Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

General forum on the teachings of all schools of Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Topics specific to one school are best posted in the appropriate sub-forum.
Nicholas2727
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Nicholas2727 »

Malcolm wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 3:20 am
Nicholas2727 wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:46 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote: Mon Jun 21, 2021 7:23 pm There is a distinction between saying that all conditioned experiences are tainted with dukkha and saying that experiences themselves are dukkha. If that were not true, there would be no Second Noble Truth, and no need for one, nor the following truths, we'd just be screwed. Maybe that's what your teachers were trying to express?

It is the sort of distinction that makes a bigger difference than it seems, and is one of those things that is definitely a misconception - that all experiences are dukkha in some ontological sense, rather than that all phenomenal experiences necessarily lead to dukkha. It's the kind of misconception that doesn't seem to matter to non-Buddhists, making it even more common. You can't really study the Four Noble Truths in detail without acknowledging it though, and perhaps that's why it's important.

This becomes arguably very important in the Mahayana as well, where the nature of appearances themselves becomes a theme. For that matter, the theme of incorrectly ascribing inherent qualities to appearances is big in the Mahayana as well.

If one believe that appearances themselves were somehow inherently or essentially dukkha, it would be an impediment, on a number of levels. So, I can see why some teachers would want to correct that early on.

That may be what they were trying to point out. I have moved on from those teachers and only spent a short amount of time with them so I never got around to asking what they meant specifically or for further clarification. I also quoted TNH in my post as someone who devoted a chapter in Heart of the Buddhas Teaching to the question, "is everything suffering?" It has been some time since I read that book, although if my memory is correct he made an argument similar to yours. I am sure someone with more knowledge on what TNH was saying could share his point of view better than I am. Maybe it would be a good time to reread that chapter as well to see if I missed the point my first time reading.


The four seals are:

All compounded phenomena are impermanent.
All afflicted phenomena are suffering.
All phenomenon lack identity.
Nirvana is peace.

This is the Mahayana formulation.
Correct, I was more curious if there was more support for TNH not including suffering as one of the Dharma seals, or if this was something he did on his own. I went back to the book I was referring to and he says in the Samyukta Agama the Buddha says the three seals are impermanence, nonself and nirvana. The Dharma seal of suffering is not included (at least according to his footnote). He also says that Nagarjuna in his Mahaprajnaparamita Shastra "listed nirvana as one of the Three Dharma Seals." The way he says it here makes it sound like Nagarjuna only listed Three Dharma seals, not four, which would align with his argument although I have no knowledge on if this is true.
Malcolm
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Malcolm »

Nicholas2727 wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 3:49 am
Malcolm wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 3:20 am
Nicholas2727 wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:46 am


That may be what they were trying to point out. I have moved on from those teachers and only spent a short amount of time with them so I never got around to asking what they meant specifically or for further clarification. I also quoted TNH in my post as someone who devoted a chapter in Heart of the Buddhas Teaching to the question, "is everything suffering?" It has been some time since I read that book, although if my memory is correct he made an argument similar to yours. I am sure someone with more knowledge on what TNH was saying could share his point of view better than I am. Maybe it would be a good time to reread that chapter as well to see if I missed the point my first time reading.


The four seals are:

All compounded phenomena are impermanent.
All afflicted phenomena are suffering.
All phenomenon lack identity.
Nirvana is peace.

This is the Mahayana formulation.
Correct, I was more curious if there was more support for TNH not including suffering as one of the Dharma seals, or if this was something he did on his own. I went back to the book I was referring to and he says in the Samyukta Agama the Buddha says the three seals are impermanence, nonself and nirvana. The Dharma seal of suffering is not included (at least according to his footnote). He also says that Nagarjuna in his Mahaprajnaparamita Shastra "listed nirvana as one of the Three Dharma Seals." The way he says it here makes it sound like Nagarjuna only listed Three Dharma seals, not four, which would align with his argument although I have no knowledge on if this is true.
They are as I have listed them, though they appear in various forms in the sutras.
"Conceptuality is great ignorance,
causing one to fall into the ocean of samsāra."
—Māyājālamahātantra
Nicholas2727
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Nicholas2727 »

Malcolm wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 4:01 am
Nicholas2727 wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 3:49 am
Malcolm wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 3:20 am



The four seals are:

All compounded phenomena are impermanent.
All afflicted phenomena are suffering.
All phenomenon lack identity.
Nirvana is peace.

