Lazy_eye wrote:Batchelor and his followers, though, wouldn't say they are corrupting the dharma. On the contrary, they would probably argue that their approach is closer to the Buddha's intent and that, if anything, it is you who are practicing a corrupted dharma -- distorted by various cultural influences, religiosity and politics. Indeed, many Theravadins would say that Vajrayana represents a major deviation from the Buddha's teachings. So who exactly is the arbiter of what constitues "dharma" and "adharma"?
How could they argue such thing if what they say violates what is considered the teaching of Buddha? In a wild exercise of imagination, I may decide to interpret from the teachings that Buddha taught pantheism. Yet that doesn't mean he did. How do we know that? Because of the scriptures and the Sangha. Schools have variations, but they stay within a certain range.
Perhaps it can be said thus that the arbiters are those who haven't adulterated the core
teachings of Buddhadharma at the light of their own metaphysical predilections. If Buddha wanted to be a materialist, there were such schools of thought already. He had no need to be cryptic about it.
There's more or less a consensus about what the core of the Dharma might be. The Basic Points Unifying the Theravada and the Mahayana
is an important Buddhist ecumenical statement created in 1967 during the First Congress of the World Buddhist Sangha Council, and it's widely accepted. The formula has been added and pretty much represents what Buddhists consider their cannon.
I also think the words of those more qualified (meaning educated and with time spent in retreat) to teach the Dharma can serve as pointers. I would hardly qualify Batchelor as such a teacher. Ultimately the arbiters are both scriptures and masters recognized as such in their traditions. You don't become such by reading Dharma at the light of several metaphysical predilections totally alien to Buddhism, yet very patent in western scientific thought. I find quite strange that Buddha intended us to twist his teachings in such a way that they can be interpreted at the light of the XIX-XXI century metaphysics patent in a system of knowledge whose purpose is quite different. Seems reasonable to assume that the Sangha, that we still assume to be also composed of higly advanced practitioners, know what they are saying. They are the experts of Buddhadharma. We see differences between the different schools, we know why those differences exist and accept them, probably because none of them goes even close to Batchelor's presentation. The guy is an annihilationist. That's all.
Probably an unresolvable question -- one can only answer within the framework of one's own tradition. Maybe it would be possible to do some study measuring degrees of deviation among denominations in various world religions and see where Batchelor is on the curve. Long-term, if he provokes enough interest and his school of thought survives, it might someday win recognition as "legitimate". Or it will fade out, a minor heretical blip in the history of Buddhism. Who can predict?
I understand what you are saying, but I wouldn't easily agree. If the core teachings become corrupted, it may even become a huge and long lasting movement. It just won't be Buddhadharma. All schools accept some common tenets which allows them to recognize themselves as Buddhist. Batchelor doesn't. He reads Buddha's teachings according to his own prejudices. Besides, there's no movement there. Just a very small minority mainly composed of students and sympathizers, not long life practitioners. No, in the end it's just a deluded author and a few western(ized) people who want Dharma to fit their previous metaphysical predilections. Unfortunately, those biases are incompatible with Buddha's teachings.
But let's be honest here: do you really support "open-mindedness"? I don't get that impression. What your post conveys is that "thinking outside the box" and "questioning assumptions" are good things as long as they result in people dropping their ideas and embracing your religious belief system. But when it comes to the latter, the box snaps shut. So basically this has nothing to do with free inquiry as a value in itself; you simply invoke it as a persuasive device with the goal of overcoming resistance. The tenets of your belief system are not, themselves, open to question because for they are simply The Truth. This is a familiar strategy which ideologies use to win recruits and propagate themselves -- deconstruct the competing beliefs, and then reprogram the recruit.
Yes, it would be nice to be honest and not using fallacies and rhetoric to prove a point. You don't get that impression because maybe your system of beliefs is attacked, I don't know. It's not my
religious belief we are talking about. Otherwise I would be referring to the Tibetan schools. It's Buddhadharma in general.
Now, and honestly, let me define what thinking outside the box means to me. There's this box composed of the metaphysical beliefs that we acquire while growing up, beliefs that may even pass unnoticed. Such is being inside a paradigm. So, if we talk of thinking outside a box, it's not the box of our friend born and raised in Thailand! Last time I've checked, the box most westerners live in is either composed by materialist biases, judeo christian biases or different combinations of both (e.g. I'm a doctor from science, but a man from God, and so on). So, this is the box I'm talking about: questioning OUR hidden metaphysical beliefs (e.g. there's a universe out there that exists on it's own), not questioning the box of a fellow born and raised in Tibet. He too will have to think outside his box (e.g. going to see a lama only to get a blessing, instead of trying to learn the Dharma; or seeing the commonalities between schools and not disparaging Theravada; considering science as valid relative knowledge, better than traditional knowledge to deal with physical trauma and so on, and so on).
