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Is Buddhism Relgion?

 
Thoughtage
 
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Thoughtage
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23 February 2015 09:16
 

Great stuff NicLynn.  It really enhances the conversation to have members like yourself who are doing the actual real world research, instead of just intellectualizing from a distance.

NicLynn - 22 February 2015 09:54 PM

Either way - I wondered if the glimmer of ‘specialness’ itself was perhaps a murky version of what I was looking for when I wanted to ‘feel the moment’.

In my experience, the quest for the experience of specialness can be an opening door that invites one to shoot for something beyond the mundane everyday experience.  I judge that to be a useful purpose, given how compelling the mundane routine can be.

At some point the quest for the special experience seems to become the obstacle, the next thing to be set aside.  The quest is built of the same old division of “me” seeking “X”.  Me seeking a hot date, me seeking money, me seeking fame, me seeking a special experience etc.

There is a tantalizing sense that there is something behind and beyond all of this, and yet if you tried to define the something in terms of sensory experience, it wouldn’t be the something you were talking about.

If you haven’t already, I would urge you to watch this documentary about mysticism.  I sense that you of all people here would find it quite enjoyable.  In your case, perhaps not educational, but still, it’s interesting to hear from mystics from many different traditions.

http://www.netflix.com/WiPlayer?movieid=70265487&trkid=13462100&tctx;=-99,-99,5e94b555-6005-4ef4-9040-eb1f195a4340-138574031#sthash.eNNBMMbP.dpuf

They said just what you just said above…

There is a tantalizing sense that there is something behind and beyond all of this, and yet if you tried to define the something in terms of sensory experience, it wouldn’t be the something you were talking about.

I explain it to myself this way, yet another highly imperfect pile of words.

Imagine that we were all wearing pink tinted sunglasses.  In such a case, everywhere that anybody looked would appear to be pink.  But of course the pinkness would not be a property of what we were observing, but a property of the tool we were using to make the observation. 

I think the very same thing is happening when we observe reality through thought.  Thought is inherently divisive in nature, that’s how it operates.  And so everywhere we look we see division, the primary case being the experience of “me”.

The division we see is not a property of reality, but a property of the tool we are using to make our observations.

When the mystics perceive that “all is one” I believe they are, by one method or another, taking off the pink tinted sunglasses.

 
sojourner
 
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sojourner
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23 February 2015 11:34
 

Thanks Thoughtage, although I don’t know if I’d call it research or a very consuming hobby. Either way - I like meditation, I like reading mystic philosophy, I like retreats. At a minimum, it’s at least a way to spend one’s time on this planet that research seems to say strengthens neural networks and focus and whatnot. It is hard not to make the meditation itself the ‘fun thing’ - I think ideally, meditation is supposed to be practice for how to focus your attention in daily living, not how to pay attention while sitting on a cushion. Like some people love exercising but generally the point of exercise is to have a fitter body all the time, not just on a great morning jog.


The link just took me to a Netflix sign-in, btw.

 
 
Thoughtage
 
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Thoughtage
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23 February 2015 11:45
 
NicLynn - 23 February 2015 10:34 AM

The link just took me to a Netflix sign-in, btw.

Yes, sorry, viewing the video requires a Netflix account. 

A short trailer is available on YouTube. 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzlnQ1Z-Fzw

Am I the only person on the net with a Netflix account? grin  It’s a pretty awesome service, imho.

 
unsmoked
 
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23 February 2015 15:28
 
Skipshot - 22 February 2015 11:57 PM
unsmoked - 19 February 2015 03:31 PM

Again, though, this could be the most gratuitous kind of confirmation bias on my part, I don’t deny that.

This. You were trying to experience someone else’s experience because it sounded cool to you. Experience your own experiences and beware of imparting religious or spiritual meaning to them since we have enough already (Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus, Muhammed’s instructions from Allah in a cave, Joseph Smith’s visions of an angel showing him where to find special golden tablets, Moses and instructions from a burning bush, etc.)

