short batchelor Critique

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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon May 13, 2013 4:27 am

Before anyone starts accusing another person of watering-down Buddhism,
re-defining it for the sake of convenience and not preserving its true nature,
changing it to meet the customs of the day, and so forth,
ask yourself how much food did you get in your bowl,
when you went out begging for alms this morning when the sun came up?

I am 50% Buddhist, and 50% hypocrite.
I would be 100% hypocrite,
except that such a degree of consistency would be contradictory,
but not contradictory enough.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Tom » Mon May 13, 2013 4:42 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:If I am not mistaken, the essence of so-called 'Secular Buddhism' (and hence, the book title Buddhism Beyond Beliefs) is that if you stack up everything in Buddhism that is observable (what might be called 'provable' ) on one side, and everything that is not observable, but is doctrine nonetheless and must be accepted on faith alone (various realms, pure lands, rebirth) on the other side, that it is possible to obtain complete and perfect cessation of suffering (enlightenment) purely from the side of the observable.

That is a perfectly reasonable argument.
.


So, does Bachelor accept the possibility of the cessation of suffering?

To simply say that one can achieve the cessation of suffering without superstition is not enough. It also requires a method. For Buddhism, insights into metaphysical truths (the view of selflessness) are inextricably linked with the soteriological goal of the cessation of suffering.

Here is what Bachelor says about truths:
"For Buddhism 2.0 it is quite irrelevant whether the propositions “life is suffering,” “craving is the origin of suffering,” “nibbna is the end of suffering,” or “the noble eightfold path leads to the end of suffering” are true or not."

and
"As soon as the seductive notion of “truth” begins to permeate the discourse of the dharma, the pragmatic emphasis of the teaching risks being replaced by speculative metaphysics, and awakening comes to be seen as achieving an inner state of mind that somehow accords with an objective metaphysical “reality.” This tendency becomes even more pronounced when “truth” is further qualified as being either an “ultimate” (paramattha) or a merely “conventional” (samutti) truth."


In terms of method he says

One embraces dukkha, that is whatever situation life presents, lets go of the grasping that arises in reaction to it, stops reacting, so that one can act unconditioned by reactivity. This procedure is a template that can be applied across the entire spectrum of human experience, from one’s ethical vision of what constitutes a “good life” to one’s day-to-day interactions with colleagues at work. Buddhism 2.0 has no interest in whether or not such a way of life leads to a final goal called “nibbna.”


It is as if he has come across and misunderstood teachings on the self-liberation of thoughts. In fact I heard him relate the above to dzokchen and mahamudra.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Two questions: distinguishes it from ...what?
and view of ...what?
.


see above
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Tom » Mon May 13, 2013 4:53 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:ask yourself how much food did you get in your bowl,
when you went out begging for alms this morning when the sun came up?
.


I am not sure what this have to do with anything.
When the sun comes up and someone says it is green it is natural for others to object!
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Jnana » Mon May 13, 2013 5:00 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:If I am not mistaken, the essence of so-called 'Secular Buddhism' (and hence, the book title Buddhism Beyond Beliefs) is that if you stack up everything in Buddhism that is observable (what might be called 'provable' ) on one side, and everything that is not observable, but is doctrine nonetheless and must be accepted on faith alone (various realms, pure lands, rebirth) on the other side, that it is possible to obtain complete and perfect cessation of suffering (enlightenment) purely from the side of the observable.

That is a perfectly reasonable argument.

It's a rejection of Buddhist epistemology. And to the extent that he redefines suffering and the cessation of suffering, I don't think it's very reasonable to maintain that it's the Buddha's dharma.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Before anyone starts accusing another person of watering-down Buddhism,
re-defining it for the sake of convenience and not preserving its true nature,
changing it to meet the customs of the day, and so forth,
ask yourself how much food did you get in your bowl,
when you went out begging for alms this morning when the sun came up?

