. There are strict procedures and protocols in place for admitting new members to the renunciate community and adjudicating various matters. All of this is done based on motions where every monk has an equal voice. In our contemporary times it would only be appropriate to admit the nuns into the proceedings and ensure they have equal status to the monks.

Now, even if overnight western countries became dictatorships, it wouldn't change the immediate cultural paradigm which has a few centuries of democratic values and roots. You can't erase that overnight. On the other hand here in Asia you can't erase the old cultural paradigms either. I'd venture to say in many places people wouldn't trust elected religious leaders.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Konchog1 » Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:32 am

Huseng wrote:Now, even if overnight western countries became dictatorships, it wouldn't change the immediate cultural paradigm which has a few centuries of democratic values and roots. You can't erase that overnight. On the other hand here in Asia you can't erase the old cultural paradigms either. I'd venture to say in many places people wouldn't trust elected religious leaders.
Well, that certainly makes sense.
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."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:36 am

Konchog1 wrote:
Huseng wrote:Now, even if overnight western countries became dictatorships, it wouldn't change the immediate cultural paradigm which has a few centuries of democratic values and roots. You can't erase that overnight. On the other hand here in Asia you can't erase the old cultural paradigms either. I'd venture to say in many places people wouldn't trust elected religious leaders.
Well, that certainly makes sense.


In other words, what works in various Asian countries will not necessarily work in western countries, and vice-versa of course.

Democratic values for example might be praised in places like Japan and Taiwan (even by Buddhist groups), but you look at who is in charge and how things get decided, and you see how it is only skin deep.

This is one thing that bothers me about Humanistic Buddhism in Taiwan. They like to outwardly support democracy and free elections, but their own organizations are largely run by a few top monastics with everyone else expected to bow their heads and follow along. Obedience is a virtue equated to filial piety. Internal criticism is disdained. You have no right as a monk or layperson to challenge the leadership on stupid decisions.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Sara H » Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:49 am

Huseng, it strikes me a little odd, that you can't answer the questions below.

Is there some reason you can't answer these questions?
Sara H wrote:could you please clarify the questions below:

One) Do you acknowledge that this practice does legitimately work for some people, or recognize that they have stated so from their own experience?

Two) are you saying you view the idea of institutional authority to be wrong, and so Institutional authority in Buddhism (and Zen) also to be wrong (by extension)?

Three) or are you saying that in your opinion it's just institutional authority when it comes to teaching the development of intuitive knowledge?

Four) Are you saying that you believe the development of intuitive knowledge cannot be taught? Or cannot be taught in an institutional way?
(and so reject any form of that)

And

Five) And/or there is not someone who can be an authority on that to help teach the development of it?

Thank you.


Regarding democracy,

In other words, you're saying that the philosophy of democracy should be applied across the board in all Buddhism. In this modern day in age.

But while it's one thing to say that democracy as a system can or could work in some circumstances,

To be able to substantiate the claim that it should be done in all circumstances, across the board, in modern Buddhism, one must first prove that the proposed system is more effective than other systems already in place, in each and every specific circumstance.

You haven't done that.

This is especially important because millions of people's training is at stake.

Indeed, the system as it stands in Zen has shown to work, and be proven effective for most people who do it. So why would they change that if it works?

As the old saying in Western United States goes: "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

You haven't established that the system is "broke", to justify a: "fix".

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

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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby jeeprs » Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:52 am

Huseng wrote:If the community at the time didn't want Huineng as their patriarch, why didn't he respect their wishes and let them elect their own leader? As the story goes, they got rather upset by what happened. So, feeling justified in what his master did, he went on the run instead of addressing the community he was supposed to be leading. Huineng is painted as the victim, whereas he was really going against the wishes of the community which kindly looked after him and had another person in mind to lead them.


You're not showing any real insight into what is the ostensible substance of the issue at hand.

You asked for a 'metaphysical explanation' of 'what is supposed to be transmitted by the Zen lineage', which is why I referred to the story of Hui Neng. Hui Neng's ascension is an assertion of the radical and liberating nature of 'the realisation of sunyata'. He is an illiterate peasant and an 'outsider'. His ascension is fought tooth and nail by the very meritocracy that you would suppose represents the orthodoxy. Yet he prevails.

Certainly, the story is apocryphal. But that is not the point. The way you see it, he didn't prevail at all. He was just a puppet of institutional religious power.

Huseng wrote:Elsewhere I posited that "Dharma transmission" in Zen/Chan is a myth, and I feel my meaning was misunderstood despite attempting to clarify it.


So I don't think your meaning is misunderstood. I think you misunderstand the meaning. And that, I promise, is my last word on the topic.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 7:57 am

Sara H wrote:Huseng, it strikes me a little odd, that you can't answer the questions below.

Is there some reason you can't answer these questions?


I can answer them. I just don't want to continue our discussion as it is tiring and unfruitful, so I will end our dialogue.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Jnana » Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:05 am

PorkChop wrote:So you would consider an example of Buddhist ecumenicism that did not include the 8th point?

