Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
SarathW
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Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Post by SarathW » Thu Sep 20, 2018 9:01 pm

From another post:

3- Sometimes i feel that Buddhists are not so different from other human beings except the terminology they use. Maybe the wishful thinking i have that Buddhism is radically different can be a cause of disappointment.

viewtopic.php?p=487365#p487365

I can be related to this concern. It is frustrating when we can't see the light at the end of the tunnel.

What is your opinion on this?
Last edited by SarathW on Fri Sep 21, 2018 1:59 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Sam Vara
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Re: Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Sep 20, 2018 9:43 pm

SarathW wrote:
Thu Sep 20, 2018 9:01 pm
From another post:

3- Sometimes i feel that Buddhists are not so different from other human beings except the terminology they use. Maybe the wishful thinking i have that Buddhism is radically different can be a cause of disappointment.

viewtopic.php?p=487365#p487365

I can be related to this concern. It is frustrating when we can't see the light end of the tunnel.

What is your opinion on this?
Interesting question; it has lots of different dimensions.

First, is "seeing light at the end of the tunnel" necessarily dependent upon Buddhism being different from other religions? There is, for example, a universalist position which I often encounter which is that perhaps there are, in effect, many tunnels leading to the same light. That would mean that we needn't bother ourselves about whether our religious practice is different from others: they all get there! Alternatively, even if Buddhism is the only religion leading to the light, it might be that we don't see enough of that light yet because we are not yet practising well enough.

Second, there is a marked difference in this context between Buddhism (i.e. the teaching of the Buddha) and the Buddhist practice which most people adopt. Ajahn Thanissaro has often pointed to the ways in which Western Buddhists, in particular, have incorporated elements of Western culture, including Christianity, into their beliefs. In my last years at work I was privileged to meet lots of Nepalese Buddhists (the Gurung clan) whose practice was obviously very influenced by their Hindu neighbours. And many of the Western Buddhists I meet at the local monastery are what a friend of mine calls "post-Buddhists", incorporating some ideas and practices from Theravada within an eclectic vaguely advaita framework. Ironically, they are often the ones who most want their practice to be different; they seem to court exoticism. This, as the OP suggests, is a pitfall. It's quite possible that religious practice and belief tends to drift away from the exacting standards set by its founder, and to become more vague and homogeneous. So Buddhism is radically different; whereas Buddhists tend not to be. Of course, this is a generalisation based on my narrow range of experiences.

Personally, I find the best antidote to such thoughts - which also rekindles that light at the end of the tunnel - is MN 11, in which the Buddha sets out what makes his teaching distinctive. Especially this bit:
There are some other ascetics and brahmins who claim to propound the complete understanding of all kinds of grasping, but they don’t really. They describe the complete understanding of grasping at sensual pleasures, views, and precepts and observances, but not theories of a self. Why is that? Because those gentlemen don’t truly understand this one thing. That’s why they claim to propound the complete understanding of all kinds of grasping, but they don’t really.
https://suttacentral.net/mn11/en/sujato

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Re: Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Post by DNS » Thu Sep 20, 2018 10:13 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Thu Sep 20, 2018 9:43 pm
Interesting question; it has lots of different dimensions.
Yes, I agree, it could take several different turns. There is the cultural mixing of traditions that you mentioned, the perhaps diluting of the teachings and others.

There is the disappointment that can come with noting that the followers have much of the same defilements as found in the adherents of other religions. (To counter that: Buddhists are human and not buddhas.)

There is the disappointment in seeing corruption and scandals, for example, #MeTooGuru and other problems.
(To counter that: "don't shoot the message because of the messenger" as the saying goes.)

In terms of doctrines, Buddhism is radically different from other religions, for example the tilakkhaṇa.

Dukkha is not addressed or adequately answered in other religions, whereas the Buddha gives a path out of Dukkha.
Anicca is not addressed or adequately answered in other religions either and in fact their afterlife appears to deny anicca.
Anatta is completely not addressed in other religions and Buddhism is unique in this teaching.

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Re: Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Post by Sam Vara » Thu Sep 20, 2018 10:31 pm

DNS wrote:
Thu Sep 20, 2018 10:13 pm
There is the disappointment that can come with noting that the followers have much of the same defilements as found in the adherents of other religions. (To counter that: Buddhists are human and not buddhas.)
Yes, I've noticed a good deal of this around news reports concerning the treatment of the Rohingya, or military activity in Sri Lanka. There is often a kind of shocked disbelief among Westerners. "What, even Buddhists do this sort of thing?" It's as if they were really hoping that somewhere in the world they would find a group of people who were never provoked into violence, and then are disappointed to find that it's not so. Maybe they need to narrow the search a little, and focus on arahants, rather than populations who self-identify as cultural Buddhists.

