The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Astus » Thu Apr 07, 2011 1:17 pm

Anders Honore wrote: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?


I'd think people like Charles Muller, Thomas & JC Cleary, R.E. Buswell, Jeffrey Hopkins, Erik Kunsang, etc.; and Ven. Amaro, Brahmavamso, Sujato, etc., also Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse, Dzogchen Ponlop, HHDL, etc. are the outstanding and influential figures of current Western Buddhism. And I emphasise Buddhism here because those who teach only some form of meditation and don't get engaged in philosophical issues, well, they're not significant in developing Buddhist philosophy.
"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 Fruitzilla » Thu Apr 07, 2011 1:30 pm

Anders Honore wrote: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?


If Ken McCleod lived near me, I think I'd take up buddhism again, I really like his way of teaching.
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Jikan » Thu Apr 07, 2011 3:41 pm

Anders poses a great question.

I think ordinary people carrying on in their practice with great rigor and full intention are the way forward for contemporary Buddhism. We need teachers but we don't need cults.

I also think it would be very helpful if we developed more stable Dharma institutions, such as universities, schools, retirement centers, even 'intentional communities' or shared living arrangements.

Total immersion in Buddha Dharma as a lifeworld, that's what I would like to see made possible.

Because what makes philosophy as such (as distinct from an academic exercise or a means to get academic tenure) possible? One of the conditions of possibility for writing something useful to people is to actually know what is useful for people, which basically means you have to go through it, you have to live it. Cultures produce philosophy more than individual, inspired geniuses do. (Someone mentioned Nietzsche earlier... I once read a compelling article that claimed the railway and telegraph system in Europe made Nietzsche's form of thought possible.)

I suppose, then, that I am in complete agreement with S Batchelor when he claims that making a 'culture of awakening' is the real task of making a Buddhist future possible in the North.
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Rael » Thu Apr 07, 2011 6:19 pm

I think ,as my teacher once said the Tulku, there comes a time when reflection of what you have learned is important.

sort of a retreat from your guru and the retreats.

alone time with what you have you learned...

He added caution but he said for some that means putting the meditation cushion away for awhile....he added that is for some, who have come to a certain crossroads....and not to worry if you do....

We make connections with the Dharma...they don't evaporate just because one stops formal practice.

Practice like water and practice like fire and know the difference...

some practice like fire and burn out....I've been there..
You indulge yourself to the point after four or five years between working and practice and teachings and study you just give up....weirdness galore....but i came back and did the same for about another five years.....

then I discovered practice like water.....less is more....

Those intense periods i learned a lot made certain connections above and below...and made a solid base in this body and life...

I'm not as hard on myself as i used to be....

one must know one's bent....
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby tobes » Fri Apr 08, 2011 4:29 am

Namdrol wrote:

Yes, that was part of my point -- but also that in studying Tibetan medicine, I realized that the way we are receiving Tibetan Buddhism is very static and taxonomic, and in more dynamic Dharma systems like Dzogchen and mahāmudra, the desiccated approach of tenet systems is very bad for explaining process and transformations. Meditation is actually a transformative process. Not a tenet.


I agree with the basic thrust of your position: but I think the problem lies not in particular Dharma systems, but in how they are conceived and interpreted. So I think the issue you are pointing to is a methodological problem within Tibetan Buddhism. Not necessarily, a methodological problem with specific Buddhist Dharma's.

The moment any form or Dharma of Buddhism becomes static, it contravenes the very metaphysical logic it purports to demonstrate.....and the soteriological movement it is designed to engender.

The Abhidharma is a very good example here. It can of course be interpreted as a dry, taxonomic, unevolving, scholastic system. Or it could be interpreted as system which is extremely dynamic in character; a system rooted in the fluidity, change and potential which defines the Buddhist account of subjectivity, and therefore, of subjective transformation. Not only can the Abhidharma be interpreted as a dynamic system, the fact that it is designed to provide insights into living processes means that it should be manifest in the immanence of contemporary times: new insights should arise out of it.

