Buddhism and Intellectualism

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths. What can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Re: Buddhism and Intellectualism

Post by DNS » Sun Mar 03, 2013 9:20 pm

(To generalize) many Zen traditions are seen as anti-intellectual and the Far East traditions are sometimes seen as anti-intellectual. Zen because of the use of art, work (wax-on, wax-off), koans, poetry, which is to go beyond thinking and studying, for a direct approach to enlightenment. The Far East schools such as Pure Land in the belief that enlightenment is too difficult in this era.

Theravada is probably one of the more intellectual schools of Buddhism, with our Abhidhamma, Visudhimagga, and veneration of the written Pali Canon. As Bhikkhu Pesala pointed out in this thread: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=24&t=16391" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; those who attained enlightenment rather quickly such as Bahiya had gained much mindfulness and advancement in previous lives. It is not likely any of us could gain enlightenment so quickly just by washing a cloth, repeating a mantra, or washing dishes. If intellectualism refers to reading and studying the Pali Canon, then there certainly can be no harm in that and only everything to gain. We don't need to be experts in Pali (although it doesn't hurt), nor do we need to memorize texts, but a good grasp of the material in the Pali Canon is very helpful, in my opinion.

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Re: Buddhism and Intellectualism

Post by rohana » Sun Mar 03, 2013 9:42 pm

It can take a wide spectrum - from very little intellectualism to a lot, and you can pretty much choose material by teachers from anywhere in the spectrum. Ajahn Cha's teachings, for example, are very down-to-earth, whereas Venerable Ñānānanda's writings are towards the other end of the spectrum.

But for those of us who prefer the more intellectual end of the spectrum, I think there is a danger of pride ("my teachings are better than your teachings") and a danger of getting trapped in an intellectual thicket of papañca. I've also seen people saying they prefer Mahāyāna texts because the Pāli canon is "too simplistic" for them, and I think it's the same kind of sentiment that's behind it - i.e. an attraction to any text/teaching that seems 'intellectual' on the surface, and seeing any 'simple teaching' as not worthy of attention.
"Delighting in existence, O monks, are gods and men; they are attached to existence, they revel in existence. When the Dhamma for the cessation of existence is being preached to them, their minds do not leap towards it, do not get pleased with it, do not get settled in it, do not find confidence in it. That is how, monks, some lag behind."
- It. p 43

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Re: Buddhism and Intellectualism

Post by m0rl0ck » Sun Mar 03, 2013 11:20 pm

tiltbillings wrote:
m0rl0ck wrote: For instance, many "buddhists" are materialists who just repaint their western intellectual materialism a nice buddhist saffron color and then carry on with business as usual.
And you know this how?
From reading this board and others of its kind.

EDIT: Also it seems to be present in modern buddhist literature. I remember hearing a "dharma" talk by stephen batchelor where he spent as much time talking about freud and jung as about buddhism. He seemed to me to demonstrate a complete ignorance of the fact that worshiping at the altar of freud and jung and clutching at western intellectualism was part of the problem not part of the solution.
Oddly enough, i dont see much of this in the buddhists i have known IRL.
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

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Re: Buddhism and Intellectualism

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Mar 04, 2013 12:13 am

m0rl0ck wrote:
tiltbillings wrote:
m0rl0ck wrote: For instance, many "buddhists" are materialists who just repaint their western intellectual materialism a nice buddhist saffron color and then carry on with business as usual.
And you know this how?
From reading this board and others of its kind.

EDIT: Also it seems to be present in modern buddhist literature. I remember hearing a "dharma" talk by stephen batchelor where he spent as much time talking about freud and jung as about buddhism. He seemed to me to demonstrate a complete ignorance of the fact that worshiping at the altar of freud and jung and clutching at western intellectualism was part of the problem not part of the solution.
Oddly enough, i dont see much of this in the buddhists i have known IRL.
Yes, well, you referenced one author and this forum. Not a convincing argument for saying "many." Let me ask you, am i one of those dreaded materialists?
>> 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: Buddhism and Intellectualism

Post by m0rl0ck » Mon Mar 04, 2013 12:18 am

tiltbillings wrote:Yes, well, you referenced one author and this forum. Not a convincing argument for saying "many." Let me ask you, am i one of those dreaded materialists?
:D Not that i can tell, no.
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

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Re: Buddhism and Intellectualism

Post by danieLion » Mon Mar 04, 2013 2:58 am

m0rl0ck wrote:For instance, many "buddhists" are materialists who just repaint their western intellectual materialism a nice buddhist saffron color and then carry on with business as usual.
tiltbillings wrote:And you know this how?
m0rl0ck wrote:From reading this board and others of its kind.

