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Criticism of Buddhism — 287 Comments

  1. I’d like to invite comment on the Buddhist no-self doctrine as I don’t understand why the assertion of no-self should be applied to all human beings.

    Surely it would be more appropriate for someone whose experience indicates that they have no self to report this as their own experience? How can they possibly know that this experience is true for all human beings?

    In my own experience I started out with no self as an infant, and then various forms of self-ishness developed as I formed attachments to my desires, and learned to associate these with linguistic constructs such as “I” and “me” and the name i was given. But as I becamce an adult and noticed a little more about how the various forms of self-ishness didn’t seem to fit together to make a coherent whole or to have a centre I formed the idea that there appeared to be no single self-as-such, only many competing self-ish tendencies that succeeded one another.

    In my way of making meaning now, thirty years later, this earlier deepening of awareness was itself the seed of something more than no-self. As more and more experiences of observing my experience of no-self began to accumulate I started to undertake various practices, that then helped me to further develop my awareness of this no self experience. As these practices and the further awarenesses they disclosed stabilized and developed in me, I began experience my experience differently than I used to.

    For example I found that I more readily noticed the arising of reactions to my experience, in the form of desires and attachments, and even began to let them go again, sometimes, like passing clouds.

    To me, this kind of gradual stabilizing of awareness of my experience could usefully be understood as something like a self emerging in the midst of the experience of no-self. I also had the experience, from time to time, of some much deeper and larger sense of Self, which seemed to more or less subsume any personal sense of self, but this was not stable and I could not say “I” and mean that when i was not actually experiencing it, even though it was self-evident at the time of the experience that this Self never went away as such, only that my personal sense of self was not always transparent to it.

    Of course, I cannot know whether my experiences of the emergence of a self or Self from no-self are true for everyone, but only that they are satisfying for me. But it does occur to me that it is not really possible, as far as I can understand it, to argue that the Buddhist idea of no self is something that can said to necessarily be true for all human beings. After all, how can they know?

    • I know not very much about the theology of Buddhism. I was only introduced to meditation by a cousin (over the internet Je-Je!!!) but…
      I get the thought that what is really a thing to DO, or a tool (like prayer?) has been turned into religion, like the religious books of other religions because people are obsessed with words from birth. I don’t think it is or every has been. I think Buddha would find it strange to see gold statues of himself being worshipped!

      I think people ar too intellectually in mind when they say talk about having “no self” or having a self. It’s not the point for me, and not if there is a God or not. Just meditate and everything becomes clear…

      …but then who am I…? I’m just tripping off NOT thinking anymore in the sunshine or rain. 🙂

      RE: “In my own experience I started out with no self as an infant…”

      Yes, the way babies smile and are there in the moment is just like I am trying to get to and I think I ‘taste it’ through meditation. I do think that language make us think in only one way/line (mode?) and that by letting go of it we can see more …in some ways.

      Christina x

      • It’s a difficult path, when dealing with many misconceptions.
        Buddhism is basically with no violence , except to dislodge misbilief, /
        And to direct properly. May see some irreverent, irrelevant, Practices
        But exception does not deny the truth.
        Strive hard and learn to conquer, it works, slow and to some frustrating and painful.
        Arguing may not help, as anger, frustration, can slow the progress to greater understanding and the slower person, ,can miss the boat, as most do. Appamsdo amatha Pathan
        Pramadho machvhi , no padam be, shall be left behind. Karma does not pause or slow down to accommodate the strangler

  2. P.S. I visit the Zen Center in Bilbao, Spain, where I live. If you ever come to Northern Spain:

    Dojo Zen Bilbao
    Hurtado de Amezaga, 23-1ER
    BILBAO
    48008 Spain
    Contact: Natxo Sanchez
    Tel.: (+34) 688-667-246
    http://www.zenbilbao.com
    E-mail: zenbilbao@wanadoo.es
    Denomination: Japanese Soto School
    Lineage: Taisen Deshimaru, Rapael Triet
    Teachers: Roland Yuno Rech, Doko Raphael Triet,
    Affiliated to: A.Z.I.

    🙂

    • Look like s good pl to visit. I’m originally from Sri Lanka where Portuguese introduce Spanish and portugese, its 85/90% Buddhist or Buddhist influence with Hindus, mislead, Christians and other coexist and interchange ideas and teachings( many common ground teachings)
      Humans have not created a totally different teaching since Buddhism and Hinduism, just acceptable modifications as human intellect evokes and learn with less conflicts? Teachings, dharma, gods, karma etc do co exist as humans will never accept one teaching , always and forever. Many need gods, most want freedom to think and modify, as we all know. Dr bdes.

  3. Oh, sorry. You meant it is the fault of Zen practitioners that it is misunderstood because they stay silent? Well, perhaps it is because there isn’t much to say beyond the technique. That there is little point going into detail about benefits that become self-evident when you simply practice it. It’s a bit like a book I saw on the benefits of drinking plenty of water. Most people might as well just drink an extra cup of water and not read the book (especially since the content is unproven).

  4. RE: “ZEN people do not usually blog. They stay silent. Its your fault in the first place.”

    Thanks 🙂 This is not my blog, and I rarely comment so I don’t understand it being my fault. There are those much more devoted so perhaps I still have much to learn before I reserve comment. But I know Zen practitioners understand that to get people interested involves talking to them at first.

    RE: “On the other hand you cant really get away by saying that the criticisms are in a different realm.”

    I say criticisms come from thinking that is quite opposite to the Zen state. It is something you have to experience and I can’t see anyone who meditates successfully finding it pointless, destructive or unpleasant. There are some things that are simply beyond verbal description. How could you explain colours to those blind from birth, or the sound of trumpets to those deaf from birth? So yes, I think it is fair to say you cannot really be in a good position to criticise that which requires direct experience.

  5. ZEN people do not usually blog. They stay silent. Its your fault in the first place. On the other hand you cant really get away by saying that the criticisms are in a different realm.

  6. Haaha! Lovely people! My own practice of Zen has much more to do with escaping language trappings. Please remember that your criticisms are all from the realm of language, which to me is much like a dog barking at a flying bird.

    In short, humans have complex language and it is this that sets them apart from other living creatures. Indeed, language has enabled our species to do and understand truly extra-ordinary things. But it also has other consequences (see Aldous Huxley’s Lecture on Language). It enables us to believe in cartoonish concepts (e.g. stereotypes) and engage in derivative behaviours -both angelic and violent. Overthinking and obsessive thought feedback is also a problematic consequence of language-based thought.

    Meditiation or ANY strong focus away from words (like listening to music, life-drawing, painting, sculpture, crafts, sporting activities, matrial arts, archery, games, or just simple mindfulness) helps us escape these trappings of language and see things more holistically, as they are without interpretation. So, being mindful and getting away from language-thought regularly is all I would wish for you.

  7. Ok. I’m done. Really. I’m unsubscribing from this thread. Debating the veracity of a claim about coke distributing dieties is not a useful way to spend my time. Never say never, but bye for now.

  8. Sumedha..

    Are you trying to claim that Einstein would have bought the coke story? I know Freud was a coke head for a while. But although Einstein was I think inclined toward a spiritual attitude I think you do him injustice to use him as a support for this fanciful coke story.

    • Yeah, that’s right. The buddhists call it ‘intellectually formed delusions’. Where, the line of reasoning we use is faulty, leading us away from liberation.

  9. I think there is a difference between quiet reflection, which wise people have always done, and “meditation” as taught by vairous religious schools both Buddhist and Christian. One difference is in the “rules” and right and wrong way to do it. I have gained a lot of insight in long walks by the ocean, but it is not meditation according to any formal school. People have been doing it long before the days of Buddha of Jesus (assuming they existed).

    • Quiet reflection, such as admitting your faults to yourself or someone else, is an intellectual thing. The feelings that get invoked, while doing it, is something you can become more and more aware of, and start to hold them with concentration, and release them, so they never come back. Like, fear of something, for example. Getting rid of the problems within the mind, starts with honest reflection. A good honest look at what we are doing.

      Meditation has been around before the appearance of the Buddha, or Jesus.

    • The activity you refer to in Buddhism is called ‘contemplation’ and the same activity is referred to Christian texts. A serene backdrop and a mind that observes with the intent of understanding are the requirements. Meditation, while it might include this during a session, are different activities, and as Paul says, it has been there for a long time before the Buddha or Jesus.

  10. Kirishnamurti was a guru by occupation. That’s what he was raised to be and which paid well for him. He may not be yours but he was to many.

  11. Elma,

    I did not make any suggestion whatsoever that I believe Krishnamurti to be a guru. I simply suggested that I believe Brent might get a kick out of some of the things he said in that particular book. Thanks for the extrapolation, all the same. I know his history. I know that his “mentor” had a penchant for young boys like Jinnu was when he “discovered” him. Jinnu was not the first young boy this man believed to be “the one”. I do find it fascinating that he was, by most accounts, quite a dullard prior to his being groomed. He did transform into a formidable intellectual/philosopher. I think it demonstrates the potential within us all to become wise beyond our self-imposed limitations.

    Brent – Thanks again for sharing your experience. It is truly appreciated. I will continue to sit and be with my mind, warts and all. I suspect that my apprehension stems from something that has been lurking in the shadows so long that it fears the impending exposure. Such is the nature of our mind.

    Rachel – Thank you for allowing our discourse on your blog. The generosity found on these pages is refreshing, to say the least.

  12. Sorry to say this but you are all wrong. The TRUE buddhism is Theravada budddhism. Mahayana and Zen and other Buddhists schools are not the real thing. That is why Buddhism is a scam in Japan. If you want to learn the true buddhism you have to study Theravada. If you study Theravada, criticism will be very much less than the teachings of the other schools.

    • Well I, for one, am so glad that a TRUE Buddhist took the time out of their day to swing by and clear all THAT up!

        • No, I’m not Jewish. My family was Prostestant, but we never went to church. My parents “believed in god” the way most people do, as a rationalization for their already held beliefs. You know, my parents believed such and such, and lo and behold god did too! I was an atheist by high school. Although, I did listen to an awful lot of Bob Dylan back then (just his early stuff, before he went kooky with Jesus). So maybe the Jewishness rubbed off?

  13. If you are thinking you are not technically meditating or that is if you are sticking with your thoughts rather than letting them float by. You are probably relaxing and sitting still and thinking. Some of the feelings that come up for you might make someone else psychotic if under the direction of a leader. For this topic look into the Cultic Studies Association journal or books such as Snapping that discuss how meditation can be used to dissociate people to make them amenable to indoctrination. But I’m not sure you are really meditating. Does Shambhala teach you to think about things or to let go of thoughts and watch how things change and nothing is stable and therefore that there is no solid reality?

    • I think it’s to identify anything that intrudes into your consciousness. It might help to see the causes of an intrusion to see the point where the original ‘mind object’ was formed. Since you see that whatever is affecting you is actually formed through the senses that might have been faulty, or the effect of faulty thoughts that just come to you, you realize that it’s just the way it is and that it has nothing to do with ‘you’.

    • To clarify, what I am doing is meditation. I have sat still and relaxed and thought. It is an entirely different experience and is not meditation. It is not as useful or as intense as meditation at all, and is definitely not what I am doing when I sit with the INTENTION to meditate and assume the posture (sort of). I do think while I am meditating, however the nature of my thoughts is often quite unlike ANYTHING that of in “normal” day to day life, or even just sitting back and working stuff out conciously. An abusive leader is an abusive leader. I don’t have one of those (except myself sometimes, ha-ha). I cannot see how meditation itself could lead one to psychosis, unless one were already mentally ill in some way. It’s sort of self-regulating. The guy who does the Tantric Skeptic blog just posted a very good article about this, and I’ve asked him to post it here. If he doesn’t, I’ll do it myself! And yes, sometimes I’m “just thinking”. Maybe I shouldn’t be. I guess that just means I’m still not a very good meditator. It doesn’t mean, though, that I’m not meditating. I know I’m supposed to label thoughts and observe them etc. Often I do. I know I’m supposed to. Sometimes the train just gathers up a head of steam and away I go. Until I catch myself and start all over…again. Our thoughts are always in flux. Deep subject, lots to be said, but no , I am emphatically NOT “just relaxing”. I meet people who say they “meditate” when they are gardening or playing piano or sewing or taking a walk or staring out the window or something. These people, it seems to me, have never meditated. If they had, they would know the difference, and know that they are not meditating when engaged in any of these activities. Part of meditation is the (attempt) at stillness not only of the mind, but of the body. In my opinion, it is also about the idea that there is no escape from yourself. To be engaged in some activity seems to me to be an escape valve. Shambhala did teach that there was no solid reality. I thought they were just throwing around a bunch of metaphysical blah blah and sat at the back of the shrine room rolling my eyes. I don’t think it’s meditation that can be used to indoctrinate people so much as the philosophical and metaphysical nonsense that groups like Shambhala try to sell you on. If you can convince someone that the room that they are sitting in is not really there, what won’t they believe???

      • Have your senses ever misinterpreted what you later thought of as true? If this has happened once, then it has the possibility of happening again. Most of the thoughts in your head have been either directly received through your sense, or has been the result of analyzing information coming in through your senses. If there is a possibility that the senses are faulty, there is a possibility that your thoughts are wrong. There is a possibility that ALL your thoughts are wrong. Reality is as it is perceived through your faulty senses.

        What is this solid reality that people refer to?

  14. A little clarification that it wasn’t his followers (once he left the Theosophists) but his original promoters who tried to make him the messiah. His later followers I think were people in transition away from gurus. I do recommend reading The Guru Papers by Kramer and Alstad for anyone who considers following any guru. Of course Buddha is said to have said “Be a lamp unto yourself.”

    If I have time I’ll write a bit about Pema (original name Deidre) and about dangers of meditating (usually related to doing it under guidance of someone else who doesn’t allow stopping and who has a goal of breaking down resistance to implant their own ideas…so not a problem when done on one’s own unless you don’t know how to stop yourself…my own expereince is that walking and thinking works better than sitting and trying not to think…but the people who have the serious breakdowns usually are at a group setting where they can’t leave or are being guided and indoctrinated. It’s OK to have a psychosis if you want (or complete breakthrough) but better not under the direction of a spiritual leader.

    • I’d like to learn more about Pema. I really can’t remember a thing about the book of hers I read. I have this vague idea I thought it was really bland. And, well, guilt by association…she is with Shambhala…that can’t speak well of her judgement.

      I don’t think meditation itself is harmful. I’m a bit perplexed to hear about people who suffer psychotic breakdowns. It has only been beneficial to me, and I think as long as you pay attention to your own mind and body, they will tell you when enough is enough. I literally can’t sit if I’ve been going at it too much. Though yes, sitting and listening to someone indoctrinate you with “the faith” is a bad idea. Meditating is NOT about not thinking. I do a lot of thinking when I meditate. It’s about discerning what is useful thinking, and what is not useful thinking. Sometimes, it is about going deep into a memory or repressed emotion. Healthy, if unpleasant sometimes. Forcing yourself not to think is not a wise move. Teaching yourself to focus your thinking, is.

      • I stopped thinking for awhile when I was a lot younger and greener. Turned out to be a horrid year. I was still in college at that point and I turned into a complete imbecile. You’re right, observing thought isn’t the same as repressing thought. It helps to observe emotion too.

  15. A few comments if I may since I know something abotu Krishnamurti, living in his town. My brother went to his school. I know many people who attended his talks in the Oak Grove He is no better or worse than anyone else so why turn him into a guru? I’d say he is an antiguru guru so if you are into gurus and trying to transiton away maybe he is for you. Otherwise why bother. He was just a regular kid who the Theosophists randomly picked up to become the next messiah. When he figured out that that would entail his martyrdom he had a psychosis and then wisely bailed out. Since he had been set up with a big trust fund by his sponsors and had now real means of support and was accustomed to high living he set himself as an antiguru and made a good living at that..and was not cruxified wither. He liked fast cars and tennis and women. He had a long term affair with the married headmistress of my brother’s school. A regular guy in odd circumstances. Why would you want to make him your teacher?

    • Ah, thanks for that. Yes, now I remember my friend telling me all about Krishnamurti and his followers trying to hoist him up as the new messiah and such and he wanted nothing to do with the whole business. Smart guy. You’d think people would look at his example and not be fooled by the rest of these “spiritual” masters, but no.

  16. Brent,

    First of all, I applaud your enthusiastic skepticism. I was partially repelled by some of your seemingly vitriolic venting, but far be it from me to judge another man’s passionate perspective. Pardon the alliteration. What I mean to say is that I have a great respect for your refusal to accept anything too readily and at face value. If you have not read “The Awakening of Intelligence” by Jinnu Krishnamurti, I think you would get a kick out of him.

    I have just barely begun to practice meditation and have yet to subscribe fully to any particular religion, as such. I feel that what Pema Chodron teaches of Shambhala is in line with my views, but I also feel compelled to learn more of the Yoga sect of Hinduism. I don’t need all the deities, but the practices are, by all historical accounts I have found, the essential basis for Buddhism. That’s neither here nor there.

    My “ulterior motive” here is to cull information you may have garnered from your experiences while sitting. I hope you can trust that my initial praise of your passionate discourse was not simply an attempt at manipulating you into my favor. I truly respect your objective analytical skill, which is what compelled me to inquire of you regarding your experience. I know you wouldn’t lie and I know it would be a truly considered conveyance.

    You said that, at first, you were meditating roughly 5 or more hours per day. I am wondering for how many days did this endeavor endure? Secondly, what specifically was your experience during this time? I ask because I have been lead to believe that engaging in too intense of a meditation practice too prematurely can cause severe mental, emotional and physical distress, sometimes leading to psychotic breaks.

    I suppose that what I am driving at is that I am very anxious to engage in intense meditation practice such as you have, but am leery of doing myself harm. I would greatly appreciate any personal insight you would be willing to offer in this regard.

    Respectfully,
    Byron Evans

    • Never mind my previous reply. Here we go… a paragraph at a time so I don’t lose everything with a misplaced keystroke (like just now).

      First of all, I applaud your enthusiastic skepticism. I was partially repelled by some of your seemingly vitriolic venting, but far be it from me to judge another man’s passionate perspective. Pardon the alliteration. What I mean to say is that I have a great respect for your refusal to accept anything too readily and at face value. If you have not read “The Awakening of Intelligence” by Jinnu Krishnamurti, I think you would get a kick out of him.

      I do vent, sometimes with vitriol. As mentioned, I’ve reread some of my initial posts and cringed a bit. I was quite angry about the nonsense I heard and saw at the Shambhala retreat. And, there is so much nonsense people swallow without thinking about it. The Secret, Wayfarers, the Buddha’s reincarnation, the Four Seals, Chakras, Karma…My only exposure to Buddhism has been through Shambhala, which I now realize may have been a poor example of the traditions. However, living in rural Nova Scotia, I’m not likely to encounter any other, except through books and You Tube. My loss, perhaps. But I doubt I’d take any organized Buddhist group at their word. I read a bit of Krishanmurti years ago. Seems like a cool guy. I know a fellow who knew some fo his followers. Despite his protestations, they apparently tried to turn him into a guru. Everyone seems to want to follow somebody. I may pick up the book you mentioned when I am in the city next week.

    • I have just barely begun to practice meditation and have yet to subscribe fully to any particular religion, as such. I feel that what Pema Chodron teaches of Shambhala is in line with my views, but I also feel compelled to learn more of the Yoga sect of Hinduism. I don’t need all the deities, but the practices are, by all historical accounts I have found, the essential basis for Buddhism. That’s neither here nor there.

      I read one of Pema’s books. Can’t remember a thing about it. Everyone speaks highly of her though, and the Buddhist monks I met from the monastery where she lives in Cape Breton were all really decent people. Shambala itself, though… and Tibetan Buddhism? Be careful, young Skywalker, that way lies the Dark Side…

      I tried yoga for a while. Great for improving flexibility. Only so many hours in the day, though, and I found meditaion more useful, so I dropped it. Never got that far into it to get any “spiritual” benefits.

    • You said that, at first, you were meditating roughly 5 or more hours per day. I am wondering for how many days did this endeavor endure? Secondly, what specifically was your experience during this time? I ask because I have been lead to believe that engaging in too intense of a meditation practice too prematurely can cause severe mental, emotional and physical distress, sometimes leading to psychotic breaks.

      Ok, to the main course. First, my “formal” “training” in meditation consists of one free one hour session at the Shambhala Centre in Halifax, one month long retreat (Dathun), and the reading of a few books on the subject. So, if there are formal criterion one needs to be an expert, or even a mediocre teacher, of meditation, I doubt I have them. I started meditation at the suggestion of my therapist (a Buddhist) who said I should just go find someplace quiet and sit (which he apparently did to work out his problems). I had just rented a cabin in the woods, so I left the city and went to this cabin and began to sit with only the one hour of training. I guess I knew the therapist had sat for hours, and I knew about these Japanese people who go for a week to Mt. Fuji and sit for 20 hours a day. So, I just said to myself I’ll sit for five or six hours a day. I work seasonlly in the woods, and so have three months in the winter off. So that’s how I started. I just did it. No one told me it might be dangerous or anything. After three weeks, I knew it was working and kept at it. That was, six years ago??? Lost count. I try to get two hours a day in now when i’m working. Four to six whn I’m not. Two winters ago I was only doing two or three hours a day…rebelling a bit maybe, or just didn’t feel the long hours were as effective as they once were. But then I put the hours back up again. I try to sit every day, but of course that isn’t always possible. And sometimes it’s good to miss a day. So, the four to six hours a day is almost every day through the winter. I think 8 or 9 hours is the most I’ve done. At the retreat you do 6 to 8 hours pretty regularly. You should look up the guy who does the shutupandmeditate blog. He’s done one or two ten day intensive retreats.

    • I have been lead to believe that engaging in too intense of a meditation practice too prematurely can cause severe mental, emotional and physical distress, sometimes leading to psychotic breaks.

      I’ve never had anything like these things. (They all came BEFORE I meditated, ha-ha). I’ve never heard of them, either. That being said, it often is not a pleasant experience. But, it all depends on what you take into the practice with you. In my own case, there was a lot of repressed anger about my parents. (A LOT). So, you’re stuck sitting there with all this, and there is nowhere to hide. Not a fun time. I was at a lecture at the Shambhala centre once and some woman asked if meditation would help her deal with her child abuse issues. I felt like telling her, yes, it would, but be careful what you wish for. Every repressed feeling is going to get unrepresed, and you are going to have to sit there through it all. That’s why you are there. Welcome to your nightmare. SO, the question is, why do you want to meditate? What is your intention? That, to me, os the key word. Intention. What are you trying to do? Solve? Heal?

      I doubt you’ll have a psychotic episode. You may have some real bad days, though, dealing with all the stuff you’ve never dealt with. Every lousy feeling you’ve repressed comes at you. Every lousy thing done to you. Every lousy thing you’ve done. I have had some VERY intense experiences where I’ve blacked out for maybe 2 – 3 seconds when the repressed rage swept over me, and I’ve “come to” face down on the cushion with no memory of how I got there and the stuff on the night stand on the floor. That’s as intense as I’ve ever let it get. Then I just resume my seat and go at it again. It’s all in your head, and there’s no one there to hurt you. What happens is what happens. And the only person causing it to happen now is you. Which is great, because at least now, when you hear all the noise in your head, you can’t blame someone else for what’s happening. But that’s me. If you’re not dealing with anything that heavy, you may just sit serenely for two hours bored out of your skull, you lucky dog.

    • I know the monks at the Abbey in capre Breton mditate four hours per day. People on ten day or month long or three month retreats will do 7 to 10 hours.
      I did this on my own, so I was my own judge of what was appropriate.. At first, I couldn’t sit for twenty seconds without looking around. Now i can sit, on a good day, for two hours and pretty much stare at the floor like a zombie (an AWARE zombie, though!). When I began, though, I was desperate for something to work. That’s why I wen at it so hard, and still do. You my not be so desperate. Intention. There are days now when I am still unable to sit well because my mind is whirling. And if you sit too much, you’ll know it, because you won’t be able to sit. Your mind and body will let you know. Sometimes I sit with the intention of being there for three hours, and then realize I need to clean the cabin. So I don’t sit. Sometimes I say I’ll sit for an hour just because I know I’ll feel guilty if I don’t and christ am i sick of doing this, and I’ll be there for fours hours really gettin down into it.

      Best advice. Just do it. Read some books if you feel like it. I guess they have some good general advice. The truth is, I think, is that your own mind will guide you. That’s been my experience. YOu know why you want to do this. If you keep taht intention in “mind”, your “mind” will find it’s way. All’s it needs to know is that you want to go there, and it will take you. Whatever happens, happens. Bad feelings, good feelings, anger, happiness, rage…whatever. You DON”T know what the course is, because you’ve never gone there. That’s why you’re sitting.

      Hope that was helpful. I could go on and on. But, it’s Rachel’s Blog. If there is something specific I didn’t answer, just email. But really, talk is talk. Again, I doubt you need to have any serious worries about breakdowns. And if you do have one, maybe you needed one? Sit down and shut up and meditate.

    • PS

      I reread my posts. Ok. Don’t get hung up on how the books or others tell you meditation “should” be done. Try to follow the general guidleines about the breathe and hand placement and posture, but listen most closely to what your own mind and body is telling you. You may have to work up to certain postures or hand placement. Or not. Intention. As long as you are sitting and making an effort, that’s way more than half the battle.

      There is no such thing as failure. If you can’t follow your breathe for more than two seconds, welcome to your mind. That’s where you are. You’ll get better at it. If following your breathe is even what you want to focus on. It doesn’t have to be, it’s just one of many good ideas there can be. If you’re chattering to yourself for the entire two hour session, welcome to your mind! It’ll get better (some days…some days you’ll be back to square one).

      Just keep at it. You may need to take a break every ten minutes when you start. Your mind will probably take a break whether you want to or not, at first. It does that. Bad monkey! Just keep at it.

      You may hear advice about “labelling thoughts” as thoughts and letting them go. It is my experience this advice is best ignored. It’s just more chatter and is unnecessary. Also, some thoughts are pointless chatter. Some are what I call “teaching” thoughts. These should be given careful attention. They are why you are there.

      You asked about specific experiences. I’d be here all night. Just meditate, The whole point is to learn to trust your own mind. What happens happens, and is going to happen as soon as you start to sit. It’s already happening, you just aren’t as aware of it as you can be if you sit. So sit.

  17. I do see your points, Brent.

    If there really is some transcendental phenomena happening, then by definiton, it will never be observed scientifically and agreed upon by concensus, because it is transcendental – not common to normal experience.

    If you’re right, and there isn’t a spiritual dimension to our reality at all – If the materialist paradigm is correct, then either way, there will never be any possibility that someone can be convinced of it.

    I just carry on with my practice, with the aim of destroying my daily problems, and wishing that everyone be happy. Anything that becomes apparent, just is. For me, it’s important to carry on investigating my mind, and ridding it of all the bad stuff. The way I do it personally, is the preparatory practices, Lamrim and Mahamudra.

    The Kalama Sutta says it all really. You are right, we shouldn’t get too bogged down with the conceptual stuff, but aim for making ourselves and other people happy. That’s where it’s at.

    • Physical symptoms of transcendental phenomena can be observed though. There’s a lot of research going on on the effect of meditation on the mind, the lack of need for sustenance, increased physical durability/strength etc. The problem is that people find the results hard to digest. Vocal free thinkers usually have quite a rigid view of what free thinking really is.

      • “If your mind is too open, your brains will fall out” – Tim Minchin, another vocal freethinker who has a rigid idea of what free thinking really is. You know, expecting there to be actual evidence, little things like that. Imagine!

        • Check out some of the studies done on Indian yogis and what some American universities are doing on Buddhist monks. Available on youtube.

  18. Oh! PS…

    True story. Tibetan Buddhists are looking for their new Llama or whatever. Can’t find one in Tibet…jet travel and all I guess. But there is this Tibetan refugee living in Toronto, Canada. He somehow meets up with these Tibetan priests looking for their new leader (I heard this story on CBC radio a year ago, so I’ve forgotten a lot of the details, you can probably find it online – Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio, the show is called Six Days, I think, and it was broadcast in October or November of 2010). He has a son and a daughter living with him in Toronto. The priests meet the son, and behold! the reincarnated leader! They want the son. The father believes this nonsense, and he lets his son go with the priests back to Tibet to be trained to be the new theocrat (because, although he is reincarnated, he can’t seem to remember a damn thing about any of his numerous past lives. Which is odd, considering he’s a reincarnated Llama. You’d think someone so evolved would remember that shit. It’s kinda important…) The daughter, a couple of years younger than her brother, is heartbroken, and doesn’t understand why her brother was taken away. Poor girl. I guess her concentration skills aren’t up to scratch yet. I know, I know, I’m criticizing BUDDHISTS again, and not BUDDHISM. Because everyone knows these child abducting theocratic power mongering deluded middle-ages mentality backwoods hicks aren’t REAL BUDDHISTS. They just think they are. Like all of you do…

          • Expecting rational, responsible thinking from those vested in intellectual cop-outs (god can do anything, reincarnation doesn’t have to be explained by evidence)(How is it reincarnation gets off the hook? How do you get to decide what is and is not subject to rational, empirical evidence and explanation? Convenient, when you get to make up the rules like that, isn’t it?). No, I won’t wait up. Do you beleieve in magic? Like I said, laughable.

  19. Was it these deities that gave the other kind of coke to Trungpa? Or was it a run of the mill drug dealer?

    It is tragic that his childhood was so traumatic that he felt the need to escape in drugs (recent tulkus have spoken more honestly about their traumatic childhoods).

    But it was criminal of him to encourage his students to escape into drugs (especially alclhol) and other froms of destructive acting out. If there were such a thing as an enlightened being I can’t imagine it would look like this.

  20. And…I’m done. Coke distributing dieties, declarative statements about the reality of reincarnation from those who offer no evidence, and then say that it’s everyone else who is deluded. Who claim to be a Buddhist so they may see reality more clearly, and then blithely ignore it, or make outrageous, unsupported statements about what said reality really is (unseen gods…).

    This is laughable. I might as well go on to some Christian website and debate the Holy Trinity and the TRUE meaning of the sermon on the mount.

    Doesn’t it suck that we aren’t perfect? I mean, doesn’t it really suck, and make you wish there was just one person in the whole world who was, against which we can measure our failings and strive to be more like? Don’t you wish that were true? Oh wait, you do…

      • Oh, thanks for that! Actually, I was just about to start something on the Münchhausen trilemma, that I have been putting off for far to long now. Your encouragement is very much appreciated!

        bl

  21. Hi Sumedha,

    I went on a Sri Lankan Buddhist retreat last year. Although mainly I practice Kadampa Buddhism. Thanks for the kind message.

    Its taken me a while. I used to be scared of authority figures and bosses, etc. One morning, I woke up, and all my fear had disappeared. These teachings work. So simple. It just takes time. We can all get enlightened eventually. Of.course it.is important to be aware of those who seek to manipulate. But it isn’t all like that. We shouldn’t become obsessed with bad teachers and stupid action of some people.

    The world has so much in it, that we can’t see at the moment. People get very attached to their own views, especially regarding the non-existence of deities. This view is wrong. Lots of beings exist, that at present, we can’t perceive. At the moment, our mind is like a window, but because of our impure mind, it is like the blind has been pulled down.

    Eventually, with concentration, love, kindness, compassion, it will open. Life gets very very interesting then..x

    Sumedha, I hope your practice is going well.

    • Hi Paul,

      I did a wiki-search for Kadampa Buddhism, and the information I got made me happy. In a previous comment I referred to Mahayana Buddhism an area that I am not much interested in, but I was referring to the massive body of text that sometimes strikes me as information that, having the same probability of being true as Theravada Buddhist teachings, is too vast for me to contemplate on during this life-time, though it doesn’t prevent me from going through material when I am presented with it.

      Prominent figures become very important in stressing areas of learning that might otherwise not jump out of the text. I remember seeing one of Ven. Ajahn Brahm’s (the head of an Australian branch of Buddhism, a teacher I have great respect for and hope I have the opportunity to meet one day) and he outlined a story where he was overcome with thirst as he was traveling through a forest and several deities appeared to him and each gave him a can of coke. While, it’s very hard for a current pro-agnostic mind to relate to an incident like this, it makes it that much easier to bridge the gap when a teacher of his stature relates such an incident.

      On the issue of sects in Buddhism and sectarianism in religions in general, I was fortunate enough to see a sermon given by the Ven. Dhamma Sangha and where after 6 years of meditation he refers to all religions, the trinity (Hindu) and brings together many ideologies, albeit using only a few words, and encourages any who listens to his words to realize that all religions are the same. This comment struck me hard as I had come to the same view after studying Christianity and Islam.

      I was going through a paper on the reflections by the Ven. Bikkhu Sujato on the monastic discipline for Buddhist nuns the past two weeks and I was about to ask you your views on the Vinaya for female members of the order until I realized that Kadampa Buddhism keeps it simple. It makes sense since people who follow Buddhism, especially in the West, seem to have the right orientation, and rules are mostly needed by people who don’t have the right objective in mind.

      • Prominent figures become very important in stressing areas of learning that might otherwise not jump out of the text. I remember seeing one of Ven. Ajahn Brahm’s (the head of an Australian branch of Buddhism, a teacher I have great respect for and hope I have the opportunity to meet one day) and he outlined a story where he was overcome with thirst as he was traveling through a forest and several deities appeared to him and each gave him a can of coke. While, it’s very hard for a current pro-agnostic mind to relate to an incident like this, it makes it that much easier to bridge the gap when a teacher of his stature relates such an incident.

        So, your Coke dispensing dieties. I wonder if they ever read this article:

        http://colombiajournal.org/colombia73.htm

        Odd that such enlightened beings would be distributing the products of a corporation accused of assasinating union leaders. And wouldn’t water have been better? I work in the woods and know all about heat-stroke and dehydration. Soda pop isn’t really the best thing. And then, it was nice of your dieties to take care of this one man who was thirsting, but what about the thousands who have no clean drinking water, or no drinking water period who die of malnutrition and dehydration every year? Don’t you think your dieties priorities are rather fucked up? Deeply immoral, even?

