Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Apr 25, 2012 11:14 am

Aemilius wrote:Therefore buddhist communities are dependent on the violence that has been used, and is being used by states and governments.
No they are not. Buddhism has and can exist without state support.
German philosopher Hegel has said many interesting things about this dilemma, i.e. that individuals are demanded to behave ethically, but then the history proves us that the larger units of states never exist without war, without violence, stealth and robbery. How do we understand this as buddhists ?
That samsara is a s**t hole?
I see Master Hsing Yun as bringing buddhism on a realistic level, when he takes into consideration how states & countries exist. And maybe his thinking has even been influenced by the great philosopher Hegel in this matter.
There are many, many democratic countries out there that exist and continue to exist without the death penalty. The death penalty is not necessary for the survival of a state and its citizens.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Apr 25, 2012 12:43 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
I see Master Hsing Yun as bringing buddhism on a realistic level, when he takes into consideration how states & countries exist. And maybe his thinking has even been influenced by the great philosopher Hegel in this matter.


There are many, many democratic countries out there that exist and continue to exist without the death penalty. The death penalty is not necessary for the survival of a state and its citizens.


Xingyun's support for the death penalty undermines his position and legitimacy as a Buddhist teacher. If he supports the death penalty it leads one to wonder what other wrong views he holds.

The death penalty is something that is almost always widely supported in Buddhist countries. Most Buddhist countries execute criminals and there is little movement to stop it.

Then again regardless if a country or culture is Buddhist it doesn't mean people or even the monastics know that much about the subject or what the Buddha taught...
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Aemilius » Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:29 am

gregkavarnos wrote:
Aemilius wrote:Therefore buddhist communities are dependent on the violence that has been used, and is being used by states and governments.
No they are not. Buddhism has and can exist without state support.
German philosopher Hegel has said many interesting things about this dilemma, i.e. that individuals are demanded to behave ethically, but then the history proves us that the larger units of states never exist without war, without violence, stealth and robbery. How do we understand this as buddhists ?
That samsara is a s**t hole?
I see Master Hsing Yun as bringing buddhism on a realistic level, when he takes into consideration how states & countries exist. And maybe his thinking has even been influenced by the great philosopher Hegel in this matter.
There are many, many democratic countries out there that exist and continue to exist without the death penalty. The death penalty is not necessary for the survival of a state and its citizens.
:namaste:


You can view history in terms of development of nations, development and arising of countries and states. As an example you can view the invasion of India by aryan peoples. Who then assimilated the existing cultural values and founded their own states, their own territories, like the Shakyan republic/kingdom. The ruling class in the Shakyan state was the warrior class. The reason for this is that they had conquered their territory and defended it with violence, with warfare. By the time of Prince Siddhartha they had become wealthy and opulent. Their state had reached a level of peaceful existence, where a class of spiritual seekers, mendicant beggars, was supported. These persons were freed from compulsory military service.
The wandering ascetics are a phenomenon that arises in a certain phase of development in a state, in a nation.
You have to understand that different states are in different phases of development, and therefore their values and their common accepted ideas are different. It takes a long development before a country achieves a pacifist stage of existence. Look at the history of the european countries as an example! The present european countries have not arisen otherwise than as they have arisen. It is childish to ignore the reality of past history. A state (in Europe) is a product of thousands years of violence and forceful suppression. This has a karmic effect, it isn't anymore necessary to kill so many people.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Astus » Sat Apr 28, 2012 12:52 pm

There is no need to talk about the rise of nations and countries if it were simply a matter of warfare. We could say as well that those who waged war were criminals with heightened greed for power and little care for others beyond themselves and their clan, family and friends. The ruling class is a minority living on others, with the idea that they protect the people from other such parasites. We can also say that a king comes in exchange for smaller thugs, thus "peace" is achieved on a larger territory. But it's simply not true that there are nations born from such power struggles. The actual people, the majority, stays at the same place, while rulers and dynasties change. A king unifies people, gradually spreading a single culture and language within the conquered territory. Such events are not necessary at all. People can continue living without others pretending to be their protectors. Why? Because it's not the protectors feeding and housing them but the other way around.