The Buddha taught both laypeople and monastics. Your quesstion would only apply to monastics. And there are monastics who keep the vinaya, even in the West:

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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Jnana » Mon May 13, 2013 5:02 am

Tom wrote:Batchelor's latest stuff continues to reject the traditional presentations of Buddhism, but now he feels the need to overlay his own contrived self-help strategies over the Buddha's teachings.

Through cherry picking Pali sources he argues that the Buddha didn't teach the "four noble truths" and instead recommends we replace these "truths" with what he has coined as E.L.S.A.

Not only is Batchelor cherry picking a few Pāli suttas, and thereby removing them from their traditional context, he also dismantles the suttas that he does use in order to make them fit with his secular worldview. By rejecting karma and rebirth, he has to somehow reinvent foundational teachings such as the four noble truths and dependent origination in order for them to work within his secular framework.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Jnana » Mon May 13, 2013 5:10 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:I haven't read a lot of Batchelor, so maybe it is unfair of me even to comment. My sense is that the 'secular Buddhists' are guilty, at the end of the day, of cherry picking. While Batchelor's focus on the secular teachings of Gautama may be accurate to a degree, Batchelor simply leaves out the teachings of anatta, kamma, and punabbhava because they involve, in Batchelor's view, religion or matters of faith. To my mind, as these teachings were integral to the Buddha's Dhamma, they are integral and necessary if one is to study or practice what we call "Buddhism." If Batchelor wishes to strip away key aspects of the Dhamma, he is free to do so, but I object to his use of the term 'secular Buddhism.' As a scholar pointed out recently regarding the secular Buddhism movement (I think it was a recent Tricycle article), you can't be partially pregnant....

In A Secular Buddhism, Batchelor acknowledges that a traditional, literal reading of the four noble truths as found in SN 56.11 "would seem to leave little if any room for a secular interpretation of the text." So in order to make the four noble truths fit his secularization project, he employs a number of interpretive maneuvers.

First, he calls into question the content of the sutta by relying on the methods of textual criticism. To do this he refers to Norman's philological analysis of SN 56.11, where Norman concludes that "the earliest form of this sutta did not include the word ariya-saccaṃ (noble truth)." Batchelor characterizes this as a "startling conclusion." And apparently, for Batchelor, this philological detail is sufficient evidence for him to rewrite the sutta in a fashion that's more to his liking.

One of the implications that Batchelor wants to draw from this philological analysis is that "the Buddha may not have been concerned with questions of 'truth' at all." However, there are other suttas in the Pāli Nikāyas which the terms "noble" and "truth" are either integral to the discourse itself, or implied by the discourse. For example, in the same Saccasaṃyutta SN 56.28 states:

    Bhikkhus, there are these four noble truths.... In this world ... the Tathāgata is the noble one. Therefore, they are called noble truths.

This correlation between the Buddha as the "noble one" and the "noble truths" wouldn't have any meaning if one were to take the qualification "noble" out of the discourse. Another example, this time pertaining to the qualification of "truths," can be found in SN 56.27:

    These four noble truths, bhikkhus, are actual, unerring, not otherwise. Therefore, they are called noble truths.

Norman himself thought that this qualification of the noble truths as avitathāni anaññathāni "would seem … to be the reason why they are called 'truths.'"

The four noble truths are merely theoretical statements apart from the minds that realize them. Thus, it's entirely appropriate to say that they are unerring truths to be known by unmistaken cognitions. But according to Batchelor, considering them to be truths was a significant part of the degeneration of the ancient Buddhist traditions, transforming the teachings "from a liberative praxis of awakening into the religious belief system called Buddhism."

