Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

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Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Luke » Sun Feb 20, 2011 10:24 pm

I find that a recurring problem is when practicing Buddhists encounter people who aggressively believe that Buddhism is really about rejecting all dogma (including much of Buddhism!?) and about finding one's own truth. They generally like to hurl this quote by the Buddha around as their rallying cry:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

While I applaud the enthusiasm of these people, I think that their distaste for many core Buddhist ideas is unwise. Reflecting on and analyzing Buddhist ideas is great and is necessary, but rejecting them just out of reflex ("Oh, that's just dogma! I don't need that! I'm a gloriously free-thinking, non-conformist, seeker of truth!") is foolish.

It's a bizarre situation when these "truth seekers" call themselves the "real Buddhists" (although they often know little about core Buddhist ideas) and call practicing Buddhists "mere conformists."

What are your thoughts about how to deal with such people? How can we show them what real Buddhism is without them distrusting us?
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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Rael » Sun Feb 20, 2011 11:08 pm

did Buddha asked to be called Buddha?

were his disciples Buddhists...

no....

it's a word that we ended up referring to Him .

i wouldn't worry so much but then again this guy really saw something....


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Sp-VFBbjpE
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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Jikan » Sun Feb 20, 2011 11:49 pm

Luke wrote:It's a bizarre situation when these "truth seekers" call themselves the "real Buddhists" (although they often know little about core Buddhist ideas) and call practicing Buddhists "mere conformists."


Well, this is a conformist attitude you're describing, although it doesn't help to point this out to people right away either. (trust me, I've tried this and it doesn't help, even if it's an objective fact. :pig: )

What sometimes works is to listen to people. Not just to what comes to them first on this topic, but to keep them talking and really listen until you find out what they're really looking for. Why are they seeking? Which is another way of asking: where and how are they hurting, and what are their real aspirations?

This takes time.

Eventually, if you're still in contact with such a one, it helps not to go into the details of Buddhist doctrine but instead to describe very basic Mahayana aspirations. If that resonates with them, if they're really interested in turning the corner away from spiritual materialism, then Hotcha! failing that, though, they're just going to keep talking and not listening until the light comes on.

related: new age people are very discursive. ever notice how long Ken Wilber's books are relative to how light the ideas? for starters. Logorrhea.
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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Rael » Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:00 am

If you view everything from a Dharma perspective than it's all good...


When the Buddha turned the Dharma Wheel all manner of teachings are produced to lead people...

new agers are not so bad...and look at me...i'm mad as hell, i know...i have bouts of totaly Buddhist Anarchy...but hey it's not all that bad....

is it :shrug:


tell me if this lil guy looks like he is worried about it..he seems ok
:woohoo:
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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Jikan » Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:26 am

:rolling:

I think Rael may be onto something.

***
The broader point is to find ways to help people however you can. Meet them where they're at. Don't assume you have all the answers, or rather, don't take a position of superiority as though you do. Be a friend, listen, and make sure the licks you get in are good ones. You're likely to learn from the situation too.
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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby kirtu » Mon Feb 21, 2011 12:54 am

Rael wrote:did Buddha asked to be called Buddha?


The Buddha did name himself the Awakened One (or perhaps just Awakened) although the most common designation was the Tathagata.

were his disciples Buddhists...


There are many stock phrases used over and over again in the Pali and the Mahayana sutras to designate followers of the Buddha so yes there were phrasal designations that indicated that a person was a Buddhist.

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Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

“All beings are Buddhas, but obscured by incidental stains. When those have been removed, there is Buddhahood.”
Hevajra Tantra
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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby plwk » Mon Feb 21, 2011 2:45 am

Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Ok so what's 'Buddhism'? What is a 'Buddhist'? :smile:
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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby ground » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:07 am

Be honest ... if you take dependent arising seriously then "Buddhism" is exactly what you want it to be.
Since the term "Buddhism" does not refer to anything that may be directly perceived it is subject to interpretation only. The question only is whether one follows an interpretation that is an established convention of some collective or not.

So it boils down to faith: Who/what do you have faith in? Who and what represents "Buddhism" for you?


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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Ngawang Drolma » Mon Feb 21, 2011 6:12 am

plwk wrote:Ok so what's 'Buddhism'? What is a 'Buddhist'? :smile:


You
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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Luke » Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:04 pm

TMingyur wrote:Be honest ... if you take dependent arising seriously then "Buddhism" is exactly what you want it to be.

I can't comment on how things might appear from the absolute perspective of an enlightened person, but at least from the relative viewpoint, what I mean is that somebody can't take away three of the Four Noble Truths and call it Buddhism, or worse, take away all of the Four Noble Truths and replace them with random Taoist quotes and a hogde-podge of New Age stuff.

The ordinary mind requires labels to sort things out. If a person made the statement that there is no difference between Dick Cheney and the Dalai Lama, that couldn't hold up to scrutiny, except in the most general way of meaning that they are both sentients beings who possess Buddha nature. Distinctions are necessary in ordinary life.

I think a lot is lost when people get into the "all is one" frenzy and start implying that there is no significant difference between Buddha, Krishna, and Jesus.

Independent truth-seekers have the right to do whatever they want. I just wish that they wouldn't misuse the word "Buddhism."
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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Luke » Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:13 pm

Jikan wrote:What sometimes works is to listen to people. Not just to what comes to them first on this topic, but to keep them talking and really listen until you find out what they're really looking for. Why are they seeking? Which is another way of asking: where and how are they hurting, and what are their real aspirations?

