Questioning Height

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Re: Questioning Height

Postby Indrajala » Sat Jan 29, 2011 2:06 pm

tobes wrote:I think Thurman makes a good point there, and it really throws a spanner in the works for this discussion. Thanks for bringing it up.

Astus (and I) are presupposing a linear view of history, and conventional space-time. I think that maybe these are good methodological suppositions, if only because they are the suppositions most people hold. I think the danger that Thurman points to is that these may be taken to be more than mere methodological suppositions; they may become ontological.....in which case texts and the ideas contained within them must conform to that ontology.


Standard methods of textual analysis do not take into consideration the potential for meta-realities and yogic insights from valid authorities.

Well, historically this was the case with most Buddhist scholars -- they actually did accept that Maitreya transmitted to Asanga a key text. For them the existence of Tuṣita was axiomatic. However, modern scholars tend to look down on classical methods of scholarship as inferior and unscientific.

Modern textual analysis is done with materialist assumptions and a linear view of history. You can note that the little brown natives in cotton loin clothes did believe that Tuṣita exists, but it doesn't really exist after all, so suggesting the validity of the aforementioned theory about Maitreya and Asanga is out of the question.

Thurman actually takes a bit of liberty and risk in his statement about the authorship of the Mahāyānasūtrālamkāra. He suggests that assuming Tuṣita and Bodhisattvas don't really exist is just as biased as saying that they do exist.


But there is counter problem too isn't there? If we reject a kind of historicist skeptical hermeneutical approach and just go for traditional religious narratives.....then.......don't you end up getting close to the bible belt terrain in America where everything biblical is just believed.

Ultimately, I think this is a bigger danger than crabby, skeptical, scholars. Like all things, balance is warranted.


Why do people often refer to American Christianity when we talk about religious scholarship? I know some of them are quite superstitious and unreasonable people, but their activities are not really relevant to Buddhism in this context. Yes, we don't want to be unreasonable and dogmatic, but the average Buddhist with any actual study of legitimate Buddhology is probably not at risk at all of becoming like a bible thumping American Baptist.

So I don't think there is a danger like you suggest.
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Re: Questioning Height

Postby Jnana » Sat Jan 29, 2011 4:25 pm

Astus wrote:Now, my question is if there's any validity for stating that one teaching is higher than the other.

All versions of Buddhist hermeneutics accept the basic distinction between teachings of definitive meaning (nitārtha) and those of interpretive meaning (neyārtha), as well as the distinction between discernment (prajñā) and skillful means (upāya). According to my understanding of Ju Mipham's criteria for establishing teachings of definitive meaning, both the Mahāyāna second and third turning teachings contain statements of definitive meaning (as well as statements of interpretive meaning). Based on this criteria, I would suggest that there are also some first turning teachings which express definitive meaning. In accord with expressions of emptiness/lack of substance (second turning expressions of definitive meaning), there is SN 22.95, which has been cited as textual authority by Mādhyamaka authors. In accord with expressions of luminous-clarity and adventitious defilement (third turning expressions of definitive meaning), there is AN 1.49-52.

In terms of skillful means (upāya), the Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna methods of pūja and sādhana are an extension of recollection of the buddha (buddhānusmṛti), which dates to the earliest strata of the canonical discourses (and buddhānusmṛti as devatāyoga sādhana can be expanded to include dharmānusmṛti, saṅghānusmṛti, śīlānusmṛti, tyāgānusmṛti, and devatānusmṛti into a unified practice).

Moreover, all Buddhist schools -- including the classical Theravāda -- accept that Nātha (a.k.a. Nāthadeva) bodhisattva is currently residing as a deva in Tuṣita heaven, and that he will be reborn as Ajita and become the next buddha of this world system named Maitreya (Metteyya). It is also accepted that a practitioner who has developed the divine eye (divyacakṣus) and other higher gnoses can perceive and communicate with deities. As we know, the Mahāyāna teachings have simply taken this visionary ability one step further and accept that a practitioner who has developed the divine eye, etc., can also perceive and communicate with with buddhas and advanced bodhisattvas who reside in pure realms beyond this world system. Moreover, by paying homage to them and engaging in pūja and sādhana one can generate merit, which is conducive to helping the practitioner attain buddhahood him or herself. And beyond this, when the practitioner has developed their higher faculties, they can receive teaching instructions directly from these buddhas and bodhisattvas.

This idea of visualizing purelands and buddhas and making offerings to them in order to generate and share merit is also found in the Pāli Tipiṭaka: Therāpadāna Buddhaapadāna. No doubt, people who would like to scrub "early Buddhism" of all such visionary ideas, would find the inclusion of this text in the Pāli Canon quite distasteful. But what is all too often presented these days as "Theravāda Buddhism," is often a rather anemic version of the rich collection of teachings and skillful means which were the common received tradition of all Indian Śrāvakayāna schools.

