Western cultural adaptations

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Anagarika
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by Anagarika » Fri Mar 14, 2014 5:16 pm

"Who determines what is core Dhamma, based upon what criteria? And assuming that that could be objectively determined, who then determines that Zen or Madhyamaka do not meet that definition?"

This is part of the challenge for individual practitioners. As others have pointed out, Buddhism has no Pope or Chief Rabbi to state what is 'core teachings' or Gospel, and what is not. I've left the question as to what is Dhamma to experts like Prof. Rita Gross, who is a Vajrayana practitioner, but writes very skillfully as a historian and anthropogist as to what is Buddhavacana, in her expert opinion, and what later developed as myth. As well, we have Ven. Thanissaro for example, who has invested his life into an investigation of Dhamma, and I see no compelling reason to doubt his fundamental opinions as to Dhamma. We also have experts like Dr. Gombrich, who has written extensively on historical matters concerning ancient Buddhism and Dhamma development.

My own view is that we really don't have anyone to determine for us what is Buddha dhamma, and what is not. We do, however, in exercising wise judgment, need to make some calculation as to what to trust, and what to see as myth or fabrication, bearing in mind that not all in the texts can be seen as 100 % Buddhavacana. We each have to make our own investigation, and make these determinations for ourselves. One of the great attributes of Buddhism is its diversity, and the fact that skilled, selfless, and ethical teachers exist in all traditions.

Ven. Thanissaro made the point in one of his articles that people see it as disrespectful to other traditions when those connected to the Pali Sutta/Vinaya schools critique Mahayana, for example. He then goes on to say that the disrespect comes from ignoring or misrepresenting what the Buddha actually taught. As Prof. Gross intimated in her article in this Spring's Buddhadharma, it is her students that have the heart attacks when she tells them that the Heart Sutra is not the word of the Buddha, and that it is a far-later-in-time constructed myth. She is trying to accurately define Buddhavacana, despite her allegiance to her teacher in Vajrayana. I feel she wants her Mahayana students to learn a semblance of the historical truth, even if it makes their hearts hurt.

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tiltbillings
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by tiltbillings » Fri Mar 14, 2014 8:38 pm

we have Ven. Thanissaro for example, who has invested his life into an investigation of Dhamma, and I see no compelling reason to doubt his fundamental opinions as to Dhamma.
No way would I question Ven T's sincerity and devotion to the Dhamma, but he is wide open to serious doubt concerning some of his opinions about the Mahayana and some things Theravada, showing himself to be not without problems as a scholar.
Prof. Rita Gross, who is a Vajrayana practitioner, but writes very skillfully as a historian and anthropogist as to what is Buddhavacana, in her expert opinion, and what later developed as myth.
Myth. Myth is an interesting word that can be used in a positive as well as a negative sense. Interestingly, the Nikayas seem to have a fair amount of "myth' playing out in the suttas, as well. What is meant by myth here?
We also have experts like Dr. Gombrich, who has written extensively on historical matters concerning ancient Buddhism and Dhamma development.
Gombrich is good, as is Ven Analayo.

BuddhaSoup wrote: My own view is that we really don't have anyone to determine for us what is Buddha dhamma, and what is not. We do, however, in exercising wise judgment, need to make some calculation as to what to trust, and what to see as myth or fabrication, bearing in mind that not all in the texts can be seen as 100 % Buddhavacana. We each have to make our own investigation, and make these determinations for ourselves. One of the great attributes of Buddhism is its diversity, and the fact that skilled, selfless, and ethical teachers exist in all traditions.
So, one can find in Zen, after all, Dhamma.
My own view is that we really don't have anyone to determine for us what is Buddha dhamma, and what is not. We do, however, in exercising wise judgment, need to make some calculation as to what to trust, and what to see as myth or fabrication, bearing in mind that not all in the texts can be seen as 100 % Buddhavacana. We each have to make our own investigation, and make these determinations for ourselves. One of the great attributes of Buddhism is its diversity, and the fact that skilled, selfless, and ethical teachers exist in all traditions.
The question is not which "anyone"; rather, it is what basis do we use to determine what is core Dhamma and how do we use that in looking at other expressions of the Dhamma?

Diversity, even with the Theravada -- Mahasi Sayadaw, Ajahn Brahm, Ven Thanissaro. Here are three differing teachers. Is one correct, the others simply wrong in their presentation of the Dhamma? How do one determine this, or could each approach be accurately representative of the Dhamma?
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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gavesako
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by gavesako » Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:07 pm

Here is a critique of some interpretations by Gombrich:
I would like to thank all of the cowardly editors who admitted that this was an important (even brilliant) contribution to the study of Buddhist Philosophy, but that they could not publish it because they live in fear of Richard Gombrich. Perhaps "thank" was not the right verb in that sentence. ;-)
http://a-bas-le-ciel.blogspot.co.uk/201 ... ticle.html
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

Access to Insight - Theravada texts
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
Dhammatalks.org - Sutta translations

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waterchan
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by waterchan » Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:13 pm

tiltbillings wrote: Diversity, even with the Theravada -- Mahasi Sayadaw, Ajahn Brahm, Ven Thanissaro. Here are three differing teachers. Is one correct, the others simply wrong in their presentation of the Dhamma? How do one determine this, or could each approach be accurately representative of the Dhamma?
When you reach a certain stage in your investigation of the Dhamma, it becomes a highly subjective matter of how well the systems of different teachers fit into your personal opinion of "true Dhamma". We will never come to a solid agreement on the criteria for "true Dhamma". But it's healthy to have the willingness to revise one's own opinion in light of new information that comes along. After all, none of these teachers you mentioned are above criticism.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)

