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 Aemilius » Wed May 04, 2011 12:56 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote: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.


I agree with you to a large extent, neither am I english, I am like you in this respect.
The thing is that Shakyamuni did appreciate knowledge of language and knowledge of grammar, see for example Dhammapada verse 352., in some older translation preferably , or a very old translation! Yet again the new translations have simply taken away what there was before! This is pitiful, and a case when the new translations are simply worse than the old ones!

Dharma is expressed in language, the knowledge of language, grammar and logic has been appreciated in buddhism
generally, as a helpfull and necessary branch of science.

There has been some studies that have concluded that during the Middle Ages the rate of literacy was much higher in buddhist countries than it was in the Europe of that time.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Indrajala » Wed May 04, 2011 1:57 pm

Aemilius wrote:
Dharma is expressed in language, the knowledge of language, grammar and logic has been appreciated in buddhism
generally, as a helpfull and necessary branch of science.

There has been some studies that have concluded that during the Middle Ages the rate of literacy was much higher in buddhist countries than it was in the Europe of that time.



In general classical Indian thought places the same emphasis on grammar as western thought does on mathematics. From an idealistic point of view where the world is seen as a construction of the mind this makes a lot of sense. All perceived phenomena can be explained via the grammar of language.

Regarding literacy rates and Buddhism -- in East Asia it was the Buddhist institutions that took an early interest in woodblock printing technology.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed May 04, 2011 2:25 pm

TMingyur wrote:
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

It's an original approach, but quite interesting. For instance, related to right view. First it's just an intellectual construct. Practice feeds back information that corrects right view experientially, which in its turn improves practice. More skilled practice, refines right view and the same loop happens again. This process occurs until the total realization of right view.
I'm not sure what you meant when you posted that quote, but this process came to mind. :smile:
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed May 04, 2011 2:28 pm

Aemilius wrote:
Dechen Norbu wrote: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.


I agree with you to a large extent, neither am I english, I am like you in this respect.
The thing is that Shakyamuni did appreciate knowledge of language and knowledge of grammar, see for example Dhammapada verse 352., in some older translation preferably , or a very old translation! Yet again the new translations have simply taken away what there was before! This is pitiful, and a case when the new translations are simply worse than the old ones!

Dharma is expressed in language, the knowledge of language, grammar and logic has been appreciated in buddhism
generally, as a helpfull and necessary branch of science.

There has been some studies that have concluded that during the Middle Ages the rate of literacy was much higher in buddhist countries than it was in the Europe of that time.

Indeed it is and it makes a lot of sense if we think about it. The good use of language helps the finger pointing exactly to the moon and not somewhere else.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed May 04, 2011 2:42 pm

mr. gordo wrote:Relevant thread:

"Free Belief Buddhism"

Relevant indeed and very informative.
Thanks! It was a nice reading. :smile:
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Lazy_eye » Wed May 04, 2011 4:02 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote: 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.


I have, and I did! Thanks for the link.

He's clearly an intelligent and articulate writer, and able to launch some pretty good polemics. But let me tell you my concern. This is not a paper written for those who really want to understand what is going on in physics in biology. It's a paper for people who want keep science at a safe distance, and to dismiss or minimize the impact of developments in those fields which may threaten their religious beliefs. His presentation is selective and superficial.

For example, on page 15 he takes aim at E.O. Wilson, evolutionary biology and by extension Darwin, mounting the same tired argument that we have heard so many times before -- that "natural selection" doesn't explain certain things, so it must be flawed; and that the whole Darwinian outlook is bad for humanity because of its grim view of reality.

Actually, if one insists that all biological and psychological processes are ultimately reducible to the laws of physics, many facets of human existence,
including those commonly deemed the most meaningful, remain inexplicable. Since natural selection does not anticipate future needs, how did it prepare the human mind for civilization before civilization existed? How did the human mind evolve symbolic language, which was necessary for igniting the exponentiation of cultural evolution? If the brain is nothing more than a machine assembled not to understand itself but to survive, as Wilson claims, how is it that humans have the capacity to develop such
a sophisticated brain science? Finally, if, as Richard Dawkins maintains, and Wilson agrees, the human brain and sensory system evolved as a biological
apparatus to preserve and multiply human genes (Wilson 1998:52), how is it that we humans have the capacity to experience universal love and
concern for the welfare of the human race as a whole? As Dawkins admits, such facts “simply do not make evolutionary sense” (Dawkins 1978:2).
What exactly doesn’t make sense? The capacity of the human mind to develop symbolic language, the human yearning and ability to pursue truth,
whether by means of religion, philosophy, or science, and the human capacity for unconditional love and compassion? Shall we say these don’t
make sense? Or shall we abandon the metaphysical assumption that they all inexplicably evolved due to natural selection—in accordance with the closure principle—even though this assertion violates a central principle of evolution?