So, for most westerners, thinking outside the box means thinking outside the materialist or the judeo christian paradigm, not thinking outside the box of traditional Buddhism. We have a deep belief in a creation (by chance or by God) and use different ways to access this creation. This is a bias very deeply rooted in western thinking. There are many others, materialist and not. My box was this box, not a Buddhist box. Those born Buddhist, in Buddhist cultures, will have their box to deal with.
Now, one can question the tenets of Buddhadharma. And one can totally disagree with them. One just can't call himself a Buddhist afterwards. That's what I'm saying. I believe Batchelor's followers believe he is closer to truth than Buddhists. Fine, that still doesn't make him a Buddhist to the eyes of others than his own followers.
When you say The tenets of your belief system are not, themselves, open to question because for they are simply The Truth. This is a familiar strategy which ideologies use to win recruits and propagate themselves -- deconstruct the competing beliefs, and then reprogram the recruit
, you remind me hard core skeptics and the huge amount of techniques they use to avoid disturbing data or convincing evidence. You remind me fundamentalist Christians and revelation. You surely don't remind me Buddhists. Neither do I recognize myself in such statement. I just call a spade a spade. I don't question Batchelor's truth. Just his teaching as being Buddhist. I've seen that truth stated many times in college. All is physical. It didn't convince me then, it doesn't convince me now and it isn't Buddhist for sure. I'm not accessing its truth though.
But here's the point: Batchelor is trying to approach Buddhism in a way which does allow for inquiry, investigation and reinterpretation. He is positing it as a set of practices and beliefs which at any time are subject to rethinking, should they prove to be dead ends or otherwise non-beneficial. It's a fundamentally different paradigm.
He is approaching Buddhism with his mind set in another metaphysical system: ontological naturalism. It's indeed a different paradigm, one which is incompatible with Buddhadharma. IMO, his questioning is just lip service. What happens is that Buddhadharma is interpreted at the light of this set of metaphysical beliefs. I see no questioning there, just twisting so it fits inside the most common box in western scientifically minded circles. Inside his box, really.
Science isn't really comparable to philosophy or religion -- these are different disciplines with different methodologies. The issue isn't that people in the modern age have been brainwashed by a philosophical position known as "scientific materialism"; its that people are convinced by the results of scientific inquiry and that these results tend to support materialism more than they do, say, various religious/metaphysical constructs (whether "God" or "the law of karma"). But we should always be careful about equating the two --it's by no mean a "done deal".
I disagree. Who are we talking about here? People are convinced? Who are these people? There's billions of people in the world who believe in a God. Or are we talking about atheists, hardcore skeptics? Who?
The fact is people don't think much about it or even know how to think about it. I was referring to a very specific set of the population who got their mind wrapped around materialism, sometimes without even noticing, usually people who go through college. Yes, most people get convinced about the efficaciousness of technology. Most still believe a God. Science has done a very poor job answering the most basic questions of humanity, as you know, and perhaps that's the reason. Most people live almost in a schizophrenic way. They believe in science, but they believe in God, which science refutes.
The fact is that we can't consider materialism deriving from a certain set of scientific facts, even by a long shot! The data doesn't seem to suggest this metaphysical system any more than many others. This is a myth propagated by materialists. As Heisenberg said "We have to remember that what we observe is not nature herself, but nature exposed to our method of questioning
". This statement alone would open a whole new discussion. If we assume all is physical, all we get are physical answers. If we probe the brain to search the mind, all we get is brain. A whole giant topic right there, but outside the scope of this one. Anyway, this materialistic bias has more to do with sociological reasons than scientific inquiry. And it's a western thing with roots in our particular History of economics/religion/philosophy/science and so on (although with the process of globalization it's spreading). Anyway, materialism failed and this is why we now have Physicalism, instead, quite broader. Same bullshit, different wording, if you ask me.
You also seem too eager to consider Buddhadharma a religion. I think the worldview of Abrahamic religions is much closer to western scientific paradigm than Madhyamaka's worldview, for instance. Western religions and science both believe in a world out there, existent by its own.
I would stay here for a long time debating this issue. I don't need to, though. When I hear the experts of Buddhadharma defending an annihilationist view and explaining it in a convincing manner (I don't see that coming, though), I'll say such view is indeed Buddhist. I'll also stop being a Buddhist, since materialism has more holes in it than a fishing net.
Anyway, I'm not here trying to convince anyone. I've stated my opinion which happens to coincide with mainstream opinion. By mainstream opinion I mean the opinion of those widely considered true experts. I know it's an argument of authority, but hey... I also believe mankind went to the moon and was never there myself. But if you like Batchelor's presentation, be my guest. It's your life.