Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

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Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby Jnana » Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:19 pm

Hi all,

For those who haven't yet heard, there's a new book by Ponlop Rinpoche entitled Rebel Buddha: On the Road to Freedom.

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    “Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche shatters old myths and sweeps away cultural baggage, presenting the essence of the Buddha’s teachings in a fresh, contemporary voice. With uncommon clarity and authority, he offers a new vision for the future of Buddhism that is at once shocking and hopeful. This is a small book with a big message that is timely and important.”—Pema Chödrön, author of When Things Fall Apart
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby Indrajala » Tue Nov 16, 2010 1:32 pm

What is it with people feeling the need to "do away with cultural baggage" when it comes to Buddhism?

Looking at one review on Amazon:
Ponlop, part of the global diaspora, argues for Buddhism removed from the Asian decorations that cloak its power. He presents an accessible program of self-liberation from mental constructs and religious dogma. He expands upon two lectures that present dharma teachings with nearly no Buddhist vocabulary or Tibetan references. He explains how Buddhism in a globalized era demands freedom from exotic rituals, colorful trappings, or hidebound formulas that hold back both jaded Easterners and gullible Westerners from the essence of what the rebellious Buddha taught as a science of the mind.


This review is particularly disheartening and racist.

It isn't that bad to visit Buddhism in a different culture. Most of the time such perceptions of "cultural baggage" are due to western arrogance towards Asian cultures where the expectation is that they and their religions should conform to western notions of rationality and spiritual taste. You might even find it humbling to have to adapt yourself to a foreign culture. I speak this from experience.
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby justsit » Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:44 pm

Rinpoche discusses how Buddhism is adapted in every new culture where it takes root, whether that is Tibet, China, Japan, or America. DPR was raised in the household of HH the 16th Karmapa, completed 3 year retreat, finished first in his class at shedra, and received a completely traditional Tibetan Buddhist training. However, he also visited the US in the 1980's as a young teen, returned to attend Columbia University, then became a US citizen in the 1990's. He is in somewhat of a unique position (for a Tibetan lama) in that he has been able to not only closely observe both cultures for an extended period of time, but to fully embrace both, and he now offers his insights into what a uniquely American Buddhism may look like. The process is only beginning; it remains to be seen what will develop, but Rinpoche is convinced that the cultural forms that were relevant in Tibet are distinct from the Tibetan teachings on Dharma, and that many (not all!) traditional cultural accretions ultimately will hinder deep understanding of how to live the Buddha's teachings right here, right now, in 2010 in America.

Rinpoche is pushing the limits here, and apparently pushing some buttons as well. However, his point, so far as I have read in "Rebel Buddha," is to challenge us to explore and question without fear. Our American cup may look very different from a Tibetan cup; is the water pure?
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby Mr. G » Tue Nov 16, 2010 3:56 pm

So does he explain how Buddhism and in particular meditation from a Vajrayana perspective will be taught without cultural baggage?
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby justsit » Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:24 pm

Haven't gotten that far yet...will have to get back to you ;)
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby muni » Tue Nov 16, 2010 4:49 pm

Cultural rules and outerly appearances and so on aren't to focus on too much, as many misunderstandings are arising through those. Rather what is really important to understand as; impermanence, emotion is pain, clinging to an inherent one, understanding is beyond concepts...

In the West one can get lost among the many outerly cultures Buddhism showes. Like exotic or whratful pictures can easy lead to totally misunderstanding. In the East like in the himalayas it can help people to see the importance to follow the teachings themselves as well and not only come for empowerments, not only think the teachings are for fortunate ones in monasteries only.

Didn't read that book. Don't think Rinpoche will reject something what is wholesome.
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby Jnana » Tue Nov 16, 2010 5:19 pm

Huseng wrote:What is it with people feeling the need to "do away with cultural baggage" when it comes to Buddhism?

It isn't that bad to visit Buddhism in a different culture. Most of the time such perceptions of "cultural baggage" are due to western arrogance towards Asian cultures where the expectation is that they and their religions should conform to western notions of rationality and spiritual taste. You might even find it humbling to have to adapt yourself to a foreign culture.

Have you ever spent much time in Western Tibetan Buddhist dharma centers surrounded by Western students? If you have you might well understand what Rinpoche is getting at. What one can often encounter is people who are eager to conform to the outward Tibetan cultural appearances and not much more. The degree of conformity sometimes borders on the ridiculous, i.e. everything "Tibetan" is good and everything "Western" is bad.

I speak from experience.
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby Indrajala » Tue Nov 16, 2010 5:24 pm

Yeshe D. wrote:
Huseng wrote:What is it with people feeling the need to "do away with cultural baggage" when it comes to Buddhism?

It isn't that bad to visit Buddhism in a different culture. Most of the time such perceptions of "cultural baggage" are due to western arrogance towards Asian cultures where the expectation is that they and their religions should conform to western notions of rationality and spiritual taste. You might even find it humbling to have to adapt yourself to a foreign culture.

Have you ever spent much time in Western Tibetan Buddhist dharma centers surrounded by Western students? If you have you might well understand what Rinpoche is getting at. What one can often encounter is people who are eager to conform to the outward Tibetan cultural appearances and not much more. The degree of conformity sometimes borders on the ridiculous, i.e. everything "Tibetan" is good and everything "Western" is bad.

I speak from experience.


Yes, I've been around Western students of Tibetan Buddhism. Sure, there are many who like to emulate their vision of Tibetan culture and downplay anything from their native culture, but that's only a minority.

My point is that many people are quick to identify and eliminate anything they believe to be "cultural baggage" and dismiss it.
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby Jnana » Tue Nov 16, 2010 5:27 pm

mr. gordo wrote:So does he explain how Buddhism and in particular meditation from a Vajrayana perspective will be taught without cultural baggage?