That's a very good answer. You reminded me about the importance of compassion and empathy. That's the department where I usually come up short.

Hopefully, I'll increase my compassion and understanding after I've practiced more.

Maybe I shouldn't get angry when I hear people saying foolish things about Buddhism. If I get angry and correct them, perhaps they will then be permanently turned off by Buddhism. On the other hand, it's not good to let ignorance go on unchecked. It's quite a dilemma... :shrug:
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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Jikan » Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:15 pm

I struggle with the same thing, Luke.
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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Lazy_eye » Mon Feb 21, 2011 10:39 pm

Luke,

My experience is that clarity of thought is very difficult when our minds are clouded by defensiveness or aggression. When the discussion starts to turn on "who is and isn't a Buddhist", people tend to react emotionally. Because we have a great deal invested in these terms. We may have decided to self-identify with "Buddhist", so if someone challenges our definition, then our sense of identity gets undermined.

That's a common problem for newcomers. But the more experienced can fall into a similar trap. They start to identify with the idea of being a real Buddhist, as opposed to all the fake Buddhists out there, or knowing more about Buddhism, or really understanding the dharma. A certain conceit sets in. So when some naive person bumbles into the forum and begins coughing up Taoist wisdom or repeated references to the Kalama sutta, there's this urge to set the person right. But ya know, that person may be at a vulnerable point in their exploration of dharma. Maybe they are not sure yet about certain teachings and they are holding onto the Buddha's words to the Kalamas as a way to feel more secure.

So I think the first task is to bring the conversation to a space where we can talk about things calmly, without Ego shouldering its way into the room.

Regards,

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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby ground » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:49 am

Luke wrote:
TMingyur wrote:Be honest ... if you take dependent arising seriously then "Buddhism" is exactly what you want it to be.

I can't comment on how things might appear from the absolute perspective of an enlightened person, but at least from the relative viewpoint, what I mean is that somebody can't take away three of the Four Noble Truths and call it Buddhism, or worse, take away all of the Four Noble Truths and replace them with random Taoist quotes and a hogde-podge of New Age stuff.

Forget about "absolute perspective" there is no such perspective.
But people can call all sorts of things "buddhism". That is what happens all the time.

Luke wrote:Independent truth-seekers have the right to do whatever they want. I just wish that they wouldn't misuse the word "Buddhism."

What is relevant is only your view ... actually not for me ... at least not directly ... but for you.

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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Astus » Tue Feb 22, 2011 9:22 am

I see no problem telling people if they misunderstood something about Buddhism, especially on a forum like this or at a friendly conversation. Another beneficial thing is to point people to the proper sources of information. It is obviously not easy to tell the difference between correct and incorrect websites/books/teachings.
"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: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Luke » Tue Feb 22, 2011 4:32 pm

TMingyur wrote:Forget about "absolute perspective" there is no such perspective.

Are you sure? I always hear about the distinction between the relative and absolute points of view when I read Buddhist books. For example, from the relative point of view, a person and a deity are separate, but from the absolute point of view, the deity is realized to be the true nature of one's mind.

Lazy_eye wrote:That's a common problem for newcomers. But the more experienced can fall into a similar trap. They start to identify with the idea of being a real Buddhist, as opposed to all the fake Buddhists out there, or knowing more about Buddhism, or really understanding the dharma. A certain conceit sets in. So when some naive person bumbles into the forum and begins coughing up Taoist wisdom or repeated references to the Kalama sutta, there's this urge to set the person right. But ya know, that person may be at a vulnerable point in their exploration of dharma. Maybe they are not sure yet about certain teachings and they are holding onto the Buddha's words to the Kalamas as a way to feel more secure.

I understand your warning about conceit. But is it conceit in your view to say that Buddhism is the world religion which takes the Four Noble Truths as its foundation?
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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:09 pm

Hi Luke,

I would take that as a factual, descriptive statement rather than a prescriptive one, and would have no problem with it.
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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Jikan » Tue Feb 22, 2011 5:13 pm

The absolute is not a perspective or a point of view.

Points of view, perspectives, paradigms, worldviews, Zeitgeists, Weltanschauungs, &c are all conventional or provisional.

one of the "characteristics" of the ultimate is that words and discourse are insufficient to describe its content.
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Re: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Feb 22, 2011 7:11 pm

Luke wrote:I understand your warning about conceit. But is it conceit in your view to say that Buddhism is the world religion which takes the Four Noble Truths as its foundation?
UUUuuuhhhhhhhhh...... drools and rolls eyes.... No?!
"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: Buddhism isn't whatever you want it to be!

Postby Luke » Tue Feb 22, 2011 8:50 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Luke wrote:I understand your warning about conceit. But is it conceit in your view to say that Buddhism is the world religion which takes the Four Noble Truths as its foundation?
UUUuuuhhhhhhhhh...... drools and rolls eyes.... No?!

That's what I mean. It's as non-controversial a statement as one can get. That's why I think that as Buddhist, I shouldn't be shy to stand up and promote the Four Noble Truths and other core doctrines of Buddhism. If somebody is wandering in this general direction but doesn't know them, then I think that it's my duty to inform them about them.

And if these New Age types are shocked to find a Buddhist who actually has a firm opinion about something, then they can be shocked!

The Four Noble Truths are the Lion's Roar!
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