The Myth of Progress

Discuss the application of the Dharma to situations of social, political, environmental and economic suffering and injustice.
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FiveSkandhas
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Re: The Myth of Progress

Post by FiveSkandhas »

Kim O'Hara wrote: Wed Nov 10, 2021 1:22 pm
FiveSkandhas wrote: Wed Nov 10, 2021 8:15 am
tingdzin wrote: Wed Nov 10, 2021 5:31 am try reading The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind.
That bizzare screed has haunted my imagination for decades. To paraphrase one forgotten pundit: "It's either a work of staggering, revolutionary genius, or utter garbage -- nothing in between is possible."
According to wikipedia - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Origi ... meral_Mind - your pundit was Dawkins.

:smile:
Kim
Dawkins..sigh...my brain must have thrown up a block against that old frustratingly likable yet annoyingly rigid athiest...my feelings about him are complex and generally somehow unsatisfactory because they contain negative and positive reactions I can't really resolve...

It was easier to like him when he stuck to bashing Abrahamists, but recently he has dissed the Dharma much to my disappointment. Guess it was inevitable he would eventually "go there"...
"One should cultivate contemplation in one’s foibles. The foibles are like fish, and contemplation is like fishing hooks. If there are no fish, then the fishing hooks have no use. The bigger the fish is, the better the result we will get. As long as the fishing hooks keep at it, all foibles will eventually be contained and controlled at will." -Zhiyi

"Just be kind." -Atisha
tingdzin
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Re: The Myth of Progress

Post by tingdzin »

FiveSkandhas wrote: Wed Nov 10, 2021 8:15 am To paraphrase one forgotten pundit: "It's either a work of staggering, revolutionary genius, or utter garbage -- nothing in between is possible."
Well, I think Dawkins is wrong. I don't swallow the whole thing whole, but it really makes you think. In the meantime, nobody else has come up with a theory that explains so many anomalies of human psychology in such an elegant way since.
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Konchog Thogme Jampa
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Re: The Myth of Progress

Post by Konchog Thogme Jampa »

Dharmasherab wrote: Mon Oct 04, 2021 4:55 pm The Myth of Progress
Article by Lama Jampa Thaye

https://lamajampa.org/articles-blog/201 ... f-progress
And there may be no 'progress' in religion, in practice, or in the dharma, either.
- Gary Snyder
I’ve been hearing from some people recently that Buddhism needs to change to fit with these modern times. I’m not sure what Buddhism they’re talking about.

The accumulated wisdom of the Buddhist tradition has always been transmitted in a living form, from person to person. It is thus an error to view it as merely a static body of knowledge. Each link in the chain of transmission has to re-present the teachings in light of respective cultural and social settings. We can observe this, for instance, in the early history of dharma in Tibet. At that time the great masters worked with their Indian mentors to establish lines of Indian Buddhist teachings in their new setting, one a world away from the intellectually and artistically sophisticated culture of medieval India.

Yet to accept the necessity of creative re-presentation of the tradition does not necessarily entail that we could or should improve upon the dharma itself. Nevertheless, it seems that such assumptions are prevalent in contemporary Western dharma circles due to the unacknowledged influence of the idea of progress. The power of this myth is at work whenever people talk of such things as “what the modern world can do for Buddhism” or “how science must validate the dharma.”

The notion that history is progressive and that, consequently, we are in important respects superior to preceding generations, is deeply ingrained in our way of thinking. It appears to have its roots in the Judeo-Christian notion that history is linear and is thus moving forward to a terminal point—in Christian terms, the Second Coming of Christ, an event that will usher in the end of history.

The notion of inevitable progress has been so tenacious that today’s dominant liberal and Marxist ideologies, which have in one way or another sought to replace Christianity, have swallowed its historical narrative without demur. They have merely recast it in terms of an inevitable social and intellectual progress culminating in the end of history itself. Without consciously espousing this historical narrative, most of us therefore blithely assume that we are the cleverest humans to appear on this earth, when the truth is far from that.

For every temporary improvement in one area we can point to a corresponding shrinkage of our moral, intellectual, or spiritual capacity in another. The record of the 20th century—one shaped, incidentally, by those who asserted most strongly that history was moving toward an inevitable and perfect climax, be it the communist state or the Thousand-Year Reich—ranks the bloodiest in world history.