This is misleading and in some places just plain inaccurate. Contrary to what he says, evolutionary biology has come up with explanations for symbolic language and for "universal love and concern for the welfare of the human race as a whole" (i.e., altruism). He is selectively quoting Dawkins, perhaps out of context, and from a book written in 1978! Of course the current theories could all be dead wrong, but it's simply not true that -- as he implies -- natural selection is incapable of accounting for these "inexplicable" facets of human behavior and experience, or that the process by which they developed can't be understood sooner or later.

He is not really doing the dharma any favors with this line of argument. And considering his complaints about the "Judeo-Christian influence" on science, it's a little strange that he chooses to borrow his intellectual ammunition from Christianity. These are more or less the same objections which folks like C.S. Lewis deployed in order to show that there must be a God (who gave us the gifts of morality and compassion).

Kind regards,

Rob (LE)
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Malcolm » Wed May 04, 2011 4:21 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:
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:



Personally, I find Wallace's thinking to reflect a sort of crypto-theism.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed May 04, 2011 9:41 pm

Perhaps that article I quoted in the other thread?
I don't get that impression in the rest of his works.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed May 04, 2011 9:51 pm

Lazy_eye wrote: This is not a paper written for those who really want to understand what is going on in physics in biology. It's a paper for people who want keep science at a safe distance, and to dismiss or minimize the impact of developments in those fields which may threaten their religious beliefs. His presentation is selective and superficial.

Hi Rob, thanks for your detailed answer. I'm not sure I agree with all you, said, I need to have a better look at it, but now in in a bit of a hurry. There are more interesting article of this author in his website. http://www.alanwallace.org/
I'll just comment this part of our post though. I think saying Alan wants to keep science at a close distance clearly misses the mark.

Let me give you an example. You can browse the author's website, because I don't believe you'll find anyone more invested in the interchange between science and Buddhism than Alan Wallace. What he doesn't do is giving Dharma a spin so that science can accept it. :smile:

Here's one of his great projects, endorsed by the Dalai Lama.

Dear Friends,


I'd like to share with you a correspondence I've had with His Holiness the Dalai Lama about a proposal I made to him called the "International Shamatha Project." I copy below my initial correspondence to him and his endorsement of this project, which I'm delighted to receive on this auspicious day, Independence Day.

With best wishes to you all,
Alan

Your Holiness,

I would like to propose the establishment of an international Buddhist research project modeled after the Human Genome Project, which was one of the most ambitious and successful scientific projects in recent history. It entailed the collaboration of many scientific laboratories throughout the world (including that of Eric Lander at M.I.T.) to map the human genome. Throughout the years that this project was conducted, researchers around the world shared their finding so that the project could be completed most effectively for the benefit of all of humanity.

As I suggested at the Mind and Life meeting last April, I believe the achievement of shamatha is essential for the preservation of Buddhism as a true science of the mind. While many people devote themselves to the practice of vipashyana and to Vajrayana, relatively few pay serious attention to the practice of shamatha and far fewer, it seems, actually achieve it.

Therefore, I would like to propose an International Shamatha Project, modeled after the Human Genome Project, that would bring together dedicated Buddhist teachers and meditators from both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism to collaborate in exploring the most effective methods and conditions for achieving shamatha in today's world. Individual retreat centers could network with each other by way of the internet, sharing their experiences, problems, remedies, and insights. We may also collaborate with psychologists and neuroscientists conducting research on shamatha meditators to help discover which methods of shamatha are most appropriate for which kinds of people in the modern world. Scientists may also discover the objective psychological and neurological signs corresponding to the nine stages of development leading to shamatha, thus providing a scientific map of the gradual achievement of shamatha. We have begun such collaboration in the Shamatha Project, on which Dr. Clifford Saron reported during the Mind and Life meeting in April, and I am proposing that this work now be expanded worldwide, to include multiple teachers and traditions. Once shamatha is accomplished, it becomes far more feasible to achieve bodhicitta, vipashyana, and the stages of Vajrayana, and in this way, the significance of Buddhist mind science may become evident to the scientific community and to human society at large, including China.