I'm generally willing to consider many things. But as I've already said, it's kinda important to acknowledge what is acceptable to all parties concerned. Ven. Walpola Rahula rewrote a version of the nine points in 1981, including reference to the Ekayāna ideal and specifically mentioning the Saṃdhinirmocana Sūtra. Of course, this raises concerns from different quarters for a number of reasons, but that's part of the territory when it comes to attempting to engage in inter-tradition dialogue.

PorkChop wrote:When did this become about mainstream Indian Buddhism of any period whatsoever (aside from when you mentioned 2 Sthavira schools accepting the 3 forms of Bodhi)?

Historical criticism relates to notions concerning mythology and the historical development of Buddhist ideas. For example, the assertion that the Mahāyāna developed from earlier mythological hagiographies (Jātakas, Avadānas, etc.), and that the early Mahāyāna communities existed on the margins of mainstream communities, and that ideas about the bodhisattvayāna were slowly absorbed into different mainstream Buddhist schools over the course of centuries, and so on.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Indrajala » Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:11 am

jeeprs wrote:You asked for a 'metaphysical explanation' of 'what is supposed to be transmitted by the Zen lineage', which is why I referred to the story of Hui Neng. Hui Neng's ascension is an assertion of the radical and liberating nature of 'the realisation of sunyata'. He is an illiterate peasant and an 'outsider'. His ascension is fought tooth and nail by the very meritocracy that you would suppose represents the orthodoxy. Yet he prevails.


The story probably actually represents a power struggle between two competing communities or factions of early Chan, which is why Huineng is made the victim while Shenxiu is somewhat lampooned. In classical Chinese culture long-term power was secured through literary methods. Your lineage amplified its claims to power and patronage by aggrandizing past leaders while lampooning their opponents. This happened in India, too. You have only to look at what happened to Devadatta and Mahādeva in the literary record.


Certainly, the story is apocryphal. But that is not the point. The way you see it, he didn't prevail at all. He was just a puppet of institutional religious power.


As a literary character he was used to affirm and legitimize a specific lineage as differentiated from others. For Chinese this was critical in securing not just material support, but demonstrating to practitioners as well that they were legitimate heirs to a real master and thus promoting a true and worthwhile teaching.

Aggrandizement of past figures in hagiographical literature actually works wonders in encouraging people to practice.

I look at all my friends who practice all the more seriously when they see the great figures of Milarepa and Huineng in literature. It inspires them. That's good. However, there are always multiple perspectives to one thing.

There are plenty of scholastic monks who wrote beautiful treatises that have helped me a lot, but they're not painted as anything other than human, warts and all. Jizang for example isn't described in glowing terms by his biographer Daoxuan. Jizang apparently didn't care for the Vinaya so much, nor was leadership his strong point. Nevertheless, if you read his works you see a brilliant and wise mind at work. Since nobody now really claims Jizang within their own constructed lineages he's left to being an ordinary albeit well-respected past Buddhist philosopher.

I prefer that. You can judge him based on what he left behind rather than fictional accounts of his life and achievements.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby plwk » Thu Apr 18, 2013 8:44 am

Image

So huseng, what do you think of the above mummy from Guangdong's Nan Hua Si? I recall having a conversation with Astus over the above.
Would you know whether anyone has even remotely tried to challenge the real life Ch'an Sanghas in China and abroad over the authenticity of Huineng and this mummy like the Turin Shroud? I am open to honest answers and the truth.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 18, 2013 9:43 am

I think the question is whether it is acceptable to be a Zen teacher without being a member of a lineage. If yes, the argument over having or not having transmission is irrelevant. If no, then history shows that there were and are respected teachers without lineage, plus historical data proves the idea of unbroken lineage as fictional. Then we should ask why Western Zen followers are obsessed with lineage. And I think the reason is that many fail to see the actual teaching of Zen, so instead go for the superficial story of transmission. They look at a record of Zen stories and understand only as far as the presence of a teacher and a student but fail to comprehend the actual interaction that happens. It is similar to those who believe that the most important thing about zazen is the posture and fail to see the mind as the true place of meditation.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Nikolay » Thu Apr 18, 2013 9:56 am

Astus wrote: Then we should ask why Western Zen followers are obsessed with lineage.

I am not very familiar with situation in Zen, but maybe because it one of the precious few ways to deal with numerous charlatans and crazies who appear out of nowhere proclaiming themselves to be enlightened teachers? Who can judge if a particular person is qualified to teach? His own teacher. How do we know this teacher is qualified himself? Supposedly because it was confirmed by his own teacher, and so on back to Buddha. I find this idea very attractive, even though it might not always work exactly that way in practice. But it is at least some insurance.

By the way, I find the idea of democratically deciding if a certain person is spiritually realized and thus qualified to teach to be completely bizarre.
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