International Lay Buddhists Forum

The International Lay Buddhists Forum is over. The forum has been interesting and weird.

This was my first experience of an academic conference of any kind, especially one dedicated to Buddhism. Everyone who attended is some kind of Buddhist scholar — except me. During the conference we watched hours and hours and then more hours and hours of presentations about various aspects of these people’s research into all manner of things pertaining to lay Buddhist practice. Some of the presentations were fascinating. Others were informative but frankly kind of boring. Others were just confusing. Some were borderline insane. Others were surreal.

For example, the most surreal was the final presentation. It was by a Sri Lankan monk who couldn’t speak much English but was able, it seems, to write and read it. At dinner he kept saying, “Olive oil! No cholesterol!” and pouring olive oil on his Chinese food. The next day he started to pour white wine on his food thinking it was olive oil until someone stopped him.

Anyway, he attempted to read his paper aloud to the group, in something like the way Miss Molly would read books to the children on the old Romper Room TV show. But in the middle of a heavily accented recitation of a huge long list of arcane stuff from the Pali Canon (“number 27: revengefulness, number 28: jealousy, number 29: envy of other’s well being, number 30…” I swear I am not even exaggerating) it all broke down when he came across something he couldn’t pronounce. His assistant was called to the stage. But he couldn’t pronounce it either. There was a lot of tense discussion in whatever language they speak in Sri Lanka (Singhalese, I think). Then some of the organizers rushed to the podium to try to straighten matters out and things got even more confused. Finally Prof. Scherer, the main organizer of the event, lept into the fray and summarized the monk’s presentation for him. Nice save!

I’ve never been the world’s biggest fan of Buddhist scholarship. No. Let me try that again. I very much appreciate Buddhist scholarship. I own loads of books by Buddhist scholars. So in that sense I am a fan. Buddhist scholars have brought us translations of the most important Buddhist works and for that I am eternally grateful. But academia in general always reminds me of little boys fighting in a sandbox. The most important thing seems to always be winning against the other guy rather than anything to do with uncovering facts or unknown truths or whatever it is academia is supposed to do for us.

Which also had me wondering just what academia is supposed to do for us. I mean for the culture as a whole. Is it all a lot of hot air blown around by scholars? I suppose some of it trickles down to the rest of us. Like when they found the so-called “God particle.” Which I never even really tried to understand. But it seems like most of it just blows around conferences like this and never really goes anywhere else. Or am I missing the point of the exercise? I might be.

While the conference was going on I kept drawing monkeys on the little paper mats the hotel gave out to place under our drinking glasses. Maybe I can put them up on eBay when I get back.

At this conference I’ve been hanging out a lot more with a group of students from Christchurch University in Canterbury, England than with the academics. The students are a lot more fun.

What I’ve learned mostly from this conference is that what I know to be Buddhism may be incompatible with much of what goes by the name “Buddhism.” A cornerstone of Dogen’s philosophy is “shin jin inga.” It means “deep belief in cause and effect.” We do not accept the existence of miracles. We do not accept that the belief in miracles is Buddhism. This is not a trivial thing. Yet I have found that lots of what passes for “Buddhism” includes belief in miracles and belief in beings with supernormal powers. I cannot accept that as Buddhism. Nor can I accept the worship of gurus as compatible with Buddhism. I’m kind of a hardliner about this. It makes me unpopular in certain circles. This conference is surely one of them.

So anyway, last week I was in Finland, this week I’m in Spain, in a couple of days I’ll be in Germany, then Scotland an finally England. The complete dates are on my EVENTS page. But here’s the summary what’s left.