        I would put to you that your teacher is either a manipulative liar, or insane.

        And all religioins are one? Satan worshipping is a religion. Throwing that into the mix? And it took your teacher six years of meditation to plop that cliche onto your lap? Profound wisdom indeed…

        • When you hear someone say that seven apparitions gave him a coke each in a deserted area, that event really takes the focus away from the beverage itself lol. About soda being an antidote for dehydration, well, I’ve been looking through quite a few stories/videos of people going without food and water for months.

          The actual physical matter wouldn’t really make a difference if the consciousness had an effect on physical matter. Take for example the uncertainty principle in quantum physics where the observer was originally considered an active participant in the experiement due to the weight observing carried in experiements done with particles.

          The reason for me to have stated that little story though is because Paul mentioned the paranormal, and that was as believable a paranormal activity as I’ve heard.

          On coke leaders involved in inhuman activities, any physical product you can see has been involved in inhuman activity on some level, be it causing suffering to another being or being the prop for future suffering of beings. It’s not possible to see how products affect others with any certainty, at least for me.

          I try not to engage in activities that I can see beyond a reasonable doubt as being inhuman or as an activity that will help some other being act inhumanly, but that’s because those activities make me feel bad. I didn’t reply to your comment earlier since it just seemed argumentative and pretty ill thought out, but yesterday’s comments were pretty good. Really identify with some of your experiences/process during meditation.

          • So, dieties distributing coke to a spiritual teacher who then used this story to back up his own metaphysics strikes you as a “believable” paranormal activity? Wow…

            Did the dieties purchase the coke, or just conjour it out of thin air? Do you have any response to the moral questions I brought up (why the dieties saw fit to give this man coke, and not some child in Africa dying of malnutrition or a disease contracted from unclean drinking water?)

            If you are willing to let the standards of physics be broken to justify the beliefs of YOUR “faith”(buddhism), would you be willing to do the same for the claims of other religions who tell just as outrageous stories on behalf of their god/gods/supernatural entities? That wafer really IS the body of Jesus. Jesus really DID raise the dead. Etc etc… Are you willing to do that? Where is the line drawn if you do not ask for physical proof? How do you know where to daw the line? What IS your standard of proof? Your own gullibilty?

            The point about the coke leaders murdering union leaders is that a DIETY SHOULD BE AWARE of the inhuman acitivity associated with a human product. They are dieties! Why then, if they can conjour or purchase anything, wouldn’t they just have given the man some spring water?

            Again, I think your teacher is a liar. A big one. Not very in tune with his Right Speech. Or thought. Or action.

            What, precisely, did you find ill thought out about my arguements? Why is it “arguementative”?

          • ** So, dieties distributing coke to a spiritual teacher who then used this story to back up his own metaphysics strikes you as a “believable” paranormal activity? Wow…

            – Refer to my comment in response to Paul. You seem to misunderstand what I said, as I never said that I believed this story, though I believe that it’s a possibility. Also, I have memories from when I was an infant, when I was within my mother’s womb, and a few interesting memories before that, so even though doubts remain, scenarios like these seem like a possibility

            ** Did the dieties purchase the coke, or just conjour it out of thin air? Do you have any response to the moral questions I brought up (why the dieties saw fit to give this man coke, and not some child in Africa dying of malnutrition or a disease contracted from unclean drinking water?)

            – The question about conjuring coke is repetitive since I already said that if the consciousness could control matter, it wouldn’t be a problem, this also circumvents the moral problem. If there were deities of the kind Ven. Ajahn was referring to, they would be interested in making positive karma, so helping someone with a higher mental state would make sense.

            ** If you are willing to let the standards of physics be broken to justify the beliefs of YOUR “faith”(buddhism), would you be willing to do the same for the claims of other religions who tell just as outrageous stories on behalf of their god/gods/supernatural entities? That wafer really IS the body of Jesus. Jesus really DID raise the dead. Etc etc… Are you willing to do that? Where is the line drawn if you do not ask for physical proof? How do you know where to daw the line? What IS your standard of proof? Your own gullibilty?

            – I never claimed to be a Buddhist, and I am currently reading the bible with the intent of understanding what the writer is trying to say, and you’d be surprised how similar some of the occult parts of Christianity and Buddhism are (not to mention Islam).

            With reference to the wafer being the body of Christ, physical objects that a person’s consciousness thinks is something else will help that person, especially if it is delivered to increase faith, and faith is an integral part of Christianity (as well as Buddhism), then it will have a positive impact on that person. On Christ raising the dead, if ‘consciousness’ or a ‘thought stream’ attaches itself to a body during the second trimester of the development of a fetus (Buddhism), then there is a probability that a person with a mind developed enough to alter matter (Jesus), is able to alter a dead body to attract the same ‘consciousness’ or ‘thought stream’. The consciousness or thought stream would reside in Purgatory (Christianity) or a similar plane of existence (Buddhism) after its original detachment from the body.

            I’ve never heard of ‘standards of physics’, but general ‘laws’ that are made to encompass variables that have been observed to the point until the law is theorized. This doesn’t exclude other outcomes depending on the number of additional variables you are looking at. And none of what I said are probabilities are crossed by physics, that’s why I referred to the uncertainty principle in quantum theory, but you must not have read that sentence (do you know what the ‘uncertainty principle’ is?). Btw, just as an intellectual activity…can you name a law in physics that any of the events above is breaking?

            ** The point about the coke leaders murdering union leaders is that a DIETY SHOULD BE AWARE of the inhuman acitivity associated with a human product. They are dieties! Why then, if they can conjour or purchase anything, wouldn’t they just have given the man some spring water?

            – Part of this question is also repetitive so please refer to my previous comment. To the additional comment on deities being omniscient, at least in Buddhism they aren’t referred to as such.

            ** Again, I think your teacher is a liar. A big one. Not very in tune with his Right Speech. Or thought. Or action.

            – Lol. Where did I state that he was my teacher? Anyway, since you brought it up, I did learn quite a bit from him when I was going over his discourses, so I guess he was my teacher at that point. You must know more than me about assessing people’s speech/actions etc., so I won’t comment on the last few sentences since that’s your opinion (quickly reached too since you haven’t really read what he’s written or heard him speak lol, but if it interests other less hasty readers of this comment, he’s the head of the Australian order of monks and has studied extensively in Thailand and Nepal).

            ** What, precisely, did you find ill thought out about my arguements? Why is it “arguementative”?

            – I find it argumentative when I respond to something and I get asked the same question and it’s clear that the person who commented hasn’t read my comment with the intent of understanding what I’m saying. Some of your comments are ill thought out as they exclude the possibility of an event happening or the existence of something without proof that they do not exist.

          • Briefly:

            You have memories of being in your mother’s womb and a few before that. You are the only person I know who has ever claimed that to me. I’ve met hundreds of people by now in my life, and no one has ever claimed that. You live in the east? Funny, here in the west there are all kinds of people who claim to have a “personal relationship” with Jesus. Cultural influences. I wonder if you’d be making such claims if you were born in Idaho.

            Your response to my moral queries is simply laughhable. Just pathetic. Kind of disturbing, really. Are you really saying these dieties could conjure coke cans out of thin air? I must be misunderstanding you. I must be…

            On christ raising the dead and the wafer. Again, just laughable. Faith is no virtue.

            Probabilities….I read your post carefully. I understand the uncertainty principle. I did not miss anything. Tell me, when was the last time the dieties handed you a coke? Or anyone you know besides this self-serving teacher or whatever he is? Again, (at the risk of being repetitive and arguementative…) where did this coke come from??????? If it came out of thin air, I’d say the laws of physics were slightly challenged. Citing the uncertainty priniciple to suggest this event is possible is ridiculous. Magical thinking. Please don’t try to dress it up as science.

            The dieties aren’t omniscient…no, they’re just incredibly stupid and thoughtless. Yeah, give the llama or whatever he is a coke. Kids with unhealthy drinking water? Naahhh….who ever said THEY needed some good karma….This is just pathetic. Glad to hear you’re studying the bible. You’re going to make an excellent christian apologist.

            The only judgements I am making about this teacher or whatever he is is based upon the story you realted to me. Period. And yes, based on that story, I will judge him as a liar. Head of the Australian order of monks? Hmmm… alot invested in his “faith”, no? Hence, the story. Christian priests do the same. They fall for their own bullshit so badly they can no longer see it’s bullshit.

            Arguementative…you get the same question asked becasue you did not answer it the first time. No problem, as I can now see you never will. It’s not that I lack the intent of understanding what you are saying, it’s that I reject it as credible.

            Yeah, my comments are ill thought out because I want evidence. My bad. You’re right, of course. The world is just full of dieties handing out treats, dead people coming to life, miracle cures, souls floating around in unseen spiritual realms, and people returning time and again to inhabit new bodies. Happens all the time. Silly me. Silly narrow minded loudmouth rigid thinking uncertainty principle probablitiy denying me. I’m such a fool…

            Ok. Lesson learned. I won’t ask again. This is just nonsense, like I said before. Truly, I am sorry and regretful I asked twice. This is worse than arguing with a christian apologist. We clearly live on different planets. Enjoy the bible. You’re going to love it, I can tell…You should check out this guy on You Tube called Father Barron. I bet he’s right up your alley.

          • Quite a lot of studies done on people claiming to remember past lives in the US as well (I don’t…I remember a less sentient existence among happier beings). I live in Sri Lanka.

            What I am saying is that it is a possibility that there could be deities that could alter matter.

            Faith is important in achieving any goal. For example, sometimes when I am meditating doubt sets in whether I am making any progress at all. ‘Faith’ is what keeps me going. There is absolutely nothing that I do not have doubt about (and I haven’t met anyone who was 100% sure of something without deluding themselves). If I didn’t have a certain amount of faith in a positive outcome, I would have given up meditation a long time ago.

            The coke would have come from altered matter. I guess if it were possible, it could have even been made from air. Once again, this is a possibility.

            According to Buddhism, the deities wouldn’t have given the coke to give the Ven. Ajahn good karma, it would have been to give themselves good karma.

            You seem like a spirited guy, but you need to increase your knowledge in quite a few areas. Why are you getting so agitated? Lol. I’m just relating my experiences and my world-view.

            And don’t take so much pride in your thoughts. They are things that come to you naturally without you having to do anything for them. It’s as silly as taking pride in the way you look. That way you’ll be able to look at things a little more objectively.

            Anyway check out the kid who meditated for 6 years straight (with a few breaks due to disturbances etc.) The Discovery channel even did a documentary on him. There’s a video of him meditating for 72 hours straight, and then they ran out of film or something like that:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04xxJgKr6vc&feature=related

          • A few articles to help you with understanding the non-constant nature of the universe. A lot stemmed from the work of the great Albert Einstein:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave%E2%80%93particle_duality
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copenhagen_interpretation
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photoelectric_effect

            These are wiki entries, but any book on quantum mechanics will give you additional details.

            More than enough empirical evidence for what used to be considered ‘paranormal’.

          • Quite a lot of studies done on people claiming to remember past lives in the US as well (I don’t…I remember a less sentient existence among happier beings). I live in Sri Lanka.

            Yes, “claiming”. No actual proof. Would these be the same people “claiming” to have seen Bigfoot, been abducted by aliens, travelled to other planets telepathically, seen ufo’s, had out-of-body experiences, seen ghosts, bent forks with their minds, etc?

            What I am saying is that it is a possibility that there could be deities that could alter matter.

            And what I am saying is that such a claim would require proof. Extraordinary proof, since it is such an extraordinary claim. Otherwise, it is the belief of the credulous.

            Faith is important in achieving any goal. For example, sometimes when I am meditating doubt sets in whether I am making any progress at all. ‘Faith’ is what keeps me going. There is absolutely nothing that I do not have doubt about (and I haven’t met anyone who was 100% sure of something without deluding themselves). If I didn’t have a certain amount of faith in a positive outcome, I would have given up meditation a long time ago.

            I know exactly what you are talking about in terms of doubt about making progress in meditation. However, my persistence has NOTHING to do with “faith.” I persist because I am able to discern a measurable (to me) improvement in my state of being due to the efforts of my practice. That is not “faith’, it is practical observation of effort versus results. If I could discern no change, I would drop the practice. Faith is nothing but an intellectual cop-out or an arguement from ignorance. I have no “faith” in anything.

            The coke would have come from altered matter. I guess if it were possible, it could have even been made from air. Once again, this is a possibility.

            If you live in a fairyland where anything is possible (at least in a mind lacking much in the way of skepticism or a healthy critical attitude), I guess so.

          • According to Buddhism, the deities wouldn’t have given the coke to give the Ven. Ajahn good karma, it would have been to give themselves good karma.

            According to which Buddhism. There are several competing schools. Some of which I bet would be on the floor in a fit of giggles over your assertions of what is possible. Interestin the Ven. Ajahn spared himself the inconvenience of having witnesses to this event. Again, the moral aspect of this is disturbing. Kids dying of unclean water versus this one dude in the forest who’s probably pretty well off. And they generate good karma for themselves by giving him the coke. Uh-huh. You truly cannot see how wrong this looks? All you can see is a bunch of dieties out for brownie points? Disturbing.

            You seem like a spirited guy, but you need to increase your knowledge in quite a few areas. Why are you getting so agitated? Lol. I’m just relating my experiences and my world-view.

            I won’t be taking any advice about my need to increase my knowledge in quite a few areas from someone who misuses scientific theory the way you do. I’m sure my general knowledge is as good as yours. To toot my own horn for a sec, it’s one of the things I get compliemted on most consistently. And how would you even be able to judge this based on a few blog posts? I’ll spare you the rant on why this gets me so agitated. I can’t at this point be bothered to spend the time explaining. Your worldview is one I am happy not to share.

          • And don’t take so much pride in your thoughts. They are things that come to you naturally without you having to do anything for them. It’s as silly as taking pride in the way you look. That way you’ll be able to look at things a little more objectively

            Who said I take pride in my thoughts. I simply value skepticism and critical reasoning. You should try it some time. By “objectively”, don’t you mean the way YOU see them? And you’re accusing ME of pride? And thoughts don’t just come naturally, not the content of them, anyway. That takes education, learning, effort. What makes you think your outlook is any more “objective” than mine?

          • Anyway check out the kid who meditated for 6 years straight (with a few breaks due to disturbances etc.) The Discovery channel even did a documentary on him. There’s a video of him meditating for 72 hours straight, and then they ran out of film or something like that:

            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=04xxJgKr6vc&feature=related

            Ok. There is a god. I was actually going to mention Buddha Boy in my last set of posts, and here you are sending it to me. However, I was going to mention it as an example of just how gullible people can be. You really believe this nonsense, don’t you? I’d like to see the whole 72 hours of tape, for starters. Then I would have a whole series of questions about purpose (besides his drivel about saving the world, I mean), drugs, profit etc. Ran out of film? Convenience, again…easily persuaded, aren’t we?

          • A few articles to help you with understanding the non-constant nature of the universe. A lot stemmed from the work of the great Albert Einstein:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave%E2%80%93particle_duality
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copenhagen_interpretation
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photoelectric_effect

            These are wiki entries, but any book on quantum mechanics will give you additional details.

            More than enough empirical evidence for what used to be considered ‘paranormal’.

            Why are you assuming I am not familiar with this material? Here a a few book I’ve read or listened to on mp3 lately:

            R. Rhodes – The Making of the Atomic Bomb (with LOTS of physics in it)
            R. Wright – The Evolution of God (not physics, but good for understanding how religion gets going and why people believe what isn’t factually true).
            Whitfield – A History of Science
            L. Krauss – A Universe from Nothing
            Richard Feynman – Selected Essays (ok, this one is a little light on the physics…)
            S. Hawking – The Grand Design

            And that’s just in the past couple of months.

            The difference between me and you isn’t knowledge. It’s that I try not to misapply it. (And maybe have a better understanding of what science can actually account for and explain than you seem to.)

    • The world has so much in it, that we can’t see at the moment. People get very attached to their own views, especially regarding the non-existence of deities. This view is wrong. Lots of beings exist, that at present, we can’t perceive. At the moment, our mind is like a window, but because of our impure mind, it is like the blind has been pulled down.

      People get very attached to their own views, especially regarding the existence of dieties. This is the wrong view. Especially since they can’t provide one shred of evidence for said existence, only offer up self-reinforcing (and self-flattering) statements about spooky knowledge and special powers of cooncentration the rest of us heathens lack. Which makes me want to side with the non-believers. And to that the rather dismal track record of dieties throughout history that are now, well…history.

  22. Elma :

    He wasn’t accusing you of lying. He was saddened by what Jun said, and said that he hoped that JUN was lying.

    Of course Buddhist traditions have people, who are corrupt. Why should the stupidity of others affect your in capacity to get rid of your own problems?

    Buddhism teahes the development of compassion and wisdom. our problems are then dissolved. This can only be done by us.

    • Hi Paul,

      Actually, if you study the Vinaya which deals with the guidelines for monks and nuns you soon see that the very light punishments you receive are actually only applicable if the perpetrator confesses to his/her transgressions from the Vinaya.

      It explains why it is so easy to get away transgressions in the order and why it is so easy for corrupt people who join for the wrong reasons to exist within the order. This same reason might also explain why the order has lasted 2,500 years!

      I read some of your earlier posts and they are very uplifting though you cover areas I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to venture into.

      You know you hear people saying that when you meditate you are actually helping the whole of humanity and you brush it off saying that that’s wishful thinking. But then you realize how helpful it is to see even a comment in as detached a setting as an internet forum and realize that you are directed in such a positive direction.

      May you achieve happiness and whatever goals you set yourself!

  23. My short reply is addressed to Sumedha, who is perhaps a crazy wisdom practitioner in that her/his first thought (worst thought) was that such a probably not uncommon occurance might be made up.

    • Sorry if I offended you as I meant no offense. I didn’t say that you were lying, but that I was hoping you were. I haven’t done much research about Buddhism in Japan and don’t have much interest in Mahayana Buddhism anyway.

      I live in Sri Lanka and I have associated with the Sangha here extensively. There is a lot of talk about paedophilia here etc. etc., but my experiences with the Sangha, while not as enlightening as I would wish, have been quite pleasant and profitable to me.

  24. Hi Brent,
    Thanks for posting back. I haven’t talked with anyone who had a (different) Shambhala psychotherapist than mine, though I know there are many out there and it is good to compare notes. I’ve read your back posts now and I find your situation moving and yourself very courageous: you are an independent thinker and trying to find a way to heal from your past trauma.
    From what you write I don’t think your Shambhala therapist was competent, especially if it led to your spending time at their retreat (since ethical therapists should not foist their personal religions or philosophies on their clients but should work in accord with recognized psychotherapeutic practices). It sounds like your other Shambhala “healers” were even more useless, however, since you got some benefit from meditation (but you shouldn’t spend a lot of money for a specialist to find that out). I really think if you finally decided you couldn’t really trust any of the Shambhala therapists that none of them was good for you: you certainly should be able to trust a therapist and get something of quality for your money. I hope you have gotten good (MD) medical help with the muscular pain.
    I’ve done a lot of research in the field of therapists who belong to cults and Shambhala in particular. Before I consulted this one (yes, a woman) I was ignorant of what any of that was about, though I knew quite a lot about Zen and had a favorable attitude toward it. If you are interested I will send you my reference list. A couple books I think you would get a lot out of if you haven’t discovered them already are The Guru Papers and The Passionate Mind Revisited by Joel Kramer and Diana Alstad. In addition to their overall critique of gurus they have a critique of the philosophy behind meditation (apart from its value as calming and relaxing), that is, the way it focuses on trying to break down or dissociate experience into illusory fragments rather than build and integrate in a whole gestalt. When people are fragmented they are more susceptible to indoctrination by cult leaders or others. This is way oversimplifying what they discuss. They are independent thinkers like you and have a website so you could download some of their interviews if interested.
    As for the “reality” of Shambhala on the ground as a cult movement I’d suggest, if you still have any interest in the subject and have to live with this group in Nova Scotia, reading The Other Side of Eden by John Steinbeck IV and Nancy Steinbeck. It’s interesting on a variety of subjects but very illuminating on Trungpa and his groupies, which they were.
    Given your traumatic background and PTSD I’d also recommend your reading something on the subject of trauma and dissociation and healing in that framework rather than via religion or crank therapists. The analyst who “got it” on trauma was Sandor Ferenczi. Jeffery Masson has written about the difference between Freud (who covered up abuse) and Ferenczi (who supported his patients’ real experience) in Assault on Truth. One book that I’ve recently found fascinating though highly technical is Dissociative Mind by Elizabeth Howell. A book that is worthwhile in general on trauma is Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery. A lot of the PTSD work is done with war veterans and victims of childhood sexual abuse but it pertains to any severe unusual damaging experience.
    No, I don’t live in Nova Scotia, though I have been there. I live in California. Tom Rich was Trungpa’s “regent,” the one who was supposed to fill in for him if he died and before his reincarnation showed up. However, the regent died first, of AIDS. In fact he gave it to some of his students after he knew he had it. I consider this murder. His excuse was that Trungpa told him he was so evolved he would not transmit it: in other words devotion to the leader absolved him. I think I heard about that excuse re Nuremburg but then things have deteriorated since those trials and people have used eating junk food as an excuse to get off of responsibility for murder. A group of the regent’s devotees hovered around him and have stayed on out here in California, and now they have joined the organization that has re-formed around one of Trungpa’s sons (not around his regent or reincarnation, mind you).
    Yes, my therapist was a woman and yes we both got PTSD and of course I don’t see her anymore. Among other things I think my talking with her was beginning to deprogram her (as often will happen with cultists when they get in serious contact with someone outside their group) and she began to disintegrate. She also was having a serious problem with another client that I didn’t know about. When she got paranoid about me and also began to lie and exhibit the type of character problems her “teachers” had then I got PTSD too as it mirrored some of my own early trauma.
    Since then I’ve questioned all Buddhism (are you aware that Shambhala/vajrayana is not at all like Mahayana such as Zen or hinayana/vipassana). Shambhala Buddhism really is more animism and magic and feudalism and considers itself beyond the simple do-good moralism of Zen, although recently they have attempted to co-opt a lot of the good stuff from Vietnamese Zen even though it is not compatible with Trungpa’s crazy wisdom ideas. Tibetan Buddhism in all varieties is very far from the teachings of the historic Buddha.
    I’d also recommend if you are interested in Buddhism in looking into the philosophy of Epicurus (Epicureanism). It was the dominant philosophy in the Ancient World before Christianity (which brought in eternal life, hard to fight that). Epicureanism like Buddhism is nontheistic, doesn’t believe in afterlife, and values enjoyment of life, friendship, and moderation as a way of living. This Western philosophy probably was highly influenced by contact with India. Epicureans gathered together in convivium groups of like-minded people, which is why people gather in Buddhist sanghas or in AA groups or bars or churches or Burning Man events.
    That’s all I have time for at the moment as I do have to work. I appreciate your taking time to write to me and I respect what you are doing for yourself and others (by sharing your thoughts and experience) and I wish you the best.
    Elma

    • Elma

      To clarify, none of the Shambala therapists I saw said I should go to the retreat. In fact, the first one I saw said bringing up Buddhism in therapy just didn’t work. When I asked the third one why he never brought up meditation before (after I’d been seeing him as part of group therapy or for my muscular pain for months) he said it was because most people he told about meditation tried it for a little bit and never pursued it further. I can’t remember now how exactly it got brought up. The reason I went on the retreat is because I was interested in learning more about meditation, and I went to the Shambala centre in Halifax (where I’d gotten the basic one hour starter instructions at a free session) and they put me in touch with this guy ( a long time Shambala member, but a layperson) who was living near where I live in rural Nova Scotia. It was him who told me about the retreat. I learned absolutely nothing of value about meditation there, but got a quick education on how ridiculous their beliefs were.

      The muscular pain is psychosomatic. Doctors can do nothing for it. I’ve tried everything. Meditation is the only thing that works, and it is working. You can send the reference list to brent.mosher@yahoo.com which is where maybe you should send any further emails, as this is probably all a bit off topic to the thread. Thanks. I’ll see about getting some of the books you mentioned next time I’m in the city.

      I do know about the whole Tom Rich scandal, but didn’t recognize the name as I only knew him by his Shambala name, which I can’t remember now. Yes, murder by AIDS. They tried to sweep it all under the rug. The guy who told me about the retreat was really upset about it, and broke off with the main group over it, to his credit, but still thinks Trungpa is some kind of genius and is totally brainwashed by Shambala. When I came back from the retreat and started voicing my doubts and had failed to “find joy” he said I probably hadn’t suffered enough. Uh-huh and goodbye…

      Anyway, thanks for the reply. Just use my email if you want to write back. I’ll probably post some general comments on here soon. I was posting for a while a couple of years ago. I haven’t got much time to read a lot about Buddhism. I did listen to some lectures by one teacher someone here recommended I listen to. And I’ve been reading the posts. There are some things I’d like to say about what I heard in the lectures and Coke distributing dieties, so maybe I will in a few days.

  25. Brent Mosher:

    I’m wondering how your psychotherapy is going? Your objections to Tibetan Buddhism are exactly the same as mine and I also had a Trungpa (and Tom Rich) devotee as a therapist. In the beginning I didn’t know what it entailed. It ended up pretty badly. She got PTSD when confronted with reality. She expressed no objection to lying (Antimoralism) and didnt hesitate to lie to me either. I also got PTSD! I reported on this at the International Cultic Studies Association meeting. I’m truly curious how you have fared in this.

    Another unbeliever…

    • Elma

      I haven’t been to a therapist for a few years now. The last one I saw (must be about five or six years now), who was part of Shambala, said the best thing I could do would be to go find someplace quiet and sit. So that’s what I did, and he was right. Meditation has been far more effective for me than therapy, and it’s free! I picked up a book on dealing with PTSD written by three doctors, and aside from the writing practices suggested (all rather useless to my thinking) the book was pretty much just meditation practiced repackaged as a psychotherapeutic treatment. So I threw the book in the fire (which is also where the Trungpa books wound up) and kept practicing.

      I don’t know who Tom Rich is. Are you from Halifax? When you say “she got PTSD when confronted with reality”, I’m not sure what you mean. Is “she” your therapist? Who was it? What happened? Do you mean you got PTSD from your therapy? Did you get involved with Shambala outside of your therapy?

      Briefly, I saw an acupuncturist recommended by a co-worker about 20 years ago who sensed I had a lot of issues. The acupuncture was completely ineffective (I now view acupuncture as a fraud, along with homeopathy and natural healing). He was a Shambala member, and worked at a clinic entirely staffed by Trungpa followers. He suggested I speak to one of their therapists, which I did for the next few months. He was ok, and did not bring up Shambala too much. I then left Halifax and saw a few regular psychiatrists. They were, without exception, truly awful.
      So I went back to the Shambala therapists. The first one I saw, looking back on it, was pretty ineffectual after the first few sessions where I think anyone half competent would have made progress with me, given the state I was in. After too many years of semi-regualar visits, I switched to another Shambala therapist (who was also a psychotherapist, but whom I’d initially seen about some muscular pain) and he was the one who suggested I try meditation. Which ended my interest in spending $100 per hour to see him anymore. I also saw a touch therapist a few times about the muscular problems I was having, and while the treatments were effective, the results didn’t last very long and I was back to square one within a few hours. She was also connected with Shambala. She once told me during a session that we “choose” our lives and thus should not complain about our pain. This did not sit well with me. She clearly meant we are reincarnated and our souls or whatever choose our sufferings. To me, this is delusional insanity. I also went to a group therapy session hosted by the two therapists from Shambala I had seen last.

      The Shambala trained therapists were better than the regular pyschiatrists I saw. However, I found therapy to be extremely slow and expensive. It also began to bother me, as I learned more about Shambala, that these seemingly intelligent men could believe such utter nonsense as espoused by Tibetan Buddhism, and be a devotee of such a shady character as Trungpa. They did not push their views, other than to occasionally use Buddhist doctrine and terminology to make a point as regards to how to best view a problem I was having. To provide a philosophical framework which they sincerely believed to be helpful. I didn’t mind this so much as the fact that sometimes their Buddhist filter was so thick they were not hearing what I was telling them. Though that seems to be a problem with professional people in general, who believe their education (in whatever field) has provided them with better insight into one’s problems than the person who is going through them. Their belief in reincarnation irked me as a preposterous belief for grown adults (though they said i didn’t have to believe in it to be a Buddhist).

      So, I can’t say I was traumatized by these therapists. In general, they were helpful, if expensive. I simply grew suspicious of their beliefs and adulation of Trungpa. I decided I could not really trust them. When I was turned on to meditation, I decided to pursue that instead. I have been thinking about seeing a therapist again. It won’t be someone from Shambala, but someone who appears to be progressive. Whether I will or not is still undecided, and whether she will be any good or not is also unknown.

      I hope that is helpful. I consider Shambala to be a cult overlayed upon, and a perversion of, Buddhist tradition. It is the only real life contact I have had with organized Buddhism, and realize it may be a poor representaive of Buddist traditions. From what I have read of Tibetan Buddhism, though, perversion and corruption seem to be the order of the day. The East’s version of the Catholic Church.

    • Are you serious? Am I misunderstanding you? Would a Japanese Buddhist priest who molested a 10 year old boy impede his enlightenment? I hope so. I would not want to be part of any moral universe/philosophy were that not true. This is akin to Christians who defend the actions of their muderous god. Can you condemn an athiest to eternal damnation for their lack of belief? I can’t. I think that makes me a better person than god. If a Buddhist is molesting someone, I certainly would hope it would affect his chances of enlightenment, if I believed there were such a thing, which I don’t.

        • All I can say is that I am far happier now without religion. “Enlightenment” is simply a religious ideal. The corruption of Buddhism in Japan made me sick to even be associated with such a set of beliefs and doctrines.

  26. RE: materialism among the Buddhist believers and the claim above that Buddhist monks try to renunciate worldly affairs. I found quite the opposite in Japan.

    The Buddhaspeak of the Japanese monks – (from my blog)

    When Japanese Buddhist priests talk among themselves in a situation which could be easily overheard, they use a coded slang system peppered with religious terms and boisterous x-rated slang that the uninitiated would have no idea of the meaning of. As it turns out, the slang of the Japanese clergy is the oldest form of slang spoken in Japan today.

    I found Buddhist slang to be the liveliest of the systems of Japanese slang in Japan, even more so than that used by the Yakuza.

    Full of cryptic religious metaphors and classical naughty puns, even experts of Japanese slang are left scratching their heads. Many terms are centuries old and taken from ancient Buddhist texts, designed to also have a religious meaning.

    It came as something of a shock to me when I started out in Japanese Buddhism that the various respected Buddhist sects have their own highly developed slang designed to disguise their materialistic ways. As Buddhists we were expected to renounce worldly ways and shun the pleasures of the world. Not so the Japanese!

    Everything from women and sex, to money and whoring. There are secret terms and codes for it all!

    Some of the more common slang terms I came across were:

    kishiko (place of truth) for toilet,

    moku (eyes) for money,

    ryõgyaku (spiritual globes) for testicles,

    nazu (caressing) for bondage,

    kotsuen hokki (sudden enlightenment) for erection,

    bodai no gokui (ultimate stage of enlightenment) for ejaculation,

    hibutsu (hidden Buddhas) for vagina,

    bonnon (Brahma’s voice) for screaming out during sex,

    koan (Buddhist riddles) for kissing,

    jõgyõ (pure practice) for sexual relations with only the one same male partner,

    and geten (non-Buddhist texts) for pornography.

    The Japanese priests penchant for little boys has a highly developed system of slang surrounding it too. I think there are probably more terms relating to sexual interactions with young boys than any other subject. Zennanshi (nice young boy) is the most common slang term for a Buddhist priest’s young male lover. A sexually active priest is called a zokubutsu (worldly Buddha) and he might take part in nembutsu, or chanting to the Buddha, (masterbation) with his young boys. A young boys penis wet with sperm is called a nurebotoke (wet Buddha). Jõdõ (entering the priests hall for a meal) means oral sex with a young boy. Then there is sandõ (three roads of transmigration) for oral, anal and masterbation with a young boy.

    The best one of all is when a priest is termed a bakebotoke (transformed Buddha). I used to think it had a true religious meaning until I learned that it mean’t a priest who wears women’s underwear under his robes or dresses in drag during his breaks!

  27. Chanaka: I agree totally. Too many people say that religion causes suffering. This isn’t true. Its our delusions that cause suffering.

    Depends on the Buddhist trading. But, there isn’t anything wrong with having expensive things. The object of renunciation, is attachment, not the external objects themselves.

    • Chanaka: I agree totally. Too many people say that religion causes suffering. This isn’t true. Its our delusions that cause suffering.

      Is belief in reincarnation and psychics a delusion?

      Depends on the Buddhist trading. But, there isn’t anything wrong with having expensive things. The object of renunciation, is attachment, not the external objects themselves.

      Whew! Donald Trump is breathing easier…

      • Belief in reincarnation isn’t a delusion, since we have all had inumerous past lives. They’re hidden from our experience, until we develop enough concentration, to access the very subtle mind. The usual story is that lots of people think this is wrong, because they have very little concentration ability.

        Same goes for psychics. Psychic awareness starts to appear when you feta tranquil abiding, a level of extremely strong concentration.

        Donald Trump: Depends on his mind. Not his belongings. I don’t think he’s Buddhist though.

        • Belief in reincarnation isn’t a delusion, since we have all had inumerous past lives. They’re hidden from our experience, until we develop enough concentration, to access the very subtle mind. The usual story is that lots of people think this is wrong, because they have very little concentration ability.

          Same goes for psychics. Psychic awareness starts to appear when you feta tranquil abiding, a level of extremely strong concentration.

          And your proof for any of this is what? You might as well be talking about angels. Or heaven. Or god. Or faeries in the garden. Of course most people don’t believe it becasue they “have very little concentration ability”. And you do, of course. Aren’t you and your fellow believers special. Paul, you have drunk the kool-aid…

  28. I agree that there are monks who uses Luxury cars. (but we do not know whether its a happy offering by a lay person) Buddhists monks try to renunciate worldly affairs. They find it easy to be simple with no expensive possessions. Is it bot the fault of Buddhism? NO. Is it Buddhism that causes them to behave so? It is like blaming Christianity for the Christian priests molesting children.