If you agree that such an International Shamatha Project is worth establishing, might I request you to write a brief endorsement for this project and perhaps send me a list of Buddhist teachers who might be invited to join in such collaborative research?

I pray that you continue to enjoy excellent health and vitality as well as a very, very long life.

Your devoted student,

Alan


From: His Holiness The Dalai Lama:

TO WHOM IT MAY CONCERN:

Alan Wallace has devoted much of his professional life to the interface
between Buddhist meditation and science. Following on work already done with Dr. Clifford Saron in the Shamatha Project, he is proposing the
establishment of an International Shamatha Project, modelled on the Human Genome Project, that will bring together Buddhist teachers and meditators to explore effective ways of achieving shamatha, which, sometimes translated as calm abiding meditation, comprises concentration practices designed to enhance sustained voluntary attention.

I am happy to support his suggestion to expand existing collaboration amongst teachers and meditators worldwide to include multiple teachers and traditions.

I am also encouraged by the prospect that the Project may collaborate with psychologists and neuroscientists conducting research on shamatha meditators to discover which methods are most appropriate for which people to develop shamatha in the modern world. The prospect of Buddhist mind science becoming better understood both in the scientific community and in society at large is inspiring. I wish the Project every success.

July 3, 2009



More on this project here:

http://www.sbinstitute.com/Internationa ... aProj.html
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed May 04, 2011 10:20 pm

I'll just take a few minutes here to say a few things about what you've said Rob. :smile:
I won't address the post particularly, but the author, Alan Wallace.
Alan isn't an armchair skeptic that tries to reinterpret Dharma so that it fits the biases of scientific materialism. I think he has done a great job creating some bridges between science and Buddhadharma. He puts a lot of effort in this task and instead of writing what, in my opinion, is a shabby piece of work like Batchelor's "Buddhism Without Beliefs", where Buddhadharma is so watered down that I wonder if there's something of it left, he does valuable work with scientists.
I'm not sure you are familiar with this author or, I think, you'd think twice about considering his work superficial. Here are some of his academic books that I find of great value (having read most of them)
· Hidden Dimensions: The Unification of Physics and Consciousness. New York: Columbia University Press, 2008

· Contemplative Science: Where Buddhism and Neuroscience Converge. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

· The Taboo of Subjectivity: Toward a New Science of Consciousness. New York: Oxford University Press, 2000.

· The Bridge of Quiescence: Experiencing Tibetan Buddhist Meditation. Chicago: Open Court Press, 1998.

· Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1989.


There are several academic essays that you can read in his website. Here's a list:
Academic Essays:


"Mental Balance and Well-Being: Building Bridges Between Buddhism and Western Psychology." American Psychologist, October 2006

· “Buddhist and Psychological Perspectives on Emotions and Well-Being.” Co-author with Paul Ekman, Richard Davidson, and Matthieu Ricard. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 14, 59-63.

· “A Science of Consciousness: Buddhism (1), the Modern West (0) The Pacific World: Journal of the Institute of Buddhist Studies, 2003. Presented at a conference sponsored by the Institute of Buddhist Studies at the Graduate Theological Union.

· “External, Internal, and Nondual Space” presented at the 26th Mystics and Scientists conference, entitled “Space in Mind: at the Interface of Inner and Outer Space,” held at King Alfred's College, Winchester, England, April 13, 2003. http://www.datadiwan.de/SciMedNet/home.htm

· “Vacuum States of Consciousness: A Tibetan Buddhist View” presented at the 5th Biennial International Symposium of Science, Technics and Aesthetics: “Space, Time and Beyond,” Lucerne, Switzerland, January 19, 2003. http://www.neugalu.ch/english.htm

· "Buddhism & Science: Breaking Down the Barriers". Introduction to Buddhism & Science: Breaking New Ground. B. Alan Wallace, ed. New York: Columbia University Press, 2003

· “The Intersubjective Worlds of Science and Religion.” To be published in Science, Religion, and the Human Experience. James Proctor (ed).
Website for this series of lectures to be published in this volume: http://www.srhe.ucsb.edu

· "The Scientific Frontier of the Inner Spirit." Network: The Scientific and Medical Network Review, Dec., 2002, No. 80, pp. 18-19.

· "The Spectrum of Buddhist Practice in the West." Westward Dharma: Buddhism Beyond Asia, Charles Prebish & Martin Baumann (eds.). Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002.

