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So how come we don’t see Buddhist in Myanmar opposing the violence against Muslims?

 
jro
 
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jro
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26 October 2016 06:46
 

In our mediation group, it has so happened that we annually donate the leftovers of what members contributed throughout the year to a charitable cause. Two years ago, we donated to social projects in Burma, though a person who goes there regularly for meditation. Last year I suggested we again donate to Burma, but with a twist: the money should go to a Buddhist project or initiative working against the violence affecting the Muslim Rohingya in Rakhine state, which have been described as the world’s most persecuted ethnic group.

So I contacted the same person again and she said she would have to investigate, but she never came back to me with anything. I made some other attempts. But even though compassion with all sentient beings is the core of Teravada Buddhism I wasn’t able to identify any initiative driven by compassion with the Rohingya. Even Nobel prize winning Aung San Suu Kyi has not intervened to protect them. How come, in the country of U Pandita, in the country where meditation has made its big comeback in the 19th century before conquering the world, in the country where loving kindness is trained through Metta meditation, this does not seem to translate into compassion crossing boundaries of one’s own in-group? Really, you can’t blame Buddhism for all the violence and bloodshed, going on these days, because it is 180 degrees opposed, but why doesn’t it seem to make any difference? How can Buddhist monks partake in it or even be leaders of the rage which is causing the violence in Rakhine state? This really doesn’t confirm the theory that the contents of your beliefs inform your actions.

[ Edited: 26 October 2016 06:50 by jro]
 
Dennis Campbell
 
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Dennis Campbell
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26 October 2016 07:23
 

But even though compassion with all sentient beings is the core of Teravada Buddhism I wasn’t able to identify any initiative driven by compassion with the Rohingya.

When does Buddhism initiate actions or make action-oriented decisions in other circumstances?  Being oriented towards peace is great, being unwilling or unable to counter aggression in an active manner isn’t a virtue.

 
 
GAD
 
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GAD
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26 October 2016 08:36
 

Buddhism and meditation are made up nonsense that have no actual meaning in the world outside the practitioners head and so there is no reason to expect that they would change the world.

 
 
Skipshot
 
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Skipshot
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26 October 2016 09:15
 

You are asking people to live up to the standards of their religion.  Very rarely is that done.  Religion may help or guide people achieve a higher standard, but mostly it is used as a convenient excuse for doing something rather heinous or selfish.

 
jro
 
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jro
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26 October 2016 09:18
 
Dennis Campbell - 26 October 2016 07:23 AM

But even though compassion with all sentient beings is the core of Teravada Buddhism I wasn’t able to identify any initiative driven by compassion with the Rohingya.

When does Buddhism initiate actions or make action-oriented decisions in other circumstances?  Being oriented towards peace is great, being unwilling or unable to counter aggression in an active manner isn’t a virtue.

Buddhism itself is not an agent, it doesn’t do a thing. Still I would expect a practice whose central objects are loving kindness and compassion to have some effect on the practitioners and motivate them to act accordingly. Sadly, I don’t see a sign of that happening in Myanmar.

 
jro
 
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jro
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26 October 2016 09:25
 
GAD - 26 October 2016 08:36 AM

Buddhism and meditation are made up nonsense that have no actual meaning in the world outside the practitioners head and so there is no reason to expect that they would change the world.

Buddhism and meditation of course have been developed by humans, in that sense, it they are “made up”, like every school of thought is. So what?

Meditation practices of course have very measurable effects on both the physical and metal health of the practitioners, to which countless studies testify. And it is only logical that by changing the practioner, they affect their actions. Moreover, Teravada Buddhism expects the practices to be embedded in a set of ethical teachings, so meditation and ethical acting cannot be divorced without meditation becoming an empty shell.

Or that’s at least what I would expect. Unfortunately what is happening in Myanmar doesn’t really confirm my expectations.

 
GAD
 
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26 October 2016 10:48
 
jro - 26 October 2016 09:25 AM
GAD - 26 October 2016 08:36 AM

Buddhism and meditation are made up nonsense that have no actual meaning in the world outside the practitioners head and so there is no reason to expect that they would change the world.