    Goal of a Buddhist is to be happy. It is Buddhists monks who seek Nirvana. Nirvana is seeing things as they are and it is not easy to do that. Because our mind is full of crap.

    • It is like blaming Christianity for the Christian priests molesting children.

      Actually, it’s pretty easy to blame Christianlity for for the priests who moest children. Christianity is a lie. There is, really, no such thing as “Christ”ianity since the whole story is a fabrication, as is the existence of a god. So, take a group of men, isolate them from the world, tell them sex is sin, offer no was for them to express their natural longings, fill them with nonsense about their moral virtue and serving god…yeah, that’s a good recipe for creating a monster. And then, for good measure, act REALLY SHOCKED when you find out! And like the same thing isn’t happening in Buddhist monasteries…

      Goal of a Buddhist is to be happy. It is Buddhists monks who seek Nirvana. Nirvana is seeing things as they are and it is not easy to do that. Because our mind is full of crap.

      Goal of a Buddhist is to be happy. Can we get a poll on that? Nirvana is seeing things as they are/ Again, can we get a poll? I’d like some clarification…

      Because our mind is full of crap. Do we have minds? I thought that waas open to debate amongst Buddhists? What is crap in the mind? Is reincarnation crap? How about Zen monks slapping their students around? Crap?

  29. Ed:

    If you see a Buddhist becoming angry, are you saying that the dharma is at fault?

    In what sense is the Tripitaka empty ideas? Are you making a reference to a lack of inherent existence?

  30. The Doctrines of Buddhism and Christianity are ideas and ideals.

    Watch those that profess this or that doctrine.
    Their life will be testimony to the value of what they practice.
    Note how they treat others and themselves.
    Listen how they speak about others and themselves.
    The Bible and The Tripitika are empty ideas.

    Just pay attention to the people embracing this or that “ism”.
    That will tell you all you need to know.

  31. I read your comments, and I was greatly impressed by the wise way you guys look at the world. Let me share some thoughts with you.

    I have been a Buddhist from childhood. After 28 years on this plannet I have not yet mastered the way to beat my ‘self’. my ‘self’ still likes tasty food, lazy living, pride and lust. I have read tonnes of books, listened to hundreds of Buddhist sermons in my country called Sri Lanka. But I very shamfully admit that I was forced on an education which nourished a ‘self’ in me. I was forced to earn money and do jobs which defined a ‘self’ in me. I joined temples and clans who meditate and are provided everything they need to keep their bodies alive. But still, such establishments are still corrrupt since the so called ‘guru’s are full of self in them. This is my criticism.

    The only positive in this journey is that is the despicability that I have towards everything I thought was good for me. My world became smaller and smaller. The more I live the more I realise the less I should live. And when I think that its all going to be over……. … I feel accomplishment, a happyness and a state of a cool mind.

    We Buddhist need a city of our own, away from the rat race of life for us to achieve nirvana when we dont have a proper leader to lead us.

    • Hi Daham,

      I am a Sri Lankan like you and I was at the Kanduboda meditation center for three weeks around 10 years ago. This place is excellent to gain deep insight into a Buddhist’s psyche. During your stay you will be following the 10 precepts and meditate up to 5 hours a day (vipassana).

      The rest of the time you will be practising less rigorous walking meditation etc.

      I am a little surprised to hear that you aren’t given an opportunity to practise Buddhist methodology to achieve Nirvana especially while staying in Sri Lanka. I have lived in quite a few countries and we are very lucky that our environment facilitates a Buddhist’s lifestyle.

      Feel free to e-mail me at crudhouse@yahoo.com if you need further assistance in pursuing your goal.

  32. Buddha:
    “This Dhamma that I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. But this generation delights in attachment, is excited by attachment, enjoys attachment. For a generation delighting in attachment, excited by attachment, enjoying attachment, this/that conditionality and dependent co-arising are hard to see. This state, too, is hard to see: the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding. And if I were to teach the Dhamma and if others would not understand me, that would be tiresome for me, troublesome for me.”

    Then the God Brahma Sahampati appeared to the Buddha and said:
    “Lord, let the Blessed One teach the Dhamma! Let the One-Well-Gone teach the Dhamma! There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.”
    Source: http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn06/sn06.001.than.html

    • “This Dhamma that I have attained is deep, hard to see, hard to realize, peaceful, refined, beyond the scope of conjecture, subtle, to-be-experienced by the wise. But this generation delights in attachment, is excited by attachment, enjoys attachment. For a generation delighting in attachment, excited by attachment, enjoying attachment, this/that conditionality and dependent co-arising are hard to see. This state, too, is hard to see: the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Unbinding. And if I were to teach the Dhamma and if others would not understand me, that would be tiresome for me, troublesome for me.”

      Then the God Brahma Sahampati appeared to the Buddha and said:
      “Lord, let the Blessed One teach the Dhamma! Let the One-Well-Gone teach the Dhamma! There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.”

      This all sounds like what the Christians say. Of course “this generation” delights in attachment…don’t they all. And of course “there will be those who will understand”…and aren’t you glad you’re part of the in-group?

  33. As per my understanding,
    Buddhism – the teachings of Buddha.

    Sects of Buddhism – vehicles for Buddhists to board on to travel the path.

    Buddhists – people who believed in Buddha.

    True Buddhists – people who practice the teachings of Buddha.

    All Buddhists agree that the Tipitaka as a collection of suttas from the Buddha’s time.

    Buddhist monastery rules were set by Buddha so that the Sangha community is in order and live in harmony.

    Buddhists take vows as an expression of dedication to practice Buddhism.

    Buddha is defined as ‘the awaken one’.

    Buddhists who believe in rebirth/reincarnation or not, does not help in attaining enlightenment (nirvana) and it does not defines a true Buddhist or not.

    Kalama sutta points the way to identify and reject corrupted teachings.

    Recitation of Buddha’s teachings were verified and organized into the Tipitaka. Like the Vedas, the suttas are clearly designed to be chanted. They are full of mnemonic devices – rhyming verses, repetitions, numbered lists, stereotyped phrases, etc. Even before the Buddha’s passing, monks and nuns would regularly chant the suttas in congregation. This made it difficult to add, delete or change anything once a sutta had been settled and committed to the memory of the monastic community.

    There are three types of Buddha:
    Sama-sam-buddha = One who rediscovers the teachings and teaches the masses as the historical Buddha did (Siddhattha Gotama). This is always misinterpret as only one Buddha in all of humanity.
    Paccekabuddha = A silent buddha. One who attains full enlightenment, but does not teach others.
    Arahant = Fully enlightened person, who might teach others, but not as the one who rediscovered the teachings, just as one who learned it from a current dispensation. Therefore, there are many Buddhas in humanity.

    • There are three types of Buddha:
      Sama-sam-buddha = One who rediscovers the teachings and teaches the masses as the historical Buddha did (Siddhattha Gotama). This is always misinterpret as only one Buddha in all of humanity.
      Paccekabuddha = A silent buddha. One who attains full enlightenment, but does not teach others.
      Arahant = Fully enlightened person, who might teach others, but not as the one who rediscovered the teachings, just as one who learned it from a current dispensation. Therefore, there are many Buddhas in humanity.

      Name one.

  34. Question, what does the fact that buddhists in japan are immoral have to do with me believing in the buddha’s teaching. I could care less what others that call themselves buddhists do. Buddhism is not about following a given set of rules, or anything like that, and anybody taking advantage of others is not a true buddhist. To Anybody that likes this article and agrees with it i have news for you: you are not criticizing buddhism in any way, you are criticizing organized religion. none of this has to do with the actual teaching of any buddhas.

    • Define “true Buddhist”. And explain how, if there is such a thing as a “true Buddhist” there needs to be over 400 sects of Buddhism. If there is a “true Buddhist(m)”, shouldn’t one be enough? Please give me one thing upon which all Buddhists are in agreement. If Buddhism is not about following any set of rules (or anything like that), why do Buddhist monasteries have so many? Why do they take vows? Define what a “buddha” is? Would you care to tell the “Buddhists” who believe in reincarnation that they are not true “Buddhists” because true “Buddhists” do not believe in reincarnation? Would you like to tell one of the sects who believe THEIR sect is uncorrupted, and that the other sects are not so pure theat thye in fact have got it all wrong and YOU represent TRUE Buddhism? How are the teachings of the “Buddhas” any different from those of any wise person who doesn’t need (or hasn’t had thrust upon them) the title of Buddha? If THE Buddha supposedly taught 80,000 (!) lessons, how does a Buddhist remember them all. What would be the point in giving out 80,000 instructions to people who have trouble remembering seven digit phone numbers? Was their only one Buddha? One Enlightened Being in all of humanity? Doesn’t that sound a little Christ-like to you? Rather suspicious? Are claims of the supernatural part of Buddhism or not (including the belief in a Undying Conciousness taht goes beyond the death of the physical body)? Is Buddhism anything more than a claim to follow the Four Fold whatever and the Eightfold this and that, which ANYONE can claim to be doing (and, y’know, since we’re all imperfect, failing at most of the time) without bothering to call themselves a Buddhist? These claims that we are only critizing “Buddhists” and not “Buddhism” is tiresome. Buddhism is what Buddhists make it…Buddha lived and died thousands of years ago, and no one has any more idea of who he was than we do Christ. Zen monks slap their students around if they aren’t paying enough attention…think Buddha would have approved? Careful now…a REAL Buddhist might be lurking out there who will disagree with your answer.

    • If “Buddhism is not about following a given set of rules, or anything like that” then how can you say for sure that “anybody taking advantage of others is not a true buddhist”? It seems to me rather suspiciously like “not taking advantage of others” is a rule you have set up in the name of “true buddhism”.

      Well, and obviously, the distinction of a “true” X versus a “non-true” X smells suspiciously like a No True Scotsman argument.

  35. then direct your criticism towards those..(tibetan and all the other sects) not to buddha’s teachings…)
    the cruades were done by christians..but nowhere has christ preached aggression..(I am not christian)

    buddhism is not a philosphy…it is “experiential” ….philosophy is the menu and not the food

    is it a religion ? depends where you are coming from..buddhism is buddhism.how you define it is your problem and is conceptual..

    buddhism has NO beliefs…none,buddhism neither asserts nor denies god…unlike theists and atheist
    (which really are 2 sides of the same coin..based on beliefs..oneBELIEVES there is god the other BELIEVES there is no god…of cousre neither one KNOWS..hence an excercise in total futility.

    no we don’t need a relgion…but we do need some spiritual maturity..

    buddhism,is not for everyone…it is for those,who wish to inquire into the “who/what” am I…

    guru ??? hinduism again.!!!
    here is what buddha said on this subject..
    “…Believe nothing merely because you have been told it. Do not believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the teacher(he included himself as well). But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find to be kind, conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all beings –……”
    NO followership !!!!~
    I think it was zen master Bassui who said “if you meet the buddha..kill him !!”

    I don’t adhere to any religion or sect…I am a scientist by profession…”To BE a buddhist” is a meaningless statement….I have yet to find something in buddhism that is worthy of criticism..but if I do..
    you can be rest assured,I’ll reap it apart and throw it in the garbage can ..no attachments!!!

    …Philosophy is always about and about and about,never hitting the target…one can talk about buddhism ,philosophise about it.for forever…but one will surely miss the target….

    • It is interesting to see how, in today’s rationalistic discourse, everybody tries to depict it as if everyone else were coming from belief, while the speaker doesn’t hold any beliefs at all. Regardless of whom you ask – it will always be THE OTHERS who are religious. Even radical fundamentalist christians will often chant the mantra “Christianity is not a religion – it is a personal relationship with christ”.

  36. reincarnation has nothing to do with buddha’s teachings..it is hinduism..
    who is this that is going to be reinacrnated ?inhinduism is tha atman (ultinmate self) in buddhism no such thing (anatman).

    buddhism has nothing to do with nihilism….and it is not the middle path eithert.
    it is about distinguishing “phenomenal” existence and” inherent ” existence..the latter as per quantum mechanics is impossible.(no absolute reality..only phenomenal rality !!)..which agrees perfectly with buddhism.

    to understand buddhism..take a course in quantum mechanics..all top notch physicists..A einstein,heisenberg,frijtof,dr.vuilleminet etc etc.. have praised buddhism…
    before spewing poison against buddhism…examine your understanding of buddhism..which is pathetic.

    buddhism is neither psychology nor philosophy…you can weave those around buddhism at your discretion. and peril…

    buddhism has no dogma unlike all other religions…it is waking up to one’s own reality..indeed not an easy task…

    ..albert einstein..probably smarter than you and I..had this to say

    “….
    Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: It transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural and the spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity.

    and:

    The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend personal God and avoid dogma and theology. Covering both the natural and the spiritual, it should be based on a religious sense arising from the experience of all things natural and spiritual as a meaningful unity. Buddhism answers this description. If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism
    albert einstein…not your averga joe

    • Zenner

      “reincarnation has nothing to do with buddha’s teachings..it is hinduism..
      who is this that is going to be reinacrnated ?inhinduism is tha atman (ultinmate self) in buddhism no such thing (anatman).”

      I would agree that reincarnation has nothing to do with buddha’s teachings. However, it has a lot to do with the teachings of many sects of buddhism, particularly tibetan buddhism.

      “buddhism has nothing to do with nihilism….and it is not the middle path eithert.
      it is about distinguishing “phenomenal” existence and” inherent ” existence..the latter as per quantum mechanics is impossible.(no absolute reality..only phenomenal rality !!)..which agrees perfectly with buddhism”

      As an atheist, I have no problem with accepting the priority of a phenomal reality over an inherent one.

      “to understand buddhism..take a course in quantum mechanics..all top notch physicists..A einstein,heisenberg,frijtof,dr.vuilleminet etc etc.. have praised buddhism…
      before spewing poison against buddhism…examine your understanding of buddhism..which is pathetic.”

      I would not “spew” “poison” against buddhism if it were not for the many buddhists who are “spewing” exactly what I/we critics are criticizing. Guru worship, institutional misogyny, magical beliefs, gods, animism, empty ritual, abduction of children believed to be reincarnated llamas, reincarnation of the self, theocratic authoritarianism, messianism, sexual abuse in the monasteries, etc. If my understanding of buddhism is pathetic, so is that of many of it’s practioners.

      “buddhism is neither psychology nor philosophy…you can weave those around buddhism at your discretion. and peril…”

      Funny, because many buddhists, in denying that buddhism is a religion, often defend it as a philosophy…but, what is this peril you speak of?

      “buddhism has no dogma unlike all other religions…it is waking up to one’s own reality..indeed not an easy task”

      Ideally, I suppose it wouldn’t have any dogma. The reality is far from that ideal however, and it is the business of those who would spew poison to point out buddhism failings on this mattter, rather than accept the dogma of defenders of the faith like yourself that buddhism, in the manner in which it is practiced by its various sects, has no dogma.

      “..albert einstein”

      Was right about many things, and wrong about others. What is “spiritual” supposed to mean. “Meaningful unity”? “Religious sense”?.

      “If there is any religion that could cope with modern scientific needs it would be Buddhism”

      Who says we need any religion at all? But then, buddhism isn’t a religion…so I guess Albert was wrong about that…

  37. Pingback:buddha (face)palm « Shut up and meditate

  38. ok… it’s time to make some clarifications…
    1Buddhism meditations lead to psicosis state (read integral journals of ken wilber)
    2Buddhism is a nihilist doctrine (read aurobindo’s texts)
    3Buddhism is against reality (non-ego culture)
    4Buddhism is not atheist
    5sam Harris philosophy is Buddhism based
    6Buddhism may stay out of atheism
    7Buddhism http://www.humanreligions.info/buddhism_criticism.html
    8Buddhism rivisitations like thanissaru bikku or sam harris or anyone else are only point of view..
    9the same dalai lama in an interview with “”pirgiorgio odifreddi” says that buddhism is not compatible with occidental ways…
    10 Is easy to harris (harris meditated so many years under the dzochen instructions) to take on buddhist points of view on reality
    11 sam harris books are full of incongruence on history of buddhism too
    12 please….please… take harris out of four horsemen…

  39. Hi Rachel,
    For any of your doubts on Karma, there is going to be talk by Thanissaro Bhikku in Redwood City, CA on April 30th 2011. He is a well known authority on the Theravada Scriptures. I think it would be great to listen to his interpretation of Karma and Causality. You can go to http://www.sati.org to look up the schedule.
    Thanks,
    Srini.

    • I didn’t read the writings on this guy’s website that you or someone else mentioned, as I don’t have the time (or much interest). But I did find some lectures of his in audiobook format that I was able to listen to. The guy knows his meditation, that’s for sure. But, after I’ve been dong this for 30 years, I’ll bet I could write a pretty good pamphlet, too.

      However, everytime he mentioned that “according to the Buddha…” I wanted to throw my laptop through the wall. And, I can’t give you a direct quote here as I’d have to go through hours of audio to find it and I don’t have the time, he brought up how we “choose” our suffering in our various lifetimes, and so I won’t be looking to this guy as my teacher. I doubt he is one bit wiser than I am. More experienced meditator to be sure, but not one I’d go to looking for advice on anything else.

  40. “The doctrine of karma, with its corollary belief in good and bad karmic retribution, tends to serve as a kind of moral justification for social inequality.” Keep that quote handy the next time someone accuses you of ignorance – a Zen priest ignorant of Buddhism?!?”

    Except karma has nothing to do with good or bad, it is about cause and effect. Good and bad is attributed by the observer.

    Also, Buddhism is idealistic? Doing what does no harm or the smallest harm does have effect on the world, even if in a tiny way. Any positive effect on the world is a success. So no, Buddhism is not too idealistic.

  41. Hi Brent, how’s it going? I thought i’d start rambling again. Hope everyone is groovy..

    “I will make one point about Trungpa and his followers. The people in Shambala in Halifax do not think they are in a personality cult. Quite the contrary: they are certain theirs is the most uncorrupted lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. ”

    Yeah, I do find that quite a lot. ‘Oh.. We’re the SPECIAL Dharma. Yes, we have the QUICK path to enlightenment. Don’t mix traditions, as you’ll get confused. etc etc.’ I think, trying not to mix and match can be wise, as each tradition has their own style. But, with regards to a lot of traditions claiming that they are the most un-corrupted path.. Well.. I just take it all with a pinch of salt. Whatever. I know, after 6 years of doing this, that, if my mind feels low, and irritated, or confused, or fearful, then there is something to work on and release. So, I feed all my shitness into renunciation.

    So, the majority of them followed their guru and rationalized his behaviour. Once when I was discussing Buddhism with my therapist, who was a Buddhist and follower of Trungpa, I suggested to him that maybe his devotion to Trungpa was as deluded a belief as any Christian notion of eternal life.

    Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug lineage lineage, wrote a text, advising on what qualitites to look for, when looking for a suitable teacher, or outer Guru. What I’ve found, is that if people have a connection with a teacher, and they can easily uncover this light, joyful mind, that has a faith in the teacher, then it all just works beautifully. The negative imprints within our minds get dissolved. I feel it when watching Lama Yeshe’s videos on Youtube. When you think of a teacher somebody that you naturally admire, without having to convince yourself, then it’s easy to receive blessings from Buddhas (they are everywhere).

    So, even though Chogyam Trungpa’s behaviour rised a lot of doubts, to some people, who naturally connected with his personality and energy, it didn’t matter. They made progress. I thnik that my point is that, even if one were to meet Buddha Shakyamuni himself, 2500 or so years ago, then, if one didn’t have that connection, and thought of him as just an ordinary bloke, then that person would not receive much benefit.

    Trungpa’s style was the ‘meeting of two minds’, where the student completely opens to a teacher. I’ve experienced this, as one of my friends is psychic, and can see in to people’s minds. When I did some work with her, in the form of ‘Emotional release therapy’, the more open i was and the more honest I was about my faults, – about the things that dragged me down, the easier it was to release these emotions. My friend could actually see, with her awareness, if I was spacing out, or covering it over, or actually going straight into the emotion. It’s changed my view too, about spirituality, especially regarding purification techniques.

    So, basically, the idea in Buddhism, is to find a teacher that you connect with, and just work on dropping all the ego shields, that we all carry around all the time. The more the shields drop, the easier things become, as we don’t have to hide from situations that make us uncomfortable anymore.

    “How does one know? How does any Buddhist know that their particular sect or school isn’t off the rails? ”

    I don’t think anyone can know the complete goings on behind the scenes. There’s bound to be negative goings on, as the organisations contain people, who aren’t enlightened. As long as the teachings are in accordance with the Dharma, why worry? As I said before, some people loved Trungpa, and, for them, his behaviour didn’t matter to them, as their faith in him was so strong.

    Remember, the core tenet of Mahayana Buddhism, is the lack of inherent existence of all things. What we see, and how we react to things, and how we connect to teachers, is totally down to us. If we find that a teacher doens’t do it for us, then change.

    “So, some of choose to just sit, and learn with an open mind, and look at institutionalized Buddhism with a wary and skeptical eye.”

    This is fair enough, but, too much skepticism just ends up getting ridgid and dull. It doesn’t move our minds to transend our ordinary appearances, and our delusions. Sometimes, I’ve found that, I have to just drop my skepticism, and rejoice in the teachers. That’s when I’ve had some lovely experiences, and my problems have just melted away.

    • So, even though Chogyam Trungpa’s behaviour raised a lot of doubts, to some people, who naturally connected with his personality and energy, it didn’t matter. They made progress. I thnik that my point is that, even if one were to meet Buddha Shakyamuni himself, 2500 or so years ago, then, if one didn’t have that connection, and thought of him as just an ordinary bloke, then that person would not receive much benefit.

      Yes, even though Trungpa set himself up as an “enlightened being” and held private audiences with his disciples where he basically told them what to do with their lives (in direct contradiction to his so-called “teachings” where he said it was wrong for any teacher to answer the big questions for any student), slept with his male disciples wives and encouraged his protege to carry on having sex even though he had AIDs…yeah, none of that really mattered, because his students “made progress” , whatever that means, and is pretty debatable, to say the least.

      Trungpa’s style was the ‘meeting of two minds’, where the student completely opens to a teacher. I’ve experienced this, as one of my friends is psychic, and can see in to people’s minds.

      REALLY?! Pyschic? You know, I think James Randi is offering a million dollars to anyone who can prove they have psychic abilities. Maybe your friend would like to cash in. You’ve also mentioned you know someone who is reincarnated. You have interesting friends. And you have reason to believe in reincarnation due to your ability to access subltle aspects of the mind or something like that. Aren’t you special, that you can access this “spooky knowledge”, while so many of us can’t. And isn’t it interesting that this special knowledge is how you justify your belief in reincarnation. And the difference between this line of reasoning and saying “god can do anything…I just know it.” is what, exactly? Seriously, Paul, what universe are you living in? Gullible, much?

      I don’t think anyone can know the complete goings on behind the scenes. There’s bound to be negative goings on, as the organisations contain people, who aren’t enlightened. As long as the teachings are in accordance with the Dharma, why worry? As I said before, some people loved Trungpa, and, for them, his behaviour didn’t matter to them, as their faith in him was so strong.

      Yeah, as long as the teachers get up there and talk the talk, who cares if they are raping 10 year old boys behind the altar. And if people love Trungpa, and are so lacking in critical thought as to be sucked in by his egotism and manipulations and don’t care about what a coke addled alcoholic amoral douchebag he was, as long as they had “faith” in him (ie. were so victimized by their own lives they were desperate for an answer, any answer, especially one handed to them so wouldn’t have to think) then that’s all that matters. Because surely, their “enlightenment” is just around the next corner…

      Remember, the core tenet of Mahayana Buddhism, is the lack of inherent existence of all things. What we see, and how we react to things, and how we connect to teachers, is totally down to us. If we find that a teacher doens’t do it for us, then change.

      Man, are you missing the point..

      This is fair enough, but, too much skepticism just ends up getting ridgid and dull. It doesn’t move our minds to transend our ordinary appearances, and our delusions. Sometimes, I’ve found that, I have to just drop my skepticism, and rejoice in the teachers. That’s when I’ve had some lovely experiences, and my problems have just melted away.

      Too much skepticism? I don’t think there is such a thing. How is thinking for yourself a problem? What is rigid and dull is letting others do your thinking for you. Your last two sentences woulds like what the Christians would say. Faith is blind! Faith is beyond reason! CChristians say their problems “just melt away” when they “accept Jesus”. Yeah, delusion is a strong narcotic…
      Rejoice in the teachers? Personality cult, anyone?

    • So, basically, the idea in Buddhism, is to find a teacher that you connect with, and just work on dropping all the ego shields, that we all carry around all the time. The more the shields drop, the easier things become, as we don’t have to hide from situations that make us uncomfortable anymore.

      Ummm, except I could say the same thing about ANY realtionship.

  42. Paul, Srini,Riglin, Rachel and everybody

    I’ve been reading over the recent posts both on this page and the End of Buddhist Spirituality page. Lots to digest. Thanks, Srini, for the articles. That’s a lot of reading and I’ve only been able to quickly peruse a few of them. I see Rachel is busy with school, and I haven’t had time either to get to the readings I was planning on doing, including Srini’s list. Paul, I’m sorry, but I’m going to postpone a reply to your posts for a while longer. I feel like I’ve plateaued, and while I have a few points to make, I think it would be more prudent to wait til I’ve digested the readings more.

    When is this fall break Srini spoke of? It would be helpful if I had a deadline.

    I will make one point about Trungpa and his followers. The people in Shambala in Halifax do not think they are in a personality cult. Quite the contrary: they are certain theirs is the most uncorrupted lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. So, the majority of them followed their guru and rationalized his behaviour. Once when I was discussing Buddhism with my therapist, who was a Buddhist and follower of Trungpa, I suggested to him that maybe his devotion to Trungpa was as deluded a belief as any Christian notion of eternal life. How does one know? How does any Buddhist know that their particular sect or school isn’t off the rails? Buddha rejected all the schools, didn’t he? I don’t think, maybe, it’s so much about wanting to reinvent the wheel, as realizing that the wheel seems to continually fall into corrupt hands. So, some of choose to just sit, and learn with an open mind, and look at institutionalized Buddhism with a wary and skeptical eye.

  43. I want to first apologise for jumping in on your forum without having even introduced myself. I am an Australian living in Japan and have been practicing Buddhism and studying it’s history for a little over 20 years now. I began my practice of Buddhism in the Shingon school (vajrayana) and then took up Zen (Soto school). I began my practice in Australia under Japanese teachers – and it was with a “Western” point of view that my teachers passed on their knowledge.

    I haven’t had enough time to read all of the above posts thoroughly, so I must apologise if anything I say is already posted above. Also I have only a little time on my hands to bash out this post, so please forgive my brevity.

    The first thing I want to state is that Buddhism in Japan is a sham. Buddhism in Japan is a funeral business run by families who have been handing down the funeral business since the early Edo period (1600-1868). Each Buddhist temple here belongs to the monk who resides in a house attached to the temple. There are no student monks or homeless people living in the temples as in other Asian countries. There are no monks in training and there are no meditation classes. In order to learn Buddhism here in Japan you must be born into a Buddhist temple family.

    People in Japan attend Buddhist temples for only two reasons – to pray to Buddha for something they may want (amulets and magical talismans blessed by the monks are sold for many prayers) and to attend funerals.

    Monks are paid enormous amounts of money to recite the Buddhist funeral rites and to ensure that the souls of the dead pass over into heaven (monks have cars and big houses and huge families). ALL the various sects here believe that when a person dies, their soul goes to heaven or waits to be reborn. Dosen’t sound like what is written in English books on Japanese Buddhism does it? You’re right, what is written in English books is Westernised and modernised Buddhism. That is a secular Buddhism devoid of all the intense ritual and magical stuff that goes on here.

    Buddhism here requires that one believe in souls and ghosts (that pay a visit on a specific time of the year) and that the Buddha watches over all that you do.

    Just quickly, in regards to karma, the Japanese believe in the Hindu version of Karma (many Buddhists the world over do, as Brahmin teachings entered Buddhism during the great Mahayana schism). They believe that your suffering now is caused by something you have done wrong in a previous life and also that your relatives may affect your karma. A point in case, I look after disabled children: it is the belief of most Japanese (yes, Buddhist monks too) that these disabled people are paying for misdeeds in a previous life.

    These beliefs, this form of Buddhism, has been this way since Buddhism was introduced here in the 8th century – so the Japanese don’t understand any other way. Buddhism is a big business that rakes in hundreds of thousands of dollars a year. The biggest land owners are the monks who own the temples with enough land for the graves.

    • Hearing the situations of Buddhism in Japan makes me sad because Buddhism has so much to offer if only people are guided the correct path. Those who want to learn authentic Buddhism should know English and Chinese , it’s great if supplement by Tibetan too. It depends on what systems you want to follow . Buddha teach each person according to their own mental capacity. For those who gone boring about karma , he would use different teachings like the ultimate states of matter eg abidharma , for those who are weak in analytic minds he would teach about karma , gods , ghost , hell and heavens. I got alot to share but it’s too long to put it here . For those who need any info on Buddhism please don’t hesitate to email me – kengwongx@gmail.com . Thank you .

      Btw , why there are so many bad things happened to Buddhism now , is because the Buddha had gone and now is what is called dharma ending age where Buddhas teachings is weak in quality and people getting enlighten is very very rare .

  44. Srini

    Thank you for your comments and suggested articles. I will get around to reading them (the articles) sometime soon, I hope. I will respond when I have more time than I do now.

    Brent

  45. Paul and Srini

    Paul, I watched most of those two videos you recommended. Are you kidding? Do you think they help your case? That first guy was just condescending. The second guy a trite bore. I heard the same drivel at the retreat. Buddhist doctrine says humans are special, animals can never do what we do, etc…humans are animals, and different animals possess unique skills and modes of intelligence. We can learn plenty from them. We are not special. And what is the point of even bringing this up? Cats are cats, armidillos are armidillos. What is the point in flattering ourselves? Because rebirth as a human is rare and special? Please.

    Srini, I read the article you recommended. I found it difficult to get through. The message it contains is not unique to Buddhism.
    It is fine wisdom. I decided in grade 12 I wasn’t interested in making a ton of money and being popular. I didn’t need a monk to tell me. I had this friend who became a Christian. He was suddenly filled with wisdom and insight about the human condition and what was wrong with us. And the solutions, he concluded, could all be found in the word of Christ. Trouble was, he wasn’t saying anything new. He had just deluded himself into believing that only through Christ could one discover and understand these truths. Ditto for the Buddhists. Lots of wisdom in Buddhism. You don’t have a monopoly on one shred of it, though.

    Longer response coming soon, I hope, to Paul’s reply.

    • I know there is more to making money and counting the number of friends I have, so I’ll skip the reading. No need for a word by word rebuttal either! Approaches to conversion are exactly the things that totally turn me off from Buddhism (along the “you are just not understanding it right, otherwise you’d be a Buddhist, so go read these 10 books and then you’ll get it” line).

      • Hi Rachel,

        My opinion is that discussions are not very productive in writing. One can easily turn off the other person by poor writing. And I see that poor writing skills are more common than poor talking skills.And that is how I turned you off.I don’t want to be an Evangelist, but from your blog it is clear that you are open to opinions. So I was trying to provide more information. And I wanted to provide the information written by a person who is actually following what he is saying.

        Srini.

        • Thanks, Srini, for the clarification! What I would have preferred to read would be something like “if you’re interested in more details on xyz, you might want to read abc” – the abc would, obviously, be the reference and the xyz would be a little summary of why you think it would be worthwhile for me to read it, more than just what you put, maybe something that I or Brent wrote specifically that made you think we might be interested in that article.

          • Hi Rachel,
            I think what you said is exactly right. I will definitely do it from now on.
            Srini.

        • Srini

          I agree with your observations about online discussions. I’ve read over some of my posts and cringe at some of my sentences and wonder “what the hell was I trying to get at there…”

          Still, it is a useful way to clarify one’s own thinking, warts and all…

          I read the article you recommended in the spirit you indicated; that you were trying to provide information about Buddhism from an informed source and practitioner. It’s wonderful wisdom. And meditation is probably the most efficient means by which this wisdom can be realized. It is my opinion however, based on observation, that Buddhism as an organized religion is deeply corrupt and chock full of useless and indeed harmful doctrine and personages. I offer you Chogyam Trungpa. Belligerent drunkard, womanizer, materialist, spend-thrift. Hero to thousands…living embodiment of Crazy Wisdom…

          That’s all for now. It’s after midnight here and my head hurts for sleep. I’m going to say something I’ll regret in the morning if I don’t shut up now.

          Peace out

          • Hi Rachel and Brent,
            I was trying to post a few points here but some how the comments are not going through. So let me try to post them a little at a time.
            I get the feeling that your understanding of Buddhism is way different from my understanding. Following are some of my opinions. You can further read up at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/

            1. Buddhism: Everything in this world is subject to change. So investing our hard work in such things is not very wise. So it is better to put all the effort into achieving something that is beyond change. This thinking may not strike to be radically different from the concept of heaven in other religions but this is different. While Heaven is only like earth but only better. But Nirvana is totally different from earthly pleasures. But it cannot described either. You might say why? It is because how do you describe what a taste called “sweet” is to a person who never tasted anything sweet in his life.
            The following article which I quoted earlier throws some light on it.
            http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/change.html

          • Continued…
            2. Science and Buddhism: Science and Buddhism deal with two different kinds of truths. Science deals with a kind that are observable on the outside. So these proofs can be shared. Buddhism deals with the truths of mental states. These kind of truths cannot be shown to others. If a man says that he is happy, there is no easy way to verify it. Though there are some brain scan techniques, critics could always claim that subject is cheating the machine. So you have to take his word for it. So Buddhism requires Integrity and Faith. A Guru with Integrity can generate Faith in his students. But Integrity is not something that can be judged in one meeting. It requires constant observance by the student. Faith is required for the student because it gives him the required confidence to work hard. The following two articles can provide more insight.
            http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/authenticity.html
            http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/faithinawakening.html

            3. Organized Religion: Organized Religion is like Scientific Community. But as I stated above these two communities deal with two different kind of truths. The Scientific Community can always be scrutinized based on the proofs they provide but Religion needs Integrity. That is the reason why cheating has higher probability in Religion. But rejecting Organized Religion is like eliminating all the knives in the world because someone used them to kill people. Some people might put it to bad use but you should remember that it could also be put to good use. Ofcourse there have always people (Jiddu Krishnamurti is a great example)revolted against this way of reaching truth. But how wise is it to reinvent the wheel?

