Distortions in Buddhism

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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vappa
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Joined: Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:18 am

Distortions in Buddhism

Post by vappa » Wed Jul 11, 2012 12:28 am

Both Westerners and Easterners have made blatant errors while either translating or interpreting Buddhist text from ancient languages of Pali and Sanskrit to English. English intrinsically being an inconsistent language added fuel to fire.

One such error is the term Gnosis used by Westerners to translate the unique concept of Nibbana (pron.Nibbaaner in Paali) or Nirvaaner (Sanskrit) as expounded by Buddha, a marked contrast of the concept of Nirvana of Hindu tradition.
The meaning of Gnosis is ‘Intuitive apprehension of spiritual truths, an esoteric form of knowledge sought by the Gnostics’ Further Gnostism refers to ‘is a modern scholarly term for a set of religious beliefs and spiritual practices found among some early Christian and non-Christian groups called "gnostic" ("learned") by Irenaeus and other early Christian leaders. In the past many scholars believed that gnosticism pre-dated Christianity, but now it is generally accepted that gnosticism developed into a coherent movement only in the second century CE.’
If Nibbana is translated as Gnosis, the plausible conclusion would be is that that early Christians too knew about Nibbana (taking into account that Christianity followed Buddhism, chronologically). No definition of Nibbana, which Buddha proclaimed, even come close to the definition of Gnosis or Gnostics as per above Christian definition. Nibbana in Buddhism is etymologically defined as simply ‘no desire’ and there is no spiritual attribute attached to it. It is a Moral exercise of discarding all attachments to phenomena leading usually an ascetic life, practicing and training Virtue, Concentration and Wisdom. In this process one identifies the Craving involved in Passion, Aversion and Delusion and follows the 8 fold noble path contained in the 4 noble truths and eventually overcoming all Craving. The ultimate goal of Nibbana is realised through a disciplined approach practicing and training Serenity Meditation and Insight Meditation. None of the above is mentioned in Gnostism and hence must not be used to define Nibbana in any form.
read http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; where nibbana is defined as gnosis and in many more translations.

Kamma or Karma most construe as a consequence ‘This is my Kamma’. This is absolutely incorrect. Kamma is actions by Body, Speech and Mind and it is the cause rather than the consequence or result or effect, in a never ending cause and effect cycle. The actual word to define the effect is Vipaaker. One might use the term kamma vipaka using both words to explain the consequence of action.

Nama(pron Naamer) is often misinterpreted in Buddhist text, which is given a simple meaning Name. Naama is Mentality encompass Feeling, Perception and Mental Formations(actions). Naama plus Consciousness (vinnaaner) is Chittha or Citta or Mind. Mind constitutes of 4 things. The most predominant of all Consciousness and the rest Feeling, Perception and Mental Formation, the latter 3 put together is defined as Mentality or Nama.

Transmigrating Consciousness – another distortion, a fallacy among even learned Buddhist laypersons and monks. At the time of death of both a Puthajjana(ordinary human) and an Arahant(enlightened being) both mind and body comes to an end. Consciousness too, a component of mind, ends at the time of death. However in the case of Puthajjana the accumulated Kamma in birth, conditions or creates a Consciousness which descends into a womb, egg or gives rise to apparitional birth. In the case of an Arahant since both Cravings and Aasaaver(Cankers) have being annihilated and extinguished, there is no more birth. Hence we do not usually state Arahants die – they just enter Parinibbana, Nibbana without residue of mind and body. Read Mahatanhasankhaya sutta.

The concept of re-birth is an aberration of what Buddha actually meant. Its really a New Beginning or New Becoming or Bhava (punarbhava) which in turn conditions a New Birth rather than a re-birth. As at death (chuthi consciousness) everything ceases to exist, with no continuation of mind and matter. What continues is Suffering through a new becoming and a new birth with the prathisandhi consciousness, conditioned by kamma of past. Prathisandhi consciousness needs to be correctly translated as a new-birth linking consciousness rather than a re-birth linking consciousness. Being or a self is categorically denied in Buddha dhamma and it�s fallacious to base a statement which connotes continuity of a being.

