Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

A forum for those wishing to discuss Buddhist history and teachings in the Western academic manner, referencing appropriate sources.
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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

Astus wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:20 pm
Johnny Dangerous wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 6:22 pmYou can just look at the world of textual criticism of this sort ("Early Buddhism" is one of the best examples) to see that it quickly becomes a treasure hunt of sorts, and rarely brings people to actually practicing. To me, that is evidence enough that this approach is one that is only peripherally valuable to Dharma practice. Peripheral value like that has it's place, but once it becomes central it ceases to be Dharma practice.
I find Bhikkhu Analayo a great example of being both a scholar and practitioner, and actually using both areas to support the other.
Yes, he's one great example...out of sea of people doing mostly criticism, seemingly. I mean, can you really point to many actual practitioners or better yet respected teachers who participate in this sort of criticism? There are a few, but overall the enterprise is about something other than Dharma practice, and in my opinion the fruits of such undertakings show this. The benefit is mainly academic. If that's your thing, go for it, I don't think it's the same as Dharma practice, and I think in places it becomes quite a distraction.

I remember in particular reading some stuff by (I think) Analayo regarding his speculation on whether or not the Mahayana texts are legitimate. He literally could only think in terms of "well maybe they made it up but thought it is from the Buddha in some metaphorical sense" and things like this. Basically saying "yeah it's all nonsense but maybe they thought it was legit somehow". I realize he is not a Mahayana practitioner, so that is fine, but really this sort of limited thinking IMO has very little use to someone trying to be a serious practitioner of the Mahayana. You don't need to be a complete literalist either, but believing that the spiritual significance of your scriptures is basically bunk can't be good for one's practice.

I mean, it may be useful to him, but if we are going to use modern academic standards of what is legitimate and discard the rest, we might as well simply not be Buddhist. It would be akin to approaching Native American traditions or something from this dry, modernist point of view, and then trying to practice them somehow, there's an absurdity there.

Either Buddhist scriptures have a spiritual significance to people that goes beyond this... historico-realist one, or they don't. If they don't, why bother with them? Just go take a philosophy class or something. It doesn't mean such a perspective is never useful, it means that it has limits on it that our larger view of our practice shouldn't. Exactly how I approach Western Psychology...there is some stuff there that's valuable, but it starts from a different, and much more limited premise than Dharma does. So, it's just an adjunct to one's practice and where it contradicts, I defer to Dharma instead of playing an endless shell game.

Buddhist Originalism is IMO kind of a disease to people's practice. Perhaps that seems extreme, but it just appears to be a diversion to me, and not a healthy one from a Dharma perpspective, as with all things YMMV.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Genjo Conan »

Astus wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:16 pm
What might be a way to avoid the issue of lineage histories being fictional is a return to a more open view of Zen that is not apart from the sutras and other texts but rather co-existent with them.
I think the idea that Zen ignores the scriptures is drastically overblown. My temple ordained a priest the other day, and during the ceremony, as well as giving homage to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, we also gave homage to the Lotus Sutra. I have never practiced in a Zen temple where the priests and the dedicated lay members didn't study the sutras and commentaries. The Sixth Patriarch woke up when hearing the Diamond Sutra, and warned against slandering the sutras:
“Those who grasp at emptiness slander the Sutras by maintaining that written words have no use. Since they maintain they have no need of written words, they should not speak either, because written words are merely the marks of spoken language. They also maintain that the direct way cannot be established by written words, and yet these two words, ‘not established’ are themselves written. “When they hear others speaking, they slander them by saying that they are attached to written words. You should know that to be confused as they are may be permissible, but to slander the Buddha’s Sutras is not. Do not slander the Sutras for if you do, your offense will create countless obstacles for you. . . .”
Dogen wrote favorably about the Lotus Sutra. Even Bodhidharma's famous "special transmission outside the scriptures" came from the Lankavatara Sutra. etc. etc.

