Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

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Re: Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

Post by tiltbillings » Mon May 25, 2015 10:09 pm

waterchan wrote:
tiltbillings wrote: That may be so about Ven Bodhi, but that does not mean that he does not meditate, nor does it mean that he is lacking in the fruits of bhāvanā.
He himself seems to admit that he is lacking in the fruits of bhavana:
Throughout my life as a monk I have made extensive use of these four meditation subjects. I have also done occasional extended retreats at hermitages in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Regretfully, though, because of my poor merits and the debilitating headache condition, I have not reached any attainments worthy of a true practitioner.
Not that it bothers me. Just pointing it out because of mikenz's comment above. In fact, I think this whole issue of Bhikkhu Bodhi's worldly involvement doesn't bother me because I view him as a highly esteemed authority on the Pali texts, and not as a great teacher for the development of bhavana. And judging by the way he presents himself as a teacher, I'm sure he'd be fine with that. I don't think people should expect more from Bhikkhu Bodhi than he's willing or able to give, and my, I'm sure he's given a whole lot more to Buddhism than anyone here on this forum.
Likely he is no jhana master; however, there is more to it than jhana.
>> 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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Re: Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

Post by waterchan » Mon May 25, 2015 10:35 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:
waterchan wrote: He himself seems to admit that he is lacking in the fruits of bhavana:
Throughout my life as a monk I have made extensive use of these four meditation subjects. I have also done occasional extended retreats at hermitages in Sri Lanka and elsewhere. Regretfully, though, because of my poor merits and the debilitating headache condition, I have not reached any attainments worthy of a true practitioner.
IIRC, that was written a very long time ago. I don't believe Bhikkhu Bodhi has ever said that he will never attain the fruits of bhavana and it is a shame that this one instance of humility and honesty is interpreted to mean he has made no advancements -- ever. Bhikkhu Bodhi is very wise and knowledgeable and deserves much more respect than what has been shown by some in this thread.
Fair enough about the respect. Although considering how Bhikkhu Bodhi largely presents himself as a scholarly authority and never a master of meditation, I do find it amusing how this thread very quickly turned into a defence of Bhikkhu Bodhi's bhavana development. :tongue:

I think people should just cut him some slack. There doesn't seem to be anything in the Vinaya that suggests that Bhikkhu Bodhi's environmental efforts are categorically wrong. And he's mentioned several times that his headache prevents him from developing his meditation to a satisfactory level. If his headache is still an issue — and I haven't seen a reason to assume otherwise — then we can't really fault him for engaging his efforts in ways that appear to be more outward than inward.

Not that his outward contributions to the Western understanding of Dhamma are anything short of hugely impressive.
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)

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Re: Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

Post by tiltbillings » Mon May 25, 2015 10:54 pm

waterchan wrote:
Fair enough about the respect. Although considering how Bhikkhu Bodhi largely presents himself as a scholarly authority and never a master of meditation, I do find it amusing how this thread very quickly turned into a defence of Bhikkhu Bodhi's bhavana development.
One does not have to be a master of meditation for there to be insight from it.
>> 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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Re: Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

Post by waterchan » Mon May 25, 2015 10:59 pm

Also, I find it interesting that all of the criticism in this thread appears to come from the laity. I haven't seen any opinions on the matter from our resident monastics like Ven Pesala and Ven Dhammanando, or from any other monastics on the Internet. Are they reluctant because the subject of criticism is a giant in the Western world of Buddhism? Or do they simply not think of this as a big deal?

So far I'm feeling that the monastics are mostly cool with it and it's the laity that is getting hot and bothered.

(And please don't tell me that criticism from the laity is what prompted the creation of the Vinaya.)
quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur
(Anything in Latin sounds profound.)

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Re: Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

Post by mikenz66 » Mon May 25, 2015 11:07 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
waterchan wrote:
Fair enough about the respect. Although considering how Bhikkhu Bodhi largely presents himself as a scholarly authority and never a master of meditation, I do find it amusing how this thread very quickly turned into a defence of Bhikkhu Bodhi's bhavana development.
One does not have to be a master of meditation for there to be insight from it.
And from my listening to his talks and Tilt's observations about retreats he has clearly done a lot more development than most posting here.

