Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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zavk
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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by zavk » Tue Sep 24, 2013 6:31 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,
zavk wrote:What if others respond by saying that your inability to see what's wrong, your desire not to complicate things, is precisely a part of the problem?
If they did, I would tell them I can see plenty that's wrong, and that I do my best to ensure that I don't personally contribute to wrongdoing.

What I find is totally useless and counter-productive however is blaming the blameless, and that's what all too easily happens when people classify themselves and others into conceptual groups (whether they be minority or majority groups) and blame one "group" for the fortunes of another "group". That's not listening - that's papanca and bigotry, whichever direction it goes in.

Metta,
Retro. :)
Yes, and I don't know if I am not making myself clear enough, or if you don't want to get it or just cannot get it. But what I have been trying to highlight so far is the need to pay attention to how conceptual groupings still work today in various subtle ways - especially when this habit of conceptual grouping is hidden by the idea that one has 'gotten over' conceptual grouping - so that we can learn how to better defuse this habit of conceptual grouping. Or at least, recognise that conceptual grouping is necessary for certain strategic purposes, and that they are helpful only to the extent that we constantly allow them to change and transform.
With metta,
zavk

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Doshin
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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by Doshin » Tue Sep 24, 2013 6:54 am

zavk wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:I don't know what's wrong with just regarding people as people... maybe I'm over-simplifying things, but it works for me and those I engage with.
That's the thorny issue, the difficult challenge. What if others respond by saying that your inability to see what's wrong, your desire not to complicate things, is precisely a part of the problem?
In general, what people say (about you) is just their words, it does not change who you are. If you react (with anger) on what other says, you could investigate the cause of your reaction.

But if I where to give my answer, my response would be: by being an example.

If you insist on a spoken response it would be "thats your opinion, and I think its your right to have that".
zavk wrote:I am not seeking a specific answer from you or anyone as such. But if one is committed to recognising and respecting people as people, others as others, then I think this question must posed and reposed as an open question.
If you aim to change other people(s point of view), I would claim that your chosen path is going up a very steep hill. People change by having their own insights, not others insights.

_/\_
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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by Way~Farer » Tue Sep 24, 2013 6:58 am

zavk wrote:one would find that it involved the same habit of accusing the natives of traditional Buddhist cultures of getting the Buddha's teachings 'wrong' or 'adulterating' it, etc
I think the pivotal moment in the development of Buddhism in America was the World Parliament of Religions in 1893. Soyen Shaku and Anagarika Dharmaphala both spoke there, and were extremely well-received. Soyen Shaku's lectures became published as Semons of a Buddhist Abbott, which is still in print, and is still an excellent introductory text in my opinion. Furthermore after the Parliament, he spent time in San Francisco (after a brief sojourn back to Japan) where he left his student, Nyogen Senzaki, who went on to practically found Buddhism in California, first in San Francisco, then in Los Angeles.

Apart from the Buddhists, Swami Vivekananda was another hugely popular speaker at the Chicago event. He toured the states for a year thereafter, drawing big audiences. He was charismatic and an extremely capable debater. (A lot of this is covered in American Veda by Philip Goldberg and How the Swans Came to the Lake, Rick Fields.)

Whether it is 'the real dharma' or a syncretist amalgam of Buddhist and new-age ideas (which it might well be!) is not that important, in the overall scheme. Those teachers and centers really go back around 100 years now (along with the First Zen Institute in NYC which opened in 1930.)

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by Ben » Tue Sep 24, 2013 7:00 am

Greetings Ed,
zavk wrote:Yes, and I don't know if I am not making myself clear enough, or if you don't want to get it or just cannot get it. But what I have been trying to highlight so far is the need to pay attention to how conceptual groupings still work today in various subtle ways - especially when this habit of conceptual grouping is hidden by the idea that one has 'gotten over' conceptual grouping - so that we can learn how to better defuse this habit of conceptual grouping. Or at least, recognise that conceptual grouping is necessary for certain strategic purposes, and that they are helpful only to the extent that we constantly allow them to change and transform.
As you know, we have exchanged communications on these themes for a number of years now. In fact, I can attest that as a result of some of our discussions that my understanding of the wider cultural, political and social contexts of the particular tradition in which I practice - has been of profound importance to me. The message within the Dhamma is infused with the invocation to "come and see [for oneself]", and "to see things as they really are". Part of that, I believe, is forms of self-reflexivity that includes untangling our own internal and those inherited explicit and implicit fabrications regarding the Dhamma and our relationship to it.
kind regards,

