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View Diary: I sucked at Buddhism last night (257 comments)

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  •  But one should lose them (4+ / 0-)

    That's the problem. Buddhism, and especially California Buddhism, comes from a very privileged place and it's things like this that make that clear. It's rise is based on escapism.

    If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

    by AoT on Thu May 02, 2013 at 01:56:53 PM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Buddhism is by its very nature intently individual (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MeToo, enhydra lutris, Creosote

      That is why there are so many innumerable varieties of it. Any viewpoint that centers itself on the individual MUST adapt itself to each individual's needs at the moment. So the proper question is not "is this tradition right?", but "Is this tradition right FOR ME?"

    •  I am sorry (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      eparrot, enhydra lutris

      how much meditation have you actually done?  Because this characterization is quite wide of the mark.  I am curious where your understanding comes from

      Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

      by Mindful Nature on Thu May 02, 2013 at 02:49:42 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  There is not much Venn diagrammatic overlap (4+ / 0-)

      between Buddhism and California Buddhism.

      Come on, here on DK most of us know the difference between flaky or destructive Christian sects and their mother religion, and so with Islam.  Why isn't this distinction obvious for Buddhism too?

      "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

      by dackmont on Thu May 02, 2013 at 02:50:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  it really isn't (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        enhydra lutris

        I am thinking that this notion of "California buddhism" is a bit strange.  I'd love some insight here.  

        Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

        by Mindful Nature on Thu May 02, 2013 at 05:15:08 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Right speech - something I did not do there (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Mindful Nature, AoT

          Sorry, that was a sloppy choice of words on my part, and one that (as you suggested below) could be read as dissing perfectly good groups & teachers in California.  I was using the term as shorthand in the sense that others in this thread have used it, with a couple extra wrinkles:  New-Agey Buddhism, superstitious, hierarchical, overly focused on charismatic teachers, and focusing on peripheral rather than basic issues (per diary) -- e.g. getting bogged down in semantic debates (like "isn't ANY kind of desire bad?") that are about as useful as wondering how many angels could dance on the head of a pin.  Granted, those tendencies always pop up (it's human nature imo), but the flaky strain I meant by "California Buddhism" is a particular product of NEw Age-ish thinking that is muddled and self-absorbed. An especially absurd example would be that late Frederick Lenz, a.k.a. "Zen Master Rama", who taught something he called "tantric zen" that bore only the most superficial resemblance to the Buddhism that Rahula, Thich Nhat Hanh and others espouse.

          "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

          by dackmont on Thu May 02, 2013 at 09:24:21 PM PDT

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          •  thanks! (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            dackmont

            I hadn't encountered that specific strain, but it doesn't surprise me one jot that such a thing would exist and be fairly widespread.  I guess I got lucky in my sources even though I live in hippy central Bay Area

            Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

            by Mindful Nature on Thu May 02, 2013 at 09:28:20 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

          •  Actually, the angels question is valid. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            AoT

            Do angels exist in the physical world in such a way that a given angel has sole occupancy of a closed area of space-time?  

            If X is the set of angels and U is the set of angel locations during a given moment of time that is perceived as precisely 2013 GMT on 3 May 2013 in Pope Francis' apartment, can the mapping of X to U be considered a function, i.e., can one angel occupy two places in space-time that cannot be connected by a path that at no point is considered "outside" the angel?

            It should be noted that there are Buddhist traditions that ask questions that are silly on their face, but are used to develop insight into Buddhist teaching.  Among such questions are the ko-ans.

            ------------------------------------------

            A "Buddhism" that at no point conflicts with the comforts and prejudices of its practitioners is well within the realm of possibility.  A rather monstrous example of same is developing in Burma, where Buddhist monasteries have taken on a role analogous to the madrassahs in Pakistan -- a place of nominal refuge for boys where in some cases they learn to be "holy warriors".  The shortcomings of "California Buddhism" do not appear as grave.

            Conversely, the Dalai Lama's strain of Tibetan Buddhism appears to be emerging from the Chinese persecutions stronger and purer than it was when the Dalai Lama was in his palace.  

            "Politics should be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people and who would preserve what is good and fruitful in our national heritage." -- Lucille Ball

            by Yamaneko2 on Fri May 03, 2013 at 01:28:44 PM PDT

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            •  Valid in what sense? (0+ / 0-)

              Sure, the angels question can be posed in a logical way, as you have done, but it's not testable.  Nor is it likely to be relevant, although I agree it might be used in a koanic way.

              "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

              by dackmont on Fri May 03, 2013 at 06:07:38 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  and (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      84thProblem, dackmont, enhydra lutris

      you do realize that it actually is rooted in the renunciation of privilege, right?  I'd take another look at the life or Mr. Gautama, perhaps.

      Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

      by Mindful Nature on Thu May 02, 2013 at 02:53:54 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Renouncing privilege requires privilege (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        enhydra lutris, marina

        in the first place. And really, I don't know any buddhists that have denounced privilege. Sure, some live a little more simply, but really without abandoning you regular life and family you aren't renouncing privilege.

        If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

        by AoT on Thu May 02, 2013 at 05:39:22 PM PDT

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        •  But I suppose (0+ / 0-)

          this is equally true of every religion, and in fact all people.  This has to be the first time I've heard someone refer to having a family as being privileged.  It is a quite novel definition.

          However, you evidently have never met any monks or nuns or any other such teachers.  I wonder how many buddhists you have in fact met?

          Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

          by Mindful Nature on Thu May 02, 2013 at 06:56:25 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I've met many buddhists (0+ / 0-)

            I live in the bay area, I know more Buddhists than I do Christians. And the Buddha gave up his position including leaving his family. As have millions of monks and nuns throughout the history of the religion. And I didn't define privilege as having a family but you'd certainly agree that one's family is where a lot of one's privilege comes from, would you not?

            If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

            by AoT on Thu May 02, 2013 at 07:55:18 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  that doesn't really get at it (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              AoT

              privilege comes from all kinds of places, including family, culture, economics, institutions and so forth.  That is all true, but it still doesn't explain this odd assertion that buddhism comes from a privileged place.  It seems that engaging in an honest practice to cultivate compassion isn't particularly a privileged notion.  Doesn't make sense to me.

              Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

              by Mindful Nature on Thu May 02, 2013 at 08:57:00 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  It was created by a prince (0+ / 0-)

                And spread by merchants. It's hard to think of a religion other than Confucianism that involved more privilege in it's creation. A rich prince denounces his lifestyle because he saw how poor people lived. Don't get me wrong, that's an impressive thing, but it comes from a place of privilege necessarily. And the specific privilege is based on the family. You literally can't renounce being a prince without renouncing being in your family. Being a prince means you hold a specific place in a specific family.

                If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

                by AoT on Thu May 02, 2013 at 09:09:30 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  ok (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  AoT

                  I don't think that makes a lot of sense, but whatever.  I'd say that since Islam was spready largely by emperors and the catholic church is one of the richest and most powerful institutions in human history, there are perhaps some contenders.  After all, Muhammed was a merchant also, and Jesus a member of a royal house, apparently.

                  Still, I'm not sure that any of this is super relevant.

                  Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

                  by Mindful Nature on Thu May 02, 2013 at 09:23:42 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Well, we were talking about the creation (0+ / 0-)

                    of the religion and being based on renunciation of privilege and I noted that it necessarily will come from a place of privilege if that's the case. This historical minutia isn't especially important to the point. Buddhism was started by a prince, it comes from a place of privilege and part of that is family. Renouncing privilege means renouncing family, as it meant with the Buddha.

                    If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

                    by AoT on Fri May 03, 2013 at 10:33:32 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  You don't have to be a monk to achieve (0+ / 0-)

                      Nirvana, although the Buddha obviously felt that it helped.  If you're not a monk, you don't have to renounce your family; you just have to follow the precepts for laypeople (something many would-be teachers these days cannot or will not do, fwiw).

                      Buddhism was founded by an ex-prince who had discarded princely privilege, and its popularity at first depended only on his persuasiveness and that of his followers, and only later on wealthy patronage.  I've never heard of the latter having had any connection to the Buddha's former princehood.  Is there a source saying otherwise?

                      "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

                      by dackmont on Fri May 03, 2013 at 06:28:48 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

    •  No, one should not lose compassion (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      84thProblem, enhydra lutris

      and empathy.  The Buddha did not teach that.  On the contrary, he said those were qualities that lead to Nirvana and are maximized in someone who attains Buddhahood.  Check out the Four Brahmaviharas.

      The Buddha did not counsel abandoning all views, just ones that get in the way of letting go of selfish desire.  

      "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

      by dackmont on Thu May 02, 2013 at 02:54:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  But all desire is selfish (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        enhydra lutris

        That is the nature of desire. If one desires for others to be better off one is compassionate. To see others no be better of then brings suffering. If the goal is to end suffering then compassion and empathy must end as well.

        If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

        by AoT on Thu May 02, 2013 at 05:41:41 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  There are different forms of "desire", (6+ / 0-)

          this is also a problem with translating from Pali to English. We can confuse earnest "desire" for change with physical "desire" for a stranger. These are two very different psychic phenomena although they share the same word in common language. Aspirations for improved social conditions are not incompatible with Buddhism. Just watch the documentary, Burma VJ and observe the activism of the monks in protesting the military and government.

