Myth in Buddhism

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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Nikolay » Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:05 pm

From the philosophical point of view, I see no issues. I do not remember any prominent Buddhist philosophers taking the position you propose, so they likely did not see any problem with such things. Neither do I. It is also quite possible that such things cannot actually be fully explained from the Sutrayana viewpoint, and the view of Tantras is usually considered to be more definitive, at least in Tibetan Buddhism. I am not qualified to comment on this.

Regarding prana, in the same text it is described in the context of "Six Lamps" teaching as related to the second level of experience as in manifests from the basis, and identified with rigpa. Again, I will not pretend that I fully understand this level of teachings. I am sure there are people here who can comment on this.

From the practical, experiential point of view, I believe quotes from "White Sail" by Thinley Norbu Rinpoche may be relevant.
If we do not believe in what we cannot see, it does not mean that it does not exist. If someone if blind, he cannot see anything, but this does not mean that what he cannot see does not exist, since it can be seen by others.

If we do not recognise wisdom display, which is the causeless manifestation of the clear appearance of great emptiness, we create the reality of subject and object. Through the reality of subject and object, we create general and personal phenomena. When manifestations of phenomena are perceived in the same way at the same time and place by a group of sentient beings, their shared perception creates the habit of agreement, and this habit becomes the habit of general phenomena. When manifestations of phenomena are perceived differently by individual beings even though they are perceived at the same time and place, their individual perception becomes the habit of personal phenomena. When the creation of many different habits increases the variety of phenomena until personal phenomena are shared by different individuals, it again creates general phenomena.

I interpret this the following way. Our experience is conditioned by our habits from previous lives. If our accumulated habits are not conductive to witnessing siddhi or other unusual phenomena of this nature, then they likely won't be present in our experience. If you and I and many other people share this predisposition, it will become a feature of what we perceive as shared reality. So, it is quite possible that in our current state we are unable to experience such things as general phenomena, and whatever siddhi we or others experience will be limited to personal phenomena, until we change our habits of disbelief drastically and acquire merit. But to encourage this habit of ours is probably not helpful.
Additionally:
Because sublime beings are miraculous, their histories do not fit within nonspiritual reality and ordinary, intellectual reasoning. If some people cannot accept these histories because they seem inconsistent and illogical, then they cannot logically accept any of the wonderful histories of the thousand Buddhas, including Buddha Sakyamuni, as well as those of all ancient, sublime scholars, the mahasiddhas, and even one's own guru. The histories of sublime beings can never be confined within samsara's boundaries because enlightenment can never fit into ordinary mind and its ordinary calculations.

If we expect the qualities of sublime beings to correspond to the rules of our preconceptions of reality, then we can never transfigure our nihilist habits to the glory of victorious omniscience.

Whoever is wise about the true meaning of the nature of appearance,
That wise person is close to attaining siddhi.
Or, whoever has stable faith with a simple mind,
That person is close to attaining siddhi.
Whoever thinks and conceptualizes,
That person is far away from obtaining siddhi.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 22, 2013 1:23 pm

Mirage,

Now we have arrived at the point then that all the unusual features cannot be explained or established and remains in the realm of personal belief. Similarly to the Zen transmission story, where this topic has started, there is nothing that could prove the existence of such phenomena besides relying on tradition and faith. Unlike the Zen lineages that can be shown to be historically inaccurate, but nonetheless existent to some level, supernatural abilities and events simply lack evidence and logical explanation. Another difference is that while there are living people who are members of different Zen lineages, there is yet to be someone who claims to have special abilities. On the other hand, it is said, and that's where we have started, that in the transmission of mantras there is something else besides mere words. And this claim cannot be verified, practically making it a myth.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Mon Apr 22, 2013 1:47 pm

Astus wrote:Mirage,

Now we have arrived at the point then that all the unusual features cannot be explained or established and remains in the realm of personal belief. Similarly to the Zen transmission story, where this topic has started, there is nothing that could prove the existence of such phenomena besides relying on tradition and faith. Unlike the Zen lineages that can be shown to be historically inaccurate, but nonetheless existent to some level, supernatural abilities and events simply lack evidence and logical explanation. Another difference is that while there are living people who are members of different Zen lineages, there is yet to be someone who claims to have special abilities. On the other hand, it is said, and that's where we have started, that in the transmission of mantras there is something else besides mere words. And this claim cannot be verified, practically making it a myth.