Words and letters themselves can't ultimately convey the buddhadharma, but that doesn't mean that Zen denies the utility of words and letters; rather, they're necessary but not sufficient.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Malcolm »

Johnny Dangerous wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 10:11 pm. It would be akin to approaching Native American traditions or something from this dry, modernist point of view, and then trying to practice them somehow, there's an absurdity there.
I have found that the perspectives on history given by indigenous writers a refreshing alternative to the faux empiricism of the academy. Of course this is tied to Buddhism in Tibet as an indigenous tradition and how it articulates itself to itself contra settler colonialism, both western and Chinese.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Astus »

Malcolm wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 10:03 pmWho says they are fictional? On what basis are these claims for the fictionality of Chan lineages made? What assumptions drive such claims of inauthenticity?
It is based on documents available from various eras, many of them from the Dunhuang caves, that show how the list of Indian patriarchs developed to its current form through a century of changes, and there are also the developments of the first six patriarchs of China, and how eventually Huineng was accepted as the sixth. Just that is already enough to show how the very basis of an unbroken lineage from the Buddha is fictional.
Is there some conspiracy or bad intention to discredit the lineage claims? I don't see where or how, since they are not made by competing communities, unlike what happened when the position of the sixth patriarch was still debated, or when Chan groups had to establish themselves as legitimate, or when one Chan lineage claim was put against the other.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Astus
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Astus »

Johnny Dangerous wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 10:11 pmYou don't need to be a complete literalist either, but believing that the spiritual significance of your scriptures is basically bunk can't be good for one's practice.
I don't think that the value of the scriptures depend on believing in their attribution to the historical person of Shakyamuni, therefore it cannot cause problems whether they were actually stated by him or not. At the same time, to see a historical evolution of the scriptures and Buddhism in general can serve as an organising principle that does not downgrade one group and elevate another, thus providing a more open view of the whole of the received traditions than any interpretation limited to one specific school.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Astus
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Astus »

Genjo Conan wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 11:23 pmDogen wrote favorably about the Lotus Sutra.
That Soto Zen takes Dogen as the standard source is itself a result of Menzan Zuiho's efforts, who based his reformation on the works of Dogen, that is, what is now understood as correct transmission is established on written sources, and not what was passed down as the "living tradition". Such a recognition of textual materials is what is missing.
Words and letters themselves can't ultimately convey the buddhadharma, but that doesn't mean that Zen denies the utility of words and letters; rather, they're necessary but not sufficient.
If by ultimate conveyance you mean the need of personal realisation, of course, that is how it's always been. However, if you mean that the sutras are not representative of the complete teachings of the Buddha, and there must be another source of the teachings - in other words, a special transmission of an unbroken lineage of ancestors - then there are problems.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Zhen Li
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Zhen Li »

Astus wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 7:58 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 10:11 pmYou don't need to be a complete literalist either, but believing that the spiritual significance of your scriptures is basically bunk can't be good for one's practice.
I don't think that the value of the scriptures depend on believing in their attribution to the historical person of Shakyamuni, therefore it cannot cause problems whether they were actually stated by him or not. At the same time, to see a historical evolution of the scriptures and Buddhism in general can serve as an organising principle that does not downgrade one group and elevate another, thus providing a more open view of the whole of the received traditions than any interpretation limited to one specific school.
The problem is that Buddhist studies as it developed in the 19th century was full of Victorian Protestant suppositions of evolution and degradation that even today people even in some Mahāyāna temples end up with the impression that early Buddhism was rational empiricism and close to Theravāda, and then the Mahāyāna came along with apotheosis of the Buddha.

I think getting out of a presupposition of an evolution of Buddhism is a better first start. When need to see, for instance, and come to terms with the fact that much of what is considered Theravāda is extremely late and is full of statements such as how the Buddha is non-human, and the earliest collections of manuscripts that we know of include Mahāyāna texts alongside Śrāvakayāna texts. We have additions to texts, but also parts of texts drop away with different recensions. This is the same issue with Śaiva studies when it comes to Buddhism—the emphasis on how Buddhist tantra developed from Śaiva tantra, but largely neglecting the evidence that Śaiva tantra developed with Buddhist influence as well.

History shouldn't guide our practice, not just because that's not how religiosity works for most people (as Johnny Dangerous put quite well), but because, as with all fields of science, it's always changing and is a matter of interpretation. The Dharma needs to be something we know to be true, whereas history is something we can suppose to be true.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Astus »

Malcolm wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 10:03 pmWho says they are fictional? On what basis are these claims for the fictionality of Chan lineages made? What assumptions drive such claims of inauthenticity?
From Jeff Shore, a Rinzai Zen teacher and a professor at Hanazono University:

