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

 
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27 October 2016 05:19
 
Skipshot - 26 October 2016 09:15 AM

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.


Well ... that, and also it turns out that humans who turn to religion remain human, so even those who find meaning in religion (really the religious community they adopt) because it helps them bolster their Better Angels still fail to live up to high standards now and then (and any community that’s about our Better Angels are going to typically set relatively high standards, since that’s kinda the whole idear).

 
 
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27 October 2016 05:25
 
NL. - 26 October 2016 08:11 PM

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.

I agree with most of what you say here.  But I will quibble with the Abraham/Isaac story.  The whole point is that God stayed his hand.  No more human sacrifice in God’s name.

The Old Testatment is by no means pacifist.  God supposedly told the Hebrew people to kill their enemies and occupy their lands.  This is why the teachings ascribed to Jesus (“love your enemy”) were considered so radical.

 
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27 October 2016 06:52
 
numinous_1 - 27 October 2016 01:07 AM

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.


There are a lot of enlightened beings on message boards these days. wink Sorry, I’m teasing, but while I am back and forth with how I feel about Buddhism (metaphysical philosophy or brain training?,) I don’t use the word ‘enlightenment’ lightly. If I can’t 100% distinguish your description of your experience from what heroin users report, I think it was a meditative experience, not enlightenment. Show me some sign of omniscience or deep wisdom and I’ll consider that claim a bit more literally. Otherwise, to me, ‘enlightenment’ functionally means ‘brain buzz’.


Regarding the places Harris recommends - my feelings on Buddhism are reflected in my feelings on them (“Jack Kornfield is pretty wise… Wait, WTF did you say?! Oh that’s it Kornfield, we are broken up forever... ok, well, maybe not… but maybe yes… ok, we’re back together briefly… Oh seriously?! Broken up forever again.” - I say that as someone who has never been in the same zip code as the guy IRL, ha ha!), but even when I am annoyed with them I do have a grudging respect for their approach to practice. First of all, I’m sorry to resort to cultural stereotypes here and I know this is an horrible Internet Sin, but most of them grew up Jewish and Jewish culture is often not prone to a lot of the bullshit you see in Yoga Guru Culture. (Evangelical church I love? Also run by someone who grew up Jewish, a wonderful service-oriented organization full of love. I tend to think of Jewish culture as being pragmatic.) As someone who grew up in a middle class Christian existence, I feel like it was a bit weird to tell my husband (and I’ve still never told my family,) “Hey, I’m gonna go away to this camp-type place in the middle of nowhere where yogi types do yogi stuff and meditate all day.” Mindfulness is more of a ‘thing’ now, but still. It helps that places like IMS are such a tight ship. You have your own room with a lock, no one is allowed to bother anyone else (I don’t know what exactly they do if it comes up, but I’ve never seen it happen), as a female alone I’ve always felt totally safe there and never seen anything that made me feel uncomfortable - it’s a little boot campy (homey boot campy, but very structured,) but I much prefer it that way.


I agree about feeling uncomfortable about the cost, especially since, unlike expensive things in churches, like mission trips, it is money spent totally on oneself. In that moment, at least, you could argue about the aftereffects, but given the costs of those retreats, if you are doing them regularly you either have to have a metaphysical belief in them or come out a way better person to justify not just donating that money directly to charity. But there are simply not local networks for Buddhism in the way there are for churches (where, if it’s a small group you know well and trust, a retreat can happen relatively inexpensively,) and feeding and housing a large group of people for several days just isn’t cheap.

hannahtoo - 27 October 2016 05:25 AM

I agree with most of what you say here.  But I will quibble with the Abraham/Isaac story.  The whole point is that God stayed his hand.  No more human sacrifice in God’s name.

The Old Testatment is by no means pacifist.  God supposedly told the Hebrew people to kill their enemies and occupy their lands.  This is why the teachings ascribed to Jesus (“love your enemy”) were considered so radical.


