Combatting Guruism

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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dylanj
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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by dylanj » Mon Jan 22, 2018 6:38 pm

To those who think we cannot rely on individual interpretation: If we cannot trust our understanding of the suttas, the actual word of the Buddha himself, how can we trust our understanding of a teacher explaining from those suttas, let alone the teacher themself?

This seems to be a self-defeating argument as without a doubt there is chance for a teacher to be wrong - not so with the suttas.
susukhaṃ vata nibbānaṃ,
sammā­sambud­dha­desitaṃ;
asokaṃ virajaṃ khemaṃ,
yattha dukkhaṃ nirujjhatī


Oh! extinction is so very blissful,
As taught by the One Rightly Self-Awakened:
Sorrowless, stainless, secure;
Where suffering all ceases


etaṁ santaṁ etaṁ panītaṁ yadidaṁ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭi nissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṁ

This is peaceful, this is excellent, that is: the stilling of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all attachments, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction.

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Nwad
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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by Nwad » Mon Jan 22, 2018 6:46 pm

dylanj wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 6:25 pm
Nwad wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 1:33 pm
dylanj, you say that its no good to teach others
No I didn't wtf
Perhaps i misuderstood the meaning of your post, sorry if i did ...
Metta to you my friend :hug:

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Crazy cloud
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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by Crazy cloud » Mon Jan 22, 2018 6:48 pm

Is it possible to get a definition of what "Guruism" means?
If you didn't care
What happened to me
And I didn't care for you

We would zig-zag our way
Through the boredom and pain
Occasionally glancing up through the rain

Wondering which of the
Buggers to blame
And watching the pigs on the wing
- Roger Waters

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SDC
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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by SDC » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:17 pm

dylanj wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 6:38 pm
To those who think we cannot rely on individual interpretation: If we cannot trust our understanding of the suttas, the actual word of the Buddha himself, how can we trust our understanding of a teacher explaining from those suttas, let alone the teacher themself?

This seems to be a self-defeating argument as without a doubt there is chance for a teacher to be wrong - not so with the suttas.
I'm discussed this to the point of nausea, but it has been a while so...

It is about taking the suttas in the proper context. The suttas do not provide any. A direct read takes for granted that one's current mode of operation is sufficient for there to be a proper understanding of English words being used to describe the everyday usage of 2500 year old concepts. In other words, a direct reading is not a "clean" reading. You have the contemporary understanding of translated words and that associated context in place (that is what we know) and that is not necessarily the context that was in place in ancient India. No doubt the wisdom is timeless, but no rendering in clear of interpretation. It is easy to toss that into the hands of the translator, but even with the greatest of care, it is our own preconceived, contemporary notions which will drive that understanding.

So it isn't about not trusting the suttas. It is about questioning that contemporary context and acknowledging that it may be insufficient for a direct reading. Guru or teacher aside, you take an enormous risk reading the suttas that way, especially if you aren't calling it into question. Maybe you do, but I've seen a lot of people who don't.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:21 pm

SDC wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:17 pm
dylanj wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 6:38 pm
To those who think we cannot rely on individual interpretation: If we cannot trust our understanding of the suttas, the actual word of the Buddha himself, how can we trust our understanding of a teacher explaining from those suttas, let alone the teacher themself?

This seems to be a self-defeating argument as without a doubt there is chance for a teacher to be wrong - not so with the suttas.
I'm discussed this to the point of nausea, but it has been a while so...

It is about taking the suttas in the proper context. The suttas do not provide any. A direct read takes for granted that one's current mode of operation is sufficient for there to be a proper understanding of English words being used to describe the everyday usage of 2500 year old concepts. In other words, a direct reading is not a "clean" reading. You have the contemporary understanding of translated words and that associated context in place (that is what we know) and that is not necessarily the context that was in place in ancient India. No doubt the wisdom is timeless, but no rendering in clear of interpretation. It is easy to toss that into the hands of the translator, but even with the greatest of care, it is our own preconceived, contemporary notions which will drive that understanding.

So it isn't about not trusting the suttas. It is about questioning that contemporary context and acknowledging that it may be insufficient for a direct reading. Guru or teacher aside, you take an enormous risk reading the suttas that way, especially if you aren't calling it into question. Maybe you do, but I've seen a lot of people who don't.
:goodpost:

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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by dylanj » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:26 pm

The suttas do provide context, I do not see what could possibly be considered missing. The translations are straightforward & lucid, disparity between translator to translator rarely effects meaning.

