Stephen Batchelor - A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Mon May 02, 2011 2:24 pm

Aemilius wrote:
Dechen Norbu wrote:If you read my post carefully, you would see I said I wasn't disagreeing with all he said. Your post got stuck in the part I mostly agree with.
Explaining exactly what I disagree with and why would lead to a long post that is unnecessary.
I'm well aware of what are hagiographies. But he goes from 88 to 8 while I find we have a lot in the middle.

I won't discuss his honesty and sincerity, since I don't know the fellow that well. I'm talking about what he says, not about him as a person, although I wouldn't choose him as a close friend because of some attitudes he had in the past (not against me personally). Pretty ugly, IMO, and not suitable to a Dharma teacher.

Now, I think his version of the Buddhadharma is worthless bullshit. That's all. That crap doesn't even have mundane value, if you ask me. Better CBT if one has issues to deal with instead of that pseudo Dharma.

Anyway, I'm sure there's people who like it. Some also like Batchelor and others. This doesn't mean I consider what they say valid and I'm pretty sure they don't give a damn about my considerations.


I'm also talking about what he says, I wonder if you have read at all what he says ? I mean that he has a literary style, he expresses himself very well and elegantly, like a true literary person does, like poet or a well known author would do. Please read his posting again, like when you are reading a well known novelist. His literary style is far above anything that we normally see in the Dharma Wheel, this is my impression of it.


He is a very good writer and, as you say, expresses himself very well. He may also be an excellent chap. We aren't talking about him as a human being or a writer though. Anyway, books are written, revised, edited and so on by a whole crew of professionals. Internet posts are much less formal, much more casual and not everyone is a native speaker (my case, for instance). Sometimes it's quite hard for me to express my ideas in another language, mainly when speaking about subtle subjects. I've never lived in any English speaking country and my instruction in this language ended in high school, although through college I had to read a lot in English. But understanding good English and writing good English are different competencies, as you are probably aware. If you or any other around the board had to write in Portuguese, for example, you'd know what I mean. ;)
Now, if we talk about Dharma, I prefer an illiterate teacher who has realization than a good writer who hasn't and is presenting a corrupted version of the teachings, not mattering how well he expresses himself. That only makes it more dangerous. This doesn't mean I feel any antipathy for the author as a person. I don't. I just don't think he teaches Dharma correctly, that's all. Those who like his presentation are free to follow it. Who am I to say others what they should do? I just give my opinion.

EDIT: I've realized you aren't talking about Batchelor, but the other fellow. Forget the part about publishing then. The rest applies. My post about the easy way out also applies, based in my experience. So I really don't care how good he writes.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Fu Ri Shin » Mon May 02, 2011 10:02 pm

Ideologies aside, do we have any reason to believe that students and readers of Batchelor are worse off than before they began learning from him?
"Once delusion is extinguished, your wisdom naturally arises and you don’t differentiate suffering and joy. Actually, this joy and this suffering, they are the same."

— Chinese hermit, Amongst White Clouds
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Tilopa » Mon May 02, 2011 11:00 pm

Fu Ri Shin wrote:Ideologies aside, do we have any reason to believe that students and readers of Batchelor are worse off than before they began learning from him?


If they are influenced away from a genuine dharma path then yes.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby ground » Tue May 03, 2011 3:50 am

Tilopa wrote:
Fu Ri Shin wrote:Ideologies aside, do we have any reason to believe that students and readers of Batchelor are worse off than before they began learning from him?


If they are influenced away from a genuine dharma path then yes.


That presupposes the speaker's knowing what "a genuine dharma path" is.

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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Tue May 03, 2011 3:40 pm

And the answer being no, it's as Tilopa said.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue May 03, 2011 10:33 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote: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.


I would say we accept those divergences because they have accrued legitimacy over time, due to the fact that they have survived and their followers have been able to make a persuasive case for themselves. But some developments over the course of Buddhist history were quite radical at the time.

It seems this whole argument boils down to whether Batchelor should call himself a Buddhist or not. And yes, I agree there are arguments against him doing so. In my opinion, there are also arguments for. He is still working within the overall framework of Buddhist teachings, with the one notable exception (rebirth). And although his position is undoubtedly a minority one, there are other precedents within Buddhism. Many of Buddhadasa's followers also deny literal rebirth. There is a split within Shin Buddhism as to the literal truth of Amitabha and his Pure Land. In general, as in all religions, there are liberal or "progressive" currents and orthodox ones.

IScience has done a very poor job answering the most basic questions of humanity, as you know, and perhaps that's the reason...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.


