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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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

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Buddhism as we now know it didn’t exist until today.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

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.
Right, well, I don't think Buddha Shakyamuni is limited to being a figure exclusively of a particular time and place. Saying a certain scripture can be attributed to the Buddha (particularly from a Tantric perspective) is not the same as saying it's attributed to the figure of Shakyamuni as defined by modern historic-realist studies. Factually, this Shakyamuni is actually the "new" creation, as far as traditions are concerned.

There have already been non-sectarian movements prior to modern scholarship and naive-realist interpretations of The Buddha.
"...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."

-James Low
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by tkp67 »

Some of the methodology applied at the humanities department at Harvard. I found it worth the read.
Differentiations

Differentiating Between Devotional Expression and the Study of Religion First and foremost, scholars highlight the difference between the devotional expression of particular religious beliefs as normative and the nonsectarian study of religion that presumes the religious legitimacy of diverse normative claims. The importance of this distinction is that it recognizes the validity of normative theological assertions without equating them with universal truths about the tradition itself. Unfortunately, this distinction is often ignored in public discourse about religion. For example, there is a great deal of contemporary debate about the roles for women in Islam. In truth, there are a variety of theological interpretations of the tradition that lead to different, sometimes antithetical practices and assertions. Equally common is that differing communities will have similar practices but with diverse theological justifications. It is appropriate for members of a particular community to assert the orthodoxy (or orthopraxy) of their theological interpretations of the tradition, but it is important to recognize the difference between a theological assertion of normativity and the factual truth that multiple legitimate perspectives exist. The latter represent the nonsectarian study of religion. This is the approach promoted here and the one most appropriate to advance the public understanding of religion. There are three other central assertions about religions themselves that religious studies scholars have outlined and that flow from the recognition of the distinction between devotional expression and the nonsectarian study of religion outlined above:

1.religions are internally diverse as opposed to uniform;
2.religions evolve and change over time as opposed to being a historical and static;
3.religious influences are embedded in all dimensions of culture as opposed to the assumption that religions function in discrete, isolated, “private” contexts.
https://rlp.hds.harvard.edu/files/hds-r ... 1458309572
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Astus
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

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Malcolm wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:33 pmMonastic lineage lists certainly predate even these, that as my point.
There are two early sources that served as the inspiration for the creation of special lineages: Huiyuan's (334–416) preface to the Dharmatrata-dhyana Sutra (Damoduoluo chan jing 達摩多羅禪經, English translation by Chan, Yiu-wing) and the Fu fazang yinyuan zhuan 付法藏因緣傳 ('“History of the Transmission of the Dharma-Storehouse,” a lineage history of the Indian Buddhist patriarchs, purportedly translated in 472 by Kiṅkara (d.u.) and Tanyao (fl. 450–490) of the Northern Wei dynasty, but now known to be an indigenous Chinese composition, in six rolls.' - The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism, p 307), as summarised by Morrison in The Power of Patriarchs, p 23-27.
However, it should be clear that what was created in China as special lineages are qualitatively different from the common understanding that monastics are heirs of the Buddha, and it was meant to set apart a unique group of people who wield more authority than ordinary monks, eventually resulting in the system of public monasteries bound to lineage members and under the direct control of the imperial court (see: How Zen Became Zen, p 39).
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.
Reforms in Zen based on textual sources happened in the 18th century in Japan, and in the 17th century in China, without any modern influence of historiography.
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 »

Malcolm wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:36 pmYou seem to miss the point of what such empiricism erases, how it salts the soil of tradition, out of which nothing will grow.
Please elaborate then.
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: Thu Oct 22, 2020 10:46 am
However, it should be clear that what was created in China as special lineages are qualitatively different from the common understanding that monastics are heirs of the Buddha, and it was meant to set apart a unique group of people who wield more authority than ordinary monks, eventually resulting in the system of public monasteries bound to lineage members and under the direct control of the imperial court (see: How Zen Became Zen, p 39).

The notion of lineage is found in all Buddhist schools in India, and was carried to Tibet, China, etc., from there. Inconsistencies in the record do not indicate that such lineages are fictions, the central point of your contention.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

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Malcolm wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 5:23 pm The notion of lineage is found in all Buddhist schools in India, and was carried to Tibet, China, etc., from there. Inconsistencies in the record do not indicate that such lineages are fictions, the central point of your contention.
If so, could you point to some sources specifying lineages of Dharma?
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 Johnny Dangerous »

Astus wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 7:20 pm
Malcolm wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 5:23 pm The notion of lineage is found in all Buddhist schools in India, and was carried to Tibet, China, etc., from there. Inconsistencies in the record do not indicate that such lineages are fictions, the central point of your contention.
If so, could you point to some sources specifying lineages of Dharma?
Sure, let me find my Official Vajrayana Lineage chart (tm), authorized and signed by Vajradhara.
"...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."