          • 4. Suffering and Karma: Buddhist teachings don’t neglect anyone’s suffering. Buddhism never said that it if a husband beats his wife, it is the wife’s fate because she did some bad Karma. Instead it said that the man is not being a good husband. It said lay people should work hard to earn money and take care of parents and family. Anyway, a person living in the richest of the countries, under the best government with the best medical care still cannot overcome suffering until he deals with his brain.

            http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/lifeisnt.html
            http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/karma.html

          • 5. Nirvana: I don’t know where Vixen got his definition of Nirvana from but sounds more like the Hindu concept than the Buddhist. And also Rachel, unlike what you wrote, Nirvana is definitely a goal. If Buddha didn’t have why did he leave palace, go about from teacher to teacher, what was he trying to do? The goal is perfect happiness.

            http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/notself2.html

            http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/nirvanaverb.html

            Srini.

            End

          • Brent,

            And this fellow called Chogyam Trungpa broke the basic Five Precepts and people still believed in him. So whose fault is it? Is it the believers’ or Trungpa’s.
            If a President of USA keeps controlling the Press but still says he is abiding by the Constitution, then the citizens need to bring him down. If they don’t do it then it is their mistake. You cannot say that the Constitution is bad. The constitution gave us some rights and responsibilities and we didn’t care about either one of those. Buddha gave some basic principles and some people don’t follow those and still call themselves Buddhists.

            I looked up online about this guy and there definitely are people who excuse him saying, who is perfect. How lame is that? If my math teacher is a spend thrift I wouldn’t be worried about that because that wouldn’t prevent him from being a smart teacher. But if he can’t tell what 2+2 is, then I am definitely NOT going to be his student because that is the minimum I expect from him. And also if comes drunk to the class he is going to do a mistake some day or the other and I wouldn’t be his student.

            Above all I guess some common sense helps!

            Srini.

  46. Ummm, yes, it is. The articles are very critical of Tibetan Buddhism, but there are also some critical of Buddhism in general. Quite a broad range of subjects.

  47. I am also reading Stephen Batchelor’s new book Confessions of a Buddhist Atheist, which is full of a critical take of Tibetan Buddhism. I am proud that some of those criticisms are very similar to some stuff I’ve written – maybe I am not that far off after all. And in contrast to me, the criticism that Batchelor doesn’t know what he’s talking about can’t be leveled: He was a Tibetan Buddhist monk, after all.

  48. Is that the site from a German couple?

    Sorry, I have the power to edit comments, so I’ll add my own answer: Yes, it is. I have perused it but not really thoroughly. To me the fact that the head of a patriarchal religion is also a head of state was already turn-off enough from Tibetan Buddhism.

  49. Paul

    Regrets for not getting back to you. A couple of things going on in my life have taken priority. Thanks for taking the time to respond.

    That Shut Up and Meditate fellow who has posted above has written a blog about this issue based on what Rachel said. He’s articulated the issue quite thoughtfully. The blog is headed Middle Class Revolt, and well the link is right above.

    I had a similar experience to Rachel at the retreat. At the very end, we were informed it was customary to make a donation to the teachers. Yes, it is voluntary. Yes, we can all say no. Then again, they could mention this in their promotional material so it isn’t a big surprise, which it was. And I’m poor. And it’s awkward to say no. But yes, I could have. They said this was part of Buddhist tradition, where teachers are made offerings from their students. This was Shambala.

    My friend who was in the East said some of the monks there ride around in limos. Pretty tacky considering the poverty. It’s a minor quibble, I suppose, but it’s there. Shambala does provide a free introduction to meditation session once a week where you are given the basic How-To lesson and a talk afterward. It’s absolutely free. Tea and cookies afterward.

    Trungpa apparently made a concious decision in the 70’s to encourage his Western students to engage in the world through fruitful employment. He was apparently not impressed with the hippie ethic. When the Buddhists arrived here in Nova Scotia they started buying up property in Halifax and actually created a bit of a localised housing bubble. Many of the Buddhists in Halifax are professionals living in the more expensive neighbourhoods. All economic classes probably have some representation, but it is diffently a predominantly middle-class, upper-middle class movement. The temple is in a pricey neighborhood, also. Trungpa’s materialistic excesses are known. If you ever see a picture of him, check out the watch on his wrist.

    Finally, one Buddhist therapist I was seeing told me that the world is filled with abundance. (I’m poor, I was agonizing over spending a few hundred dollars on a futon). I later saw he pretty much pulled this notion of abundance out of one of Trungpa’s book. It’s a nice thought, but not very realistic. For the poor, the world is not filled with abundance. The therapist, who was making $70-90 per hour, had green leather furniture in his house. So…Well, those who have are free to spend their money as they choose…but given the state of the world, I think any notions of an abundant and providing universe needs some rethink. Hmmm, many Buddhists are probably liberal and concerned about the enviroment…
    so, it’s back to that old contradiction of well-memaning liberals who are concerned about the enviroment, but still want to fly to Switzeralnd for their vacations…

  50. The organization is Spirit Rock, a very well respected community founded by, among others, Jack Kornfield. Yes, the donation system is set up to allow people to give what they feel is right. However, how many people have you seen going back to the bowl to take their money out? I did not have full information when I was asked to make a donation.

  51. “Thanks, Brent! Maybe there were no responses because people realized that you made some really good points and didn’t know how to respond 😉 .”

    I’m not sure what the point of this sentence is?!

    I was turned off from Buddhism when I was asked to make donations to teachers who drove more expensive cars and lived in more expensive areas than I could afford – and all that without any indication of awareness on their part how offensive that is… I was outraged by a teachers lament that if they were to only teach Buddhism they couldn’t afford an upper-middle class lifestyle… Hats off to you for living your path!

    Which organisation was that then? Sounds ridiculous! If there is a donation system, isn’t it up to the individual, what donation they give?

  52. Riglin

    Thanks for the post. Yes, things can get misinterpeted and taken the wrong way on the net pretty easily. No face to face connection or body language and the rest of it. I had regrets about telling you off like that, and wondered if maybe English wasn’t your first language or something. And I’m probably a little defensive about having Buddhists throw doctrine at me. As Paul said, YAWN…So, thanks for the four points about meditation, and yes, I think I’m going in the right direction. So, lets say we both got off on the wrong foot and start again.

    What, according to Buddhism, is Right View, then? (Actually I looked it up again after reading your initial post, but I’d like to hear a fresh interpretation.) And, for the sake of this “debate”, would you say it is unique to Buddhism?

    Your Atheist Internet Buddy, Brent

  53. Pingback:middle class revolt « Shut up and meditate

  54. Brent,

    Making progress in your sitting meditation is wonderful. I wish you all the best. Buddha did mention the way to check whether if we have made any progress in our meditation.
    “There are four criteria that can be used to assess what the Buddha called ‘progress, growth and furtherance’ (vuddham, virulhim, vepullam) in meditation. If (1) you are generally happier than before you started meditating, (2) if you notice an increase in positive and a decrease in negative qualities within yourself, (3) if you are more relaxed and open and (4) if you are able to be more objective about yourself, these are good indicators that your meditation is going the way it should.” (http://sdhammika.blogspot.com/2010/08/progress-in-meditation.html)

    Whether you accept the Noble Eightfold Path or not, I think you will agree that having right view is an important aspect in our cultivation. I’m not good at expressing my views in words so please forgive me if I sounded like a fundy, superior and offensive.

    Sorry, I can’t write more now, maybe later.

  55. Your position on meating makes sense if you believe in karma. I don’t. And yes, lots of non-Buddhists
    don’t care about the suffering of animals. Lots do. And lots of Buddhists use karma as a way to rationalize their meat-eating, in my opinion. Shortly after I had this conversation, I heard on the news about this Buddhist monastery on Indonesia where they had tigers on the compound, just walking around. They had some medical problem with some of them and brought in an American vet to look them over. When she got there, she was impressed. She thought the Buddhissts were owrking their lovingkindness mojo on the tigers, and that’s why they were so peaceful. Til the dayy she turned a corner and saw a bunch of monks wailing on one of the cubs. Peaceful submissiveness explained. Apparently the monks were also selling the tigers on the black market. So, waht good did all their mumbo-jumbo do them, these Buddhists?

    Yeah, this is sad. Of course. Does this mean that meditating on loving kindness fails everyone permanently? Does it mean that situations and people and states of mind can never be changed? Of course not. There have been stories of monks visiting Go Go bars, in Thailand, and getting women. They’re breaking their vows then.

    I work in the woods and live in a cabin. When I was a young teenager, I used to shoot frogs with a pellet gun at the lake. One day I stopped. No one told me to. It just felt wrong. Today, I murder every deer fly I can. I help ants out of the sink. I wept over a baby bird I killed when I accidently knocked it out of it’s nest. I helped a redneck slaughter his chickens by holding them down on the block while he swung the axe. I saved the life of a turtle stuck on it’s back by flipping it over with a broom. I never once worried about my karma. People are capable of great cruelty, and great compassion. All of us, Buddhists or no, and I can’t see that it makes any difference what faith or lack of faith you subscribe to.

    Well, the basic Buddhist view is to act as though karma exists, and gradually experience the effects of that practice. Initially, whether one believes in karma or not. But, we’re all completely free to make up our own minds.

    And, I heard quite a bit about the favoured rebirth of being human. I don’t know. Dolphins seem pretty smart. Whales. Maybe they could teach us a thing or two…so what’s so special about us.

    Humans have the potential to train their mind, to get rid of the crap. Animals can’t do this. The dominating state of mind of most animals, is fear. Humans have the potential to let go of fear, and to develop their mind.

  56. “I am prone to think that loving and compassionate people are less self-grasping. Kind of a package deal. I see no need to make rigid formulas about it. And while there is wisdom in this insight, it is not exclusively Buddhist wisdom, which is my point. ”

    That’s right. The concept of self grasping wasn’t invented by Buddhists. It’s just another phenomenon, which exists. We all know this. When we’re angry, depressed, jealous, lustful, embarrassed, frightened, whatever, our self-grasping increases. Many traditions over the globe draw on this, and teach ways to reduce self-grasping, which is where the shit comes from. In Buddhism, this appears as the second noble truth.

    “If you haven’t encountered the four noble truths outside Buddhism, you can’t be looking very hard. They may not be formulated in the same way, but they are there. ”

    Maybe they do exist in different guises out there. I really don’t know.

    “Any B-grade Hollywood film where the selfish businessman’s greed leads to his downfall while the humble hero wins the day covers the ground about self-grasping. ”

    Yeah, that’s self-grasping alright, but it doesn’t explain the 4 noble truths entirely.

    “It’s a Wonderful Life. Descriptions of estactic experiences abound in western literature, philosophy and religion. I believe everyone intuits that there suffering can end, or lessen. How to get there is another matter. It is not a particularly profound insight to say it is possible. ”

    The suffering in this life, yes. The first noble truth, though, is that one must be aware that there is suffering in this life and in future lives. From the point of view of the second noble truth, it is the suffering of future lives that is more important, as it states that future lives are many.

    “I imagine there are a lot of Buddhists who pull the wool over their own eyes despite their ability to recite the four noble truths. ”

    Yep, Buddhists are just people. Generally, we’re all pulling the wool over our eyes, in this context. Reading it is one thing, realizing it is another. Some understand the noble truths, some don’t. Some gain realizations of it, some don’t.

    “Four truths or no, if you want to change, and are willing to sit through the agony of self-confrontation, you will change. And so yes, I think the Buddhists are presumptuous. I will modify my remark slightly, and say that some of them are also arrogant.”

    Some of them are arrogant, some aren’t. Looking at your *own* faults, and no longer judging others, but sincerely loving them, is the way to go. Judging others, in my experience gets absolutely nowhere.

  57. Reply to Brent..

    “Yes, neurosis can lessen with time. Meditation can help immensely. But you don’t have to be a Buddhist. You have to want to change. The point I am making is that Buddhism, to my mind, seems to concern itself with matters that don’t seem that important (chanting/ceremony/hero-worship), or are rather unbelievable(reincarnation). These would seem to impede, rather than accelrate, the desired outcome.”

    That’s an interesting point. Certainly, you don’t have to be Buddhist to meditate. About chanting.. I personally find it very powerful, and have had experiences with it. I actually love it, and incorporate it into my daily practice. Horses for courses, again.. The way I understand it, conventionally, is that, if someone reaches a liberated state, and then transmits a mantra, then when another person chants that mantra, with concentration, and a altruistic motivation, they connect with the mind of the originator. This is just my personal experience of it. But, again, one can’t really prove it to anyone else, as it’s experiential, and common only to that person’s mind.

    Guru devotion, I’ve had the same experiences with. When I engage in these practices, like the well known Je Tsongkhapa sadhana, it helps my practice immensely. I can’t describe on here what it’s like. But, the effect develops and heightens with time, which is why I continue doing it. Part of Guru devotion, is rejoicing in the good qualities of a Buddha, and prostration. When I do these, I can actually feel the negative energies within my mind being destroyed. But, again, I couldn’t possibly relay that feeling to someone else. When the mind becomes so subtle, that these beings (and others) start appearing, after a while, it becomes ordinary.

    Does reincarnation exist? Do we really have a very subtle mind (or whatever word you want to label it as), that continues, after the death of the body, into the next life? Again, most of us would say no, because we’re not aware of it. I can only go with my own personal experience. It’s a hidden thing, that many people have said that can be accessed through concentration. Again, I have my own views, and have had my own experiences of it, which can’t be transferred to someone else.

    “Yes, it is great there are so many different types of paths. But it was a Buddhist who told me my atheism was insane. It was a Buddhist who told me I wasn’t serious enough because I didn’t meet his expectations. It was a Buddhist who told me I haven’t suffered enough. It was a Buddhist who said westerners were considered barbarians by the east. ”

    That particular Buddhist, that told you those things, would still have his own crap to deal with. The Buddha did say that, if the ego gets hold of the teachings, then they can be used to cause harm to others. So many people start judging others when they pick up these practices. After a while, one reaches the level of pride, which is a higher energy state than fear and hatred. It’s an obstacle, that eventually gets surpassed. After pride is acceptance of everything how it is. Then, there’s unconditional love for everything. So, I wouldn’t take what people say too seriously, Buddhist or not. He may have regretted what he said later, or his approach may be different when his mind loosens up a bit later on. That’s what the Kalama Sutre is about: Not believing anything anyone tells you, but examining it for oneself.

    “2Buddhism would seem to create the same chauvisnism Christianity does. You may decry it as un-Buddhist, but it happens. ”

    Of course it does, Buddhism is practiced by people, who have vastly different minds. There’s gonna be cheuvanistic Buddhists, and non-chauvanistic ones too! At the end of the day, it’s MY practice that’s important. If teachers say stupid things, or things that I don’t agree with, I listen, and just cherish them too.

    “And the bottom line is, if you believe in karma and reincarnation, you have crossed the line from secular philosophy to religious thought. You believe your propositions to be truth, and judge accordingly. No atheist would do that.”

    It comes back to blind belief. If one blindly believes something, that happens to be correct, then that belief will work for them. I’m not sure to what extent karma exists or not. My experiences so far suggest that it might do. I just stick with that. Ah, but.. If it turns out to be all wrong, there is no ‘mind’, separate from the body, there are no imprints on the sublte mind, that get generated from our thoughts and actions. Then that’s fine too. As long as I can drop my attachment to being right, I know that what I’m doing is working.

    The bottom line is, from my experience, somethings I wasn’t aware of before, have become apparent to me.

    “The eight-fold path should not be enshrined becasue it is not unique. I’m not a Harvard Phd, but I’m guessing all religious or serious philosophical tradtions have articulated, in their own way, all of the ideas contained in the eight-fold path. Aristotle spoke of a middle way, also. Enshrined, it gives power and authority to those who would co-opt it as a means to secular power. The money-men. The priesthood. The gurus. The hacks. If Buddha found his own way without resort to an authority, so can we all. He poisoned the well the second he formed a school.”

    Yeah, the money men will always be there. People will always use teachings to their advantage. But, as a Buddhist, all my problems are in my mind. As long as I can act without feeling sorry and down about the state of the world, and be positive, strong, happy, and proactive, then I have found that, little by little, the people around me pick up on that, and it influences them too. Especially my family. For me personally, when I stopped yapping about Buddhism this, Buddhism that.. my practice this, my vows that… *YAWN*… I found that my friends and family started asking me stuff openly.

  58. Hi Brent,

    Just read through your posts. I havent had time to write anything lately, but I’ll post again soon.

    I think, if you do something that works for you – if you become happier, and your problems get less, then I’d say stick with what you’re doing.. Yeah, sounds great. You certainly don’t need to be Buddhist in order to be happy.

    I’ll try to make some time to respond to your posts shortly..

    Paul..

  59. Thanks, Brent! Maybe there were no responses because people realized that you made some really good points and didn’t know how to respond 😉 .

    I was turned off from Buddhism when I was asked to make donations to teachers who drove more expensive cars and lived in more expensive areas than I could afford – and all that without any indication of awareness on their part how offensive that is… I was outraged by a teachers lament that if they were to only teach Buddhism they couldn’t afford an upper-middle class lifestyle… Hats off to you for living your path!

  60. Hey y’all

    Well, it’s been ten days or so and no responses to my last postings. So, i’m going to leave a final post here and then dissappear for a while to do some reading. I’ve checked out some of the sites mentioned by others here, and they are quite interesting. Stephen Batchelor’s site looks intriging, and probably he says better what I’m trying to say. Also found that Shut up and Meditate post lead to some interesting sites on Buddhism. So a few points and then I’m gone (unless someone posts something that draws me back into the fray).

    First to address Riglin directly. Riglin, just because I do not express my understanding of the second and third noble truth in your doctrinaire fashion does not mean my understanding of them is any less than your own. And I’m not very interested in your eight-fold path for the same reason I’m not very interested in making New Year’s resolutions. Formulaic doctrine never stopped anyone from doing what they are going to do. I could tattoo the eight-fold path on my forehead and look at it every time I saw a mirror. It wouldn’t help a bit. Despite your opinion on the matter, I have made great progress through my untutored and undoctrinaire approach. Of course, I’ve no way of proving that to you over the Internet.
    So, simply put, you are wrong in your opinion that I will not make any progress without a knowledge of or doctrinaire adherence to the eight-fold path. Considering where I started, I think I’ve done well. And considering what I observed amongst the Buddhists, who have their doctrinal p’s and q’s down as well as you do, I don’t think I’m doing any worse than them. You know, I don’t drink, have never done drugs, live a very simple lifestyle, have sought to educate myself, do my best to be ethical and honest with myself and others, etc. and have done all this after struggling from a place where I was abused and neglected and had numerous physical and mental health issues. Whether or not I can express all this in a manner that would suit you or some other Buddhist as being faithful to the eight-fold path doesn’t interest me in the least. If all you have is some doctrine you can toss at me, then frankly I don’t think you have much. With the way you toss out your rules and fail to engage me on a single critque I made, you come off sounding like the Buddhist equivalent of a fundamentalist Christian. The condescension fairly drips off your postings, and your superior, authoritarian tone is offensive.

    Well, I guess tht’s all for now. I could regale you with more stories from the retreat and some of the absurd things I heard, but we’d be here all night. Like I said, I`m going to do some reading. And some sitting. I`ll keep checking in to see if there are any new comments, but I think I`m going to practice some silence for a while.

    Brent

  61. Paul

    It’s all dharma…

    Well…if I were to subscribe to that thought, would I then have to believe the Dalai Lama is really a reincarnation of a previous one? Would I have to believe in karma? Would I have to say that the eightofld path is a particularly unique document? Would I have to retract my mocking of the four seals as trite?
    Would I have to, as I believe I would, look upon becoming a Buddhist as essentially entering into a prison cell, and then being content because I was being allowed to paint the walls any colour I chose?

    Why would anyone today use karma to explain anything in the light of all we have come to understand about the enormous impact parents can have on their child’s development in the first years of their lives?
    Which makes more sense? You screw up or are angry or dysfunctional or neurotic or whatever because your parents didn’t love you, or because you are carrying your negative karma from a previous life? Which harldy anyone ever remembers. And which serves a political function no Buddhist on this site has addressed yet.

    Is the truth so fragile, and so hard to understand it can only be found in some Pali texts written thousands of years ago. Is it reductible to a set of rules whose transmission has been co-opted by an elite heirarchy of priests with their secret teachings?

    Your last post is entirely free of doctrine. You have essentially stated my position. Meditation is wonderful. It can change lives. We all screw up. That is not a Buddhist position. That is a humanist position. Buddhism attempts to co-opt this. Buddhism invokes a mysticism and belief system that is unproveable, and, I would think, highly suspect to a modern, critical mind. When I was at the retreat, I slept under a painting of smoe Tibetan diety. I was told maybe I shouldn’t sleep there, because this diety
    gathered all sorts of negative energy to himself, or something like that. It was a painting. I slept just fine.
    There was a room we were discouraged from entering because those more “advanced” in their training were using it for some ritual or other. It was feared we would see something, or otherwise disturb the energy of the room. Please…

    No one in a cult believes they are in a cult. They believe they are with a group of friends with similar outlooks and goals. Til the leader dies. Or someone from outside the group points out thier flaws to them. The doctrine they believe in is usually self-reinforcing. And, with them comes a feeling you are participating in something special, something unique that others have missed. It all makes sense, til you can pull out one little piece, and then the whole thing collapses.

    I have no doubt Buddhism has helped many people make sense of their lives and quelled the violence in the minds of millions. I have no doubt, either, that it has served as an intellectual prison and justified political repression and cultural stagnation. You and others have argued this is not true Buddhism. I argue that it is. Buddhism flaw is the same as that of all the other religions. You make claims to special truths. You invoke doctrines you believe are unique to your particular clan.

    I have not been to Tibet or Bhutan. I was told by a Buddhist people there are much happier than people in North America. I was told by a non-Buddhist who’d been all over the world, including Tibet, this was not so. I have observed the Buddhists here in Nova Scotia. They don’t seem any happier or less self-deluded than the rest of us. Two of them, professional therapists, engage in a healing technique whereby they wave their hands over their clients in such a way as to realign the clients Chi. They charge in excess of $70 per hour for this quackery. And lots of westerners line up for it, because Buddism is good, Westernism is bad. I suppose some will say I am criticizing Buddhists again, and not Buddhism. I say I am critizing any belief system that leads people to believe they have special powers, or can act upon totally unproveable theories like Chi or karma, or have access to a unique set of knowledge. A Buddhist leader who takes 52 minutes in a speech to essentially say be nice to your neighbours is one thing. Doing it in the context of an organization which is charging $1000 for a month long retreat, or $1400 for a week long Boddhisatva training program, where his water is poured for him, is corrupt. To then say, on top of this, that these insights, or any others regarding greed or self-grasping, can only be gained through living by the four noble truths as proclaimed by the Buddha, is just insulting to the intelligence.

    I’m going to end here for now. I’m a little dissappointed as I don’t feel I’ve made my points as strongly as I did in my accidentally deleted posting a week ago. Just not in the groove tonight. Well, I let this stand for now. See what responses I get, and hope I get my mojo back next time. Also, I don’t know how long I want to keep doing this. It’s very time consuming, and it’s doubtful any of us are going to be changing our minds. I’m grateful for the clarification on the vows.

    A final personal note. Meditation saved my life. I mentioned in a previous post my abusive parents, skin disease, depression and other problems I have had. I have been meditating almost entirely on my own, and teaching myself what is important, with a bit of help from a wise old atheist. It galls me to no end to hear then, from Buddhists, that I have not correctly understood some point of doctrine, and that until I do, my progress will not be swift. Five years ago I was a complete mess. Five years alone in this cabin I am a changed person. I look at some of the Buddhists I’ve met, and wonder how many of them would be willing to do what I have done. I also wonder how it is, if thier eightfold paths and what not are so precious and indispensable, I have managed to cure myself with little or no formal understanding of them. Alls it takes is courage and the determination to see it through. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to call it dharma.

  62. Paul

    All concepts are empty…I was being flippant. Just making a little fun of the whole, Buddhism is what you make of it bit. Reincarnation? Eh, only if you want to.

    Is emptiness wrong? I don’t know. Is the Big Bang theory correct? Is a working knowledge of emptiness useful? Or does learning about the five skandas just give you an excuse to talk down to someone who you think has failed to understand the truth? Sitting around talking about whether or not the room is really there or not is a nice way to pass a Saturday evening with friends, I suppose. But in the hands of a priesthood intent on using this “knowledge” to further a secular and rather worldly agenda of providing a good living for themselves, then other questions are raised. I think it is one idea among many that are worth considering. I haven’t the foggiest as to whether the idea of emptiness is ultimately true or not. I’ve read the latest from the particle physicists. But science is one thing, and philosophical statements are another.

    End of part …

  63. Paul

    Your position on meating makes sense if you believe in karma. I don’t. And yes, lots of non-Buddhists
    don’t care about the suffering of animals. Lots do. And lots of Buddhists use karma as a way to rationalize their meat-eating, in my opinion. Shortly after I had this conversation, I heard on the news about this Buddhist monastery on Indonesia where they had tigers on the compound, just walking around. They had some medical problem with some of them and brought in an American vet to look them over. When she got there, she was impressed. She thought the Buddhissts were owrking their lovingkindness mojo on the tigers, and that’s why they were so peaceful. Til the dayy she turned a corner and saw a bunch of monks wailing on one of the cubs. Peaceful submissiveness explained. Apparently the monks were also selling the tigers on the black market. So, waht good did all their mumbo-jumbo do them, these Buddhists?

    I work in the woods and live in a cabin. When I was a young teenager, I used to shoot frogs with a pellet gun at the lake. One day I stopped. No one told me to. It just felt wrong. Today, I murder every deer fly I can. I help ants out of the sink. I wept over a baby bird I killed when I accidently knocked it out of it’s nest. I helped a redneck slaughter his chickens by holding them down on the block while he swung the axe. I saved the life of a turtle stuck on it’s back by flipping it over with a broom. I never once worried about my karma. People are capable of great cruelty, and great compassion. All of us, Buddhists or no, and I can’t see that it makes any difference what faith or lack of faith you subscribe to.
    And, I heard quite a bit about the favoured rebirth of being human. I don’t know. Dolphins seem pretty smart. Whales. Maybe they could teach us a thing or two…so what’s so special about us.

    End of part? i lost count…

  64. Paul

    As to the four noble truths and seals. I’m guesssing you read my comments above about the four seals. As t othe four noble truths, I apparently don’t understand them very well according to another poster here. Well, perhaps not. Then again, maybe somebody is just throwing some schooling at me to show me how ignorant I supposedly am. I think I do understand them. I also think they will occur to anyone who takes the time to sit. Or to anyone who is serious about wanting to change their lives. Formulaic doctrine from a priesthood doesn’t interest me much. Buddhists can throw this stuff at you all day. Then they go out and behave pretty much like everyone else.

    I am prone to think that loving and compassionate people are less self-grasping. Kind of a package deal. I see no need to make rigid formulas about it. And while there is wisdom in this insight, it is not exclusively Buddhist wisdom, which is my point. If you haven’t encountered the four noble truths outside Buddhism, you can’t be looking very hard. They may not be formulated in the same way, but they are there. Any B-grade Hollywood film where the selfish businessman’s greed leads to his downfall while the humble hero wins the day covers the ground about self-grasping. It’s a Wonderful Life. Descriptions of estactic experiences abound in western literature, philosophy and religion. I believe everyone intuits that there suffering can end, or lessen. How to get there is another matter. It is not a particularly profound insight to say it is possible. The sincerity of one’s quest is knowable only to the person who undertakes the journey. I imagine there are a lot of Buddhists who pull the wool over their own eyes despite their ability to recite the four noble truths. Four truths or no, if you want to change, and are willing to sit through the agony of self-confrontation, you will change. And so yes, I think the Buddhists are presumptuous. I will modify my remark slightly, and say that some of them are also arrogant.

    End of part 3.

  65. Paul

    The retreat I was at needs some context, which would take pages to detail. I live in Nova Scotia. The only Buddhist organization I have had contact with is Shambala. It would probably be better for my perspective if I was in NYC or London or LA where I could explore other approaches to Buddhism. I get the sense Shambala is pretty corrupt. Look at it’s founder. When this speaker said he doubted that any non-Buddhist could sustain their happiness, his tone was not condemnatory. However, we had been told that westerners were considered barbarians. There was a clear sense at the retreat Buddhism was a superior phlosophy to all others. At another time I was personally told how lucky I was to be in Nova Scotia, presumably because that’s where Trungpa brought the tribe. We were told that someone in the west had to achieve enlightenment in order for Buddhism to catch on here. We were, to my mind, being flattered and manipulated. In this context, his comment that a secular westerner could not sustain happiness could be taken as a join-us-or-be-doomed statement. Regrettably, I did not ask him to clarify what he meant. I suppose there will always be a bit of doubt. Still, many secular westerners are more or less happy. Some are more or less miserable. Good or bad parenting has it’s effects. I think that would explain more than subscription to a faith/philosophical system.

    If I was misinformed about disowning your vows, I was misinformed.

    End of part 2.

  66. Paul

    Rainy day, so I thought I re-respond to your July 16th post. I’m going to break up my response into pieces as I do not want to write for an hour then lose it all to a misplaced keystroke. I’ve read your latest post also, but won’t be addressing it in any way. I don’t really have any issue with what you said in it. I fear I’m not going to be as articulate or thorough this time around – the second time around the freshness and enthusiam is gone, but here goes…

    Yes, I am saying that any reasonable, intelligent, thoughtful person could come up with the same ideas as contained in Buddhism. No, not everyone has, obviously. But then, having come upwith the ideas and spending their lives amidst them, some Buddhists don’t seem to have absorbed much. Meditation practice has unfortunately been lost to us in the west. It’s re-introduction by Buddhism is welcome and much needed. But the ideas about how to live, as contained in the eight-fold path, could be absorbed by careful observation of and/or secular instruction by any wise soul.

    Yes, neurosis can lessen with time. Meditation can help immensely. But you don’t have to be a Buddhist. You have to want to change. The point I am making is that Buddhism, to my mind, seems to concern itself with matters that don’t seem that important (chanting/ceremony/hero-worship), or are rather unbelievable(reincarnation). These would seem to impede, rather than accelrate, the desired outcome.

    Yes, it is great there are so many different types of paths. But it was a Buddhist who told me my atheism was insane. It was a Buddhist who told me I wasn’t serious enough because I didn’t meet his expectations. It was a Buddhist who told me I haven’t suffered enough. It was a Buddhist who said westerners were considered barbarians by the east. Buddhism would seem to create the same chauvisnism Christianity does. You may decry it as un-Buddhist, but it happens. And the bottom line is, if you believe in karma and reincarnation, you have crossed the line from secular philosophy to religious thought. You believe your propositions to be truth, and judge accordingly. No atheist would do that.

    The eight-fold path should not be enshrined becasue it is not unique. I’m not a Harvard Phd, but I’m guessing all religious or serious philosophical tradtions have articulated, in their own way, all of the ideas contained in the eight-fold path. Aristotle spoke of a middle way, also. Enshrined, it gives power and authority to those who would co-opt it as a means to secular power. The money-men. The priesthood. The gurus. The hacks. If Buddha found his own way without resort to an authority, so can we all. He poisoned the well the second he formed a school.

    End of part 1.

  67. Brent,

    Hiya, just read your post. I’m trying to type on an iPhone, so it’s a bit of a short one..
    I’ll add something when my internet’s not dead..!

    I thought I’d post a link to someone, called ‘Tsem Tulku’. He’s got a different approach to teaching stuff, and I think it’s great..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HkICMrNG78M&feature=youtube_gdata

    Hi Rachel,

    I just caught your last post. Yeah, a lot of people find it difficult to relate to deities and enlightned beings and the like.. Heaven and hell realms, spirits, etc.. There are many different approaches to all this stuff. Why should we accept anything that someone tells us, if we can’t clearly see that what the person says is true or not?

    From our perspective, most of the time, we just don’t know if all this stuff exists or not. What I found quite practical in the beginning, when I met all this stuff was the idea that faith is just a state of mind. One of the foundations of Buddhist practice is going for refuge. When engaging in this, we use our imagination. We visualise very roughly, something that we can think of as being free from all the stuff that weighs us down. All that mental baggage that we carry around. We imagine that it is possible to drop all the shit in our minds, and get in touch with what lies underneath. Lime the moon reflecting in the clear lake, after all the crap has been removed. The Tibetan styles imagine a ‘field of merit’, where all the Buddhas appear straight away, when we think of them. If we don’t buy any of that, we can just think how cool it would be to be free from stress. Not in a graspy, ‘oh i’m so depressed, I wish I could feel better.. Oooh woe is me…’ but in a positive way, that actually makes us open and become lightened up. Reciting mantras, like, for example, Avalokiteshvara’s, ‘Om Mani Pemi Hum’, with that open, lightened-up mind, that just wants me and everone else to have a groovy life, is a brilliant practice. From my own experience, I just forgot about all the beliefs I had about what exists and what doesn’t. I literally just thought, ‘Ah fk it’, and just started doing it.

    So, yeah.. We can just sit and stare at a wall, like Bodhidharma was supposed to have done, to realise emptiness. We could run off into a cave for a while, like Milarepa. We could sit in our room all day, and watch our thoughts, and transform the negative ones into love and kindness for others. We could read about people who have accomplished very high realisations, and just open up, and think how good it wold be to attain this. We could follow the Zen route, and contemplate the Koans, that lead the constant discriminating, rational mind, to shut up, and just let go of needing to ‘know’ all the answers. The bttom line is, all these different techniques are done with openness, and love – for ourselves, and others. And, it’s this openness that provides the conditions for us to start seeing things more clearly. The letting go of wanting to control everything that’s beyond our control. Letting go of wanting approval off of other people. Letting go of constantly wanting security, in having conditions where we feel ‘safe’.