This is the Mahayana formulation.
Correct, I was more curious if there was more support for TNH not including suffering as one of the Dharma seals, or if this was something he did on his own. I went back to the book I was referring to and he says in the Samyukta Agama the Buddha says the three seals are impermanence, nonself and nirvana. The Dharma seal of suffering is not included (at least according to his footnote). He also says that Nagarjuna in his Mahaprajnaparamita Shastra "listed nirvana as one of the Three Dharma Seals." The way he says it here makes it sound like Nagarjuna only listed Three Dharma seals, not four, which would align with his argument although I have no knowledge on if this is true.
They are as I have listed them, though they appear in various forms in the sutras.
Got it, thank you for the clarification
Malcolm
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Malcolm »

Nicholas2727 wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 4:27 am
Malcolm wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 4:01 am
Nicholas2727 wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 3:49 am

Correct, I was more curious if there was more support for TNH not including suffering as one of the Dharma seals, or if this was something he did on his own. I went back to the book I was referring to and he says in the Samyukta Agama the Buddha says the three seals are impermanence, nonself and nirvana. The Dharma seal of suffering is not included (at least according to his footnote). He also says that Nagarjuna in his Mahaprajnaparamita Shastra "listed nirvana as one of the Three Dharma Seals." The way he says it here makes it sound like Nagarjuna only listed Three Dharma seals, not four, which would align with his argument although I have no knowledge on if this is true.
They are as I have listed them, though they appear in various forms in the sutras.
Got it, thank you for the clarification
If someone thinks there is actually happiness in this life, they have not examined things deeply enough.
"Conceptuality is great ignorance,
causing one to fall into the ocean of samsāra."
—Māyājālamahātantra
boda
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by boda »

Genjo Conan wrote: Sun Jun 20, 2021 5:42 pm (1) Zen is just a bunch of chill bros being chill. "Zen" is by now entrenched in the modern lexicon as synonymous with a sort of imperturbable calm. We have Zen day spas, Zen productivity software, "Zen and the Art of" this and that (I'll make an allowance for Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, and I would make an allowance for Zen and the Art of Archery, except that Herrigel was a Nazi), and countless, countless Zen CBD products.
No doubt many would be surprised how unchill Zen folk are. I certainly was.
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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

Nicholas2727 wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:46 am
Johnny Dangerous wrote: Mon Jun 21, 2021 7:23 pm There is a distinction between saying that all conditioned experiences are tainted with dukkha and saying that experiences themselves are dukkha. If that were not true, there would be no Second Noble Truth, and no need for one, nor the following truths, we'd just be screwed. Maybe that's what your teachers were trying to express?

It is the sort of distinction that makes a bigger difference than it seems, and is one of those things that is definitely a misconception - that all experiences are dukkha in some ontological sense, rather than that all phenomenal experiences necessarily lead to dukkha. It's the kind of misconception that doesn't seem to matter to non-Buddhists, making it even more common. You can't really study the Four Noble Truths in detail without acknowledging it though, and perhaps that's why it's important.

This becomes arguably very important in the Mahayana as well, where the nature of appearances themselves becomes a theme. For that matter, the theme of incorrectly ascribing inherent qualities to appearances is big in the Mahayana as well.

If one believe that appearances themselves were somehow inherently or essentially dukkha, it would be an impediment, on a number of levels. So, I can see why some teachers would want to correct that early on.

That may be what they were trying to point out. I have moved on from those teachers and only spent a short amount of time with them so I never got around to asking what they meant specifically or for further clarification. I also quoted TNH in my post as someone who devoted a chapter in Heart of the Buddhas Teaching to the question, "is everything suffering?" It has been some time since I read that book, although if my memory is correct he made an argument similar to yours. I am sure someone with more knowledge on what TNH was saying could share his point of view better than I am. Maybe it would be a good time to reread that chapter as well to see if I missed the point my first time reading.
All due respect, the answer is right here in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta:
"Now this, monks, is the noble truth of stress:[1] Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.
"And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.
Inasmuch as such a teaching can be plain, this is pretty plain, to my mind.
There's no hoarding what has vanished,
No piling up for the future;
Those who have been born are standing
Like a seed upon a needle.