I agree that he stayed his hand, but he asked him to show that he was ready and willing to sacrifice his son first. A theme that is totally mirrored later in the story of Jesus. And Jesus’s teachings, much as I love them, are not easy to follow either, for the most part they do endorse a sort of extreme pacifism (if your right eye causes you to sin, if your right hand causes you to stumble, etc.). Like Buddha who did not believe in having worldly possessions and lived a nomadic lifestyle, Jesus was also about “take therefore no thought for the ‘morrow.” If actually followed as literal instructions, most religions call for rather extreme paths, I think, people just tend to ignore the radical renunciation bits and work the rest into something that works in a worldly setting. I’m not condemning that, but to the OP, I think this is why you see people adapting those texts to their life circumstances all over the world.

[ Edited: 27 October 2016 06:58 by sojourner]
 
 
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27 October 2016 08:03
 
Twissel - 27 October 2016 01:50 AM

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”.

Any evidence for that? BTW, since I am German, I read Mein Kampf in the original language. At least I tried. I gave up after very few pages, as it is unreadable. I guess it is interesting for historians who have all the background knowledge on the first decades of the 20 century but else I don’t see anyone radicalized from reading that book as I don’t think it is interesting to read even for current racists.

 
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27 October 2016 08:10
 
Dennis Campbell - 26 October 2016 12:00 PM

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.

I am struggling to understand what your argument is. Are you suggesting that all or the majority of Buddhist are spending too much time in mediation and therefore don’t get things done?

 
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27 October 2016 08:14
 
[ Edited: 27 October 2016 08:17 by Twissel]
 
 
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27 October 2016 08:16
 
Skipshot - 26 October 2016 09:15 AM

You are asking people to live up to the standards of their religion.

mostly I am evaluating Sam Harris claim that religions inform actions. He says that the difference between Islam and Buddhism produces vastly different outcomes, but at least the cases of Sri Lanka and Myanmar don’t seem to confirm his assumption

 
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27 October 2016 08:19
 
Twissel - 27 October 2016 08:14 AM

http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Why-is-Adolf-Hitler-popular-in-India-376622

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/04/22/hitlers-mein-kampf-seen-a_n_190064.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzD-M8FgLKU

Thanks. Article doesn’t talk about Buddhist though, and I am almost certain that hardly anyone buying the book in India actually reads it. For the most part it is just as irrelevant as the soandso beget soandso of the old testament

 
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27 October 2016 08:21
 
jro - 27 October 2016 08:19 AM

Thanks. Article doesn’t talk about Buddhist though, and I am almost certain that hardly anyone buying the book in India actually reads it. For the most part it is just as irrelevant as the soandso beget soandso of the old testament

Basically, it is consider the original “Art of the Deal”, a book about how to get ahead in life and become super-successful.

 
 
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27 October 2016 08:23
 
Twissel - 27 October 2016 08:21 AM
jro - 27 October 2016 08:19 AM

Thanks. Article doesn’t talk about Buddhist though, and I am almost certain that hardly anyone buying the book in India actually reads it. For the most part it is just as irrelevant as the soandso beget soandso of the old testament

Basically, it is consider the original “Art of the Deal”, a book about how to get ahead in life and become super-successful.

WTF?!? Sorry, but as soon as you crack open the book, you will see that this is not at all what it is about.

 
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27 October 2016 13:34
 
NL. - 27 October 2016 06:52 AM
hannahtoo - 27 October 2016 05:25 AM

I agree with most of what you say here.  But I will quibble with the Abraham/Isaac story.  The whole point is that God stayed his hand.  No more human sacrifice in God’s name.

The Old Testatment is by no means pacifist.  God supposedly told the Hebrew people to kill their enemies and occupy their lands.  This is why the teachings ascribed to Jesus (“love your enemy”) were considered so radical.