Batchelor also takes issue with the traditional comparison of the four noble truths to the medical diagnosis of an illness, which he considers to be a later "strained commentarial device with authoritarian undertones, introduced to justify the incongruous ordering of the propositional 'truths.'" However, there is a sutta from the Saṃyukta-āgama (T 99) extant in Chinese translation that takes as its theme exactly this comparison of the noble truths to a medical diagnosis. And according to Ven. Anālayo, in Right View and the Scheme of the Four Truths in Early Buddhism:

    [V]ersions of this discourse can be found in another Saṃyukta-āgama (T 100) that has been partially preserved in Chinese translation, in another discourse preserved as an individual translation in Chinese, in a discourse preserved in Uighur fragments, as a sūtra quotation in Śamathadeva's repertory of canonical quotations in the Abhidharmakośabhāṣya preserved in Tibetan, as a partial sūtra quotation in the Abhidharmakośavyākhya, and as a partial sūtra quotation in the commentary on the Arthaviniścaya-sūtra.

Just because a discourse isn't extant in the Pāli Nikāyas doesn't necessarily mean that it's any less ancient than those that are in the Pāli collections. Indeed, even Buddhaghosa, the author of the Visuddhimagga, knew of this medical diagnosis comparison to the four noble truths, and he was primarily relying on Pāli textual transmissions. So there's little reason to conclude that this diagnostic metaphor was "introduced to justify the incongruous ordering of the propositional 'truths'" as Batchelor suggests, just because it's no longer extant in the Pāli Nikāyas.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Tom » Mon May 13, 2013 5:24 am

:good: Wonderful post!
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Simon E. » Mon May 13, 2013 7:24 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Yeah, that last bit is a great point and probably the best argument for being a little more accommodating of the "secular Buddhists", within reason at least.

It does seem to be so that there are people practicing a (possibly woefully narrow) version of Buddhadharma who would otherwise not be practicing any spiritual path at all.

I'd even wager that a large number of western Buddhists start off with this kind of thing as a foot in the door, some moving on to other things, some sticking around, and some giving up.

Maybe, may be not.
Of one thing I am certain. Its 19 minutes past 7 here in the UK. In the Batchelors' communities in Devon and France and elsewhere in the world The Batchelors' and their students will be finishing the first round of several meditation sessions that will happen through the day.
These will consist of clearly taught and orthodox Anapanasati.
They will spend no time at all posting to Buddhist websites expressing negativity about other people's practice. Or waxing indignant.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Simon E. » Mon May 13, 2013 8:19 am

Jnana wrote:
PadmaVonSamba wrote:If I am not mistaken, the essence of so-called 'Secular Buddhism' (and hence, the book title Buddhism Beyond Beliefs) is that if you stack up everything in Buddhism that is observable (what might be called 'provable' ) on one side, and everything that is not observable, but is doctrine nonetheless and must be accepted on faith alone (various realms, pure lands, rebirth) on the other side, that it is possible to obtain complete and perfect cessation of suffering (enlightenment) purely from the side of the observable.

That is a perfectly reasonable argument.

It's a rejection of Buddhist epistemology. And to the extent that he redefines suffering and the cessation of suffering, I don't think it's very reasonable to maintain that it's the Buddha's dharma.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Before anyone starts accusing another person of watering-down Buddhism,
re-defining it for the sake of convenience and not preserving its true nature,
changing it to meet the customs of the day, and so forth,
ask yourself how much food did you get in your bowl,
when you went out begging for alms this morning when the sun came up?

The Buddha taught both laypeople and monastics. Your quesstion would only apply to monastics. And there are monastics who keep the vinaya, even in the West:

Image

Interesting choice of photograph.
Third from the left front row is Ajahn Succitto. Fourth from the left is Ajahn Amaro. Standing at the back is Ajahn Munindo.
Each of which maintains a good relationship with Martine And Stephen Batchelor.
Check it out.