I think it is very wrong to suggest that the Buddha's Dhamma is locked in time 2500 years ago. It's not. It is as relevant & understandable now as it was then.
susukhaṃ vata nibbānaṃ,
sammā­sambud­dha­desitaṃ;
asokaṃ virajaṃ khemaṃ,
yattha dukkhaṃ nirujjhatī


Oh! extinction is so very blissful,
As taught by the One Rightly Self-Awakened:
Sorrowless, stainless, secure;
Where suffering all ceases


etaṁ santaṁ etaṁ panītaṁ yadidaṁ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭi nissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṁ

This is peaceful, this is excellent, that is: the stilling of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all attachments, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction.

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xofz
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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by xofz » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:31 pm

We must remember that the Buddha's teachings are for one's own eyes only. The original post in this thread need not have so many replies.
My real life name is Sam.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:32 pm

dylanj wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 6:38 pm
To those who think we cannot rely on individual interpretation: If we cannot trust our understanding of the suttas, the actual word of the Buddha himself, how can we trust our understanding of a teacher explaining from those suttas, let alone the teacher themself?

This seems to be a self-defeating argument as without a doubt there is chance for a teacher to be wrong - not so with the suttas.
With respect, there is no such thing as "individual interpretation", or "individual understanding". Unless you have a time-travel machine and perfect conversational Pali, you are standing on the shoulders of giants.

Why is there no chance for a sutta to be "wrong" in the sense of not accurately reflecting what the Buddha thought? Every sutta is a human artifact, subject to mis-hearing, misunderstanding, misremembering, redaction, revision, bias, and clumsy translation. On top of that, there are our own defilements and ignorance through which it is filtered before it becomes our own "understanding".

Circle5
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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by Circle5 » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:43 pm

SDC wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:17 pm
dylanj wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 6:38 pm
To those who think we cannot rely on individual interpretation: If we cannot trust our understanding of the suttas, the actual word of the Buddha himself, how can we trust our understanding of a teacher explaining from those suttas, let alone the teacher themself?

This seems to be a self-defeating argument as without a doubt there is chance for a teacher to be wrong - not so with the suttas.
I'm discussed this to the point of nausea, but it has been a while so...

It is about taking the suttas in the proper context. The suttas do not provide any. A direct read takes for granted that one's current mode of operation is sufficient for there to be a proper understanding of English words being used to describe the everyday usage of 2500 year old concepts. In other words, a direct reading is not a "clean" reading. You have the contemporary understanding of translated words and that associated context in place (that is what we know) and that is not necessarily the context that was in place in ancient India. No doubt the wisdom is timeless, but no rendering in clear of interpretation. It is easy to toss that into the hands of the translator, but even with the greatest of care, it is our own preconceived, contemporary notions which will drive that understanding.

So it isn't about not trusting the suttas. It is about questioning that contemporary context and acknowledging that it may be insufficient for a direct reading. Guru or teacher aside, you take an enormous risk reading the suttas that way, especially if you aren't calling it into question. Maybe you do, but I've seen a lot of people who don't.
So in order to avoid supposedly taking a huge risk in reading the nikayas by ourselves (LOL...), we should ask another person to take this risk for us :juggling:

I am quite surprised there are people here who actually argue for not investigating the dhamma by ourselves but ask others to do it for us. In christianity, there are people who put their faith in priests and let their faith in the hands of them, but they do so without realizing it or in any case without actually making a case that this is a good idea.

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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by Circle5 » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:47 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:32 pm
dylanj wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 6:38 pm
To those who think we cannot rely on individual interpretation: If we cannot trust our understanding of the suttas, the actual word of the Buddha himself, how can we trust our understanding of a teacher explaining from those suttas, let alone the teacher themself?

This seems to be a self-defeating argument as without a doubt there is chance for a teacher to be wrong - not so with the suttas.
With respect, there is no such thing as "individual interpretation", or "individual understanding". Unless you have a time-travel machine and perfect conversational Pali, you are standing on the shoulders of giants.

Why is there no chance for a sutta to be "wrong" in the sense of not accurately reflecting what the Buddha thought? Every sutta is a human artifact, subject to mis-hearing, misunderstanding, misremembering, redaction, revision, bias, and clumsy translation. On top of that, there are our own defilements and ignorance through which it is filtered before it becomes our own "understanding".
So you are arguing that EBTs are basically worthless, the classic postodernist attitude that B.Sujato claims has kept EBT study back by a generation.