EDIT: Also it seems to be present in modern buddhist literature. I remember hearing a "dharma" talk by stephen batchelor where he spent as much time talking about freud and jung as about buddhism. He seemed to me to demonstrate a complete ignorance of the fact that worshiping at the altar of freud and jung and clutching at western intellectualism was part of the problem not part of the solution.
Oddly enough, i dont see much of this in the buddhists i have known IRL.
tiltbillings wrote:Yes, well, you referenced one author and this forum. Not a convincing argument for saying "many." Let me ask you, am i one of those dreaded materialists?
Hi Tilt,
Do you consider yourself a materialist of some kind? That would surprise me, but, then again, you often surprise me. :hello:

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Re: Buddhism and Intellectualism

Post by tiltbillings » Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:14 am

danieLion wrote:Hi Tilt,
Do you consider yourself a materialist of some kind? That would surprise me, but, then again, you often surprise me. :hello:
Given that rebirth is not a belief for me, so probably not.
>> 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: Buddhism and Intellectualism

Post by danieLion » Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:53 am

tiltbillings wrote:
danieLion wrote:Hi Tilt,
Do you consider yourself a materialist of some kind? That would surprise me, but, then again, you often surprise me. :hello:
Given that rebirth is not a belief for me, so probably not.
I'm confused. Aren't belief in re-birth and materialism incompatible? I don't believe in rebirth either (for now anyway), but I'm not a materialist, so my reasons aren't based on that.

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Re: Buddhism and Intellectualism

Post by Anagarika » Mon Mar 04, 2013 3:57 am

On intellectualism in Buddhism...

I saw this today over at the sister site Dharma Wheel:

“Chiasmus in the Early Prajñāpāramitā: Literary Parallelism Connecting Criticism & Hermeneutics in an Early Mahāyāna Sūtra”

Submitted by Orsborn, Matthew Bryan (this is Ven. Huifeng) for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at The University of Hong Kong in January 2012

This study examines the early Prajñāpāramitā sūtras through the theory of “chiasmus”. Chiasmic methodology analyses a text into two parallel halves, identifying complementary “prologue” (A) and “conclusion” (A’), and highlighting the critical “central point” (X), with sub-themes paralleled in the two halves (A-B-C-D…X…D’-C’-B’-A’). Through chiasmus theory, many ancient texts formerly considered fragmentary and incoherent have been shown to be structurally sophisticated wholes.

I started to read the treatise, and my brain began to hurt. I'm glad for the level of scholarship in Buddhism, and the intellectuals that contribute to its complex fabric.

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Re: Buddhism and Intellectualism

Post by danieLion » Mon Mar 04, 2013 4:18 am

BuddhaSoup wrote:On intellectualism in Buddhism...

I saw this today over at the sister site Dharma Wheel:

“Chiasmus in the Early Prajñāpāramitā: Literary Parallelism Connecting Criticism & Hermeneutics in an Early Mahāyāna Sūtra”

Submitted by Orsborn, Matthew Bryan (this is Ven. Huifeng) for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy at The University of Hong Kong in January 2012

This study examines the early Prajñāpāramitā sūtras through the theory of “chiasmus”. Chiasmic methodology analyses a text into two parallel halves, identifying complementary “prologue” (A) and “conclusion” (A’), and highlighting the critical “central point” (X), with sub-themes paralleled in the two halves (A-B-C-D…X…D’-C’-B’-A’). Through chiasmus theory, many ancient texts formerly considered fragmentary and incoherent have been shown to be structurally sophisticated wholes.

I started to read the treatise, and my brain began to hurt. I'm glad for the level of scholarship in Buddhism, and the intellectuals that contribute to its complex fabric.
Thanks. For introductions to the Buddha's own intellectual habits, I recommend What the Buddha Thought by Richard Gombrich, Early Buddhist Theory of Knowledge (which illustrates his very frequent use of logic and emprical methods) by K. N. Jayatilleke, and Skill in Questions: How the Buddha Taught (which demonstrates that the Buddha himself was highly intellectual and how this aided him on The Path) by Thanissaro Bhikkhu (Geoffrey DeGraff). You can easily find these last two free online and the Gombrich book is well worth the purchase.

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Re: Buddhism and Intellectualism

Post by Mr Man » Mon Mar 04, 2013 9:37 am

This is the teaching of the Buddha:

Paramatthaka Sutta: On Views

"A person who associates himself with certain views, considering them as best and making them supreme in the world, he says, because of that, that all other views are inferior; therefore he is not free from contention (with others). In what is seen, heard, cognized and in ritual observances performed, he sees a profit for himself. Just by laying hold of that view he regards every other view as worthless. Those skilled (in judgment)[1] say that (a view becomes) a bond if, relying on it, one regards everything else as inferior. Therefore a bhikkhu should not depend on what is seen, heard or cognized, nor upon ritual observances. He should not present himself as equal to, nor imagine himself to be inferior, nor better than, another. Abandoning (the views) he had (previously) held and not taking up (another), he does not seek a support even in knowledge. Among those who dispute he is certainly not one to take sides. He does not [have] recourse to a view at all. In whom there is no inclination to either extreme, for becoming or non-becoming, here or in another existence, for him there does not exist a fixed viewpoint on investigating the doctrines assumed (by others). Concerning the seen, the heard and the cognized he does not form the least notion. That brahmana[2] who does not grasp at a view, with what could he be identified in the world?

"They do not speculate nor pursue (any notion); doctrines are not accepted by them. A (true) brahmana is beyond, does not fall back on views."