Buddhism offers a contrary idea of history. It teaches us that history, as the manifestation of samsara, is essentially cyclical in nature. As with individual beings, so societies and civilizations rise and fall. As it says in the Lalitavistara, “The palaces of impermanence arise and decay together with their inhabitants.”

Incidentally, this is not, it should be noted, a theory of eternal recurrence with an attendant closed universe, Buddhadharma teaches that samsara will continue only so long as its fundamental cause, unawareness, is not eradicated.

In spite of this, the fact remains that for Buddhism progress is not inevitable. The only lasting change is that which is won by the individual effort to apply the methods of the Buddha and, by doing so, finally attaining the transhistorical state of Buddhahood. In this light it makes no sense to talk and act as if we can and must improve on the Buddha in terms of moral sensibility, contemplative experience, and philosophical insight.

To put it plainly, we take refuge in the Buddha because, as the ritual of refuge declares, “He is supreme among humans” due to his realization of the true nature of reality. That true nature of reality, emptiness beyond coming or going, cannot be modified—it neither declines nor improves. This means that the transcendental wisdom that apprehends it cannot be improved either. If that were possible, the Buddha would not be the Enlightened One and a valid source of refuge.

These questions of adaptation were a matter of intense debate in the 13th century when Sakya Pandita cautioned his fellow Tibetans, “Since there is nobody in the three realms wiser than the Buddha, one should not adulterate the sutras and tantras that he taught. To do so is to abandon the doctrine and disparage the Noble Ones.”

When we talk about adaptation and flexibility, then, we should not confuse them with improving the Buddha’s teachings. None of the intellectual products of this particular civilization, be they political ideologies or transient scientific theories of the material world, possess anything that could improve the core of the dharma. In asserting this, one is not denying that the dharma can vary in its expression but rather, following the words of the bodhisattva Maitreya in the Uttaratantrashastra, that the ultimate source of the dharma—its very core, so to speak—is the unchanging state of Buddhahood: “In a true sense only the buddha is the refuge of beings since only he embodies the body of the dharma (dharmakaya).”

The rejection of progress as incompatible with the very nature of dharma might strike some as being in conflict with the view expressed in such Mahayana scriptures as the Saddharmapundarikasutra that all beings will eventually attain Buddhahood. The Mahayana notion of universal enlightenment should not, however, be misunderstood as a claim that progress toward Buddhahood is somehow structured into the very nature of the world, and that we are always reaching ever closer to it. Instead, its sense is that all beings will obtain enlightenment because they are primordially pervaded by buddhanature, the true nature of reality itself. As it says in the Hevajra Tantra, “All beings are already buddhas but this is obscured. When the obscurations are removed this is Buddhahood.”

The task before us in the 21st century is not to alter the timeless message of the Buddha, but, once we have received it fully (a process which may well have some way to go!), to present it in the language and organizational forms most appropriate for the contemporary situation. By doing so, we will emulate the bodhisattva Samantabhadra’s famous vow: “May I teach the dharma in however many languages of beings there may be.”

It would serve us well to remember that in the West, it’s still the early days of buddhadharma. For us, the Buddha is still teaching in Bodhgaya and Guru Padmasambhava has just decided to tame the proud.
The goal is to empty Samsara completely which will take a while that transcends particulars and incorporates the whole.
དཀོན་མཆོག་ཐོགས་མེད་འབྱམས་པ

Konchog Thogme Jampa
Malcolm
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Re: The Myth of Progress

Post by Malcolm »

Konchog Thogme Jampa wrote: Sat Nov 13, 2021 6:58 pm

The goal is to empty Samsara completely...
That is an aspiration, but it is impossible. It will never happen.
"Death stands before all who are born."
— Ācārya Aśvaghoṣa
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Konchog Thogme Jampa
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Re: The Myth of Progress

Post by Konchog Thogme Jampa »

Malcolm wrote: Sat Nov 13, 2021 9:38 pm
Konchog Thogme Jampa wrote: Sat Nov 13, 2021 6:58 pm

The goal is to empty Samsara completely...
That is an aspiration, but it is impossible. It will never happen.
It will just take a few kalpas 😀
དཀོན་མཆོག་ཐོགས་མེད་འབྱམས་པ