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by Doshin » Tue Sep 24, 2013 7:11 am

zavk wrote:
retrofuturist wrote:What I find is totally useless and counter-productive however is blaming the blameless, and that's what all too easily happens when people classify themselves and others into conceptual groups (whether they be minority or majority groups) and blame one "group" for the fortunes of another "group". That's not listening - that's papanca and bigotry, whichever direction it goes in.
Yes, and I don't know if I am not making myself clear enough, or if you don't want to get it or just cannot get it. But what I have been trying to highlight so far is the need to pay attention to how conceptual groupings still work today in various subtle ways - especially when this habit of conceptual grouping is hidden by the idea that one has 'gotten over' conceptual grouping - so that we can learn how to better defuse this habit of conceptual grouping. Or at least, recognise that conceptual grouping is necessary for certain strategic purposes, and that they are helpful only to the extent that we constantly allow them to change and transform.
As soon you start comparing him/her/them with me/us/others, you spark a conflict by stating/implying that one is superior to the other. Therefore I don't see the overall benefit to put people in box's with the purpose of argumentation, as it would always lead to a comparison.

I find it unskillfull to form/define a group and state "we are better/worse/equal then ...", equally it is unskillfull to group others and state "they are better/worse/equal then ...".

_/\_
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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:02 am

Greetings,
zavk wrote:Yes, and I don't know if I am not making myself clear enough, or if you don't want to get it or just cannot get it. But what I have been trying to highlight so far is the need to pay attention to how conceptual groupings still work today in various subtle ways - especially when this habit of conceptual grouping is hidden by the idea that one has 'gotten over' conceptual grouping - so that we can learn how to better defuse this habit of conceptual grouping. Or at least, recognise that conceptual grouping is necessary for certain strategic purposes, and that they are helpful only to the extent that we constantly allow them to change and transform.
Sorry, I cannot relate to this at all. It feels like some variety of academic activism.

To my way of seeing, healing occurs by means of unity - not by further delineation, conceptual analysis and reductionism. In contrast, healing is holistic and occurs through accentuating and paying attention to that which is common, whereas what you propose seems intent on defining, manifesting and reifying conceptualized grounds for difference and isolation, and therefore for seeing people as numbers encircled on a Venn diagram rather than as individuals.

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: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by zavk » Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:43 am

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings,
zavk wrote:Yes, and I don't know if I am not making myself clear enough, or if you don't want to get it or just cannot get it. But what I have been trying to highlight so far is the need to pay attention to how conceptual groupings still work today in various subtle ways - especially when this habit of conceptual grouping is hidden by the idea that one has 'gotten over' conceptual grouping - so that we can learn how to better defuse this habit of conceptual grouping. Or at least, recognise that conceptual grouping is necessary for certain strategic purposes, and that they are helpful only to the extent that we constantly allow them to change and transform.
Sorry, I cannot relate to this at all. It feels like some variety of academic activism.

To my way of seeing, healing occurs by means of unity - not by further delineation, conceptual analysis and reductionism. In contrast, healing is holistic and occurs through accentuating and paying attention to that which is common, whereas what you propose seems intent on defining, manifesting and reifying conceptualized grounds for difference and isolation, and therefore for seeing people as numbers encircled on a Venn diagram rather than as individuals.

Metta,
Retro. :)

Did I say that I am not for the fostering of commonalites (and 'reductionism'? have you even read my posts)? But ok, now that you have evoked the praxis-ideal of commonality, let me say unreservedly that I affirm commonality but precisely because commonality ≠ sameness. If commonality is not commonality-in-spite-of-difference, togetherness-in-difference, then, I'd rather not have anything to do with it. You keep your unity to yourself.

And also, I'm not sure about ingenuity or the degree of critical reflexivity in the suggestion that because you disagree/cannot relate/are not prepared to see things from my perspective - that this is indicative of a kind of 'academic activism' on my part. If it is, well, then, perhaps I better pay more attention to myself.

But let me ask: what is being implied by this phrase 'academic activism'? Perhaps the implication that it just 'mere thinking' or a whole lot of 'over-intellectualisation', 'theorising divorced from practice', etc?

I don't know if this is a helpful notion to imply... I have certainly encountered similar sentiments/implied criticism in real life when people's views are challenged, as if one's thinking is ever disembodied or unconditioned by the exigencies of lived experience. I have definitely encountered such sentiments in the thousands and thousands of pages of this very forum itself - where (and who can honestly deny this?) A LOT of time and effort, a lot of energy, is invested in a certain discursive practice that judges, evaluates, and even excludes, people on the basis of how they construct their arguments, whether they back up their claims with references to this or that text or not.