Nov. 7 University of Koblenz, Koblenz, Germany

Nov. 9 Dogen Zendo Frankfurt , Germany

Nov. 10 Balance Yoga Frankfurt, Germany

Nov. 14 Dharma Buchladen Berlin, Germany

Nov. 17- 18 Merchant City Yoga Glasgow, Scotland

Nov. 23-25 Weekend Sesshin at Fawcett Mill Fields, Penrith, Lake District  UK Sponsored by Yoga Manchester

Nov. 25 Manchester, England Sponsored by Yoga Manchester

Dec. 2 London, England, The Vibast Community Centre, 163 Old Street, EC1V 9NH, for info sacredalchemyevents@hotmail.com

I’m doing two events in Koblenz.  The first will be a talk called “Empowerment and Autonomy in Zen Buddhism” at the university (16-18h) and then there will be a more public lecture “Sex, Sünde, Zen” (Sex, Sin, Zen) downtown (20-22h; both  November, 7th). The locations, for the Koblez gigs are on  www.autonomies.de. I would try to copy them down. But I know I’d mess them up. So please go look at that page for info.

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41 Responses

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  1. chasrmartin
    chasrmartin November 4, 2012 at 7:31 am | |

    “Fundamentally not one thing exists….” “Buddhism” is a skanda, a heap that happens to have been brought about by karma/vipaka. No reason you should believe in it, it doesn’t exist anyway.

    On the other hand, the Four Great Truths, the Eightfold Path, zazen, sangha — those are helpful. Still, they’re just rafts on the river.

    On scholarship — I was trained as an academic — remember what Ted Sturgeon said about science fiction. Nonety percent of scholarship is crap, but then ninety percent of everything is crap.

  2. chasrmartin
    chasrmartin November 4, 2012 at 7:31 am | |

    He spelled “ninety” right, too.

  3. Ted
    Ted November 4, 2012 at 8:29 am | |

    It seems to me that there’s a disconnect between what modern buddhists hear when they hear “cause and effect” and what Buddhists of Dogen’s time, and the Buddha’s time, meant when they said it.

    In modern terms, we think of cause and effect as “I dropped the egg, so it broke.” But that’s not what cause and effect means in Buddhist terms. Cause and effect in Buddhist terms means “I killed that guy, and so later in this life, and also in future lives, should I take a human rebirth, my health will be poor, and those dear to me will die before their time, and I’ll be attracted to killing.”

    So when you talk about miracles, it suggests to me that you interpret what Dogen said as the former, not the latter. Because if you accept the latter interpretation, then what we mean by the word “miracle” actually applies to every single experience we ever have.

    Scholarship is a problem. A lot of translations I’ve seen suffer from it—the person translating it has no personal experience of or understanding of what’s being described, and so the translation winds up being subtly broken, and fails to convey what the author or previous translator intended. Needless to say, this makes me extremely reluctant to get involved in translating, since I haven’t had much experience with much of what is being spoken about either.

    1. chasrmartin
      chasrmartin November 4, 2012 at 9:03 am | |

      I don’t think that’s really true. My Sanskrit-speaking and Hindi-speaking friends make this point regularly: we turn “karma” into a Mystical Thing, when all it means is “action”. Karma/vipaka is “action and consequences”. Remember Siddhartha wasn’t even all that definite about reincarnation….

      1. Ted
        Ted November 4, 2012 at 9:11 am | |

        The Buddhist notion of karma and the Hindu notion of karma are very different, so I wouldn’t take their opinions on the matter as guidance when you’re trying to figure out what “karma” means in a Buddhist consequence.

        Who is this Siddhartha of whom you speak?

  4. buddy
    buddy November 4, 2012 at 10:32 am | |

    Ted, ‘I haven’t had much experience with much of what is being spoken about either.’ ‘Nuff said.

    1. Ted
      Ted November 4, 2012 at 10:43 am | |

      Yup, guilty as charged. Haven’t attained enlightenment yet. Your point?

  5. Janina
    Janina November 4, 2012 at 10:50 am | |

    I think that academic buddhism is kind of different thing to buddhist practice. Dogen´s way was teach only zazen and leave the experience of “buddhist truths” to practitioner onself. We don´t need enlightenments, miracles and things like that, cause we have the practice which helps us to see ourself the things that reality offers!

