Buddhism: a philosophy, code of ethics, or religion?

iBrian

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Soemtimes when a Westerner states that they practice "Buddhism", there is often the feeling that what is being stated is a Code of Ethics - a personal philosophy - rather than an actual religion in the usual Western sense of the word.

So the question here is: what is Buddhism? Is it first a philosophy, or a code of ethics, or is it actually really a form of religion first?
 
Namaste Brian,


thank you for the post.

generally speaking, the reason that a Buddhist says they are a practiconer rather than an adherent is because it's not really relevant what we believe... it's what we do and the intentions behind our actions that really count. it's the actual practice of meditation, ethics and morality that allow us to make progress along the spiritual path.

personally.. i think you are going to have a hard time putting Buddhism into one category :) as the tradition certainly contains elements of all three categories that you've listed...

it's a way of life, a philosophical orientation and a religion... sometimes one aspect or the other will speak more powerfully to an individual being and thus, they practice in that fashion.

heck... you've left out the one description that i really enjoy...

Buddhism is a step by step methodology to allow each being to experience complete, unsurpassed awakening. any being practing correctly will have the same experience.... in this sense, we could probably make a decent argument that it's a "scientific" methodology of actualizing the heart of compassion.
 
buddhism is a Tao, not a complex one either, unless you make it so

the most important aspect is to practice, rather then 'intellectualize' the subject, but a foundation in buddhist philosophy is usually a good start, but not a standard, espcially not for zazen

amitabha
 
Namaste all...


as an aside... is anyone else ever struck by the sheer irony of the sitiuation with regards to explaining the Dharma?

sometimes... i just can't stop laughing at myself! tonight is one of those nights...

:)
 
is anyone else ever struck by the sheer irony of the sitiuation with regards to explaining the Dharma?
I'm struck by the sheer simplicity and how obvious everything in Dharma is. As soon as you come to understand Dharma, you look back and say, 'Jees. What the hell was I doing all this time.'
Worries I had about mundane things...POOF`.
Anxieties about self-created mental projections...POOF`.
Misconceptions fly out the window as the dust is cleared from my eye's and I laugh at how ridiculous my way of life was. I think blind is the best term to describe it. Now I am awake.
 
samabudhi said:
I'm struck by the sheer simplicity and how obvious everything in Dharma is. As soon as you come to understand Dharma, you look back and say, 'Jees. What the hell was I doing all this time.'
Which Dharma are you referring to?

DHARMA - Before we are born we have two choices as to how we will live our lives. Karma or Dharma.

Dharma is also known as a state of grace by the Church or Christ Consciousness in New Age literature. On this path you choose your avenues in life because you are consciously aware of what is best from your soul's perspective. The choices made are not always logical or understandable by those on the karmic path. Both paths will ultimately lead to the same place but Dharma is by far the quickest. It is not chosen as much by souls entering the planet because it requires a compassionate heart and a strong spiritual connection. Through work on balancing your male and female energies you can switch to dharma.

Dharma- Equity, justice, conduct, duty; right religion, philosophy, and science; the law per se; the rules of society, caste, and stage of life. Secondarily, an essential or characteristic quality or peculiarity, approaching closely to the meaning of svabhava.
 
Perhaps, as kkawohl seems to suggest, we should try to define what we mean by "dharma." I have only the most obscure notion of the meaning of this word; something akin to "nature," as in a person's innermost nature; their essence; their truth. Ultimately, as I understand it, dharma points to the divinity (pardon the expression in a Buddhist thread ;) ) of each human being.

I think Vaj's and Samabhudi's takes on dharma are similar to each other and also fall close to my own limited understanding of the notion. Dharma, it seems, is the clear essence of life sought after by all sorts of spiritual aspirants. The funny thing about it is that it evades seeking. So, all these systems of meditation, prayer, and different spiritual cults are all after Dharma--all "fingers pointing at the moon," to borrow an eastern cliche--that often become labyrinths that people get lost in as they seek. So, we find practictioners in all religions that are caught up in all sorts of dogma or systems of practice, while dharma cannot be held or guaranteed by any system; it is an experience that just happens. Suddenly, consciousness opens up and sees--no, rather, it becomes--undiluted reality in full bloom. Hence, "the sheer irony of the situation" as Vaj has said, and also the description of sudden waking from thick ignorance as described by Samabudhi.

Now, to try to connect this topic back to Brian's original question... Buddhism seems to me to be a set of practices intended to lead the practicioner to awakening, enlightenment, or full perception of dharma. I find it ironic, though, that Buddhism, although varied, has become such an elaborate system of techniques, intellectual/philosophical ponderings, and ritual. It's almost as if many Buddhists seem to have forgotten or missed out on Buddha's parting words, "Be a light unto yourself," and prefer instead to pick up the dying torches of others who have walked their own individual paths.
 