I dunno.... it all appears very 'academic' to me. When does it become a habit, good or bad, of others and not oneself?
With metta,
zavk

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:34 am

Hi zavk,

I can certainly see where you're coming from, and agree wholeheartedly, as I said in my first post on this thread: http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f= ... 67#p262175

It's very easy to play the "they should just get over it" card... It's what used to happen all the time in my country (and still does, of course). However, as the Buddha made clear, denial is an ineffective cure...

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by Aloka » Tue Sep 24, 2013 9:38 am

.

I'm so sorry if this seems an innapropriate place to post this, but it just came into my mind when reading this thread:

"Dry out that which is past, let there be nothing for you in the future. If you do not grasp at anything in the present you will go about at peace. One who, in regard to this entire mindbody complex, has no cherishing of it as 'mine,' and who does not grieve for what is non-existent truly suffers no loss in the world. For him there is no thought of anything as 'this is mine' or 'this is another's'; not finding any state of ownership, and realizing, 'nothing is mine,' he does not grieve.

"To be not callous, not greedy, at rest and unruffled by circumstances — that is the profitable result I proclaim when asked about one who does not waver. For one who does not crave, who has understanding, there is no production (of new kamma). Refraining from initiating (new kamma) he sees security everywhere.

A sage does not speak in terms of being equal, lower or higher. Calmed and without selfishness he neither grasps nor rejects."

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .irel.html


:anjali:

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by retrofuturist » Tue Sep 24, 2013 10:53 am

Greetings,

:goodpost:
zavk wrote:If it is, well, then, perhaps I better pay more attention to myself.
If you accept the quote that Aloka provided above, then I envisage that would be beneficial.
zavk wrote:what is being implied by this phrase 'academic activism'? Perhaps the implication that it just 'mere thinking' or a whole lot of 'over-intellectualisation', 'theorising divorced from practice', etc?
Activism = "Or at least, recognise that conceptual grouping is necessary for certain strategic purposes" (i.e. focus on manipulating the outer world of society in preference to manipulating the inner world of yourself)
Academic = Your opening post, laden with such conceptual groupings and classifications, disconnected from individual experience (i.e. loka) except for where you talked about your personal relationship to certain narratives.

Whereas he, "who does not grieve for what is non-existent truly suffers no loss in the world". Your concepts only exist when you manifest them, and by trying to call out "marginalised" groups you're encouraging others accept them, to reify them, and do likewise - i.e encouraging people to "buy into" these unnecessary delineations between people.
zavk wrote:I have definitely encountered such sentiments in the thousands and thousands of pages of this very forum itself - where (and who can honestly deny this?) A LOT of time and effort, a lot of energy, is invested in a certain discursive practice that judges, evaluates, and even excludes, people on the basis of how they construct their arguments, whether they back up their claims with references to this or that text or not.

I dunno.... it all appears very 'academic' to me.
And indeed it is if it has no direct relevance to one's experience/life/practice, which is precisely why I have no interest in "debate".
zavk wrote:in the suggestion that because you disagree/cannot relate/are not prepared to see things from my perspective
I can see it - I just don't think it's efficacious in the context of the Dhamma for the reasons outlined previously.
zavk wrote:When does it become a habit, good or bad, of others and not oneself?
I cannot find it just now but there is a sutta in which the Buddha gives general/non-situational advice saying that whatever contemplations or objects of attention give rise to wisdom, non-aversion, non-greed are good... whereas those that give rise to ingorance, aversion and greed and not good. Hence the importance of mindfulness in knowing this for oneself, so one can act appropriately.

Finally, I agree with Nanavira Thera when he said... "Only in a vertical view, straight down into the abyss of his own personal existence, is a man capable of apprehending the perilous insecurity of his situation; and only a man who does apprehend this is prepared to listen to the Buddha s Teaching. But human kind, it seems, cannot bear very much reality: men, for the most part, draw back in alarm and dismay from this vertiginous direct view of being and seek refuge in distractions." To me, academic conceptualizations of the type promoted earlier are distractions.... i.e. thinking disconnected from the goal.

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: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by chownah » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:01 pm

zavk wrote: ..........not to disparage 'Western Buddhism' as such, since I am participating in it too, but merely in hope of encouraging curiosity about the stories of other Buddhists that may be effaced/subjugated/denigrated, even if unwittingly, by the story 'Western Buddhism' narrates about itself.
Ok, then. Consider me to be encouraged to be curious about the stories of other Buddhists as you describe.......so where are these stories? Are you talking about stories from Buddhists alive today or are you just talking about stories about dead Buddhists?
chownah

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by daverupa » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:42 pm

A LOT of time and effort, a lot of energy, is invested in a certain discursive practice that judges, evaluates, and even excludes, people on the basis of how they construct their arguments, whether they back up their claims with references to this or that text or not.
I see a lot more energy invested in discursive exclusions & evaluations of arguments than in discursive exclusions & evaluations of people, though I agree that this latter is simply not useful in any way.