Skipshot,

NicLynn said this yesterday in post #64, not unsmoked.  (the quote beginning, “Again, though, this could be . . .”)

 
 
Skipshot
 
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Skipshot
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23 February 2015 15:56
 
unsmoked - 23 February 2015 02:28 PM
Skipshot - 22 February 2015 11:57 PM
unsmoked - 19 February 2015 03:31 PM

Again, though, this could be the most gratuitous kind of confirmation bias on my part, I don’t deny that.

This. You were trying to experience someone else’s experience because it sounded cool to you. Experience your own experiences and beware of imparting religious or spiritual meaning to them since we have enough already (Paul’s vision on the road to Damascus, Muhammed’s instructions from Allah in a cave, Joseph Smith’s visions of an angel showing him where to find special golden tablets, Moses and instructions from a burning bush, etc.)

Skipshot,

NicLynn said this yesterday in post #64, not unsmoked.  (the quote beginning, “Again, though, this could be . . .”)

Yikes!  Big mistake.  I was reading it on my phone with a small screen and got confused.  A thousand apologies since post didn’t sound like you at all.

 
Twissel
 
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Twissel
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25 February 2015 12:44
 

Both as a religion and a philosophy, Buddhism is a threat to progress: at its core, it shows a way to accept life at it is; it also claims to have more or less perfected this way a long time ago.

At the core of the enlightenment is the realization that looking and waiting for revelations is much less effective in the long run than incremental progress through research - pursuit of happiness trumps actual happiness any day.

 
 
Twissel
 
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26 February 2015 06:41
 
gsmonks - 26 February 2015 05:17 AM

A threat to progress? That can only be a good thing. It’s about living in the moment, about not being scattered because of modern life and living.

“Progress” is one of those words like “developer”. Both sound positive but ain’t.

guess we have to agree to disagree.

Progress has given humanity the one thing it needs to improve itself: options.

The greatest danger of human extinction is still an asteroid impact - and no amount of inner peace is going to stop that.

 
 
sojourner
 
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27 February 2015 01:42
 

Below is a passage from Aldous that I like on progress. Of course, I think Aldous tends to dichotomize “Good Spiritualists / Evil Materialists” in a way that becomes its own sort of problem, and I gather he would rather see us all living in caves singing “It’s the ciiiiiiiircle of liiiiiife” in a sentimental manner when someone gets eaten by a lion rather than living with modern comforts that have caused global warming. So I do not entirely agree with him, but I think there is a middle path to be found on the idea of ‘progress’:

Looking backwards across the carnage and the devastation, we can see that Vigny was perfectly right. None of those gay travellers, of whom Victor Hugo was the most vociferously eloquent, had the faintest notion where that first, funny little Puffing Billy was taking them. Or rather they had a very clear notion, but it happened to be entirely false. For they were convinced that Puffing Billy was hauling them at full speed towards universal peace and the brotherhood of man; while the newspapers which they were so proud of being able to read, as the train rumbled along towards its Utopian destination not more than fifty years or so away, were the guarantee that liberty and reason would soon be everywhere triumphant. Puffing Billy has now turned into a four-motored bomber loaded with white phosphorus and high explosives, and the free press is everywhere the servant of its advertisers, of a pressure group, or of the government. And yet, for some inexplicable reason, the travellers (now far from gay) still hold fast to the religion of Inevitable Progress— which is, in the last analysis, the hope and faith (in the teeth of all human experience) that one can get something for nothing. How much saner and more realistic is the Greek view that every victory has to be paid for , and that, for some victories, the price exacted is so high Uiat it outweighs any advantage that may be obtained! Modern man no longer regards Nature as being in any sense divine and feels perfectly free to behave towards her as an overweening conqueror and tyrant. The spoils of recent technological imperialism have been enormous; but meanwhile nemesis has seen to it that we get our kicks as well as halfpence. For example, has the ability to travel in twelve hours from New York to Los Angeles given more pleasure to the human race than the dropping of bombs and fire has given pain? There is no known method of computing the amount of felicity or goodness in the world at large. What is obvious, however, is that the advantages accruing from recent technological advances— or, in Greek phraseology, from recent acts of hubris directed against Nature— are generally accompanied by corresponding disadvantages, that gains in one direction entail losses in other directions, and that we never get something except for something. Whether the net result of these elaborate credit and debit operations is a genuine Progress in virtue, happiness, charity and intelligence is something we can never definitely determine . It is because the reality of Progress can never be determined that the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have had to treat it as an article of religious faith. To the exponents of the Perennial Philosophy, the question whether Progress is inevitable or even real is not a matter of primary importance. For them, the important thing is that individual men and women should come to the unitive knowledge of the divine Ground, and what interests them in regard to the social environment is not its progressiveness or non-progressiveness (whatever those terms may mean), but the degree to which it helps or hinders individuals in their advance towards man’s final end.