Buddhism could spread fine throughout India, Central and South Asia, and the Far East without any single ruler forcing it on others. Other large religions have different history as we all know. If there is anything good to be learnt from the history of Europe is that it's a lot better to stop fighting each other and start to cooperate without forcing your values on others. That's the idea of the Union. It is a new turn after all the Julius Caesars, Napoleons and Hitlers. It is also a reason why death penalty is banned in the whole EU.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Anders » Sat Apr 28, 2012 3:19 pm

Although I think it is worth pointing out that master Hsing Yun actually advocates lessening the dealth penalty and basically 'only' suggests its use for the most heinous of crimes, I do agree that there really is no foundation in Buddhism for its advocacy in any shape or form. Even if one could rationalise the death penalty itself as being a result of karma for the criminal, it is a major problem that actually executing the penalty requires a major violation of the most foundational precept of all in Buddhism - to take another human life.

This really has little to do with the historical development. Ancient India was, by most modern western standards, a fairly violent society. Yet, Nagarjuna advocates quite clearly in the Ratnavali:

    Once one has thoroughly considered and truly knows their cases,
    For those persons who increasingly commit grave transgressions,
    Still do not put them to death nor subject them to torment.
    One prays that the King would rather banish them to other regions.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Ogyen » Sat Apr 28, 2012 7:25 pm

I am very interested in what Huifeng posted. Out of the whole discussion, I'm curious enough to ask - how much of this hierarchy is implicitly 'merit-based'?

It reminds me of when I found myself unable to attend the sangha closest to me, I was told in not so many words that my circumstances were a factor of merit. Not so much that I am a bad person and don't have enough merit to be there, but that it helps turn the mind towards virtue to start practices that increase the possibilities of being closer to dharma. Dharma teachers may simply have accumulated more merit to get to that place in that they ARE teaching dharma - clearly via cause and effect - they have cultivated that merit through their past actions. I (like many lay people) simply have not because I've not habituated myself, or perhaps applied myself with quite the same fervor to work through my obscurations, I have not dedicated as much time or effort, etc etc... Does this mean that I have no chance for respect from those who have attained more, or that I'm 'worth less' as a person - I don't think most teachers would think this way (I might be completely mistaken). If anything I might elicit a bit more compassion for my ignorance, the way a child might be seen by a parent..?

In terms of expecting worldly 'equality' for all people would be no different than expecting people to all make roughly the same amount of money. The truth is far more complex than any blanket statement, there are so many choices that put people in so many places, and so, perhaps the factor of hierarchy accounts more for circumstantial merit attained - but does it rule out that the lay population can attain awakening? Unless I'm mistaken, I don't see anything that says that it can't. That different people attain different positions seems a convergence of the innumerable factors that gained them the various opportunities they chose to pursue (like we all accumulated merit here to have taken a human birth). Note, this does not mean people (including teachers) don't just burn through past accumulations with present and future actions that may be less than appropriate for their continued office/path.

If anything, it's like when you're deep in debt, you gotta dig harder to get to the same place of being debt free than someone who's managed their books a bit better. They're not a more valuable person, or more enlightened, they simply followed some basic principles you didn't. Their cause and effect created a bit of a more direct path to their awakening. But at any point, we can make bad choices, endorse poor things, engage pride, etc etc. That's why the way is long, and arduous and most of all persevering will, action, and the just doing it make teacher and lay person ultimately equal in the scope of samsara.

I resonate with Huifeng's post, it seems to account for the basic fact that no one can really quantify another's attainments, but as we live in a society, there must be a practical way to handle intrinsic diversity. Of course, this alone can be (and historically has been) manipulated by any institution, the politics of human ignorance can muddle up a whole lot of our predecessor's clarity. In this sense, how is the Buddhist institution any different in this sense from the Catholic church? There are people, there are politics, there is animal hierarchy - this seems to go hand in hand with community/society/civilization living. I think the bottom line is that you have to be the change you wish to see in the world, because the rest is pretty big and always gets tweaked by those less aware into half-superstitious, often unquestioned politics.

I also recognize from the OP's question, there is an issue - but this is nothing new, and so how does one meet the old problem with a new solution? "Be the change you wish to see in the world" - Gandhi.

apologies if my post is vaguely ranty... :toilet:
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Jikan » Sat Apr 28, 2012 7:48 pm

kirtu wrote:
The Reformation was injurious to spirituality in Christianity and living things in Europe, esp. in Germany, Bohemia and Spain.