Another way of making the same claim would be to say that Buddhism is a religion, no?
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 22, 2013 2:15 pm

Jikan wrote:Another way of making the same claim would be to say that Buddhism is a religion, no?


Partially. But even in a religion, that has a "theology" (i.e. a logical-philosophical system), it is a reasonable requirement that it is coherent. Even in Buddhist terms the way prana, etc. functions and exists can't be explained, it is an anomaly. Of course, we can say that higher Tantra cannot be connected to other teachings. But then there is no reason why we couldn't say that it is a teaching without valid basis within Buddhism itself. For instance, Tendai, Kegon and Hosso are different schools, but their teachings can be verified by different teachings and connected to each other. Also, none of them have a teaching that is taught beyond words (I mean, you don't need special transmissions to be able to read and study the Lotus Sutra and to benefit from it). In Zen they talk about the wordless transmission, but they also clarify there is nothing actually transmitted. So, if Mantrayana includes something else beyond verbal mantras, it seems logical to me to ask what that is.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Nikolay » Mon Apr 22, 2013 3:38 pm

Well, I did not say that such things cannot be explained. As far as I know, Tantras and Dzogchen texts have rather extensive theories regarding such things. I just said that I am not sufficiently familiar with them to give a detailed explanation. But as long as we accept such things as rebirth, six worlds, and the non-existence of matter, I see no possible reason to deny siddhis. It is simply clinging to our pre-conceived notions regarding things that are possible and impossible in our everyday life. But the content of our experience is determined by karma, and if our current karma causes us to have one kind of experience, there is no reason different karma cannot cause us to experience something else entirely.

To summarize, you see no reason to accept the possibility of siddhis, while I see no reason to deny such possibility. I am having a very long dream, and nothing I see in this dream should really surprise me.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby dude » Mon Apr 22, 2013 4:15 pm

Astus wrote:
Jikan wrote:Another way of making the same claim would be to say that Buddhism is a religion, no?


Partially. But even in a religion, that has a "theology" (i.e. a logical-philosophical system), it is a reasonable requirement that it is coherent. Even in Buddhist terms the way prana, etc. functions and exists can't be explained, it is an anomaly. Of course, we can say that higher Tantra cannot be connected to other teachings. But then there is no reason why we couldn't say that it is a teaching without valid basis within Buddhism itself. For instance, Tendai, Kegon and Hosso are different schools, but their teachings can be verified by different teachings and connected to each other. Also, none of them have a teaching that is taught beyond words (I mean, you don't need special transmissions to be able to read and study the Lotus Sutra and to benefit from it). In Zen they talk about the wordless transmission, but they also clarify there is nothing actually transmitted. So, if Mantrayana includes something else beyond verbal mantras, it seems logical to me to ask what that is.




"In Zen they talk about the wordless transmission, but they also clarify there is nothing actually transmitted."

That can't mean what it literally says.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Mon Apr 22, 2013 4:31 pm

dude wrote:"In Zen they talk about the wordless transmission, but they also clarify there is nothing actually transmitted."

That can't mean what it literally says.


What has been transmitted from Buddha to Kashyapa then?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby MalaBeads » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:17 pm

Astus wrote:
dude wrote:"In Zen they talk about the wordless transmission, but they also clarify there is nothing actually transmitted."

That can't mean what it literally says.


What has been transmitted from Buddha to Kashyapa then?


Of course, we have no way of knowing. But it could be just that insight rose in Kashyapa's mind and Buddha was satisfied.

:shrug:
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby plwk » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:31 pm

"In Zen they talk about the wordless transmission, but they also clarify there is nothing actually transmitted."

That can't mean what it literally says.


What has been transmitted from Buddha to Kashyapa then?


Of course, we have no way of knowing. But it could be just that insight rose in Kashyapa's mind and Buddha was satisfied.

:shrug:
And I always thought that this tale is regarded as apocryphal.....
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby MalaBeads » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:45 pm

[/quote]And I always thought that this tale is regarded as apocryphal.....[/quote]

Don't know. Could be apocryphal, could be actual, could be......?
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby conebeckham » Mon Apr 22, 2013 5:59 pm

The very word "Tantra," or རྒྱུད་ means "succession" or continuum, as well as "lineage," and a host of other nuanced meanings. So, at least in Vajrayana, there's explicitly some "transmission."