I suggest this book by B. Sujato called "The authenticity of early buddhist text" to anyone making such postmodernist claims. The purspose of the book is debunking this very idea: https://ocbs.org/wp-content/uploads/201 ... ticity.pdf

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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by dylanj » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:52 pm

Circle5 wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:47 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:32 pm
dylanj wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 6:38 pm
To those who think we cannot rely on individual interpretation: If we cannot trust our understanding of the suttas, the actual word of the Buddha himself, how can we trust our understanding of a teacher explaining from those suttas, let alone the teacher themself?

This seems to be a self-defeating argument as without a doubt there is chance for a teacher to be wrong - not so with the suttas.
With respect, there is no such thing as "individual interpretation", or "individual understanding". Unless you have a time-travel machine and perfect conversational Pali, you are standing on the shoulders of giants.

Why is there no chance for a sutta to be "wrong" in the sense of not accurately reflecting what the Buddha thought? Every sutta is a human artifact, subject to mis-hearing, misunderstanding, misremembering, redaction, revision, bias, and clumsy translation. On top of that, there are our own defilements and ignorance through which it is filtered before it becomes our own "understanding".
So you are arguing that EBTs are basically worthless, the classic postodernist attitude that B.Sujato claims has kept EBT study back by a generation.

I suggest this book by B. Sujato called "The authenticity of early buddhist text" to anyone making such postmodernist claims. The purspose of the book is debunking this very idea: https://ocbs.org/wp-content/uploads/201 ... ticity.pdf
:goodpost: I was going to link this in response too
susukhaṃ vata nibbānaṃ,
sammā­sambud­dha­desitaṃ;
asokaṃ virajaṃ khemaṃ,
yattha dukkhaṃ nirujjhatī


Oh! extinction is so very blissful,
As taught by the One Rightly Self-Awakened:
Sorrowless, stainless, secure;
Where suffering all ceases


etaṁ santaṁ etaṁ panītaṁ yadidaṁ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭi nissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṁ

This is peaceful, this is excellent, that is: the stilling of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all attachments, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:53 pm

Circle5 wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:47 pm
Sam Vara wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:32 pm

With respect, there is no such thing as "individual interpretation", or "individual understanding". Unless you have a time-travel machine and perfect conversational Pali, you are standing on the shoulders of giants.

Why is there no chance for a sutta to be "wrong" in the sense of not accurately reflecting what the Buddha thought? Every sutta is a human artifact, subject to mis-hearing, misunderstanding, misremembering, redaction, revision, bias, and clumsy translation. On top of that, there are our own defilements and ignorance through which it is filtered before it becomes our own "understanding".
So you are arguing that EBTs are basically worthless, the classic postodernist attitude that B.Sujato claims has kept EBT study back by a generation.

I suggest this book by B. Sujato called "The authenticity of early buddhist text" to anyone making such postmodernist claims. The purspose of the book is debunking this very idea: https://ocbs.org/wp-content/uploads/201 ... ticity.pdf
No, I'm not arguing that the EBT's are basically worthless. That is not what I said, nor does it follow from what I said. And because it is not what I said, you will need to work harder with the "postmodernist" claim. And although I thank you for the book recommendation, I don't need it to debunk an idea I don't have, do I?

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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:55 pm

dylanj wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:52 pm

:goodpost: I was going to link this in response too
Had you seen my response to Circle5 in time, you could have saved yourself the bother.

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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by SDC » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:56 pm

dylanj wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:26 pm
The suttas do provide context, I do not see what could possibly be considered missing. The translations are straightforward & lucid, disparity between translator to translator rarely effects meaning.

I think it is very wrong to suggest that the Buddha's Dhamma is locked in time 2500 years ago. It's not. It is as relevant & understandable now as it was then.
I didn't say the context was inaccessible and "locked in time", I just said that it isn't there in the suttas. The context was there when those words were spoken, but only the words were transcribed, not that context. So without the context we are in a unique position to work with different contexts to discern meaning.

As far as translations go, if you are satisfied with Merriam-Webster to define the words that is cool, but how do you know that that is what the Buddha meant? You don't. So you have to get creative to get at the meaning. Since a default contemporary context is what you have then that is where you start. Nothing wrong with it, but you should definitely question that context is what I am saying because what makes you think it is on par with ancient India? Exploring different contexts will give the best chance for understanding and some teachers may be able to provide that.