-Guhatthaka-suttadinesso
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Malcolm wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 4:33 amIf someone thinks there is actually happiness in this life, they have not examined things deeply enough.
But isn’t it also true that happiness and sadness (which are merely experiences of the mind) only occur in relation to each other?
And if that’s the case, then one would argue that if there isn’t any actual happiness in this life, then there really isn’t sadness either.

Now, if you were to say lasting or permanent happiness (meaning a point of ultimate satisfaction) then that would make sense, because it all gets back to the instability or volatility of composite phenomena.

Temporarily arising conditions can provide the basis for temporary happiness of the subject. But that’s all they can do.
Since both subject and object (as experienced) are only momentary, or only exist in a continuous flow of arising and falling away, only temporary satisfaction is possible. That’s the hitch, so to speak. We want lasting satisfaction but samsaric existence only delivers brief, temporary satisfaction, followed by dissatisfaction.

My understanding is that dukkha is basically the experience of disappointment that comes from expecting temporarily arising phenomena to provide permanent satisfaction.
EMPTIFUL.
An inward outlook develops outward insight.
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Giovanni »

That is all true Padmavonsambhava..I think a difference is that we bury sadness ( I don’t want to be too Freudian about it) because it feels like failure, but we own happiness because we are taught that is how it should be. Even Buddhists are taught to prefer feeling good rather than seeing where sadness and happiness arise..which is from the same self sense. Happiness is not more real than unhappiness and vice versa.
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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Kim O'Hara »

Johnny Dangerous wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 5:59 am ...All due respect, the answer is right here in the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta:
"Now this, monks, is the noble truth of stress:[1] Birth is stressful, aging is stressful, death is stressful; sorrow, lamentation, pain, distress, & despair are stressful; association with the unbeloved is stressful, separation from the loved is stressful, not getting what is wanted is stressful. In short, the five clinging-aggregates are stressful.
"And this, monks, is the noble truth of the origination of stress: the craving that makes for further becoming — accompanied by passion & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving for becoming, craving for non-becoming.
Inasmuch as such a teaching can be plain, this is pretty plain, to my mind.
Well yes, it's pretty plain. But, with the best will in the world on the part of every person in the chain of transmission, it isn't exactly what the Buddha said. He said something along those lines in another language, and I think most of our problems with it arise from (mis)translation.
"Birth is stressful, aging is stressful..." is better than, "Life is suffering," but I'm with PadmaVonSamba in thinking that it isn't all bad, all the time (and with the person who said earlier that if it was, we're screwed and there's no point in a Second Noble Truth) and that the pervasive unsatisfactoriness arises from our attachment to impermanent things. From that point, we can move on to releasing our attachment ...

:namaste:
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Malcolm
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Malcolm »

Temporary happiness is the suffering of change.
PadmaVonSamba wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 11:42 am
Temporarily arising conditions can provide the basis for temporary happiness of the subject. But that’s all they can do.
"Conceptuality is great ignorance,
causing one to fall into the ocean of samsāra."
—Māyājālamahātantra
Malcolm
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Malcolm »

Kim O'Hara wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 1:18 pm Well yes, it's pretty plain. But, with the best will in the world on the part of every person in the chain of transmission, it isn't exactly what the Buddha said. He said something along those lines in another language, and I think most of our problems with it arise from (mis)translation.
“Stress” for dukkha is insufficient. As you can see from Merriam Webster, suffering is perfect for dukkha:

Definition of suffer
transitive verb
1a : to submit to or be forced to endure
suffer martyrdom
b : to feel keenly : labor under
suffer thirst
2 : UNDERGO, EXPERIENCE
3 : to put up with especially as inevitable or unavoidable
4 : to allow especially by reason of indifference
the eagle suffers little birds to sing
— William Shakespeare
intransitive verb
1 : to endure death, pain, or distress
2 : to sustain loss or damage
3 : to be subject to disability or handicap
"Conceptuality is great ignorance,
causing one to fall into the ocean of samsāra."
—Māyājālamahātantra
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Javierfv1212 »

There is a trend of people (including Buddhist teachers) saying that dukkha should not be translated as suffering. This is common among westerners. They'll say things like "Buddhism doesn't say 'all life is suffering'. They think that this is somehow a misinterpretation of Buddhism and that it makes Buddhism sound nihilistic.

But really, as far as I know, it's a pretty standard Buddhist idea that all bhava (i.e. life) is dukkha, and that dukkha is the opposite of happiness (sukha), i.e. suffering. I mean, if you just glance at a bhavachakra, "wheel of life", its right there, described in pictures, so that even illiterate cowherds can understand it.

