Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby Malcolm » Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:50 pm

Epistemes wrote: I don't find many of the practices of Mahayana and Vajrayana apparent in my readings of early Buddhism, which is where I'm at right now in my so-called "random reading" and "wild guesses."


Yes, they are not there in what we in the West like to call "early Buddhism". They came later. This is even acknowldeged in the tradition via the hermeneutical device of situating these practices as practices the Buddha taught, which where then kept concealed until later.
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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby Pero » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:45 pm

Epistemes wrote:
Silent Bob wrote:Further, and merely from my own POV, your uninformed but adversarial posture toward the Vajrayana leads me to wonder why you even raise these questions in this forum when your opinions seem based on a bit of random reading and some wild guesses rather than any depth of experience on the cushion.


I raise these questions in this forum because I suspected that, as practitioners, you all would be knowledgable and able to correct my misunderstandings.


It's better not to put too much stock into these kinds of assumptions. I'm speaking in general, not for people here, but you never know what kind of person you can run into. Sometimes when people hear I'm a Buddhist, they can find some fault with me that doesn't comply with their idea of Buddhists. They don't seem to understand a Buddhist is someone following a Buddhist path, not necessarily someone who's already knows everything about it and/or achieved all or some of the fruits of the path. So in the same way, even if you're speaking with Vajrayana practitioners, there is no guarantee that they'll be knowledgeable and so on.
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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby Epistemes » Thu Sep 01, 2011 12:28 am

Pero wrote:It's better not to put too much stock into these kinds of assumptions. I'm speaking in general, not for people here, but you never know what kind of person you can run into. Sometimes when people hear I'm a Buddhist, they can find some fault with me that doesn't comply with their idea of Buddhists. They don't seem to understand a Buddhist is someone following a Buddhist path, not necessarily someone who's already knows everything about it and/or achieved all or some of the fruits of the path. So in the same way, even if you're speaking with Vajrayana practitioners, there is no guarantee that they'll be knowledgeable and so on.


Good advice. But I was attempting to answer something which I thought was apparent and common sense.
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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby daelm » Thu Sep 01, 2011 8:43 am

Epistemes wrote:
My question with all this is: Where did authentic Buddhism go of? And by authentic, I mean a Buddhism concentrated on the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, Sunyata, Co-dependent arising, and right concentration?

Forgive my ignorance.


well, to answer your actual question, it went nowhere. all of those things you list as features of Authentic Buddhism are the basis for practice in Theravada and Mahayana.

Buddhism is view and technique. techniques for realizing view have changed, been refined, and been expanded OVER TIME. view has been investigated, turned inside out and analysed at great length. that's all.

don't be fooled by the proliferation of technique. even in the woolliest-seeming traditions no-one forgets this.

"While claiming to be practicing the dharma with a high view, do not ignore cause and effect." - Patrul Rinpoche


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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu Sep 01, 2011 2:45 pm

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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Thu Sep 01, 2011 3:10 pm

If one asserts that the validity of the teachings rests purely upon historical accuracy, meaning that they must be the exact words of the Buddha, then this is truly a matter of blind faith, because we cannot prove what the Buddha actually said. We believe that the Pali teachings are his exact words, but that is still a matter of personal belief. Some texts may have been added later, or they may be distortions of what the Buddha said.

Conceivably, they might even be the words of someone who lived at the same time, who was posing as the Buddha. India is a big place and there is no shortage of "enlightened masters". Of course, this is simply random speculation, but it is not outside the realm of possibility, and when you are talking about historical proof of something that occurred over 2500 years ago, you have to consider a lot of possibilities. This is especially true if the people who wrote the teachings down for the first time, unless they were 100 years old, had never actually met the Buddha, and that they were written down in Sri Lanka, some 5,000 miles south of where the Buddha is supposed to have given most of his teachings. So, I don't think it is unreasonable to allow for a rather large margin of error.

To me it is ironic that so many who follow only the Theravada are quick to dismiss the Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings as having turned 'pure dharma' into a 'religion', merely because the rituals and practices and commentaries through which the teachings have been preserved resemble those of the Hindu and Judeo-Christian Traditions.

But, is it the outward manifestations of a tradition, its trappings, holidays, its bells and whistles, that make something a religion, or is it a question faith vs. application? While it is true that Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions assert much which cannot be immediately tested in this lifetime, such as other Buddha-realms, bardo states and so forth, neither do these traditions require their followers to believe (on blind faith) what they cannot perceive directly . Instead, one must put what one learns into practice constantly, testing it out under all circumstances to prove its validity.