 
 
PhishPhanPhil
 
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27 February 2015 03:07
 
Nhoj Morley - 18 June 2011 03:24 AM
Khổng Minh - 18 June 2011 03:05 AM

The term religion should be exterminated. Strange, only in western culture uses this confused term.

If you see or hear the term religion on your path, KILL IT.

Then after, everything will be explained, for themselves.

That’s the Dalek approach. I think we should talk about it endlessly and everyone should learn as much about it as possible.

I couldn’t agree with you more.  I would have to say that 90% (obviously not an exact number, using it for rhetoric) of the arguments that I read here and also in books by Mr. Harris and others could be discussed far more effectively if we could nail down definitions to words like religion and faith that both parties agree on.  When I read Mr. Harris or Mr. Dawkins apply their own definitions to words like ‘faith’ for example it becomes painfully obvious that neither have any theological understanding at all.  Their definitions for religion, or faith, or dozens of other words related to the major world religions are entirely inconsistent with the truth, and it would take somebody minimal effort and time to come to a more honest definition of these words.  What it shows to be perfectly blunt is a total lack of intellectual integrity on behalf of people who want to define faith as ‘taking a blind leap off of a cliff’, or any other definition that implies that reason plays no roll in faith.  I know that I just went down a little rabbit trail for a minute there, but to show how that relates to the current thread let’s look at how radically different people’s definitions of religion can be.  I read above Webster’s definition of religion, which is most likely consistent with the majority of people’s understanding of religion; that definition states that belief in a god of some sort is central to religion.  This of course would mean that most sects of Buddhism are not religions, nor is Jainism, Scientology or New Age beliefs.  I think that we can see clearly here that coming to agreement on some of the prominent features of organised religions would benefit us greatly in any discussion on religion.  I would propose the following:
a) A set of positive beliefs about ultimate reality
b) a community of disciples
c) the determination toward the righteousness of its worldview and the parallel conviction toward the falsity of all other worldviews
d) a hierarchy of respected religious leaders
e) the organizational machinery required to spread its faith
f) a set of rules/dogmas/practices by which religious practitioners are compelled to abide
You may notice that out of this list, the modern atheist community is really missing only one key feature: it abides by no objective code of practice.  It is high time atheism is re-defined.  A religion devoid of a set of self-imposed standards and practices is a toothless religion but is still a religion.  It still makes claims on faith, is still committed to letting the world know about those claims, it is guided, followed, supported, institutionalized, active, and most fundamentally, it is believed.  As for the new atheism movement, strip away all the emotion, suspicion, rebellion, propagandism, illusions of social oppression, false paradigms of higher intellect, the allure of cosmic stoicism, and what you are left with is a mere set of beliefs that are demonstrably illogical.  Oh and trust me I fully understand the consequences of even questioning the sacred beliefs of atheism on this forum or anywhere at all on the internet.  Any shard of religious identity that anyone dares to express shall be ripped asunder, sections of your brain will be ridiculed beyond reason, well-rehearsed choruses from the sacred scriptures of Hitchens and Harris will be recited verbatim in your general direction, you will be laden with the burdens of every remotely god-believing human being for the last two thousand years, reviled as an advocator of terrorism, genital mutilation and human sacrifice, but most incongruously and insultingly of all- you will be called irrational and oppressive.  All this for practicing critical thought, otherwise known as being open-minded and having free thought.  How does this relate to the discussion of what is and what is not a religion?  By classifying all external beliefs under a meticulously demonized rubric of “religion”, one essentially destroys all possibility for rational discourse.  By stratifying collective thought one sabotages it.  Any culture that in any way facilitates philosophical separatism is rationally deficient by definition.  What makes it even worse is that the men promoting this movement(atheist evangelists) are supposedly educators.  I would have thought it embarrassing for any academic worth his salt to be in any way associated with a cult of bigotry, shamefully masquerading behind the false frock of reason, truth, “enlightenment”, and “free-thinking”.  So there I have said it and now black listed myself permanently here for all eternity.  By actually practicing free-thought instead of calling myself a “free-thinker” because I read it on the pages of some internationally best-selling book, I have, ironically enough earned myself the stereotype of a “close-minded” right-wing radical trying to push his ideas on everybody else.  The irony is sickening.

