The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby conebeckham » Mon Apr 04, 2011 7:40 pm

I think Nagarjuna must have been a philosopher, or, rather, must have understood the various positions of philosophical schools extant at his time. This is obvious.

I think of him, however, as the Anti-Philosopher.

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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Mr. G » Mon Apr 04, 2011 10:41 pm

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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Apr 05, 2011 8:47 am

I believe that Buddhist philospohy starts to become stale or stilted if it loses its connection to Buddhist practice. In the Pali Canon I get the feeling that all the Sutta (that are discussions of philosophical points) have as their goal the clarification of philosophical points in order for the practitioner to progress (to realise the Buddhist path). There do not seem to be many instances of "pure" philosophy.

The Abhidha...ma is a perfect example of the interweaving of philosophy and practice. Study of Abhidha...ma gives a solid philosophical basis in a short period of time (compare, for example, having to memorise the Abhidhamma sangaha to having to extract all that information by reading all the Sutta). Okay, it's a dry read BUT it is all there.

When philosophy becomes an end in itself then it becomes irrelevant. Buddhism is not a philosophical system, it is a practice that leads to liberation. Sometimes I get the feeling that discussion should only regard practice. Any discussion should give rise to clarification that causes practice to progress (ie brings us a step closer to enlightenment), if it doesn't then it just idle chatter.
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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."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Astus » Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:29 am

Buddhist Philosophy - the wisdom part - is about the correct view and liberating insight. It is the final practice so to say since precepts and meditation is about reaching wisdom. Its liveliness is a matter of understanding and application. For instance saying that there are five aggregates is a philosophical concept. If one sees those five as they are within the realm of personal experience it can bring about liberation. If it's left on the level of ideas, well, than it's just an idea. But it's up to the student to use it.
"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 » Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:46 am

Astus wrote: For instance saying that there are five aggregates is a philosophical concept. If one sees those five as they are within the realm of personal experience it can bring about liberation.
Well actually I think you will find that the Buddha saw the existence of the five aggregates and then taught about them in order that others may recognise/see them. I don't think it was like: "Hmmmmm..... I've got this idea, human existence is a consequence of, or based upon the five aggregates, I think I better contemplate that one. Now where's a damn bodhi tree when you need one?"
: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 Indrajala » Tue Apr 05, 2011 10:58 am

Namdrol wrote: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.


There is also a tendency to defer to dictionary definitions of Buddhist lexical items rather than placing more weight on more empirical understandings of various ideas and so on. I think both need to be considered. One example of this is deferring to definitions given by Abhidharma texts as if they were as canonical as sūtra.

The thing to keep in mind is that Buddhist traditions are actually oral traditions with a written canonical backing. One will also discover that there are prescribed methods and ethics and then the reality.


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.


I think to some extent there is actively evolution in process. There are various modern Chinese Buddhist leaders that formulated Humanistic Buddhism in response to the circumstances that they lived through. They rationalize their changes and 'modernization of Buddhism' not just through common sense reasoning, but also with reference to the canon. The fruit of their efforts is an ongoing revival of Buddhism in Taiwan where countless numbers of people who would otherwise probably not have had anything at all to do with Buddhadharma now participate in and actively study Buddhism.

I have observed that there is less emphasis and teachings on suffering than used to generally exist in Chinese Buddhist thought, but you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. The point here is that Buddhism is vibrant and growing in Taiwan because leaders refrained from cloistering themselves on mountains and instead actively engaged society. At the same time they reworked their Buddhist thinking to be compatible with modern industrialized capitalist society. There are problems, but in any case they have been successful and the results show it.

On the philosophical side of things, too, some thinkers like the late Master Shengyan studied Western Philosophy and references it in his works. He was also not dogmatic when it came to ideas about the literal existence of Mount Sumeru and so on.
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Astus » Tue Apr 05, 2011 11:17 am

"the Buddha saw the existence of the five aggregates"

There are no such things as the five aggregates but they're arbitrary categories for human experience probably based on current soul/mind concepts of that era. That's why I say it is a philosophical concept. There are other such categories known in the early scriptures, like the 6 indriya, 12 ayatana, 18 dhatu set; or when the Buddha uses the "seen, heard, sensed, cognised" (diṭṭha, suta, muta, viññāta) series what could also be used for meditation (e.g. SN 35.95).
"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 Mr. G » Tue Apr 05, 2011 12:06 pm

In my personal experience from studying the Kosha right now is one of practicality. The classes I'm taking have a nice blend philosophy as well as applying that theory in a direct way. For me it all comes down to "what is Right View", and how can I integrate this into my personal practice (and daily life). Without knowing what Right View is, meditation will only cause afflictions without curing them. Personally I'm not that interested whether Mt. Sumeru is 84,000 yojanas high or the weight of all the devas clothing (though it is interesting). I'm more concerned with taking theory and applying it practically.