    For me personally, I still do stupid things. I get angry at people, I used to get pissed off when my brother told me that all this Buddhist nonsense is just an ego trip. But, I know now that, by getting my mind to loosen its obsessive grip on how I want things to be. By doing that, I can feel liberation drawing nearer by the day.

    Paul.x

    PS – couldn’t check all this rambling very easily, so posted regardless! Sorry for any mistakes!

    This next one is Lama Yeshe, a Tibetan monk..

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfPMO2vFUPU&feature=youtube_gdata

  68. You know Rachel, until I found your site I never realized how self-righteous and ignorant these slithering little maggots that call themselves buddhists truly are. I guess I really can’t take anything for granted.

    Totally unrelated to this topic of discussion but I was wondering if you had a chance to read Cordelia Fine’s “A mind of its own”? She has a new book called “Delusions of gender” coming out in a month and a bit, really looking forward to it. The first book was the first psychology book I had read and it made a lasting impression, though I must admit I barely knew how to tie my shoes then, so I was quite easily impressed.. : )

    Hope you’re doing well, looking forward to your next post!

  69. Someone mentioned Stephen Batchelor‘s work to me yesterday. It sounds like he might have also struggled with some of these issues (actually, he might still be): Can we take the teachings of the Buddha without the religious overlay? To me, then, though the question also is: Why do we need to refer to a Buddha then? Can’t we just sit?

  70. Brent

    Glad that you have found Paul’s comments rewarding to you.

    When you find that the retreats of a certain group/school did not help you in your cultivation then it’s not the right one for you. Time to look for another teacher/group/school. There are different approaches to suit different levels of understanding of the Buddha Dhamma.

    Dukkha is everywhere and everyone is experiencing it all the time, physically or mentally. The second Noble Truth is to understand the CAUSE of dukkha. The causes of dukkha are craving, attachment and ignorance. The third Noble Truth – cessation of dukkha is attainable. By removing craving, attachment and ignorance will end dukkha. Your understanding of the second and third Noble Truth is not clear. You need to contemplate more on the two.

    The fourth Noble Truth – there is a MIDDLE WAY path to the cessation of dukkha. The Noble Eightfold Path is the middle way between the two extremes, namely the extreme of self-indulgences and the extreme of ascetic practices. It’s a prescription by Buddha (always in capital when referring to Siddhartha Gautama) for ethical and mental development in freeing oneself from craving, attachment and ignorance towards attaining enlightenment.

    Practicing meditation without following the Noble Eightfold Path will not gain much progress. You should have already know the Noble Eightfold Path is Right View, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. As you can see, if you do not have the ‘right view’ (or any one), and you will be stuck there until you get it right!

    As for the understanding of “form is emptiness, emptiness is form” all I can say now is the need to understand the five khandha (aggregates) which give rise to the sense of self. I’m not a Buddhist teacher and it’s best not to get confused before progressing further in your cultivation. We all need a good foundation first to be able to really understand this jargon.

  71. Paul

    I just spent an hour responding to your post, then hit the wrong button and erased it all. Have to start over. But not now.

  72. Paul

    First, I want to thank you for your response. As always, your comments are lucid and thoughtful. I appreciate how much time and effort you put into them. It was rewarding for me to read them, and I respect what you have to say on these matters immensely. I’ve spent four hours this evening reading over all the postings on this site (for the third time). Each time I read them, I gain a deeper understanding of your point of view, and have to admit I agree with much of what you have to say. I find your arguements very logical and convincing. Unlike others on this site, you’ve taken me at my word and engaged the points I am trying to make. Challenged me. Couldn’t ask for more. And thank you for not throwing a bunch of doctrine at me or saying it just is what it is or telling me I don’t understand therefore have no right to criticize.

    I came to Buddhism with sincere intentions after practicing meditation on my own for a couple of years. I started to read, mostly that Trungpa fellow and a few other popular texts. I went on a retreat and hooked up with a fellow nearby who’d been practicing for decades. The morning I was to take my vows, I backed out. Too many questions unanswered, and to much stuff said to me, which you’ve probably read about, that I found pretty distubing and offensive. I’ve read over my own posts and I can see they’re pretty much rants, but I believe I raise a lot of points that are valid.

    One concern I will put to you immediately was also raised by Mauryu on May 27, 2010. Institutional Buddhism attracts the same sorts of corruption and dysfunctions as all the other belief systems. Why then, if Buddhism is so radically different, have Buddhists not found a way to negate these phenomena? (Or worse, pretend they don’t exist). I suspect you’re going to say it’s because we are all (or most of us) confused. But how does this not become simply a rationalization? If, outside the context of Buddhism, one can practice and make progress, why bother immersing yourself in the sangha? Why take membership in an organization that is so obviously flawed. (Please don’t tell me because I have to lay my money down somewhere. I don’t). Why take membership in an organization that while it says I don’t have to believe in reincarnation, has not, to my knowledge, openly addressed the idea that reincarnation MAY be nothing more than a political convenience? (Perhaps you read my mocking commentary on the rebirths of the Dalai Lama)? I was told by one Buddhist I’d be a good Buddhist because I asked so many questions. Maybe I’m paranoid, but that sounds like the same sort of flattery the Christians use to seduce people. Why would I join an organization I have so many questions about because I have so many questions about it? Why bother with the institutions at all, since they provide oppurtunities for the very sorts of behaviour and attachments that your philosophy decries? Why are so many of your leaders men? Is it true that rebirth in the male form is favoured?

    Hmmm…it’s midnight here. I’ll just stop now. I’ll address your points in response to my post soon. I have to reread some material about emptiness. And I want to reread your questions to give them the respect they deserve.

    Your ever-lovin nasty atheist, Brent

  73. Riglin

    Uh-huh. It is perhaps true that I am criticizing Buddhists and not Buddhism. It is also true that crock of shit was a poor and regretable choice of words. However, you are not in any position to judge whether I am or am not ready to receive any dhamma deeper than the first noble truth. You do not know anything more about me than what you have read in three posts on a blog. I have had explained to me the thought behind form is emptiness, emptiness is form, and believe I got the jist of it. I called you out on it because this phrase was tossed around quite a bit at the retreat I attended. It gave me pause. I experienced the same thing at university where people would throw around ideas in conversation I wasn’t sure they, or I , properly understood, just so they could appear to be in the loop. Given all the other things I heard at the retreat, some of whch I considered to be simply ludacris, I grew wary of what I considered to be the indiscriminate use of ideas that I thought were of the utmost gravity to Buddhists. You claim that one does not come out of a retreat more attached to form. Based on what I observed there, I disagree. I think it is quite possible. Part of what there is a danger of is becoming involved in groupthink. Or jargon. Or pretending to want to understand something because you think it’s the proper thing to do. Most of us want to fit in. It’s a seductive pull. And at the retreat, it is my opinion that the leaders were being a little seductive and manipulative in their talks, basically flattering their audience.

    As for my understanding nothing beyond the first noble truth, that life is suffering…well, I sure understand that. I’ve had abusive parents, a skin disease, severe depression and physical pain in my body which I guess is from repressed anger now for about 25 years. Poverty, lack of companionship, and the physical pain has robbed me of my singing voice, which used to be quite lovely. I discovered meditation about 5 or 6 years ago. I got a cabin in the woods at the same time and started to practice right away, 5 to 8 hours a day. It worked. I sit now for at least two hours everyday, and sure have learned a lot about myself and let a lot of stuff go. Hmmmm, isn’t that the second noble truth, y’know, learning non-attachment and that things pass and you can control your suffering. Care to comment? Since you seem to think you know what I am ready and not ready for? And I’ve learned not to get so worked up, to let go of certain “objects of hatred”, see things more clearly, how I was responsible for my own thinking and actions, how I let things happpen to me because of my state of mind…isn’t at least some of this in the third noble truth? Care to comment? The fourth one, well, I’m a long way from that one. I’m a skeptic…I do have some questions about this whole idea of nirvana and enlightenment. Part of me suspects it’s a bit of a crock of…oh wait now…part of me is suspicious of the idea because there is a lot of myticism around these ideas, and again, some of what I heard at the retreat seemed a little far-fetched and manipulative. Once we were told that “someone in the westhas to reach enlightenment so that Buddhism will catch on in the west.” Which leads me to ask, How do we know someone in the West hasn’t? and then, perhaps cynically, Why? So people like you will continue to have a job? So yeah, I guess I’m not ready for level four, but I still invite your comments on my prepareedness for 1-3. Perhaps, Riglin, you just don’t like so much that I took to mocking the four noble seals?

    Also, I would like to make an observation about one of your posts, Riglin. You quoted the bible as proof that Jesus/Christianity advocated warfare and violence because of that business about Jesus coming not to bring peace but with a sword. You wouldn’t perhaps have an axe to grind with Christianity would you?
    Because most people, even a nasty atheist like me, knows that this is not what is meant by that quote. Jesus is simply laying it down for the brothers that he means business. When I sat turn the other cheek, brother, I mean turn the other cheek. When I say let he who is without sin cast the first stone, I mean drop that rock. He’s kinda like the Buddha that way. But you seem determined to twist his words to suit your purpose of misrepresenting Christianity. Jesus never preached war anymore than buddha did. He was just a more colourful speaker. You know how we westerners like a bit of drama… Now, I’m no lover of Christianity. But even one of my atheist friends said to me once “Brent, you don’t hate jesus, you just hate what people make of him.” Anyway, it just seems like you’re pretty attached to your notion that Christ/Christianity promoted violence. Well, if you’ve read the posts here, you know how many times we’ve gone around the block around that one about Buddhism. And you yourself defend Buddhism, but then use the same (faulty?) logic as your opponents to attack Christ’s message.

    A nasty atheist? Well, most people think I’m really a bit of a sweetie who has the occasional temper tantrum (verbal abuse is a bitch to get over)…well, better a nasty atheist, I suppose, than a presumptive, condescending Buddhist. LOL.

  74. Pingback:buddha, christ, and crystals bathed in moonlight « Shut up and meditate

  75. Well, it’s been a few days now since my last post. No one has responded. So, people are very busy enjoying the summer. Or my comments aren’t worth responding to. Or, well, could be anything. So, I’ll leave a final post here, see if there’s anyone still listening who wants to comment, then move on. I came here originally as I was looking for others who were critical of Buddhism. Vijeno directed my comments to a Buddhist site, a few comments were made, no one has responded to my replies. So…to conclude…
    I simply find nothing, and I mean NOTHING, in Buddhism that any intelligent, thoughtful and caring person couldn’t come up with on their own.

    I’m not sure I follow this. Are you saying that anyone who hasn’t ever come across Buddhist teachings, could develop the same ideas? Or, are you saying that they could develop conviction in these ideas, having not met them? Many non-Buddhists have come up with ideas about enlightenment, liberation, emptiness, and karma, and moral discipline, and concentration. But, I wouldn’t say that everyone has.

    I’ve met long-time Buddhists who were so wrapped up in the do’s and don’ts of Buddhism, so concerned with following the eight-fold path or whatever, they sound like wind-up dolls.

    That’s interesting, that point. Some people do get uptight about it all. It’s funny, I talked to a mate of mine, who’d been Buddhist for 20 years. He always seemed quite lightened up and jovial. I’ve been doing it for some years now, and the things that made me uptight in the past, seemed to have less and less of an effect over time. I can definitely say that I get wound up less. There are neurotic people both inside and outside of Buddhism. But, the point is that their neuroses can lessen with time.

    I’ve met atheists who were the most thoughtful and broad minded people I’ve ever met.

    That’s great then isn’t it? The Buddhists (and many other people with different paths) are encouraged to rejoice at people’s good qualities, irrespective of what religion they may or may not follow. Some people who practice Buddhism are self-centred and selfish, others are the opposite, others have moments of it.. Everyone’s different. Same goes for people that don’t practice Buddhism. A lot of people that have no interest in Buddhism have much more patience than I have! That’s great.

    The eight-fold path is nothing but a codification of a considered way of living. That Buddhists enshrine and fetishize it as a path to happiness and freedom from suffering speaks more to their lack of imagination than it’s usefulness as a tool.

    The 8 fold path was apparently taught by the Buddha, as a path to get rid of mental stress, and eventually lead to liberation and enlightenment. Why shouldn’t it be enshrined? Wouldn’t that make it something worth enshrining? Isn’t that common sense?

    That Buddhist scholars have filled libraries writing commentaries on Buddhism is of no more practical use than the tomes of Christian scholars who’ve done the same about the meaning of Christ. Good work if you can get it. Lots of prestige, I’ll bet.

    Yep, that’s certainly true. Some scholars never actually leave their rooms and function in the ‘real’ world! But, there are three types of Buddhists: Teachers, scholars, and practitioners. Being a scholar, with the motivation of fame and prestige isn’t the point. For it to actually start working, one has to practice it.

    At the Buddhist retreat, one young acolyte asked the teacher, who had been droning on for an hour with platitudes any liberal Christian would have endorsed, why it is that he saw people who were not Buddhists who appeared to be happy. Why, he asked, should these people become Buddhists if they appeared to be happy. The teacher, to his credit, replied he did not know. But then he added “But I know it won’t last.” I wish now I’d asked himwhat he meant by that. He seemed to be implying that without the teachings and philosophy of Buddhism to fall back on, any happiness a person might experience in their lives was illusory, and they were sure to fall of the wagon.

    Was he really saying that non-Buddhist people’s happiness is illusory? Or was he saying that all emotions and external conditions in life are subject to change? Everything is, afterall, in a constant state of flux.

    No fire-and-brimstone Christian could have been more pompous and self-righteous.

    What was pompous? The way he said it or his statement that happiness will change? If the latter, why would that be a pompous statement? Is it not true?

    When I inquired about taking the Buddhist vows, I asked what happened if I changed my mind afterwards and decided I didn’t want to be a Buddhist afterall. I was told once you take the vows, you cannot go back. You cannot unbecome a Buddhist. Pure cultish mindfucking.

    That’s a strange one. From my time in a Sangha, I understand that vows can be handed back. Vows are only mental intentions. Otherwise, it would not be possible for monks and nuns to disrobe. They are amenable to no one else but the practitioner.

    The Baptists say the same thing about Baptism. The Buddhist added that I would furthermore suffer the consequences for walking away from the truth. No trite formulations like the Four Seals or the Four Noble Truths constitute a blueprint for living. They are not special.

    To Buddhists, the four noble truths and the four seals are certainly a basis for living. Why should they not be? As for them being ‘special’, I’m not sure what you mean by this. Buddhists regard them as their basis for practicing what they do.

    They contain no greater wisdom nor insight than is held by millions of compassionate people thoughout the world who are not, nor will ever be, Buddhist.

    I’m not sure I understand this statement. One can be loving and compassionate, but not realize that their problems come from self-grasping (2nd Noble truth). If self-grasping lightens up, then our suffering becomes less. If this is actually true, then there is definitely wisdom in it, isn’t there?

    And by co-opting these insights, by claiming them as “Buddhist”, the people who subscribe to them as defining doctrine are both presumptuous and arrogant.

    The four noble truths come from Buddhist teachings. I’ve not seen them outside Buddhism. If they do appear outside it, then I would agree that, designating ‘Buddhist’ onto them would be presumptuous.

    I once got into an arguement with a Buddhist about meat eating. He ate meat. I told him I read where the Buddha (always in capitals…) said you shouldn’t eat meat. He said something I can’t remember now, but went on to say as long as you didn’t kill the cow yourself, or have the cow killed on your behalf, it was ok. I said in a modern economy, when you buy the cow at the grocery store, how could it NOT be killed in your name, if only indirectly.

    I think I would tend to agree with you there. There are different points of view, as to whether it is ok or not to eat meat. For me personally, I would try to focus on renunciation, and little by little, realize where all my problems come from – i.e. my mind, not from ‘out there’. Tsem Tulku certainly is strict about being veggie. But other teachers aren’t so much. For me though, whether I eat meat or not, my mental shit is still there. But, when I do the practices, it lessens. Maybe I’m a bad Buddhist for eating meat, I don’t really know. The Buddhist center only does vegetarian food, for those that live there.

    Well, Buddhist doctrine is Buddhist doctrine, and this is how he believed it was to be intrepeted. What matters is your karma, not the butcher’s. So it’s ok to let the butcher kill the meat and mess with his rebirth, but you, the recipient of the butcher’s actions, as long as you didn’t ask him to make the slaughter, are clean. Wow!

    The aim of Buddhist teachings is the removal of self-grasping. So, it’s our own karma that has to change. I can’t change the karma of the butcher. If everyone stopped eating meat, then, yeah.. butchers would have to do something else. But, suffering would just arise in another form, until the ex-butchers had got rid of their own suffering themselves.

    I repiled I knew a woman who was vegan for a long time. Then she decided to eat meat again. She helped to raise the pig, fed him, loved him, even. Came slaughter day and she came out with the rifle. The pig knew and lay down. I said I thought this was the most ethical, least cop-outish way possible to be a meat-eater. He replied it was not the Buddhist way….

    That’s an interesting one. Buddhism teaches that every action of body, speak and mind, creates mental imprints. A bit like when a music track re-surfaces in the mind, after listening to it. I caaaant get that song out of myy head!! So, if karma is created by our actions, then which action is worse: Buying meat from a butcher, which would be an indirect link to the slaughter of the animal, or killing the animal ourselves? Karma arises, in one way, as a result, similar to the cause. Also, the state of mind, and level of delusion within the mind of the slaughterer is a factor in Buddhism. Killing accompanied by the pleasure of killing, or with anger toward the animal, wishing to harm it, in Buddhist teachings, creates different karmic imprints than does killing the animal as a means to survive.

    I’m certainly not advocating killing, but, in terms of the karma generated, it’s not a black and white scenario. There are a lot of factors that influence the result of the karma that we create with our actions.

    I think that was the moment I really decided Buddhism was a crock of shit. Course, another long-time Buddhist said he ate meat, had to cause he was working and needed the energy, maybe someday he wouldn’t, did his best to eat ethically and on and on…and well, what thoughtful person doesn’t… An endless stream of self-justifying rationalizations.

    Lots of non-Buddhists don’t give a shit about the suffering of the animal. Some think that animals actually exist to serve our needs. Some even think that animals are not sentient! Out of the Buddhist circles, there is a myriad of different views, regarding the slaughter of animals.

    But then, all concepts are empty…thankfully…

    Empty of what? They aren’t empty of existence. Concepts exist.

    “Social clubs in drag disguise” said Bob Dyaln of religion. So the theists hang out with their imagianry friend, the liberal unitarians have their open discussions where they quest after a modern day spiritualism, and the Buddhists trot out commonplace vagaries dressed up as transcendent truths and philosophical jibber jabber about emptiness.

    Is emptiness wrong then? Is that what you mean? Is it merely another philosophy? Or is it true?

    Me, I’m going to sit and meditate. No dharma, no gurus, no god, no doctrine, no sangha. Just a bunch of unrepentant atheists who try to be decent to one another.

    If you practice having a good heart, then that’s all Dharma is, isn’t it?
    Meditation leads to that, as our crappy states of mind, that cause us problems, diminish.

  76. Unfortunately, even though there were no wars in the name of buddhism, Tibet-where buddhist heads ruled- was not a piece of heaven either, actually it was quite worse, akin to christian Europe of the middle ages. Such oppression is just as bad as the brutal violence of war.

    • “Unfortunately, even though there were no wars in the name of buddhism….”

      For over one thousand years, ALL of the various sects of Buddhism in Japan have fought with one another on the battlefield. They raised armies of thousands of warrior “monks” and built fortified temples. Thousands upon thousands died in the name of the “correct” sect of Buddhism and over which doctrine contained the correct and straight path to nirvana.

      Many of Japan’s samurai warlords were ordained Buddhist monks – people who murdered thousands.

      Oda Nobunaga the great warlord saw the Buddhist warrior monks as such a great threat to this control of Japan that he attacked and finally defeated them – killing men women and children in order that the Buddhists and their warrior monks would not rise up against the his government.

      The Buddhist clergy were a formidable force that even the bushi (samurai) were afraid to meet on the battlefield.

      Today here in Japan all the various sects of Buddhism are antagonistic towards each other and go out of their way to belittle teachers of other sects. They charge exorbitant fees for the teachings and their equipment. A visit to any temple will show you that Buddhism here is a funeral business and monks are here to perform rituals for the dead that they may be reborn in a good life or go to heaven.

      • I don’t understand why this war in the name of religion comes up all the time. A piece of metal called Knife could be used to kill a person or save a person by helping a surgeon make an incision. Trying to create a religion that cannot be used negatively is like trying to create a knife that can make an incision when used by a surgeon but doesn’t kill a person when the same incision is made will ill intention.
        Srini.

        • Good point, Srini! Maybe this is one of the arguments against the existence of a God (the Judeo-Christian-Muslim variety at least): Wouldn’t he strike someone down with lightening (or does only Zeus use that?) if they’re misusing the religion? Of course, that reminds me of an article in “The Onion” a few years ago that was written by God – he was trying to clarify what he meant by “Thou Shalt Not Kill.”

          However, it is not one person who used the knife (so to speak) in the case of Japan, as Jun outlined. What happened there would be more akin to knife-usage being restricted to using it to hurt and harm other people. In other words, any peaceful intentions within Buddhism got lost and Buddhism was used to officially justify wars. And the reason why “this comes up all the time” is that there are Buddhists who claim that Buddhism is and always has been a peaceful religion (also note what Jun responded to!).

        • Just pointing out the common misconception that Buddhism has had no wars fought in it’s name. The commonly heard opinion is that Buddhism is pacifist – wrong! Look at the history of the warrior monks of China and Japan or the current Buddhist fighting going on in Sri Lanka that has been going on for centuries.

  77. Brent, do have a clear mind that you are actually criticizing some Buddhists and not Buddhism (Dhamma) as taught by Buddha. If your intention is to criticize the Buddha Dhamma then please use the Pali Canon as your reference instead of what you heard from other Buddhists.

    I think no Buddhist will bother to respond to you who called Buddhism a crock of shit out of your ignorance and wrong perception of Buddha Dhamma. You asked me to explain the meaning of ‘form is emptiness, emptiness is form’ but you are not yet ready to understand any dhamma deeper than the first Noble Truth.

    Anyway, it’s good to know that you are an atheist. A nasty atheist is better than a nasty theist who believed in a Creator. LOL

  78. Well, it’s been a few days now since my last post. No one has responded. So, people are very busy enjoying the summer. Or my comments aren’t worth responding to. Or, well, could be anything. So, I’ll leave a final post here, see if there’s anyone still listening who wants to comment, then move on. I came here originally as I was looking for others who were critical of Buddhism. Vijeno directed my comments to a Buddhist site, a few comments were made, no one has responded to my replies. So…to conclude…
    I simply find nothing, and I mean NOTHING, in Buddhism that any intelligent, thoughtful and caring person couldn’t come up with on their own. I’ve met long-time Buddhists who were so wrapped up in the do’s and don’ts of Buddhism, so concerned with following the eight-fold path or whatever, they sound like wind-up dolls. I’ve met atheists who were the most thoughtful and broad minded people I’ve ever met. The eight-fold path is nothing but a codification of a considered way of living. That Buddhists enshrine and fetishize it as a path to happiness and freedom from suffering speaks more to their lack of imagination than it’s usefulness as a tool. That Buddhist scholars have filled libraries writing commentaries on Buddhism is of no more practical use than the tomes of Christian scholars who’ve done the same about the meaning of Christ. Good work if you can get it. Lots of prestige, I’ll bet. At the Buddhist retreat, one young acolyte asked the teacher, who had been droning on for an hour with platitudes any liberal Christian would have endorsed, why it is that he saw people who were not Buddhists who appeared to be happy. Why, he asked, should these people become Buddhists if they appeared to be happy. The teacher, to his credit, replied he did not know. But then he added “But I know it won’t last.” I wish now I’d asked himwhat he meant by that. He seemed to be implying that without the teachings and philosophy of Buddhism to fall back on, any happiness a person might experience in their lives was illusory, and they were sure to fall of the wagon. No fire-and-brimstone Christian could have been more pompous and self-righteous. When I inquired about taking the Buddhist vows, I asked what happened if I changed my mind afterwards and decided I didn’t want to be a Buddhist afterall. I was told once you take the vows, you cannot go back. You cannot unbecome a Buddhist. Pure cultish mindfucking. The Baptists say the same thing about Baptism. The Buddhist added that I would furthermore suffer the consequences for walking away from the truth. No trite formulations like the Four Seals or the Four Noble Truths constitute a blueprint for living. They are not special. They contain no greater wisdom nor insight than is held by millions of compassionate people thoughout the world who are not, nor will ever be, Buddhist. And by co-opting these insights, by claiming them as “Buddhist”, the people who subscribe to them as defining doctrine are both presumptuous and arrogant.
    Many Buddhists claim Buddhism is the most non-violent of the belief systems, and that Buddhism has not been marred by the conflicts engendered in the name of Christianity and Islam. This may be so. But the reasons why it is so may have nothing whatsoever to do with Buddhism. It could simply be that in the nations where Buddhism has prospered, there were simply no great reasons for there to be massive conflicts. I am not stating this as a fact. I am putting forth the suggestion that geographic isolation, the distribution and/or plentitude of resources, and any number of other reasons may have contributed to the relatively peaceful history of these areas (if indeed, they were peaceful histories).
    I once got into an arguement with a Buddhist about meat eating. He ate meat. I told him I read where the Buddha (always in capitals…) said you shouldn’t eat meat. He said something I can’t remember now, but went on to say as long as you didn’t kill the cow yourself, or have the cow killed on your behalf, it was ok. I said in a modern economy, when you buy the cow at the grocery store, how could it NOT be killed in your name, if only indirectly. Well, Buddhist doctrine is Buddhist doctrine, and this is how he believed it was to be intrepeted. What matters is your karma, not the butcher’s. So it’s ok to let the butcher kill the meat and mess with his rebirth, but you, the recipient of the butcher’s actions, as long as you didn’t ask him to make the slaughter, are clean. Wow!
    I repiled I knew a woman who was vegan for a long time. Then she decided to eat meat again. She helped to raise the pig, fed him, loved him, even. Came slaughter day and she came out with the rifle. The pig knew and lay down. I said I thought this was the most ethical, least cop-outish way possible to be a meat-eater. He replied it was not the Buddhist way….I think that was the moment I really decided Buddhism was a crock of shit. Course, another long-time Buddhist said he ate meat, had to cause he was working and needed the energy, maybe someday he wouldn’t, did his best to eat ethically and on and on…and well, what thoughtful person doesn’t… An endless stream of self-justifying rationalizations.
    But then, all concepts are empty…thankfully…
    “Social clubs in drag disguise” said Bob Dyaln of religion. So the theists hang out with their imagianry friend, the liberal unitarians have their open discussions where they quest after a modern day spiritualism, and the Buddhists trot out commonplace vagaries dressed up as transcendent truths and philosophical jibber jabber about emptiness.
    Me, I’m going to sit and meditate. No dharma, no gurus, no god, no doctrine, no sangha. Just a bunch of unrepentant atheists who try to be decent to one another.

  79. Thanks, brent. I’ve actually gotten to the same conclusion but I’m open to every possibility so I’m still reading heavily just in case I’ll find that great read again (I have been truly moved only once by literature, I have to thank Flaubert for that, The Temptation of St Anthony is incredible).

  80. Redkiwi

    Some unsolicited advice…I wouldn’t be too concerned about all that material out there. If you get to some of it, fine. If you love to read, knowledge is certainly better than ignorance. All those books aren’t going to help you much, tho. Sit down and shut up. Meditate. Everything that is in those books that is important will come to you. And then, you can make of it what you will in your own, independent way.

    Advice can be a dangerous thing. But I think I’ve figured this much out.

  81. Haha, at the same grade I did then.

    I have heard good things about The Razor’s Edge but I have yet to get to it, there’s so much material out there.. uff; can’t wait though!

  82. RedKiwi

    Yes, I read Siddhartha in grade 11 many years ago. I was quite taken by it, probably started my interest in things Eastern and maybe was the first time I learned about meditation. Certainly it was my first real introduction to eastern thought. Made quite an impression. I’m sure it’s ideas found their way into some short stories I wrote in grade 12. I read it agian at the Buddhist retreat I went on a couple of years ago. Of course, it made less of an impression, and I was more critical of certian ideas in it. Still, a very worthwhile read. The Razor’s Edge was a good book that way, too.

  83. Uh, well I’m back because I went to Livejournal Buddhists Community and couldn’t get the signup sheet to work to leave a comment, so I”ll have to address the people there on this web site and hope Vijeno will direct them here for me. Hope Rachel doesn’t mind the cross-pollination. So, to begin…

    Jayyy said Buddhism is what you make of it. Succinct. A total cop-out, but succinct.

    JRFrench – First, thanks for being the only person who tried to answer at least one of my twenty questions, that being what a Buddhist is. However, your surprise (and condescension) that I have not heard of the Four Seals is misused. I have heard of them, I just never paid them much mind. The Four Seals, as you listed them are as follows, with my attendant commentary:

    1. All compounded things are impermanent. Really? That explains why all my toys kept breaking when I was a kid…Bummer…

    2. All emotions are pain. Love hurts. Good song by Nazareth.

    3. All things have no inherit existence. What was there before there was something? Why is there something instead of nothing? These were really cool discussions the guys and me used to have in the dorm my first year of university. We had pizza and beer, tho. Much cooler scence than at the Buddhist retreat.

    4. Nivana is beyond concepts. So is Heaven. Sounds like the same kind of jive God was talking when he said “I am that I am.” Good line to use when you don’t want to have to answer to shit. Course, when you’re a Buddhist, and it just is what you make of it, I guess this kind of line sounds pretty cool…

    And I have read that WIDELY AVAILABLE book (What makes You NOT a Buddhist) you recommended in bold type in case I was such an uncultured provincial Imight have missed it. Didn’t think much of it. Sounded like the same old generic platitudes. And yes JR, I do feel I have a right to criticize Buddhism. I think a twelve year old with Down’s Syndrome has a right to criticize Buddhism. They might come up with something more useful and pointed than the indoctrinated.

    I never implicitly assumed karma and reincarnation are “superstitious and unhealthy”. Vijeno said that in outlining what he believed I was trying to say. I think they are the political tools of a privilged theocracy.
    And no, I do not have to “just lay down [my] money and take my chance.” Especially on a product as questionalbe as Buddhism, make of it what you want or no. I can keep my money for myself and make my own way. And since you seem to be familiar with Shambala, what are your thoughts on Trungpa’ alcoholism and womanizing?

    Ocha no hanashi said I seem to have a negative vision of karma and rebirth and have rejected them, and that it’s my preogative to reject Buddhism, but Buddhist traditions won’t change because I take a pissy fir on the net.
    First, some context. I made my comments on a site devoted to criticisms of Buddhism, not discussions about Buddhism, so piss away I did. I live alone in a remote cabin and just got the Internet a month ago. I was looking for some validation of what was running through my mind about my encounters with Buddhists. I know Buddhist traditions won’t change becasue of a rant on the Net. And I had a pissy fit because I agree with Rachel that Buddhism is getting a free ride here in the west.

    Lovelynepenthe pointed out I wasn’t asking for anything to change and said maybe I took a pissy fit because there was nothing interesting on tv. Actually, I don’t have a tv.

    JP5040 – Thoughtful comments. Define “mindful words”. Your eightfold path does not have to be mine.
    I have met long-time Buddhists who’ve told me about the eightfold path. Then they told me I haven’t suffered enough, I’m not serious, my atheism was insane, and other words of encouragement. Would this be what Buddhists call practicing mindful words?

    Finally, I’m pretty bummed out. All that ranting, and yet I got only one answer as to what Buddhism actually might be from the folks at LIveJournal. If I asked a Christian what Christianity is, what might there answer be? To a Jew, what is Judaism? To a Muslim, what is Islam? If all I can get is a list of four “Noble Truths”, then I have to ask again. And if Buddhism is nothing more than what you make of it, then I have to ask why anyone would call themselves a Buddhist. Plus, there are the other twenty questions or critiques I’m told I crammed in, and it doesn’t appear anyone wants to tackle them.

    Getting late. Falling asleep. Danger of saying foolish things…

  84. It seems dishonest to say Reincarnation doesn’t matter when at the Buddhist retreat I was at it was made explicitly clear (over and over and over and over again) that we should do “good” deeds to further our chances for a better rebirth. I felt like I was at a Brownie gathering. The whole point seemed to be you became a Buddhist and got your groove on with the Dharma cause you really want that window seat in the Bardo. And how this is different from the Christians looking to reserve an executive suite in heaven, I’m not sure. It’s also just plain laughable when the head honcho who has studied Buddhism for decades gets up and says the reason why we don’t remember our past lives is because the birth process is so traumatic. Really? For who. I can see where the mother might find the whole thing pretty painful, but the kid? A quick slide down the tube and it’s over. The ultrasounds I’ve seen usually show the foetus having a pretty good time, listening to Mozart and all that…Birth is traumatic? War is traumatic. Rape is traumatic. Sexual abuse of infants is traumatic. And they can all mess with your head. So it’s pretty insulting to hear from a Buddhist leader that birth can do your head worse than those things. And if it’s so traumatic that it wipes out your previous lives, why are the rest of the baby’s cognitive functions left intact? But then, I guess you have to come up with some explanation for why we can’t remember, since the Buddhists I spoke to seem to believe you can be reincarnated as anything, anywhere in the universe. It’d be a confusing world if Bob met Sally and said “Geez, Sally, I haven’t seen you since you were a Globalphartisc on the planet Yoijhthy.” Conveniently, of course, all the reincarnated Dalai Lamas were considerate enough to be reborn within a few days walk of Llhasa. Whew! Imagine the consternation at the temple in 1650 if they had to book a shuttle flight with NASA to bring the little fucker in…

    Point is, it’s dishonest. But then, we’re talking about a group whose leaders, according to one high up Buddhist I spoke with, apparently deliberately insert contradictions into their teachings, just so you learn not to get to attached to teachings and words and reason and all those sorts of things that, y’know, might lead to rational, critical thought.