Sn 4.5

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Re: Buddhism and Intellectualism

Post by m0rl0ck » Mon Mar 04, 2013 10:18 am

Mr Man wrote:This is the teaching of the Buddha:

Paramatthaka Sutta: On Views

"A person who associates himself with certain views, considering them as best and making them supreme in the world, he says, because of that, that all other views are inferior; therefore he is not free from contention (with others). In what is seen, heard, cognized and in ritual observances performed, he sees a profit for himself. Just by laying hold of that view he regards every other view as worthless.

...

"They do not speculate nor pursue (any notion); doctrines are not accepted by them. A (true) brahmana is beyond, does not fall back on views."

Sn 4.5
Good post :)
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, "Go away, I'm looking for the truth," and so it goes away. Puzzling.” ― Robert M. Pirsig

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Re: Buddhism and Intellectualism

Post by danieLion » Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:32 pm

Mr Man wrote:This is the teaching of the Buddha:

Paramatthaka Sutta: On Views

"A person who associates himself with certain views, considering them as best and making them supreme in the world, he says, because of that, that all other views are inferior; therefore he is not free from contention (with others). In what is seen, heard, cognized and in ritual observances performed, he sees a profit for himself. Just by laying hold of that view he regards every other view as worthless. Those skilled (in judgment)[1] say that (a view becomes) a bond if, relying on it, one regards everything else as inferior. Therefore a bhikkhu should not depend on what is seen, heard or cognized, nor upon ritual observances. He should not present himself as equal to, nor imagine himself to be inferior, nor better than, another. Abandoning (the views) he had (previously) held and not taking up (another), he does not seek a support even in knowledge. Among those who dispute he is certainly not one to take sides. He does not [have] recourse to a view at all. In whom there is no inclination to either extreme, for becoming or non-becoming, here or in another existence, for him there does not exist a fixed viewpoint on investigating the doctrines assumed (by others). Concerning the seen, the heard and the cognized he does not form the least notion. That brahmana[2] who does not grasp at a view, with what could he be identified in the world?

"They do not speculate nor pursue (any notion); doctrines are not accepted by them. A (true) brahmana is beyond, does not fall back on views."

Sn 4.5
First of all, this whole quote is itslef a view.

Second of all, it implies the necessity of intellectually thinking about things critically in prhases like:
-"Those skilled (in judgment) say that (a view becomes) a bond if, relying on it, one regards everything else as inferior."
-"[H]e is certainly not one to take sides...."
-"He does not [have] recourse to a view at all. In whom there is no inclination to either extreme...."

You quoted the Ireland translation. Here's Thanissaro's:
When dwelling on views as "supreme," a person makes them the utmost thing in the world, &, from that, calls all others inferior and so he's not free from disputes. When he sees his advantage in what's seen, heard, sensed, or in precepts & practices, seizing it there he sees all else as inferior. That, too, say the skilled, is a binding knot: that in dependence on which you regard another as inferior. So a monk shouldn't be dependent on what's seen, heard, or sensed, or on precepts & practices; nor should he conjure a view in the world in connection with knowledge or precepts & practices; shouldn't take himself to be "equal"; shouldn't think himself inferior or superlative. Abandoning what he had embraced, abandoning self,[1] not clinging, he doesn't make himself dependent even in connection with knowledge; doesn't follow a faction among those who are split; doesn't fall back on any view whatsoever. One who isn't inclined toward either side — becoming or not-, here or beyond — who has no entrenchment when considering what's grasped among doctrines, hasn't the least preconceived perception with regard to what's seen, heard, or sensed. By whom, with what, should he be pigeonholed here in the world? — this brahman who hasn't adopted views. They don't conjure, don't yearn, don't adhere even to doctrines. A brahman not led by precepts or practices, gone to the beyond — Such — doesn't fall back.
[1]: Self... what he had embraced: two meanings of the Pali word, attam.

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Re: Buddhism and Intellectualism

Post by danieLion » Mon Mar 04, 2013 5:40 pm

m0rl0ck wrote:
Mr Man wrote:This is the teaching of the Buddha:

Paramatthaka Sutta: On Views

"A person who associates himself with certain views, considering them as best and making them supreme in the world, he says, because of that, that all other views are inferior; therefore he is not free from contention (with others). In what is seen, heard, cognized and in ritual observances performed, he sees a profit for himself. Just by laying hold of that view he regards every other view as worthless.

...

"They do not speculate nor pursue (any notion); doctrines are not accepted by them. A (true) brahmana is beyond, does not fall back on views."

Sn 4.5
Good post :)
What, exactly, do you think is good about this post?

For and in depth analysis of Right View as it relates to intellectual habit, especially at it pertains to the phrase, "what is seen, heard, or cognized," see:
Andrea Fella's Radical Dharma: Atthaka Vagga - Views and Desire (3 of 4)

The handouts she refers to and the whole series, Radical Dharma: The Buddha's Teachings on Views and Desire - Verses from the Atthaka Vagga, may be found here: Radical Dharma.

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