Buddha has been humiliated and denigrated especially in far eastern parts of the world too by certain denominations of Buddhism as a deity (a fat laughing Buddha - although named Buddha this depiction is an fact an Arahant or Lohan named Kanakavatsa). This is a gross distortion of depiction of Buddha, as he denied worshipping of Gods and deities, to invoke blessing and favours. He was of Indian (or Nepalese) origin with no resemblance to these sought of aberrations. Some Hindus too denigrate Buddha categorising him as an reincarnation of God Vishnu or Krishna, again Buddha was no god or just a normal human - he was ABOVE both gods and human (including the so called omnipotent one), an Ariya Puggala or Noble One (after enlightenment) and Vishnu served like a temple attendant to Buddha during his time.
The concept of re-birth is an aberration of what Buddha actually meant. Its really a New Beginning or New Becoming or Bhava (punarbhava) which in turn conditions a New Birth rather than a re-birth. As at death (chuthi consciousness) everything ceases to exist, with no continuation of mind and matter. What continues is Suffering through a new becoming and a new birth with the prathisandhi consciousness, conditioned by kamma of past. Prathisandhi consciousness needs to be correctly translated as a new-birth linking consciousness rather than a re-birth linking consciousness. Being or a self is categorically denied in Buddha dhamma and its fallacious to base a statement which connotes continuity of a being.
Satipatthaaner Sutta, one of the most important Suttas in Buddhism, which deals with Mindfulness of Body and Mind, too has been mistranslated. Cittanupassana has been translated as Observation of Consciousness. If Buddha meant Consciousness, he would have used the term Vinyaanupassana, rather than Cittanupassana. Even if we consider Cittanupasasana as Mind Consciousness still its incorrect, as Cittaupassana deals with observing Passion, Aversion and Delusion(Moha) and few other states of mind. Ithas nothing to do with cognition, thinking or ‘consciousness’. Read below translations, two versions, and arrive at your own conclusion.
Mahasatipathana sutta at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
And Mahasatipathana sutta at http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/mahasati.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

The word Concentration has been used to explain Sammaa Samadhi, the final step in Nobel 8 Fold Path. Sammaa means Right, Samadhi means meditation. Although Concentration used in even universally accepted books on Buddhism, is partially correct the true meaning of Samma Samadhi is Serenity Meditation, which is Samatha Bhavana to differentiate it from Insight Meditation which is Vipassana meditation. Samadhi is a state of Absorption achieved through concentration on a neutral object. Read Samadhi Sutta – Anguttara Nikaye and Saccavibhanga sutta of Majjhima nikaya.
Last edited by vappa on Wed Jul 11, 2012 4:07 am, edited 2 times in total.

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daverupa
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Re: Distortions in Buddhism

Post by daverupa » Wed Jul 11, 2012 2:26 am

vappa wrote:One such error is the term Gnosis...
I have never seen this; I can only imagine these must be very early English sources, in which case this is beating a corpse.
vappa wrote:Nibbana in Buddhism is etymologically defined as simply ‘no desire’
Well, to be sure, we will want to say that nibbana is best left untranslated. It is a word which calls for careful examination.
vappa wrote:Kamma is actions... never ending cause and effect cycle
This won't do at all. Kamma is intention (cetana, a cognate of citta), and it is driven by tanha (craving, thirsting) - hardly "never-ending", though it takes a Buddha to show this.
vappa wrote:Nama...Mentality
I tend to prefer "name", with a somewhat loose mind when reading it in context; your description may or may not be accurate, but I don't tend to read the aggregates into namarupa in such a way. It would be nice to have this clarified here.
vappa wrote:Transmigrating Consciousness et al ad nauseum
This is all thoroughly hashed out elsewhere on the forum.
vappa wrote:The word Concentration... Sammaa means Right, Samadhi means meditation.
Well, I tend to prefer samadhi = "composure", as these two are derived from the same roots - but of course, it warrants careful attention when it is read in context.

No translation of a word can really be perfect; ideally we should read words in their sentences, and build meaning from there. Concern for and attention to correctly explaining the Dhamma is something we should all cultivate.

:coffee:
  • "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]

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