On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

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binocular
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On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

Post by binocular » Mon Jan 30, 2017 12:36 pm

This is inspired by a post in another thread:

Dhammanando wrote:Dhamma discussion among Thai Buddhists is generally more akin to a ballroom dance than to a debate.
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 66#p413165
Why do you think this is so?
Does it have to do with the Thais submitting to authoritarianism and the system of social hierarcy (and everyone knowing their place in it)?
Or do they really value humans and human life and the Dhamma, and manifest this in conducting their discourse in a more polite or kind manner?
Or is their politeness a matter of strategically picking one's battles, and being courteous the rest of the time?
...

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No_Mind
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Re: On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

Post by No_Mind » Tue Jan 31, 2017 3:50 pm

binocular wrote:This is inspired by a post in another thread:

Dhammanando wrote:Dhamma discussion among Thai Buddhists is generally more akin to a ballroom dance than to a debate.
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.ph ... 66#p413165
Why do you think this is so?
Does it have to do with the Thais submitting to authoritarianism and the system of social hierarcy (and everyone knowing their place in it)?
Or do they really value humans and human life and the Dhamma, and manifest this in conducting their discourse in a more polite or kind manner?
Or is their politeness a matter of strategically picking one's battles, and being courteous the rest of the time?
...
It is a cultural thing.

If a cop in London needed a loan of £ 2,000 from a friend he would call the guy over for a drink after work and just lay it out - hey pal, could you lend me some money, Molly has been laid off from work and I am behind on rent.

Now if I was going to ask for a loan it would begin with one hour of general conversation .. followed by how prices are rising .. followed by how income is falling followed by .. followed by .. followed by uncomfortable silence from both sides .. and drinking whiskey silently .. followed by broaching the topic of loan (on the whole it holds true for much of Asia from Middle East to Korea).

Lots of groundwork before asking anything. So debates are not very fruitful because there is no time in a debate.

On the whole Asians are not very argumentative or direct.

:namaste:
Last edited by No_Mind on Tue Jan 31, 2017 11:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”― Albert Camus

binocular
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Re: On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

Post by binocular » Tue Jan 31, 2017 4:53 pm

No_Mind wrote:On the whole Asians are not very argumentative or direct.
What do they hope to accomplish with indirectness?

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Re: On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

Post by No_Mind » Tue Jan 31, 2017 11:14 pm

binocular wrote:
No_Mind wrote:On the whole Asians are not very argumentative or direct.
What do they hope to accomplish with indirectness?
That is just the way it is.

But this may throw some light --
5. Try to come to terms with the concept of ‘face’ (giving, saving and losing it), which is essential in dealing with Asians. Avoid putting possible clients and partners in ‘yes-no’ situations, and expect oblique answers as part of the process of creating a relationship.

http://davidcliveprice.com/12-commandme ... etiquette/
Actually this is better --
It comes down to two different "laws":

The Greeks followed the "law of the excluded middle," which states that if two people are debating, then one of them must be exclusively right and the other exclusively wrong.

The Chinese followed the "doctrine of mean," which states that if two people are debating, then they're probably both partly right and partly wrong - the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

................

Here's Nisbett on China:

The ecology of China, consisting as it does primarily of relatively fertile plains, low mountains, and navigable rivers, favored agriculture and made centralized control of society relatively easy.

Agricultural peoples need to get along with one another ... This is particularly true for rice farming, characteristic of southern China and Japan, which requires people to cultivate the land in concert with one another.

But it is also important wherever irrigation is required... In addition to getting along with one's neighbors, irrigation systems require centralized control and ancient China, like all other ancient agricultural societies, was ruled by despots. Peasants had to get along with their neighbors and were ruled by village elders and a regional magistrate who was the representative of the king.

The ordinary Chinese therefore lived in a complicated world of social constraints.

Way different than Greece.

Again, Nisbett:

The ecology of Greece, on the other hand, consisting as it does mostly of mountains descending to the sea, favored hunting, herding, fishing, and trade (and - let's be frank - piracy). These are occupations that require relatively little cooperation with others. In fact, with the exception of trade, these economic activities do not strictly require living the same stable community with other people.

Settled agriculture came to Greece almost two thousand years later than to China, and it quickly became commercial, as opposed to merely subsistence, in many areas.

The soil and climate of Greece were congenial to wine and olive oil production, and by the sixth century B.C., many farmers were more nearly businessmen than peasants. The Greeks were therefore able to act on their own to a greater extent than were the Chinese. Not feeling it necessary to maintain harmony with their fellows at any cost, the Greeks were in the habit of arguing with one another in the marketplace and debate one another in the political assembly.

Nisbett's argument continues from there.