I'll leave it to others to decide what that "thread" is, and to define it in language. But it should be clear to anyone with even a slight grasp of Vajrayana tradition that "Transmission" is "more than mythical."
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby MalaBeads » Mon Apr 22, 2013 6:23 pm

Unless, of course, you are using the word "myth" as the OP did, meaning something " sacred" etc.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby conebeckham » Mon Apr 22, 2013 8:30 pm

MalaBeads wrote:Unless, of course, you are using the word "myth" as the OP did, meaning something " sacred" etc.



That's not exactly it...this:
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.


...Was the OP's definition, (A good one, IMO), which differs a bit from the definitions he quoted.

In general parlance, the gist is "untrue story," with perhaps religious or spiritual overtones, but the dictionary definition from that first post talks about myth being concerned with deities or gods, and notes it a "folktale" when those deities or gods become human. Buddhist transmission is, I think we'd all agree, a bit problematic by that definition--define "deities or gods" vis a vis Buddha--that's the subject of many a thread around here, on it's own.

But forgetting the "untrue story" bit, and forgetting "deities and gods".....returning to the OP's own stated definition:

The passing of "myth" by "word of mouth" is also a key element in many of these definitions. From my personal experience, "Empowerment" occurs in the nexus of body, speech, and mind --when all three elements of the participants are involved. In that sense, in Vajrayana at least, true "Empowerment" isn't merely the passing of a story via mouth-to-ear. Nor can it be transmitted merely "verbally"--in this instance, say, by reading it oneself from a book.

This is why I think "Dharma transmission" is more than a myth. But as I noted, the insitutional conferral is not necessarily "Dharma transmission," and I believe I agree with the OP that such conferral could be considered as mythical....according to this definition:

A fiction or half-truth, especially one that forms part of an ideology.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby pueraeternus » Tue Apr 23, 2013 1:28 pm

plwk wrote:And I always thought that this tale is regarded as apocryphal.....


Master Shengyen did regard it as apocryphal. He mentioned it in a book, but I can't remember which one.
When I set out to lead humanity along my Golden Path I promised a lesson their bones would remember. I know a profound pattern humans deny with words even while their actions affirm it. They say they seek security and quiet, conditions they call peace. Even as they speak, they create seeds of turmoil and violence.

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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby Astus » Tue Apr 23, 2013 2:26 pm

Just as the majority of the Zen stories, the "Flower Sermon" is fictional. The reason I mentioned is that it shows that what is transmitted is nothing but the direct understanding of the nature of mind. When one sees the nature of mind, that is receiving the transmission from mind to mind. That's why it is said that there is nothing actually transmitted. In fact, there is nothing actually realised either. Not seeing is true seeing.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby VirgilMorrison » Sun Sep 01, 2013 4:23 pm

Indrajala wrote:
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.

Thanks for sharing exact mean of enlightenment.. I was dealing it as black and white so thanks for making it clear
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby jeeprs » Mon Sep 02, 2013 5:14 am

Astus wrote:Just as the majority of the Zen stories, the "Flower Sermon" is fictional. The reason I mentioned is that it shows that what is transmitted is nothing but the direct understanding of the nature of mind. When one sees the nature of mind, that is receiving the transmission from mind to mind. That's why it is said that there is nothing actually transmitted. In fact, there is nothing actually realised either. Not seeing is true seeing.


Still say that interpretation errs on the side of nihilism. 'Nothing is transmitted' and 'nothing is seen' is a slippery slope to rationalizing the normal state. It may be the case that 'the Flower Sermon' is apocryphal, but such myths convey great truths. 'Not seeing' doesn't mean 'there is nothing to see'. It is a reference to negation, to emptiness, and to the non-substantial nature of all manifest existence - and that is something very few people ever see.

This is the problem with many interpretations of Zen, particularly Dogen's zen. It lends itself almost exactly to exactly this kind of reading. It is the reason I am re-considering whether Zen is something I am actually interested in studying any more. After all, if these proponents are correct, there really is no point.
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Re: Myth in Buddhism

Postby VirgilMorrison » Mon Sep 02, 2013 6:55 am

VirgilMorrison wrote:
Indrajala wrote:
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
led lighting 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.

Thanks for sharing exact mean of enlightenment.. I was dealing it as black and white so thanks for making it clear
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