Kirt


That's a debatable point. I'm with Christopher Hill (see The World Turned Upside-Down) on the rubber-meets-the-road aspects of the reformation in the English-speaking world.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby kirtu » Sat Apr 28, 2012 7:59 pm

Jikan wrote:
kirtu wrote:
The Reformation was injurious to spirituality in Christianity and living things in Europe, esp. in Germany, Bohemia and Spain.

Kirt


That's a debatable point. I'm with Christopher Hill (see The World Turned Upside-Down) on the rubber-meets-the-road aspects of the reformation in the English-speaking world.


The effects of the Reformation gave us defenestration in Bohemia - that was pretty injurious to the defenestrated. Then we have the whole Thirty Years War .... I'll check out what Hill has to say ....

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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Apr 28, 2012 8:05 pm

Ogyen wrote:It reminds me of when I found myself unable to attend the sangha closest to me, I was told in not so many words that my circumstances were a factor of merit. Not so much that I am a bad person and don't have enough merit to be there, but that it helps turn the mind towards virtue to start practices that increase the possibilities of being closer to dharma. Dharma teachers may simply have accumulated more merit to get to that place in that they ARE teaching dharma - clearly via cause and effect - they have cultivated that merit through their past actions. I (like many lay people) simply have not because I've not habituated myself, or perhaps applied myself with quite the same fervor to work through my obscurations, I have not dedicated as much time or effort, etc etc... Does this mean that I have no chance for respect from those who have attained more, or that I'm 'worth less' as a person - I don't think most teachers would think this way (I might be completely mistaken). If anything I might elicit a bit more compassion for my ignorance, the way a child might be seen by a parent..?
'scuse my stupidity but are you saying that they told you that you coudn't attend the centre because you hadn't accumulated enough merit? Or was it that you wanted to attend some sort of "closed" practice/teaching session and you couldn't take part in that?

Did they use one of these to measure how much merit you had?
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Lazy_eye » Sat Apr 28, 2012 9:15 pm

Huseng wrote:
gregkavarnos wrote:
I see Master Hsing Yun as bringing buddhism on a realistic level, when he takes into consideration how states & countries exist. And maybe his thinking has even been influenced by the great philosopher Hegel in this matter.


There are many, many democratic countries out there that exist and continue to exist without the death penalty. The death penalty is not necessary for the survival of a state and its citizens.


Xingyun's support for the death penalty undermines his position and legitimacy as a Buddhist teacher. If he supports the death penalty it leads one to wonder what other wrong views he holds.

The death penalty is something that is almost always widely supported in Buddhist countries. Most Buddhist countries execute criminals and there is little movement to stop it.

Then again regardless if a country or culture is Buddhist it doesn't mean people or even the monastics know that much about the subject or what the Buddha taught...


It might be helpful to know more about Ven. Hsing Yun's reasons for taking these positions and the arguments he puts forward in favor of them.

Suppose it could be shown (and I'm not saying it can) that capital punishment either reduced the likelihood of unwholesome kamma for the criminal and his victims, or contributed in some way to developing social/civic conditions that were conducive to the flourishing of the dhamma -- then the question becomes a little more complicated, no?
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sat Apr 28, 2012 9:29 pm

Lazy_eye wrote:Suppose it could be shown (and I'm not saying it can) that capital punishment either reduced the likelihood of unwholesome kamma for the criminal and his victims, or contributed in some way to developing social/civic conditions that were conducive to the flourishing of the dhamma -- then the question becomes a little more complicated, no?
NO!
"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."
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Lazy_eye » Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:07 pm

What about Captain Compassionate?

I oppose the death penalty, btw. But to be fair to Hsing Yun, who is a venerated master, I'd like to know what his arguments are in favor -- and what scriptural authority he cites. My experience is that the dharma does not always translate into clear-cut answers to sociopolitical questions, given the worldly nature of the state.

The Buddha taught and conversed with great kings (who no doubt ruled over kingdoms that carried out executions) and, as Huseng noted, pretty much every Buddhist-majority state has the death penalty, as did Tibet during most of its history. Considering all this, I'm inclined to give the Venerable a fair hearing before passing judgment on his legitimacy as a Buddhist teacher based on these issues.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Anders » Sat Apr 28, 2012 10:18 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:
Lazy_eye wrote:Suppose it could be shown (and I'm not saying it can) that capital punishment either reduced the likelihood of unwholesome kamma for the criminal and his victims, or contributed in some way to developing social/civic conditions that were conducive to the flourishing of the dhamma -- then the question becomes a little more complicated, no?
NO!