Ajahn Amaro's breadth of functioning is particularly impressive.
Not only is he Abbott of ( the Theravada monastery ) Amravati , he is a friend of the Batchelors, and he is also a Dzogchen student.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Nikolay » Mon May 13, 2013 8:35 am

I'm not sure what is there to discuss. Denying rebirth is annihilationism, which is a harmful wrong view. Wrong views are not Buddadharma, should not be presented as such or encouraged in any way. Holding wrong views is one of the ten negative actions, and is often listed as among the most harmful of them, on par with killing.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Jnana » Mon May 13, 2013 9:15 am

Simon E. wrote:Third from the left front row is Ajahn Succitto. Fourth from the left is Ajahn Amaro. Standing at the back is Ajahn Munindo.
Each of which maintains a good relationship with Martine And Stephen Batchelor.

It isn't personal Simon. This is a Buddhist discussion forum. Critiquing Batchelor's interpretations of Buddhist scriptures and commentaries isn't about denigrating him as a person.

Simon E. wrote:They will spend no time at all posting to Buddhist websites expressing negativity about other people's practice. Or waxing indignant.

I think Batchelor has generally been treated fairly in this thread so far. But this remark of yours sounds a little indignant, at least to me.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby JKhedrup » Mon May 13, 2013 9:45 am

am 50% Buddhist, and 50% hypocrite.
I would be 100% hypocrite,
except that such a degree of consistency would be contradictory,
but not contradictory enough.


These doctrinal arguments are very important, and I don't think being concerned about the very foundations of Buddha dharma requires being a perfect practitioner.

I am very concerned about hypocrisy, that is why I translate rather than teach. I can't imagine for example sitting on a teaching seat and telling people about the drawbacks of anger etc. when I am still working on these myself.

However, as Buddhists it is very much our concern that the fundamental framework of the dharma is not lost because of brilliant scholars who think they are being expedient. It is precisely because Batchelor is intelligent and convincing that his statements are of concern. The fact that his students are diligently meditating should be lauded, however, it does not mean that the very controversial viewpoints that Batchelor espouses should not be challenged.

Doctrinal debates were a foundation of spiritual life for many in ancient India. They produced some of the Buddhist tradition's most eloquent and profound authors. People who were concerned about the clarity of the doctrine sponsored the publication of such texts.

Practice is wonderful but if we completely lose the essence of the character of Buddhism because of not being concerned about matters of doctrine (and this is not something that is a banal academic nattering about a minor off the wall topic, we are talking about THE FOUR NOBLE TRUTHS), we will lose our precious spiritual heritage.

Out of Lord Buddha's compassion he taught the dharma to us, to allow an academic, no matter how brilliant, to pare it down to something nearly unrecognizable in the name of modernity doesn't fit the definition of a good disciple in my opinion.
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths
-Sakya Pandita
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon May 13, 2013 9:52 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:If I am not mistaken, the essence of so-called 'Secular Buddhism' (and hence, the book title Buddhism Beyond Beliefs) is that if you stack up everything in Buddhism that is observable (what might be called 'provable' ) on one side, and everything that is not observable, but is doctrine nonetheless and must be accepted on faith alone (various realms, pure lands, rebirth) on the other side, that it is possible to obtain complete and perfect cessation of suffering (enlightenment) purely from the side of the observable.

That is a perfectly reasonable argument.
Perfectly reasonable from a scientific-materialist perspective. I agree.

Problem is, my dear PvS, that Mr. Batchelor et al do not stop there. He uses this "perfectly reasonable" base in order to then condemn the great majority of the rest of the 6-7 billion non-Buddhists (according to him) as superstitious, blindly fanatical, unreasonable, unquestioning, ignorant fools. He does this by saying that he rejects the foolish and irrational ideas of karma, rebirth etc... of those backward and dumb Indians (like the Buddha) in preference to the intelligent and logical position of white scientific materialism. At the same time though, he overlooks the historical fact that materialism/annihilationism was one of the major Indian philosophies of the Buddhas time with which the original Indian Buddhists were constantly engaging in philosophical debates. So essentially, even the original Buddhists were (according to his philosophical criteria) not Buddhists, ie he is basically saying that he is more original than the original!!!