The geography shaped the way people interacted with one another. The Ancient Greek could decide to move his goat heard with little consideration of what other people thought - unless his livestock invaded somebody else's property. But if the Ancient Chinese were to make the most of his rice harvest, he'd need cooperation from neighbors.

That's where you get the Greek emphasis on the individual and debate, and the Chinese emphasis on the collective and harmony.

The fascinating cultural reason why Westerners and East Asians have polar opposite understandings of the truth
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”― Albert Camus

chownah
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Re: On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

Post by chownah » Wed Feb 01, 2017 2:53 am

binocular wrote:
No_Mind wrote:On the whole Asians are not very argumentative or direct.
What do they hope to accomplish with indirectness?
No-mind has given a good answer and I will add just a bit more.

In short it helps to provide social closeness and harmony.

If you live in a village and you accidentally insult or upset the man who makes furniture then when you get a new table it is likely to wobble.

chownah

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Re: On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

Post by mikenz66 » Wed Feb 01, 2017 3:37 am

A very practical observation: :jumping:

:anjali:
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binocular
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Re: On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

Post by binocular » Wed Feb 01, 2017 8:42 am

chownah wrote:
binocular wrote:
No_Mind wrote:On the whole Asians are not very argumentative or direct.
What do they hope to accomplish with indirectness?
In short it helps to provide social closeness and harmony.
I suppose this is the effect of indirectness in Asia, in part at least.

But it doesn't seem to have the same effect here in the West. Here, it seems, indirectness is used in order to establish power hierarchies -- who gets to be top dog, who must bow their head. Many Westerners are averse to the notion of hierarchy, yet they still need, it want it, they just don't want to say it out loud.

In my limited experience with Asians, they were exactly the same as Westerners -- them being indirect was an effort to establish supremacy over me. As it later turned out, they never thought of me as some kind of equal or someone to actually be friends with (even though they were the ones coming forward with saying how we're friends and so on). They were simply bossy, passive aggressive, haughty, and with an enormous sense of entitlement.


It's still not clear how it is possible to establish social closeness and harmony with indirectness, at least not in a positive sense. In a negative sense -- sure, tyranny and fear can bring about social closeness and harmony, it's just not a nice kind of social closeness and harmony.

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Re: On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

Post by binocular » Wed Feb 01, 2017 9:00 am

No_Mind wrote: 5. Try to come to terms with the concept of ‘face’ (giving, saving and losing it), which is essential in dealing with Asians. Avoid putting possible clients and partners in ‘yes-no’ situations, and expect oblique answers as part of the process of creating a relationship.

http://davidcliveprice.com/12-commandme ... etiquette/
Oh, the irony of this when it comes to Buddhism!

Obviously, face-saving, -giving, -losing is important in ordinary worldly exchanges, and not just in Asia. But when Buddhists insist on it, despite instructions like the The Discourse on Effacement -- what gives?

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Re: On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

Post by No_Mind » Wed Feb 01, 2017 12:53 pm

binocular wrote: In my limited experience with Asians, they were exactly the same as Westerners -- them being indirect was an effort to establish supremacy over me. As it later turned out, they never thought of me as some kind of equal or someone to actually be friends with (even though they were the ones coming forward with saying how we're friends and so on). They were simply bossy, passive aggressive, haughty, and with an enormous sense of entitlement.
I assume the Asians you met were in West. That is not usually a typical Asian (I am not a typical Asian just like most of you are not typical Westerners).

Of course Asians are same as Westerners .. we are all homo sapiens after all and have same kind of needs but probably different way of going about it.

The day after CNN showed Arab sheikhs buying Muslim children from Hyderabad, India to be their child brides .. BBC showed pimps buying children and forcing them into prostitution in Los Angeles.

We are all the same .. after all.
chownah wrote:In short it helps to provide social closeness and harmony.
binocular wrote:It's still not clear how it is possible to establish social closeness and harmony with indirectness, at least not in a positive sense. In a negative sense -- sure, tyranny and fear can bring about social closeness and harmony, it's just not a nice kind of social closeness and harmony.
You are interpreting social closeness to mean a commune kind of environment. Chownah did not mean that Asia is a vast kibbutz. Instead think of Asian society as a gigantic hive mind .. not a good analogy but as close as I could find. The society has a sort of collective spirit (not to mean hundreds walking around with "Refugees Welcome" banner but an underlying order instilled over centuries .. one ant is nothing .. a million will kill ten horses and pick them clean in a day). It is not good to be the dissonant frequency in a hive mind.

In another post I called it social strangulation. It limits the power of individual. Not that Asia lacks genius but that genius is not allowed to fully flower .. Asian society does not believe one man should have the power to change destiny of the world. Change should be gradual and only in small increments.

