short batchelor Critique

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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby jeeprs » Mon May 13, 2013 11:13 am

My beef with Secular Buddhism generally is that Buddhist teaching *is* metaphysical. Deny that it has a metaphysical dimension, you deny the teaching. The 'ending of suffering' is not about being better adjusted and feeling good about yourself. It is about awakening to a completely different dimension of reality. And I think 'secular Buddhism' denies that there can be any other dimension. In that sense, which is the sense that Herbert Marcuse meant, secular Buddhism is 'one dimensional'.

Furthermore, it is quite possible that the awakening of the Buddha is not actually 'religious' in the sense of being 'defineable in terms of ceremonial and liturgical beliefs'. I think the Buddha knows reality in a way which is not available to the natural sciences, nor to 'religion' as generally understood. It's neither. And, he says it is something that can only by known by the 'awakened human'. That assertion is unique in history, as far as I am concerned, and insisting that it is something that must be amenable to scientific analysis sells it short. The Buddha said from the outset his awakening is 'beyond mere logic'. This is not to deprecate logic and reason, but to surpass it. Logic has to fall in line with it - it can't work it out.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Astus » Mon May 13, 2013 11:25 am

JKhedrup wrote:Every major religion's teachings involve tensions, paradoxes, and apparent contradictions. They demand coexistence alongside our contemporary culture of individualism, liberal values, secularism, and scientific scepticism.[/b] We might find notions of no-self and rebirth or Dependent Origination irreconciliable with our personal worldview. But we will have to decide whether grappling with these doctrinal tensions is worth the authentic spiritual fulfilment offered by the progenitor of these tensions, the Triple Gem.


For me this argument sounds very weak. It is basically a "take it or leave it" statement that advocates pure faith while at the same time claims that it is only natural for Buddhism to be irrational and contradictory. Certainly there is space for religious sentiments in Buddhism where you can get "spiritual fulfilment" and all sorts of uplifting experiences. It is something common in religions. At the same time, one of the strong points of Buddhism is in its intellectual sanity, its logical system. Of course, trying to fit it into a scientific or any other world view is the wrong way to grasp the snake of Dharma. Buddhism is about eliminating suffering and not anything else. Also, the only big step required to establish rebirth is to apply the internal-subjective way of direct investigation of our own minds instead of the external-objective based proliferation of theories to confirm the mind-stream as non-material.
"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: short batchelor Critique

Postby JKhedrup » Mon May 13, 2013 12:28 pm

The article was very short which doesn't leave much room for explanation. My feeling is also that the author's first language is not English (strangely, the website where it was posted credits no author).

However, the concerns are expressed succinctly and have provoked a discussion regarding Batchelor's neo-Buddhism, so it did serve its purpose.

To me it is strange that so many are prepared to allow Batchelor's innovations to go unchallenged. Sure, there are greater injustices in the world like terrorism and famine, however if the dharma is completely diluted the path towards liberation and enlightenment will be replaced by yet another system that advocates feeling good right now, rather than transcendence. From the point of view of the true goals Lord Buddha laid out, that is a tragedy.
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 PadmaVonSamba » Mon May 13, 2013 12:31 pm

Tom wrote:
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!


Those two lines by themselves, out of context, mean nothing.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon May 13, 2013 12:35 pm

Jnana wrote: 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.

East/west has nothing to do with it.
I am just commenting on the practice of criticizing others for practicing Buddhism that is different from what the Buddha supposedly had his followers doing.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Dan74 » Mon May 13, 2013 12:38 pm

I have not seen much here that goes to the heart of Batchelor's thesis. Incidentally Thomas Cleary, well-known translator of Chinese and Sanskrit Buddhist texts, in his prefaces seems to express a similar view to Batchelor, namely that the Dharma is essentially a de-conditioning system, so that the practitioner at the end is free to act appropriately to the circumstance rather than being moved by social, familial or other conditioning and belief systems. An anti-meme meme, as someone else put it - the meme that undermines all other memes and self-destructs in the end. Sounds like Madhamaka, doesn't it?