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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by Circle5 » Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:57 pm

There are 2 problems with the postmodern pro-guru argument:

1) The authenticity of EBTs is not contested by any scholars working in the area, be them buddhist or secular. There are a countless scientific methods that we can use to know things about the authenticity of the ETB. Evidence for it is so vast that if one is denying the authenticity of ETBs, that person has to pretty much deny the authenticity of anything ever written in history. It's something that no serious scholar would ever question.

Also, we even know exactly which suttas have been corrupted. There are 12 out of 152 suttas of MN corrupted and 2/3 of DN. B.Bodhi even writes in the preface of the DN translation that it was meant for propaganda and is not really something too important.

2) If one claims that EBTs are useless, corrupted, impossible to translate, etc. - not only that you need to provide proof for these claims, but you also need to provide some logic behind the idea of following a guru. Are they not equally useless, impossible to translate, etc. for this guru too ?

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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by SDC » Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:00 pm

Circle5 wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:43 pm
So in order to avoid supposedly taking a huge risk in reading the nikayas by ourselves (LOL...), we should ask another person to take this risk for us :juggling:

I am quite surprised there are people here who actually argue for not investigating the dhamma by ourselves but ask others to do it for us. In christianity, there are people who put their faith in priests and let their faith in the hands of them, but they do so without realizing it or in any case without actually making a case that this is a good idea.
I'll just use Freud and Newton for that context, my Romanian friend. Just like you. This is call "a joke". :tongue:

What I mean is what I said above. Explore different contexts because a contemporary one is surely not best and positively not what was there in ancient India.

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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by Sam Vara » Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:02 pm

Circle5 wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:57 pm
There are 2 problems with the postmodern pro-guru argument:

1) The authenticity of EBTs is not contested by any scholars working in the area, be them buddhist or secular. There are a countless scientific methods that we can use to know things about the authenticity of the ETB. Evidence for it is so vast that if one is denying the authenticity of ETBs, that person has to pretty much deny the authenticity of anything ever written in history. It's something that no serious scholar would ever question.

Also, we even know exactly which suttas have been corrupted. There are 12 out of 152 suttas of MN corrupted and 2/3 of DN. B.Bodhi even writes in the preface of the DN translation that it was meant for propaganda and is not really something too important.

2) If one claims that EBTs are useless, corrupted, impossible to translate, etc. - not only that you need to provide proof for these claims, but you also need to provide some logic behind the idea of following a guru. Are they not equally useless, impossible to translate, etc. for this guru too ?
Excellent work, Circle5, but permit me to suggest that there is a third problem with the "postmodern pro-guru argument":

3) Nobody has actually raised, articulated, or defended it here.

However, I suspect that now you have mounted this particular hobby-horse, you will ride around in circles for quite some time.

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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by Circle5 » Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:07 pm

SDC wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:56 pm
dylanj wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:26 pm
The suttas do provide context, I do not see what could possibly be considered missing. The translations are straightforward & lucid, disparity between translator to translator rarely effects meaning.

I think it is very wrong to suggest that the Buddha's Dhamma is locked in time 2500 years ago. It's not. It is as relevant & understandable now as it was then.
I didn't say the context was inaccessible and "locked in time", I just said that it isn't there in the suttas. The context was there when those words were spoken, but only the words were transcribed, not that context. So without the context we are in a unique position to work with different contexts to discern meaning.

As far as translations go, if you are satisfied with Merriam-Webster to define the words that is cool, but how do you know that that is what the Buddha meant? You don't. So you have to get creative to get at the meaning. Since a default contemporary context is what you have then that is where you start. Nothing wrong with it, but you should definitely question that context is what I am saying because what makes you think it is on par with ancient India? Exploring different contexts will give the best chance for understanding and some teachers may be able to provide that.
I don't think you understand how translations work. You don't translate things randomly. Take for example this passage:
“And what, bhikkhus, is aging-and-death? The aging of the
various beings in the various orders of beings, their growing old,
brokenness of teeth, greyness of hair, wrinkling of skin, decline
of vitality, degeneration of the faculties: this is called aging.
And for any thinking person it is clear that it refers to physical death.

Sure no translation is gona be perfect. But claiming all translations done in this world are basically worthless because they are not perfect is ridiculous. There would be no translator from franch to english, from english to german, from pali to english etc. existing if that would be the case.

