The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

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The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Malcolm » Sun Apr 03, 2011 7:27 pm

The problem with Buddhist philosophy in general (I only really understood this after studying Tibetan Medicine) is that Buddhists often become stuck in dry, fixed categorizations. The way it is presented, there is very little engagement with process in Buddhist dharma language.

Dharma language is often quite presented overly taxonomical ways, and as such, people who indulge in Buddhist philosophy tend to resemble brittle taxidermists or dry intellectual morticians -- always trying to pretty up the cadavers of Buddhist tenets of which they are fond.

Buddhism is a living tradition -- not a bunch of tenet systems in a book. It is an evolving system, the sum of two and a half millennia of both awakened and unawakened people engaging with the meaning of Buddha's awakening, and the awakening of those who came after the Buddha.

Buddhism did not spring out fully formed, like Athena from Zeus' forehead. It evolved, slowly, adapting itself to time and place.

If Buddhism is to survive and continue to be relevant, it must evolve and meet the demand of those who are newly trying to engage with the meaning of awakening.

Otherwise, Buddhism is in danger of becoming a museum piece.

N
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Astus » Sun Apr 03, 2011 8:30 pm

1. Don't you think it is through studying the Buddhist heritage that it can be gradually understood? Simply by translating a text to another language is a major part of the process and when a term like duhkha is rendered into suffering/stress/unsatisfactoriness/dis-ease/pain/etc. it is already an acculturation and transformation.

2. When it comes to the point that something has to be explained to an audience (written or oral) that explanation must fit the time and place otherwise hardly anyone could actually understand it. In fact, it is quite impossible to present Buddhism as if it were a frozen object.

(3.) It is a Western concept that it is possible at all to have a fixed history and museums can show and preserve the past for the present. The very act of displaying something in a museum transforms the object. But this is just a side note.
"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: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Apr 03, 2011 8:42 pm

I was talking one time to a Ngakpa friend of mine and we were discussing his foray into Hindu Tantra, mainly studies of the cult of Kali, the discussion then got around to various teachers here in Greece that were attempting to meld Buddhism with other Eurpean mystical religions: ancient Greek cults, freemasonry, etc... My view is that the Buddhism we are practicing here in Greece should be kept as close as possible to the traditions brought here by various lineages. Now my friend accused me of orthodoxy, and I seem to fit into the brittle taxidermists/dry intellectual morticians that you are describing, but my logic is this: The stage of development that Buddhism finds itself in right now (here in Greece) is way too immature for us to be trying to "spice it up" or to make it "evolve". It would be like trying to prune a seedling, more likely than not it will lead to its premature death. Unfortunately we still need to (at this point of historical development) be orthodox in our practice, language and philosophy.

I believe that Buddhism in the West will "evolve", but you can't make it evolve, it will evolve through our continued practice. When we reach a certain level of attainment in our practice then we will also have the wisdom to add and subtract from Buddhism. It's no use doing it prematurely though.

When Ju Mipham was visiting Dhagpo Kündröl Ling in France he "discovered" a number of protectors living in the mountains surrounding the monastery and these protectors were added into the main protector practice. This is how Dharma evolves. Realised beings adding to range of practice and pracitioners following these practices.

Then, of course, there are Western tulkus, if they take up their education and practice, the Dharma will start to evolve through their enlightened action. Unfortunately not many of the western tulku are taking up the path. The founder of Dhagpo Kündröl Ling, Gendeun Rinpoche, has incarnated as a westerner but the parents (being westerners) are not keen on cooping up the child in a Tibetan monastery. But at this stage that is what is required. Western tulku may start to alter the face of Buddhism but that's a long way off still. And it seems that western tertons are a longer way off in the future.

So grin and bear it , put down virtuous roots and who knows, next time around you may be studying under a western rinpoche with a fresh (but valid) approach to Buddhism.
:namaste:
"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: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Andreas Ludwig » Sun Apr 03, 2011 8:55 pm

The problem with Buddhist philosophy in general (I only really understood this after studying Tibetan Medicine) is that Buddhists often become stuck in dry, fixed categorizations. The way it is presented, there is very little engagement with process in Buddhist dharma language.