'Why, and from where, did the lineage-transmission legend arise? As Zen begins to take root in the West many Zennists naturally are attracted to this myth; some even naively believe it is literally true. They think that obtaining accouterment associated with lineage transmission somehow proves their Zen is authentic. Perhaps it just reflects a fundamental lack of awakening. A brief review of the historical development of the lineage-transmission legend will dispel some of the preposterous misconceptions surrounding it.
In the early Tang dynasty, a good 1,300 years ago, not just Zen, but other Buddhist schools were under pressure to at least prove their legitimacy, at best gain position and prestige from the vying political powers. The Chinese T’ien-t’ai [Jp.: Tendai ] school was active in this before the nascent “Ch’an” or Zen school was. In spite of the “Separate transmission apart from scripture, Not depending on words and letters” rhetoric, as already mentioned, the “Zen school” had relied on sutras — The Lankavatara Sutra in the transmission from Bodhidharma to the second patriarch, and later The Diamond Sutra. But by the eighth century attempts were made to trace back directly to Shakamuni through a spiritual lineage-transmission.
In short, various “Zen groups” then created a number of conflicting lineage transmission charts to try and gain legitimacy. These lineage charts were based on imperial cult lineage and modified Confucian ancestor worship. A “Buddha-family Line” was created to try and show that the present possessor was a direct spiritual descendent of Shakamuni. By tracing oneself back directly to Shakamuni rather than just to statements in a sutra, one could come out superior to the other Buddhist schools, and to other “illegitimate” lineages within the Zen school. Just as the emperor was the ruler over this world, the Zen patriarch was to be considered the ruler over the spiritual realm.
What we now naively view as “genuine” transmission-lineages in Zen Buddhism are largely dependent on vagaries of history and social-political plays for power. The pivotal figure is Kataku Jinne [Ho-tsê Shên-hui 670-762]. In an attempt to make himself the seventh patriarch, Jinne mounted an attack on the so-called “northern school” of Zen and argued forcefully for the legitimacy of his “southern school.” Using the obscurity of his teacher, now universally known as “the sixth patriarch,” to advantage, he based his attack on a strict patriarchal succession that he created, based on imperial cult lineage. Although the actual teachings of the two schools were virtually the same, Jinne denounced the teachings of the northern school. One of the reasons for his success was that he raised a huge amount of money — for military purposes — by selling a great number of ordination certificates in state-sponsored ceremonies.'

(The Source of Zen: Who Transmits What?)
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Astus »

Zhen Li wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 8:18 amWhen need to see, for instance, and come to terms with the fact that much of what is considered Theravāda is extremely late and is full of statements such as how the Buddha is non-human, and the earliest collections of manuscripts that we know of include Mahāyāna texts alongside Śrāvakayāna texts.
The various historical layers within the Pali Canon is readily recognised, not to mention post-canonical works. So there is a clear difference between current Theravada (Mahavihara) orthodoxy and what can be known of the so called pre-sectarian literature.
History shouldn't guide our practice, not just because that's not how religiosity works for most people (as Johnny Dangerous put quite well), but because, as with all fields of science, it's always changing and is a matter of interpretation. The Dharma needs to be something we know to be true, whereas history is something we can suppose to be true.
Historical concerns are not foreign to the various traditions, as each have stated a version of its past. Simply dismissing research into Buddhist history is an option of course, but that seems to be driven by fear of losing something. Scriptures serve as a guide, but the Dharma is realised in one's own experience. Even if it is accepted that none of the Abhidharma works, and none of the Mahayana sutras can be attributed to Shakyamuni, it does not mean that they are wrong. As Vasubandhu noted (The Universal Vehicle Discourse Literature, p 8), 'even if the universal vehicle was taught by some enlightened being other (than Säkyamuni Buddha), that also proves it to be buddha-word, since a buddha is anyone who becomes perfectly enlightened and then teaches such (a vehicle).'
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
Malcolm
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Malcolm »

Astus wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 7:51 am
Malcolm wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 10:03 pmWho says they are fictional? On what basis are these claims for the fictionality of Chan lineages made? What assumptions drive such claims of inauthenticity?
It is based on documents available from various eras, many of them from the Dunhuang caves, that show how the list of Indian patriarchs developed to its current form through a century of changes, and there are also the developments of the first six patriarchs of China, and how eventually Huineng was accepted as the sixth. Just that is already enough to show how the very basis of an unbroken lineage from the Buddha is fictional.
Actually, no. All it shows is an uneven recounting of a lineage.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Malcolm »