    Academic buddhism is like the name states, way to gather information of buddhism from outer sources more than simply from own experience. Buddhist scholar in academic sense, I guess is more like professor who knows a lot about car engines, but can´t fix or built the motor himself.

    I personally think that good way to balance these two would be study some buddhism and then put it to action by ones personal practice!

    -Janina Paasonen

  6. buddy
    buddy November 4, 2012 at 11:28 am | |

    I thought my point was obvious: you go on at great length, and with a certain antagonistic confidence, about things you admittedly don’t understand.

    1. Ted
      Ted November 4, 2012 at 11:37 am | |

      Whatever antagonistic confidence you may have perceived can’t possibly have come from me, since you were just reading text on a screen. I just wrote some words, which I thought might provoke an interesting response from Brad, on the topic of the difference between the modern and ancient views of cause and effect.

      This is a matter of some interest to me since, as you say, I can’t claim to have certain knowledge that either interpretation is correct. There is no antagonism in my wish to discuss this with someone who is also a long-time practitioner, in a different tradition than mine.

      I’d be curious to hear your views on the topic as well, but please don’t impute antagonism into the responses you get from me. I am really just interested in hearing what you think about the question; what you think about me is somewhat academic.

  7. Buddha Shaman
    Buddha Shaman November 4, 2012 at 12:05 pm | |

    Academic Buddhism is actually enormously helpful in demystifying the ongoing relationship we in the West have with Asian Buddhist forms. It also helps us to remember that there are Buddhisms and not a single Buddhism out there. And, of course, some of them believe in magical flying, super powered Buddha saints existing somewhere in a mystical realm just waiting for adoring fans to bestow blessings on. They also can provide a non-hagiographic reading of the history of the various Buddhisms, which is a great challenge to sectarian rivalry and claims to the one pure dharma. There are some academics who are also practitioners and I personally find their work interesting and relevant to the wider discourse in the west on the relevance and meaning of Buddhism in this day and age; John Peacock, Rita Gross are two examples that come to mind. The Making of Buddhist Modernism is a great read for all semi-literate Buddhists by an academic who has dabbled in practice.

  8. buddy
    buddy November 4, 2012 at 12:14 pm | |

    ‘Whatever antagonistic confidence you may have perceived can’t possibly have come from me, since you were just reading text on a screen.’ If I was wrong, then forgive my misinterpretation. Although I disagree with this statement as an absolute, since it can easly be read as a blanket abdication of responsiblity for anything one posts on the internet. As well, I was referring not only to the comments presented here, but even moreso to those you have posted in the past.

    As for my views on the topic, well, we got into this in some depth a few months ago, and since those discussions never really led anywhere, I’m not interested in reiterating them here. I will instead ungracefully bow out of this thread. :p

    1. Ted
      Ted November 4, 2012 at 12:30 pm | |

      There’s no need for a deep analysis of the complexity of responsibility for speech on the internet. It couldn’t be simpler.

      I’m responsible for what I say. If I engage in wrong speech—divisive talk, lying, harsh words or idle talk, that’s on me. You’re responsible for reading with an open mind, for two reasons. The first is that if you read with an afflicted mind, you might respond with wrong speech when you read something you don’t agree with. The second is that you might miss the point.

      Any sort of digression into “oh, but he offended me” is idle talk. Getting offended is an example of forming an afflicted state of mind, and your mind is your own—I literally *can’t* offend you, despite the popularity of that idiom. I can only say something that you decide to get offended about.

  9. Ted
    Ted November 4, 2012 at 12:31 pm | |

    (to be clear, by “you” I am not referring to you specifically, nor trying to imply that you have wrongfully responded to an imputation of “offensive” onto something I have said)

  10. buddy
    buddy November 4, 2012 at 1:36 pm | |

    I know I said I’d make myself scarce, but curiousity got the better of me: you say you’re responsible for what you say, but if you’re not ‘responsible’ (for lack of a better word) for offending someone (or whichever sort of reaction may arise in their mind) by your words, then exactly how does this responsibilty manifest?