He could very easily be boasting about three month retreats, but he doesn't. Personally I've found his comments about meditation just as useful as those from a number of self-proclaimed experts.

Mike

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Re: Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

Post by retrofuturist » Mon May 25, 2015 11:29 pm

Greetings,

It seems there is some confusion about why certain people would be legitimately displeased with Bhikkhu Bodhi's recent actions.

It has nothing to do with meditative attainments (or lack thereof) nor any lack of appreciation and respect for his scholarship and arguably being the greatest Pali to English translator in the history of mankind. It also has nothing to do with denying the importance of finding solutions for global problems such as climate change, land degradation, world hunger etc.

The essence of the objections as I understand them are as follows....

The Buddha, with his boundless compassion and loving-kindness, taught the matter of suffering and cessation to those who would listen. He taught a supramundane Dhamma to enable people to transcend dukkha and to attain nibbana. He established a monastic institution (Sangha) to provide the most suitable environment to enable people to pursue that unsurpassed supramundane path, via the four levels of noble-attainment.

The following quote shows the priority of the supramundane path over any other possible conceivable mundane activity.
Dhp 178 wrote:Sole dominion over the earth,
going to heaven,
lordship over all worlds:
the fruit of stream-entry
excels them.
In spite of this, we now have an instance where a member of that same monastic institution is teaching his own mundane Dhamma and pursuing his own mundane agenda, comprised of political activism and lobbying, done so from within the Buddha-Sangha. His goal of alleviating suffering is noble and unquestionable goal, shared with the Buddha and most likely with ourselves... but why is he pursuing a worldly dhamma to achieve this, rather than endeavouring to attain to the fruit of stream-entry and establish others in it? Has he more faith in political activism than fulfilling the holy life, under the Dhamma?

Bhikkhu Bodhi's advocacy of his own mundane political agenda (as summarised in this manifesto), replete with its activism and multifarious demands, is tantamount to him saying that the mundane path of political activism is more efficacious at overcoming dukkha in this world than the supramundane Dhamma of the Blessed One. Call me conservative, but I for one cannot agree with that position.

If he believes his personal Right Livelihood is in political activism, and that more suffering can be alleviated through activism than through the Dhamma taught by the Buddha, then, as a free man, he may voluntarily choose to disrobe and pursue that worldly goal. All power to him - with his fame and renown he can surely achieve great things. Even if he is so successful that he attains "sole dominion over the earth, going to heaven, lordship over all worlds", it will however be inferior to the attainment of stream-entry... according the Buddha. (And it's still his sasana, yes?)

Therefore, as a bhikkhu, as a member of the Sangha and dispensation established by the Buddha, his goal should rightly be the attainment of ever-increasing states of nobility through the full pursuit of the Noble Eightfold Path and if he opts to teach, it should be the teaching the Dhamma of the Buddha who established his Sangha... it should not be the teaching and propogation of inferior dhammas and own custom-built "Ecological Noble Eightfold Path" from within the esteemed position of the Sangha of the Buddha, who clearly taught a different Dhamma. People go to the Sangha for refuge, because it is the embodiment of the pursuit of the supramundane, not of the mundane. A Sangha that has devolved to mundane goals is no longer worth taking refuge in. If that is the best the modern Sangha was willing to do, I would take refuge in the Buddha and Dhamma alone. Thankfully, there are still monastics who exclusively pursue, teach and propagate a supramundane dhamma and I regard them with great reverence for doing so.

If we allow ourselves to be "led" by these "Buddhist leaders", we are being willingly led from the pursuit of the supramundane path of the Buddha to the pursuit of a mundane path set up by those who, through their actions, demonstrate insufficient faith in the efficacy of the Buddha's teaching as a cure for dukkha.

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

Post by DNS » Mon May 25, 2015 11:55 pm

Hi retro,

Alleviating suffering in the mundane world and alleviating in the supramundane -- why can't one work on both? You make the point that monks should not be engaged in politics. The question then becomes, is what he is doing politics? If he were campaigning for a specific political party or candidate, that would be crossing the line or if he were running for office himself (as some have done in SE Asia) that would be crossing the line, however arguing for things that appear to be in line with the Buddha's teachings on compassion don't appear to be crossing the line and certainly not any of the functions of the Buddhist Global Relief.