Buddhism and meditation of course have been developed by humans, in that sense, it they are “made up”, like every school of thought is. So what?

Meditation practices of course have very measurable effects on both the physical and metal health of the practitioners, to which countless studies testify. And it is only logical that by changing the practioner, they affect their actions. Moreover, Teravada Buddhism expects the practices to be embedded in a set of ethical teachings, so meditation and ethical acting cannot be divorced without meditation becoming an empty shell.

Or that’s at least what I would expect. Unfortunately what is happening in Myanmar doesn’t really confirm my expectations.

Are Buddhism and meditation required to be ethical, no they are not, they are not related.  Studies show that taking sugar pills makes people feel better, can it cure cancer or grow a limb back, no it can not. Buddhism and meditation is knowing you are taking a sugar pill and convincing yourself that it still works and then asking why it hasn’t cured cancer, solved world hunger or ended war. 

 

 
 
hannahtoo
 
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hannahtoo
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26 October 2016 11:47
 

Buddhism is not helping the persecuted Tamil in Sri Lanka much either.

I am not Christian, but I think Jesus hit it on the head when he said (in the Sermon on the Mount): 

If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great…

This teaching has gotten a lot of criticism.  But in many situations, the only way to end endless cycles of violence is to make the conscious choice to do so.

 
Dennis Campbell
 
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26 October 2016 12:00
 

Buddhism itself is not an agent, it doesn’t do a thing. Still I would expect a practice whose central objects are loving kindness and compassion to have some effect on the practitioners and motivate them to act accordingly. Sadly, I don’t see a sign of that happening in Myanmar.

Of course it isn’t.  Neither is Islam, Christianity or any other ideology.  But the believers are agents of actions, or can be, so my question still stands: what do Buddhists do, apart from meditation.  And I am not mocking meditation,  it’s just that that does not get much corn planted, innocents defended, or advances made in improving living conditions.

 
 
jro
 
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jro
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26 October 2016 15:27
 
GAD - 26 October 2016 10:48 AM
jro - 26 October 2016 09:25 AM
GAD - 26 October 2016 08:36 AM

Buddhism and meditation are made up nonsense that have no actual meaning in the world outside the practitioners head and so there is no reason to expect that they would change the world.

Buddhism and meditation of course have been developed by humans, in that sense, it they are “made up”, like every school of thought is. So what?

Meditation practices of course have very measurable effects on both the physical and metal health of the practitioners, to which countless studies testify. And it is only logical that by changing the practioner, they affect their actions. Moreover, Teravada Buddhism expects the practices to be embedded in a set of ethical teachings, so meditation and ethical acting cannot be divorced without meditation becoming an empty shell.

Or that’s at least what I would expect. Unfortunately what is happening in Myanmar doesn’t really confirm my expectations.

Are Buddhism and meditation required to be ethical, no they are not, they are not related.

Buddhism is at its core an ethical system. The “Noble Eightfold Path” is its central teaching, it makes no supernatural claims, contains no creeds, but essentially concerns itself with what ethical behaviour is. Therefore, yes, I would say that clearly Buddhism is not only “required to be” ethical, it is essentially an ethical system. Therefore I am so stunned by the realities in Myanmar and Sri Lanka.

Meditation can of course be unlinked from Buddhist philosophy and used purely as a tool of increasing one’s own personal well-being. That’s however what happens mostly in the West, not in those countries, where Buddhism is traditionally strongest.

Studies show that taking sugar pills makes people feel better, can it cure cancer or grow a limb back, no it can not.

That’s called the placebo effect. (I guess there have been cases where it helped to cure cancer, the placebo effect is actually quite powerful). And all the studies which looked into the efficacy of homoeopathy have found that the alleged healing effect of the homoeopathic remedies come from the placebo effect. With meditation however, things are very different.

Buddhism and meditation is knowing you are taking a sugar pill and convincing yourself that it still works and then asking why it hasn’t cured cancer, solved world hunger or ended war.

For starters it would help if you distinguished between Buddhism which is a school of thought/philosophy/ethical system/religion and meditation, which is a (class of) practices, which are most developed but not restricted to Buddhism.