I agree that he stayed his hand, but he asked him to show that he was ready and willing to sacrifice his son first. A theme that is totally mirrored later in the story of Jesus. And Jesus’s teachings, much as I love them, are not easy to follow either, for the most part they do endorse a sort of extreme pacifism (if your right eye causes you to sin, if your right hand causes you to stumble, etc.). Like Buddha who did not believe in having worldly possessions and lived a nomadic lifestyle, Jesus was also about “take therefore no thought for the ‘morrow.” If actually followed as literal instructions, most religions call for rather extreme paths, I think, people just tend to ignore the radical renunciation bits and work the rest into something that works in a worldly setting. I’m not condemning that, but to the OP, I think this is why you see people adapting those texts to their life circumstances all over the world.

I was raised Jewish, and we were taught that the point of the Abe/Isaac story was to show Abe that sacrificing humans for God was WRONG, and that the Hebrews should stop that forevermore.  That is why I’ve always had so much trouble accepting that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied by the Jews.  C’mon—the Jewish God would never sacrifice a man. That was a newfangled, tangled notion dreamed up by Paul, many, many generations after the Abe/Isaac story was conceived.  But people who were brought up Christian don’t understand this disconnect. 

As for the extremes of Jesus’s teachings, I just never took them literally.  He used hyperbole to make a point.  People take the Bible so darned jot and tittle.  That’s not how great speechifiers think.  “Cut off your hand…” not really.  Maybe take a weekend off from your cell phone?  “Love your enemy and give him your cloak…”  A challenge.  Hey, you think you’re so generous?  Try this.  But really, have you ever done something nice for someone you don’t like, without expecting something in return?  (Not meaning specifically you, NL, because you are a sweetheart, and I’m sure you have done this.)  But try it, and see how it feels.  Might change you.  As a matter of fact, I think we should have a “do something nice, anonymously, for your enemy” day, once per year.  Maybe the day after Valentine’s Day.

 

[ Edited: 27 October 2016 13:36 by hannahtoo]
 
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27 October 2016 17:36
 
hannahtoo - 27 October 2016 01:34 PM

I was raised Jewish,


Hmm. I am trying to overcome stereotypes here, and you’re not helping because you’re also extremely pragmatic. Maybe if Saralynn or Magda were Jewish that would help. I’m teasing, as I said, even if stereotypical, this positive bias is probably the reason I’m ok with meditation retreats - my stereotypes involving most yogis / meditation teachers are a hazy pop culture impression mix of drug and sex scandals.


I am also perpetually annoyed by this practical attitude, of course, like “Goddammit people, when is the part of this practice where I dissolve and go off to magic happy sparkle funland, except without visiting one of those mystic-y yogi sites that weird me out?!”, but it still makes for an environment I’m comfortable in (If often vaguely annoyed with due to the Ivy League liberal and “lack of magic happy sparkle funland” undertones - but those are gripes to me, not deal-breakers. Anything that smacks of anything remotely close to the John Friends or Eido Shimanos or Diamond Mountains of the world is a deal-breaker to me.) I guess retreats need a designated driver, ha ha, and often that hasn’t been the type of personality that’s attracted to such practices, so I think when it’s there it’s quite valuable. (On a related side note, btw, if you’re interested there is a lot in insight meditation about caregiving and practices for that.)

 

and we were taught that the point of the Abe/Isaac story was to show Abe that sacrificing humans for God was WRONG, and that the Hebrews should stop that forevermore.  That is why I’ve always had so much trouble accepting that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied by the Jews.  C’mon—the Jewish God would never sacrifice a man. That was a newfangled, tangled notion dreamed up by Paul, many, many generations after the Abe/Isaac story was conceived.  But people who were brought up Christian don’t understand this disconnect. 

As for the extremes of Jesus’s teachings, I just never took them literally.  He used hyperbole to make a point.  People take the Bible so darned jot and tittle.  That’s not how great speechifiers think.  “Cut off your hand…” not really.  Maybe take a weekend off from your cell phone?  “Love your enemy and give him your cloak…”  A challenge.  Hey, you think you’re so generous?  Try this.  But really, have you ever done something nice for someone you don’t like, without expecting something in return?  (Not meaning specifically you, NL, because you are a sweetheart, and I’m sure you have done this.)  But try it, and see how it feels.  Might change you.  As a matter of fact, I think we should have a “do something nice, anonymously, for your enemy” day, once per year.  Maybe the day after Valentine’s Day.