Well, yes, that's where we disagree. You're trying to turn it into a battle of competing philosophical/metaphysical positions. But what this overlooks is the crisis which the scientific revolution has set off in all philosophy/metaphysics. This is something which Wittgenstein noted in the Tractatus -- the whole game has been changed. It's true, as you say, that Western metaphysics influenced the development of science, but the latter has really taken off on its own wings and even devoured its parent, so to speak. It's a radically different paradigm.

So for example, we don't believe that Trofim Lysenko, Stalin's geneticist, was wrong because we are attached to some metaphysics or capitalistic ideological conditioning. We consider him wrong because his work is shown to be false vis-a-vis the scientific method and standards of proof. There's really only so far we can go by relativizing the debate in terms of competing biases and belief systems. It becomes a zero-sum game. For example, you could say that Westerners are stuck in their box, and that you, Dechen Norbu, have gotten out of your Western box. But then someone else could say that you got out of the Western box only to climb into a Tibetan one and then tape it shut.

The bottom line is that doubt over rebirth exists not because of "materialist bias" but because there is a paucity of evidence. Of course it could change any day, but that's the situation as it stands now. Most people, I would argue, aren't big fans of materialism...on the contrary, it's extremely unpopular. Who wants to believe that we are just a bunch of chemical processes, and death is the end of the story, and that the universe is likewise just more or less random processes without any meaning or moral order? The thought is rather terrifying, really.
Last edited by Lazy_eye on Wed May 04, 2011 3:41 am, edited 10 times in total.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Fu Ri Shin » Wed May 04, 2011 12:50 am

Tilopa wrote:If they are influenced away from a genuine dharma path then yes.


Dechen Norbu wrote:it's as Tilopa said.


Yup, yup...this opinion has been stated numerous times throughout the thread. I'm not asking for a regurgitation, I'm asking for evidence that followers of Batchelor are worse off, ignoring whether or not they're meeting 100% of the requirements on the precious Great Buddhist Standard.
"Once delusion is extinguished, your wisdom naturally arises and you don’t differentiate suffering and joy. Actually, this joy and this suffering, they are the same."

— Chinese hermit, Amongst White Clouds
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed May 04, 2011 1:45 am

It's true, as you say, that Western metaphysics influenced the development of science, but the latter has really taken off on its own wings and even devoured its parent, so to speak. It's radically different paradigm.

You must be living in a different world, then. Some parallel universe perhaps, where science isn't influenced by metaphysical predilections. By chance our dimensions must have connected in this board. :lol:
Science and scientific circles are deeply influenced by the metaphysics of ontological naturalism, which in turn is mistaken by being a fact instead of a metaphysical predilection.
Instead of going over it again, I recommend the following essay:
http://www.alanwallace.org/Introduction ... cience.pdf

My point is made in page 10, but perhaps reading it all could be informative.

Best wishes. :smile:
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed May 04, 2011 1:49 am

Fu Ri Shin wrote:
Tilopa wrote:If they are influenced away from a genuine dharma path then yes.


Dechen Norbu wrote:it's as Tilopa said.


Yup, yup...this opinion has been stated numerous times throughout the thread. I'm not asking for a regurgitation, I'm asking for evidence that followers of Batchelor are worse off, ignoring whether or not they're meeting 100% of the requirements on the precious Great Buddhist Standard.

Don't worry. You won't have any further regurgitations by me.
Besides, if you know the answer already, why do you ask? You're free to believe whatever you like.

All the best for your endeavor.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Fu Ri Shin » Wed May 04, 2011 2:04 am

I'm asking to compare my perceived answer to others'.

It sounds like this opinion is being expressed: "a partial and incomplete movement towards genuine Dharma is worse than no movement towards it at all." This strikes me as strange.
"Once delusion is extinguished, your wisdom naturally arises and you don’t differentiate suffering and joy. Actually, this joy and this suffering, they are the same."

— Chinese hermit, Amongst White Clouds
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed May 04, 2011 2:10 am

Fu Ri Shin wrote:I'm asking to compare my perceived answer to others'.

It sounds like this opinion is being expressed: "a partial and incomplete movement towards genuine Dharma is worse than no movement towards it at all." This strikes me as strange.


Agreed.