On a small scale, a friend of mine was visiting the local monastery and witnessed an argument between two monks (it was over sweeping a path!) which got quite shouty and looked as if it were even going to get violent. At first, she was shocked, but in retrospect she finds it quite endearing. These guys have defilements, but they have dedicated their lives to removing them...

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Re: Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Post by SarathW » Fri Sep 21, 2018 2:10 am

Maybe they need to narrow the search a little, and focus on arahants
it might be that we don't see enough of that light yet because we are not yet practising well enough.
Arahanting is another frustrating exercise.
We are looking for Arahant without not within.
We expect someone else to do the practice.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Post by StormBorn » Fri Sep 21, 2018 3:17 am

SarathW wrote:
Thu Sep 20, 2018 9:01 pm
From another post:

3- Sometimes i feel that Buddhists are not so different from other human beings except the terminology they use. Maybe the wishful thinking i have that Buddhism is radically different can be a cause of disappointment.
However, the Buddha and what he taught originally was indeed radical, but don't expect that from modern Buddhist gurus.

"Buddhists", "Christians", "Hindus", "Atheists" all are superficial labels only. Sometimes a so-called "Christian" can be more Buddhist by behaviour than a "Buddhist" which might be a source of disappointment to other "Buddhists".
SarathW wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 2:10 am
We are looking for Arahant without not within.
We expect someone else to do the practice.
:twothumbsup:
Looking outside for realised beings should be to clarify the knots of the Path, if any. Otherwise, as you said, better walk one's own Path! :smile:
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Re: Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Post by TRobinson465 » Fri Sep 21, 2018 3:52 am

Buddhism is different than all the major religions as it is the only one that can be verified and proven by direct experience in the hereandnow rather than proven only in the hereafter. Buddhists however, are not that much different from christians, muslims or hindus.
"Do not have blind faith, but also no blind criticism" - the 14th Dalai Lama

"At Varanasi, in the Deer Park at Isipatana, the Blessed One has set in motion the unexcelled Wheel of Dhamma that cannot be stopped by brahmins, devas, Maras, Brahmas or anyone in the cosmos." -Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta

"Go forth, monks, for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the welfare, the good and the happiness of gods and men. Let no two of you go in the same direction." - First Khandhaka, Chapter 11, Vinaya.

SarathW
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Re: Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Post by SarathW » Fri Sep 21, 2018 4:05 am

Sometimes a so-called "Christian" can be more Buddhist by behaviour than a "Buddhist" which might be a source of disappointment to other "Buddhists".
Good point.
Many Buddhist think Buddhism means ethics. (Sila)
So they give up Buddhism when they see better ethical people in other religions.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Sep 21, 2018 6:44 am

SarathW wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 4:05 am
Sometimes a so-called "Christian" can be more Buddhist by behaviour than a "Buddhist" which might be a source of disappointment to other "Buddhists".
Good point.
Many Buddhist think Buddhism means ethics. (Sila)
So they give up Buddhism when they see better ethical people in other religions.
That's an interesting point and might be a difference between Western converts and more traditional Buddhists. Here in the UK, people seem to think that Buddhism means meditation/mental development, with some belief in a different cosmology. A person could maintain extremely good sila, without anyone associating that with Buddhism, if they didn't openly talk about their meditation practice or "weird beliefs". Many people in the congregation of our local Christian church have a very abstemious and ethical lifestyle, and (apart from a little alcohol) seem to have better sila than most of the lay Buddhists I meet at the monastery. When "mindfulness meditation" became very popular here in the UK a few years ago, people were often asking if it was a "quick fix" that could make them better people and feel good. I often thought that they could achieve more in that direction if they gave up lying and sexual misconduct and drinking.

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Re: Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Post by SarathW » Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:13 am

I often thought that they could achieve more in that direction if they gave up lying and sexual misconduct and drinking.
According to Buddhist teaching observing Sila by non Ariya is considered as Silabbathaparamasa.
Many of us can't even observe the five precepts.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Sep 21, 2018 9:06 am

SarathW wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:13 am
I often thought that they could achieve more in that direction if they gave up lying and sexual misconduct and drinking.
According to Buddhist teaching observing Sila by non Ariya is considered as Silabbathaparamasa.
Ah, I didn't know that. Is there a reference for this in the suttas?

Wouldn't that fact that they are avoiding dark kamma help them generally? (It certainly makes people better neighbours and colleagues!)

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Re: Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Post by SarathW » Fri Sep 21, 2018 9:44 am

Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 9:06 am
SarathW wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 7:13 am
I often thought that they could achieve more in that direction if they gave up lying and sexual misconduct and drinking.
According to Buddhist teaching observing Sila by non Ariya is considered as Silabbathaparamasa.
Ah, I didn't know that. Is there a reference for this in the suttas?