So the point here is hermeneutical: an open and dynamic interpretative approach will naturally yield the kinds of transformative and evolving standpoints you advocate.

The question is, what resists this?

To which I would reply, a lack of genuine philosophical engagement. A spirit of inquiry, intellectual honesty (inclusive of critique) and openness. Is it really a wise approach to just memorise texts?

Buddhism, in all of its forms, demands more than simply learning the axioms which somebody else uttered.

:namaste:
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Indrajala » Fri Apr 08, 2011 4:48 am

Jikan wrote:I also think it would be very helpful if we developed more stable Dharma institutions, such as universities, schools, retirement centers, even 'intentional communities' or shared living arrangements.


These are slowly being developed. I know of one Buddhist retirement village back in Canada, but it exclusively serves the Vietnamese community.

It will take a few generations. Buddhism in the west right now is still in its infancy. There are few strong institutions, but many people writing books on Buddhism. Any bookstore will have any number of titles available. This leads people to largely pursue their study of Buddhism on their own rather than long-term with a stable community.

One thing in the coming decades we could look into would be organic farming communes. It would be like those old self-sufficient Chan monasteries where the residents all went to work growing food for themselves. This would address both ecological and economic concerns, as well as allowing full-time study and practice of the Dharma. Such a community would be largely immune to economic hardship because it would be self-sufficient. It would also be eco-friendly.

If we build it, they will come. :smile:
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby LastLegend » Fri Apr 08, 2011 4:58 am

Huseng wrote:It will take a few generations. Buddhism in the west right now is still in its infancy. There are few strong institutions, but many people writing books on Buddhism. Any bookstore will have any number of titles available. This leads people to largely pursue their study of Buddhism on their own rather than long-term with a stable community.


Well said.
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Astus » Fri Apr 08, 2011 9:58 am

"It would be like those old self-sufficient Chan monasteries where the residents all went to work growing food for themselves."

That's a Chan legend. Although monks did some basic works around the monastery (even in Theravada countries they do that) but monasteries were far from being self-sufficient. Also don't forget that monasteries owned large amount of lands where whole villages cultivated the fields and they still required the support of the local government. It's another thing that monastic rules forbid work for renunciates, plus they could earn lot more in a office than on the fields. And if monks and nuns would be self-sufficient what would be the role of laity? It would isolate monasteries even more.

I think the key to the growth of Buddhism is first in transforming it to a philosophy understandable and acceptable to the "literati" and then based on that develop a Buddhism that is good for average people. This is going from wisdom approach to faith approach. Although it could happen that this model is not applicable in the current situation.
"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 » Fri Apr 08, 2011 10:27 am

tobes wrote:To which I would reply, a lack of genuine philosophical engagement. A spirit of inquiry, intellectual honesty (inclusive of critique) and openness. Is it really a wise approach to just memorise texts?
This is definitely required but I believe that if the philosophy, no matter how genuine it is, does not reflect or is not reflected in practice then it is just empty words. And empty words cannot be anything else except stilted, irrelevant and stagnant.

The reason that the weight of Devas clothing or the dimensions of Mt Sumeru are irrelevant is because they have no real impact on the practice of most Westerners. It is unlikely that any of us have experienced the enormity of the axis mundi of our universe let alone brought along a ruler to measure it. It is unlikely that we have had any contact with a Deva let alone need metaphysical scales to weigh their garments.

The core teachings of the Abhidharma though are significant and directly relevant to practice and it is a shame that they are not on the curriculim of the majority of Western Dharma centres and monasteries.
: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 Anders » Fri Apr 08, 2011 11:35 am

gregkavarnos wrote:The core teachings of the Abhidharma though are significant and directly relevant to practice


For whom? I'm not sure I have met anyone in a Mahayana tradition who practices according to the Abidharma.