Batchelor and other "agnostics" provide an entry into Buddhist teachings for people who would otherwise reject it out of hand.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Heruka » Wed May 04, 2011 2:45 am

buddhism without beliefs?

this is not so easy to negate and dismiss so easily. My knee jerk reaction would be to condem such coffee table book buddhism out of hand, based on my personnal bias that these types of publications serve no purpose in understanding the buddhas intent at all, and only help those wishing to feel better about themselves when life trouble is unbearble and are in the market for answers and some help in trying to know why they are unhappy.

but based on that very bias, i can also see the benefit such books provide for others, even if in a small and simple way it helps to discover something to someone whom has a curious and inquiring mind about buddhism.

it can be an entry way, and whom has the right to judge if it conforms to our own entry into the buddhas teachings.

different strokes for different folks.

its not my cup of tea, but whos to say it has no positive aspect to it?

I look at my own collection of early books in horror!!!

:smile:

it is a learning curve.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed May 04, 2011 3:16 am

Lazy_eye wrote:
Fu Ri Shin wrote:I'm asking to compare my perceived answer to others'.

It sounds like this opinion is being expressed: "a partial and incomplete movement towards genuine Dharma is worse than no movement towards it at all." This strikes me as strange.


Agreed.

Batchelor and other "agnostics" provide an entry into Buddhist teachings for people who would otherwise reject it out of hand.

Being agnostic is not being a materialist. If by agnostic we mean the view that the truth value of certain claims is unknowable, then agnosticism is not productive.
In a more loose usage of the term, if agnostic means not assuming something we can't know a priori, then it's the way to go. We don't need to accept what Buddha taught when we start the path. How could we? We use his propositions as working hypothesis. But we need to leave our biases aside and see where it leads us.
Now, this is not as easy as it seems. If we start practicing with a lot of fixed preconceptions, practice may be undermined from the start. The best attitude for those with doubts is a close examinations of what they assume prior to practice. What is our worldview and what are its bases. Discovering our own biases is a good way to start. For instance, one can discover that one believes "all to be physical". That's a belief, not a fact. As such, can and should be questioned when we meet a system that has done so with good reasons. Outright dismissing Buddhist claims that seem awkward or that contradict our own system of metaphysics is hindering our practice before it even starts.
The Noble Path starts with right view and ends with right view. First it's an intellectual construct that sets the base we will work with. It's the theoretical background we need to make our hypothesis. Then we test them through practice and practice will transform theoretical knowledge into insight, the sudden understanding of what before was only a proposition. The realization of right view through experience, the end of the path, needs first the intellectual construct of right view, the beginning of the path. If our questions are biased from the start, practice will but provide biased answers. This leads only to the confirmation of our own prejudices, as the "data" provided is tweaked.
For agnostic or scientifically minded people I would recommend reading a few works by Alan Wallace and Mathieu Ricard. I would never recommend Batchelor. People have the right to reject Buddhadharma, by not agreeing, instead of accepting a dead end version of it that is pretty much worthless. All that can be achieved by practicing Batchelor's system can be surpassed by several branches of applied Psychology. If people want to have a pleasant life, good friends, good families, good jobs and a psychotherapist go way further than that stuck in the mud system.

By the way, Lazy eye (sorry, but I don't know your name :smile: ), have you read the essay I've linked above? Perhaps you'd find this author interesting.

Best wishes.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Heruka » Wed May 04, 2011 3:51 am

the cure for all this is the four noble truths.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby ground » Wed May 04, 2011 3:56 am

Heruka wrote:the cure for all this is the four noble truths.


Well said.

Kind regards
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed May 04, 2011 4:00 am

Yes, well said. :smile:
The problem is that the Four Noble Tuths encompass the whole of the Buddhist Path, so one only gets to truly realize them when one gains enlightenment.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Heruka » Wed May 04, 2011 4:04 am

TMingyur wrote:
Heruka wrote:the cure for all this is the four noble truths.


Well said.

Kind regards



i dont know if it is well said, but often we have to be reminded of the essense of the teachers words, to return to the profound simple truth of that, and it will never steer us into the wrong.


never.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed May 04, 2011 4:08 am

Couldn't agree more! :smile:
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby ground » Wed May 04, 2011 4:26 am

Dechen Norbu wrote:Yes, well said. :smile:
The problem is that the Four Noble Tuths encompass the whole of the Buddhist Path, so one only gets to truly realize them when one gains enlightenment.


Cybernetics is most applicable when the system being analysed is involved in a closed signal loop; that is, where action by the system causes some change in its environment and that change is fed to the system via information (feedback) that causes the system to adapt to these new conditions: the system's changes affect its behavior. This "circular causal" relationship is necessary and sufficient for a cybernetic perspective
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cybernetics



Kind regards
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Mr. G » Wed May 04, 2011 11:59 am

Relevant thread:

"Free Belief Buddhism"
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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