Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

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Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby danieLion » Fri Aug 30, 2013 10:34 pm

Can Buddhism be improved upon? Was the Buddha perfect?

Currently, I'm inclined to say "yes" to the first question and "no" to the second.

Kindly,
dL
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby cooran » Fri Aug 30, 2013 10:37 pm

Hello Daniel,

Please expand on your post, and present any reasons you see as supporting your statements.

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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby Kusala » Sat Aug 31, 2013 1:20 am

danieLion wrote:Can Buddhism be improved upon? Was the Buddha perfect?

Currently, I'm inclined to say "yes" to the first question and "no" to the second.

Kindly,
dL


Yes, Buddhism can be improved, but would it be Buddhism? Yes, the Buddha was perfect.
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Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby dagon » Sat Aug 31, 2013 3:14 am

danieLion wrote:Can Buddhism be improved upon? Was the Buddha perfect?

Currently, I'm inclined to say "yes" to the first question and "no" to the second.

Kindly,
dL


Yes Buddhism can be improved in that we can improve our morality, compassion and understanding. He taught that the truth is within and gave us a method to see it – what we can not see or where there is lack of clarity just provides us with the knowledge that we can/should improve. Now to go away and try and practice what I preach. :embarassed:

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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Aug 31, 2013 3:21 am

It depends upon what you mean by "Buddhism." Is it the Dhamma-Vinaya as taught by the Buddha? The Dharma by Mahayana? Vajrayana? Is it how Buddhism is practiced today?

It depends upon what you mean by "perfect." Is it perfect as in omniscient? Is is perfect as in never making a mistake? Or something else?
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby danieLion » Sat Aug 31, 2013 6:01 am

David N. Snyder wrote:It depends upon what you mean by "Buddhism." Is it the Dhamma-Vinaya as taught by the Buddha? The Dharma by Mahayana? Vajrayana? Is it how Buddhism is practiced today?

It depends upon what you mean by "perfect." Is it perfect as in omniscient? Is is perfect as in never making a mistake? Or something else?

Hi David,
In this topic by Buddhism I mean the Buddha-Dhamma (please correct me if I'm wrong, but that's basically the same thing as Dhamma-Vinaya, right?). In this topic by perfect I mean never making a mistake.
Kindly,
dL
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby Jhana4 » Sat Aug 31, 2013 12:00 pm

danieLion wrote:Can Buddhism be improved upon? Was the Buddha perfect?

Currently, I'm inclined to say "yes" to the first question and "no" to the second.

Kindly,
dL


I remember being told that the monks in a temple endured freezing temperatures. They wouldn't adjust the thermostat in the temple because of an ancient rule forbidding monks from starting fires/causing heat. That rule was made because some monks tried to start a fire, a snake in the wood pile freaked at them, scared the monks, who disturbed the Buddha with their yelling.

There are tons of things like this that could easily be cut out or modernized, so I can't agree with you.

The Pali Canon remains untranslated for many languages and the translations that exist are mediocre in my opinion. Things could definately be improved by making more translations, modern translations from scratch, and translations for multiple biases ( academic, monastic, etc ).

So, I disagree with you again
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby David N. Snyder » Sat Aug 31, 2013 4:21 pm

Actually, according to the Vinaya the rules were changed quite a bit as the need arose. I remember one in particular where the Buddha did not allow the monks and nuns to wear leather sandals but then allowed it when they were in a different province where it was the custom (as long as no being was killed to make the leather). So you could call this an "improvement" or you could say that is a built-in structure to allow for adjustments. The Buddha also allowed the minor rules to be abolished after his paranibbana, again showing his flexibility.

Can the Buddha make a mistake? Again, it is complicated. He was fully enlightened, so had perfect wisdom. But even then, he gave a speech on the foulness of the body and returned later to find many monks had committed suicide as a result of hearing that speech. The Milindipana explains that one, that it is not omniscient in the theistic sense.

From an older thread on omniscience:
Dhammanando wrote:"Knowable things" (ñeyya dhamma) is an important qualification and one that usually gets overlooked by those modern scholars who assert that latterday Buddhists came to exaggerate the Buddha's cognitive range. The Buddha, according to the Pali commentators is able to know all knowable things, but the commentators don't claim that all things are knowable.
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Aug 31, 2013 6:48 pm

If a Fully Enlightened, Sammāsambuddha, could make mistakes then he would not be a Perfect One. Imperfect beings can easily misinterpret his teaching due to their partial understanding.

The Vinaya rule prohibits a monk from lighting a fire to warm himself, and for no other reason. There is no offence if he is sick. To practice forbearance to forestall the arising of attachment to sensual pleasures, and to maintain frugality out of compassion for one's supporters who pay the bills is not self-mortification. However, one should not go to such extremes that one becomes sick. If one gets sick, then one will be a greater burden on supporters.

The Buddha did not intervene to prevent the suicide of some forest dwelling monks, because he knew that their past kamma was so severe that nothing could prevent it's bearing fruit. Likewise, he did not intervene when Moggallāna was being beaten to death by hired thugs. In the case of Angulimāla, the Buddha could and did intervene to prevent him committing the heinous crime of killing his own mother.
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby danieLion » Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:25 pm

Hi David,
David N. Snyder wrote:He was fully enlightened, so had perfect wisdom.