Asia cannot produce a Karl Marx but a thousand Nagarjunas (founder of the Madhyamaka school of Mahāyāna Buddhism).

Not to mean it as a snarky comment .. see the backlash in West over liberal ideas prevailing for last two decades .. and recent rise of right. Too much change too fast .. before Western society had time to gulp concept of gays being part of mainstream society another idea was introduced .. accept transgenders into mainstream .. Asians believe such drastic changes lead to suffering and lack of social harmony.

From 1989 everyone in West is speculating when Communist Party of China will be tossed over .. it is still there and still strong .. no one wants to be the big enough dissonant voice which upset the apple cart. Not to mean change will not come but gradually .. 40 years back no one imagined China will be what it is today. Make haste slowly is how we live.

Last but not the least .. note how I and Chownah mean one thing by social closeness and harmony and you mean another. To us absence of overt friction is enough to indicate social closeness and harmony.
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”― Albert Camus

binocular
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Re: On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

Post by binocular » Wed Feb 01, 2017 2:23 pm

No_Mind wrote:Last but not the least .. note how I and Chownah mean one thing by social closeness and harmony and you mean another. To us absence of overt friction is enough to indicate social closeness and harmony.
You know where else they have "social closeness and harmony"? In prisons!
Uh.

Back to hive-mind mentality -- it can be observed among Westerners too, just within somewhat different parameters than in Asians. Being different and sticking out is never good. (Yes, even among Westerners -- a person is allowed to be different, just not different in any important way. You can look like a goth, you can be gay, you can be rich or poor, white or black, you can even be a Nazi -- as long as "inside", you're exactly the way society prescribes that humans are supposed to be.)

What I can't figure out is how come people generally settle for this kind of social closeness and harmony as you describe -- what is the mentality behind such settling? Is it a (cynical?) "Well, this is just as good as it gets"? Are people really happy with it and have no higher hopes or aspirations for the human race? Do they settle out of fear? ...

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Re: On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

Post by binocular » Wed Feb 01, 2017 2:25 pm

No_Mind wrote:From 1989 everyone in West is speculating when Communist Party of China will be tossed over ..
Most certainly not everyone. Duh. I don't speculate about it, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

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Re: On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

Post by No_Mind » Wed Feb 01, 2017 2:39 pm

binocular wrote: What I can't figure out is how come people generally settle for this kind of social closeness and harmony as you describe -- what is the mentality behind such settling? Is it a (cynical?) "Well, this is just as good as it gets"? Are people really happy with it and have no higher hopes or aspirations for the human race? Do they settle out of fear? ...
They never knew anything different. If all you have tasted is Chicken Tikka or Peking Duck and never apple pie or Wiener Schnitzel how can you miss apple pie or Wiener Schnitzel?

And aspirations lead to unhappiness .. so Asians have low aspirations (or rather less aspirations).

Know your station in life .. stick with it .. it is your Karma .. accept it gracefully or accept it kicking and screaming, accept you will.
"The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man's heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”― Albert Camus

binocular
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Re: On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

Post by binocular » Wed Feb 01, 2017 3:04 pm

No_Mind wrote:And aspirations lead to unhappiness
That's bizzare!

Some aspirations lead to unhappiness, but some don't. It is a mistake to make the generalization that they all do.

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Re: On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

Post by Mkoll » Wed Feb 01, 2017 7:10 pm

The differences between collective and individualistic types of societies/cultures is an accepted concept in social psychology. From my experience as a Chinese-American, it also bears out in the real world. Chinese and American culture are on opposite sides of the collectivist-individualistic spectrum and about as far away you can get on it.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

binocular
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Re: On the mode of Dhamma discourse East and West

Post by binocular » Wed Feb 01, 2017 7:28 pm

Mkoll wrote:The differences between collective and individualistic types of societies/cultures is an accepted concept in social psychology. From my experience as a Chinese-American, it also bears out in the real world. Chinese and American culture are on opposite sides of the collectivist-individualistic spectrum and about as far away you can get on it.
I am aware of this socio-psychological concept, but I don't take it for granted.

I think Asians are actually more individualistc than Westerners, because -- and this is my opinion -- to be able to participate in mass-communal activities, one needs a far stronger sense of self than for the individualistic Western pursuits.

Take for example those Asian dance performances where hundreds of people are doing the same routine. To participate in that, one has to have far more control of one's body, far more reliance on one's memory (that one knows the routine correctly) than in individualistic dancing.
Or a Korean music school: it's a big room with compartments that are separate from eachother only on the sides. And everyone practices their instrument at the same time. And out of that mess of sounds, each player has to be able to distinguish the sound of his own playing. Now that is individualism!

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