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Comments: dangers of secular buddhism

June 4th, 2011 · No Comments

http://darwiniana.com/2011/06/02/dangers-of-secular-buddhism/comment-page-1/#comment-358023

Comment series continues (I want to put these into a post to get them googled):

Richard said,

June 2, 2011 at 11:45 am · Edit

My comment at Luke’s blog:

“Why not let Batchelor & Co. have their “secular Buddhism” without the fuss? …”

No problems with it. I just have a problem when they claim that their beliefs are what the Buddha actually taught.

“But, why insist on the doctrine of Buddhist reincarnation, spirituality, etc.? Is this not again more metaphysics that we’re supposed to be cautious about to begin with? … If it is, why is it being put on a pedestal, when other religious metaphysics gets the sharp criticism?”

Because Buddhism claims to have a practice (i.e. meditative techniques) that can discover these doctrines. Since the practices have developed a level of sophistication that don’t exist in other religions, I can’t dismiss Buddhist claims that current thinking about the epistemological constraints of the human mind is too limited. Judeo-Christianity simply doesn’t have anything comparable (although I like Nemo’s interpretation of the OT to turn it into something more sophisticated).

“This statement may be more of a “personal-take” on the issue, and if it is, I can understand it; but it almost reads like this ‘intuition’ is some sort of endowment that certain people have, while the rest of poor be-knighted humanity doesn’t!”

I think it’s true, even if it is not politically correct to say so. Some people just have a greater understanding of certain things, while other people can only read the words and end up confused.”

star said,

June 2, 2011 at 11:15 pm · Edit

nemo, would you please define what you mean by “denatured buddhism”?

If you’re using the definition of “denatured” I found at dictionary.com “to deprive (something) of its natural character, properties” do I surmise that you feel buddhism’s nature is about the supernatural concept of rebirth?

I see it as about ending suffering, through clear recognition of impermanence and not-self, through changing our understanding of who we (think we) are as beings with a lasting self, to direct insight into how that mistaken view causes us problems, what it is we manufacture (sankhara) that makes us think we have a lasting self, to a transcendent (“1. going beyond ordinary limits; surpassing; exceeding.
2. superior or supreme”) — and more accurate — view our fluid nature, and our interactions with others.

I would expect the above to be the perfect refuge from an “occult predatory culture” and quite the opposite of “self-induced blindness” but I suppose that depends on what you put in the category of “invisible realms”. The traditional take on samsara could well be designated blindness to that invisible realm (mistaking it for reality).

Richard said,

June 3, 2011 at 9:31 am · Edit

“do I surmise that you feel buddhism’s nature is about the supernatural concept of rebirth?

I see it as about ending suffering, through clear recognition of impermanence and not-self”

Hmm…a little funny how he describes the goal…isn’t it star? “Birth is ended”…hmm..I wonder if that has anything to do with rebirth (yes, I’m being sarcastic):

“With release, there was the knowledge, ‘Released.’ I discerned that ‘Birth is ended, the holy life fulfilled, the task done. There is nothing further for this world.’”

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/mn/mn.036.than.html

Richard said,

June 3, 2011 at 9:56 am · Edit

“what it is we manufacture (sankhara) that makes us think we have a lasting self, ”

This is a problem that tends to happen when amateur meditators take over the tradition. They end up pulling it down to their level:

“The cycle of rebirth and the processes of thought-fabrication are one and the same thing. As a result, we whirl around and around, lost in many, many levels of thought-fabrication, not just one. The knowledge that would read the heart can’t break through, for it whirls around and around in these very same thought-fabrications, giving them meaning in terms of this or that, and then latching on to them. If it labels them as good, it latches on to them as good. If it labels them as bad, it latches onto them as bad. This is why the mind stays entirely in the whorls of the cycle of rebirth, the cycle of thought-fabrication.”

http://archive.thebuddhadharma.com/issues/2005/spring/upasika_kee.htm

star said,

June 3, 2011 at 12:11 pm · Edit

Hey Richard, thanks for the quotes. I notice Upasika Kee (source of your last quote) didn’t live in the Buddha’s times, and I suppose I could find some modern authority who’d say something I could quote about how we delude ourselves into thinking we know more than we do, and use it to point to your delusion that you know enough about me to accurately represent the grounding of my work, but I think we should stick with the oldest texts we have of the Buddha’s talks, and let our the quality of our debate here speak for how strong our background is. If you want to continue attempts at personal attacks, you’re quite welcome to, but you might want to consider that it says more about you than about me.