Personally, my beef with these guys is twofold. First that views and doctrines can be useful in undermining less wholesome views, instilling more wholesome habits, inspiring faith and increasing determination. And second is that they seem to reject some views and posit other views in their place rather than remaining truly agnostic - a don't-know-mind or beginners mind as the Zennies say.

I don't mind truly agnostic Buddhism - cultivate an open don't know mind and let things unfold as they do.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon May 13, 2013 1:03 pm

Nikolay wrote: 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.
seeker242 wrote: 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.
gregkavarnos wrote: 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.


I am not suggesting that Batchelor's version of 'Secular Buddhism' is correct,
but I suggest that it is possible to practice dharma
without accepting those things which one cannot (yet) observe directly,
and that Buddhism would be pretty flimsy if this were not the case.

And I would offer that perhaps the notion of "Buddhist superstition"
only occurs because the nature of what is regarded as "unprovable" is not correctly understood.
Karma and rebirth have been brought up as examples.
For example, my friend says she does not believe in either.
But this is because what she thinks karma and rebirth are
(the re-emergence of a continuous self, and some kind of payback system generated by the universe)
is a misunderstanding.


If one really examines what karma and rebirth are,
they are in fact quite observable.

No blind faith is needed.

As scholarly as Batchelor is, I think he is doing the same thing,
but he is taking superstitious misunderstandings
then (incorrectly) claiming those ideas are What Buddhism teaches
and then rejecting those ideas as superstitious Buddhism.
Basically, his is a straw-man argument.

Secular/non-secular are really meaningless distinctions if you look at the matter from the view of emptiness.
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Nikolay » Mon May 13, 2013 1:11 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:And I would offer that perhaps the notion of "Buddhist superstition"
only occurs because the nature of what is regarded as "unprovable" is not correctly understood.
Karma and rebirth have been brought up as examples.
For example, my friend says she does not believe in either.
But this is because what she thinks karma and rebirth are
(the re-emergence of a continuous self, and some kind of payback system generated by the universe)
is a misunderstanding.


if one really examines what karma and rebirth are,
they are in fact quite observable
or at least reasonable inferred by deduction.
No blind faith is needed.

Continuation of individual mind-stream after bodily death is not empirically observable, at least in our current state.
Nor are the effects of our actions on our consecutive states afterwards.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Simon E. » Mon May 13, 2013 1:16 pm

Do we really want to say that the Dharma has nothing for those with more than a little dust in their eyes ?
We may have reservations and concerns about Upayas being lifted from their doctrinal context, but we live in the age as it is. Do we then become purists ?
The plain fact is that many whose lives could be rendered less stressful and who are subsequently more likely to reflect on deeper things, are not interested in the niceties and subtleties of Dharma.
Are we going to say " all or nothing ".....really ?
Drop into a forum like New Buddhist for example. The plain fact is the level of debate is little more than infantile..Are we really saying that the doors of Dharma are therefore closed to them ?
Should we not urge them rather to attend Mindfulness classes and Metta Bhavana courses even if presented by " secular Buddhists ? "
The world is changing. The time when those attending Buddhist talks and courses were usually well-informed beforehand is gone.
Perhaps we need to trust the means more..even if that means turning a blind eye to a degree of intial dissention to the conceptual basis.
Last edited by Simon E. on Mon May 13, 2013 1:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Simon E. » Mon May 13, 2013 1:22 pm

Dan74...I belive it was Dr Susan Blackmore that coined the idea of Buddhism as an " anti meme meme ".