    Vijeno, I enjoy your comments. And thanks for forwarding me to the other site. You said above that there is no central authority as to who is a Buddhist and who isn’t, so if you call yourself a Buddhist, you’re a Buddhist, plain and simple. Hmmm….well, first, see my post on the other website. Second, I’m a serial killer with a fetish for ripping the tongues out of stray cats and eating them with tapioca pudding (the tongues that is). But I’ve taken my vows, and I absolutely accept the Four Noble Truths! Am I a Buddhist? Also, I’ve met at least one Buddhist (who, again, had been studying for decades and had pictures of his Buddhist heroes up on his walls like a teenager with a bad case of boy band rapture) who explained to me that there were five professions that disallowed you from becoming a Buddhist. Butchers, soldiers and prostitutes cannot become Buddhists, apparently. The soldier and butcher thing I get, but prostitutes? Those women are saints to all the lonely men out there…Point is, I don’t think a lot of Buddhists would agree with you…

    Riglin – You said form is emptiness, emptiness is form. Nice bit of jargon. Care to explain what you mean by it? I understand many Buddhists spend a lot of years trying to get to the essence of this one. Perhaps you could enlighten them, and me. I heard this phrase over and over again at the retreat. Then I ate dinner and scratched my ear. One does not come out of a retreat more tangled in form? You sure? How about if you come out of a retreat stuffed to the gills with some of the ridiculous things I’ve mentioned above. How about if you come out with a washed brain and a diminished ability to think critically? How about if you come out spouting jargon like form is emptiness and emptiness is form.
    How about if you come out manipulated by a so-called guru or spiritual leader who’s seduced you with compliments and the old “you’re part of something very special, now” routine? How about if you can’t wait to take all those interesting looking courses in Buddhism (prices ranging from $175 for a weekend course to $1480 for attaining the next level of Boddhisatavism) that you read about in the glossy brochures as if reaching “enlightenment” were as simple as registering at a community college? How about if you start looking at the world through the lens of Buddhism, and begin having to rationalize things like reincarnation and karma?

    Sam – I hope you’re still listening. Buddhism as a secular philosophy…ok. But then it isn’t Buddhism anymore. It’s just another philosophy. I’ll put it together with the great works of The Donnas. Good rock band. Check them out. Sometimes my hairdresser says some pretty cool things, too…I guess I don’t disagree with you…but then you aren’t calling yourself a Buddhist…and my beef is with the Buddhists who cop-out and want it every way…just don’t form an organizastion around your philosophy, cause then I’ll have to start saying nasty things about you, too…

    If any readers are interested, I’m posting a few other thoughts on the site Vijeno posted above.

  85. Ah! Thanks for clarifying, Sam! I did misunderstand you. And I actually agree with you: I think karma and rebirth are unnecessary. That’s one of the things that has frustrated me with the teachings of the Buddhists I read – Thich Nhat Hanh and Jack Kornfield. I read along and totally agree with what they’re saying and all the sudden they go off into karma, rebirth, and hungry ghosts (although I do like using the idea of “hungry ghosts” metaphorically). Based on this, though, I wonder if what we’re talking about – four noble truths sans karma and rebirth – is still Buddhism. Of course, I am not really sure if that matters… I can find meditation helpful even without the religious overlay…

  86. Sorry to go back on my word, but when I said I wouldn’t post anymore I had no idea you had misinterpreted me that badly. Your caricature of my position is not the position I was advocating. I said karma and rebirth are unnecessary, not that no other buddhists believe in them. I mean, obviously. (and no, I’m not changing my position eel-like, this was my position all along).

    All right, definitely my last post. I promise this time.

  87. Sam – I quoted from a Buddhist teacher, so at least some Buddhists think that karma and rebirth are part of Buddhism. Instead of acknowledging that this is the case, you gave me relativism (“you, yourself”), so because *you* do not believe in karma and rebirth, Buddhists don’t. As I understand it they are an important part of Buddhist teaching. You argue they are not. That is where the argument breaks down and gets eel-like because I can quote from Buddhist teachers ad nauseum but since you don’t believe karma and rebirth are important, you think that Buddhism doesn’t include it. I am not a Buddhist, so I have to rely on what prominent figures within Buddhism teach. I am mostly familiar with Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching that’s why I relied on him.

  88. @Rachel

    That was a weak response, Rachel, and I think you know it. I answered your point directly while you completely evaded answering mine, instead you basically just complained that I wasn’t agreeing with you about what a buddhist should be. So who is ‘slipping away like an eel through a hole of their own making’ here? Who is being unable to change their mind?

    But I agree that it’s a waste of time and energy to say anything. That is why I said before that I’m inclined to not use the label ‘buddhist’ at all. Too many immensely boring arguments with people unable to change their minds, which can be so easily avoided just by not using it. I won’t be posting here anymore, either.

  89. Ah, yes. That’s why I had decided not to participate in these discussions anymore: As soon as I think I found a contradiction, the person slips away like an eel through some hole of their making… Basically, Sam, Buddhism then is what you make it to be, changing it as you see fit to advance your argument. Thus, any argument that I make cannot possibly present any evidence that might change your mind. To me, that is the essence of religion… I will keep quiet again now. It’s a waste of time & energy to say anything…

    (Addendum on July 9: Please note that I misunderstood, Sam! He clarified his position in another comment. Thanks, Sam, and sorry for misunderstanding!)

  90. @Rachel

    Unless you, yourself, think belief in karma and rebirth are necessary in order to perform right speech, right action, right livelihood and so on, then you must agree that the four noble truths (including the eightfold path) can be accepted without karma and rebirth.

  91. If I recall correctly, though, the fourth noble truth is tied to the eightfold path as a way out of suffering and then the eightfold path is tied to the notion of karma and rebirth… It’s in “The Heart of Buddha’s Teaching” by Thich Nhat Hanh, which is only partially online and I don’t have my paper copy anymore. See page 10 for a graphic of the four noble truths. Karma shows up in several of the 8 steps on the path…

    So, this shows the integration of this religion that RedKiwi mentioned in the comment from July 6: You cannot pick and chose – you get the whole thing, starving ghosts and all…

  92. @vijeno and riglin

    I’d agree with this definition. If the label ‘buddhist’ refers to anything at all, it is acceptance of the four noble truths, the transcendence of the permanent ‘I’. This is the only thing unique to buddhism, and so it is the only thing that makes the label ‘buddhist’ meaningful at all. So of course it must be your attitude to the four noble truths that determine whether you’re a buddhist, not your attitude to things like karma and rebirth.

  93. A Buddhist is someone who by practicing the Buddha Dhamma is stopping to cling to a permanent self and stop clinging to form. This is what one should practice in a retreat. Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. One does not come out from a retreat getting tangled more in form.

    Hope this helps.

  94. Hi brent,

    I`ve read through all the posts on this site now regarding Buddhism. It still strikes me that most of the defenses of Buddhism are either the you just don`t understand true Buddhism kind, or the Buddhism is an empty concept take what you want variety, which may be good advice, but sidesteps the difficult questions about what Buddhism has become and the belief systems it supports. If reincarnation is a political convenience, then that political convenience needs to be exposed and dismantled. The Dalai Lama is a hypocrit if he is aware of this and does or says nothing about it. If people are using organizations like Shambala to fulfill their private need to present themselves as authorities, or as a way of copping out and submitting to an authority,then this needs to be exposed and called out.

    Well… yes, I see what you’re aiming at, and I agree. I think that “buddhism is an empty concept” does not at all contradict taking action against personality cults and the use of reincarnation as a political instrument. One is about working in favor of autonomous human beings – the other is about what I personally make of buddhism. But ultimately, isn’t it the same thing? If I were to talk to someone who follows a guru or thinks the Dalai Lama is some godlike creature, I’d point out to them that they’re conceptualising buddhism and that they can take whatever they want from the scriptures – if they decide to follow a leader, that’s their prerogative, but if anyone claims that buddhists HAVE to follow a leader, then that’s clearly wrong. So I think the “take what you like” attitude actually harmonizes with political action.

  95. @Sam and RedKiwi,

    One of the very fundamental goal of buddhism, in my view, is to see how we get attached to our concepts. “This is buddhism” – “No, THIS” is buddhism – those questions of definition are addressed in several sutras. They’re ultimately futile. Buddhism, on that level, is just a concept. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter whether buddhism is a religion with superstitions and hierarchy, or not. What matters is that, yes, people do get opressed by religious leaders, and yes, people fall for superstitions.

    People do get told that they can’t reach enlightenment because they’re of the wrong gender. People do get told that they were born with a terrifying and debilitating disease because they did something bad in a past life.

    But on the other hand, if you look at buddhist scriptures, you find enough material to decry this sort of fear-mongering.

    If I’m pressed for a definition of a buddhist, I’d say: everyone who – on some level – believes that the Four Noble Truths aptly describe the human condition and hint at a way to end suffering. That’s because all well-established buddhist schools obviously accept the Four Noble Truths.

    On the other hand, there is no central authority to define who is a buddhist and who isn’t – so if you call yourself a buddhist, then you are a buddhist, plain and simple.

  96. @RedKiwi

    Meh. Call it buddhism, don’t call it buddhism, I don’t care. Frankly I’m starting to be inclined towards not calling it buddhism just to avoid this immensely boring argument.

  97. Look, when you talk about a concept, like Buddhism, you talk about it in it’s entirety, both good and bad because that’s what makes it it. You can’t just say, well I’ll take this part here and I’ll call myself a buddhist, because you might as well call yourself twenty other ways from twenty other belief systems that have that principle also. You can’t be a buddhist, christian, muslim or whatever else without accepting the system with all its pros and cons, else you are a certain type of christian, muslim, etc. and once you start stripping the systems of most of their parts then you really just start adapting into something entirely different. In the same way you can’t talk about buddhism after you’ve stripped it bare to what suits you because that will just create confusion.

  98. @ Redkiwi

    I wasn’t comparing a scientific theory to a religious dogma, because all along I’ve been advocating buddhism in the form of secular philosophy, and it’s buddhism as secular philosophy that I’m talking about here. Religious dogma is indeed a whole different kettle of fish, and one I have nothing to do with. Thing is, if anything is actually true in buddhism about the mind and human condition, then it’s actually just a field of knowledge, where the true is kept and the false is jettisoned, allowing understanding to grow. Therefore I was comparing two fields of knowledge, not science and fossilised dogma.

  99. How can you compare a scientific theory to the dogma of a religion? They entail totally different concepts. The first can accept change because some new fossil is discovered or whatever and the body of knowledge is expanded but the second revolves around ways of living and thinking which are universal and eternal and have only to do with the human condition.

  100. @ Brent

    You ask what is the true buddhism. Well, what is the true, say, darwinism? Is it evolutionary theory as given by darwin himself and fixed in The Origin of Species, or is it evolutionary theory as determined by the evidence? There is a crucial difference here, as Darwin got a few important things wildly wrong, for example the idea that the mechanism of inheritance was a ‘blending process’, which would actually make evolution unworkable. Darwinism even got misused and abused in the form of ‘social darwinism’, which had deplorable consequences. But no, testing and evidence determines what is to be kept of Darwin’s original formulation and whatever other versions of it were spawned after him, not to mention that which was discovered later and needed to be added to the original formulation (i.e., genetics). And yet, because modern evolutionary theory is still fundamentally about the development of biological complexity and diversity via the mechanism of natural selection, it is still called ‘darwinism’. Why can’t buddhism be the same? Why can’t we keep what is found to be true, jettison what is found to be false or unfounded, while still calling it buddhism because it is still fundamentally about the alleviation of mental suffering via the mechanism of meditation to transcend the feeling of ‘I’? This isn’t to ignore all the things that other people believe under the label ‘buddhism’, like karma and rebirth. There’s no reason why we can’t still criticise erroneous beliefs and versions of buddhism and decry their consequences, just as we criticised erroneous aspects and versions of darwinism in the past.

    In short, evidence and testing determines the ‘true’ buddhism. What else? Now, why doesn’t all this apply to discovering, say, the ‘true’ version of the aztec religion? Because there’s nothing at all in the ancient aztec religion that survives the criterion of evidence and testing, and so we just don’t talk about a ‘true’ version of the aztec religion. Of course, we may ask why we need labels at all, whether ‘buddhism’ or ‘darwinism’. That’s really up to you. But since you were brought up this notion of the ‘true’ buddhism, I thought I’d answer.

  101. PS – I also wanted to speak to this notion of the true Buddhism a bit. I had this Christian friend who said he`d found this church that was the REAL THING. It wasn`t some suburban yuppie comfort food for the obscenely affluent looking for some justification for their destructive lifestyles, nope, this was the REAL THING. The true word and spirit of CHRIST. Many of the above posts have the same flavour, only they have found THE TRUE BUDDHA. And all the other Buddhists are THE UNTRUE BUDDHISTS. How about this – there is no TRUE BUDDHA. There is no TRUE CHRIST. There are people. There is suffering. There is meditation which may alleviate that suffering. There are some truths which will hopefully occur to you if you sit down and shut up long enough to listen. The rest is religion.

  102. My question still stands. If I am to approach Buddhism with a “take what you want and leave the rest” attitude, what then, is a Buddhist? What is the minumum requirement for calling oneself a Buddhist, or for people to form an organization around something called Buddhism? A Christian I knew said that God was love. If so, then what is the point of calling yourself a Christian? What does the whole story of Christ have to do with god being love? Why is Christ necessary at all? It’s one thing to take this tack that Buddhism is just about lightening up and not attaching to beliefs. It’s another to then ignore or cop-out when it comes to taking a hard look at what Buddhism, deviant or not, propogates. I attended one lecture where this affluent Buddhist spoke in the slow, calm way Buddhists like to talk about how Reincarnation may in fact be a political convenience, he didn’t know, and left the issue at that. I’d like to know if it is! Because if it is, then shouldn’t the doctrine of Reincarnation be put under intense scrutiny, given the number of so-called gurus and their followers who use it as a form of legitimization for their position in Buddhist heirarchies, including and maybe even especially the Dalai Lama? If Reincarnation is a political convenience, then I am troubled by the Buddhists I have met who have told me that even if I don`t believe in Reincarnation, I should still try to live my life as if it were true! I should live my life according to a belief that may be nothing more than an elaborate justification for the succession of a living god who rules over a theocracy. (my question mark isn`t working on my keyboard…)And how, exactly, is this any different from Christians telling me I should live a certain way so I increase my chances of getting into Heaven. These belief systems have deep implications. Some Jews in the Warsaw ghetto believed at first that the Nazis were God`s way of punishing the Jews for religious transgressions. To say that my Karma is none of your business is one thing, but the fact remains many intelligent Buddhists think otherwise. I was told by one Buddhist, who was a practicing psychotherapist, that my atheism was insane, as was theism, and the the Buddhist middle path of non-theism was the true path. He then went on to explain that Reincarnation could be hard to accept for people who had difficult lives. No shit. Of course, he was a therapist making $90 per hour and living in a four-story house in the richest part of the city, and I`m a proud member of the working poor with a crummy childhood and the resulting mental health problems. Another Buddhist told me not to be angry about my problems, because I have nothing in this life I didn`t ask for, presumably while I was floating around in the Bardo waiting for my return flight to earth…please don`t let these people loose on the children`s cancer ward…another Buddhist, very well educated, had four daughters, one of whom was acting out sexually by dating a man over thirty while she was still a teenager. His explanation for her behaviour – her Karma from a previous life. Not her brain chemistry, not her home life, not some incident in her life he may not even be aware of, nope, it was her Karma…

    My question to Buddhists – how much of this evidence does one have to pile up until critics like me stop getting answers like, `that`s not true Buddhism`, or, `you don`t have to believe that if you don`t want to`. The point is many of you believe it. The point is many of your so-called gurus believe it and profit from it. The point is all these beliefs have profound impacts on the way we shape our society. And as Buddhism increases in popularity in the West, your beliefs are going to matter.

    I burned my dharma books. I have nothing to do with the Buddhists. I have continued to meditate because it works. And I continue to get better. And I`ve done it on my own, and have rejected just about everything I was told by the Buddhists. The cultish worship of gurus and the constant reference to The Buddha as if he were some extraordinary being are religious phenomena. I was told the Buddha achieved enlightenment after passing through many thousands of lifetimes, To put it bluntly, how the fuck would anyone know that. The person who said this was way high up in the Shambala organization. He was revered like a rock-star. No one questioned a word he said. It was ridiculous. And all the while, the people in attendance clearly thought their belief system was superior to the Christians. This is not the case of one or two deluded individuals on power trips. This is systemic, this is what Buddhism has become.

    Personally, I took the meditation and left everything else. After I was told I hadn’t suffered enough and was not serious about the dharma because I failed to meet another Buddhist’s expectations for me when I went on a month long retreat, I burned all my Dharma books. (Which brings up another point: At the retreat we were informed no dharma books were to ever touch the floor. This included photocopies of chants contained in cheap duotangs like school kids put their book reports in. This is pure fetishism and superstition. And then they get offended when Buddhism is refered to as a religion.)

    I`ve read through all the posts on this site now regarding Buddhism. It still strikes me that most of the defenses of Buddhism are either the you just don`t understand true Buddhism kind, or the Buddhism is an empty concept take what you want variety, which may be good advice, but sidesteps the difficult questions about what Buddhism has become and the belief systems it supports. If reincarnation is a political convenience, then that political convenience needs to be exposed and dismantled. The Dalai Lama is a hypocrit if he is aware of this and does or says nothing about it. If people are using organizations like Shambala to fulfill their private need to present themselves as authorities, or as a way of copping out and submitting to an authority,then this needs to be exposed and called out.

    You don`t need a guru. You don`t need something that calls itself Buddhism. And Lord knows we don`t need another religion that hasn`t got the guts to call itself what it truly is.

  103. @Sam

    Yes, I agree. I’m quite fond of the idea that one should take from whatever source, whatever one finds to be working and beneficial, and just leave the rest. Well, on the other hand, spiritual paths require a certain commitment for at least some time, and they are about changing one’s self, so this is, of course, not quite solid ground. And of course, “testability” is a very subjective thing when it comes to one’s very life; who is to judge whether my life improves, except myself, after all?

    But basically, yeah, I guess I agree.

  104. @vijeno

    Yes. Maybe what makes the difference is whether people place testability above Buddha, or Buddha above testability.

  105. One more thing: I really think it’s about relaxing. And not only about relaxing in the face of challenges (which is good practice, methinks), but also – and probably even more importantly – relaxing in the face of one’s own beliefs; be they buddhist or christian or whatever. Believe it or not, it is legitimate to laugh about buddhist beliefs. Quite often, they are inherently funny. To me, that’s what I really take from buddhism.

  106. Hi Brent and Sam,

    I think that fundamentalism or dogmatism really have little to do with whatever teaching people are dogmatic about, and more with the psyche of those people. It’s pretty obvious that dogmatism appear in every single religion.

    I find it fascinating when people tell me about dogmatic buddhists, because whenever I met buddhists in real life, they were distinctly non-dogmatic. Maybe it’s just a coincidence, or some unconscious selection bias thing.

    Anyway, while I think that every religion is prone to dogmatism, I think religions have better or worse “safety clauses” against it, and I think that buddhism has a very clever mechanism that you can throw in the face of every dogmatist out there: All concepts are empty; and the dharma is a concept; therefore the dharma is empty. It is really as simple as that. If they answer that the dharma is not a concept, then they’re referring to something that cannot be rendered in language, and that can never be identical to their claims (because those can obviously be rendered in language rather well).

    So… as for practice, meditation has helped me, a LOT, getting more calm and more focused. And I cherish it. But that does NOT make it a cure-all. It DOES take away passion from your life. And of course, that’s fine, if that’s what you want. But that doesn’t mean that everybody should want that at every given moment in time. I do not want that, right now, so I don’t meditate.

    Again, it’s simple. It’s like a sport. Everyone knows that weight-lifting can do lots for your health; but not everyone is expected to become a full-time body builder. So why would everyone who studies buddhism be expected to become a monk?

    Ultimately, I think dogmatism is a form of spiritual peer pressure. You’re either a true believer, or you’re not one of us.

    I don’t think that’s something we should fall for.

    vijeno

  107. Hi Brent,

    I agree with a lot of what you say. I’ve grown leery of buddhists who say buddhism isn’t a religion, because so often it turns out their buddhism involves one or more of three things: faith, worship, and the supernatural, any one of which makes it a religion in my book. Even those who insist buddhism is a philosophy and not a religion often insist that every word the Buddha spoke must be held as true even if its untestable or if testing finds it to be wrong, which makes the man’s lightest utterance unquestionable dogma. They argue that it’s all about ‘confidence in one’s teacher’, as though our teachers and pioneers in every other field are expected to be omniscient and infallible.

    However, I do think all this is a pity, because I really do think that buddhism can be practiced as a purely secular philosophy, where Buddha is in the category of Socrates and Newton rather than Jesus and Mohammed, where Buddha is held to be a discoverer of certain truths which can be tested and verified, and where anything he said that is not testable or verifiable (like rebirth) is cast aside and ignored. Just like we accept Newton’s laws of motion and universal gravitation, but reject his beliefs in the occult. I *might* tentatively call myself a secular or philosophical buddhist (a label which I take to refer to someone who practices, in everyday life, whatever part of Buddha’s philosophical and meditative teachings that can be tested and verified). But I do fear the label has been tarnished by those buddhists who I absolutely consider to be religious (whether they think they’re religious or not).

  108. Rachel

    I haven’t read all the correspondence above, but I wanted to add my own bit. I’ve been meditating now for several years and so took an interest in Buddhism. I went on a month long retreat, read several books and spoke with many long-time Buddhists. My conclusion: Buddhism is a religion like any other. It’s adherents are just as dogmatic and defensive as any fundamentalist Christian, and many of their beliefs are simply ludacris. They tend to get very offended when you point out the religious aspects of their heritage. They claim they are not dogmatic, yet I never found any mechanism by which any of their articles of faith can be tested. I live near Halifax, so the group (I want to say sect, if not cult) I encountered was Trungpa Chogyam, whose disciples bend over backwards to rationalize his promiscuousness and alcoholismm, the latter of which resulted in his death at age 47. Yet his books go on and on about the sanctity of life…
    And yes, the standard response to any criticism, like the Christians, is to say “you just don’t understand”. Precisely how many books or years am I to spend studying Buddhism before the believers will accept my criticisms? I was told by one of these benevolent souls that if I rejected Buddhism, then I was walking away from THE Truth and would suffer the consequences. That, more than anything, made me see just how dangerous this so-called non-religion was. It’s the same old mind-fucking (excuse the language) by people who want you to accept the same intellectual cop-out they’ve learned to live with, preying on insecure people looking for “an answer”. Substitute Buddha for Jesus, Enlightenment for Salvation, Reincarnation for Heaven and Samsara for Hell and it’s the same old song and dance.
    What is particularly annoying about the Buddhists, though, is their unfailing ability to rationalize and deflect critique. If you question reincarnation, they say you don`t have to believe in it. What then, I would ask, is the minimum requirement for being a Buddhist. They are also quite dishonest with newcomers. When I first inquired about taking vows, I was told you can keep your old religion and still be a Buddhist. But the vows themselves are quite explicit about not following any other path once you become a Buddhist. Then there`s the lavish temples, the heirarchies, the sectarianism and oh yes, I can here the believers now: but that`s not the fault of the teachings. Wake up boys and girls. You form an organization around any belief system and it becomes corrupted. Power enters the picture. The stories around Buddha are as ridiculous as the ones around Christ. And your teachings and practices are hardly above reproach. Beware of anyone who claims to know the truth.
    Meditation works.But it is NOT some mystical path. If I want to improve my body, I go to the gym. If I want to improve my mind and mental health, I meditate. The Buddhists I met had some pretty rigid beliefs about how you should meditate, and made some wild claims as to its benefits. Tonglen is one example. I did Tonglen for weeks, and absolutely nothing happened. It is prayer by another name. I found most Buddhists to be poor listeners. They`re so sure they have the answer and the truth they don`t see or hear the person right in front of them. Jargon can do that to a person. One of the reasons I rejected Buddhism is becasue I could see it happening to me. I was starting to look at the world through the filter of Buddhism, and I did not like it. I find it funny that a group of people who talk so much about freeing your mind blah blah blah are so eager to adopt a set of rituals, beliefs and jargon handed to them from on high by what is in effect a priesthood, and then set about denying they are a religion like any other. I`m not expecting to achieve enlightenment, and anyone who says you can is selling you a bill of goods.

  109. Rachel,

    What an interesting discussion. I was frustrated to see how much flack you received for your honest criticism. I find it a common phenomenon, when religion is criticized, that folks will resort to defending the philosophical basis of their teaching and ignore the problems brought on by “organization” and “institutionalism”. While I have no qualms with the philosophy/teaching of Guatam Buddha, I believe the organization of his philosophy into a hierarchical, gender based, system, has probably led to more suffering than it has alleviated. I am in favor of a truly egalitarian society, but I have yet to find any “organized religion” that has truly advocated for such a thing. While I have benefited deeply from some buddhist teachings, I do my practice (as many westerners do) unaffiliated. I think contact with the West is changing the face of buddhism. I know Sam Harris got a lot of flack for the direction he took in “The End of Faith”, but I don’t think he was advocating for Buddhism as a religion. I think he was pointing out, that from a point of studying the nature of mind/consciousness, buddhism had some interesting practices that, once removed from all the religious dogma, might actually be usefull!

  110. Rachel,

    thanks for your kind and constructive answer. I didn’t expect it, really, since so much time has passed since your original posting.

    I hope to come back to this later today. Right now, I find it important to note one thing:

    I did not come here and come up with something relevant. To the contrary! When I read vexen’s and your comments, initially I DID get defensive about buddhism. (And I don’t even call myself a buddhist!) We’re all prone to attaching ourselves to a thought-system, it’s a danger inherent in every human being. It took time and effort to see how I was attached to my own idea of buddhism, to employ compassion with myself and to look deeper.

    I think that is the one basic most important thing – grant myself the time to overcome the attachment, time and again, and never think that, just because I’ve studied buddhism, I’m magically better than my catholic neighbours. It is utterly important to keep in mind that I am prone to attachment, and you are as well, therefore there is no reason to judge each other.

    Apart from that, I think there are a few good rules of thumb – they’re not general rules, they’re not 100%, but I think they’re good guidelines what to be wary of:

    * Religious leadership + political leadership = trouble. The two should not be combined, because political parties as well as religious organizations tend to rouse groupthink, us/them mentality and attachment to the organization instead of its ideas. The effect gets multiplied by combination.

    * Hierarchy will always tend to create power struggles and power abuse, because people become attached to their power and try to defend it no matter what. That’s not to say that hierarchy is only bad (it’s necessary in many contexts), but we should always be wary of the leaders. Also, I doubt that the Indian or Tibetan ideas of religious leadership are applicable in today’s West. We are still traumatized by WWII and the nazis, in general I think most people here are not very good at dealing with religious authority figures.

    * There is no need at all to accept the whole package. It is perfectly fine to practice meditation for health and calmness. It is perfectly fine to reject karma, rebirth, or even all of buddhism. As a buddhist practitioner, I would suggest to keep an open mind in those matters, and not to be surprised if the meditation led you to accepting karma, but that’s just my irrelevant opinion 😉

    * Your karma is none of my business. I think this is so important, I have to repeat it: Your karma is none of my business! It is said that only a buddha can grasp the exact mechanics of karma, so we shouldn’t dabble in “you’re a spastic diplegic, therefore you killed your wife in your last incarnation, you loser!”

    * Never let yourself be tricked into abandoning critical thinking. Meditation does NOT mean to stop thinking! If you have the impression that something is going wrong and that the teachings in some community are somehow bad, don’t look for the fault in yourself and force yourself to keep going to that place – take your time, take a leave from that community to sort things out for yourself, and when you’ve calmed down and are ready to engage in rational thinking, do so, and come up with your own answers.

    * And finally, buddhist doctrine is only useful inasmuch as it helps a person to practice lovingkindness towards themselves and others, and mindfulness.

  111. vijeno: I have to admit that I almost didn’t read your comment. I’ve gotten a bit leery of comments to my pages critical of Buddhism because they seem to revert to attempting to convert me, which imo is (a) pointless and (b) offensive. But you are not doing this – and I appreciate that! In addition, I really like the questions that you raise at the end because ultimately, that is my aim with my critiques: Instead of blindly following some doctrine or another, we need to look at it and see if what we’re doing is helping ourselves and others to become better people. If we’re increasing suffering, I think, we’re doing something wrong! And I also think that we need to look critically at things like Zen in Japan and decide if there’s something within Buddhist doctrines that encourages such approaches. Imo, such critical evaluation can help us figure out how to create communities without the pitfalls you mention. I don’t think that there can be any system of ideas that cannot be abused, so it is important that we maintain vigilance and a (self-)critical attitude. Unfortunately, I sometimes find that this is not the case in Western Buddhist circles. Simply becoming defensive is not going to help us… We need to answer the questions you raise!

  112. Hi Rachel,

    I have read vexen’s page, and your comments, with great interest.

    Somehow, the issue bugged me. I’m not a buddhist per se, but I consider myself strongly influenced by buddhism. I was trying to find an answer that is neither accusing nor apologetic.

    Here’s what I came up with:

    In order to attack or defend buddhism, we first have to maintain an idea of buddhism in our heads, that we can then see as something permanently existing in the real world.

    We then have to label this “buddhism” thing as either good or bad, and then we have to identify with this “buddhism” thing, or with some “contrary to buddhism” thing. And then we are ready to defend our position.

    I guess you already know where this is going, right?

    Certainly, this is one way of dealing with things.

    Another way is to say that there were really only a few zen masters in Japan who interpreted certain scriptures so that they meant that Japanese imperialism was good. And there were (and are) a certain number of people who interpret the karma doctrine so that they can blame the victims of suffering for their own suffering.

    And now the question is not so much whether buddhism is inherently good or bad – but rather, did those zen masters, in doing so, help alleviate suffering, or did they create even more suffering? And ultimately, while it is interesting, even this is just an academic question. The only *real* question is this: How do *I* want to deal with the karma doctrine? Do *I* want to use the nirvana doctrine to recline into a self-satisfied state of bliss, or do I want to use the strength it gives me to help my fellow men? How can *I* live my own life so that I help alleviate suffering – my own suffering, and that of other sentient beings?

    In my life, buddhist meditation has helped me overcome depression and (I hope) become a better human being. I also fell into a few traps at certain points, and committed quite a few “buddhist” stupidities, stopped to practice and started again, and found that with more experience, it was better than before. Whether some of this applies to you, or whether you choose to find support in buddhism, or in christianity, or in marxism, is ultimately irrelevant. With regard to religion, I contend that the meaningful question is, how can we create religious rituals that actually HELP people? How can we create communities, sanghas, zendos, that avoid the pitfalls of hierarchy and power struggles as much as possible? How can we in the west learn from the east, and do it our own way?

  113. Hi Rachel,

    I’m afraid I don’t have the time to write a full reply to your critique, but I will simply say that most of your points are not valid because your information on Buddhims seems somewhat erroneous (e.g. ‘suffering’ is not a proper translation for the Pali word ‘dukkha’). And you will need to understand the doctrine of Paticcasamuppada before writing a critique of Buddhist philosophy.

    TVS

  114. Hi LaRouvia,

    Thanks for your comments. I’ve been practicing with the NKT, in London for a few years now. The NKT was founded by a tibetan monk, called ‘Geshe-la Kelsang Gyatso’. It’s a rapidly expanding organisation, with branches all over the world now. I wanted to try meditation about 5 years ago, as I found myself becoming very agitated at things, when I moved to London! I just wanted to feel generally happy, and more at peace with things.

    I can explain things to you if you like.. My email is ‘pjgasson@yahoo.co.uk’.

    Paul.

  115. Hi Paul,
    I am interested in learning more about your group? Where are you based out of? (…If you don’t mind me asking a more personal question). I am most curious where you obtained your level of clarity from? Are you self-taught? Or have a background in education? – The ease of your articulation would suggest as much.
    I, myself, am a university student, and came across this page while searching for some insight into what might be critical analyses of Buddhism (which has indeed been a futile challenge thus far). However, after being penalized on my last term paper for concluding that it would seem arrogant to postulate a refutation of Buddhist doctrines at such an admittedly elementary level of understanding – reading over some of your posts was both comforting in its affirmation of my conclusion, but also wonderfully stimulating.
    I would be most appreciative, should you be so inclined, to learn more from you on the subject of Buddhism?
    With sincere thanks and enjoyment
    – L

  116. Hey i found this page interesting and would like to clear up a few things. I am buddhist and belong to a sect of buddhism that requires us to explore others faith. first off buddhism is not a religion it is a philosophy and if were to explore the texts further it would make more sense that some of the criticisms that you have may go away. This is no attempt to convert you what so ever there are several places in various texts that say that all religions and faiths are true because they are all attempting to reach the same goal. “All roads eventually lead to rome.” Western buudhism is the way it is because not many people are willing to leave their old beliefs behind in the american dream… it is how you described it but not for all or even most sects here in the west only some. The reason why so many people are reborn is because we are trying to reach something that is the equivalent to reaching the state of Jesus Christ and according to several texts such as Kalachakra trantic vedic scriptures enlightenment is the main way to end suffering and we must become at a level that is the same as christ to achieve this. True practioners of buddhism are extremely peaceful and try never to harm things as little as possible. The ones that are harming things are deviating from the philosophy as do other people of all faiths everywhere. No one religion has all the answers or is the only answer this is why my sect chooses to explore other religions. Suffering in buddhism is caused by human greed, intolerance, hatred, misunderstanding, selfishness, etc. that are present in all of us and causes suffering for ourselves and others. so in a sense there is a systamatic creation of suffering. Yes buddhist ideals are extremely idealistic but so are many other faiths such as christianity where one is supposed o become christ like. I do not believe that any religion is dangerous or bad all realities can exist simultaneously. Thank you for your time hope this helps if it only confuses you or makes you angry or give off negativity i sincerely apologize.