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Re: Questioning Height

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Jan 29, 2011 4:35 pm

If one person is standing at the south pole and another is standing at the north pole which of the two is higher and which is lower?
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"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."
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Re: Questioning Height

Postby Astus » Sat Jan 29, 2011 5:04 pm

Huseng wrote:Another example to consider is the Mahāyānasūtrālamkārakārikā which while nominally penned by Asanga is said to have actually been composed by Maitreya and transmitted to Asanga.


The Sutralamkara starts with arguing for the authenticity of Mahayana and lists quite a lot of reasons. One of that is that the Buddha hasn't warned about Mahayana, so it is authentic. Putting it in another way, if it is "contemporary" with the Agamas (as the text claims), what did not the Buddha simply state that there is a Mahayana (and others) after? Really, it is not necessary to go to the scholars and wonder why it is that Mahayana teachings keep referring back to those in the Agamas. But even if we put aside historicity, in theory and practice the Agama teachings form the basics of Mahayana.

Yeshe D. wrote:including the classical Theravāda


It is with purpose I don't say Theravada, as that itself is a development from earlier teachings. Also, I'm not arguing for any sort of "protestant Buddhism".

Here's a fine phrasing of the meaning of skilful means:

"If someone comes and asks about seeking buddha, I immediately appear in conformity with the state of purity; if someone asks about bodhisattvahood, I immediately appear in conformity with the state of compassion; if someone asks me about bodhi, I immediately appear in conformity with the state of pure mystery; if someone asks me about nirvana, I immediately appear in conformity with the state of serene stillness. Though there be ten thousand different states, the person does not differ. Therefore,

According with things he manifests a form,
Like the moon [refl ecting] on the water."

(Record of Linji, p. 16, tr. RF Sasaki)
"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: Questioning Height

Postby Jnana » Sat Jan 29, 2011 5:47 pm

Astus wrote:It is with purpose I don't say Theravada, as that itself is a development from earlier teachings. Also, I'm not arguing for any sort of "protestant Buddhism".

Well, there is no way of ascertaining "original Buddhism," as taught by the historical Gautama. The Āgama/Nikāya sūtras very likely contain elements which are developments from "earlier/original" teachings. But there is no way of peeling back these developments to uncover what Gautama actually taught.

What I'm suggesting is that the Mahāyāna skillful means as methods are also found as skillful means in the Āgama/Nikāya sūtras. And the Mahāyāna teachings of definitive meaning as discernment are also found in the Āgama/Nikāya sūtras.

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Re: Questioning Height

Postby Astus » Sat Jan 29, 2011 7:24 pm

Geoff,

Sure, I can agree with those. But I'm not sure if it addresses the issue raised.
"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: Questioning Height

Postby Rael » Sat Jan 29, 2011 7:26 pm

It is weird that today we question the Mahayana and some ridicule the superstitious.....
for the ancient masters seemed to believe the Mahayana as words of the Buddha or transmitted through the Dharma Kaya Body...


ARE modern day superstitions ACTUALLY ancient masters reality....?

I could be wrong...i dunno....but i think they really believed in things like the lotus sutra really happening at Vulture peak and some saw and some didn't.....and then today it's some text composed by a Persian..

I think this is where intellectuality gets in the way....LOL...your very attainment of enlightenment could be riding on your scholastic abilities....

should we shed the scholastic and become dumb to historic evidence....

Just do Grasshopper don't try to figure it out.......lets celebrate mediocrity and find enlightenment
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Re: Questioning Height

Postby Astus » Sat Jan 29, 2011 9:53 pm

Rael wrote:It is weird that today we question the Mahayana and some ridicule the superstitious.....
for the ancient masters seemed to believe the Mahayana as words of the Buddha or transmitted through the Dharma Kaya Body...


People questioned quite a lot of things before too. Just when you say "ancient masters", who do you mean? Like, Xuanzang and Fazang are both ancient masters, just as Dolpopa and Tsongkhapa. There has never been "The Mahayana" but quite a lot of views on it, even within the sutras themselves. I'm not sure it's appropriate at all to polarise between "modern" and "traditional" in this topic.
"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: Questioning Height

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Jan 29, 2011 10:34 pm

High and low, modern and traditional.

How much dualism can fit on one thread?

Let us see... :popcorn:
"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: Questioning Height

Postby tobes » Sun Jan 30, 2011 1:32 am

Huseng wrote:
tobes wrote:I think Thurman makes a good point there, and it really throws a spanner in the works for this discussion. Thanks for bringing it up.

Astus (and I) are presupposing a linear view of history, and conventional space-time. I think that maybe these are good methodological suppositions, if only because they are the suppositions most people hold. I think the danger that Thurman points to is that these may be taken to be more than mere methodological suppositions; they may become ontological.....in which case texts and the ideas contained within them must conform to that ontology.