What need is there for Tibetan cultural baggage when it comes to vajrayana meditation?
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby Jnana » Tue Nov 16, 2010 5:41 pm

Huseng wrote:My point is that many people are quick to identify and eliminate anything they believe to be "cultural baggage" and dismiss it.

Rinpoche isn't "many people." He's a fully qualified Tibetan lama. This honest and open appraisal by him is actually long overdue. I know senior Western lamas who've been aware of this charade for many years -- a few have even been quite public about it. Of course, just because it's now being addressed by a Tibetan lama doesn't mean that much may come of it, but it never hurts to point out the elephant in the room.
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby Mr. G » Tue Nov 16, 2010 8:01 pm

Yeshe D. wrote:
mr. gordo wrote:So does he explain how Buddhism and in particular meditation from a Vajrayana perspective will be taught without cultural baggage?

What need is there for Tibetan cultural baggage when it comes to vajrayana meditation?


I didn't say there was a lack, or need thereof. What I asked was how he teaches Vajrayana without the cultural baggage for people of different capacities.
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby catmoon » Tue Nov 16, 2010 8:39 pm

mr. gordo wrote:I didn't say there was a lack, or need thereof. What I asked was how he teaches Vajrayana without the cultural baggage for people of different capacities.


How? By writing books and speaking to people.

If you are looking for specific examples of what is or is not discarded as "cultural baggage" maybe it's time to read his book.

One way would be to take the sutras, which are in a highly repetitive form designed to ease memorization and chanting, and reduce them to bulleted lists suitable for use on overhead projectors. Then you could website them with hypertext cross referencing. The Western way of learning is based on minimal redundancy, so the teachings could be presented in forms that accomodate that.
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby Mr. G » Tue Nov 16, 2010 9:05 pm

catmoon wrote:How? By writing books and speaking to people.


Like Stephen Batchelor? I'm looking for specifics.

If you are looking for specific examples of what is or is not discarded as "cultural baggage" maybe it's time to read his book.


Which was why I was hoping for someone who did read the book to give me a quick rundown. Like many of us, I have many books awaiting to be read.

One way would be to take the sutras, which are in a highly repetitive form designed to ease memorization and chanting, and reduce them to bulleted lists suitable for use on overhead projectors. Then you could website them with hypertext cross referencing. The Western way of learning is based on minimal redundancy, so the teachings could be presented in forms that accomodate that.


Like the abhidharmakosa then in terms of lists.
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby Pero » Tue Nov 16, 2010 10:01 pm

What I don''t understand whenever this discussion comes up is, what exactly is this infamous cultural baggage considered to be? :shrug:
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby catmoon » Wed Nov 17, 2010 2:26 am

Pero wrote:What I don''t understand whenever this discussion comes up is, what exactly is this infamous cultural baggage considered to be? :shrug:


Well the reason people avoid specifics is, just about anything one names will turn out to be someone's most cherished practice. And that would start a fight.

Someone mentioned Batchelor and his approach. Personally I think he's a prime example of someone trying to pare off the accumulated customs of two millenia. However, I think he has cut a little too deep, and he has cut out a core doctrine or two. Others disagree.

Besides, there is always the possibility that a cultural accretion is of substantial value. It would be unwise to discard them all just because they are cultural add ons.
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby Mr. G » Wed Nov 17, 2010 3:47 am

catmoon wrote:
Someone mentioned Batchelor and his approach. Personally I think he's a prime example of someone trying to pare off the accumulated customs of two millenia. However, I think he has cut a little too deep, and he has cut out a core doctrine or two.


I agree, which was why I'm hoping to see a more detailed response from members who have read the book. I know I've added it to my list of books to read. In particular I'd like to see how Ponlop Rinpoche teaches meditation from a Vajrayana POV.
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    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby heart » Wed Nov 17, 2010 9:41 am

Pero wrote:What I don''t understand whenever this discussion comes up is, what exactly is this infamous cultural baggage considered to be? :shrug:


Good question, seems to be mainly directed against Vajrayana. You hear very little about the cultural baggage from the Zen tradition. Could it be a question of interior design?

/magnus
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby Mariusz » Wed Nov 17, 2010 11:32 am

heart wrote:
Pero wrote:What I don''t understand whenever this discussion comes up is, what exactly is this infamous cultural baggage considered to be? :shrug:


Good question, seems to be mainly directed against Vajrayana. You hear very little about the cultural baggage from the Zen tradition. Could it be a question of interior design?

/magnus


I guess it deals with our popular streotypes and scepticism but also with our unbiased willingnes to pick up the new challenges. Seems to me, tibetan masters very like to give Mahamudra and Dzogchen teachings to westerners, more than to tibetans? But we hardly have the result. Maybe we are somehow predisposited.
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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby justsit » Wed Nov 17, 2010 4:30 pm

One example of culturally based form that DPR mentions is chanting in Tibetan. Most (of course, not all) American students do not know Tibetan. When chanting, they use English phonetic pronunciation, and consequently the pronunciation is often wrong, and the meaning missed. Rinpoche suggests that since the original language of dharma is Sanskrit or Pali, and was only translated into Tibetan much later when the dharma went to that country, why not use English translation in this country? Please note - he does not say that all chanting in Tibetan is wrong, or useless, etc., just that for most Americans, it is not necessary. He also specifies that the translation must be good. In addition, in a later talk to his students, he emphasized the importance of intention.


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Re: Rebel Buddha: On The Road To Freedom

Postby Hanzze » Wed Nov 17, 2010 6:12 pm

Dear Yeshe,

thanks for sharing! I guess the title without Buddha would do a step more forward :-)
:twothumbsup: great in anyway!
Just that! :-)
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