  117. Hi Elizabeth,

    That sounds awful. I know what you mean about people in the Buddhist Sangha being unhelpful, and abuse happening. The thing with Buddhism, is that it attracts a fair amount of people who have emotional problems. Just because someone is labelled as being a buddhist ‘master’, or a revered teacher, doesn’t mean anything about the person’s inner realisations, or qualities. I must agree, that I too generally find Christian circles to be a friendly and helpful bunch.

    The thing you mention about how enjoying things is considered to be a downfall in Buddhism is strange. In all the teachings I have ever come across, especially in the Tibetan traditions, it’s not enjoyment that is the downfall, but the attachment to the thing. In short, if I’m watching a great movie, and someone turns it off right at a good part, then it’s also cool. I’d ask what’s going on, but my mind would remain strong and happy, instead of getting pissed, and feeling angry.

    It’s an issue with some people in my group, that they think that they have to give up everything external, like going to movies, and playing sport, etc. This is not right. What meditation does, is get rid of the attachment to it. Selling all my music, and retreating into a cave and trying not to enjoy anything, is not going to lead me anywhere. It’s going to just stretch my mind to breaking point.

    Over the months and years, the things that I once did that I found comfort in when I was down, like phoning friends at 2 in the morning, or watching movies, etc, I still enjoyed doing when I wanted to, but, I no longer needed them as a support, because I found that I was much happier, and able to deal with horrible situations far better than before. When my meditative concentration got stronger, my mind also got lighter throughut the day.

    I guess, what I’m saying, in conclusing, is.. don’t take what the teachers say too seriously. We just need common sense. But, sit down and up the concentration.. and, things will begin to go smoothly…

  118. I had the worst time with a so-called buddhist master, abused and psychologically damaged and subsequently again with other masters. And I’ve almost *never* met a friendly buddhist in my 16 years of involvement. There’s just not much care or warmth or outreach to the sick or disadvantaged, things which seems intrinsic to Christian culture which is focused on community, and not ultimately individual efforts towards liberation as in buddhism (I have mental health problems but not one buddhist showed any interest in helping or providing support, and there were many occasions when the mentally ill were abused verbally or emotionally, in numerous settings and under different sanghas and masters).

    I’ve met quite a few buddhists in that time, but, realistically, the people who go to my local country church are much, much warmer, more caring and genuine. I think that’s more important than philosophy and unrealistically idealistic notions of mental, physical and verbal conduct. Basically, any normal thing like watching tv, reading a book, enjoying a meal is an “outflow” and therefore a downfall in Buddhism. What a depressing, joyless religion.

    Buddhism just made my life worse. I wish I never got involved or even heard about it.

  119. Hi,

    At risk of boring you all to tears, I’m going to put an idea out there. Given the Kalama Sutra (the statement about not believing things just because we’ve read it or heard it from anyone else, but only if it agrees with our own reason and experience), should not the question ‘what is buddhism’ be determined simply by what is testable and discoverable NOW in relation to the stated goal of alleviating suffering, rather than by what is written in ancient books, or what past people have done in the name of ‘buddhism’?

    After all, is not the question ‘what is science’ determined by what is testable and discoverable now, rather than by what science books from a hundred or five hundred years ago said, or by what certain individuals have considered to be science in the past (i.e., marxism and social darwinism)?

    I mean, sure, we should acknowledge and learn from history, but we don’t need to say that past misguided definitions of ‘buddhism’ are buddhism NOW, anymore than marxism and social darwinism are science NOW.

    Just a thought.
    -Sam.

  120. Anyone who thinks that everyone should be peaceful all the time, just because they practice Dharma is not being logical or realistic.

    Will Buddhists fight in the future? Definately.

  121. EDIT:

    I should augment ‘People with DELUSIONS’ to:

    ‘People with DELUSIONS, of massively differing individual qualities and differing types delusion, and differing mental capacities for Dharma practice’

  122. It is clear to me that, developing arrogance, based on attachment to ones own views, be they Buddhist or otherwise, can generate anger in the mind towards someone who disagrees with us. Within all Buddhist teachings I have ever come across, including Japanese Zen, this arrogant mind can be caught in the early stages, so as to stop it evolving into hatred and violence. This is a basic Buddhist teaching of mindfulness.

    If someone were to not take this advice, and let a mind of arrogance develop into hatred, then that person is not practicing Dharma at that time.

    If the Zen ‘masters’ of Japan, in that period were to look at their own mind, and practice patience, and compassion for others, then there would have been no violence.

    So, the fault lies in the individual, as always. There has always been systematic violence within populations of Buddhist culture. One could say that it is due to the impure karma (or states of mind) of the individuals/groups of people.

    It is valid to say that, if these people purified their minds, then there would then be no violence.

    So, looking logically, of course there will be violence within Buddhist cultures. There always has been, there is still, and there always will be. Because the people who practicing have impure minds.

    So, in short:

    People with DELUSIONS + Buddhist teachings + Practice of Dharma over 40 years

    = A high level of fundamentalism with some people, with little progress made in decreasing delusions

    + Some improvement (lessening of delusion) with some people

    + Greater levels of improvement with others

    + A minority reaching a cessation of delusion (Liberation)

    But, as long as we make progress along the path, then that is good.

  123. Reading Vishvapani’s write up, I realized that the arrogance that leads us to think that Buddhism is better than other religions might be at the bottom of Japanese Zen’s embrace of violence.

    Heathens who impeded Japan, it was argued, were also standing in the way of the progress of humanity, and deserved punishment, not least because Japan was so deeply imbued with Buddhism that opposing its interests was tantamount to opposing Buddhism. Buddhists, along with other government propagandists, argued that the expansion of Japanese power into Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria and eventually the rest of China was for the benefit of the inhabitants of those countries.

  124. Riglin: “Writing up” is not the same as “making up,” which seems to be how you’re interpreting “writing up.” I can write up a recipe, which is the same as writing it down, just like “cracking a window” is the same in some parts of the US as “opening a window.”

    Riglin wrote: “Buddhism is harmless and peaceful, no doubt about it.” Better read up on the history of Buddhism – I think you’re attached to a too rosy view of Buddhism! As Vishvapani put it:

    Victoria’s charge is not simply that Zen teachers were swept along by the nationalist tide. That would be unsurprising and understandable. […] Zen teachings played a central role in instilling the military ethos and offering moral support to the military. ‘Japanese military leaders deliberately set out to inculcate a Zen-inspired attitude in Japanese troops as they raped and pillaged their way through Asia from 1931 to 1945, killing between 10 and 20 million men, women and children. This was done with the complete and unconditional support of all Japan’s Zen leaders.’

    Paul: I can highly recommend Vishvapani’s write up. He is addressing the question regarding the origins of the violent teachings much better than I have been able to do.

  125. Riglin wrote: “This is enough to counter your view that Buddhism leads to violence just like any other religions’ teachings.” That is not my view. My view is that there is nothing within Buddhism that prevents the teaching of violence within the context of that religion. Just as many Christians argue that Christianity is peaceful ignoring history and the quote from Matthew you gave, you are ignoring history. It was not one teacher; it was a whole time period during which violence was a part of Buddhist teaching. Simply calling this deviant teaching is an apologist approach and neither serves history nor Buddhism.

    Paul: I invite you to look deeply into why teachers in Imperial Japan would teach that killing is okay within certain contexts. This last part is probably important: They didn’t tell people to go around killing others. They developed an elaborate rational for soldiers killing during war, for example. If you give teachers a lot of power, sooner or later, that power will be abused. In Japan, Buddhist monks of certain sects were representing the Imperial court; they were part of the state machinery, which created an incentive for them to support that machinery. Their Buddhist training did not prevent them from sanctifying killing. Also please note that I am not “blaming” Buddhism for the violence. I am just trying to counter the myth that there has been no systematic violence within Buddhism. “Zen at War” has documented that. What I am asking is that Buddhists accept this as historical reality rather than claiming that this isn’t “real” Buddhism. Even if it is deviant teaching, as Riglin calls it, it is still presented as Buddhist teaching.

    Brian Victoria makes a similar point: “Zen scholars such as Ichikawa Hakugen make it clear that the rational for Zen’s support of state-sponsored warfare in general, and Japanese militarism in particular, is far more deeply entrenched in Zen and Buddhist doctrine and historical practice, especially in its Mahayana form, than any Japanese Buddhist sect has yet to publicly admit.” (p. 157). There are also summaries and book reviews of Victoria’s book that make similar points as I do, for example here and here.

    Overall, the point I am trying to make is that there is no system – philosophical, religious, or otherwise – that can prevent violence per se. Rather than trying to distance ourselves from this sad and frustrating reality, it might be more helpful to accept this and look at how we can use the system/teaching to help people counteract violent impulses. You cannot really address a problem until you acknowledge that it’s there. And simply telling people that they aren’t real Buddhists isn’t going to prevent them from following through on the teaching that says that being a soldier is the ultimate fulfillment of Buddhist teaching.

  126. “Riglin wrote: “Buddha dhamma is not like the Abrahamic religions where if you are not with us then you are the heathens.” Yet, you call any Buddhist teaching you don’t agree with “deviant”… ”

    Not [b]any[/b] teaching. Riglin used ‘deviant teachings’ within the context of a teacher who breaks any of the five precepts; In the context of this discussion, teaching that killing is ok. This would clearly be a deviant teaching.

    “Paul wrote: “Where, in your view do you think violence came from within the Zen practice of Japan?” I think I’ve addressed this before… It’s basically a mixture of the culture of Japan and the focus on the teacher within Buddhism.”

    Going deeper still, what do you think would cause a teacher of Buddhism (which we all know advocates refraining from killing as the first major precept) to teach that killing is ok? What would cause this?

  127. Yes, Buddhism may be more than the teachings of Buddha but violence and aggression are definitely not part of it. When there are violence and aggression teachings found in a stream of Buddhism then it has deviated from the Buddha dhamma.

    The Pali Canon and the other two main canons namely the Tibetan Kangyur and the Chinese Buddhist Canon are recognizably the “same” works although they are separated by time and geographically. The different branches, each one emphasizes on certain aspect of Buddha’s teachings and all will lead to the attainment of nibbana. There’s no problem with different schools accepting the different canons.

    Whether we are familiar with the canons or not, we have never heard of any violence or aggression in Buddha’s teachings. This is enough to counter your view that Buddhism leads to violence just like any other religions’ teachings. In contrast, we could easily find acts of violence in other religions’ teachings.

    Your view is based on the Zen teachers involving themselves in the war of aggression. When Buddha was archiving nibbana, Maya appeared and promised him all the material wealth and power in the world if he stops his quest. I think the Zen teachers concern were lured by Maya with similar promises. Their actions then are not in line with Buddhism. How can we accept it as Buddhist teachings lead to violence? I can agree with you if you change your view to ‘deviant Buddhist teachings lead to violence’. Buddhism is harmless and peaceful, no doubt about it.

    I do find a big difference between ‘writing up’, as in creating stories from our imagination and ‘writing down’, as in recording down the teachings of Buddha.

  128. Riglin wrote: “Buddha dhamma and deviant teachings are two very different thing. We can’t put it together under Buddhism.” Why not? Buddhism is more than the teachings of the Buddha.

    Paul wrote: “Where, in your view do you think violence came from within the Zen practice of Japan?” I think I’ve addressed this before… It’s basically a mixture of the culture of Japan and the focus on the teacher within Buddhism.

    Riglin wrote: “Buddha dhamma is not like the Abrahamic religions where if you are not with us then you are the heathens.” Yet, you call any Buddhist teaching you don’t agree with “deviant”…

    Riglin asked: “Could you show us a verse from the Pali canon that advocates violence?” I am not familiar enough with the Pali canon, nor am I able to read the originals. You can only claim that Buddhism is peaceful if you restrict your definition of Buddhism to the Pali canon, which is a very narrow description and I am sure Buddhist from non-Theravada schools would already disagree with.

    It’s funny that you’re making such a big deal of my usage of “writing up” and your contrasting “writing down.” It’s essentially the same unless you’re in the hair-splitting mode you’re in where Buddhism isn’t really Buddhism.

  129. No one wrote ‘up’ the Buddha dhamma. Just three months after Buddha’s parinibbana, the First Buddhist Council was held to protect and preserve the teachings. A total of 500 arahants attended this meeting to verify all the teachings of Buddha. They memorized the sutras and past it down orally to the next generation and this to the next and so on until it was finally written ‘down’. The Pali canon is the original teachings of Buddha. If any later add-on that does not confirm with the Pali canon or breaks any precept like killing or aggression towards others then it should be considered as deviant teachings. Buddha dhamma and deviant teachings are two very different thing. We can’t put it together under Buddhism.

    Jesus message in Matthew 10:34: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”

    Buddha dhamma is not like the Abrahamic religions where if you are not with us then you are the heathens. In Buddhism, there is no such derogatory word for non-Buddhists. Buddhists are taught to treat every being the same with compassion, loving-kindness and generosity. When Buddhists uphold the five precepts and avoided the three poisons – hatred, greed and ignorance, I don’t see how Buddhist teachings could lead to violence. This is pure Buddhism that cannot be interpreted in any other way. Unlike the message by Jesus quoted here and many others found in the Bible and the Quran.

    Could you show us a verse from the Pali canon that advocates violence? If you can’t then this is how difficult to accept that Buddhist teaching has lead to violence just like any other religions’ teachings.

  130. You’re right about the uncertainty of the source of Buddhist teachings. Did Buddha Guatama teach the Lamrim as in Tibetan Buddhism? Did he teach Tantra? Not sure. Did he exist at all as a person? I don’t know for sure. Tibetans had their own take on things. It may or may not have been taught by Guatama.

    I’d be very interested to know of any supposed Buddhist teachings that apparently lead to violence and suffering. The Zen teachings of Japan are so simple: Renunciation, moral discipline, concentration, great compassion, emptiness.

    Where, in your view do you think violence came from within the Zen practice of Japan?

  131. Who wrote up the dhamma? It wasn’t the Buddha. When was it written? I believe that was century after his death. How can you then claim that this is the real dhamma? Where did Jesus say that he did not bring peace to Earth?

    Why is it so hard to accept that Buddhist teaching has lead to violence just like any other religions’ teachings? There is no such thing as pure Buddhism. There is only the interpretation of the teachers and students and readers. To dismiss something as “deviant” simply because it doesn’t fit with your interpretation misses the opportunity to look into what created the (mis-)interpretation. You are missing an opportunity to “look deeply” as Thich Nhat Hanh would call it. Overall, it seems like the defenders of Buddhism as peaceful are attached to the notion that Buddhism is better than other religions. I am saying that it’s just as open to interpretation as other religions.

  132. Rachel, as you should already knew there are basically five precepts that a true Buddhist would follow. If at anytime a teaching from a Buddhist teacher e.g. Zen master, Lama, Theravada or Mahayana teacher, has broken any of this precepts, I would consider it as deviant teaching.

    Do you consider deviant teachings as the same as the original teachings (dhamma) of Buddha? Do you call these deviant teachings as Buddhism?

    Buddhism should be defined as the original teachings (dhamma) of Buddha and not as how the Buddhists lived it out. Buddhists are just followers of the Buddha dhamma and many, including the teachers are not fully enlightened and may make mistakes like those in “Zen at war” which you group into as Buddhism.

    Violence has no place in Buddhism, simply because there is no such teaching in the Buddha dhamma. I can’t say the same for the Abrahamic religions, not even for Christianity because Jesus had said that he did not come to bring peace on earth.

  133. “I have heard a lot of Buddhists claiming that Buddhism doesn’t really have any goal therefore we can’t see that the goal can’t be reaching nirvana. It sounds like you’re not one of them. And I agree that the Noble Truths lead exactly to that motivation. ”

    I have met a few people who make the claims of having no goals. There are really two sides to this. Most of us know that Buddhism does have goals, and practitioners do have goals. One of the practices, however, is not to be attached to attaining results from ones own practice. I think this can be mis-understood by some Buddhists, leading them to think that there are not any goals at all. I’ve heard Zen practitioners talk like this, as some lean towards nihilism, due to their own mis-understanding of the practice.

    It’s a bit like the common misconception that Emptiness can be equated to nothingness!

    “Reach the state of nirvana.”

    I’ve never understood that one. If we have supposedly all had infinite previous lives, then why are we not all enlightened an infinite time ago? I think that the basic Buddhist teachings give one a very basic overview of how to start trinaing the mind towards liberation. The Buddha one told one of his followers that what he was teaching them is like a handful of leaves. In reality, there is a forrest.

  134. I have heard a lot of Buddhists claiming that Buddhism doesn’t really have any goal therefore we can’t see that the goal can’t be reaching nirvana. It sounds like you’re not one of them. And I agree that the Noble Truths lead exactly to that motivation.

    Reach the state of nirvana.

  135. I find this area more interesting, as it challenges our conventional view of things.

    “5. Nirvana and Self (any reason for having 5 before 4 )
    It is interesting that a lot of the Buddhist apologists seem to miss the ultimate goal of Buddhism: to reach enlightenment or nirvana. ”

    I’m not sure what you mean here. Does this mean that a lot of Buddhists don’t know why they are practicing? I thought that the motivation to reach liberation comes from the 2 noble truths, doesn’t it?

    “Anybody who says that is criticized: Buddhists don’t have goals, you’re misunderstanding things, well, just look through the comments here… ”

    Don’t Buddhists have the goal of reaching enlightenment / liberation / realising the nature of mind?

    “But if you read Buddhist text (I have only read them in English), it is clear, though, that this is what the goal is. And that’s why we’re reborn here on Earth because it’s the perfect middle ground. Of course, then your question comes up: why do so few of us reach that state? (changing your question slightly, hopefully, though maintaining the idea).”

    What state is that? The human state, or nirvana?

    P..

  136. “If Buddhism is Dharma, what is Christianity?”

    The teachings of Jesus / what has been interpreted from the bible. But, again, it is sensible to assume that it does not include killing.

  137. Dodgy Dharma teachers:

    There have been numerous works, the main one of which I am familiar with, are the writings of Je-Tsongkhapa, the Gelugpa master from Tibet. It is said that, if one follows a teacher that is non transmitting sensible Dharma, then the student will become poisoned also. The reliance on an external Guru teaching wrong views is extremely dangerous.

    So, due to the impure nature of humans, and the amount of so called ‘masters’ out there who teach wrong views, like killing, there are disaters.

    It is advised by JS, and many other masters, to be sensible, and to check out the teachings, and the Guru (Vajrayana / Mahayana) and scrutinise what is being taught.

    It is advised in all the Tibetan lineages that the teachings be pulled apart, scrutinised, burned, mulled over, questioned, … With any teachings, there are going to be teachers who mis-understand, or deliberately twist the content, to further their own agendas.

    It is really common sense, in this day and age to stear well clear of any so called Dharma teacher that promotes killing and war. Nowadays, there are a lot of teachings now proliferating. People nowadays have more sophisticated discrimination, and are more in the know.

    Karma

    Concepts like karma can be meditated on, and the benefits felt in ones practice. I know from my own experience that it helps me a lot. I don’t know the mechanics of karma, or if it functions at all in the way that Buddhist teachings explain it. But, I understand how to use the idea of Karma in order to practice Dharma and gain valuable insight. If I reject the idea of Karma, I won’t be able to practice the Lamrim, which, from my experience of it so far, has done for me exactly what it says on the tin.

    The different sects in Tibet have faught and killed each other. I have a friend who has been meditating in the Theravadin traditions for 25 years. He remembers some of his previous lives; one in which he was killed by rival sects in China. It put him off ordaining for a bit! Since I started meditating, I’ve had a few insights into things too. I just have to keep developing my concentration, principally on the Lamrim and Mahamudra.

    So.. Yes.. Buddhist sects, organisations, individuals, teachers, scholars, etc have commited attrocities over history. It’s sad, and it is the human condition. But, personally, I know that, to make progress, I really do have to keep trying to develop insight into the nature of my own mind, using the guidelines from whatever virtuous tradition I feel connected with. Right now, it’s the NKT.

    P.x

  138. No, I’m saying that those who don’t are not following the Buddha’s teachings in the Kalama Sutta.

    To answer your question, I don’t think the problem lies in Buddhism. I think the problem lies in the way individuals used Buddhism to justify their actions. When desperate enough, we can attempt to justify almost anything. I don’t know the specifics of what the Zen At War book discusses, but it should be apparent to anyone that using Buddhism to justify the killing of others is clearly a misuse of the teachings of the Buddha.

  139. So what you’re saying, Jim, is that no one in Buddhism relies on teachers without questioning their teaching?

    Actually, that leads to a good overall question for both you & Paul. Using your definition of Buddhism as only the dharma, how would you answer Paul’s question: “From your def. of Buddhism, where would you think that the problem lies within Buddhism then, that can potentially cause political leaders / teachers etc to start killing?”

  140. “The reliance on teachers” and “Discouragement of actually questioning the teaching” both go against the Kalama Sutta, which teaches how to discern religious teachings, the final point being, “Do not go upon… the consideration, “The monk is our teacher.”” The Kalama Sutta openly asks students to question their teacher.

  141. “From your def. of Buddhism, where would you think that the problem lies within Buddhism then, that can potentially cause political leaders / teachers etc to start killing?”

    As I recall from “Zen at War,” the primary reason for the intertwining of Buddhism and Imperial Japan was a conscious decision of the leadership of the Zen sects. Fabio Rambelli summarizes this well in of the book:

    Traditional notions were deployed for the politico-theological purpose of justifying state policies in Buddhist terms. Particularly important in this respect were Buddhism’s historical role as a protector of the country (chingo kokka or gokoku bukkyoo), the Zen connections to the samuraii deals (and here the newly invented notion of bushidoo played an important role) and its related spirit of self-sacrifice, in turn glossed as a result of the traditional Buddhist idea of selflessness (muga). Even the notion of compassion was mobilized. Lieutenant colonel Sugimoto Goroo, a famous Zen follower, wrote: “The wars of the empire . . . are the [Buddhist]practice (gyoo) of great compassion (daijihishin)” (quoted on p. 119). Even the style at times resembled that typical of a Zen kooan (perhaps mediated by fascist Futurism): “[If ordered to] march: tramp,tramp, or shoot: bang, bang. This is the manifestation of the highest Wisdom[of Enlightenment],” wrote again Daiun (quoted on p. 137). It is interesting to notice how the apparent variety of the Buddhist ideological discourse (in which each sect mobilized its own vocabulary to reaffirm the same dominant positions), actually hid its stunning simplicity, as a mere commentary to a few sonorous state slogans.

    Now, the other question is, how could they get away with this? I agree with you that the Buddhist support of Imperial Japan seems inconsistent with the core teachings of Buddhism, so why didn’t people, especially other Buddhists, speak up?

    Three things come to mind – I haven’t really studied this thoroughly, so these are just guesses:
    * The reliance on teachers. As far as I know, especially in Zen Buddhism, the teacher is very important. This develops a trust between the pupil and the teacher that allows abuses at the personal level but because the teacher-student relationship is so emphasized, questioning a teacher in general is discouraged. This would lay the ground-work for blind following, which is what happened in Imperial Japan.
    * The idea of karma. Karma is a powerful idea to explain and maintain the status quo. Why are people poor or sick? Well, because they did something wrong in a previous life. There is absolutely no way to disprove this!
    * Discouragement of actually questioning the teaching. This is a tricky one because some skepticism is encouraged within Buddhism (at least here in the West). But, as I’ve pointed out, skeptical doubt is considered a
    hindrance. The fourth thing “conducive to the abandonment of doubt” is a “firm conviction concerning the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.” Again, this stresses the importance of not doubting what others in the Sangha are saying. Combine this with the previous two points, and you have powerful motivation not to question anything, especially when all teachers are convincing you that meditation helps warriors etc.

  142. Here’s one example, within the book, ‘Zen at war’, that illustrates the concept where Buddhist teachings are distorted, as a result of either mis-understanding the teachings or purposely twisting them in order to mitigate ones own negative actions. This type of distortion often involves the doctrine of Emptiness (‘Shunyata’ Skt.)

    Taken from http://www.mandala.hr/5/baran.html, written by Josh Baran:

    Statement from Colonel Aizawa Saburo, during his trial for murdering another general in 1935:

    “I was in an absolute sphere, so there was neither affirmation nor negation, neither good nor evil.”

    This is a text-book example of the mis-understanding of Zen Buddhism, and/or an attempt to try to mis-represent Zen as an excuse for killing. The common ploy used with these cases is to mis-represent emptiness (Shunyata. Skt.) in teachings within the dharma as a doctrine of nihilism, where everything is essentially equated with nothingness. An example being along the lines of:

    ‘If there is no thought when killing, no good, no evil, no conceptual mind, no self, then there must be no karma generated.’

    Of course, the victim doesn’t enter into the equation.

    The comment by Josh Maran:

    “This approach to Zen is ultimately a perverse narcissism or even nihilism. Of course, the obvious question that was never asked – if there is no self, why is there any need to kill?”

    I would class this as one of countless examples of mis-representing Dharma as a result of either mis-understanding or deliberate distortion, in order to mitigate their own acts of killing.

    Emptiness is not nihilism.

    Paul

  143. From your def. of Buddhism, where would you think that the problem lies within Buddhism then, that can potentially cause political leaders / teachers etc to start killing?

    P.

  144. “The conventional definition of Buddhism is Dharma, as transmitted by Buddha.”

    Not sure what convention you’re referring to here. According to Merriam-Webster “a religion of eastern and central Asia growing out of the teaching of Gautama Buddha that suffering is inherent in life and that one can be liberated from it by mental and moral self-purification.” According to the Britannica, Buddhism is “religion and philosophy that developed from the teachings of the Buddha” – note that it developed from not is. And even the Buddha Net defines Buddhism differently than you do: “Buddhism is a religion to about 300 million people around the world. The word comes from ‘budhi’, ‘to awaken’. It has its origins about 2,500 years ago when Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, was himself awakened (enlightened) at the age of 35.”

    Jim: Note that what I did is use the examples listed in Zen at War to content that “is not the peaceful religion that we’ve been led to believe.” This is using the scientific method: “All Buddhists are peaceful” is the hypothesis. One counter-example can disprove that hypothesis: Imperial Zen. The way you try to dismiss this counter-example is by claiming that this isn’t really Buddhism.

    I think all of this goes back to what you’ve written before, Paul: “we are working with differing definitions of Buddhism.” The problem is that we both think ours is the valid one, which means that we can argue for a long, long time. I think that dharma – or the teaching of the Buddha – is part of Buddhism, probably the essential part of it. But it is not all of it.

  145. “Because I don’t like what certain sects of Buddhism have done, I claim that they aren’t really Buddhist and be done with it.”

    No, it’s more like, “Because these Buddhist sects aren’t practicing Dharma, I claim they aren’t really Buddhist.”

    Learning from their history is one thing, sure, but using them (with them being the exception to the rule) as a basis to criticize Buddhism is, quite frankly, an invalid argument. Hitler twisted various philosophies to fit his agenda, but that says nothing about the philosophies themselves and everything about the individual interpreting those philosophies.

  146. A few points:

    1. The conventional definition of Buddhism is Dharma, as transmitted by Buddha

    2. The act of killing arises from delusion, and is not Dharma, irrespective of any debatable details within different Dharma texts

    3. Throughout history, Buddhist practitioners, scholars, teachers, and Buddhist leaders have practiced a mix of Dharma and non-Dharma.

    “Because I don’t like what certain sects of Buddhism have done, I claim that they aren’t really Buddhist and be done with it.”

    Killing is not Dharma. See point 2 above.

    “Paul wrote: “Do you regard the action of harming and killing another sentient being a valid action to include within the definition of Buddhism?” It is part of the history of Buddhism and thus cannot be ignored when looking at Buddhism.”

    See points 1-3 above.

    “Let’s take a look at it and stop pretending that Buddhism has always been peaceful.”

    See point 3 above.

    “Was it something inherent in Buddhism that made this possible (the importance of teachers or the emphasis on karma might be potential options)”

    Interesting point that one. How can killing arise from a correct grasp of Karma?

    “or did it require the interplay with something else (the desire of the Zen sect to stay in power, for example)?”

    People have killed each other throughout history in order to propagate their sect. BUt, i’ll have to bring point 2 above, in again.

    Basically, I can’t see how the act of killing can arise from Dharma itself.

    Paul

  147. No, it is not the same logic. However, because I am German, I feel a special obligation to learn from the German history that brought us the Nazis. It is part of our German history. Just because Germany also produced people like Goethe, Schiller, and Kant, we cannot say that the Nazis aren’t really German. That latter part is what you are saying: Because I don’t like what certain sects of Buddhism have done, I claim that they aren’t really Buddhist and be done with it.

  148. So long as you believe that those who claim to practice Buddhism ARE Buddhism (not a typo), then this discussion will not go anywhere. Should I concern myself with baseball bats because some people use them to commit violent acts? Should my Jewish friends be worried of Germans because of what the Nazis did? Should we investigate the Beatles because of the way Charles Manson was influenced by them? Is this not the same logic you’re using in your argument?

  149. Thank you for getting back to the issues!

    Paul wrote: “Do you regard the action of harming and killing another sentient being a valid action to include within the definition of Buddhism?” It is part of the history of Buddhism and thus cannot be ignored when looking at Buddhism. Note that this whole discussion started with your comments to my number 4 (“World Buddhist Morality”), which were a reaction to the claim that “Buddhism has the greatest record for peace and morality” (from the page this post was reacting to). Clearly, that refers to Buddhist history.

    Brian Daizen Victoria, the author of “Zen at War,” “teaches Japanese studies at the University of Adelaide and is an ordained Soto priest” (from here). He is not making the artificial distinction between “pure” Buddhism and the history of Buddhism. He is completely willing to take a look at the “dark” parts of Buddhist history. I think that is much more honest than trying to claim that those parts aren’t real Buddhism. It happened; it was taught in the name of Buddhism (whether we agree that is the right interpretation or not). Let’s take a look at it and stop pretending that Buddhism has always been peaceful. Only then can we look at what created something like this: Was it something inherent in Buddhism that made this possible (the importance of teachers or the emphasis on karma might be potential options) or did it require the interplay with something else (the desire of the Zen sect to stay in power, for example)? Maybe it was a combination of both. You cannot learn from history if you deny that it happens or if you deny it’s a part of your history.

  150. “Can the action of harming and killing another sentient being be regarded as a valid action to include within the definition of Buddhism?” Apparently. Read “Zen at War” – several Buddhist sects did just that in Imperial Japan. Not ONE person, Paul. The whole leadership of the Buddhist sects. This is the point you are purposely missing: I am not talking about ONE person claiming something (although you are: Buddha or Jesus). I am talking about the leadership of a lineage within Buddhism.

    Anyone, or any group of people who kill, no matter what their excuse, is not practicing Dharma, and is therefore not engaging in Buddhist practice. It’s as simple as that.

    Paul

  151. Let me try again, with a slight re-phrase of the last questinon:

    Rachel, do you regard the action of harming and killing another sentient being a valid action to include within the definition of Buddhism?

    Paul

  152. “Buddhism is, by definition, pure Dharma. I have told you the source. The Pali scriptures for the Hinayana path. The four lineages of Tibet for the Mahayana path.”

    I wonder how the people in the Theravada lineage would feel about that…

    “There is something amiss here. Can you spot it?” Yes, you don’t have a following yet.

    “Can the action of harming and killing another sentient being be regarded as a valid action to include within the definition of Buddhism?” Apparently. Read “Zen at War” – several Buddhist sects did just that in Imperial Japan. Not ONE person, Paul. The whole leadership of the Buddhist sects. This is the point you are purposely missing: I am not talking about ONE person claiming something (although you are: Buddha or Jesus). I am talking about the leadership of a lineage within Buddhism.

    I think that the discussion is becoming absurd, thanks to your attempt at humor, Paul (because you ran out of rational arguments?). Wikipedia is a respected dictionary after a comparison with Britannica found it’s just as reliable. I did not claim that Wikipedia is a branch of Buddhism. I used it as a dictionary, a use accepted by most people.

    If the discussion continues at this level, I will close the comments.

  153. ************************************************************************************

    Main point here…………………………………………………………………………………

    Answer me this (said in a Chevi Chase, slightly deadpan tone).

    Can the action of harming and killing another sentient being be regarded as a valid action to include within the definition of Buddhism?

    *************************************************************************************

    ROLL UP ROLL UP READERS!

    Cast your votes……!

    Paul. (Arbitrary non-Buddhist lineage holder)

  154. “Jim: Let’s start with the first noble truth that talks about “dukkha,” which, according to Wikipedia, “is a Pali term roughly corresponding to a number of terms in English including suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness, sorrow, affliction, anxiety, dissatisfaction, discomfort, anguish, stress, misery, and frustration. In Buddhism, the cessation of dukkha is regularly identified as the teaching’s ultimate aim.”

    AAAAAAAAAAHhhhhh…!!!!

    I knew it!!

    I was missing the qualified:

    ‘WIKI HINAYANA LINEAGE’

    Ah, sh!t.. That’s where i’ve been going wrong!

    Thankyou Rachel..!

    Is Wiki a qualified Hinayana / Mahayana / Vajrayana lineage text?

    This is a straw-man.

    Rachel.

    There are debatable differences in the presentation between all the different lineages. But, the point in all this lies in your inclusion of negative actions within your definition of Buddhism. This is wrong.

    Rachel.

    Is Killing included within the Dharma, of ANY of the lineages?

  155. “Yes, Paul, you are absolutely correct that we’re using differing definitions of Buddhism. In addition to that, I believe that you cannot limit Buddhism to only the dharma because there is no such thing as pure dharma – it’s already being interpreted and changed. Which one is the “true” one? We have no idea. ”

    Of course pure Dharma exists. Here are a couple of places to look:

    – The original Pali scriptures. You can’t go wrong here. It’s basically the source of the Hinayana lineages. It is pure Dharma.

    – The four Tibetan Mahayana lineages (Gelugpa, Sakyupa, Kagyu, Nyingma)

    “Furthermore, I think that a religion – or any thought system, really – cannot be separated from its application. Christianity includes not just the Bible but also the history of the churches, including inquisition and witch hunts. ”

    Christianity is the teachings of Jesus.