If it was a case of live-and-let-live then I believe there would be no problem, but when you throw down the gauntlet you have to be prepared that somebody is going to pick it up and slap you in the face with it (sometimes, repeatedly).

Whatever Batchelor is teaching (and I am sure that it is benefiting his students) it is not Buddhism. It may be Dharma (who am I to judge) but it is not Buddhism.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Simon E. » Mon May 13, 2013 9:53 am

There is nothing wrong with critique. In fact it is necessary in all spheres of rational functioning, including things Dharmic.
And there are good examples of such a process on this thread.
There are also, I would suggest, examples of displaced doubt.
It is always easier to address our own doubts by pointing a trembling finger at heretics, rather than confronting them in our own bosom.
And frankly when we are reduced to pseudo-critique like equating the denial of beliefs to murder than I see no difference between that and the Inquisition.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby tobes » Mon May 13, 2013 10:12 am

I sort of agree with both sides here - I think that there is something slightly psychoanalytic about the need to destroy/refute/deny the heretic.

But I also think that the heretic is a heretic!

Where does this leave us?

Well, there is plenty of bad philosophy around, and plenty of glib or shallow or plain wrong books written about Buddhism. On the scale of things causing intense harm to the world, these things are not worth worrying about.

:anjali:
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Simon E. » Mon May 13, 2013 10:35 am

There is also lots of deep, profound and accurate material around.

Perhaps we should ac-cent-uate the positive. :smile:
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Nikolay » Mon May 13, 2013 10:50 am

Simon E. wrote:And frankly when we are reduced to pseudo-critique like equating the denial of beliefs to murder than I see no difference between that and the Inquisition.

I was expecting something like this.

Nevertheless, holding wrong views is commonly stated to be the most harmful negative action of the mind, just as killing is the most harmful negative action of the body. Among 10 negative actions, these two are most detrimental to one's progress towards liberation. This is, as far as I remember, a common opinion of many prominent Buddhist teachers of the past.

You seem to be operating in some vaguely Christian moral framework (knee-jerk reference to Inquisition being further proof), where killing is a "sin", and sinning means you are a terrible person, thus saying that holding wrong views and killing are most harmful negative actions somehow turns out to mean that holding wrong views is a "sin" on par with murder, and the person holding wrong views is a terrible and evil person, just like a murderer.

Needless to say, this is not what negative actions in Buddhism are about.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Simon E. » Mon May 13, 2013 10:59 am

You are of course free to speculate about the possibility of my holding a " vaguely Christian moral framework " as much as you wish Nickolay if you find that helpful.
Personally I quite happy to reply in terms of karma and karma-vipaka and the place that intentionality plays in the formation of karma-vipaka.
If you see the Batchelors' intentions ( no matter how distorted or otherwise their presentation of Dharma might be ) as equating to those of a murderer...then so be it.
I doubt that we are going to find a form of words to agree on.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby seeker242 » Mon May 13, 2013 11:05 am

PadmaVonSamba wrote:If I am not mistaken, the essence of so-called 'Secular Buddhism' (and hence, the book title Buddhism Beyond Beliefs) is that if you stack up everything in Buddhism that is observable (what might be called 'provable' ) on one side, and everything that is not observable, but is doctrine nonetheless and must be accepted on faith alone (various realms, pure lands, rebirth) on the other side, that it is possible to obtain complete and perfect cessation of suffering (enlightenment) purely from the side of the observable.


Observable from a fully enlightened mind or from a "ordinary" mind? People say rebirth isn't "observable" but the Buddha said he did in fact observe it! So which is it? It has to be one or the other.
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Nikolay » Mon May 13, 2013 11:06 am

I vaguely remember that while negative actions of body and speech may be performed with good intention and thus end up not being negative, this does not apply to the negative actions of the mind. They are inevitably harmful. Good intentions are always nice, of course, but no amount of good intentions can prevent holding wrong views from being harmful.
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