However she is another red rag to a bull.. :smile:
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby BuddhaSoup » Mon May 13, 2013 1:51 pm

Simon E. wrote:Do we really want to say that the Dharma has nothing for those with more than a little dust in their eyes ?
We may have reservations and concerns about Upayas being lifted from their doctrinal context, but we live in the age as it is. Do we then become purists ?
The plain fact is that many whose lives could be rendered less stressful and who are subsequently more likely to reflect on deeper things, are not interested in the niceties and subtleties of Dharma.
Are we going to say " all or nothing ".....really ?
Drop into a forum like New Buddhist for example. The plain fact is the level of debate is little more than infantile..Are we really saying that the doors of Dharma are therefore closed to them ?
Should we not urge them rather to attend Mindfulness classes and Metta Bhavana courses even if presented by " secular Buddhists ? "
The world is changing. The time when those attending Buddhist talks and courses were usually well-informed beforehand is gone.
Perhaps we need to trust the means more..even if that means turning a blind eye to a degree of intial dissention to the conceptual basis.


Good thoughts, Simon, and a fair view. There still needs to be a place for those focused on the Buddhadharma to identify what is traditional and well founded Dharma, and what is "Dharma Lite." "Less filling, tastes great." Maybe less filling, but it really doesn't taste great, especially if you've had a pint of Guinness (or two, or three, or....), or a Pilsner Urquel, or even a New Glarus Spotted Cow.

Maybe some of us in Dharma Wheel appear as snobby as those brewmasters at that look down on the less filling light beer movement (which ended up selling as much or more than the real thing), but there needs to be a place for comment and criticism for those that market the taste challenged lower calorie product as the real deal.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Simon E. » Mon May 13, 2013 2:13 pm

I hear you Buddhasoup..
I guess one of my concerns is always inclusivity.
It concerns me when seekers are told that they must be vegetarian. Or even vegan. It bothers me that seekers are told that they must give intellectual assent to this or that idea.
I think such seekers should know clearly what the Buddhist majority see as axiomatic..but lets not exclude them from the meditation cushion/zafu..Lets make room for them.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby BuddhaSoup » Mon May 13, 2013 2:16 pm

Simon E. wrote:I hear you Buddhasoup..
I guess one of my concerns is always inclusivity.
It concerns me when seekers are told that they must be vegetarian. Or even vegan. It bothers me that seekers are told that they must give intellectual assent to this or that idea.
I think such seekers should know clearly what the Buddhist majority see as axiomatic..but lets not exclude them from the meditation cushion/zafu..Lets make room for them.

:good: :cheers:
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon May 13, 2013 2:30 pm

Nikolay wrote: Continuation of individual mind-stream after bodily death is not empirically observable, at least in our current state.Nor are the effects of our actions on our consecutive states afterwards.

That's because rebirth isn't about a continuation of an individual mind stream, and karma isn't about something happening to the same person from one moment to the next.

It's about the constant replication of concurrent conditions appearing as intrinsically substantial to a "self" that is only a projection of mind to begin with.

If you realize, even intellectually, that there is no self, but merely a rapid series of nearly identical conditions, bodily death is irrelevant. "You" experience rebirth with every new thought. The effects of your actions don't influence your consecutive states. They are your consecutive states.

So, karma and rebirth are observable. What is not observable is what happens after the death of the brain (many other parts of the body can and do die off any time).However, from what is observable, one can make reasonable assumptions and predictions based on deduction.

I wonder if this is what Batchelor is really trying to get at (and perhaps failing to do so), is that a lot of ideas perpetuated as Buddhist still carry Brahamic baggage that suggests a "self" that karma and rebirth are happening to.
(sorry about that dangling participle).
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon May 13, 2013 2:43 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:...(sorry about that dangling participle).

"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 Nikolay » Mon May 13, 2013 2:45 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Nikolay wrote: Continuation of individual mind-stream after bodily death is not empirically observable, at least in our current state.Nor are the effects of our actions on our consecutive states afterwards.

That's because rebirth isn't about a continuation of an individual mind stream, and karma isn't about something happening to the same person from one moment to the next.

It's about the constant replication of concurrent conditions appearing as intrinsically substantial to a self that is only a projection of mind to begin with.