The Pali underlying the phrase you quote “There is nothing further for this world” doesn’t have the word for “world” (loka) in it — this is what I’m saying about translators coming up with words that support their understanding — the word used where “loka” would be if the Buddha had wanted to say “world” is “itthatt?y?” and the Pali English Dictionary put out by the Pali Text Society has it mean “the present state; this life” — notice the word “state”? What’s not going to be born anymore is the state of being created out of the aggregates, in other words “anatta”. There is no more of the life of that false sense of a lasting self.

The whole discussion of birth, aging and death makes reference to the cycles that were believed to be experienced by “atta” — the self that was thought to be eternal and changeless. The Buddha models his discussion of our experience of what stands where we think “atta” is (“anatta” — the “an-” meaning “not”) on the framework of Vedic thinking about the experience of “atta”. Since “atta” was thought to experience rebirths, the Buddha frames his discussion of our experience of “anatta” in terms of rebirth.

The whole discussion is a finger pointing at the moon, but the finger (the samsaric framework used) is not the moon (the actual experience of that sense of a lasting self, and it’s final disappearance to appear no more). I don’t blame those who mistake the finger for the moon in the so-frequent mentions of rebirth in the Buddha’s talks — it takes a lot of time and study, and a lot of putting it into practice to get to the point that what’s being said becomes clear — but it can be done and in this lifetime, too. No need to practice haphazardly thinking we have many lives to go before we can achieve the anatta-less state known as nirvana — work diligently now and we find the benefits are (near-as-damnit) immediate, and can be seen for oneself.

Richard said,

June 3, 2011 at 12:33 pm · Edit

“If you want to continue attempts at personal attacks, you’re quite welcome to, but you might want to consider that it says more about you than about me.”

Actually, no, it says a lot about you too. Your long posts indicate that I’ve pissed you off. I’ve revealed in an earlier post that I quite enjoy name calling and being an as#hole.

“Hey Richard, thanks for the quotes. I notice Upasika Kee (source of your last quote) didn’t live in the Buddha’s times”

True, but Buddhism is a meditation tradition and wasn’t created for scholarly purposes. The accounts of modern skilled meditators are relevant.

“The Buddha models his discussion of our experience of what stands where we think “atta” is (“anatta” — the “an-” meaning “not”) on the framework of Vedic thinking about the experience of “atta”.”

Nope, wrong again. It’s not clear where the doctrine of rebirth/karma originated from. It isn’t present in the Rig Veda. Current mainstream scholarly thought attributes it to the sramana movement (of which the Buddha was a part).

“The Pali underlying the phrase you quote “There is nothing further for this world” doesn’t have the word for “world” (loka) in it — this is what I’m saying about translators coming up with words that support their understanding — the word used where “loka” would be if the Buddha had wanted to say “world” is “itthatt?y?” and the Pali English Dictionary put out by the Pali Text Society has it mean “the present state; this life” — notice the word “state”? ”

Irrelevant point. You’re just picking at words. Look how “world” is defined:

Then Ven. Ananda went to the Blessed One and on arrival, having bowed down to him, sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to the Blessed One, “It is said that the world is empty, the world is empty, lord. In what respect is it said that the world is empty?”

“Insofar as it is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self: Thus it is said, Ananda, that the world is empty. And what is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self? The eye is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Forms… Eye-consciousness… Eye-contact is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self.

“The ear is empty…

“The nose is empty…

“The tongue is empty…

“The body is empty…

“The intellect is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Ideas… Intellect-consciousness… Intellect-contact is empty of a self or of anything pertaining to a self. Thus it is said that the world is empty.”

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn35/sn35.085.than.html

“There is nothing further for this world” (or “life” if you prefer) simply means that the khandhas are no longer creating sankharas/asavas/etc. for a “Noble One.” This does nothing to negate the “Threefold Knowledge” referred to in the sutta or the fact that “Birth is ended” refers to the end of rebirth.