Astus wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 8:56 am
Malcolm wrote: Tue Oct 20, 2020 10:03 pmWho says they are fictional? On what basis are these claims for the fictionality of Chan lineages made? What assumptions drive such claims of inauthenticity?
From Jeff Shore, a Rinzai Zen teacher and a professor at Hanazono University:

'Why, and from where, did the lineage-transmission legend arise? As Zen begins to take root in the West many Zennists naturally are attracted to this myth; some even naively believe it is literally true. They think that obtaining accouterment associated with lineage transmission somehow proves their Zen is authentic. Perhaps it just reflects a fundamental lack of awakening. A brief review of the historical development of the lineage-transmission legend will dispel some of the preposterous misconceptions surrounding it.
In the early Tang dynasty, a good 1,300 years ago, not just Zen, but other Buddhist schools were under pressure to at least prove their legitimacy, at best gain position and prestige from the vying political powers. The Chinese T’ien-t’ai [Jp.: Tendai ] school was active in this before the nascent “Ch’an” or Zen school was. In spite of the “Separate transmission apart from scripture, Not depending on words and letters” rhetoric, as already mentioned, the “Zen school” had relied on sutras — The Lankavatara Sutra in the transmission from Bodhidharma to the second patriarch, and later The Diamond Sutra. But by the eighth century attempts were made to trace back directly to Shakamuni through a spiritual lineage-transmission.
In short, various “Zen groups” then created a number of conflicting lineage transmission charts to try and gain legitimacy. These lineage charts were based on imperial cult lineage and modified Confucian ancestor worship. A “Buddha-family Line” was created to try and show that the present possessor was a direct spiritual descendent of Shakamuni. By tracing oneself back directly to Shakamuni rather than just to statements in a sutra, one could come out superior to the other Buddhist schools, and to other “illegitimate” lineages within the Zen school. Just as the emperor was the ruler over this world, the Zen patriarch was to be considered the ruler over the spiritual realm.
What we now naively view as “genuine” transmission-lineages in Zen Buddhism are largely dependent on vagaries of history and social-political plays for power. The pivotal figure is Kataku Jinne [Ho-tsê Shên-hui 670-762]. In an attempt to make himself the seventh patriarch, Jinne mounted an attack on the so-called “northern school” of Zen and argued forcefully for the legitimacy of his “southern school.” Using the obscurity of his teacher, now universally known as “the sixth patriarch,” to advantage, he based his attack on a strict patriarchal succession that he created, based on imperial cult lineage. Although the actual teachings of the two schools were virtually the same, Jinne denounced the teachings of the northern school. One of the reasons for his success was that he raised a huge amount of money — for military purposes — by selling a great number of ordination certificates in state-sponsored ceremonies.'

(The Source of Zen: Who Transmits What?)
The above argument is extremely silly and barely tenuous. The notion of lineages was carried from India to Tibet, China, and Central Asia by subcontinental Buddhists, principally by Vajrayana practitioners such as Amoghavajra, but also monastic abbots. Everyone seems to forget that in 845, a Taoist empower destroyed 200,000 Buddhist temples, and sent up millions of texts in flames. Relying on the sparsity of Dunhuang to prove anything definitive about Buddhist history in China shows a paucity of reason and is at best specious. A better argument for the survival of the southern school is that it was in the southern hinterlands and so escaped suppression.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Malcolm »

Astus wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:20 am
Historical concerns are not foreign to the various traditions, as each have stated a version of its past. Simply dismissing research into Buddhist history is an option of course, but that seems to be driven by fear of losing something.
Holding up western historiography as the pinnacle of human intellectual culture is basically racist. Thus kind of historiography erases indigenous traditions and sensibilities because it is predicated on dominance, as I mentioned before. So it is to be resisted because it is harmful to our tradition, since this kind of historiography insists that only one set of facts can be accepted.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Matylda »

Malcolm wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 1:30 pm
Astus wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:20 am
Historical concerns are not foreign to the various traditions, as each have stated a version of its past. Simply dismissing research into Buddhist history is an option of course, but that seems to be driven by fear of losing something.
Holding up western historiography as the pinnacle of human intellectual culture is basically racist. Thus kind of historiography erases indigenous traditions and sensibilities because it is predicated on dominance, as I mentioned before. So it is to be resisted because it is harmful to our tradition, since this kind of historiography insists that only one set of facts can be accepted.
:namaste:
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Zhen Li »

