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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:24 am 
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How many of them have you visited or looked at in detail?

I mean really, if you do not know what their normal, public practice is like, you can't really say how "traditional" they are on your scale?

It's my impression that the vast majority of western Dharma centers period have public teachings that are accessible by nearly anyone, I know all the ones i've seen or visited have this. There are exceptions i'm certain, but i'd go as far as to say it's almost a "Buddhist value" (if there is such a thing) that meditation teachings be available to non-Buddhists. I have yet to see Dharma center that demands some kind of declaration of faith or similar to go learn basic practice or study basic concepts, nor any place where refuge is a requirement for walking through the door..which leads me to believe that people's issues with "religious Buddhism" spring more from their own baggage and entrenched ideology than the people at the centers.

Far as Batchelor, I don't think he, or people like him are some embattled minority by any means.

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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 7:55 am 
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To be fair, the visual trappings of a traditional Tibetan Buddhist monastery with the Thangkas of Deities and Consorts in bodily union, multi armed Statues, veils of "secrecy," and guru devotion can scream "Religious Buddhism" to the uninitiated regardless of mental baggage, no matter how open and welcoming to people of all faiths / backgrounds / etc the dharma center actually is.

I can see what both of you are saying; there are lots of "secular" meditation dharma groups in Seattle and, for example, there are plenty of folks who attend the basic meditation classes at Sakya Monastery who have no intention of taking Refuge and practicing vajrayana. I've had a recent discussion with one of myTibetan gurus about this. Yes, teachers like Stephen Bachelor or some of the other groups do draw skepticism from "religious" Buddhists, but IMO it's not because of their cultural "Western-ness," it's because of (what you alluded to Arjan Dirkse) the content of what they teach. There's a big difference there.


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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 9:16 am 
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If we are holding on own truth, we are far away from liberation.

A very sick one will not refuge a medicine which can help because it has a Chinese flavour or a Bhutanese or whatever ese...
Dharma revealing liberation is not included in the wish: how I want my dharma serving me, I guess.

“In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.” :smile:

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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 1:11 pm 
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Arjan Dirkse wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:

Quote:
I'd like to see a kind of Western Buddhism that is proud of being Western, instead of apologizing for it.



Who apologizes for being a westerner? What groups expect you to do so?


I only know Batchelor from what I have read about him on this website and a few youtube videos, and it seems he is constantly having to defend his position from people who are claiming he represents "dharma lite".


Batchelor's need to defend his position when its limitations are pointed out differs from any need to apologize for being a Westerner. (There are competent Westerners.)

I'd like to explore Johnny's question a bit: are there Dharma centers or contexts in which one is expected to apologize for being a European or a North American?

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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 1:16 pm 
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supermaxv wrote:
To be fair, the visual trappings of a traditional Tibetan Buddhist monastery with the Thangkas of Deities and Consorts in bodily union, multi armed Statues, veils of "secrecy," and guru devotion can scream "Religious Buddhism" to the uninitiated regardless of mental baggage, no matter how open and welcoming to people of all faiths / backgrounds / etc the dharma center actually is.

I can see what both of you are saying; there are lots of "secular" meditation dharma groups in Seattle and, for example, there are plenty of folks who attend the basic meditation classes at Sakya Monastery who have no intention of taking Refuge and practicing vajrayana. I've had a recent discussion with one of myTibetan gurus about this. Yes, teachers like Stephen Bachelor or some of the other groups do draw skepticism from "religious" Buddhists, but IMO it's not because of their cultural "Western-ness," it's because of (what you alluded to Arjan Dirkse) the content of what they teach. There's a big difference there.


Seattle Monastery, for which I have a great deal of respect, looks and feels like a religious institution because it is one.

The same is true for Tendai Buddhist Institute, to go back to the OP.

It's entirely reasonable, in fact beneficial, to expect religious institutions and leaders to come into meaningful dialogue with science and contemporary thought. (For present purposes, see B. Ziporyn's writings, esp. Being and Ambiguity.) It's entirely different to expect religious institutions and traditions to cease practicing religion, and instead to become secular projects.

And here I am agreeing with Tatsuo again on principle if not on the details.

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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 3:57 pm 
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I am not really saying religious institutions need to become secular institutions, what I'm saying is I like the idea of secular forms of Buddhism, I think having those kind of institutions next to the more religious forms of Buddhism is a good thing.

I'm not defending or criticizing Batchelor since I know little to nothing about him other than that he wrote a book named "Buddhism Without Beliefs".