 
Pattertwig
 
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Pattertwig
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27 February 2015 09:00
 

Whether Buddhism, Mormonism, Feminism, Naturalism or Capitalism (hello invisible hand! :D) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wz-PtEJEaqY is “religion” depends on how one defines Buddhism, Mormonism, Feminism, Naturalism, Capitalism or Religion.

Unless you believe in the word fairy, words are just vibrating air to which we arbitrarily assign meanings that vary depending on who is fucking whom in our social circles.

“When I read Mr. Harris or Mr. Dawkins apply their own definitions to words like ‘faith’ for example it becomes painfully obvious that neither have any theological understanding at all.  Their definitions for religion, or faith, or dozens of other words related to the major world religions are entirely inconsistent with the truth, and it would take somebody minimal effort and time to come to a more honest definition of these words.”

That is quite true, but I’ve yet to discover any religious sect that uses words like faith in a uniform and consistent way.  Whether intra-sect or inter-sect or between Christianity and atheism, the argument “you don’t understand what faith actually is” rears its head.

I think the atheist George Bernard Shaw hit something on the head when he defined faith (through the mouth of Saint Joan) as a species of imagination.

ROBERT. What did you mean when you said that St Catherine and St Margaret talked to you every day?

JOAN. They do.

ROBERT. What are they like?

JOAN [suddenly obstinate] I will tell you nothing about that: they have not given me leave.

ROBERT. But you actually see them; and they talk to you just as I am talking to you?

JOAN. No: it is quite different. I cannot tell you: you must not talk to me about my voices.

ROBERT. How do you mean? voices?

JOAN. I hear voices telling me what to do. They come from God.

ROBERT. They come from your imagination.

JOAN. Of course. That is how the messages of God come to us.

POULENGEY. Checkmate.

Some may scream victory over my concession, and yet it makes the point that until Science can tell us definitively what the imagination is, that serious scientists should probably stop vibrating air in a manner that to their followers denotes some sort of definitive Answer.

[ Edited: 27 February 2015 09:04 by Pattertwig]
 
 
ulsterman
 
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ulsterman
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22 March 2015 15:05
 

I found this thread very interesting from my perspective first of all I have been a Zen student for 50 years studied in both Japan and Korea received teaching sanction from both Rinzai and Soto Zen Masters and have held the title Roshi or 28 years. I also have a background in philosophy was Western philosophy and Indian philosophy. I have studied Sanskrit for over 30 years. I also have studied comparative religions, the sociology of religion, the psychology of religion, and I am not a theist.