· "Four Applications of Mindfulness." American Spiritualities: A Reader. Catherine L. Albanese (ed.). Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2001.

· "The Potential of Emptiness: Vacuum States in Physics and Consciousness." Network: The Scientific and Medical Network Review, Dec., 2001, No. 77, pp. 21-25.

· "Intersubjectivity in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism." Journal of Consciousness Studies, 8, No. 5-7, 2001, pp. 209-30.

· "Afterword: Buddhist Reflections". concluding essay for Consciousness at the Crossroads: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Brainscience and Buddhism. With Zara Houshmand and Robert Livingston. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1999.

· “Is Buddhism Really Non-theistic?” presented at the National Conference of the American Academy of Religion, Boston, Mass., Nov., 1999.

· "The Dialectic Between Religious Belief and Contemplative Knowledge in Tibetan Buddhism." Buddhist Theology: Critical Reflections of Contemporary Buddhist Scholars, John Makransky & Roger Jackson, eds., pp. 203-214. London: Curzon Press. 1999.

· "Three Dimensions of Buddhist Studies." Buddhist Theology: Critical Reflections of Contemporary Buddhist Scholars, John Makransky & Roger Jackson, eds., pp. 61-77. London: Curzon Press. 1999.

· "The Buddhist Tradition of Samatha: Methods for Refining and Examining Consciousness." Journal of Consciousness Studies, 6, No. 2-3, 1999. pp. 175-187. Also published in The View from Within: First-person Methods in the Study of Consciousness. London: Imprint Academic, 1999.

· "A Contemplative View of the Mind." Choosing Reality: A Buddhist View of Physics and the Mind. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 1989.


He isn't, by any means, a superficial author. Take a look at his curriculum vitae: http://www.alanwallace.org/B.%20Alan%20 ... CV2011.pdf
Do take a look, please. :smile:

He actively participates in very good pieces of research.
If you compare his resume with Batchelor's... it's like comparing the sun to a candle. You can check Batchelor's bio here: http://www.stephenbatchelor.org/stephenbio.html

Come on... Batchelor is hardly what I consider enough qualified (as most public skeptics) to speak about Buddhism or science.

Best wishes,

Marcos
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu May 05, 2011 1:07 am

Hi Rob,
Finally I have a few spare moments. I'll read your post carefully and place a few comments. Seems that you might be misinterpreting the author in a few points. So, let's see. :smile:

Lazy_eye wrote:
I have, and I did! Thanks for the link.

My pleasure. Thank you for the careful input.

He's clearly an intelligent and articulate writer, and able to launch some pretty good polemics. But let me tell you my concern. This is not a paper written for those who really want to understand what is going on in physics in biology. It's a paper for people who want keep science at a safe distance, and to dismiss or minimize the impact of developments in those fields which may threaten their religious beliefs. His presentation is selective and superficial.


See, the question is that Alan clearly acknowledges the value of science. I've read the article I've linked a long time ago, and you will forgive me for not reaing it again. But I know how Alan stands regarding that particular point and he has emphasized this point many times in his works. I'm not sure if you haven't misinterpreted him or if in this particular text such idea can be drawn.
What Alan states many times is that even modern science has hidden biases. These biases are acknowledged by many scientists themselves, but usually they don't dwell on them. Materialism or Physicalism are metaphysical predilections. These metaphysical predilections make very difficult the study of consciousness from another perspective than the material brain. I can't summarized his clear thoughts about all this in a few sentences, but if you read his work, you will be definitively convinced that if there is something Alan doesn't do is depreciating science. He just points out some shortcomings related to those hidden biases I've talked about. You seem to have interest in this topic and I honestly believe that you would find his work very interesting and not shallow at all. Unless you're a devout materialist yourself, that is! :lol:

For example, on page 15 he takes aim at E.O. Wilson, evolutionary biology and by extension Darwin, mounting the same tired argument that we have heard so many times before -- that "natural selection" doesn't explain certain things, so it must be flawed; and that the whole Darwinian outlook is bad for humanity because of its grim view of reality.
[...]
This is misleading and in some places just plain inaccurate. Contrary to what he says, evolutionary biology has come up with explanations for symbolic language and for "universal love and concern for the welfare of the human race as a whole" (i.e., altruism). He is selectively quoting Dawkins, perhaps out of context, and from a book written in 1978! Of course the current theories could all be dead wrong, but it's simply not true that -- as he implies -- natural selection is incapable of accounting for these "inexplicable" facets of human behavior and experience, or that the process by which they developed can't be understood sooner or later.