By contrast, adhering to a teaching because one believes it to be "the real thing" can in turn lead one to deny the fact of their own personal experience, when that personal experience contradicts the teachings they follow. One person I have encountered (who adamantly denounces Mahayana, Vajrayana and even some Theravada) asserts absolutely that there is nothing that can truly be called a "self" (atma) and therefore denies that this is exactly the experience he is having. When confronted by this, he can only quote scripture, essentially saying that if Buddha said there is no 'self' then he must not be having any experience which feels like a "self". Of course, all traditions assert there is no real "self", but he even denies the fact of having that delusion (and it is precisely this delusion of a self, that we all share, that the Buddha addresses).

If the teachings do not free one from suffering, it doesn't matter who said them or what tradition they come from. Ultimately, it is up to the person practicing dharma to make it work.
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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby Aemilius » Thu Sep 01, 2011 3:31 pm

Epistemes wrote:
Namdrol wrote:Mahāyāna's earliest texts are reliably dated through archaeology and text criticism from the First Century BCE, if not earlier. So, that's not it. Mahāyāna was a fully articulated movement by 100 CE.


What are these earliest texts? I have been under the presumption that the Heart and Diamond Sutras were the earliest.

Namdrol wrote:Not only that, but the cultivation of love and compassion was strongly recommended by the Buddha was a very important practice in all strands of Buddhist schools.


I am aware of the Buddha advocating metta and karuna - but there is an insistence in the Mahayana school upon all actions benefitting all sentient beings that I'm not aware of in the Hinayana school.


We can take the example of King Ashoka, who lived about 269 bce to 232 bce, he was very much moved by compassion, compassion for all living creatures, compassion as an aspect of society, compassion in sending Dharma-missionaries to other countries. He established a welfare state long before it happened in Europe.
There are other examples of compassionate rulers in history of Buddhism, we can thus be sure that compassion has been integral to Buddhism from the beginning,
About the dating of sutras: First they existed as oral tradition, this can have been for a very long time, from 300 years to 1000 years. The first ones to be written down were Mahayana sutras, say Hirakawa Akira and Paul Groner in History of Indian Buddhism. It is quite certain that Mahayana existed long before the writing down of sutras began. Because memorising was highly respected in ancient society.
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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby Epistemes » Thu Sep 01, 2011 4:21 pm

daelm wrote:well, to answer your actual question, it went nowhere. all of those things you list as features of Authentic Buddhism are the basis for practice in Theravada and Mahayana.

Buddhism is view and technique. techniques for realizing view have changed, been refined, and been expanded OVER TIME. view has been investigated, turned inside out and analysed at great length. that's all.

don't be fooled by the proliferation of technique. even in the woolliest-seeming traditions no-one forgets this.


Thank you for the insight.

I've learned a lot in the past week about the commonalities between Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana, about the fluidity of dharma, and about the nature of Buddha. It is apparent that I much mental re-wiring since I've grown conditioned over the past 30 years to intellectually compartmentalizing concepts. In short, I don't see things as some of you here see them. (I think there's something about that in the Surangama Sutra, but it's been so long since I read it.)

Understanding these things, I think my issue isn't so much with authenticity as it is with currently preferring Dharma Pure - meaning, preferring some concept of what the Buddha and his earliest bhikkhus practiced according to the Pali Canon. Of course, I recognize now that this concept isn't entirely definable and is largely subjective. It is, again, an attempt to compartmentalize dharma as belonging to a specific period in time - time itself being imagined and subjective.

My preference for "the basics" and avoiding "dharma practice" makes some sense considering that I am having to re-familiarize myself with the basics, and doing so is through the earliest sources - the Pali Canon. This explains my short-sightedness and biases.
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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby Silent Bob » Thu Sep 01, 2011 5:01 pm

As I mentioned at the outset, OP might find this article on the discovery and analysis of previously unknown texts to be illuminating or at least interesting, posted here in its entirety:
http://www.tricycle.com/feature/whose-buddhism-truest
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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby Chaz » Thu Sep 01, 2011 6:59 pm

Silent Bob wrote:As I mentioned at the outset, OP might find this article on the discovery and analysis of previously unknown texts to be illuminating or at least interesting, posted here in its entirety:
http://www.tricycle.com/feature/whose-buddhism-truest



It's an excellent article. I studied anthropology/archaeology in college and while I don't work in that field any more, anything "archaeological" that comes my way is of particular interest.

You often hear from people who are seeking "original" or, as in the OPs case, "pure" Buddhism. Hitory shows and this article underlines, what we think of as "original" or "pure" is elusive and like everything else in Samsara, subject to change. Ultimately, there is no pure or original Buddhism to be found. It just isn't there. I would say that to try to find and practice such a thing is an excercise in futility.