I would say I’m a philosophical Buddhist, but I do not have a great deal a problem with the religious aspect of it, because I understand the cultural and psychological dynamic that lies behind it. As some of you have already stated Buddhism can be a religion or a philosophy or both. If one is looking for purely rational people you simply will not find them. Human beings are driven by many biological imperatives that overwhelm reason, and then there’s the dynamics of self image and ego.

If you use the word religion broadly enough, you can call anything a religion. Certainly, even major philosophers have used the term scientist to describe the kind of attitude which is expressed by Dr. Harris, Dr. Dawkins, and Dr. Dennet. None of these philosophers are theists I might add. Buddhism is unique because it has the doctrine of upaya, or skillful means as a fundamental aspect of teaching. The Buddha stated that you do not teach a cowherd with the language of a sage. I would honestly say that the vast majority of Buddhists in the West don’t really understand the most fundamental teachings in the tradition.

Many of them are as much attracted to the cultural beauty and aesthetics of Zen or the colorful and esoteric aspects of Tibetan culture. There are many schools of Buddhism all these grew out of debates in Indian Buddhism about various aspects of the Dharma. Most particularly the relationship of conventional reality to ultimate reality. Remember, Buddhism does not make any ontological claims it is basically a soteriological system. Of course it has a metaphysics behind it everything has a metaphysics including scientific materialism. Many of the Sanskrit words such as dukkha have several layers of meaning. Can translate that word as unsatisfactory as dis-ease all of which infers suffering,particularly, sickness, old age and death, but also all those many pains that come from grasping at temporal things

The real driving force behind many Buddhist schools and philosophical positions is in the useless attempt to try and describe in conventional language non-dual states of consciousness. There are many specific Sanskrit words that have been put together to form new concepts to try and describe something that is not an ontological entity but still something. One might say Buddhists hold conventional reality to be existent, but not ultimately real, and true reality does it differ from conventional reality except that the perceiver sees it in its unity. In other words, it is a process of epistemology conventional reality and to a merged world with ultimate reality.

One of my teachers used to say there is no good or bad, but good is good and bad is bad. When he said this few people understood in but the meaning lies in the previous paragraph

 
 
Thoughtage
 
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Thoughtage
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23 March 2015 13:46
 

If one is looking for purely rational people you simply will not find them. Human beings are driven by many biological imperatives that overwhelm reason, and then there’s the dynamics of self image and ego.

Thank you, well and wisely said. 

One way we might think of it is that reason is used for the needs of the body, and once those needs are met, we are then freed to focus on what we really care about, emotion.  Thus, the modern developed world is mostly about addressing emotional needs, as the physical needs are mostly under control.

If you use the word religion broadly enough, you can call anything a religion. Certainly, even major philosophers have used the term scientist to describe the kind of attitude which is expressed by Dr. Harris, Dr. Dawkins, and Dr. Dennet.

If the term “religion” is to have any meaning, it probably shouldn’t be used to reference ideologies which are explicitly anti-religious.  That said, I would have no problem with a phrase like “some atheists have religious-like relationship with atheism”.

The real driving force behind many Buddhist schools and philosophical positions is in the useless attempt to try and describe in conventional language non-dual states of consciousness.

Yes, that does seem a doomed effort, but perhaps one can inch a long a bit in a constructive direction if one can keep it simple and surrender the passion for fancy talk that seems to afflict so many speakers on such subjects. 

I dunno, what else is one to do when addressing the inquiries of those who have some interest, but not yet any experience?

 
ulsterman
 
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ulsterman
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23 March 2015 17:10
 
Thoughtage - 23 March 2015 12:46 PM

If one is looking for purely rational people you simply will not find them. Human beings are driven by many biological imperatives that overwhelm reason, and then there’s the dynamics of self image and ego.