It's a manifestation of the main problem of ossifying processes into entities in order to have a self-relationship with them; MN 1 discusses this.

Conceptual categories are useful only so long as they are mutable, in a nutshell, neh? Directly knowing a conceptual category in and of itself as such is different than taking it for granted as foundationally real and building on it...
  • "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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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by DNS » Tue Sep 24, 2013 5:35 pm

zavk wrote: I think we need to be careful that we don't evoke 'post-racial' as some kind of simplistic utopian rhetoric of "Let's not harp on these issues about racial discrimination, ethnocentricity, and what not. Leave it behind us, let's forget about it." It is very easy for those who have not historically been systematically marginalised and persecuted to just 'leave it all behind'.

But what if those who HAVE been systematically marginalised and persecuted respond by saying: "Wait, what? For the longest time, we have been silenced and ignored. Our plight effaced by a rhetoric of 'Oh we are doing this for your own good' We are all really the same. You just don't know how to see it'. No, screw that! Now that we finally have the means and opportunity to speak about injustice and participate in a history you have denied us, you want us to just forget about it? Whose interest is being served by 'leaving it all behind?' What if I tell you that 'forgetting about it' continues to silence us?" What if the privilege if you have accrued at our expense is precisely because you always tell yourself and force it down our throats that 'We are all the same?' We have never been 'the same'? Are you prepared to deal with that?"
I am trying to find something wholesome in your effort, but I don't see the benefit of harping about racial differences in Buddhism. As I mentioned most Buddhists that I have encountered have Asian monks and nuns as teachers who they greatly admire and respect and hold no racist views that I can see whatsoever. How exactly are Asian Buddhists being marginalized and persecuted?

If you are referring to something in the past, then yes, we could write about this in our texts but who is to be held accountable today for those past wrongs?

And yes, I know what it is like to face discrimination. I come from an ethnic group that has been on the receiving end of discrimination for thousands of years and I have personally experienced it too. In my own ethnic group, similar to immigrant Asians (to generalize), we excelled at education and achieved high positions in society, effectively eliminating most of the discrimination.

"Birth makes no Brahmin, nor non-Brahmin, makes; it is life‘s doing that mold the Brahmin true. Their lives mold farmers, tradesmen, merchants, and serfs. Their lives mold robbers, soldiers, chaplains, and kings. By birth is not one an out-caste. By birth is not one a Brahmin. By deeds is one an out-caste. By deeds is one a Brahmin."
(Majjhima Nikaya 98, Vasettha Sutta 57-59)

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by mikenz66 » Tue Sep 24, 2013 7:49 pm

I'm somewhat puzzled by the reactions to zavk's interesting post.
zavk wrote: I share this not to disparage 'Western Buddhism' as such, since I am participating in it too, but merely in hope of encouraging curiosity about the stories of other Buddhists that may be effaced/subjugated/denigrated, even if unwittingly, by the story 'Western Buddhism' narrates about itself.
I took it as a continuation of the discussions we have had about the origins of modern/western Buddhism, the back-and-forth between colonial attitudes and locals, and the way this shaped the way Buddhism was modernized by locals in Sri Lankan, Thailand, and Burma, and interpreted by western immigrants such as Ven Nyanatiloka, etc.

Of course, it is easy to find quotes that suggests that we should just stop worrying and get on with our practice. However, this assumes that we know exactly what that practice should be. A lot of effort is expended here in discussions over what is the real Buddha-Dhamma and what are the cultural accretions, how the Pali suttas compare with the Chinese Agamas, whether or not the Theravada tradition added unnecessary interpretation, and so on. Historical text-critical approaches are discussed and modern philosophical models are invoked in an effort to clarify and understand the Dhamma.

Given this interest in locating and understanding "the real Buddha-Dhamma", and flushing out the "cultural accretions" I'm baffled at the reaction to zavk drawing attention to where some of our own, modern, cultural accretions may have arisen.

:anjali:
Mike

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Re: Book: 'Before we loved the Buddha'

Post by daverupa » Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:05 pm

mikenz66 wrote:zavk drawing attention to where some of our own, modern, cultural accretions may have arisen.
I saw zavk asking us to reflect on certain racial/cultural issues in order to continually assess whether there was some sort of cultural/racial hegemony being perpetuated alongside our Dhamma narratives:
zavk wrote:I think this question must posed and reposed as an open question.
Conceptual categories may not be immediately available to awareness, though they might underlie... the cultural-hegemony-anusaya, if you like...
Last edited by daverupa on Tue Sep 24, 2013 8:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • "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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