          •  Certainly on a practical level i know (0+ / 0-)

            That Buddhism isn't incompatible with a desire for social change and with working for social change. I can't deny that given the fact that I've worked on social justice issues with Buddhists and am aware of the Buddhists in other countries who have sacrificed and worked for justice. On a day to day basis I think Buddhist methods including meditation can be incredibly useful and I myself benefit from them. My issue is with the basis of the philosophy/religion on a deeper level.

            First, I know the suffering that comes from compassion and empathy, I feel it most days. And I know what causes suffering, expectation. That says to me that compassion and empathy must be expectations and that expectations then must not be bad because I can't believe that compassion and empathy are bad.

            I certainly don't dismiss the Buddhist tradition nor the many insights to be gained from it, but what it lacks is an understanding of the interaction between the individual and the community. Community is based on shared suffering. There are other aspects to it, celebrations and changes etc. But at the core of any community is the common suffering.

            If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

            by AoT on Thu May 02, 2013 at 08:13:23 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Not at all (0+ / 0-)

              That seems a very dystopic view of community.  Certainly community can arise out of love and compassion as well.  Now, you may suffer from your empathy, but that does not mean that it must always do so. The suffering arises not from your compassion and empathy but rather from the ideation a and desires you create from it.  In turn, it is clinging to those ideas that causes suffering.  There is no particular need to be attached that way.  Thus, compassion and community and quite compatible with nonattachment.  Consider for a moment the Dalai Lama and his position as an example of what is possible in walking that path.  Just because you personally take a given approach does not mean it is the only one.  Does that make sense?

              Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

              by Mindful Nature on Fri May 03, 2013 at 01:23:11 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Of course it's not the only one (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                marina

                I didn't mean to present it as such.

                And it isn't really distopic, it's realistic and useful in my eyes. Without suffering there is no compassion or empathy and those two things are how community is built. And solidarity in action opposed to imposed suffering.

                Now, you may suffer from your empathy, but that does not mean that it must always do so.
                If suffering is inevitable then I will suffer. Certainly I can see people being happy and that's good, but the suffering far overwhelms any of that. I'm certainly not trying to convert anyone. I'm not under the impression that I've got a super happy view of the world. I sometimes jokingly call myself a futilitarian. It's all futile but we've got to try and fix shit anyway.

                If debt were a moral issue then, lacking morals, corporations could never be in debt.

                by AoT on Fri May 03, 2013 at 02:16:00 PM PDT

                [ Parent ]

        •  not at all (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          AoT, dackmont

          this is a bit atray here.  Buddhist philosophy is a fairly subtle thing I've found, with a number of concepts that are easily conflated.  FOr example, "suffering" has a particular technical definition that is distinct from mere unpleasantness or pain.  THose are constant.  First, not all desire is selfish, in the sense of desiring well being for others is not selfish.  Now, one can be compassionate without being attached to the desire or intention. The origin of suffering is the attachment, not that impulse or intention.  Desires and feelings are constant.  Question is, how to you relate to that?

          Touch all that arises with a spirit of compassion

          by Mindful Nature on Thu May 02, 2013 at 07:02:21 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Mr Bojjangles (0+ / 0-)

          Where did the Buddha teach that?  Nothing personal, but your logic strikes me as semantic hair-splitting that misses the point that benign desires lead to good things.  (I agree with the post above mentioning issues of translation.)  Besides the Brahmaviharas mentioned above, he also taught the Seven Bojjhangas:

          1. Sati, which means mindfulness

          2. Dhammavicaya, literally means analyzing dhamma or finding out  what is the truth

          3. Viriya, which means persistence or strong sense of determination

          4. Piti is a feeling of complete contentment in what you are practising

          5. Passaddhi, a state of mind that is filled with tranquillity

          6. Samadhi, a state when your mind completely unperturbed by anything and stays focusing on thing you are doing. It likes having your mind fully concentrated on the task at hand.

          7. Upekkha, which means the simplicity of mind, in which you satisfy with what you are or have, not compare yourself with other people in terms of social status, possession of wealth, fame or whatever other people think fashionable. Upekkha makes you free of envy, jealousy or emotional instability. It also makes you calm about what you are in every sense.

          More than one of these involve benign desires, e.g. in the sense of Right Resolve or Right Intention, and the Buddha of the Pali Canon says that they are useful in attaining Nirvana and indeed remain and become perfected in one who has achieved Nirvana.

          "Happiness is the only good. The place to be happy is here. The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so." - Robert Ingersoll

          by dackmont on Thu May 02, 2013 at 09:40:36 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

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