    1. Ted
      Ted November 4, 2012 at 3:02 pm | |

      Tom, plunging a knife into Alice’s hand is a harmful act—wrong action. If Alice responds by stabbing me in return, that is also wrong action. If she responds by avoiding me in the future, that’s pretty sensible.

      As to Alice’s pain, certainly I am the person who delivered it to her, and in that sense I am responsible. But these things don’t happen in a vacuum. Treating them as if they do is ignorant. Why did I stab Alice in the hand? If it’s because I’m deranged and violent, why is Alice hanging out with me? If it’s in response to something Alice did on purpose, what responsibility does she bear, if any?

      As a Buddhist practitioner, it’s very simple for me. All I am responsible for is avoiding wrong mind, speech and action. If I avoid all these things, and still someone is upset either by my speech or my actions, then that is indeed their responsibility.

      Buddy, I’ve been online for a very long time, so I have a lot of experience with people reading into what I’ve said things I never intended for them to impute. Before I ever started studying Buddhism, I made a practice of trying to speak in a way that didn’t offend people. What I found was that no matter what my intention, I would always offend some people (not always the same people, mind you), and never offend other people. Frequently what I said that was offensive offended *because* of some effort I’d made not to offend—my intentions seemingly led to the exact opposite of what I’d intended.

      So even before I studied Buddhism, it was pretty obvious to me that the offense was something that they brought to the conversation. One of the reasons I became a Buddhist was that this understanding of human interaction is at the core of the teachings. I could have saved myself a lot of time and trouble if I’d just learned Buddhism from the start, but having reasoned it out for myself, it was a nice confirmation that Buddhist practice made sense.

  11. TomSwiss
    TomSwiss November 4, 2012 at 2:32 pm | |

    Ted, I’m curious: if Alice were to plunge a knife into Bob’s hand, and Bob were to complain that this caused him pain, would it in your opinion be valid for Alice to tell Bob “Being in pain is an afflicted state of mind, and your mind is your own — I can’t cause you pain”?

    Since the evidence for past lives or other supernatural phenomena is nonexistent and conflicts with out best rational knowledge of the world, I would suggest that regardless of whether the Gautama Buddha or Bodhidharma or Dogen or whoever you like took “cause and effect” to include them — which is the sort of question that Buddhist academics might find interesting — we should not, if we are interested in reducing our suffering here and now. Just my asinine opinion.

  12. deluded
    deluded November 4, 2012 at 2:37 pm | |

    We are dying. Don’t forget it.
    My trolling will be impermanent this week.
    If I will be alive, I will be back later (more or less deluded, depending on impermanence).

  13. Fred
    Fred November 4, 2012 at 2:59 pm | |

    An3drew, you were prescribed the wrong drugs.

  14. Fred
    Fred November 4, 2012 at 4:56 pm | |

    “To carry yourself forward and experience myriad things is delusion. That myriad things come forth and experience themselves is awakening.”

    There is no one who is reborn. There is no soul. There is no reincanation.

    There is no necessity to collect good deeds to get a better placement next time.

    Awakening is dropping the attachment to the separate singularity.

  15. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 4, 2012 at 8:19 pm | |

    “All I am responsible for is avoiding wrong mind, speech and action.”

    Consciousness takes place where it takes place as it takes place, and the impact and feeling as consciousness takes place allows for the activity and feeling necessary to the current movement of breath.

    Whether the intention is for wrong or right, or for ignorance of wrong or right altogether, the result is a station of consciousness, and from the station of consciousness comes name and form, feeling, craving, and the five groups of grasping.

    In falling asleep and in waking up, single-pointedness of mind can be experienced without any intention, and the stretch and activity appropriate in the current movement of breath can be experienced (as involuntary); here are the states in which volition in the activity of speech ceases, in which the activity of volition in in-breath and out-breath ceases, in which the activity of volition in the activity of perception and sensation ceases.