If you realize, even intellectually, that there is no self, but merely a rapid series of nearly identical conditions, bodily death is irrelevant. "You" experience rebirth with every new thought. The effects of your actions don't influence your consecutive states. They are your consecutive states.

So, karma and rebirth are observable. What is not observable is what happens after the death of the brain (many other parts of the body can and do die off any time). From the observable, one can make reasonable assumptions based on deduction.

I wonder if this is what Batchelor is really trying to get at (and perhaps failing to do so), is that a lot of ideas perpetuated as Buddhist still carry Brahamic baggage that suggests a "self" that karma and rebirth are happening to.
(sorry about that dangling participle).

Still, the individual mind-stream either continues after bodily death or does not. The fact that said mind-stream is not a single substantial entity but a constant flow of conditions changes nothing. If I realize intellectually that my current conscious experience is a series of conditions it does not make bodily death irrelevant if, for example, said perception if simply an epiphenomena of brain matter.

In other words, this is a metaphysical question, and here I agree with jeeprs. If you are not a materialist, then your assumption regarding the posthumous existence is reasonable. If you are a materialist, it is not reasonable.

Again, from the practical standpoint it does not matter if our action influence our consecutive states or they are our consecutive states, the experience will be the same: our present actions will determine our future experience. And if there is nothing after bodily death, they will not determine anything.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Tom » Mon May 13, 2013 3:05 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
Tom wrote:
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!


Those two lines by themselves, out of context, mean nothing.


My point: you don't even need to be a Buddhist (begging bowl or not) to point out something is not Buddhism.

Batchelor suggests that most Buddhists today are not practicing in accord with the Buddha's teaching. He suggests another way of practicing and the argument is simply being returned.

Actually, what is being challenged is not that he is innovating, but the "everyone has got it wrong and this is the way it should be done" attitude which actually, given his aversion to anyone else claiming anything about truth, is quite ironic.

Also, this is not an objection to people practicing some secular type mindfulness practice devoid of "superstition" with no soteriological goal. More power to them. It would be ridiculous though if they claimed they practised the real Buddhism.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby shel » Mon May 13, 2013 3:26 pm

JKhedrup wrote:To me it is strange that so many are prepared to allow Batchelor's innovations to go unchallenged. Sure, there are greater injustices in the world like terrorism and famine, however if the dharma is completely diluted the path towards liberation and enlightenment will be replaced by yet another system that advocates feeling good right now, rather than transcendence. From the point of view of the true goals Lord Buddha laid out, that is a tragedy.

Are we seeing scores of enlightened people in undiluted Buddhism? Any alive today?
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Nikolay » Mon May 13, 2013 3:32 pm

Tom wrote:Batchelor suggests that most Buddhists today are not practicing in accord with the Buddha's teaching.

Actually I don't quite understand why this matters for him. If there was nothing "mystical" about Buddha's awakening, and he was just a man like you or me who gave some advice on how to live your current life in a pleasant way, what makes his teaching more valid or valuable than any other teaching? Why are later additions regarded as invalid, if they were made by common people - just like Buddha? Why should we follow Buddha and not Dale Carnegie, for example?

It feel like secular Buddhists are relying on Buddha's authority, while simultaneously denying the very basis of such authority.
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Re: short batchelor Critique

Postby Simon E. » Mon May 13, 2013 3:50 pm

The danger of course inherent in poking one's head above the parapet on threads where emotion is in more supply than is upeksha, is that one will be identified with the Baddies in the Black Hats...so with a deep breath..I dont think that does matter to him Nickolay.
See my earlier quote...where is says that the label " Buddhism " is merely convenient. He says that whether or not he is a Buddhist and indeed whether such a creature actually exists in nature, is not important to him.
Which begs the question ...why not call it something else then ?
As he says, its convenient. He uses upaya-kaushalya drawn exclusively from the Buddhist tradition.
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