    The witchhunts are not Christianity.

    Torture and inquisition are not Christianity.

    Churches and people are not inherently Christianity.

    Hitting someone with your bible is not Christianity.

    Commiting attrocities in the name of Christianity –

    WAAAAAIIIIT FOR IITTTT………………….

    3…..
    2…..
    1….

    Is not Christianity.

    (Shock horror)

    “Same with Buddhism. To claim that something is not Buddhism – even though the people involved say it’s Buddhism – just because it doesn’t fit with your interpretation of Buddhism allows you to conveniently pick & choose what you like and dismiss as non-Buddhist what you don’t like.”

    Buddhism is, by definition, pure Dharma. I have told you the source. The Pali scriptures for the Hinayana path. The four lineages of Tibet for the Mahayana path.

    “To claim that something is not Buddhism – even though the people involved say it’s Buddhism”

    I’ve just started a new Buddhist lineage. It’s slightly different from the original Pali texts, and has some great new features. In this new tradition, entitled:

    ‘THE NEW PAUL – ARBITRARY BLOKE – HINAYANA LINEAGE’

    There are a couple of new practices.

    1. Killing is ok sometimes, if I say so.
    2. Abberation from the original Pali scriptures is ok, if I say so.

    Ok… I know it differs slightly from the original Pali texts, but hey. But, I say that this IS a pure Buddhist lineage and practice. I am, after all, a pure LINEAGE HOLDER.

    There is something amiss here. Can you spot it?

    P.

  156. Exactly. There’s no single word in English for “dukkha,” so you have to interpret and maybe even change what you’re trying to communicate

    How do you know that what you’re feeling is pure dharma? Because it’s in line with your interpretation of Buddhist teaching? How do you know that the Zen Buddhists claiming that Buddhism supports imperial Japan aren’t using the pure dharma?

  157. Simple. There’s just not a single word in the English language that fully encapsulates the full meaning of the word. That’s a limitation of language, that’s all. It’s about the meaning and feeling behind it and not the language object or concept.

    The Four Noble Truths do not change. Regardless of the language, the idea, the feeling, the truth remains the same. That is pure dharma.

  158. Jim: Let’s start with the first noble truth that talks about “dukkha,” which, according to Wikipedia, “is a Pali term roughly corresponding to a number of terms in English including suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness, sorrow, affliction, anxiety, dissatisfaction, discomfort, anguish, stress, misery, and frustration. In Buddhism, the cessation of dukkha is regularly identified as the teaching’s ultimate aim.” Which one of these 12 terms is the pure dharma? Notice that each word carries a slightly different meaning, requiring interpretation. So, no, there is no such thing as “pure” dharma. Which version of the Four Noble Truths is the pure one? The version talking about “stress” or the one talking about “suffering”?

  159. There’s no such thing as pure dharma? It’s been interpreted and changed? There are the basic precepts of Buddhism that remain unchanged, mainly The Four Noble Truths and The Eightfold Path. You can throw in the Kalama Sutta to top that off. I’m no expert by any means; Paul can correct me if I’m wrong. The basis for Buddhism is very minimalist, because the whole point is to SEE it for yourself. The point is to set you on the path to enlightenment yourself, not to hand you a book of rules to follow.

    You cannot honestly and truthfully criticize a belief system based on the actions of those who claim to follow it. It’s easy to criticize Christianity due to its horrible history, but that says nothing about the religion and everything about those who interpret it for their own benefit.

  160. Yes, Paul, you are absolutely correct that we’re using differing definitions of Buddhism. In addition to that, I believe that you cannot limit Buddhism to only the dharma because there is no such thing as pure dharma – it’s already being interpreted and changed. Which one is the “true” one? We have no idea.

    Furthermore, I think that a religion – or any thought system, really – cannot be separated from its application. Christianity includes not just the Bible but also the history of the churches, including inquisition and witch hunts. Same with Buddhism. To claim that something is not Buddhism – even though the people involved say it’s Buddhism – just because it doesn’t fit with your interpretation of Buddhism allows you to conveniently pick & choose what you like and dismiss as non-Buddhist what you don’t like.

  161. Rachel,

    I think we are working with differing definitions of Buddhism. Within your critique, it seems that your definition of Buddhism is:

    – The individuals, organisations, political figures and teachers that claim to be Buddhist

    – The (negative) actions of the above groups

    My definition of Buddhism, on the other hand, is purely Dharma. Using this definition, the above cannot be defined as Buddhism.

    This is where the disagreement is arising.

    Paul

  162. Paul wrote: “Therefore, any negativities commited by any party who claims to be Buddhist, is not Buddhism.” Oh, that’s convenient. If you don’t like my critique, you simply say, “oh, that’s not really Buddhism.” Beautiful woolly thinking – maybe Do a Procrustes. With a history of several thousand years, you cannot simply dismiss the things in that history that you do not like by claiming that they are not really Buddhist because this history also includes what the Buddha said (as far as I know, he never actually wrote anything down himself, so everything we know about him and the supposed quotes are already being interpreted). Picking and choosing is simply ignoring the package. Furthermore, without looking at that history critically, you cannot learn from it. How can we prevent that people don’t use meditation to clam their minds so that they make better, more lethal soldiers? Obviously, if this is an abuse of Buddhism, then maybe the Buddha’s message isn’t strong enough; the teachers are too easily corruptible or something like that. If you simply say that this isn’t really Buddhism then you’re missing an opportunity to learn!

    Paul wrote: “A critique of an individual using Buddhist mindfulness meditation to obtain worldly advantages, is then not a critique of Buddhism itself.” I agree with this but for different reasons. You cannot criticize a religion because of the actions of one person. However, that is not what I am doing. The book “Zen at War” looks at several decades of the official Zen Buddhism in Japan. This was not one person’s misinterpretation.

    Paul wrote: “I think I have now looked at the substance of this part of your argument, and shown why I think that this part is not a critique of Buddhism.” Yes, you have done that using your narrow definition of Buddhism.

  163. Thanks, Paul, for distinguishing doubt and pseudo-skepticism. So, essentially pseudo-skepticism is not really being skeptical but having made up your mind…

    However, it’s important to keep in mind that depending on how you frame a particular question, you can come to some conclusions. For example, Victor Stenger, presents a solid argument in his book “God: The Failed Hypothesis” that there is no God, as defined by Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions. I feel that I can say that I am 100% certain that there is no such God but I cannot say with 100% certainty that there aren’t any gods.

    My goal was to present doubt, not pseudo-skepticism. I will make some time to review my critique above given your point (as well as your other comment).

  164. – “Please explain the difference of doubt and pseudo-skepticism. ”

    – “The Kalama Sutra does not invite the kind of doubt I am presenting here since that is skeptical doubt, which is considered one of the five hindrances: “Skeptical Doubt: Vicikiccha (Pali). The kind of doubt that undermines faith; one of the five hindrances to meditation.” (Though the Wiki article does mention some Buddhists, which are not identified, that welcome doubt of the teachings.)”

    In the Mahayana lineage that I practice, there are two types of doubt. Deluded doubt and non-deluded doubt. An example of the first type would be something along the lines of:

    Buddha has said that karma exists. I don’t think that I agree with that. I don’t think that karma exists.

    Deluded doubt is an obstacle to spiritual progress. Someone who claims to be a skeptic, but adheres to the above, regardless of the personal experiences of many people, is actually a pseudo-skeptic.

    An example of non-deluded doubt would be something like:

    Buddha has said that karma exists. I’m not sure if this is true or not.

    This kind of doubt is fine, it is healthy, open-minded skepticism. It is not an obstacle to spiritual progress.

    A nice quote from Susan Blakemore regarding pseudo-skepticism:

    “There are some members of the skeptics’ groups who clearly believe they know the right answer prior to inquiry. They appear not to be interested in weighing alternatives, investigating strange claims, or trying out psychic experiences or altered states for themselves (heaven forbid!), but only in promoting their own particular belief structure and cohesion . . . I have to say it—most of these people are men. Indeed, I have not met a single woman of this type.”[10]

    Cheers,

    Paul..

  165. Ok. I think we may have differing definitions of what Buddhism is. Let’s start again with this point:

    Paul wrote: “In the context of the ABUSE OF BUDDHISM, where are its inherent flaws?”

    Rachel: “See above. ”

    Ok. The relevent section above, concerning the abuse of Buddhism is part 4, ‘World Buddhist Morality’.

    “4. World Buddhist Morality
    I am afraid that record is so clean because we Westerners are largely (kept) ignorant of the bloody parts. Read Brian Victoria’s “Zen at War” and your statement will, unfortunately, be shown to be false. Maybe there is less blood but Buddhism is not the peaceful religion that we’ve been led to believe. (Okay, so maybe I’d just reword the last sentence of your first paragraph: “Compared with other powerful religions, Buddhism appears to be saintly.” – rather than “is”).”

    I would highlight this part:

    “Buddhism is not the peaceful religion that we’ve been led to believe.”

    There are some points that I’d like to make:

    1. When I say the name ‘Buddhism’, I am referring to the original teachings of the Buddha, that appear in the Pali scriptures. Many different Buddhist lineages then propagated throughout asia. The true Buddhist teachings throughout history will be unchanged, and of pure, unbroken lineage, originating back to Buddha Shakyamuni. This is what I mean by Buddhism. It is then correct to say that any DEVIATION, or any change from the original teachings can be said to be not of pure lineage.

    2. The NEGATIVE ACTIONS (sorry, I can’t use italics!) engaged in by Buddhist practitioners and Buddhist organisations themselves throughout history, which cause harm to themselves and others, cannot arise in dependence upon the original Buddhist teachings. Therefore, any negativities commited by any party who claims to be Buddhist, is not Buddhism.

    A critique that includes a criticism of NEGATIVE ACTIONS of Buddhist practitioners or organisations, therefore cannot be a critique of Buddhism itself, but a critique of the Busshist practitioner or Buddhist organisation.

    3. Buddhist techniques, such as mindfulness meditation, or offerings can be used with a different motivation, other than personal liberation of ones self and all other living beings. For example, mindfulness meditation can be used to enhance fighting skills, as in the martial arts, or increase the efficiency of business processes, or to obtain wealth and good fortune. However, since the motivation is not in sympathy with the 4 noble truths, it can be said that such practitioners are not Buddhist.

    A critique of an individual using Buddhist mindfulness meditation to obtain worldly advantages, is then not a critique of Buddhism itself.

    4. An individual or organisation that engages in negativity towards another party in order to uphold a Buddhist view, in contrast to the differing view of the other party, is not at that time engaging in Buddhist practice. The suggested practice from the Buddha, is to practice patience.

    I think I have now looked at the substance of this part of your argument, and shown why I think that this part is not a critique of Buddhism.

    Paul

  166. Paul wrote: “In the context of the abuse of Buddhism, where are its inherent flaws?” See above. Any inherent flaw that I am pointing out, you dismiss because you claim I don’t know Buddhism well enough. Anything else, you dismiss because it’s not really Buddhism but people’s abuse of Buddhism. That means that no criticism is possible because no matter how I approach it, you have a way to dismiss it without looking at the substance.

    Please explain the difference of doubt and pseudo-skepticism. The Kalama Sutra does not invite the kind of doubt I am presenting here since that is skeptical doubt, which is considered one of the five hindrances: “Skeptical Doubt: Vicikiccha (Pali). The kind of doubt that undermines faith; one of the five hindrances to meditation.” (Though the Wiki article does mention some Buddhists, which are not identified, that welcome doubt of the teachings.)

  167. “If the only way to understand Buddhism is to accept that all suffering is created by ourselves through grasping and attachment, I will never be able to “understand” Buddhism because that is precisely what I doubt.

    That means, too, that no one can critique the fundamental assumptions of Buddhism, which means that there is no room for doubt and also that the teachings are dogma.”

    Doubt is fine. Pseudo-skepticism is not. Ever heard of the ‘Kalama Sutra’?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kalama_Sutta

  168. ““People who fight each other over their views are not practicing what the Buddha taught.”

    I agree with you on that, Paul! But that doesn’t change the reality that Buddhism was, for example, used by empirical Japan to justify many of their atrocities. Just like the sermon on the mountain doesn’t excuse the atrocities committed in the name of Christianity. ”

    In the contect of a critique of Buddhism itself, this point is moot. People have always twisted teachings and used them for their own agendas. This simply does not imply that there are flaws in the teachings themselves. What has Buddhist teaching itself got to do with this? The fact that Feudal Japan used Buddhism to attempt to justify their negative actions should justify a:

    ‘Criticism of the Japanese governments’ actions’,

    or,

    ‘An analysis of spiritual materialism in Feudal Japan’,

    not Buddhism.

    This is an analogy of your reasoning: Someone is given a piece of equipment, complete with instructions that helps them to do their job properly, and makes them happy. Meanwhile, the person’s co-worker receives another machine, to do a similar job, but, the machine is slightly different, but has the same function. After a while, the first worker decides to beat his neighbour to death and destroy his machine. Where does the fault really lie? Is it in the machine? Is it in the instructions to operate it? Or is it the faulty mind of the individual? Would I be justified to now write a critique of the machine? Your reasoning is giving people the wrong idea.

    In the context that people have *ABUSED* Buddhist teachings, how would one arrive at a conclusion that there are inherent flaws in buddhism itself? To include this in your critique of Buddhism itself, would require you to point out the flaws in Buddhist teaching that causes people to abuse it. It’s egotism that is the problem, not Buddhism.

    When some people say that all religion causes wars, this is a product of superficial thinking. The core of Buddhism is transforming the mind into unconditional love for everyone, alongside the development of the wisdom of realising emptiness.

    “- let’s include communism/Marxism! Marx writing has raised a lot of good points, imo, but the Soviet Union was certainly a horrible implementation of his ideas. Can you blame Marx for that? Of course not. However, we need to distinguish what he wrote from how it was implemented. The same applies here: The Buddha’s teaching have certainly a lot of good aspects to it but that doesn’t mean that Buddhism isn’t without its flaws… ”

    In the context of the abuse of Buddhism, where are its inherent flaws?

  169. “People who fight each other over their views are not practicing what the Buddha taught.” I agree with you on that, Paul! But that doesn’t change the reality that Buddhism was, for example, used by empirical Japan to justify many of their atrocities. Just like the sermon on the mountain doesn’t excuse the atrocities committed in the name of Christianity. I don’t think that a religion can be evaluated without the historical context. Actually, no thought system can – let’s include communism/Marxism! Marx writing has raised a lot of good points, imo, but the Soviet Union was certainly a horrible implementation of his ideas. Can you blame Marx for that? Of course not. However, we need to distinguish what he wrote from how it was implemented. The same applies here: The Buddha’s teaching have certainly a lot of good aspects to it but that doesn’t mean that Buddhism isn’t without its flaws…

    “It does seem like you may be missing the core meaning of Buddhist teaching, that there is endless suffering of future lives, and where this suffering is actually coming from. Our real problems come from our grasping at an inherently existing self, not our external conditions.” That is precisely what I am casting doubt on in my write up on the Second Noble truth. I do not buy that all of our suffering is created by ourselves. By limiting the definition to that we are perpetuating the status quo; avoiding critiquing social customs that are creating suffering, for example. Note that I am not saying that all of our suffering is caused by external conditions. We are certainly making our suffering worse by fighting reality.

    “The point is that your critique (I’ve read it) appears to highlight a lack of depth of understanding about the subject matter.”Sorry but I continue to maintain that you are simply dismissing my critique by claiming I don’t understand what I am talking about. All the recent comments had that flavor, which leads me to believe that you have either not read what I wrote or are not understanding it.

    If the only way to understand Buddhism is to accept that all suffering is created by ourselves through grasping and attachment, I will never be able to “understand” Buddhism because that is precisely what I doubt. That means, too, that no one can critique the fundamental assumptions of Buddhism, which means that there is no room for doubt and also that the teachings are dogma.

  170. Howdy..

    “Many of the responses I’ve received to my critiques of Buddhism sound like attempts to convert me. They go something like “if you only knew Buddhism better, you’d like it.” ”

    I haven’t seen any comments that appear to try to convert you. The point is that, your critique of Buddhism seems to convey an incomplete understanding of the material. For me personally, I’m not interested in converting anyone into following a particular path. However, I think it is quite important to know the subject more thoroughly before any attempt at a written critique is presented.

    “I very much appreciate the comments because they add another take, which enables readers to get a variety of views. There is a lot in Buddhism that I like and as I have stated before, I agree that we tend to make our suffering worse by all the stuff we overlay. And it’s a good thing to avoid that overlay.”

    I think anyone would agree with you there. Buddhism points out and reduces our faulty conceptions about ourselves and the phenomena around us.

    “As a skeptic, though, I was disturbed that Buddhism was seen as a harmless religion. I am not convinced of that, so I decided to poke some holes at it. This is my opinion, based on who I am. ”

    Again, your reasoning that leads to your conviction that Buddhism is not a harmless religion appears to have arisen from the fact that various factions have faught one another over the centuries, over doctrinal desputes. I’m not denying that this is an important factor to consider. But, what this isn’t is a reflection of the teachings themselves. The point is that, it isn’t Buddhism that has caused these negative actions, it’s the human tendency of attachment to views and egoism. Both of these well known phemomena are things to be abandoned, according to Buddhist texts. People who fight each other over their views are not practicing what the Buddha taught.

    “If you don’t agree with it that is perfectly alright. Just don’t try to convert me to Buddhism; don’t tell me that I should shut up because I don’t have a degree in Buddhism, have not studied it for eons etc.; and don’t tell me what books I should be reading so that I can see your side, no, not see your side, come to your side because that is the gist I get from most of these comments – and it is entirely possible that I am misunderstanding the intend. ”

    The comments from Jim:-

    “Look at that for a minute. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Think about it until you feel that great sense of relief in knowing that *you* are the cause of your own suffering.”

    and..

    “I highly recommend you pick up a good book on Buddhism and really spend some time with it. Really try to see the message and see what’s being said. I’d recommend “Buddhism Plain and Simple” by Steve Hagen. It’s a great book that I think will really open your eyes about it.”

    -Seem perfectly valid to me. It is important in this kid of dialogue to understand the subject fully, and to understand clearly the opposing views. It does seem like you may be missing the core meaning of Buddhist teaching, that there is endless suffering of future lives, and where this suffering is actually coming from. Our real problems come from our grasping at an inherently existing self, not our external conditions.

    Although I have no interest in trying to make you a Dharma practitioner, there are limitations to being even a highly read scholar of Buddhism alone, as opposed to being both a scholar and a practitioner. The latter eventually attain deep experience with the teachings, and have a fuller understanding of how they relate to everyday human experience. With the exception of the myriad of views on emptiness (Shunyata Sk.) and the mechanics of karma, most of the other arguments concerning the source of suffering can be resolved quite easily.

    “..the important thing is to look at what I am saying rather than dismissing my critique off-hand because I am not certified as a Buddhism critic…”

    I’m not sure I can find where someones comments have suggested that they haven’t read what you have said. Whether or not you are a certified critic of Buddhism or not is not really relevant either. The point is that your critique (I’ve read it) appears to highlight a lack of depth of understanding about the subject matter.

    Paul

  171. I see my responsibility as a writer to raise questions as best as I can and as I see them and to enable dialog. If someone takes what I write as “the truth” that’s their problem. I don’t intend to tell people what to think but I want to present other ways of looking at things; other ways of seeing things.

    Many of the responses I’ve received to my critiques of Buddhism sound like attempts to convert me. They go something like “if you only knew Buddhism better, you’d like it.” I very much appreciate the comments because they add another take, which enables readers to get a variety of views. There is a lot in Buddhism that I like and as I have stated before, I agree that we tend to make our suffering worse by all the stuff we overlay. And it’s a good thing to avoid that overlay. As a skeptic, though, I was disturbed that Buddhism was seen as a harmless religion. I am not convinced of that, so I decided to poke some holes at it. This is my opinion, based on who I am. If you don’t agree with it that is perfectly alright. Just don’t try to convert me to Buddhism; don’t tell me that I should shut up because I don’t have a degree in Buddhism, have not studied it for eons etc.; and don’t tell me what books I should be reading so that I can see your side, no, not see your side, come to your side because that is the gist I get from most of these comments – and it is entirely possible that I am misunderstanding the intend.

    And just for your information: I took a class on Buddhism at a community college taught by a Zen teacher (sorry, I don’t remember the lineage); I have been involved with a sitting group for years and read many books, including writing by Thich Nhat Hanh, Jack Kornfield, Jon Kabat-Zinn and others. I have also attended several day-long teaching retreats at Spirit Rock. But all of this does not really matter because the important thing is to look at what I am saying rather than dismissing my critique off-hand because I am not certified as a Buddhism critic…

  172. I think the most telling piece of evidence here is that you’ve stated that you “took a Buddhism class at a community college.” I don’t intend for this to sound insulting, but I offer that a single class in Buddhism from a community college hardly gives you the background needed to wistfully dismiss an entire philosophy (I prefer to call it a philosophy because there are so many strings we attach to the term “religion,” but that’s not relevant to my argument).

    As a writer, blogger, whoever, you have a responsibility, a large responsibility, to give your audience a sound, reasonable, and accurate argument, especially when you’re tackling such a large subject as religion or philosophy. I applaud Paul for spending his time to kindly point out some flaws in your arguments, and you should gladly accept them, as it helps your article greatly. I think what this all boils down to is you missing the point, not seeing exactly what the Buddha spoke of. And that’s one of the foundations of Buddhism: seeing.

    Do you not see the benefit of realizing that you are the cause of your own suffering? Look at that for a minute. Five minutes. Ten minutes. Twenty minutes. Think about it until you feel that great sense of relief in knowing that *you* are the cause of your own suffering. When it hit me, the power of that message, I felt a great sense of relief. I have no one to blame, no one to scold, no one to direct anger towards. It is the way I live and act and react that feeds into my own suffering.

    We all have our burdens. We all live in the same world. But there are people who suffer with their problems, and there are people who live with their problems. To paraphrase one of the Buddhas stories (which is worth reading, as I’m not getting the entire message out here): We all have 83 problems, and there’s nothing we can do to fix any of them, and if we fix one, a new one will pop up in its place. But there’s an 84th problem that we can fix. And the 84th problem is, “I don’t want any problems.”

    It’s not ignorance, it’s not turning a blind eye, it’s seeing reality for what it is. It’s accepting reality for what it is. Even Christianity has the saying, “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.”

    I highly recommend you pick up a good book on Buddhism and really spend some time with it. Really try to see the message and see what’s being said. I’d recommend “Buddhism Plain and Simple” by Steve Hagen. It’s a great book that I think will really open your eyes about it.

    Keep on writing, but remember, you have an important responsibility to your public. Make the most of it.

  173. Paul wrote: “Care to address my counters to your arguments above then?”

    My point is that your counters stand and my arguments stand and others can draw their own conclusions. At this point, I have no time to “debate” you.

  174. “The fact that Buddhists scholars, practitioners and teachers throughout history have fought wars is not a valid basis from which to judge Buddhist teachings themselves.” Why not? We seem to have no problem doing that with Christianity…”

    In stating the above, you are conflating people’s negative actions with Buddhist teachings. The two are NOT related. It is the nature of human beings to fight. This does, by no means provide a basis for judgement of Buddhist teachings themselves, which have never told anyone to fight wars.

    I’ll ask you again then. In order to fully accept your claim that Buddhist teachings are somewhere abberated from a motivation of peace and love, then I would need citable evidence from you, pointing to the relevent scriptures. If not, then your argument remains faulty.

    “As for the rest of your arguments, I will let the readers of this blog come to their own conclusions. They can read what I wrote and what you wrote and if they want to do their own research. My intend is not convince die-hard Buddhists but to cast doubt on the claim that Buddhism is not a religion, totally peaceful, or whatever other New Age claim is being made way too often without critique. I don’t see anything in your comments that is changing my mind about that since it seems you’re basically saying “you just don’t understand Buddhism.” But other readers might come to another conclusion and I welcome their input.

    Care to address my counters to your arguments above then?

  175. “The fact that Buddhists scholars, practitioners and teachers throughout history have fought wars is not a valid basis from which to judge Buddhist teachings themselves.” Why not? We seem to have no problem doing that with Christianity…

    As for the rest of your arguments, I will let the readers of this blog come to their own conclusions. They can read what I wrote and what you wrote and if they want to do their own research. My intend is not convince die-hard Buddhists but to cast doubt on the claim that Buddhism is not a religion, totally peaceful, or whatever other New Age claim is being made way too often without critique. I don’t see anything in your comments that is changing my mind about that since it seems you’re basically saying “you just don’t understand Buddhism.” But other readers might come to another conclusion and I welcome their input.

  176. Hi Rachel,

    “It would be nice if you would indicate where you took the quotes from. They are certainly not on the post that you have commented on. I believe they’re coming from the post on the Causes of Suffering.”

    Ok, maybe I should really have posted my comments on the ‘Causes of suffering’ section. However, my comments do address what you said in part 6, ‘Inhumane dismissal of suffering’, which containes a link within it, to the ‘Causes of suffering’.

    “And since you’re “correcting” me how about telling us a little bit why you think you have that authority.”

    It’s not a question of authority, it’s about forming cogent arguments, which, it appears that you have not done. Your comments appear to demonstrate a superficial understanding of Buddhist teachings, and your arguments are strawmen.

    Id also like to comment on the following flawed argument:

    “4. World Buddhist Morality
    I am afraid that record is so clean because we Westerners are largely (kept) ignorant of the bloody parts. Read Brian Victoria’s “Zen at War” and your statement will, unfortunately, be shown to be false. Maybe there is less blood but Buddhism is not the peaceful religion that we’ve been led to believe. (Okay, so maybe I’d just reword the last sentence of your first paragraph: “Compared with other powerful religions, Buddhism appears to be saintly.” – rather than “is”).”

    When people, complete with the mental baggage of inflated ego, get hold of spiritual teachigs, a well known phenomenon that can arise, explained by Chogyam Trungpa is ‘spiritual materialism’. The fact that Buddhists scholars, practitioners and teachers throughout history have fought wars is not a valid basis from which to judge Buddhist teachings themselves.

    If you can find examples in the original Pali scriptures that condone war and bloodshed, then I will start taking you seriously.

  177. Paul: It would be nice if you would indicate where you took the quotes from. They are certainly not on the post that you have commented on. I believe they’re coming from the post on the Causes of Suffering.

    And since you’re “correcting” me how about telling us a little bit why you think you have that authority.

  178. Hello Rachel,

    I think we could all do with a presentation from you, Rachel, on the actual meaning of the 4 noble truths, because, I feel that you have missed the point entirely. What follows are some of your quotes, which , I think need some correcting.

    “Basically, life is suffering. And we create our suffering by thirsting or craving for what we cannot have. But are these really all the causes of suffering? Do we really create all of our suffering? I would argue that there is more to suffering than what we cause with our craving. Fighting with reality surely adds to our suffering – if I do not accept that I am sick, for example, and moan the whole time that I shouldn’t be sick, I will suffer more. ”

    This is a good point. The mental suffering, caused by non-acceptance of the situation is, indeed a factor. This is not the foremost cause of our suffering though.

    “But the original illness is suffering as well – as the Buddha taught –and it is caused by some sort of germ or an autoimmune attack of the body. So, even in the simple case of, say, a cold, there are two elements of suffering: the actual cold, which is caused by a virus, and possibly my mental fight with reality. ”

    In a Buddhist context, I think you are missing the point here. The second noble truth says that the cause of suffering is self-grasping ignorance. Craving arises in dependence of this. The cold itself, on the other hand, although is a contributory factor in suffering, is not suffering, nor is it the main cause of suffering. The reaction of our mind to it, though attachment to our body, is.

    I think you may be conflating the notion of pain with suffering. If we are ill, we can be in pain, but still keep a happy mind. We can see examples of this everywhere. There are people who experience the same physical condition. Both are in pain, yet one of them suffers tremendously and continuously complains, while the other one seems to be lighter about it. The more self-grasping the person has, the more he or she will suffer. That is why, across the different traditions, the meditations serve to lessen self-grasping.

    “…and possibly my mental fight with reality. ”

    Definately our mental fight with reality!

    “There are thus two causes: only one is caused by craving (”I wish I were healthy”), the other is caused by something unknown at the time of the Buddha. Yet, his Second Noble Truth is not questions, not amended.”

    The scientific knowledge of the nature of viruses and bacteria, at the time of the Buddha is irrelevant. A cold is a contributory factor of someone’s suffering. The cold is not the main cause of suffering.

    “Going beyond the simple, to the societal causes of suffering, the insidiousness of this teaching becomes clear. Despite what the Buddha taught, there is much that can be avoided about physical and mental suffering by changing things outside of ourselves. ”

    I have not come across one Buddhist tradition that tells someone to ignore the external situation, when either ones self or others are suffering. Of course we can change external things to help. What you are saying here is a strawman. However, the point is, is it is not always possible to change the external conditions, in order to alleviate suffering. We know this. The Buddha taught methods, such as developing the mind of patience, which greatly reduces suffering. A good example is the Tibetan Buddhist practice of Tonglen (taking and giving), which can be used to transform unavoidable suffering into the spiritual path, by developing patient acceptance and compassion. The practices are means to be engaged in gradually, in everyday life. Eventually, the things that cause us mental suffering have less and less of an effect. What is then developed, as self-grasping is reduced, is a mind that wants to help everyone, views everyone else as equally important as ones self, changing the external conditions if necessary – of course, but does not suffer.

    “The story of a water pump spreading cholera might be a good example here. Cholera certainly creates suffering but the causes of this suffering are manifold: there is the cholera bacterium, there is the pump handle that is teaming with the bacterium, (going beyond the story) there is the city that is refusing to belief that the pump handle is the problem, and there is the merchant who charges more for a pump handle than the villagers can afford.”

    These are all contributory causes of the Cholera outbreak. Buddhist teachings do not dismiss cause and effect of phenomena. Quite the opposite. Again, by looking deeply at the mind, it can be seen that the main cause of our suffering is self-grasping. I will say again: No Buddhist teaching has ever denied the value of physically changing the external conditions, contributing to someone’s suffering. But, in training in buddhist meditation practices, one can reduce our main, foremost cause of suffering.

    “True, some suffering might be caused because people afflicted with cholera are craving to be healthy again (who wouldn’t!). The many other factors that actually preceded the illness are never address by the Buddha. His teaching ignores any interplay between the personal and the larger society. He essentially teaches us that suffering is our fault and we can overcome it simply by changing our minds. ”

    The teachings of the buddha were aimed at realising the nature of ones own mind, namely wisdom and compassion, through mindfulness. Everyone has these qualities. At no point has it ever been remotely suggested to ignore external conditions. When we develop minds of wisdom and compassion for others, we simultaneously develop the abilities to help people directly, where possible, rather than being indifferent to them. I don’t know where you got this argument from, but it’s a strawman.

    “This leads to a closed mind toward other potential causes.”

    Again, this is plain wrong.

    “It is clear that the Buddha’s teachings, just like Jesus’ teaching, are a product of the time he was supposed to have lived. But even then, without knowledge of germs, …”

    Again, the lack of scientific knowledge of germs at the time of the Buddha is irrelevant.

    “…his teachings discouraged questioning the status quo by essentially blaming the victim. ”

    ‘Drive all blames into one’, as said by some Buddhist masters. Instead of constantly blaming others, and suffering over the slightest thing, which, is what most of us do, if we check, Buddha taught ways to transform suffering in to the spiritual path, by developing minds of patience and compassion and wisdom.

    What needs to be addressed here, is that, none of the teachings taught anyone to dish out blame onto the victim. What you say about ‘blaming the victim’ also sounds like a guilt-trip from the side of the victim, who is suffering. This is not what is intended. What is not intended is for the victim to lie there and say ‘Oooooohhhhh, poooor me. I’m to blame…. AAww…. moan, cry.. woe is me’. What is meant is fo the person who suffers to train his or her mind, in order to be more pro-active, and not suffer. It sounds like you have a bit of a mis-conception of what Buddhist teachings are.

    “…I do think that pointing to our own contribution to suffering – how we make it worse by fighting reality – is important. ”

    Agreed.

    “However, for something to be called a “truth,” it needs to include all the answers. The second noble truth does not list all the causes of suffering,…”

    The second noble-truth explains the main cause of our suffering (manifest suffering and pervasive suffering), which is self-grasping, arising from a contaminated mind.

    Self-grasping… Once it is decreased, our life becomes better, we suffer less, and we are still free to change whatever external conditions necessary to help both ourselves and others.

    “…hence a Buddhist is required to suspend critical thinking if she wants to accept it as a truth. It requires belief.”

    No. This was never taught. Realisations of truth come from faith, generated through experience.

  179. Pingback:The Pope and the Dalai Lama–plus more criticism of Buddhist development and history. « Skepoet: Art, Culture, Reason, and Skepticism

  180. I took a Buddhism class at a community college, which was taught by a teacher trained in the Rinzai Zen tradition. Unfortunately, we didn’t talk about any reasons for the attraction of Buddhism in the West. And that was the only university-related exposure I’ve had to Buddhism.

    You might look at some of the writing from Sam Harris – he even has a lengthy footnote in “The End of Faith” about Buddhism if I recall correctly. His attraction to Buddhism prompted Meera Nanda’s response that he’s basically trading faith for spirituality.

    There seems to be something attractive about a religion that doesn’t have a God but I don’t recall seeing/reading anything that looked into that in detail.

    Btw, have you done a search on this topic? There seem to be quite a few hits when I do a Google search… Granted, these aren’t academic articles but they might lead to something…

  181. hey, so I came across your blog while looking over Ron’s blogroll, and I was wondering, did you take any Buddhism in university? I ask because I’m in Religion studies now, and taking buddhism, and also because I’m currently doing a paper on buddhism in the west, so I was wondering if you know of anything textual you’ve read anywhere that actually talks about western/white buddhists and WHY they felt/feel a draw towards buddhism as opposed to the more “traditional” western religions. Seriously, I haven’t been able to find ANY source that actually talks about this. I’m amazed that I can’t find information on white people.

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