Astus wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:20 am The various historical layers within the Pali Canon is readily recognised, not to mention post-canonical works. So there is a clear difference between current Theravada (Mahavihara) orthodoxy and what can be known of the so called pre-sectarian literature.
The presence of layers does not provide is knowledge of dating. The redaction and organisation of the Pali canon, which is largely but not entirely systematic, dates to the 5th or 6th century in Sri Lanka. That being said, the oldest intact manuscripts date to the 15th Century—this doesn't stop us from making inferences about Ancient Greek literature, but the latter has centuries of philology and scholarship behind it. We just don't know yet because outside of a few universities, academic study into Pali Buddhism is not really supported academically in the same way that other forms are. It is hard to really talk with certainty about layers indicating historical development before then without relying on the Chinese translations. Future scholars of Pali should probably be required to learn Chinese if they are engaged in early historical argumentation.
Astus wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:20 amHistorical concerns are not foreign to the various traditions, as each have stated a version of its past. Simply dismissing research into Buddhist history is an option of course, but that seems to be driven by fear of losing something. Scriptures serve as a guide, but the Dharma is realised in one's own experience. Even if it is accepted that none of the Abhidharma works, and none of the Mahayana sutras can be attributed to Shakyamuni, it does not mean that they are wrong. As Vasubandhu noted (The Universal Vehicle Discourse Literature, p 8), 'even if the universal vehicle was taught by some enlightened being other (than Säkyamuni Buddha), that also proves it to be buddha-word, since a buddha is anyone who becomes perfectly enlightened and then teaches such (a vehicle).'
I think that what we can gain from the discipline of history, or other academic disciplines, are techniques of critical enquiry and the development of competence in applying them. The Buddhist world is far too full of fake Buddha quotes and New Age assumptions that this would really benefit us. I am an academic and have published in peer reviewed journals—but my academic discussion of Buddhism is in a separate box, using a different Wittgensteinian word game, than my practice life. I think that many issues in both academia and religious practice (any religion, not just Buddhism) stem from the application of the laws of an incompatible word game. I think it can be hard for a Christian to maintain faith while doing critical inquiry into the early gospels, and it would be hard for a Muslim to really delve into the early development of the Qur'an without incurring a fatwa, as has of course happened. But I think we can divorce our practice from historical theory—well, I know we can, from my own experience.

Śākyamuni can be used as a term to refer to a nirmāṇakāya in general, in the Chinese Brahmajāla Sūtra for instance. He too cannot really be hemmed in by history. If we think of everything in positivist terms, then religiosity has no meaning beyond surface levels and we turn our practice into a glorified Stephen Bachelor-esque secular Buddhism. The world that we are perceiving is a result of our karma, and it is illusion. If we take it's material too seriously then we certainly will interfere with our practice and faith.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Genjo Conan »

Astus wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 8:08 am
That Soto Zen takes Dogen as the standard source is itself a result of Menzan Zuiho's efforts, who based his reformation on the works of Dogen, that is, what is now understood as correct transmission is established on written sources, and not what was passed down as the "living tradition". Such a recognition of textual materials is what is missing.
Could you rephrase this, please? I can't tell if you're asserting that Soto Zen does or does not recognize textual materials.

If by ultimate conveyance you mean the need of personal realisation, of course, that is how it's always been. However, if you mean that the sutras are not representative of the complete teachings of the Buddha, and there must be another source of the teachings - in other words, a special transmission of an unbroken lineage of ancestors - then there are problems.
Maybe you could set forth what you think the transmission is and what it signifies in Zen, because I'm not sure we're on the same page.

Edit: we sometimes say that someone who has only an intellectual understanding of Zen without direct experience practices "wild fox Zen"--but it's also said that someone who only has an experiential understanding of Zen without intellectual study is a "Zen devil." Zen simply is not, and never has been, anti-intellectual or anti-textual.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Astus »