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tiltbillings
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by tiltbillings » Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:17 pm

waterchan wrote:
tiltbillings wrote: Diversity, even with the Theravada -- Mahasi Sayadaw, Ajahn Brahm, Ven Thanissaro. Here are three differing teachers. Is one correct, the others simply wrong in their presentation of the Dhamma? How do one determine this, or could each approach be accurately representative of the Dhamma?
When you reach a certain stage in your investigation of the Dhamma, it becomes a highly subjective matter of how well the systems of different teachers fit into your personal opinion of "true Dhamma". We will never come to a solid agreement on the criteria for "true Dhamma". But it's healthy to have the willingness to revise one's own opinion in light of new information that comes along. After all, none of these teachers you mentioned are above criticism.
"True Dhamma" is not an expression I would opt to use.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

Coyote
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by Coyote » Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:22 pm

I wonder if this quest for "true dhamma" is a western concern? I.e trying to separate the core teachings from the cultural baggage, rather than taking Buddhism as it has been handed down to us. Although I am aware there are many "eastern" teachers who had similar concerns, i.e ajahn Chah.
"If beings knew, as I know, the results of giving & sharing, they would not eat without having given, nor would the stain of miserliness overcome their minds. Even if it were their last bite, their last mouthful, they would not eat without having shared."
Iti 26

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Kare
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by Kare » Fri Mar 14, 2014 9:45 pm

Coyote wrote:I wonder if this quest for "true dhamma" is a western concern? I.e trying to separate the core teachings from the cultural baggage, rather than taking Buddhism as it has been handed down to us. Although I am aware there are many "eastern" teachers who had similar concerns, i.e ajahn Chah.
It has been handed down to us in many different garbs. It would be rather confusing to try to accept them all - theravada, zen, vajrayana, nichiren, tendai, pure land ... just to mention some of them.

This means we have to apply some critical thinking.
Mettāya,
Kåre

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daverupa
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by daverupa » Fri Mar 14, 2014 10:44 pm

gavesako wrote:Here is a critique of some interpretations by Gombrich:
I would like to thank all of the cowardly editors who admitted that this was an important (even brilliant) contribution to the study of Buddhist Philosophy, but that they could not publish it because they live in fear of Richard Gombrich. Perhaps "thank" was not the right verb in that sentence. ;-)
http://a-bas-le-ciel.blogspot.co.uk/201 ... ticle.html
That author makes for some interesting reading.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

hermitwin
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by hermitwin » Sat Mar 15, 2014 5:57 am

On rebirth, the tendency to differentiate between rebirth and reincarnation.
To argue that reincarnation is not part of buddha’s teachings. Ie to reject the concept of past and future lives.

hermitwin
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by hermitwin » Sat Mar 15, 2014 6:05 am

I will argue that there wont be a distinct western Buddhism. The main reason is the easy access to info via internet. Nobody can control the transmission of info . there may be a small group who follows people like Stephen Batchelor.
Famous monks eg Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Brahm, Mattieu Ricard subscribe to the “traditional “ Buddhism. If there is any western Buddhism, it will be a totally fragmented one without a unified philosophy. To put it simply, westerners cant agree what western Buddhism should be. I guess this is testament to the democratic nature of western communities.

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Kim OHara
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by Kim OHara » Sat Mar 15, 2014 6:38 am

hermitwin wrote:I will argue that there wont be a distinct western Buddhism. The main reason is the easy access to info via internet. Nobody can control the transmission of info . there may be a small group who follows people like Stephen Batchelor.
Famous monks eg Ajahn Sumedho, Ajahn Brahm, Mattieu Ricard subscribe to the “traditional “ Buddhism. If there is any western Buddhism, it will be a totally fragmented one without a unified philosophy. To put it simply, westerners cant agree what western Buddhism should be. I guess this is testament to the democratic nature of western communities.
I would tend to agree that in the long term there will be no such thing as "Western Buddhism" but give a different reason : that the internet, backed up by other media, is inevitably producing a single global culture, and that a global Buddhism (perhaps with regional "dialects") will be part of that culture - much as we already have a global movie culture and are quickly moving towards a globalised version of the English language, reversing the previous drift of "American English" away from "Standard English" and all the other colonial versions of the language.
In fact, you could see Buddhism that way: all the different Asian traditions drifted apart for centuries of poor communications between communities and only had to come to terms with it - and start reconciling - in the 1950s when easier travel and mass communication (and literacy) made the differences apparent to large numbers of people.

:namaste:
Kim

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appicchato
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by appicchato » Sat Mar 15, 2014 12:02 pm

To argue that reincarnation is not part of buddha’s teachings. Ie to reject the concept of past and future lives.
Hang on...not that he didn't, but I cannot recall (reading about) the Buddha ever speaking about reincarnation (except to possibly scuttle the notion)...(the idea (or reality) of) rebirth is not (the idea (or reality) of) reincarnation...(two different fish to fry)...although it doesn't discount the concept (or possibility) of past and future lives...

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Aloka
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by Aloka » Sat Mar 15, 2014 1:56 pm

hermitwin wrote:On rebirth, the tendency to differentiate between rebirth and reincarnation.
To argue that reincarnation is not part of buddha’s teachings. Ie to reject the concept of past and future lives.
"Reincarnation" is a Tibetan belief as in a "reincarnate tulku"...someone believed to be a previous lama who died who has then been born again to take his place.

As far as I know, the Buddha only spoke about rebirth.


.

hermitwin
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by hermitwin » Sat Mar 15, 2014 4:12 pm

see what I mean.....

in the East, reincarnation = rebirth.

in the West, Buddha did not teach reincarnation. lol.

hermitwin
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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by hermitwin » Sat Mar 15, 2014 4:20 pm

In most Asian languages, the word for rebirth and reincarnation
is the same.
This is something that many westerners are not aware of.

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