I dare say, at least from an East-Asian perspective, it's largely irrelevant practically speaking.

It does help make a lot of Mahayana teachings more intelligible, but then again that is largely the point made in this thread. Since the truth of the Buddhadharma is timeless and present here and now in our own minds, it should be possible to mediate this without reference to artefacts of history or a crash course in Buddhist history of ideas.

There is a middle ground in all this of course as there is still immense practical value in the traditional texts and knowledge of the doxographical developments of these goes a great long way in interpreting them. But I think the point here is that the entryway to the main tenets of any living tradition today should simply be their main tenets, related in a way that has immediate and skilful relevance to practitioners today. Nagarjuna, indeed just about any teaching predicated on Hinayana critique, is not that.
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Apr 08, 2011 11:58 am

Anders Honore wrote:For whom? I'm not sure I have met anyone in a Mahayana tradition who practices according to the Abidharma.
If you mean practice "according to Abhidharma" like following a text like the Visudhimagga then I agree, but since the Abhidharma is merely a condensation or distillation of all the wisdom found in the Sutras then everybody practices according to the Abhidharma whether they do so through conscious study of the actual texts or not! :tongue:
For me personally it is easier to turn to the Abhidharma texts to find some factual answer to a practice issue than to try and find a specific sutra that deals with the specific issue. From there an Abhidharma text normally directs/refers you to the source of the information (normally a sutra/sutta) so that you can get a fuller picture.

That is why the Abhidharma is relevant (but hideously under utilised and unappreciated) as a philosophical system.
: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 » Fri Apr 08, 2011 12:00 pm

"Nagarjuna, indeed just about any teaching predicated on Hinayana critique, is not that."

Well said! :applause:

This requirement of prior knowledge is also a reason why teachings from the Nikayas are doing so well in popularity while Mahayana sutras don't really. Also it explains how practical and meditation oriented teachings are well received while a lecture series on the Demonstration of Consciousness Only (Cheng weishi lun) could hardly find an audience beyond a couple of scholars.
"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 Astus » Fri Apr 08, 2011 12:15 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:For me personally it is easier to turn to the Abhidharma texts to find some factual answer to a practice issue than to try and find a specific sutra that deals with the specific issue. From there an Abhidharma text normally directs/refers you to the source of the information (normally a sutra/sutta) so that you can get a fuller picture.


Extracts are how certain people want to present a teaching. Treatises seem easier to study but they're presentations of specific views. Abhidharma texts are not "sutras in brief" but philosophical works by people who imparted their ideas through such medium.

"While the abhid­hamma is presented as being based on the Buddha’s ultimate discernment of ‘mind & matter’, in reality the classical Theravādin abhid­hamma is a schol­astic philo­sophy which is little under­stood, and which, if examined critically, is full of incoher­encies. Within Buddhist tradition, however, the abhidhamma is perhaps more signi­ficant for its purely religious or mystical signi­ficance, rather than as a guide for practice or understanding."
(Bhikkhu Sujato: The Mystique of Abhidhamma)
"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 tobes » Fri Apr 08, 2011 12:19 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
tobes wrote:To which I would reply, a lack of genuine philosophical engagement. A spirit of inquiry, intellectual honesty (inclusive of critique) and openness. Is it really a wise approach to just memorise texts?
This is definitely required but I believe that if the philosophy, no matter how genuine it is, does not reflect or is not reflected in practice then it is just empty words. And empty words cannot be anything else except stilted, irrelevant and stagnant.

:namaste:


Well I don't know how robust and open a philosophical inquiry into Buddhism could be, if it failed to recognise the absolute centrality of practice. Such would be something of a fairly catastrophic failure to understand.