Making a speech or case against the death penalty, against torture, might appear to be political, but they are values in line with the Buddha-Dhamma. Making a case to alleviate global warming also appears to be in line with Buddha-Dhamma to alleviate suffering, unless one feels that the debate is not over on this issue (not my view, but perhaps the view among some Buddhists). Perhaps global warming is too controversial an issue and too political? I don't know, but perhaps that was what the conference was held to discuss. It was just a conference, it is not likely that much will come of it other than making a statement and offering the White House the chance to meet with leaders of the Dharmic religions for the first time. In the final analysis, it's not that big of a deal and it is not as if some Buddhist political party is being created akin to the Natural Law Party.

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Re: Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

Post by retrofuturist » Tue May 26, 2015 12:20 am

Greetings David,

Have you read his manifesto?

His political platform includes, but is not limited to:

- Reform of political contributions
- Revoking of trade agreements
- Media regulation
- Reformation of the political system
- Promoting a shift in power in international bodies
- Shift from a growth economy to a zero growth economy
- Workers rights & conditions

i.e. ""moving from individual to collective transformation, from personal practice to political change"

Moreover, why would he do this if he believes in the efficacy of the Buddha's Dhamma as a means of ending dukkha? Why would he sell an inferior worldly product, whilst wearing the robes which embody a superior supramundane product?

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

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Re: Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

Post by Dan74 » Tue May 26, 2015 12:25 am

Retro, that was a fine eloquent statement of your position - thank you!

Some time ago you were seriously considering ordaining but in the end chose to start a relationship and marry. Does this mean that you hold a lay life with its bonds and sensuality higher than the path of a bikkhu, the holy life recommended by the Buddha? No, obviously not, and had anyone given you a hard time over your choices, I think many of us would've come out in your defence much more vociferously than in this case.

This isn't a perfect analogy, but I think it serves to illustrate that life isn't black and white. It's not about absolutes - so that if a bikkhu chooses to do something that is not a strictly Dhamma activity, it is not because he is placing it above the Dhamma leading to liberation. Who is to say that choosing to spend some of his time on this activism, Bikkhu Bodhi is choosing these concerns as being more worthwhile than liberation? This may be the best use of his time and energy, given his kamma.

In any case he does not put himself out there as a paragon of what a bikkhu should do. I too, am glad, that there are other kinds of monastics out there. And of course we know that there are many who memorise the suttas, many who meditate for thousands of hours, getting no closer to liberation and instead cultivating new and more intricate webs of delusion. The outward appearance means very little. If on the other hand one lives authentically, guided by the Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, in all sincerity, the best way they know how, they are sure to advance on this journey, though it may have some seeming detours.

Lastly a point that doesn't seem to have been raised yet. The verse you quote:
Sole dominion over the earth,
going to heaven,
lordship over all worlds:
the fruit of stream-entry
excels them.
is used to imply that one hermit attaining stream-entry is preferably to bringing justice and prosperity to a multitude who will then have a possibility of attaining this fruit for themselves. I don't see this implication as valid. Nor do I find the logic very compelling.

Supposing in an absurd example that I am a contemplative deep in meditation and very close to release. A psychopath who has planted nuclear time bombs all over the planet brings me the device that can stop detonation moments before I am close to complete liberation. All I need to do is exit my meditation to save the world, or remain in absorption, attain ultimate release and then see the world destroyed before my (enlightened) eyes. What should I do?
Last edited by Dan74 on Tue May 26, 2015 12:34 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

Post by SDC » Tue May 26, 2015 12:29 am

mikenz66 wrote:
SDC wrote: But where will this enthusiastic, noble rejection of nibbana by these leaders leave the practitioner once they realize this about the world?
I don't see Bhikku Bodhi rejecting nibbana. That seems like huperbole to me. He's using some of his time to teach people outside of those of us who read his books and listen to his hundreds of hours of excellent Dhamma talks freely available on the Internet. He's clearly also done a lot of meditative development, but very humbly makes light of his achievements, as he makes light of his PhD in philosophy. Unfortunately, I think this is misinterpreted by some as a lack of skill or knowledge.
Just to be clear, none of my posts have singled out Ven. Bodhi but have been directed at the overall message of this conference of which there were 124 other people in attendance. He was my first access to the suttas and I have no interest in making this about him, however much I may disagree with his views. The "moving from individual to collective transformation, from personal practice to political change" was declared brazenly and enthusiastically as a necessary reorientation of the practice, and that is the sort of attitude I was countering.

