What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 16, 2013 3:19 pm

futerko wrote:Surely humanism treats the human subject as central, so the utopian project of pure land, engaged humanism, or even new-age attempts to graft humanism onto Buddhism can only ultimately be to the detriment of Buddhism's emancipatory potential?


The core of the problem lay in the premise which assumes saṃsāra can be fixed.

However, saṃsāra cannot be fixed.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby futerko » Wed Oct 16, 2013 3:32 pm

Indrajala wrote:
futerko wrote:Surely humanism treats the human subject as central, so the utopian project of pure land, engaged humanism, or even new-age attempts to graft humanism onto Buddhism can only ultimately be to the detriment of Buddhism's emancipatory potential?


The core of the problem lay in the premise which assumes saṃsāra can be fixed.

However, saṃsāra cannot be fixed.


Right. What I am saying here is that, on a philosophical level, the idea of the possibility of a complete subject seems to mirror the idea of the possibility of a worldly utopia. So its really no surprise that humanism remains deluded by this. The issue here for me is a sort of "blind spot" of humanism which displaces this idea of wholeness from the individual onto society as a whole, in effect making it a totalitarian ideology in disguise.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 16, 2013 3:38 pm

futerko wrote:Right. What I am saying here is that, on a philosophical level, the idea of the possibility of a complete subject seems to mirror the idea of the possibility of a worldly utopia. So its really no surprise that humanism remains deluded by this. The issue here for me is a sort of "blind spot" of humanism which displaces this idea of wholeness from the individual onto society as a whole, in effect making it a totalitarian ideology in disguise.


Are you alluding to the idea in humanism that disagreeable elements in society inevitably have to be purged or re-educated in order to progress towards the envisioned utopia?

You incidentally see that with New Atheists at times: if only those pesky superstitious nut jobs dropped their religions we could live in peace.

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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby futerko » Wed Oct 16, 2013 3:43 pm

Indrajala wrote:
futerko wrote:Right. What I am saying here is that, on a philosophical level, the idea of the possibility of a complete subject seems to mirror the idea of the possibility of a worldly utopia. So its really no surprise that humanism remains deluded by this. The issue here for me is a sort of "blind spot" of humanism which displaces this idea of wholeness from the individual onto society as a whole, in effect making it a totalitarian ideology in disguise.


Are you alluding to the idea in humanism that disagreeable elements in society inevitably have to be purged or re-educated in order to progress towards the envisioned utopia?

You incidentally see that with New Atheists at times: if only those pesky superstitious nut jobs dropped their religions we could live in peace.

Image


Exactly. I would add that, to me at least, humanism and Buddhism seem fundamentally incompatible, so in effect it would seem that one has to give way to the other. I suspect that what you are seeing as the loss of tradition is just the tip of the iceberg.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 16, 2013 3:51 pm

futerko wrote:Exactly. I would add that, to me at least, humanism and Buddhism seem fundamentally incompatible, so in effect it would seem that one has to give way to the other. I suspect that what you are seeing as the loss of tradition is just the tip of the iceberg.


I think Humanism appeals to a lot of Buddhists, both in Asia and the west, simply because a lot of people simply don't really believe in saṃsāra any longer. They might nominally say they believe in rebirth, but their planning, institutions and so forth don't seem to indicate a pressing concern for saṃsāra and the uncertainties it brings. On the other hand, charity work, social work and activism all tie in nicely with modern values based on the premise of perpetual progress, which is not only technological and scientific, but also moral (for instance, we have progressed in the sense of allowing women equal rights).

I've met Theravadin and Tibetan monks alike who want to justify their existence as monks by building schools and clinics. Saṃsāra doesn't seem to factor into their future planning. Progress is assumed as matter of fact, so in order to keep up with it they might as well further it along rather than standing by the wayside and becoming irrelevant and backward.

Asking people to support communities which are focused primarily on addressing saṃsāra is a tough sell to a lot of modern folks. With Tibetan Buddhism this is less so, but then they are the last form of Buddhism to "enter modernity", so to speak, so a greater appreciation for pre-modern values is to be expected.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby futerko » Wed Oct 16, 2013 4:21 pm

Indrajala wrote:Asking people to support communities which are focused primarily on addressing saṃsāra is a tough sell to a lot of modern folks.


Certainly the need for popular appeal has much to do with this, as it has been in the past, but maybe with the changing context, and the tendency for "modern values" to appropriate whatever they come into contact with...