Perhaps a White Paper needs to be written. :smile:
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    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Sherab Dorje » Tue Apr 05, 2011 12:08 pm

Astus wrote:There are no such things as the five aggregates but they're arbitrary categories for human experience probably based on current soul/mind concepts of that era. That's why I say it is a philosophical concept. There are other such categories known in the early scriptures, like the 6 indriya, 12 ayatana, 18 dhatu set; or when the Buddha uses the "seen, heard, sensed, cognised" (diṭṭha, suta, muta, viññāta) series what could also be used for meditation (e.g. SN 35.95).
Really?
Parivatta Sutta: The (Fourfold) Round
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1997–2011At Savatthi. There the Blessed One said, "Monks, there are these five clinging-aggregates. Which five? Form as a clinging-aggregate, feeling as a clinging-aggregate, perception as a clinging-aggregate, fabrications as a clinging-aggregate, consciousness as an a clinging-aggregate.

"Now, as long as I did not have direct knowledge of the fourfold round with regard to these five clinging-aggregates, I did not claim to have directly awakened to the unexcelled right self-awakening in this cosmos with its devas, Maras, & Brahmas, in this generation with its priests & contemplatives, its royalty & common people. But when I did have direct knowledge of the fourfold round with regard to these five clinging-aggregates, then I did claim to have directly awakened to the unexcelled right self-awakening in this cosmos with its devas, Maras, & Brahmas, in this generation with its priests & contemplatives, its royalty & common people.

"The fourfold round in what way? I had direct knowledge of form... of the origination of form... of the cessation of form... of the path of practice leading to the cessation of form.

"I had direct knowledge of feeling...

"I had direct knowledge of perception...

"I had direct knowledge of fabrications...

"I had direct knowledge of consciousness... of the origination of consciousness... of the cessation of consciousness... of the path of practice leading to the cessation of consciousness.

"And what is form? The four great existents[1] and the form derived from them: this is called form. From the origination of nutriment comes the origination of form. From the cessation of nutriment comes the cessation of form. And just this noble eightfold path is the path of practice leading to the cessation of form, i.e., right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

"For any priests or contemplatives who by directly knowing form in this way, directly knowing the origination of form in this way, directly knowing the cessation of form in this way, directly knowing the path of practice leading to the cessation of form in this way, are practicing for disenchantment — dispassion — cessation with regard to form, they are practicing rightly. Those who are practicing rightly are firmly based in this doctrine & discipline. And any priests or contemplatives who by directly knowing form in this way, directly knowing the origination of form in this way, directly knowing the cessation of form in this way, directly knowing the path of practice leading to the cessation of form in this way, are — from disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, lack of clinging/sustenance with regard to form — released, they are well-released. Those who are well-released are fully accomplished. And with those who are fully accomplished, there is no cycle for the sake of describing them.

"And what is feeling? These six classes of feeling — feeling born of eye-contact, feeling born of ear-contact, feeling born of nose-contact, feeling born of tongue-contact, feeling born of body-contact, feeling born of intellect-contact: this is called feeling. From the origination of contact comes the origination of feeling. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of feeling. And just this noble eightfold path is the path of practice leading to the cessation of feeling...

"And what is perception? These six classes of perception — perception of form, perception of sound, perception of smell, perception of taste, perception of tactile sensation, perception of ideas: this is called perception. From the origination of contact comes the origination of perception. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of perception. And just this noble eightfold path is the path of practice leading to the cessation of perception...

"And what are fabrications? These six classes of intention — intention with regard to form, intention with regard to sound, intention with regard to smell, intention with regard to taste, intention with regard to tactile sensation, intention with regard to ideas: these are called fabrications. From the origination of contact comes the origination of fabrications. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of fabrications. And just this noble eightfold path is the path of practice leading to the cessation of fabrications...

"And what is consciousness? These six classes of consciousness — eye-consciousness, ear-consciousness, nose-consciousness, tongue-consciousness, body-consciousness, intellect-consciousness: this is called consciousness. From the origination of name-&-form comes the origination of consciousness. From the cessation of name-&-form comes the cessation of consciousness. And just this noble eightfold path is the path of practice leading to the cessation of consciousness, i.e., right view, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration.

"For any priests or contemplatives who by directly knowing consciousness in this way, directly knowing the origination of consciousness in this way, directly knowing the cessation of consciousness in this way, directly knowing the path of practice leading to the cessation of consciousness in this way, are practicing for disenchantment — dispassion — cessation with regard to consciousness, they are practicing rightly. Those who are practicing rightly are firmly based in this doctrine & discipline. And any priests or contemplatives who by directly knowing consciousness in this way, directly knowing the origination of consciousness in this way, directly knowing the cessation of consciousness in this way, directly knowing the path of practice leading to the cessation of consciousness in this way, are — from disenchantment, dispassion, cessation, lack of clinging/sustenance with regard to consciousness — released, they are well-released. Those who are well-released are fully accomplished. And with those who are fully accomplished, there is no cycle for the sake of describing them."