Standard methods of textual analysis do not take into consideration the potential for meta-realities and yogic insights from valid authorities.

Well, historically this was the case with most Buddhist scholars -- they actually did accept that Maitreya transmitted to Asanga a key text. For them the existence of Tuṣita was axiomatic. However, modern scholars tend to look down on classical methods of scholarship as inferior and unscientific.

Modern textual analysis is done with materialist assumptions and a linear view of history. You can note that the little brown natives in cotton loin clothes did believe that Tuṣita exists, but it doesn't really exist after all, so suggesting the validity of the aforementioned theory about Maitreya and Asanga is out of the question.



Well, I think that modern textual analysis has gone one click beyond materialist assumptions, scientific methodologies and strictly linear views of history. I suppose we could call this method orthodox Buddhology, which has a great fidelity to philology.

But the rise of post-structuralist hermeneutics brings all of these assumptions into question. So, someone like Conze was a great exponent of the orthodox method (and let's be frank: his work is brilliant) but someone like Bernard Faure is a real exemplar of the more post-structuralist genealogical method (it really brings into question the kinds of coherent narratives which come out of the orthodox approach).

And then you have someone like Thurman who is speaking from more inside the tradition.

I personally do not think it's ever a matter of either/or, or that engaging in Buddhist texts necessitates a fidelity to one hermeneutic method. There are different language games involved in different approaches to the text, and they are all fruitful.

So, for example, one could study Conze and gain great insight into the historical formations of the Prajnaparamita, and then an hour later chant the Heart Sutra in Sanskrit or Chinese with a completely different hermeneutical perspective.

I don't see a contradiction in that: but rather a fluency in moving across different language games.

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Re: Questioning Height

Postby tobes » Sun Jan 30, 2011 1:35 am

Huseng wrote:Thurman actually takes a bit of liberty and risk in his statement about the authorship of the Mahāyānasūtrālamkāra. He suggests that assuming Tuṣita and Bodhisattvas don't really exist is just as biased as saying that they do exist.



Yes, I think he's right, and makes an excellent point.

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Re: Questioning Height

Postby tobes » Sun Jan 30, 2011 1:41 am

Huseng wrote:
But there is counter problem too isn't there? If we reject a kind of historicist skeptical hermeneutical approach and just go for traditional religious narratives.....then.......don't you end up getting close to the bible belt terrain in America where everything biblical is just believed.

Ultimately, I think this is a bigger danger than crabby, skeptical, scholars. Like all things, balance is warranted.


Why do people often refer to American Christianity when we talk about religious scholarship? I know some of them are quite superstitious and unreasonable people, but their activities are not really relevant to Buddhism in this context. Yes, we don't want to be unreasonable and dogmatic, but the average Buddhist with any actual study of legitimate Buddhology is probably not at risk at all of becoming like a bible thumping American Baptist.

So I don't think there is a danger like you suggest.


Well, I was being a bit polemical with that comparison; it's probably counter-productive.

But I think there are certainly dangers in only being able to speak, read and understand from within the narrative of a particular tradition.

Particularly, the danger of sectarianism.....which I think has unfortunately been a very persistent tendency in many Buddhisms.

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Re: Questioning Height

Postby Jnana » Sun Jan 30, 2011 2:45 am

tobes wrote:I personally do not think it's ever a matter of either/or, or that engaging in Buddhist texts necessitates a fidelity to one hermeneutic method. There are different language games involved in different approaches to the text, and they are all fruitful.

So, for example, one could study Conze and gain great insight into the historical formations of the Prajnaparamita, and then an hour later chant the Heart Sutra in Sanskrit or Chinese with a completely different hermeneutical perspective.

I don't see a contradiction in that: but rather a fluency in moving across different language games.

Indeed.

All the best,

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Re: Questioning Height

Postby Rael » Sun Jan 30, 2011 3:05 am

gregkavarnos wrote:High and low, modern and traditional.

How much dualism can fit on one thread?

Let us see... :popcorn:

this guy cracks me up... :thanks:

i'm in love....
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Re: Questioning Height

Postby ground » Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:26 am

Rael wrote:ARE modern day superstitions ACTUALLY ancient masters reality....?


I think there are quite a few present day masters that hold the same views ... not to speak of their students.

E.g. a I teacher I really love and who has helped me a great deal also holds some "typically tibetan" views and even teaches these to his students. But I do not want to succumb to those views because I find these views non-conducive. That does however not affect my view of this teacher negatively.


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Re: Questioning Height

Postby Rael » Sun Jan 30, 2011 7:27 am

TMingyur wrote:
Rael wrote:ARE modern day superstitions ACTUALLY ancient masters reality....?


I think there are quite a few present day masters that hold the same views ... not to speak of their students.