Konchog Thogme Jampa
Malcolm
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Re: The Myth of Progress

Post by Malcolm »

Konchog Thogme Jampa wrote: Sat Nov 13, 2021 10:14 pm
Malcolm wrote: Sat Nov 13, 2021 9:38 pm
Konchog Thogme Jampa wrote: Sat Nov 13, 2021 6:58 pm

The goal is to empty Samsara completely...
That is an aspiration, but it is impossible. It will never happen.
It will just take a few kalpas 😀
As I said, it will never happen. sentient beings are limitless.
"Death stands before all who are born."
— Ācārya Aśvaghoṣa
Toenail
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Re: The Myth of Progress

Post by Toenail »

Malcolm wrote: Sat Nov 13, 2021 10:34 pm
Konchog Thogme Jampa wrote: Sat Nov 13, 2021 10:14 pm
Malcolm wrote: Sat Nov 13, 2021 9:38 pm

That is an aspiration, but it is impossible. It will never happen.
It will just take a few kalpas 😀
As I said, it will never happen. sentient beings are limitless.

For me this is very hard to grasp. Can you elaborate? Of course I know this, but still... It is hard to get a grip on it for me.
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: The Myth of Progress

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Malcolm wrote: Sat Nov 13, 2021 10:34 pm
Konchog Thogme Jampa wrote: Sat Nov 13, 2021 10:14 pm
Malcolm wrote: Sat Nov 13, 2021 9:38 pm

That is an aspiration, but it is impossible. It will never happen.
It will just take a few kalpas 😀
As I said, it will never happen. sentient beings are limitless.
“Limitless” only if you are thinking in terms of quantity.
It’s like talking about “beginningless time”.
“Beginningless” doesn’t have to refer to a chronological line, but it can mean that time itself has no beginning point and no ending point, that time itself is beyond beginning and ending.

Likewise, “limitless sentient beings” can mean that sentient beings are beyond limit and no limit, because ultimately there are no beings (re: Diamond Sutra).

So, the aspiration, “sentient beings are limitless, I vow to liberate them all” doesn’t necessarily have to refer to numbers. It can also refer to the limitless ways that beings can be trapped in samsara, even if the total number of beings were (hypothetically) only a dozen or so.

Another take on this (I recall it was Ani Jetson Khandro who brought up this point in a teaching available on YouTube) was “may all beings (as limitless as they are) be free from suffering caused by me”. In other words, regardless of how many there are, may they all be free from one’s own harmful actions.
EMPTIFUL.
An inward outlook develops outward insight.
Malcolm
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Re: The Myth of Progress

Post by Malcolm »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Wed Nov 17, 2021 1:46 pm
Malcolm wrote: Sat Nov 13, 2021 10:34 pm
Konchog Thogme Jampa wrote: Sat Nov 13, 2021 10:14 pm

It will just take a few kalpas 😀
As I said, it will never happen. sentient beings are limitless.
“Limitless” only if you are thinking in terms of quantity.
Yes, I am, relatively speaking.
"Death stands before all who are born."
— Ācārya Aśvaghoṣa
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PadmaVonSamba
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Re: The Myth of Progress

Post by PadmaVonSamba »

Malcolm wrote: Wed Nov 17, 2021 2:12 pm
PadmaVonSamba wrote: Wed Nov 17, 2021 1:46 pm
Malcolm wrote: Sat Nov 13, 2021 10:34 pm

As I said, it will never happen. sentient beings are limitless.
“Limitless” only if you are thinking in terms of quantity.
Yes, I am, relatively speaking.
Oddly enough, sentient beings are limitless
But limitless beings (buddhas) aren’t sentient.
EMPTIFUL.
An inward outlook develops outward insight.
Malcolm
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Re: The Myth of Progress

Post by Malcolm »

PadmaVonSamba wrote: Wed Nov 17, 2021 4:32 pm
But limitless beings (buddhas) aren’t sentient.
Silly. Of course buddhas are sentient.
"Death stands before all who are born."
— Ācārya Aśvaghoṣa
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Sādhaka
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Re: The Myth of Progress

Post by Sādhaka »

Ordinary person = sentient being

Buddha = Omni-sentient/scient being

:D
Last edited by Sādhaka on Wed Nov 17, 2021 9:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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