    I think we are all called to a life of service, with varying capacities. The record of the man in India in the fifth century B.C.E. I think is amazing for the science with which he described the meditative states, and their relationship to ill and to well-being. Can we describe now how these states are nothing more than the necessity of breath, in this time and place ? And the lack of these states, equally?

    In the sermon volumes of the Pali Canon, Gautama the Shakyan who centuries later was called “the Buddha” spoke of six miracles explicitly. He also described small fairies. He described a practice for the cultivation of psychic powers, and shared with Mogallana that he too saw hungry ghost spirits on a particular peak. His disciple Mogallana was reported to have created an earthquake to chastise certain monks with his big toe. Another monk was reported to have brought rain in a drought, although he left the order immediately afterward.

  16. Mark Foote
    Mark Foote November 4, 2012 at 8:21 pm | |

    “in which volition in the activity of perception and sensation ceases”, that is.

  17. boubi
    boubi November 5, 2012 at 1:46 am | |

    On my opinion out there are a few related “things” as “tibetanism”, “dogenism”, “pure landism” and so on so forth, add your choiced one. I’m not any great practitioner at all, even less a erudite scholar.

    Some things seem to be of a “magic” nature because we are not in the “proper” mind set, as much as radio or cell phone to jungle dwelling people. Some of us had some “weird” experiences. Can’t explain how but understood the reality of it.

    What is buddhism? In one sutra? IMHO it could be the Heart sutra. If so they seem to be all “buddhism” of different flavors. So what?

    About “learned scholars” unless they had a taste of the “thing”, they are as useless as an art critic who never had a glimpse to the paintings he is talking about.

  18. blake
    blake November 5, 2012 at 7:16 am | |

    Studying and practicing are two different critters. I’m not too terribly impressed with the former.

  19. senorchupacabra
    senorchupacabra November 5, 2012 at 10:12 am | |

    I think academia is a lot like internet message boards. It’s just a bunch of people masturbating in front of others and trying to get noticed for it. “Oh, here, look at my thoughts. Aren’t they amazing and original and life-changing? Ain’t I just so smart and clever?”

    Of course, I fall under that description as well, since I post on a number of message boards. And I’m also from the school of thought that the more one elaborates on “Zen” the further away one moves from it. Still, surely, there are worse wastes of time than masturbating.

    1. Ted
      Ted November 5, 2012 at 10:52 am | |

      What you say may be true, but there is a long tradition of logic and debate in Buddhism, and the goal of this analysis and debate is to produce understanding, not to win. The best possible outcome of a debate for any participant is for them to be proven wrong and understand why. I’ve had this outcome in several debates, and it’s been hugely beneficial to my practice.

      The idea that study and practice are two totally separate things is a weird one. To me, study is something that informs practice.

      Having said that, of course you can easily fall into the sort of Dharma materialism that turns into a giant wankfest. But you can also avoid doing this, at least some of the time, and get real benefit from debate.

  20. Jean
    Jean November 5, 2012 at 12:01 pm | |

    In regards to the “God particle.” At first it was nicknamed the God damn particle because it was driving physicists crazy. This was not considered an acceptable name so they dropped the damn.

  21. senorchupacabra
    senorchupacabra November 5, 2012 at 1:12 pm | |

    “What you say may be true, but there is a long tradition of logic and debate in Buddhism, and the goal of this analysis and debate is to produce understanding, not to win. ”

    I’m not quite sure how to respond to this. I suppose it’s true. I mean, I guess there’s no denying it. As humans, we like to exchange ideas and stuff. That’s what we do. We masturbate and we also debate. Both are enjoyable for their own sake, though. It’s silly to masturbate or debate and expect either to lead to “enlightenment” in any way. The most famous “debates” are recorded as Koans, although it’s a bit of a stretch to call them either logical or debates. They were more like games, whereupon the two participants could gauge each other’s understanding.

    I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like to debate and converse as much as the next person (probably more than most people). But it’s misguided to take any of it too seriously, which is what I see happening too often.