So IMO these people don't really understand the Buddhadharma's deep message.
It is quite impossible to find the Buddha anywhere other than in one's own mind.
A person who is ignorant of this may seek externally,
but how is it possible to find oneself through seeking anywhere other than in oneself?
Someone who seeks their own nature externally is like a fool who, giving a performance in the middle of a crowd, forgets who he is and then seeks everywhere else to find himself.
— Padmasambhava
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Malcolm »

Javierfv1212 wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:15 pm There is a trend of people (including Buddhist teachers) saying that dukkha should not be translated as suffering….So IMO these people don't really understand the Buddhadharma's deep message.
Marketing.
"Conceptuality is great ignorance,
causing one to fall into the ocean of samsāra."
—Māyājālamahātantra
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by TharpaChodron »

Malcolm wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:23 pm
Javierfv1212 wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:15 pm There is a trend of people (including Buddhist teachers) saying that dukkha should not be translated as suffering….So IMO these people don't really understand the Buddhadharma's deep message.
Marketing.
In all seriousness, is this what the Dalai Lama’s books, such as “The Joy of Happiness,” are doing? Maybe that’s just skillful means for the masses?
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Javierfv1212 »

Does he actually deny that life is dukkha in this book?
It is quite impossible to find the Buddha anywhere other than in one's own mind.
A person who is ignorant of this may seek externally,
but how is it possible to find oneself through seeking anywhere other than in oneself?
Someone who seeks their own nature externally is like a fool who, giving a performance in the middle of a crowd, forgets who he is and then seeks everywhere else to find himself.
— Padmasambhava
Malcolm
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Malcolm »

TharpaChodron wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:28 pm
Malcolm wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:23 pm
Javierfv1212 wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:15 pm There is a trend of people (including Buddhist teachers) saying that dukkha should not be translated as suffering….So IMO these people don't really understand the Buddhadharma's deep message.
Marketing.
In all seriousness, is this what the Dalai Lama’s books, such as “The Joy of Happiness,” are doing? Maybe that’s just skillful means for the masses?
I suspect HHDL’s notion of happiness is a bit different than the petite bourgeois goals of most Americans, and westerners in general. Path dharmas, while compounded, are not afflictive, and therefore lead to nirvana, which is happiness in the sense that it is the total absence of suffering in its three forms.
"Conceptuality is great ignorance,
causing one to fall into the ocean of samsāra."
—Māyājālamahātantra
Malcolm
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Malcolm »

Javierfv1212 wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:36 pm Does he actually deny that life is dukkha in this book?
No.
"Conceptuality is great ignorance,
causing one to fall into the ocean of samsāra."
—Māyājālamahātantra
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Javierfv1212
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Javierfv1212 »

Malcolm wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:41 pm
Javierfv1212 wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:36 pm Does he actually deny that life is dukkha in this book?
No.
Which shows the difference between using skillful means and teaching wrong view.
It is quite impossible to find the Buddha anywhere other than in one's own mind.
A person who is ignorant of this may seek externally,
but how is it possible to find oneself through seeking anywhere other than in oneself?
Someone who seeks their own nature externally is like a fool who, giving a performance in the middle of a crowd, forgets who he is and then seeks everywhere else to find himself.
— Padmasambhava
Giovanni
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by Giovanni »

There is a common misperception that there is an entity called “Buddhism” which you somehow join by agreeing with what you think it teaches. It is actually a western construct..it’s the ”ism”” that gives that away.
There is Buddhadharma.
Buddhism is a made up lite meal, flavoured with elements of Buddhadharma.
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Re: Let's talk about common misconceptions of Buddhism

Post by TharpaChodron »

Malcolm wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:40 pm
TharpaChodron wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:28 pm
Malcolm wrote: Tue Jun 22, 2021 2:23 pm

Marketing.
In all seriousness, is this what the Dalai Lama’s books, such as “The Joy of Happiness,” are doing? Maybe that’s just skillful means for the masses?
I suspect HHDL’s notion of happiness is a bit different than the petite bourgeois goals of most Americans, and westerners in general. Path dharmas, while compounded, are not afflictive, and therefore lead to nirvana, which is happiness in the sense that it is the total absence of suffering in its three forms.
I’m down with that, thanks for the clarification.
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