Yes, we have the 4NT and the 8FP, the Niddanas, but are these "original" or "pure" Buddhist teachings. They may very well be, but in truth, we can't make such an assertion. They are certainly foundational teachings - teachings upon which all other Dharma teachings are built, but to say what has been handed down to us over 2500 years is "original" or "pure" is a bit of a reach. To apply such scholarly notions to something that really must be practiced, as opposed to known, is rather senseless to me.
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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby Karma K Sonam » Thu Sep 01, 2011 11:50 pm

Buddhism is very simple and yet at the same time incredibly complex, depending on what mind set you are in, what your background is and how open you are to different ideas. Something that can seem a tangled mess of philosophy and general "out there" ness can seem crystal clear later (and vice versa - I am sure there are many Buddhists out there who will confess that something they grasped as simple, later, they just cant get a handle on).

There is a tendency, certainly amongst Westerners to look for the intellectual answer; to search through the myriad of books and teachings for greater understanding. The best advice I ever got from my teachers when I got myself tied up in knots was to stop reading and to stop trying so hard and just to sit and watch my breath.

E, stop looking for what is authentic and sit and look for what is "right". You are in danger of trying too hard to understand. And this isn't about blind faith. Accept, don't accept - it is all the same in the end. :meditate:
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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby Huifeng » Fri Sep 02, 2011 5:34 am

Epistemes wrote:
Namdrol wrote:Not only that, but the cultivation of love and compassion was strongly recommended by the Buddha was a very important practice in all strands of Buddhist schools.


I am aware of the Buddha advocating metta and karuna - but there is an insistence in the Mahayana school upon all actions benefitting all sentient beings that I'm not aware of in the Hinayana school.


In the Anguttara Nikaya, there is a sutta where the buddha points out that there are four types of people:

Those who benefit neither self nor other;
Those who benefit other but not self;
Those who benefit self but not other; and
Those who benefit both self and other.

The first one is the worst, and the last one is the best.

There are similar statements in other early sutta / sutra literature, too. eg. the Dharmaskandhapada (oops, I mentioned some Abhidharma!)

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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby Kyosan » Fri Sep 02, 2011 8:32 pm

Epistemes wrote:........There is some prophet - and I think we can designate the Buddha as a prophet.......

From a Buddhist perspective, Shakyamini Buddha was not a prophet. In Islam and Christianity Allah/God is the highest being and the prophets are below him. In Buddhism a Buddha is the highest being. A Buddha does not receive messages from a higher being and communicate them to others. A Buddha speaks from his own knowledge.
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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby daelm » Fri Sep 02, 2011 9:41 pm

Epistemes wrote:........There is some prophet - and I think we can designate the Buddha as a prophet.......



prophet - definition of prophet: A person who speaks by divine inspiration or as the interpreter through whom the will of a god is expressed.



um. no.


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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby kirtu » Fri Sep 02, 2011 10:52 pm

Epistemes wrote: [Also for the record, I have a tattoo on my left shoulder blade of a Tibetan dorje with the manta Om Mani Peme Hum Hri because I respect Tibet, I respect Tibetan Buddhist practice, and I really like Chenrezig.]


That Chenreszig - he's a pretty good guy.

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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby Kunga Leshe » Sun Sep 04, 2011 3:48 pm

kirtu wrote:That Chenreszig - he's a pretty good guy.


or as a good friend recently said to me,"there's no such thing as 'asshole-chenrezig'! " ;)

Epistemes wrote:I try to find time every day to read a few chapters from Thich Nhat Hanh's "biography" of the Buddha entitled Old Path White Clouds. Today I ran across a "quote" from the Buddha:

One cannot overcome ignorance through offerings and prayers.


And, he's right, I believe.


I agree, but I think what is meant here is that we shouldn't think to supplicate and find favor with gods, spirits, buddhas, deities, what-have-you, flying spaghetti monsters, and expect to become enlightened without working on ourselves. The context of the quote may be helpful...


Epistemes wrote:My question with all this is: Where did authentic Buddhism go of? And by authentic, I mean a Buddhism concentrated on the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, Sunyata, Co-dependent arising, and right concentration?


All schools of Buddhism that I've read up on or have met regularly bring these topics up. Yes, believe it or not, even the Vajrayana. :spy:
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Re: Offerings and prayers: Authentic Buddhism?

Postby Chaz » Sun Sep 04, 2011 7:56 pm

Kunga Leshe wrote:
or as a good friend recently said to me,"there's no such thing as 'asshole-chenrezig'! " ;)


I'm so glad of that!

Epistemes wrote:My question with all this is: Where did authentic Buddhism go of? And by authentic, I mean a Buddhism concentrated on the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, Sunyata, Co-dependent arising, and right concentration?


All schools of Buddhism that I've read up on or have met regularly bring these topics up. Yes, believe it or not, even the Vajrayana. :spy:


True.

My guru requires his students so complete a certain study curriculum. It's also graduated - you can't study mahayana until you've completed the Hinayana curriculum and so on. That Hinayana series took more than a year and once you got into Mahyana study, you would find yourself being referred back to topics covered in the Hinayana.

Hell, even doing Ngondro practice takes you back to Hinayana.
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