Malcolm wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 1:19 pmThe notion of lineages was carried from India to Tibet, China, and Central Asia by subcontinental Buddhists, principally by Vajrayana practitioners such as Amoghavajra, but also monastic abbots.
Śubhakarasiṃha arrived in Chang'an in 716 (Esoteric Buddhism and the Tantras in East Asia, p 340), a couple of years after the first known record of a Chan lineage (epitaph of Faru 法如, 638-689, see Northern School and the Formation of Early Ch'an Buddhism, p 43-44, 85-86). However, the 'first lineage claim in Chinese Buddhism, made at some point between 607 and 632, predates the emergence of the Chan school; it appears in an early seventh-century work by Guanding 灌頂 (561–632), a disciple of the great Zhiyi 智顗 (538–597), revered by the Tiantai tradition as its founder.' (The Power of Patriarchs, p 33)
Malcolm wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 1:30 pmHolding up western historiography as the pinnacle of human intellectual culture is basically racist. Thus kind of historiography erases indigenous traditions and sensibilities because it is predicated on dominance, as I mentioned before. So it is to be resisted because it is harmful to our tradition, since this kind of historiography insists that only one set of facts can be accepted.
Japan has been the leader in (East Asian) Buddhist studies throughout the 20th century, so I don't know why call it 'Western', plus it was not called the pinnacle of human intellectual culture. By the 'highest levels' in my previous post I merely referred to what is currently accepted in general as the source of reliable knowledge, not only in Western countries, but globally. But if you consider academic research a threat, then it might be needed to come up with a viable defence.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Astus
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Astus »

Zhen Li wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 2:49 pmHe too cannot really be hemmed in by history. If we think of everything in positivist terms, then religiosity has no meaning beyond surface levels and we turn our practice into a glorified Stephen Bachelor-esque secular Buddhism. The world that we are perceiving is a result of our karma, and it is illusion. If we take it's material too seriously then we certainly will interfere with our practice and faith.
That seems to imply to me that Buddhism can exist only apart from what is seen by most as the real world, that is, the realm of conventional truths. However, I think that it poses no problem if Shakyamuni is viewed as a historical person, and Buddhism as a tradition maintained by actual human beings over the centuries, because it does not diminish the validity of the transmitted and realised Dharma. On the other hand, setting it into an unreachable dimension may hurt the possibility of it being accepted as a truth for humans.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Astus
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Astus »

Genjo Conan wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 7:08 pmCould you rephrase this, please? I can't tell if you're asserting that Soto Zen does or does not recognize textual materials.
What I mean is to see the scriptures and texts as valid and 'sufficient' sources, for instance because that is what actually happened within the Soto tradition that was itself defined based on centuries old written materials.
Maybe you could set forth what you think the transmission is and what it signifies in Zen, because I'm not sure we're on the same page.
Transmission in Zen can mean several things, from pure bureaucratic paperwork to pure transcendental wisdom and anything in between. The main point is, however, that the teachings are transmitted in words, and the Buddha's words are what one can find in the sutras, just as what one can know about the teachings of Dogen are in his writings and the records of his speeches. Realisation, on the other hand, is not something handed over but individually attained.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
Malcolm
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Malcolm »

Astus wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:15 pm
Malcolm wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 1:19 pmThe notion of lineages was carried from India to Tibet, China, and Central Asia by subcontinental Buddhists, principally by Vajrayana practitioners such as Amoghavajra, but also monastic abbots.
Śubhakarasiṃha arrived in Chang'an in 716...
Monastic lineage lists certainly predate even these, that as my point.

Malcolm wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 1:30 pmHolding up western historiography as the pinnacle of human intellectual culture is basically racist. Thus kind of historiography erases indigenous traditions and sensibilities because it is predicated on dominance, as I mentioned before. So it is to be resisted because it is harmful to our tradition, since this kind of historiography insists that only one set of facts can be accepted.
Japan has been the leader in (East Asian) Buddhist studies throughout the 20th century...
The Japanese Buddhist scholars have merely adopted a paradigm of western knowledge accumulation from the Germans, which was used originally for evaluating the Bible. This does not make it any less racist if one asserts it is the summum bonum of knowledge accumulation.

The Japanese have annihilated their own indigenous Buddhist tradition by falling the notion that there can only be a single set of facts, and those are known through textual analysis.
Malcolm
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Malcolm »

Astus wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:22 pm

That seems to imply to me that Buddhism can exist only apart from what is seen by most as the real world, that is, the realm of conventional truths. However, I think that it poses no problem if Shakyamuni is viewed as a historical person, and Buddhism as a tradition maintained by actual human beings over the centuries, because it does not diminish the validity of the transmitted and realised Dharma. On the other hand, setting it into an unreachable dimension may hurt the possibility of it being accepted as a truth for humans.
You seem to miss the point of what such empiricism erases, how it salts the soil of tradition, out of which nothing will grow.
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