I agree. But this does not imply he never made mistakes or that he was omniscient.
Kindly,
dL
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:42 pm

All Arahants, let alone Omniscient Buddhas, are incapable of taking a wrong course through greed, ill-will, fear, or delusion.

So what mistakes could be made by the Buddha, and whose judgement is so profound that they are able to declare that such and such an action taken by the Buddha was a “mistake.”

If he made any mistake at all, it was propagating a teaching that fools could criticise and find fault with to their own detriment. If he had said nothing, no one could blame the blameless one.
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby danieLion » Sat Aug 31, 2013 7:43 pm

Hi Pesala,
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:If a Fully Enlightened, Sammāsambuddha, could make mistakes then he would not be a Perfect One. Imperfect beings can easily misinterpret his teaching due to their partial understanding.

This like the snake eating its tail. If misinterpretation is a condition of imperfection, then how do we--imperfect and impartially understanding entities--even know viewing the Buddha as perfect or omniscient is not itself misinterpratation?

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The Vinaya rule prohibits a monk from lighting a fire to warm himself, and for no other reason. There is no offence if he is sick. To practice forbearance to forestall the arising of attachment to sensual pleasures, and to maintain frugality out of compassion for one's supporters who pay the bills is not self-mortification. However, one should not go to such extremes that one becomes sick. If one gets sick, then one will be a greater burden on supporters.

The Buddha did not intervene to prevent the suicide of some forest dwelling monks, because he knew that their past kamma was so severe that nothing could prevent it's bearing fruit. Likewise, he did not intervene when Moggallāna was being beaten to death by hired thugs. In the case of Angulimāla, the Buddha could and did intervene to prevent him committing the heinous crime of killing his own mother.

Case in point. You're imperfect, yet seem to be suggesting here that you have complete understanding and a perfect interpretation of these events as implying the Buddha's perfection and omniscience.

If the Buddha were perfect and omniscient, why did he initially doubt his ability to teach the Dhamma? If he was omniscient, he would have been able to percieve around the obstacles he faced. He didn't. His first attempt to teach the Dhamma was a failure. And if he was perfect and omniscient, why didn't he foresee all the problems that would arise by not only approving the dismissal of the minor Vinaya rules, but also of distingushing between the minor and major rules? And why didnt' he foresee all the conflicts that would arise that led to the highly schismatic nature of the events we now call the history of Buddhism?
Kindly,
dL
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby Kusala » Sat Aug 31, 2013 8:11 pm

danieLion wrote:Hi Pesala,
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:If a Fully Enlightened, Sammāsambuddha, could make mistakes then he would not be a Perfect One. Imperfect beings can easily misinterpret his teaching due to their partial understanding.

This like the snake eating its tail. If misinterpretation is a condition of imperfection, then how do we--imperfect and impartially understanding entities--even know viewing the Buddha as perfect or omniscient is not itself misinterpratation?

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:The Vinaya rule prohibits a monk from lighting a fire to warm himself, and for no other reason. There is no offence if he is sick. To practice forbearance to forestall the arising of attachment to sensual pleasures, and to maintain frugality out of compassion for one's supporters who pay the bills is not self-mortification. However, one should not go to such extremes that one becomes sick. If one gets sick, then one will be a greater burden on supporters.

The Buddha did not intervene to prevent the suicide of some forest dwelling monks, because he knew that their past kamma was so severe that nothing could prevent it's bearing fruit. Likewise, he did not intervene when Moggallāna was being beaten to death by hired thugs. In the case of Angulimāla, the Buddha could and did intervene to prevent him committing the heinous crime of killing his own mother.

Case in point. You're imperfect, yet seem to be suggesting here that you have complete understanding and a perfect interpretation of these events as implying the Buddha's perfection and omniscience.

If the Buddha were perfect and omniscient, why did he initially doubt his ability to teach the Dhamma? If he was omniscient, he would have been able to percieve around the obstacles he faced. He didn't. His first attempt to teach the Dhamma was a failure. And if he was perfect and omniscient, why didn't he foresee all the problems that would arise by not only approving the dismissal of the minor Vinaya rules, but also of distingushing between the minor and major rules? And why didnt' he foresee all the conflicts that would arise that led to the highly schismatic nature of the events we now call the history of Buddhism?
Kindly,
dL


"In the same way, in the course of the future there will be monks who won't listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata - deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness - are being recited. They won't lend ear, won't set their hearts on knowing them, won't regard these teachings as worth grasping or mastering. But they will listen when discourses that are literary works - the works of poets, elegant in sound, elegant in rhetoric, the work of outsiders, words of disciples - are recited. They will lend ear and set their hearts on knowing them. They will regard these teachings as worth grasping & mastering."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html
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Homage to the Buddha
Thus indeed, is that Blessed One: He is the Holy One, fully enlightened, endowed with clear vision and virtuous conduct, sublime, the Knower of the worlds, the incomparable leader of men to be tamed, the teacher of gods and men, enlightened and blessed.