Further, the beneficial effects of meditation on the mental and physical well-being are well researched and documented. The same methods which have found homoeopathy and acupuncture to be ineffective have shown that there is a variety of benefits from mediation, which of course starts with the immediate mental and physical effects but also causes positive lasting neurological changes such as that it reduces the size of the amygdala in the brain, which is the part in charge of anxiety. You really should have a look as the footnotes e.g. of the article “Minfulness-based stress reduction” in Wikipedia to understand just how much research is ongoing on the efficacy of meditation and mindfulness interventions and how it confirms that meditation indeed has profound effects, which go far beyond any placebo. None of this btw relies on anything supernatural. Yet it was Buddhism which most developed the art of introspection and developed powerful methods of increasing human well-being and compassion. Therefore I find it so sad that we don’t see it having any positive effect in places like Myanmar.

 
Dennis Campbell
 
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26 October 2016 15:31
 

Jro,

I feel so much better now.  Hope you do as well.  In the meantime, anyone planting the corn?

 
 
LadyJane
 
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26 October 2016 16:17
 

This is par for the course when any society transitions from military dictatorship to democracy.  The tensions only escalate when you add the unfortunate conflicting religious beliefs to the melee.  It tends to get bloody.  That is the current state of affairs is Myanmar.  The Buddhists in Sri Lanka wreaked violent havoc with the Tamil Tigers culminating in the wake of that devastating two thousand four tsunami in the region.  They capitalized, during a cease fire, and all but wiped them out leaving them without representation in the Sri Lankan government.  You can dress people up in colourful robes and speak in fanciful ways all you like but you’ll still ultimately find human nature residing beneath it all.  They’re just costumes.

 
 
sojourner
 
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26 October 2016 20:11
 

Christianity has all kinds of prohibitions against violence as well (Thou shall not kill, love your enemy, put away your sword, and on and on,) but this certainly has not translated to Christian societies being the most pacifistic.


This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine - everyone is for pacifism when they have nothing to lose. Turn up the Game Theory a bit, and suddenly everyone has a justification that is Way Better than everyone else’s justification. Maybe this is the way it has to be in the material world - maybe just saying “yeah, everyone has their justification” would lead to a world of shoulder shrugging sociopaths so it’s better to keep up some level of unrealized idealism - but the truth is that most religions in their purist form make extreme claims that are not readily witnessed in day-to-day life, so people tend to devise their own systems for managing the material world. True pacifism and non-worldliness are extraordinary criteria that very few people are willing to adopt. Perhaps they are best summarized in a story that many atheists point to as the proof of sociopathy within religion - Abraham attempting to kill Isaac. To my mind that is what 100% renunciation and pacifism look like - let the world murder your child, if that’s how the cookie crumbles. I get the tension between intuitively believing in spirituality and yet seeing little empirical evidence for the more extraordinary claims it entails, and the equal and opposing feeling that a leap of faith is a leap of negligence.

 
 
numinous_1
 
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27 October 2016 01:07
 

Meditation can be unlinked from Buddhism.  it is defined by its context.

Going to one of those pay-as-you-go meditation camps Harris suggested in his podcast seems like blatant commercial-placebo-bullshit.

I regularly meditate in Death Valley on dunes even in summer @120F+ with no signs of humanity for 40 miles for days at a time.  Defeaning silence,  brutal heat,  beauty in a burnt landscape.  If DV doesn’t kill you, it makes you stronger.  I went quickly down the Buddhist way of “enlightenment” then beyond. In the moment, I know what it’s like to live on the time scale of eons. 

Practical applications,  no fear of death or the darkness, clarity of being in the moment, riding life straight to perfect laughter. If its a delusion, I’m happy to have it.

 
numinous_1
 
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27 October 2016 01:07
 

it’s about time Buddhists stopped naval gazing and engage with reality.

[ Edited: 27 October 2016 01:11 by numinous_1]
 
Twissel
 
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27 October 2016 01:50
 

Hitler’s “Mein Kampf” is very popular in many traditionally Buddhist and Hindu countries in the Asian region.

The standard criticism, however, is that Hitler got it wrong: instead of “Jew” he should have written “Muslim”.

 
 
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