Add to this that Buddha himself was aware of the fact that he could get misinterpreted, so he always provided a string of synonims so that people can clearly understand what terms mean. Even in the simple case of aging and death, he provided that long string of synonims that you can see above, just to make sure people don't misunderstand him.

Therefore I find such postmodern argument against ridiculous.

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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by Circle5 » Mon Jan 22, 2018 8:22 pm

SDC wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:56 pm
dylanj wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 7:26 pm
The suttas do provide context, I do not see what could possibly be considered missing. The translations are straightforward & lucid, disparity between translator to translator rarely effects meaning.

I think it is very wrong to suggest that the Buddha's Dhamma is locked in time 2500 years ago. It's not. It is as relevant & understandable now as it was then.
I didn't say the context was inaccessible and "locked in time", I just said that it isn't there in the suttas. The context was there when those words were spoken, but only the words were transcribed, not that context. So without the context we are in a unique position to work with different contexts to discern meaning.

As far as translations go, if you are satisfied with Merriam-Webster to define the words that is cool, but how do you know that that is what the Buddha meant? You don't. So you have to get creative to get at the meaning. Since a default contemporary context is what you have then that is where you start. Nothing wrong with it, but you should definitely question that context is what I am saying because what makes you think it is on par with ancient India? Exploring different contexts will give the best chance for understanding and some teachers may be able to provide that.
This is called a theory, a postmodern theory. When it comes to theories, they can either be correct and in line with reality or they can be incorrect and not in line with reality.

This postmodern theory claims that "context", like how people see the world today and things like that will have an impact on translation and therefore make us blind to what people meant in there because the "context" was different back then.

In order to prove this postmodern theory, you need to show some practical examples. You need to show "this word actually means something different" and provide evidence for it, such as showing how it is used in other parts of the thankfully 10.000 pag of sutta pitaka. You need to produce hard evidence to support a theory.

Let's try to bring a real, practical example to the table so that to see if the theory stands. Let's take for example the case of Nanavira vs everybody else translations. We see this passage for example:
“And what, bhikkhus, is aging-and-death? The aging of the
various beings in the various orders of beings, their growing old,
brokenness of teeth, greyness of hair, wrinkling of skin, decline
of vitality, degeneration of the faculties: this is called aging.
Everybody and their dog is claiming this refers to physical death. For Nanavira of course it does not. Then Nanavira claims it is because of this "context" that is different now, that people somehow got it all wrong for 2500 years and that "aging and death" here actually refers to death of phenomenon in a momentary sense and has nothing to do with phisical birth.

The problem of this theory is the evidence behind it. You need to prove that every other word like "bones" or "teeth" etc. - you need to prove every single word of these 4 lines of text as being totally mistranslated and also provide a new translation for them. Then, you need to search all these words in the 10.000 pag of sutta pitakka, see the context in which they are used and prove that "bones" means something totally different, etc. You need to re-write the entire sutta pitakka and you also need to show how this is consistent, how every single new translation that you came up with indeeds fits in all these contexts and is consistent.

So a first step here is to show what other word would you use instead of "bones", "skin", "grayness", "hair", etc. etc. etc.

This is how you prove a theory. A theory can be correct or it can be wrong. You need to prove it is correct otherwise nobody will take you serious, especially for such bold claims like aging and death not meaning phisical death other there, to say nothing of the other million bold claims by him.

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Re: Combatting Guruism

Post by dylanj » Mon Jan 22, 2018 10:04 pm

Crazy cloud wrote:
Mon Jan 22, 2018 6:48 pm
Is it possible to get a definition of what "Guruism" means?
I would say, the belief that the Buddha & his words are not enough but that it is necessary to follow one of his disciples as some sort of middleman to reach the goal.
susukhaṃ vata nibbānaṃ,
sammā­sambud­dha­desitaṃ;
asokaṃ virajaṃ khemaṃ,
yattha dukkhaṃ nirujjhatī


Oh! extinction is so very blissful,
As taught by the One Rightly Self-Awakened:
Sorrowless, stainless, secure;
Where suffering all ceases


etaṁ santaṁ etaṁ panītaṁ yadidaṁ sabbasaṅkhārasamatho sabbūpadhipaṭi nissaggo taṇhakkhayo virāgo nirodho nibbānaṁ

This is peaceful, this is excellent, that is: the stilling of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all attachments, the destruction of craving, detachment, cessation, extinction.

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