Notes
1.Dhatu: the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, & the wind property.
Having knowledge of is not cognising, ie perception through the sense organ of mind?
: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 Astus » Tue Apr 05, 2011 1:54 pm

See the definition(s) of aggregates. All the different aggregates are made of different sensory data, thus they're simply terms to encompass lot of experience but there is no form, etc. aggregate in and of itself to be experienced. The diversity is most apparent in the different dharmas put under samskara in abhidharma texts. Another major difference is in vijnana when there can be 6, 8 or even 9 of them in Mahayana although it is still called a single aggregate. Thus the aggregates are only names even in the early texts.
"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 Mr. G » Tue Apr 05, 2011 2:38 pm

Astus wrote:See the definition(s) of aggregates. All the different aggregates are made of different sensory data, thus they're simply terms to encompass lot of experience but there is no form, etc. aggregate in and of itself to be experienced.


Hi Astus, perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but when speaking of the material aggregate, it is composed of the 5 sense organs and 5 sense objects. So for example the sense organ of smell is composed of a patch of atoms that detects the different odors. The sensory data would be the sense object of odor.
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Astus » Tue Apr 05, 2011 3:49 pm

"Hi Astus, perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but when speaking of the material aggregate, it is composed of the 5 sense organs and 5 sense objects. So for example the sense organ of smell is composed of a patch of atoms that detects the different odors. The sensory data would be the sense object of odor."

That is all right. The disagreement is simply on the nature of the aggregates whether they're things to be experienced or philosophical concepts.
"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 » Tue Apr 05, 2011 4:10 pm

Astus wrote:"Hi Astus, perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but when speaking of the material aggregate, it is composed of the 5 sense organs and 5 sense objects. So for example the sense organ of smell is composed of a patch of atoms that detects the different odors. The sensory data would be the sense object of odor."

That is all right. The disagreement is simply on the nature of the aggregates whether they're things to be experienced or philosophical concepts.



The skandhas, āyatanas and dhātus are phenomenological categories i.e. headings for experience.
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Mr. G » Tue Apr 05, 2011 9:17 pm

Yup, understood.
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby retrofuturist » Wed Apr 06, 2011 12:19 pm

Greetings,

Namdrol wrote:The skandhas, āyatanas and dhātus are phenomenological categories i.e. headings for experience.

:thumbsup:

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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Apr 06, 2011 12:49 pm

Astus wrote:See the definition(s) of aggregates. All the different aggregates are made of different sensory data, thus they're simply terms to encompass lot of experience but there is no form, etc. aggregate in and of itself to be experienced.
Isn't this true of any object of meditation and/or experience? Take metta for example. It can be expressed/experienced as a bodily action/sensation, as a psychological quality, as an emotional quality, and/or as a spiritual quality.

Even the four elements (dhatu) when meditated upon as kasina are composed of a number of ideas, perceptions and sensations. Does that mean that fire (for example) is an arbitrary category?
: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 Astus » Wed Apr 06, 2011 1:05 pm

Yes, even fire is an arbitrary category. Buddhists in ancient India when categorised fire knew nothing about chemical burning and nuclear fusion, nor did they thought of the fire element in terms of thermodynamics. But if we use fire element in the Buddhist sense all that could be included. And yes, it is true, everything is an arbitrary category, a conceptual thing. A good example is how different languages categorise the world in different ways.
"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 » Thu Apr 07, 2011 12:59 am

gregkavarnos wrote:
Astus wrote:There are no such things as the five aggregates but they're arbitrary categories for human experience probably based on current soul/mind concepts of that era. That's why I say it is a philosophical concept. There are other such categories known in the early scriptures, like the 6 indriya, 12 ayatana, 18 dhatu set; or when the Buddha uses the "seen, heard, sensed, cognised" (diṭṭha, suta, muta, viññāta) series what could also be used for meditation (e.g. SN 35.95).
Really?
Parivatta Sutta: The (Fourfold) Round
translated from the Pali by
Thanissaro Bhikkhu
© 1997–2011

… "And what is perception? These six classes of perception — perception of form, perception of sound, perception of smell, perception of taste, perception of tactile sensation, perception of ideas: this is called perception. From the origination of contact comes the origination of perception. From the cessation of contact comes the cessation of perception. And just this noble eightfold path is the path of practice leading to the cessation of perception...


Sharks can sense electrical fields and birds can sense magnetic fields … so there must be more than six classes of perception if the discussion is not confined to just humans. The point is that the Buddha's teachings were based on knowledge and concepts of that era as Astus pointed out. We have to decide what are facts and what are just skilfull means.
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby muni » Thu Apr 07, 2011 7:56 am

Coming back to the museum piece example, if the teachings aren't emerging into our daily life in a openess, compassion in as well conventional as ultimate way benefitting all, the environment, then new or old philosophy is a museum piece only.

This is like sitting in the middle of gold while being poor.
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Anders » Thu Apr 07, 2011 12:33 pm

ok, so a problem with Buddhist philosophy has been diagnosed, so what is to be prescribed for it?

Are people like Reginald Ray and Ken McLeod the way forward for 21st century Buddhism?
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I would endure it for myriad lifetimes
As your companion in practice"

--- Gandavyuha Sutra
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