    1. Ted
      Ted November 5, 2012 at 1:33 pm | |

      You’re missing my point, perhaps because you don’t agree with the premise that it is possible to benefit one’s practice by study. If you don’t accept that premise, there’s not much I can say about it.

      However, I _do_ accept that premise, and consequently I see a dichotomy where perhaps you do not: it is possible to debate because you want to beat your opponent, and it is also possible to debate because you think you have an answer that might be right, and are hoping that by debating either you or your opponent (or both) will have some new insight as a result of debating the point.

      The former is wankery. The latter is not. If you are just debating for your own amusement, and obtain no practical benefit from doing so, that’s wankery (or, from a Buddhist perspective, idle talk).

      1. senorchupacabra
        senorchupacabra November 5, 2012 at 3:57 pm | |

        A couple of things:

        1. I think I get your point. I’m not going to argue about it, though.

        2. It’s a good thing I’m not “Buddhist” then because it’s all idle talk. It’s all wankery. Some wankery is more beneficial than others, but it’s still all wankery. “Buddhism” isn’t really that difficult. The old masters have told use everything we need to know. It’s just we all have issues accepting what is. I think much more often than not, debate–with ourselves or with others–only muddles. Why take something simple and “elaborate” on it? The sun rises, and it sets. Leaves grow, change color and die. During the summer, flies wake me up early in the morning. During the winter, the sound of the mice scratching through the walls keeps me up at night. What’s there to understand?

        “Tiger got to hunt, bird got to fly;
        Man got to sit and wonder, ‘Why, why, why?’
        Tiger got to sleep, bird got to land;
        Man got to tell himself he understand.”

  22. chasrmartin
    chasrmartin November 5, 2012 at 1:18 pm | |

    I guess after near 50 years of this madness, I’m less determined about the zennish disdain for scholarship than I once was. Of course, it may be because I’ve got an academic inclination and so just like learning this obscure stuff. But it occurred to me some time ago that the Heart Sutra is basically a research report: Avelokisteshwara realized that the skandas are fundamentally vacuous, empty, meaningless, so the things that arise by our perception of the skandas are also fundamentally vacuous, and thus realizing, was freed from duhkha. Dharma, natural law, is unchanging and fundamental; things that change are not.

    Avelokiteshwara is saying “see, that’s what happened. You can do the same thing when you see through to that realization.”

    1. chasrmartin
      chasrmartin November 5, 2012 at 1:20 pm | |

      Duh. I meant to have a point there: that zazen is important, but that sometimes the words of the previous teachers are also important. Nishijima-roshi seems to think so too, since he did that whole translation/commentary thing.

  23. Pat
    Pat November 5, 2012 at 2:15 pm | |

    working in science, we have all had to go through the academic stuff at college or university – but each and every one of us is totally lost the first time we get into a lab and put what we think we know into useful practice.

  24. shade
    shade November 5, 2012 at 2:33 pm | |

    “We do not accept the existence of miracles. We do not accept that the belief in miracles is Buddhism. This is not a trivial thing. Yet I have found that lots of what passes for “Buddhism” includes belief in miracles and belief in beings with supernormal powers.”

    How do you define a miracle? Or “supernormal” powers? Personally I have always been hopelessly in-athletic so the sorts of things professional figure skaters and acrobats and the likes of Jackie Chan and Vincent Cassel can do seem pretty supernormal to me. Actually, at this point, people who can jump turnstiles seem supernormal to me.

    1. Ted
      Ted November 5, 2012 at 3:07 pm | |

      Nice analogy! I feel similarly when I watch Danny McAskill’s videos.

  25. RougeBuddha
    RougeBuddha November 6, 2012 at 7:17 am | |

    Can’t wait to hear how “Sex Sin Zen” goes!

  26. AnneMH
    AnneMH November 7, 2012 at 7:59 am | |

    I can relate, I really stayed away from formal study for a long time. One reason was meeting these people who felt it was important to trump me on minor points of Buddhism. I am most likely an over-sensitive person, or they were kinda jerks, or both, but I didn’t tell anyone in public I was practicing for a long time. During that time I figured out there were people who just read this stuff and never practiced, I chose practice over reading when I had limited time.