Here you've misinterpreted him. His problem has nothing to do with the theory of evolution per se, but with some people's tendency to assume that we can give science a closure,much like physics in the XIX century, before relativity and quantum physics had developed. The problem, once again is with Physicalism, not the theory of evolution. I'm pretty sure he agrees with it. He just doesn't let himself carried away by ideas like selfish genes (sorry, neither do I).

He is not really doing the dharma any favors with this line of argument. And considering his complaints about the "Judeo-Christian influence" on science, it's a little strange that he chooses to borrow his intellectual ammunition from Christianity. These are more or less the same objections which folks like C.S. Lewis deployed in order to show that there must be a God (who gave us the gifts of morality and compassion).

The anthropic principle and similar "theories"? Alan has none of that. His approach has really nothing to do with that.
The fact that he shows real problems in the physicalist approach of science doesn't mean he is trying to sneak a God in there or anything similar. It's not a "God of the gaps" game or anything like that. Alan's work is marked by the finest intellectual honesty. You just need to know it a little better I guess, and one essay is not enough. :smile:

Best wishes,

DN
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Lazy_eye » Thu May 05, 2011 1:08 am

Some of these sound very interesting, Marcos. I will have a look. Thanks for taking the time to post this information.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu May 05, 2011 1:11 am

My pleasure. :smile:
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu May 05, 2011 1:35 am

Namdrol wrote:Personally, I find Wallace's thinking to reflect a sort of crypto-theism.


I've read many of his works and I don't get that impression.
Much of his work, perhaps by the force of need, is sometimes inclusive of the "contemplative traditions" category, perhaps because if he would stick solely to a Buddhist presentation there would be less interest (meaning funds) in the West. He also uses this category to include techniques from traditions other than Buddhism, by this meaning that contemplative states aren't just a Buddhist feature (contemplation in this case not having the meaning ChNN gives it). It's more inclusive.
I don't remember now where I've read him saying that some meditative states, before enlightenment, may be interpreted like a communion with God, if the practitioner is developing his practice under such mindframe. The case of some Christian contemplatives, for instance. The western contemplative tradition seems lost at present, I think, but this doesn't mean that in this tradition there weren't methods of contemplation in the past that used to bare results (although not enlightenment).
I've read this opinion of his a long time ago, but remembered it because it seemed quite interesting and made me think of the rangtong/shentong thing, wondering if Christians experience of contemplation wouldn't be interpreted in terms of its qualities, although thinking that the experience wouldn't be the same of Buddhists because of the obvious differences. Nevertheless, some states of bliss, attained through the practice of mental calm (there were techniques for such practice in Christianity) could arise in any tradition, I guess, and could perhaps be mistaken as some sort of communion with the divine. At the light of Christian doctrine, that would be God, thus being interpreted as a proof of his existence. I'm just speculating here. However, I think Alan has these differences pretty clear in his mind. I really never got the impression of him being a crypto theist...
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby ground » Thu May 05, 2011 4:05 am

Dechen Norbu wrote:
TMingyur wrote:
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

It's an original approach, but quite interesting. For instance, related to right view. First it's just an intellectual construct. Practice feeds back information that corrects right view experientially, which in its turn improves practice. More skilled practice, refines right view and the same loop happens again. This process occurs until the total realization of right view.
I'm not sure what you meant when you posted that quote, but this process came to mind. :smile:


Well yes one may pick out the concept of "right view" and apply this perspective/"approach". Or one may pick out the concept of "experience" and apply this perspective/"approach" ... sort of "experience" gradually refining itself. The decisive feature of this perspective/"approach" in our context seems to be the "circular causality" that does not neglect the "environmental aspect".

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

Postby coldmountain » Thu May 05, 2011 4:59 am

This is a very long thread, but I thought I might toss in some thoughts as a Westerner who has inherited a critical, empirical mindset. I am personally not so inspired by Batchelor's presentation of Buddhism, but I think it has its place. Not everyone is going to be convinced of certain metaphysical claims, yet the Dharma is broad enough to include a person no matter where he or she is coming from. To suppose that someone isn't Buddhist unless one is convinced of re-birth, I think negates so many uniquely Buddhist insights into the existential realities of life. Even without rebirth, we still need a way to live and a truth to embody, and Buddhism is a very deep and original tradition which shows us how to do just that.