:namaste:
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Sherab Dorje » Fri Apr 08, 2011 12:58 pm

According to tradition, the essence of the Abhidhamma was formulated by the Buddha during the fourth week after his Enlightenment.[1] Seven years later he is said to have spent three consecutive months preaching it in its entirety in one of the deva realms, before an audience of thousands of devas (including his late mother, the former Queen Maya), each day briefly commuting back to the human realm to convey to Ven. Sariputta the essence of what he had just taught.[2] Sariputta mastered the Abhidhamma and codified it into roughly its present form. Although parts of the Abhidhamma were recited at the earlier Buddhist Councils, it wasn't until the Third Council (ca. 250 BCE) that it became fixed into its present form as the third and final Pitaka of the canon.[3]
Notes
1.Handbook of Pali Literature, by Somapala Jayawardhana (Colombo: Karunaratne, 1994), p. 1.
2.From the Atthasalini, as described in Great Disciples of the Buddha, by Nyanaponika Thera and Hellmuth Hecker (Somerville: Wisdom Publications, 1997), pp. 45-46.
3.The Katthavatthu, composed during the Third Council, was the final addition to the Abhidhamma Pitaka. See Guide Through the Abdhidhamma Pitaka, by Nyanatiloka Mahathera (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1983), p xi.
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/abhi/index.html
I guess everybody is entitled to their opinion, and the Vissudhimagga may be considered an instance of the sort Ven Sujato suggests (there is a certain amount of controversy surrounding the specific text anyway) but why reserve ones judgements to the Abhidharma only? Logically one could pass a similar judgement on all Sutta and Sutra since, in effect, the Buddha did not write any of them. What does that leave us with? Rejection of all texts as mere personal philosophical expounding?
: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 » Fri Apr 08, 2011 2:23 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:What does that leave us with? Rejection of all texts as mere personal philosophical expounding?


There is no need to go to extremes. Critical examination of texts is not the same as abandoning everything. Also, while the majority of sutras in the early scriptures, similarly to monastic rules, are accepted by all the different traditions that is not true in case of the different abhidharma texts that were used to distinguish one sect from the other.

When new schools appeared in China it was partially because of the change of focus from shastras to sutras. If there is a need to refresh Buddhist philosophy it should be done based on proper foundation in the Buddha's teachings. When it is done based on others' interpretations that is already following a lineage, a school.
"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 » Fri Apr 08, 2011 4:41 pm

Astus wrote:. If there is a need to refresh Buddhist philosophy it should be done based on proper foundation in the Buddha's teachings. When it is done based on others' interpretations that is already following a lineage, a school.


The problem with Buddhist Philosophy is Buddhist Philosophy. There is only one way to "refresh" the teachings -- realization.
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Astus » Fri Apr 08, 2011 4:56 pm

Namdrol wrote:The problem with Buddhist Philosophy is Buddhist Philosophy. There is only one way to "refresh" the teachings -- realization.


But I assume you don't mean that since the 15th century there has been no enlightened being in Tibetan Buddhism, do you?
"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 Rael » Fri Apr 08, 2011 5:21 pm

Namdrol wrote:
Astus wrote:. If there is a need to refresh Buddhist philosophy it should be done based on proper foundation in the Buddha's teachings. When it is done based on others' interpretations that is already following a lineage, a school.


The problem with Buddhist Philosophy is Buddhist Philosophy. There is only one way to "refresh" the teachings -- realization.

as in mish mashing Sunyata teachings with your knowledge of of misleading Sunyata teachings all in one formula....

taking things that point directly to it...

followed by things said by Nargajuna not to use.....all in one unexplained paragraph.... :rolleye:
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Re: The Problem With Buddhist Philosophy

Postby Malcolm » Fri Apr 08, 2011 6:28 pm

Astus wrote:
Namdrol wrote:The problem with Buddhist Philosophy is Buddhist Philosophy. There is only one way to "refresh" the teachings -- realization.


But I assume you don't mean that since the 15th century there has been no enlightened being in Tibetan Buddhism, do you?



No, however, a lot more people would have been realized if they had not been obsessed with schools and philosophy.
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