That's why I became a Shin-Buddhist :smile:

Gassho

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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Malcolm » Sun Apr 03, 2011 9:05 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:I was talking one time to a Ngakpa friend of mine and we were discussing his foray into Hindu Tantra, mainly studies of the cult of Kali, the discussion then got around to various teachers here in Greece that were attempting to meld Buddhism with other Eurpean mystical religions: ancient Greek cults, freemasonry, etc...


Not what I am talking about.

I believe that Buddhism in the West will "evolve", but you can't make it evolve, it will evolve through our continued practice. When we reach a certain level of attainment in our practice then we will also have the wisdom to add and subtract from Buddhism. It's no use doing it prematurely though.


Not talking adding and subtracting. Talking about sapwood as opposed to dead wood.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Astus » Sun Apr 03, 2011 9:11 pm

Another thing about how Buddhism has changed already through Western influence. The way Theravada is understood today not just in the West but in Asia too is partially because of Western presence in the region. This influence is also true in Japan, plus the development Western Zen communities. Chinese Buddhism got its new impetus in the 19th century from Taixu (whose disciple was the other great master Yinshun) who thought of modernising Buddhism based on his experience of European culture. And I think Tibetan Buddhism had to make its changes since the monks started preaching to a growing number of Westerners, although they seem to be the most traditionalist of all, or it's just that their culture and story is part of the attraction.
"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: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Malcolm » Sun Apr 03, 2011 9:12 pm

Astus wrote:1. Don't you think it is through studying the Buddhist heritage that it can be gradually understood? Simply by translating a text to another language is a major part of the process and when a term like duhkha is rendered into suffering/stress/unsatisfactoriness/dis-ease/pain/etc. it is already an acculturation and transformation.


I am suggesting that there is a constant danger of "Dharma ossification".

In fact, it is quite impossible to present Buddhism as if it were a frozen object.


On the contrary, Tibetans have managed to do so with spectacular success. There has not been a new idea in Tibetan Buddhism since about 15th century. Tibetan Buddhism is intellectually frozen. I would venture it is the same with all forms of Buddhism.

N
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Apr 03, 2011 9:43 pm

Namdrol wrote:Not talking adding and subtracting. Talking about sapwood as opposed to dead wood.
I have olive tree orchards which I tend in my exceedingly limited spare time, and I can assure you that the only way to keep trees alive is to prune them, add fertiliser, dig around the roots (and when they are young) give them water.

Evolution is change. Change requires adding and subtracting. It is inevitable. We saw it when Buddhism went East and North, when it was influenced by invaders from the West and the North and we will see it now that it has been transplanted to the "West".

It will evolve or it will die. It's that simple. Question is what is our role in this evolution?
:namaste:
"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: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Malcolm » Sun Apr 03, 2011 9:49 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Namdrol wrote:Not talking adding and subtracting. Talking about sapwood as opposed to dead wood.
I have olive tree orchards which I tend in my exceedingly limited spare time, and I can assure you that the only way to keep trees alive is to prune them, add fertiliser, dig around the roots (and when they are young) give them water.



Yes, you remove deadwood.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Anders » Sun Apr 03, 2011 9:51 pm

Namdrol wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:
Namdrol wrote:Not talking adding and subtracting. Talking about sapwood as opposed to dead wood.
I have olive tree orchards which I tend in my exceedingly limited spare time, and I can assure you that the only way to keep trees alive is to prune them, add fertiliser, dig around the roots (and when they are young) give them water.



Yes, you remove deadwood.


Can you offer some general examples of 'deadwood' in this day and age?
"Even if my body should be burnt to death in the fires of hell
I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Heruka » Sun Apr 03, 2011 9:57 pm

Anders Honore wrote:Can you offer some general examples of 'deadwood' in this day and age?


from my POV.

temples for one? the constant bowing and scraping another?

not related to philosophy at all....
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Apr 03, 2011 10:02 pm

Namdrol wrote:Yes, you remove deadwood.
Live branches as well. If the tree does not have the right shape and size you can't climb it to pick the olives. ;-)
:namaste:
"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: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Malcolm » Sun Apr 03, 2011 10:05 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Namdrol wrote:Yes, you remove deadwood.
Live branches as well. If the tree does not have the right shape and size you can't climb it to pick the olives. ;-)
:namaste:


Yes, proper proper pruning is necessary for a healthy productive shrub or tree.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Will » Sun Apr 03, 2011 10:10 pm

Skip the metaphors Malcolm, just give a sappy solution to the problem as defined by you.
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Malcolm » Sun Apr 03, 2011 10:21 pm

Will wrote:Skip the metaphors Malcolm, just give a sappy solution to the problem as defined by you.