On the other hand, I've come across quite a lot of modern academic critical theories such as post-structuralism and post-humanism which seem to be uncovering certain ideological structures that can in principle be squared with some of the core truths outlined by the Buddha.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby longjie » Thu Oct 17, 2013 11:27 am

Indrajala wrote:
longjie wrote:For what it's worth, I wouldn't care if the temples were made of twigs and straw if people were actually learning the Dharma from them, and using that Dharma to practice cultivation in earnest. Real cultivation and accomplishment breathes life into Buddhism, not painted wood and ornate carvings.


It is this kind of attitude which neglects tradition and aesthetics that ensures little attention is paid to necessary aspects of Buddhist traditions.

Artwork and architecture have the ability to invoke certain emotions and feelings, which ensure people have positive associations with the Dharma and Buddhism in general.

Teaching Dharma is a converted shipping container might sound stoic and righteous, but the teachings will hardly have a positive association when given in such an environment.

These artistic "traditions" were all new at one time, and they were no doubt simply the product of the religious culture. For example, the esoteric depictions of devas and bodhisattvas only became popular once the culture of tantra started to seep into Buddhism. For the orthodoxy at the time, these new things may have been borderline heretical. Going back far enough, the Dharma probably was taught in viharas made of twigs and straw (or something equally primitive). Artistic traditions in India changed all the time, and varied in different regions. When Buddhism was thriving most in India, with the most royal patronage, then the art was always changing. In modern Hinduism also, the art is always changing. It's only in isolated places with stagnant religious cultures, where things never change.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby Jikan » Thu Oct 17, 2013 1:14 pm

thread locked temporarily for cleanup

***

I've split the discussion regarding the history & practice of Pure Land Buddhism to this thread:

viewtopic.php?f=53&t=14318

I hope I've done so in a way that ensures continuity in this thread and in the new one. Please continue this discussion (from which I have learned a great deal and I'm sure others have too).
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby Jikan » Thu Oct 17, 2013 2:11 pm

Indrajala wrote:
Are you alluding to the idea in humanism that disagreeable elements in society inevitably have to be purged or re-educated in order to progress towards the envisioned utopia?

You incidentally see that with New Atheists at times: if only those pesky superstitious nut jobs dropped their religions we could live in peace.

Image


That's a straw man argument. If you actually look at what those who are criticizing institutional religion for, you'll find instead that the problem is not with people believing whatever they want, but insisting that their private beliefs are meaningful forms of public knowledge (and therefore a meaningful basis for public policy)--which is to say, it's a criticism of those who seem interested in "packing their religion down our throats." Think of Westboro Baptist Church, the anti-science global warming denial creationists (no longer abusing their own children through homeschooling but now taking over public-school administration), abortion clinic bombers and related domestic terrorists in the US, the Tea Party, &c. This is a worthwhile place to start:

http://www.amazon.com/Creationisms-Troj ... 0195319737

It would be more accurate to articulate their position by rephrasing your summary as follows: "if only those pesky superstitious nut jobs would leave public policy to those who are responsible and competent, and cease abusing their children and ours, we could live in peace."
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby futerko » Thu Oct 17, 2013 2:40 pm

Jikan wrote:That's a straw man argument.


I could refer you a certain ex-Vajrayana practitioner who is now convinced that Tibetan Buddhism is the impediment preventing the smooth flow of democracy in the States!

It is quite a common device and has been studied extensively since the Nazis used it in their own propaganda campaign.

edit; basically it is the idea that "our" system would function perfectly if it were not for some outside impediment, rather than the idea that the system itself must by the very nature of systems remain somehow incomplete, open to future change, and that any system must contain its own internal antagonisms - which is basically what Nagarjuna made explicit concerning the necessary incompleteness of any philosophical system.
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby futerko » Thu Oct 17, 2013 3:11 pm

Thinking further to what you wrote Jikan. I think you've highlighted a situation where many of the groups have such a "logic of wholeness", which reflects the basic form of various interest groups who all employ "identity politics", and as we know all too well, it is in the very nature of "identity" to seek such an artificial and forced "completion".
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Re: What has Chinese Buddhism lost?

Postby Son of Buddha » Fri Oct 18, 2013 12:20 am

Indrajala wrote:
futerko wrote:Surely humanism treats the human subject as central, so the utopian project of pure land, engaged humanism, or even new-age attempts to graft humanism onto Buddhism can only ultimately be to the detriment of Buddhism's emancipatory potential?


The core of the problem lay in the premise which assumes saṃsāra can be fixed.

However, saṃsāra cannot be fixed.


:applause: :applause: :applause: :twothumbsup:

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