Wouldn't that fact that they are avoiding dark kamma help them generally? (It certainly makes people better neighbours and colleagues!)
There is no Sutta as far as I know.
But we can inference it from knowing that SilabbathaParamasa is eliminated only by becoming Sotapanna.
Which means all Puthujana observe Sila based on Silabbathaparamasa.
“As the lamp consumes oil, the path realises Nibbana”

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Re: Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Post by Bundokji » Fri Sep 21, 2018 11:17 am

When i raised this point, "the light at the end of the tunnel" did not even cross my mind.

I originally became interested in Buddhism because i thought i finally found a doctrine that does not include much non-sense, this was my mindset at that time. Holding justified beliefs was my main priority. Any view that does not hold falsification should be discarded. Evidence is the key. My main concern was being right. My solution to the problem of life was to indulge as much as i can, giving priority to the "present moment" over an unknown future, and if things go really wrong, i would simply end my life, without regrets. My solution to the problem of life was quite logical, based on evidence. I was neither sad nor depressed, but simply disappointed with the whole thing. Also being a Buddhist made me feel that i am different, i have always enjoyed being an exception, a corrective, an individual. Buddhism can also look very appealing to people who seek elitism, after all, we seek wisdom, unlike the run of the mill people who are too busy doing their worldly things. We are the Aryia Sangha!

Then, my practice began to show me that if there is a universal out there, it is how the unenlightened mind experiences the world. The manifestations are infinite, but the process is the same. I no longer see Buddhism as a set of instructions to be followed, but an accurate description of what is taking place all the time. After all, is not everyone seeks the end of suffering? Is not understanding causality and finding the ultimate cause (God) is what all religions are aiming to do? Do not all religions acknowledge the impermanence of life and encourage their followers to develop a sense of detachment using different allegories and myths? have not all religions helped people organize their lives and gave them a sense of direction? aint all religions give a sense of community and belonging among like minded people? If you visit forums of other religions, would you see anything radically different except the same human bungling?

The above is not meant to equate Buddhism with other religions, nor shedding doubts on the value of the Dhamma, but an invitation to see what is common among all of us. After all, the very act of seeking or belonging hides from itself the very action it is performing.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.

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Sam Vara
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Re: Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Sep 21, 2018 11:31 am

SarathW wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 9:44 am

There is no Sutta as far as I know.
But we can inference it from knowing that SilabbathaParamasa is eliminated only by becoming Sotapanna.
Which means all Puthujana observe Sila based on Silabbathaparamasa.
Thanks, Sarath. Do you think this means that all the Puthujjana's sila is (maybe to some extent) based on silabbataparamasa? Or that silabbataparamasa is only completely eliminated by becoming sotapanna, and that most of the sila up until that point can be free from ritualism?

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Re: Buddhism is radically diffrent from other relegions is a wishful thnking?

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Sep 21, 2018 12:07 pm

Hi Bundokji,

Thanks for a very interesting post. I can relate to everything you say here. Just to share a few non-critical comments, if I may, which occurred to me on reading it.
Bundokji wrote:
Fri Sep 21, 2018 11:17 am
I originally became interested in Buddhism because i thought i finally found a doctrine that does not include much non-sense, this was my mindset at that time.
It's interesting how people later deal with the bits of Buddhist doctrine or tradition which they do think of as nonsense. Many end up rejecting the supernatural elements in the suttas (walking through walls, flying through the air, disappearance of the body, etc.) and a literal view of the cosmology. Many can't even think of kamma and rebirth as anything other than "nonsense", which leaves them with a psychology of the here-and-now type of practice.
Holding justified beliefs was my main priority. Any view that does not hold falsification should be discarded. Evidence is the key. My main concern was being right.
Yes, in my case I came to realise that this stance was itself culturally conditioned; a product of the Western intellectual "Enlightenment" and the literature it gave rise to. I was bothered by the fact that falsification was untenable, in that any doctrine of falsifiability was itself incapable of being falsified and therefore ran foul of itself. My approach is now a vague and qualified form of Popperian falsifiability, which is endorsed by Richard Gombrich, and which seems to sit well with my understanding of Right View. Being "right" is, I think, a powerful addiction, in my case born of fear.
After all, is not everyone seeks the end of suffering? Is not understanding causality and finding the ultimate cause (God) is what all religions are aiming to do? Do not all religions acknowledge the impermanence of life and encourage their followers to develop a sense of detachment using different allegories and myths? have not all religions helped people organize their lives and gave them a sense of direction? aint all religions give a sense of community and belonging among like minded people? If you visit forums of other religions, would you see anything radically different except the same human bungling?
Yes, I agree. Hence my earlier points about my wife's Christian congregation. The Western Christians and Buddhists in my little corner of the world are very similar indeed, in terms of lifestyle and general deportment. On-line forums such as this one tend to emphasise doctrinal differences, because people are anxious to put their view across, and show how they have got it right and others have got it wrong. But in sociological terms, I think that scholars like Linda Woodhead have got it right when they say that the important aspects of religion are the lived experiences rather than the details of dogma.

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