For example, in order to become expert in Madhyamaka, first you have to become expert in Abhidharma. Now, Abhidharma is interesting, but at least in Mahayāna, no one practices according to Abhidharma any more.

Many parts of the Mula require that one becomes educated in tenets no one accepts anymore anyway.

There are many other problems of this sort.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Pero » Sun Apr 03, 2011 10:31 pm

Namdrol wrote:On the contrary, Tibetans have managed to do so with spectacular success. There has not been a new idea in Tibetan Buddhism since about 15th century. Tibetan Buddhism is intellectually frozen. I would venture it is the same with all forms of Buddhism.


What do mean by a "new idea"? What kind of new idea would you like? I don't understand.
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Malcolm » Sun Apr 03, 2011 10:32 pm

Pero wrote:
Namdrol wrote:On the contrary, Tibetans have managed to do so with spectacular success. There has not been a new idea in Tibetan Buddhism since about 15th century. Tibetan Buddhism is intellectually frozen. I would venture it is the same with all forms of Buddhism.


What do mean by a "new idea"? What kind of new idea would you like? I don't understand.



Meaning that intellectual development of Tibetan Buddhism is frozen.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

" The one who teaches the benefits of peace,
he is said to be a ṛṣī; the others are the opposite of him."

-- Uttaratantra
Malcolm
 
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Will » Sun Apr 03, 2011 10:33 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Will wrote:Skip the metaphors Malcolm, just give a sappy solution to the problem as defined by you.



For example, in order to become expert in Madhyamaka, first you have to become expert in Abhidharma. Now, Abhidharma is interesting, but at least in Mahayāna, no one practices according to Abhidharma any more.

Many parts of the Mula require that one becomes educated in tenets no one accepts anymore anyway.

There are many other problems of this sort.


Do not know if any suttas talk about a Dharma ending age, but this sutra does: http://www.sutrasmantras.info/sutra10.html

There the problem is strictly on the side of monastics whose practice degenerates or disappears. The intellectual presentation of the Dharma has little to do with it, compared to poor motivations, qualities and preparations of the lay and particularly the monastic Buddhists. The "ossification" of the monastics, who are the holders & teachers of the Dharma is the nut of it. But the cycles must run the rounds it appears.
Revealing one essence: this means the inherently pure, complete, luminous essence, which is pure of its own nature. -- Fa-tsang
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Pero » Sun Apr 03, 2011 10:39 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Pero wrote:
Namdrol wrote:On the contrary, Tibetans have managed to do so with spectacular success. There has not been a new idea in Tibetan Buddhism since about 15th century. Tibetan Buddhism is intellectually frozen. I would venture it is the same with all forms of Buddhism.


What do mean by a "new idea"? What kind of new idea would you like? I don't understand.


Meaning that intellectual development of Tibetan Buddhism is frozen.


I don't understand what that means. Let me try asking like this, where should it develop more? Or, are you saying it should develop in the sense of presenting the same teachings but in a different manner or that there should be an entirely new teaching?
Although many individuals in this age appear to be merely indulging their worldly desires, one does not have the capacity to judge them, so it is best to train in pure vision.
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby devilyoudont » Sun Apr 03, 2011 11:28 pm

Pero wrote:I don't understand what that means. Let me try asking like this, where should it develop more? Or, are you saying it should develop in the sense of presenting the same teachings but in a different manner or that there should be an entirely new teaching?

Ossification. -_-

Let's put it this way. Compare the history Buddhism in India to that of every other part of the world. (except Japan, where Buddhism developed in ways eerily analogous to American Christianity) Indian Buddhism was anything but static. Through the incorporation of genuinely new ideas, new teachings, new ways of thinking and looking at things, Buddhist philosophy was in a true state of growth right until its extinction. Compared to that, Tibetan Buddhism is like a museum. In India, Buddhism was a school of philosophy tended by sages and scholars. Elsewhere, it became a faith warded against the slightest change by uncreative, humorless priests.
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