Homage to the Teachings
The Dhamma of the Blessed One is perfectly expounded; to be seen here and now; not delayed in
time; inviting one to come and see; onward leading (to Nibbana); to be known by the wise, each for himself.
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat Aug 31, 2013 8:29 pm

Daniel Lion wrote:This like the snake eating its tail. If misinterpretation is a condition of imperfection, then how do we--imperfect and impartially understanding entities--even know viewing the Buddha as perfect or omniscient is not itself misinterpretation?

All it is saying is since we are imperfect we are not in a position to accuse the Buddha of being imperfect, or of propagating an imperfect teaching. If there's something we don't yet understand, some Vinaya rule that doesn't seem to make sense, the thing to do is to make a thorough inquiry from those who are experts in the Vinaya.

Those monks, are in my opinion, are being over-scrupulous about turning on the heating if it is to the point of making themselves ill, but that's their judgement to make, not mine. I am not living in their monastery.

To blame the rule is like blaming the speed limit as being too low when stopped for speeding.
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby gavesako » Sat Aug 31, 2013 9:33 pm

Growing the Dharma: Buddhism’s Religious Spadework. Draft, July 2013.
“The individual or collective Western response has often much like that of the new landowner who discovers an overgrown but still potentially productive corn field on his property and with limited understanding of both corn and non-corn, dauntlessly hacks away with a machete only to destroy half of the corn and to leave half of the undergrowth, then plants one row of Monsanto super-corn and row of squash to make it look right. It looks pretty good, so we call it Western Buddhism and expect it to save Buddhism from centuries of Asian misunderstanding and cultural accretions. We have all the hubris and discernment-level of rowdy teenagers.”

http://bhikkhucintita.wordpress.com/boo ... u-cintita/

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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby appicchato » Sat Aug 31, 2013 9:47 pm

We have all the hubris and discernment-level of rowdy teenagers.”
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Aug 31, 2013 10:18 pm

Thanks for the fascinating link, Bhante.

:anjali:
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby danieLion » Mon Sep 02, 2013 9:00 pm

Hi all,
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:All it is saying is since we are imperfect we are not in a position to accuse the Buddha of being imperfect, or of propagating an imperfect teaching.

If we're imperfect, we can't justifiably "accuse" the Buddha and the Buddha-Dhamma of being perfect, either. The best we can say is we don't know.

Besides, it's not an accusation, but an observation of the historical account. The Buddha made mistakes. The history of Buddhism illustrates one attempt after another to improve upon the Buddha-Dhamma. The emerging corpus of historical-critical scholarship, exemplified in the work of folks like Analayo, are neither flowery literature as Kusala would have it nor the "hubris and discernment-level of rowdy teenagers" as gavesko, appichatto and mikenz66 would have it.

Buddhists, "Western" and "Eastern" alike, are much too inlcined to super-naturalize, super-humanize, perfectionize and consquently worship the Buddha and the Buddha-Dhamma far beyond not only what historical-critical scholarship indicates as necessary, but also past any necessitating implications found in the Pali suttas themselves.
Kindly,
dL
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby Jhana4 » Mon Sep 02, 2013 9:22 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:Actually, according to the Vinaya the rules were changed quite a bit as the need arose. I remember one in particular where the Buddha did not allow the monks and nuns to wear leather sandals but then allowed it when they were in a different province where it was the custom (as long as no being was killed to make the leather). So you could call this an "improvement" or you could say that is a built-in structure to allow for adjustments. The Buddha also allowed the minor rules to be abolished after his paranibbana, again showing his flexibility.


Was.

That was 2500 years ago David.

How many practical adadptions for temporary conditions have been reified and followed like a divine law since in the centuries since the Buddha's death?
In reading the scriptures, there are two kinds of mistakes:
One mistake is to cling to the literal text and miss the inner principles.
The second mistake is to recognize the principles but not apply them to your own mind, so that you waste time and just make them into causes of entanglement.
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Re: Improving Buddhism/The Imperfect Buddha

Postby clw_uk » Mon Sep 02, 2013 10:03 pm

The Buddha did not intervene to prevent the suicide of some forest dwelling monks, because he knew that their past kamma was so severe that nothing could prevent it's bearing fruit. Likewise, he did not intervene when Moggallāna was being beaten to death by hired thugs. In the case of Angulimāla, the Buddha could and did intervene to prevent him committing the heinous crime of killing his own mother.



That's a convenient way to get around it, however it sounds like "God did it" or "he moves in mysterious ways".


From what I understand, the Buddha knew everything about the world (I.e. the senses and sense objects) and knew their nature, however I don't see him as knowing everything and being completely perfect in a divine/theistic/supernatural sense

The story of the monks suicide seems to show this. He made a mistake.
“ Your mind is likewise blocked. But the right road awaits you still. Cast out your doubts, your fears and your desires, let go of grief and of hope as well, for where these rule , then the mind is their subject." Boetius
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