Heh. Although I think the Buddhist response to this issue ought to be a categorical 'no' (to the extent that there can at all be a categorical answer in Buddhist morality), I think Lazy Eye does have a good point in that it is worth looking at in more detail before passing judgement. Even on moral issues where Buddhism is more or less categorical, the issue is never quite black and white.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Sherab Dorje » Sun Apr 29, 2012 12:01 am

How's this for a compromise: those that support the death penalty should also be the ones that kill the accused.

Let's see how many arm chair executioners out there will be willing to take on the karma of the act.
I oppose the death penalty, btw. But to be fair to Hsing Yun, who is a venerated master, I'd like to know what his arguments are in favor -- and what scriptural authority he cites.
I don't really care how he warps the Buddhas teachings to justify killing a sentient being. There are other ways to deal with "unrepentant" criminals. I reccomend you watch "Doing Time, Doing Vipassana". I reccomend you look up some of the work being done in prisons (and death row) by a variety of (much) less venerated and famous Dharma practitioners all over the world.
...pretty much every Buddhist-majority state has the death penalty, as did Tibet during most of its history.
So Buddhists are hypocrites too. what a surprise!

The most important point supporting opposition to the death penalty, is that the death penalty does not lead to a reduction in crime anyway. Preventive measures (education, employment, strict gun laws, welfare programs, adequate policing, equitable distribution of wealth, moral/ethical schooling, etc...) always work better than punishment.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Thrasymachus » Sun Apr 29, 2012 1:56 am

I think there are two recurring problems up in all this:
1) You are good at criticizing the society you were not raised into, the Eastern one and not the one whose assumptions were inured in your upbringing as a priori, which is Western civilization.
2) You spend so much time putting your heads into Buddhism, into alien Asian societies you cannot put that same time into reading or developing a critique of your own, of Western society.

Huseng wrote:But rank and position is still a major part of any significant Buddhist community in Asia. This is one thing that might get dropped if Buddhism is really transmitted into the west.


You think rank and class does not exist in Western society? Most my friends, family and everyone I know will have to work like dogs in dehumanizing, meaningless jobs. And for what? To hope to escape total debt peonage hopefully by the time we die so we can retire somehow. Yet a very few people will never have to do any laborious or alienating work because they own enough assets to escape selling themselves as some commodity of labor, instead they do the buying of alienated labor.

What do you think money is in, the West? What do you think about the school system? It is good you are here to teach me after going to Asia, that I do not have to deal ever with rank and position...

Huseng wrote:Case in point is Ven. Xingyun of Foguangshan who openly supports the death penalty and conscription, but still gets praised as some kind of enlightened bodhisattva. ... By default he has a position of respect simply by his role as an administrator, not because of wisdom. There are others who might not be in so high a role, yet write books about applied dharma, yet are in reality quite bitter and angry individuals. But nevertheless, they get a lot of respect just by virtue of their robes and title. I imagine they get published easier as well.


Is it different with any college professor, board of a firm, or head of state. In the West people get respect all the time, purely based on social position. Infact there is not even any high ideals in our society at all. We are taught that greed, selfishness and hedonism is good, when every other previous level of societal development had ethics, morality and social consequences against such behavior.

Another thing is that many tend to think high ideals that are not even actualized in themselves can be realized by the larger society. Ideals are something to strive for, not necessarily something that can be actualized. Thus it is no surprise that in real life even high ideals in Buddhist scripture are not meet, even by head lamas who preside over a monastic community. Are you trying to argue that he should inspire people by becoming an anti-militarist, anti-state radical, even at the cost of going to jail? There may be deeper reasons you don't know why he has taken a certain public tact. It would do him and his dharma followers no good to be considered an enemy of the state unnecessarily by pushing for concessions for mere ideals that will have worse worldly effects on the practitioners under his trust, for the backlash the state's negative gaze would cause.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Apr 29, 2012 4:47 am

Lazy_eye wrote:Considering all this, I'm inclined to give the Venerable a fair hearing before passing judgment on his legitimacy as a Buddhist teacher based on these issues.