To the Biblical part, that is really interesting, because I would say my upbringing taught this exactly flip-flopped. I remember Jerry Coyne, also raised in a secular Jewish home I think, writing on his site a couple of years ago about how of course Jesus probably didn’t literally mean turn the other cheek or something like that, and I was like “COMICAL GASP PEARL CLUTCH!!!”. We were always taught he was serious as a heart attack on those points, although again, it’s not like you could really point to many real world people living them 100% as an example. But in theory, at least, yes, I never got the idea that there was any question in Christianity that he completely meant those things, and in a pretty literal way. Some other things, like smiting the fig tree, I was taught were meant to be symbolic, not literal (the fig tree represented some historical situation going on at the time that I can’t recall now).


I like the idea of a sort of “pay it forward” day. I think asking people to do favors for their enemies could turn into a “National Passive Aggressive Acts” day, ha ha, but I have found that making a conscious effort to do favors for ‘neutral’ people - those you wouldn’t normally think about one way or the other - seems to be a practice that is really appreciated by people and sometimes even opens unexpected doors, as you sometimes meet people you wouldn’t have met or find out new things about them that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

 
 
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28 October 2016 07:32
 
NL. - 27 October 2016 05:36 PM
hannahtoo - 27 October 2016 01:34 PM

I was raised Jewish,


Hmm. I am trying to overcome stereotypes here, and you’re not helping because you’re also extremely pragmatic. Maybe if Saralynn or Magda were Jewish that would help. I’m teasing, as I said, even if stereotypical, this positive bias is probably the reason I’m ok with meditation retreats - my stereotypes involving most yogis / meditation teachers are a hazy pop culture impression mix of drug and sex scandals.


I am also perpetually annoyed by this practical attitude, of course, like “Goddammit people, when is the part of this practice where I dissolve and go off to magic happy sparkle funland, except without visiting one of those mystic-y yogi sites that weird me out?!”, but it still makes for an environment I’m comfortable in (If often vaguely annoyed with due to the Ivy League liberal and “lack of magic happy sparkle funland” undertones - but those are gripes to me, not deal-breakers. Anything that smacks of anything remotely close to the John Friends or Eido Shimanos or Diamond Mountains of the world is a deal-breaker to me.) I guess retreats need a designated driver, ha ha, and often that hasn’t been the type of personality that’s attracted to such practices, so I think when it’s there it’s quite valuable. (On a related side note, btw, if you’re interested there is a lot in insight meditation about caregiving and practices for that.)

 

and we were taught that the point of the Abe/Isaac story was to show Abe that sacrificing humans for God was WRONG, and that the Hebrews should stop that forevermore.  That is why I’ve always had so much trouble accepting that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied by the Jews.  C’mon—the Jewish God would never sacrifice a man. That was a newfangled, tangled notion dreamed up by Paul, many, many generations after the Abe/Isaac story was conceived.  But people who were brought up Christian don’t understand this disconnect. 

As for the extremes of Jesus’s teachings, I just never took them literally.  He used hyperbole to make a point.  People take the Bible so darned jot and tittle.  That’s not how great speechifiers think.  “Cut off your hand…” not really.  Maybe take a weekend off from your cell phone?  “Love your enemy and give him your cloak…”  A challenge.  Hey, you think you’re so generous?  Try this.  But really, have you ever done something nice for someone you don’t like, without expecting something in return?  (Not meaning specifically you, NL, because you are a sweetheart, and I’m sure you have done this.)  But try it, and see how it feels.  Might change you.  As a matter of fact, I think we should have a “do something nice, anonymously, for your enemy” day, once per year.  Maybe the day after Valentine’s Day.