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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:04 pm 
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Arjan Dirkse wrote:
It's not about getting rid of "cultural baggage", it is using the cultural baggage that is available to present Buddhism in a way that takes into account our current day wisdom and insights; including our modern insights into physics, chemistry, biology, maths, history and so forth.


Good point. Secular Buddhism isn't free from cultural baggage, it's very much a product of time and place.


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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 4:07 pm 
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Tatsuo wrote:
When looking at other traditions we actually see both approaches. Whereas Zen schools have been very willing to let go of all supernatural elements (which may be one of the reasons, that they became very popular among the young generation in the 60s), Vajrayana traditions have preserved many supernatural elements. Both being fairly "successful" it seems that you can take either way - the more traditional and the more secular - and still attract new people.


Yes, interesting observation. Personally I think diversity across the Buddhist traditions is a really good thing - something for every taste.


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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Tue Nov 19, 2013 6:30 pm 
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Arjan Dirkse wrote:
I am not really saying religious institutions need to become secular institutions, what I'm saying is I like the idea of secular forms of Buddhism, I think having those kind of institutions next to the more religious forms of Buddhism is a good thing.

I'm not defending or criticizing Batchelor since I know little to nothing about him other than that he wrote a book named "Buddhism Without Beliefs".


I agree, it is a good thing, as is the expectation that they conclusively argue their positions for readers, rather than just painting a straw man of "religious Buddhism". As Supermax pointed out, it's actually the content of what Batchelor says that gets scrutinized typically, not who he is.

For instance if you pour through the threads on here about Batchelor, and read some of the published criticism of him, it's not like anyone is complaining about him being "secular", the issue is with things like historically misrepresenting Buddhism, things like claiming of implying that The Buddha did not teach Karma or Rebirth..which as far as I know, he kind of alludes to. At the least, he implies they are basically cultural artifacts and not necessary. If I recall correctly he even takes some issue with The First Noble Truth, this is a valid subject for debate, and i'm sure he knows that this is quite the claim in the Buddhist world..it would be weird if people didn't want to debate about a thing like that.There are also many shades of grey here, I'll bet that to some people, i'd be a secular Buddhist, and others would consider me religious.

This really is nothing to do with being prejudiced against all things secular or anything like that, it's just exposing his writings to the same rigor that everything should be exposed to. It might be un-pc to refer to it as Dharma-lite, I don't think that's a good way to put, and I agree it's insulting. I suspect though the reason people do that is that quite often..this is exactly what it is, a very paired down version of Buddhist practice. Now, if that is a good thing, then it can be argued for as such..but I think it's hard to deny that that is exactly what it is, a form of Dharma that eschews a good portion of the view that's normally consider Buddhism.

Also, i'll again point out, most Buddhist centers are full of people interested mainly in mediation, and not so much in Buddhism as a worldview, and many, many great Buddhist teachers teach to exactly this need. Which begs the question, why is "secular Buddhism" even necessary, unless "secular Buddhists' are simply interested in some sense of ownership, or some sense that theirs is the correct version?

I don't mean to be provocative about it, but honestly it seems like a legitimate question to me, if someone can go and learn what amounts to "Buddhism without religion" at a variety of places already, what is the point in such an entity existing independently? Is the goal just Canonical acceptance of some kind?

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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 10:50 am 
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Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Which begs the question, why is "secular Buddhism" even necessary, unless "secular Buddhists' are simply interested in some sense of ownership, or some sense that theirs is the correct version?


I think both. I've come across secular Buddhists who claim they are following "early Buddhism", ie the "original" Buddhadharma before it was "corrupted" with religious and cultural overlays.


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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Wed Nov 20, 2013 10:33 pm 
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Johnny Dangerous wrote:

I don't mean to be provocative about it, but honestly it seems like a legitimate question to me, if someone can go and learn what amounts to "Buddhism without religion" at a variety of places already, what is the point in such an entity existing independently? Is the goal just Canonical acceptance of some kind?


Maybe it's just to get away from the people looking down on it and calling it dharma lite...


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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2013 4:37 am 
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Arjan Dirkse wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:

I don't mean to be provocative about it, but honestly it seems like a legitimate question to me, if someone can go and learn what amounts to "Buddhism without religion" at a variety of places already, what is the point in such an entity existing independently? Is the goal just Canonical acceptance of some kind?


Maybe it's just to get away from the people looking down on it and calling it dharma lite...


I don't think so, if you read most of these folks, it's an actual program to say "the historical Buddha didn't really mean it about Karma, Rebirth etc.", or at least to claim we can throw all that out because it's outdated. I have read a number of these folks, in some areas they make sense, and I respect their opinions. However, they have an agenda just as much as any "religious Buddhist", the only difference is that their agenda is based on the orthodoxy of our time.