I have not experienced anything that would convince me of rebirth and karma in a traditional sense - at this point in my life I'm agnostic about it. I don't deny the possibility, but I also see no reason why anyone should be coerced into accepting something for which their own experience does not substantiate (I can't help but believe the Buddha would not expect one to do so). But even so, I can't imagine how my life would have developed absent the direct influence of Buddhist teachings, categories of thinking, and practice and insight. Secularism and Western skepticism have offered nothing even close. I deeply respect the tradition I identify with, even when I must note places that I find personally questionable.

Asserting that someone cannot be Buddhist unless he accepts rebirth, I think falls into essentialist trappings, in which one supposes that there is any one thing which makes one a Buddhist, and that there is only one expression of Dharma (and Dharma is ultimately nothing less than Reality itself). By this very exclusive approach, even well-known Buddhists like D.T. Suzuki would be left out for his agnosticism about such matters. Moreover it denies that Western forms of Buddhism might arise that have just as much right to be called Buddhist, but which emphasize different teachings (which happens to some extent whenever Buddhism enters a new culture).
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 05, 2011 8:14 am

coldmountain wrote:To suppose that someone isn't Buddhist unless one is convinced of re-birth, I think negates so many uniquely Buddhist insights into the existential realities of life.


One Buddhist insight into life, as taught by the Buddha himself numerous times during his career, is that sentient beings are reborn post-mortem into states of existence in accordance with their past actions.


Even without rebirth, we still need a way to live and a truth to embody, and Buddhism is a very deep and original tradition which shows us how to do just that.



There is no Buddhism without rebirth.


I have not experienced anything that would convince me of rebirth and karma in a traditional sense - at this point in my life I'm agnostic about it. I don't deny the possibility, but I also see no reason why anyone should be coerced into accepting something for which their own experience does not substantiate (I can't help but believe the Buddha would not expect one to do so).



You need not force yourself to accept rebirth and karma. However, you simply cannot claim to really be practising Buddhadharma without those two fundamental core teachings. You can still gain much from studying Buddhism even while being sceptical about the reality of karma and rebirth, but don't try to preach a Buddhism without rebirth and karma.



Asserting that someone cannot be Buddhist unless he accepts rebirth, I think falls into essentialist trappings, in which one supposes that there is any one thing which makes one a Buddhist, and that there is only one expression of Dharma (and Dharma is ultimately nothing less than Reality itself).


What makes you a Buddhist is taking refuge in the Triple Gem and accepting Buddhadharma as legitimate and true.


By this very exclusive approach, even well-known Buddhists like D.T. Suzuki would be left out for his agnosticism about such matters. Moreover it denies that Western forms of Buddhism might arise that have just as much right to be called Buddhist, but which emphasize different teachings (which happens to some extent whenever Buddhism enters a new culture).


From the beginning of Buddhism in India to the present day every tradition across history has accepted rebirth and karma as real and true though their explanations for the mechanics behind said phenomena inevitably differ.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby zengammon » Thu May 05, 2011 12:53 pm

"There is no Buddhism without rebirth.

"You can still gain much from studying Buddhism even while being sceptical about the reality of karma and rebirth, but don't try to preach a Buddhism without rebirth and karma."

Yep, these are just the hard facts. Thanks for your efforts Huseng.

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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby Aemilius » Thu May 05, 2011 1:23 pm

If you attain enlightenement, there is no more rebirth. Thus we have buddhism without rebirth.

Also, the teaching about 62 views destroys belief in karma and rebirth, as true reality. It is only a form of selfview.
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Re: A Critique of "Buddhism Without Beliefs"

Postby coldmountain » Thu May 05, 2011 1:36 pm

Hi Huseng,

From the beginning of Buddhism in India to the present day every tradition across history has accepted rebirth and karma as real and true though their explanations for the mechanics behind said phenomena inevitably differ.


Every tradition -- except the possibility of whatever becomes of Buddhism in the West. Buddhism is becoming an authentically Western religion and inevitably will adopt the concerns that face Western people.

There is no Buddhism without rebirth.


Then what is it that I've been studying and "gaining much from" if there is no Buddhism apart from re-birth?

You can still gain much from studying Buddhism even while being sceptical about the reality of karma and rebirth, but don't try to preach a Buddhism without rebirth and karma.


Well it seems apparent to me that there are teachers who manage to preach Buddhism without delving into rebirth - whether they believe in it or not. Besides, Buddhism is a very broad label - 2,500 years old and spread all over Asia - I don't think it is possible for any one person to claim to represent what "the" form of Buddhism is, that falls into the essentialist fallacy.

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