To the Biblical part, that is really interesting, because I would say my upbringing taught this exactly flip-flopped. I remember Jerry Coyne, also raised in a secular Jewish home I think, writing on his site a couple of years ago about how of course Jesus probably didn’t literally mean turn the other cheek or something like that, and I was like “COMICAL GASP PEARL CLUTCH!!!”. We were always taught he was serious as a heart attack on those points, although again, it’s not like you could really point to many real world people living them 100% as an example. But in theory, at least, yes, I never got the idea that there was any question in Christianity that he completely meant those things, and in a pretty literal way. Some other things, like smiting the fig tree, I was taught were meant to be symbolic, not literal (the fig tree represented some historical situation going on at the time that I can’t recall now).


I like the idea of a sort of “pay it forward” day. I think asking people to do favors for their enemies could turn into a “National Passive Aggressive Acts” day, ha ha, but I have found that making a conscious effort to do favors for ‘neutral’ people - those you wouldn’t normally think about one way or the other - seems to be a practice that is really appreciated by people and sometimes even opens unexpected doors, as you sometimes meet people you wouldn’t have met or find out new things about them that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Gosh, I actually think it’s incredibly sad that people take the Bible so literally that they can’t interpret obvious figures of speech.  If I think back to what I’ve read about Biblical history, I remember it started in the days when the reformers were breaking from the Catholic Church.  Originally, the CC claimed the sole right to interpret the Bible for everyone.  But the upstarts said they could read the holy book for themselves, thank you very much.  However, in order to prevent a shattering of the movement, with every man for himself, literalism was born.  Yes, everyone could read the Bible himself, but God’s word was exactly what it said.  The jot and tittle thing.  Of course, there would always be ambiguities in the meaning of abstruse verses, but notions of literary license went out the window.  The fear of the slippery slope was born.  The very logical idea that the Bible is a combo of history, historical fiction, legends, poetry, hopes and dreams was turned into the fancy of sinful pride.

Viewed through that historical lens, the idea that Jesus actually supported cutting off one’s own hand or poking out an eye seems…silly.

 
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28 October 2016 17:20
 
hannahtoo - 28 October 2016 07:32 AM

Gosh, I actually think it’s incredibly sad that people take the Bible so literally that they can’t interpret obvious figures of speech.  If I think back to what I’ve read about Biblical history, I remember it started in the days when the reformers were breaking from the Catholic Church.  Originally, the CC claimed the sole right to interpret the Bible for everyone.  But the upstarts said they could read the holy book for themselves, thank you very much.  However, in order to prevent a shattering of the movement, with every man for himself, literalism was born.  Yes, everyone could read the Bible himself, but God’s word was exactly what it said.  The jot and tittle thing.  Of course, there would always be ambiguities in the meaning of abstruse verses, but notions of literary license went out the window.  The fear of the slippery slope was born.  The very logical idea that the Bible is a combo of history, historical fiction, legends, poetry, hopes and dreams was turned into the fancy of sinful pride.

Viewed through that historical lens, the idea that Jesus actually supported cutting off one’s own hand or poking out an eye seems…silly.


Well, I think there’s the literalism of empirical evidence and the literalism of someone’s POV, which are subtly different topics. Maybe Jesus was using it as a figure of speech, but my intuition is still to think that’s not the case - I think we are just much more removed from the level of aesceticism and mysticism that would not have been so uncommon in that part of the world at that time. If I remember correctly eastern monks would sometimes bury themselves alive as a meditative practice and Hindu women would burn themselves alive on funeral pyres. That said, I will say it seems like something of a metaphor in that it would, logistically, be such a low frequency event as to be almost nonexistent. How often does your hand or eye by itself cause you to sin (after all, if they’re moving non-volitionally that’s a medical disorder, not a sin, if it’s volitional it’s not your hand or eye that’s the problem so much as your mind.) So in functional terms I think he was saying that no matter how painful it is to do so, if something in your life causes you to behave sinfully, it’s a habit you need to drop.

 
 
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13 November 2016 22:25
 

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