-James Low
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Malcolm »

Astus wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 7:20 pm
Malcolm wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 5:23 pm The notion of lineage is found in all Buddhist schools in India, and was carried to Tibet, China, etc., from there. Inconsistencies in the record do not indicate that such lineages are fictions, the central point of your contention.
If so, could you point to some sources specifying lineages of Dharma?
Well, If you read Tibetan, you could read Lama Dampa's Sonam Gyaltsen's record of lineages for Vinaya, Abhidharma, Pramana, Bodhisattva vows, etc., and so on, as well as lineages Vajrayāna lineages, you name it,
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

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Malcolm wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 8:16 pm Well, If you read Tibetan, you could read Lama Dampa's Sonam Gyaltsen's record of lineages for Vinaya, Abhidharma, Pramana, Bodhisattva vows, etc., and so on, as well as lineages Vajrayāna lineages, you name it,
Anything about a thousand years before him, just to see how the concept of Dharma lineages already existed in various Indian schools?
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"
JKhedrup
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by JKhedrup »

It is possible to carve out a niche as a practitioner in academia, especially if you are not aiming for a faculty position.
From the first day in my MA program I wore my robes, which I think helped to create some space that my perspective would not
be the materialist, rationalist one that is found most often.
If I decide to continue after this degree is finished in the summer, I am planning to switch to ethnographic work. Specifically, about the pedagogies
of Tibetan geshes/lamas/khenpos and their choices in teaching the various groups of students one encounters in the West. This is a way to shift the gaze away from the perspective Malcolm has critiqued, and open conversations in new ways.
My appearance means that people know what they are dealing with right from the get-go - which means they take me on knowing that I see the Buddha dharma as a path that leads to very real goals. Though I know my perspective is not shared by most of my classmates and teachers, no one has given me a particularly hard time about it. I've found the skills I've developed especially in written translation of more complex texts and genres have helped me increase my competency in my main job, which is serving as Geshe la's interpreter.
I'd never sacrifice my monastic life or dharma-rooted occupation for an academic job, though. And sacrifice would be required as in the unlikely situation I were considered for a faculty position, it would most likely be in a totally different city and perhaps country. And there is no way I would give up my teacher and serving my community for a career.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Malcolm »

Astus wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 9:56 pm
Malcolm wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 8:16 pm Well, If you read Tibetan, you could read Lama Dampa's Sonam Gyaltsen's record of lineages for Vinaya, Abhidharma, Pramana, Bodhisattva vows, etc., and so on, as well as lineages Vajrayāna lineages, you name it,
Anything about a thousand years before him, just to see how the concept of Dharma lineages already existed in various Indian schools?
As you know, there has been massive destruction of texts in India and China. But the Theravada chronicle of ordinations is illustrative.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

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Malcolm wrote: Fri Oct 23, 2020 2:14 amAs you know, there has been massive destruction of texts in India and China. But the Theravada chronicle of ordinations is illustrative.
There are a few examples of a lineage, although in two different senses. The Theravada account is about how the Dharma was faithfully transmitted, while in North India there were the five (or more) Dharmacaryas (Mahākaśyapa, Ānanda, Madhyāntika, Śāṇakavāsin, Upagupta) as preserved for instance in the Aśokāvadāna (one of its Chinese translations: The Biographical Scripture of King Aśoka), and that list is reflected (with some changes) in the final version of the Indian patriarchs of Zen, although, as noted before, it was copied from a different source.

The fictional nature of the lineage already shows in the above, since those teachers revered among Sarvastivadins and others had practically nothing to do with Mahayana, much less Zen. The Indian ancestors in Zen were gradually "zennified" and got transmission verses and Zen-style dialogues attributed to them (e.g. Upagupta in the Denkoroku). Also, the significance of the lineage in Zen is quite specific. What is transmitted in Zen is not something in the scriptures, not anything verbal, but the very buddha-mind itself - in a figurative sense, as a reference to the recognition of enlightenment of the disciple - making every recipient an equal of Shakyamuni himself. In McRae's words (Seeing Through Zen, p 4):

'Chan does not define itself as being one among a number of Buddhist schools based on a particular scripture (such as the Tiantai [Tendai] school with its emphasis on the Lotus Sutra, for example). Instead, Chan texts present the school as Buddhism itself, or as the central teaching of Buddhism, which has been transmitted from the seven Buddhas of the past to the twenty-eight Indian patriarchs, the six Chinese patriarchs, and all the generations of Chinese and Japanese Chan and Zen masters that follow. (Bodhidharma occupies a pivotal position as both the twenty-eighth Indian and first Chinese patriarch.) It took several centuries for this entire schema to be developed; the earliest building blocks appeared at the very end of the seventh century, and the complete system was published perhaps as early as 801 but certainly by the year 952.'