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Re: Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

Post by SDC » Tue May 26, 2015 12:32 am

tiltbillings wrote:This "rejection of nibbana" notion looks to be your thinking, not theirs.
It is the message I am receiving from each article I have read.

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Re: Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

Post by tiltbillings » Tue May 26, 2015 12:41 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings David,

Have you read his manifesto?

His political platform includes, but is not limited to:

- Reform of political contributions
- Revoking of trade agreements
- Media regulation
- Reformation of the political system
- Promoting a shift in power in international bodies
- Shift from a growth economy to a zero growth economy
- Workers rights & conditions

Moreover, why would he do this if he believes in the efficacy of the Buddha's Dhamma as a means of ending dukkha? Why would he sell an inferior worldly product, whilst wearing the robes which embody a superior supramundane product?

Metta,
Retro. :)
Are you serious? Where is he offering these suggestions as a superior alternative to the Dhamma? That is your over wrought, over heated accusation that has nothing behind it.
>> 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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Re: Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

Post by Anagarika » Tue May 26, 2015 12:41 am

The issue of how strictly the Vinaya applies to certain monks is an issue that is not going to be easily resolved. There are many in Buddhism that prefer the comfort of sharply drawn lines, and sets of rules that act as injunctions, vs. behavioral guidelines or training rules. Just as laws hold communities together, and keep chaos from erupting, rules and laws serve an important purpose. But, there must be exceptions in certain cases, and I'd argue that Ven. Bodhi has the standing to be that exception.

We all know that red lights at intersections serve an important purpose. Yet, an ambulance must be free to breach those rules in order to serve a higher purpose. The Vinaya is a necessary structure for 99 percent of the monks out there, but there does need to be an allowance for someone of Ven. Bodhi's standing and stature in the Sangha. He's earned the right to take a leadership role, and to blur some of the lines that most other monks might not have the standing to modify. He is otherwise an outstanding living example of a strict Vinaya monk.

One of the Buddha's worries at the end of his life was the disappearance of the Dhamma. In my view, one way to ensure that the Dhamma disappears is to hide it behind thick textbooks, and sequester it in monasteries. I can't read Ven/ Bodhi's mind, but toward the midpoint of the second half of his rather esteemed path he must have awoken to the idea that in the 21st century, to give energy to the Dhamma it must be vibrant and active in the lives of all members of community, and not reserved for small groups of scholars and monks. By couching his talk on global climate change within the Four Noble Truths, he gave voice to a very important issue structured upon one of the Buddha's great teachings. What better way to give life and longevity to the Dhamma in the 21st century?

Maybe Ven. Bodhi cultivated some insight through his many hours of immersion in the Dhamma and in meditation that his present life would not lead him to nibbana. Awareness of that fact might be an important insight. Having accepted that, perhaps he then saw that if he were to inherit additional rebirths, why, then, not make this life as engaged and productive as possible? Some might critique him for lacking adherence to the path to nibbana, but I have a sense that he understands more of the true nature of reality in a single day than most will appreciate in entire lives. And the merit he will accrue through BGR and his other efforts will be a mountain compared to the small dustpiles some are pushing around with their straw brooms.
Last edited by Anagarika on Tue May 26, 2015 12:45 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

Post by tiltbillings » Tue May 26, 2015 12:42 am

SDC wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:This "rejection of nibbana" notion looks to be your thinking, not theirs.
It is the message I am receiving from each article I have read.
Show me.
>> 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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Re: Bikkhu Bodhi and Buddhist leaders convene at White House

Post by tiltbillings » Tue May 26, 2015 12:48 am

Dan74 wrote: Supposing in an absurd example that I am a contemplative deep in meditation and very close to release. A psychopath who has planted nuclear time bombs all over the planet brings me the device that can stop detonation moments before I am close to complete liberation. All I need to do is exit my meditation to save the world, or remain in absorption, attain ultimate release and then see the world destroyed before my (enlightened) eyes. What should I do?
Well, it would seem that you should attainment enlightenment.
>> 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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