I also respect fully their right to be called and accepted as Buddhists (thanks to Malcolm persuasively making an argument on that front, which really changed my mind thanks Malcolm!), but along with that comes the right of other Buddhists to test their claims against historical Dharma, from my point of view.

porpoise wrote:
I think both. I've come across secular Buddhists who claim they are following "early Buddhism", ie the "original" Buddhadharma before it was "corrupted" with religious and cultural overlays.


Problem is, when you ask these people to explain why the earliest texts are full of rebirth, Karma, six realms etc..they either explain it as pure analogy (which actually is ok comparatively, though I think it's a partial answer at best), or they say it's just a "product of the times" and can be dispensed with.

At least with people i've known personally, and from my own point of view having been one of these people (at least the "average joe" version, which of course is different from the scholar version lol), the problem is that they don't always know a lot about Dharma conceptually, they read all this stuff, and they assume it can only mean one thing, something like a definitive statement that there is a spatial location somewhere called "hell", and that is the only mode of understanding statements about such things. They have two categories, religious fundamentalist/literalist, or absolute materialist. Seems like either one of those extremes will prevent somebody from feeling out the nuances involved in interpreting or studying this stuff.

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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Thu Nov 21, 2013 2:49 pm 
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Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Problem is, when you ask these people to explain why the earliest texts are full of rebirth, Karma, six realms etc..they either explain it as pure analogy (which actually is ok comparatively, though I think it's a partial answer at best), or they say it's just a "product of the times" and can be dispensed with.


Yes, and I sense that underlying these alternative explanations there is a significant element of aversion involved, feeling uncomfortable with the straightforward literal explanation. It seems that people of a secular or skeptical disposition really want ( need? ) these alternative explanations to be true.


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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 1:17 pm 
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Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:

I don't mean to be provocative about it, but honestly it seems like a legitimate question to me, if someone can go and learn what amounts to "Buddhism without religion" at a variety of places already, what is the point in such an entity existing independently? Is the goal just Canonical acceptance of some kind?


Maybe it's just to get away from the people looking down on it and calling it dharma lite...


I don't think so, if you read most of these folks, it's an actual program to say "the historical Buddha didn't really mean it about Karma, Rebirth etc.", or at least to claim we can throw all that out because it's outdated. I have read a number of these folks, in some areas they make sense, and I respect their opinions. However, they have an agenda just as much as any "religious Buddhist", the only difference is that their agenda is based on the orthodoxy of our time.

I also respect fully their right to be called and accepted as Buddhists (thanks to Malcolm persuasively making an argument on that front, which really changed my mind thanks Malcolm!), but along with that comes the right of other Buddhists to test their claims against historical Dharma, from my point of view.


In the end it's just an interpretation like any other I think. People can argue about it till the end of the world, but it's really all based on hearsay and intuition. If some text or interpretation feels right to you, you follow it. I personally don' t believe anything written in the early texts about reincarnation is either solid proof for the ideas of the historical Buddha, nor do I see reason to claim to opposite is true, I just don' t know. But if others do choose to believe the things written about it, that's fine.


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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 4:37 pm 
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Arjan Dirkse wrote:
I personally don' t believe anything written in the early texts about reincarnation is either solid proof for the ideas of the historical Buddha, nor do I see reason to claim to opposite is true, I just don' t know. But if others do choose to believe the things written about it, that's fine.


So if you don't base your understanding of the Dharma on Buddhist texts, what do you base it on?


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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Fri Nov 22, 2013 8:00 pm 
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Arjan Dirkse wrote:
In the end it's just an interpretation like any other I think. People can argue about it till the end of the world, but it's really all based on hearsay and intuition. If some text or interpretation feels right to you, you follow it. I personally don' t believe anything written in the early texts about reincarnation is either solid proof for the ideas of the historical Buddha, nor do I see reason to claim to opposite is true, I just don' t know. But if others do choose to believe the things written about it, that's fine.


I think "Don't know" is an honest position to take, rather than feeling obliged to have blind faith if one is

unsure.

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 Post subject: Re: Secular Tendai?
PostPosted: Sun Nov 24, 2013 12:47 am 
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porpoise wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:
I personally don' t believe anything written in the early texts about reincarnation is either solid proof for the ideas of the historical Buddha, nor do I see reason to claim to opposite is true, I just don' t know. But if others do choose to believe the things written about it, that's fine.


So if you don't base your understanding of the Dharma on Buddhist texts, what do you base it on?


On lots of things. Personal experience, interactions with people, etc. But also Buddhist texts. I just don't see all Buddhist texts as literal truth.


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