    Then I really didn’t understand it. I see where having a teacher to wade through this is really helpful. It made more sense than it would have if I didn’t practice at all, but still not a lot of sense.

    But on a related note, the more mystical part of it all. I think that humans are really really driven to create magical thinking. I have got to write down my coherent thoughts on this. There is a thought process that says where there are 2 people they wil be friends, at 3 they will choose sides, at 4 they will create a committee, etc. (I probably got that wrong). It seems that the drive for creating power outside ourselves and magical beings in the form of an idealized parent is also a thing we do really complusively. However just like when we gather the first 5 humans and make a committee that is not so effective, we also do not create an existence with less suffering by creating in our mind the all powerful parent figure (of our own mental creation no less, what parent ever did what we wanted anyway).

    Okay I hope someone comments on this because I am feeling a little smart even if I have not gotten this all clear in my head yet.

  27. Ted
    Ted November 7, 2012 at 8:17 am | |

    I think that there are two aspects of Buddhist thought that would fall into your magical thinking category, and it’s at least interesting to be aware of the dichotomy. There are the magical thinkers who do the parent figure thing that you describe, but there are also the magical thinkers who simply operate on the assumption that enlightenment is possible. For them, not for some magical parent figure.

    There is a school of thought in Buddhism that this second form of magical thinking is something we should get rid of—that we should just take the parts of Buddhism that are left over when that’s gone. And there is a school of thought in Buddhism that says that karma and emptiness and enlightenment are core aspects of Buddhism.

    To my mind, the “ideal parent” way of thinking is just a mental shortcut for people who want to do some kind of Buddhist practice but aren’t presently interested in going deep into the philosophy. IMHO this is not wrong of them, but it means that you won’t generally find yourself in interesting debates with them, because that’s not what they like about Buddhism.

    I think there’s limited value in debate between the other two camps. My experience has been that it tends to turn into idle talk. There is some truth, whether it is that enlightenment is possible, or that it is not, and practice is what will reveal this truth, not debate.

    1. chasrmartin
      chasrmartin November 9, 2012 at 11:13 pm | |

      Well, I’ve thought for a long time that Buddhism in America is badly hampered by the Victorian translations we’ve been forced to endure. Again, I think the Heart Sutra, considered as a research report, is helpful. “Avalokitesvara … saw the five skandhas were empty (sunyata)”. “Sunya” is just “zero” — “sunyata” the “properties of being nothing.” The skandha aren’t anything really — just transient heaps that happen to have come together. Recognize that the skandhas have nothing, no independent enduring “is-ness”, and it just follows naturally that you will cease to try to make them, inherently impermanent and the side effect of karma/vipaka; cease to cling to them, and suffering (duhkha), the frustration of trying to grab water, also, just naturally, ceases.

  28. Doug
    Doug November 8, 2012 at 3:13 am | |

    Brad, your analogy about the “God Particle” might be off a bit. The Higgs Boson is very probably a provable physical phenomena, and it’s useful as a means for trying to understand the nature of reality. A physicist who understood it called it the “God Particle” tongue-in-cheek because he was trying to sell books* and the publisher wouldn’t let the title stand as “The Goddamn Particle”. Then hordes of morons misunderstood, latched onto the name, and we’re stuck with it forever after. Surely you can relate?

    * http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_God_Particle:_If_the_Universe_Is_the_Answer,_What_Is_the_Question%3F

  29. AnneMH
    AnneMH November 9, 2012 at 9:18 pm | |

    Ted, thanks for commenting. I am comfortable with the 2nd perspective being debated and not solved. I generally find a reason to not spend a lot of time sitting in on those types of debates.

    The magical thinking seems to be a very powerful thing and reassuring for people. Not that anything is wrong, and it is not a belief that seems to cause any harm to others. It is across many belief systems in one form or another. That is a reason for me to get my ideas together but for now I am just collecting

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