“…it takes a lot of time and study, and a lot of putting it into practice to get to the point that what’s being said becomes clear”

Good, at least you know what you have to do to clear up your confusions. Get to it! Nice try, star. Care to get you a#s kicked some more?

star said,

June 3, 2011 at 6:44 pm · Edit

I’m enjoying our conversation, Richard. What would I have to be pissed about? If your indicator is the length of my posts, it’s clear you don’t know me well. I love wordiness the way you love attempting to be “an as#hole”.

I would point out that you provided a quotation that relied in part on that word “world” for its support of rebirth, so that it isn’t about worlds but about states is hardly “irrelevant” — and I could go on at great length — but much as I enjoy detailed debates, I suspect we’d bore anyone else who is reading along — perhaps anyone interested in hearing more can chime in and let us know it’s not just Richard and I, all alone and dueling with matchsticks, here. If there’s an interest, I’ll go look up the quote that has the above definition of “world as empty” and see what word they used — is it the word mistranslated as “world” in that first quote? if it proves not to be (which is what I’d expect) then your argument that the definition above of “world” has anything at all to do with the word that is *not* “world” is the bit that’s irrelevant (readers can now see how dreary this could get, but I’ll go look it up if y’all want me to).

I am reasonably certain I’ll never get you, Richard, to see the light, but fortunately that’s not the point (for me). I keep on partly because I’m interested in what objections you have to seeing Buddhism a different way, what arguments you bring up, and I always hope for something new, but also because if I weren’t familiar with Buddhism, I’d be interested in learning that there was more than one understanding of what was taught, and gaining some insight into those views — so it’s worth discussing if nemo’s readers are interested in hearing it.

I guess you haven’t read Joanna Jurewicz’ papers through which she has begun to show that rebirth *is* in the RgVeda. You can find one of her papers here: http://tinyurl.com/3vkgxpf

Richard said,

June 3, 2011 at 9:24 pm · Edit

“I guess you haven’t read Joanna Jurewicz’ papers through which she has begun to show that rebirth *is* in the RgVeda. You can find one of her papers here: http://tinyurl.com/3vkgxpf”

Interesting paper, but it is a complex topic given that the Rig Vedic sections discussed are the latest portions and show non-Indo-Aryan influence (Babylonian, Egyptian??, Munda??, Dravidian??). Who knows which directions the influences originated from?

“I am reasonably certain I’ll never get you, Richard, to see the light, but fortunately that’s not the point (for me).”

I think Jesus sums up my view pretty well:

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”

Richard said,

June 3, 2011 at 9:24 pm · Edit

comment sent to spam folder

star said,

June 3, 2011 at 11:31 pm · Edit

Sorry to see your comment is going to be delayed in the posting, Richard. Meanwhile I thought I’d clarify that when I say “Vedic thought” I’m painting with a broad brush to include all those of the Buddha’s time who were influenced by (what we have of) the Vedanta — up to those first few Upanishads. I would agree that some portions of it come out of the sramanas, but the karma-merit-rebirth is clearly Brahmins, as they were so-named in the Pali canon.

I’ll wait to take on any other points in your earlier comment to see if anyone besides you or I care.

nemo said,

June 4, 2011 at 6:10 am · Edit

Richard and I disagree on this (maybe), but the question of Vedic Hinduism is a red herring here. We have had many discussions of the Danielou thesis on the greater Indic tradition, next to the debates over the confusions of the Aryan invasion theory, versus the Out of India theory. I think that the only way to make sense of Indian spirituality is to see beyond the Vedas to the greater Shaivite and Jain traditions going back many thousands of years before the Aryan invasion. The issues of reincarnation are then part of that greater Indic stream, a point that should be obvious from seeing the relation of Jainism to buddhism.
Hinduism is simply a set of confusions (many modern, along with the term). A closer look at the ‘Hindu’ milieu shows the reality, or many realities in a complex history that noone can seem to tell. But the issue of reincarnation is very much older than Vedism.

Richard said,

June 4, 2011 at 8:04 am · Edit

Star,

Let me ask you one question: Did the Buddha teach rebirth/kamma or not?

Richard said,

June 4, 2011 at 8:26 am · Edit

Interesting how people can see what they want to see even in relatively recent historical figures:

http://newhumanist.org.uk/996/reasonable-bounds

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