Thank you, well and wisely said. 

One way we might think of it is that reason is used for the needs of the body, and once those needs are met, we are then freed to focus on what we really care about, emotion.  Thus, the modern developed world is mostly about addressing emotional needs, as the physical needs are mostly under control.

If you use the word religion broadly enough, you can call anything a religion. Certainly, even major philosophers have used the term scientist to describe the kind of attitude which is expressed by Dr. Harris, Dr. Dawkins, and Dr. Dennet.

If the term “religion” is to have any meaning, it probably shouldn’t be used to reference ideologies which are explicitly anti-religious.  That said, I would have no problem with a phrase like “some atheists have religious-like relationship with atheism”.

The real driving force behind many Buddhist schools and philosophical positions is in the useless attempt to try and describe in conventional language non-dual states of consciousness.

Yes, that does seem a doomed effort, but perhaps one can inch a long a bit in a constructive direction if one can keep it simple and surrender the passion for fancy talk that seems to afflict so many speakers on such subjects. 

I dunno, what else is one to do when addressing the inquiries of those who have some interest, but not yet any experience?


Nagarjuna stated that it is impossible not to use the language of the conventional world conventional reality to teach. Just like you have to use a roadmap to get to a place you’ve never been, but it’s not the same as being there. That’s why the Buddha used process metaphysics aimed at getting you to understand what the conditions were and what you needed to do and did not answer questions that were irrelevant to the path.

The old Abhiudharma traditions of Theravada Buddhism come perilously close to making the dharmas ontological.. This of course led to other schools cropping up with their own arguments. That’s all fine and a little dialectical dueling is a good thing. Each subsequent school would refine what other schools believed in over time it was a lot of variations on a theme. For instance Nagarjuna followed the Abhidarma with his Mahadyamika school(form is. emptiness emptiness is not different from form, emptiness is itself empty) I will explain that to you if you want to be bored to death. Then along came the Yogacarans also known Vijnanas, which, according to who you talk to is either Idealism not too dissimilar from Immanuel Kant, Berkeley, and Schopenhauer. Now the only practicing school that I know of is in Japan and they would tell you they’re not idealists. They would say we mean not mind only but in the mind only. Which is to say how are you going to understand anything outside of your mind and the relationship of the perceiver to the perceived.
Then along comes the Hua Yen school, which has I think the most beautiful aesthetic with it’s description of the interpenetration of all phenomena and it’s almost a holographic representation of conventional reality.
Now in the end, of course you get people trying to put all those traditions into a kind of almost Hegelian synthesis. That I balk at.

  So here is my distilled down version. You’re free to ask me questions if you like . Ultimate reality and conventional reality are not separate except for how you perceive it. Conventional reality exists, but the impression of its permanence and that anything perceived has a non-changing independent ontological status is a delusion, emptiness or that which lacks in essence does not mean nonexistent, it means it exists solely as a part of interdependent origination. Removing obstacles to perceiving us directly by letting go of the drisrti (thirst)  for temporal things leads to enlightenment.
Enlightenment is not different than non-enlightenment in essence, except for the freedom from the attachment to things one of which is the self. The concentration of consciousness which we experience as self changes from moment to moment like a stream in a river. Now you get into the part that can’t really be explained in conventional language, does the Buddha exist after Parinirvana or not and other such questions. Which is why the Buddha refused to answer them

Now where religion comes is that unfortunately philosophical schools and monastics require either land to farm or some kind of physical shelter and sustenance. Where you get these either from the population, which supports you or from the government. Now if you get them from the people are going to want something in return (not just the teachings) because in many cases they simply don’t have the intelligence and education to understand them. So then you stoop to a little magical blessing or whatever,to appease them and you know where that’ ends up. If you have government support your going to want you to toe the line and that’s even worse. This is how religions develop out of Buddhist philosophy.

[ Edited: 23 March 2015 17:27 by ulsterman]
 
 
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