E.g. a I teacher I really love and who has helped me a great deal also holds some "typically tibetan" views and even teaches these to his students. But I do not want to succumb to those views because I find these views non-conducive. That does however not affect my view of this teacher negatively.


Kind regards


I think the point is thus.

when you don't analyze the method and practice it works rather well...when you are explained it all was man made and not from Tushita...it no longer works.....

then you have to redo yourself and just use the visualizations and methods without the romance...and it works again....

does that make any sense at all....lol.....

so like the lotus sutra was compiled due to a man's very good knowledge of Buddhism and what the then present day people needed to hear and know....You end up wth great masters like tien tai and mai lo and then that nichiren fellow really believing in the whole actual sci fi act....

soooo no worries ..they created a lot of faith and sparked a lot of evolutionary magic in a lot of people....

heck it worked for me, me old man was cured of a very rare disease, documented by sunnybrook hospital and even made it on CBC radio interview....

anyway ...i was a kid and needed that sort of deal at the time....

i'm more interested in raising me kundalinni now and just feeling the karmic burn ....

i'm more of a raw hard core throw all caution to the wind and ride the edge....it gets me high and people flock around me and want to hang with me......and then there are the visitations and such ....

sadhanas are no longer my bag either, nor is intellectualizing my way ....don't have the grammar skills to do er anywho LOL!!!!!
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Re: Questioning Height

Postby muni » Sun Jan 30, 2011 12:04 pm

tobes wrote:[quote="
If we reject a kind of historicist skeptical hermeneutical approach and just go for traditional religious narratives.....then.......don't you end up getting close to the bible belt terrain in America where everything biblical is just believed.

Ultimately, I think this is a bigger danger than crabby, skeptical, scholars. Like all things, balance is warranted.

:namaste:


We all follow our safe ( okay to get inspired) nose without always being aware of it; how we follow our safe comfort as who will say that simple stories can tell us as much as well educated, historical quality texts in order to go beyond our habitual tendencies or intellectual obscurations? It all depend.
I think those who can cut through these obscurations by such stories are having no other nature than those who go through sceptical trustable approaches. I mean it is not the approach which need purification in wrong and good but our own obscurations.
Ultimately both can be a subtle trap in own chosen comfortable samsara-knowing. Tools are left behind in so called ultimate.
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Re: Questioning Height

Postby Rael » Sun Jan 30, 2011 6:43 pm

It all depends on what you want....

I suppose if your dedicated your life and became a monk and now the internet has shown you that most of what you think is Buddha's teachings cause it says thus i heard isn't really....are you angsty about it...does it cause your role your playing in life to be disturbed...the rules :rules: are no longer rules and the apple cart is upset....

well i would say to you...does it matter...does it really matter....all this stuff works with faith and dedication...

there really are chakras...Native shamans who knew nothing about Buddha raised their kundalinni and evolved..

Under the guise of turning lead into gold Alchemists raised theirs in secret....

oh you want Vajrayana to be the best...oh you want this label called Buddhism to be the ultimate and the robes you wear to be respected like the Pope's demanded of THEIR minions....

well.... apparently somehow we were all fooled :oops: for a reason and now thats blown away :reading: and in this modern age a new paradigm is evolving..... :group:
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Re: Questioning Height

Postby muni » Mon Jan 31, 2011 10:47 am

Without foundation, navigation I run with my silly head against the wall.
It is all up to us, not the teaching. Some translations of teachings who now are spread in the west had maybe to get a change to avoid misunderstandings. Like Dzogpa "Chenpo" can easely be Natural Perfection.
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Re: Questioning Height

Postby Indrajala » Mon Jan 31, 2011 11:04 am

tobes wrote:Well, I think that modern textual analysis has gone one click beyond materialist assumptions, scientific methodologies and strictly linear views of history. I suppose we could call this method orthodox Buddhology, which has a great fidelity to philology.


Sure, but in academic publications I can't say Maitreya taught the text to Asanga as probable truth. I can only say that the little brown natives think or thought so until superior western scholarship showed them the error in their misguided ways.



And then you have someone like Thurman who is speaking from more inside the tradition.


Even if Thurman wasn't inside a tradition, what is so wrong with asserting Asanga had a vision of Maitreya and was taught the text? This same thing still happens nowadays, though it doesn't get as much press coverage.

A nun once showed me some exquisite Classical Chinese poetry which she said was "transmitted" to her. She said she physically wrote the poetry, but it was composed by Bodhisattvas and transmitted to her.

Outside of Buddhism this happens as well. One Indian friend told me about his grandfather back home in India who physically writes texts on mathematics but claims the text is all transmitted to him from some other being beyond the normal physical world.

I think for ordinary people reared in industrialized countries where materialist assumptions are default, such things are unbelievable and suspect, but nevertheless in some "religious" communities at least these things are not unheard of.
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