See page 144 of Stuart Chandler's study on Foguangshan entitled Establishing a Pure Land on Earth: The Foguang Buddhist Perspective on Modernization and Globalization:

http://books.google.com.tw/books?id=OkE ... th&f=false

The relevant quote:

Capital punishment is also permissible in Master Xingyun's view. In fact, according to the law of cause and effect, executing a murderer fulfils the natural consequence of that person's act. So long as the executioner holds no enmity or grudge against the person being executed, little individual karmic effect will adhere, for he or she is merely carrying out the country's law. Those involved in handing down the death penalty may even accumulate positive karma if their intentions are as pure as those of Shakyamuni Buddha, who, according to the Jakarta [Jataka] tales, had, in one of his previous lives, killed a bandit to prevent him from massacring five hundred merchants.


So, this assumes the whole justice system is made up of bodhisattvas who without any malice or anger execute criminals...

In reality any justice system is made up of ordinary people who will inevitably have malice in mind when they take the condemned to the gallows.

Such reasoning as presented by Xingyun here is complete unrealistic nonsense. I asked him this same question in person and he said, "If you go and kill people, why can't you be killed?"

This is why I don't think he qualifies as a dharma teacher. His blatantly wrong and dangerous views are likely to encourage others to do misdeeds and feel justified in the fact. Consider that a judge might know Xingyun is fine with capital punishment and feel morally justified in handing out a death sentence.

That is not wholesome karma.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Apr 29, 2012 4:50 am

Thrasymachus wrote:I think there are two recurring problems up in all this:

2) You spend so much time putting your heads into Buddhism, into alien Asian societies you cannot put that same time into reading or developing a critique of your own, of Western society.


You are mistaken. I have a lot of criticism for western society.

You think rank and class does not exist in Western society?


Where did I say this?

I think rank and class mean less and less in a religious context because of the freedom to move around unhindered and pick and choose whatever religious elements suits an individual.



It would do him and his dharma followers no good to be considered an enemy of the state unnecessarily by pushing for concessions for mere ideals that will have worse worldly effects on the practitioners under his trust, for the backlash the state's negative gaze would cause.


Taiwan is a free society now where freedom of speech exists. Nevertheless, he continues to hold such views.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Apr 29, 2012 4:54 am

Lazy_eye wrote:It might be helpful to know more about Ven. Hsing Yun's reasons for taking these positions and the arguments he puts forward in favor of them.

Suppose it could be shown (and I'm not saying it can) that capital punishment either reduced the likelihood of unwholesome kamma for the criminal and his victims, or contributed in some way to developing social/civic conditions that were conducive to the flourishing of the dhamma -- then the question becomes a little more complicated, no?


This cannot be shown to be the case.

Self-defence is one thing (as in a police officer shooting down a gunman wildly firing on a crowd of people), but a criminal in a jail is of little harm to the public.

It has also been demonstrated time and again that the death penalty is not a strong deterrence against crime. It is really about revenge rather than crafting a safe society.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby Indrajala » Sun Apr 29, 2012 4:56 am

Anders Honore wrote:Although I think it is worth pointing out that master Hsing Yun actually advocates lessening the dealth penalty and basically 'only' suggests its use for the most heinous of crimes, I do agree that there really is no foundation in Buddhism for its advocacy in any shape or form. Even if one could rationalise the death penalty itself as being a result of karma for the criminal, it is a major problem that actually executing the penalty requires a major violation of the most foundational precept of all in Buddhism - to take another human life.


The problem is that with his status in Chinese Buddhism people will take him quite seriously and feel justified in having criminals executed.

Such wrong views are clearly dangerous, unwholesome and will lead to vast suffering. This is why I don't think he is a "master", nor a suitable teacher of dharma. He should be condemned by his own organization for holding such views, but nobody would ever do that as it would be career suicide.
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Re: Are some Buddhists more equal than others?

Postby kirtu » Sun Apr 29, 2012 5:27 am

gregkavarnos wrote:How's this for a compromise: those that support the death penalty should also be the ones that kill the accused.

Let's see how many arm chair executioners out there will be willing to take on the karma of the act.


I have been thinking about this in other contexts but this is one of the main problems of samsara. A person might themselves be willing to take on some karma. However due to social interaction they are also encouraging others or forcing others to take on karma. This is a real problem. Much of the karma we generate necessarily impacts on the karma of others and this is often not neutral or positive karma.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

“All beings are Buddhas, but obscured by incidental stains. When those have been removed, there is Buddhahood.”
Hevajra Tantra
kirtu
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