Beyond the Indian ancestors the events surrounding the identity of the sixth (and the seventh) patriarch is something about what there are multiple historical sources, showing the disagreement among factions wanting to claim the ultimate authority to themselves.
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 »

Johnny Dangerous wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 7:43 pmSure, let me find my Official Vajrayana Lineage chart (tm), authorized and signed by Vajradhara.
There are actually such official lineage certificates in Zen. Here's one place you can order the template for it: https://www.tera-mura.co.jp/ketimyaku.htm

You can also watch a grand Dharma transmission ceremony here where "Venerable Master Hsing Yun transmitted the symbols of Dharma lineage: chanting beads, a Dharma scroll, and a kasaya to 72 disciples of the 49th generation Linji School" (source).
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 Malcolm »

Astus wrote: Fri Oct 23, 2020 10:57 am The fictional nature of the lineage already shows in the above, since those teachers revered among Sarvastivadins and others had practically nothing to do with Mahayana, much less Zen.
How can you say Ananda had nothing to do with Mahayana?
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Malcolm »

Astus wrote: Fri Oct 23, 2020 10:57 amIn McRae's words (Seeing Through Zen...
This book is very cynical, and he makes erroneous assertions such as this:
By saying that Chan practice is fundamentally genealogical, I mean that it is derived from a genealogically understood encounter experience that is relational (involving interaction between individuals rather than being based solely on individual effort), generational (in that it is organized according to parent-child, or rather teacher-student, generations), and reiterative (i.e., intended for emulation and repetition in the lives of present and future teachers and students). No matter what the comparison or relationship between Chinese Chan and earlier forms of Indian Buddhist meditation practice, this particular complex of qualities is not found in other schools or forms of Buddhist training.
These three qualities are inherent in Vajrayana, for example, and also in Vinaya.
Last edited by Malcolm on Fri Oct 23, 2020 1:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Astus wrote: Fri Oct 23, 2020 11:04 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote: Thu Oct 22, 2020 7:43 pmSure, let me find my Official Vajrayana Lineage chart (tm), authorized and signed by Vajradhara.
There are actually such official lineage certificates in Zen. Here's one place you can order the template for it: https://www.tera-mura.co.jp/ketimyaku.htm

You can also watch a grand Dharma transmission ceremony here where "Venerable Master Hsing Yun transmitted the symbols of Dharma lineage: chanting beads, a Dharma scroll, and a kasaya to 72 disciples of the 49th generation Linji School" (source).
It’s also relevant to keep in mind that a lineage of any tradition (meaning a line of transmission of teachings passed down from realized teacher to accomplished pupil, all the way back to Shakyamuni) actually extends far beyond the beginnings of the lineage itself.

It’s like anything, impressionist painting for example. The impressionists didn’t just drop in out of nowhere and pick up a paint box and begin painting in blotches of color. Monet, Seurat, et.al., they were all academy trained by teachers who were, themselves trained, each generation inheriting from the previous one, taking the history of western art all the way back to ancient times. Only at a point in time does their particular way of painting acquire a uniqueness that can be labeled.

Likewise with any Buddhist lineage, Mahayana, Zen, Vajrayana, even within the Theravadin path. Sure, you can point to a particular time period, maybe even to an exact century where a specific lineage is said to have begun, by the person whose name comes first. But that person will be one of hundred or thousands of practicing monks or yogins within that time period. It’s not as though the first Zen patriarch wasn’t already practicing teachings which were themselves already handed down.

So, even though you might look at, say, a Tibetan tradition and think “this was just started around the 10th century” it doesn’t mean that somebody just went into some cave and made it all up. The beginnings of lineages can be seen as branches off the same tree. They may extend in different directions, but they aren’t coming off a different tree. An authentic lineage should be seen as the point where a new branch sprouts from the same tree trunk.

There are, of course, modern so-called Buddhist “schools” begun by people who have not inherited the teachings directly from a realized teacher. On the internet alone you can find plenty of people who may have read a few books, hung out with a Buddhist sangha for a while, maybe meditated after getting high, and imagining themselves as reincarnated Buddhas or whatever try to launch new “traditions” and self-help movements, or cults, which aren’t rooted anywhere.
EMPTIFUL.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Matylda »

Astus wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:15 pm Japan has been the leader in (East Asian) Buddhist studies throughout the 20th century, so I don't know why call it 'Western',
It is pretty justified to call Japanese Buddhist studies almost in 99% of its works 'Western'. There was no scholarship of modern kind in Japan before the end of XIX century. As Malcolm correctly said Japanese scholars adopted simply Western view of Buddhism. There were a few reasons for this.

Moreover there were no Buddhist unis before that time, and those which were established simply copied Western schools. So even in Japan I met often Buddhist scholars with strange ideas coming from the sort of their own private philosophy. What is most important as a result are their students, who often seem to lack basic faith in Dharma and some basic notions. Sometimes they adopt bizzar philosophy, sometimes they remind Westerner Buddhists like Steven Batchelor.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by Matylda »

Malcolm wrote: Wed Oct 21, 2020 9:33 pm 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.
not all Japanese, but it is true as far as we think of academics in their majority.
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Re: Academic critiques and slandering the dharma

Post by tkp67 »

Academia is indigenous practice relative to mankind's modern socioeconomic environment. Its lack a reflection of the very foundation it is built upon.

It's ok the doors of buddhism are open to all even those who are attached to the academia.

If only the academic measured its own worth based on its benefit to sentient life opposed to itself.
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