There are two meanings of dharma. Someone, somewhere said that we should write dharma, which means phenomena or that dimension in which phenomena find themselves, with a small d and that we should write Dharma, law/doctrine/teachings, with a capital d.
So in response to kkawohl, I was speaking of doctrine.

Now, to try to connect this topic back to Brian's original question... Buddhism seems to me to be a set of practices intended to lead the practicioner to awakening, enlightenment, or full perception of dharma. I find it ironic, though, that Buddhism, although varied, has become such an elaborate system of techniques, intellectual/philosophical ponderings, and ritual. It's almost as if many Buddhists seem to have forgotten or missed out on Buddha's parting words, "Be a light unto yourself," and prefer instead to pick up the dying torches of others who have walked their own individual paths.
My response is in the thread Brian just made.
 
Pathless said:
Buddhism seems to me to be a set of practices intended to lead the practicioner to awakening, enlightenment, or full perception of dharma. I find it ironic, though, that Buddhism, although varied, has become such an elaborate system of techniques, intellectual/philosophical ponderings, and ritual. It's almost as if many Buddhists seem to have forgotten or missed out on Buddha's parting words, "Be a light unto yourself," and prefer instead to pick up the dying torches of others who have walked their own individual paths.
I agree that Buddhism has become an elaborate system of techniques, intellectual/philosophical ponderings, and ritual. Today Buddhists perform many rituals and practices that have little to do with what Gautama the Buddha taught. He traveled to preach the dharma (sacred truth) and was recognized as the Buddha (enlightened one). After his death his followers continued to develop doctrine and practice, which came to center on the Three Jewels: the dharma (the sacred teachings of Buddhism), the sangha (the community of followers, which now includes nuns, monks, and laity), and the Buddha.
Numerous Buddhist sects have emerged and there are various concepts in Buddhism. Members of the Mahayana tradition conceive of Buddha as an eternal being to whom prayers can be made; other Buddhas are revered as well, adding a polytheistic dimension to the religion. Numerous sects have developed from the Mahayana tradition, which has been influential in China, Korea, and Japan.

Another broad tradition, variously called Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle), Mantrayana (Vehicle of the Mantra), or Tantric Buddhism, offers a quicker, more demanding way to achieve nirvana. Because of its level of challenge—enabling one to reach enlightenment in one lifetime—it requires the guidance of a spiritual leader. It is most prominent in Tibet and Mongolia.

Zen Buddhism encourages individuals to seek the Buddha nature within themselves and to practice a disciplined form of sitting meditation in order to reach satori—spiritual enlightenment.

After the Buddha died at about 5oo B.C. people attempted to reach nirvana, by achieving enlightenment, on their own. During the first century B.C. claims were made that the Buddha had reappeared in human form and statues appeared in India.

Namaste,
Kurt
 
samabudhi said:
I'm struck by the sheer simplicity and how obvious everything in Dharma is. As soon as you come to understand Dharma, you look back and say, 'Jees. What the hell was I doing all this time.'
The problem with that, though (in my opinion, that goes without saying) is that after people grasp that... they stop. No more mundane things, etc. That's like learning to enjoy a game that had erstwhile frustrated you, but then deciding not to play anymore.

I'm not implying that's anyone approach, or if it is its not a valid one. Just my observation.
 
I'm not quite sure what you mean, or more importantly, what the problem is. Could you elaborate please?
 
Namaste all,


hmm... perhaps i'm not trying hard enough or something...

however.... the easiest method to distinguish which Dharma or dharma we are discussing, in my opinion, is to use the actual terms.

BuddhaDharma is what the Buddhas of the three times have taught.

SantanaDharma is the Eternal Dharma that is taught in the Vedic or Hindu tradition.

not to put too fine a point on it... however... the term Dharma can mean a great many things.. and the method for determining what is actually meant is derived from the context of the sentence. it's fairly pointless to speculate what is being meant in any one text without taking the context of the actual text into consideration, in my opinion.
 
It seems one cannot post here if one doesn't agree with the principles of Buddhism. I posted my opinion of Buddhism and it was yanked as "inflammatory" because I concluded Buddhism is a brain manipulation technique to avoid psychic pain by de-activation of the sense of self center located in the parietal area of the brain and shunting electrical activity to the frontal cortex, especially the right frontal cortex where bliss feelings are reported. When the sense of self center is deactivated, it seems to impart a "oceanic" oneness-with-existence feelings as well as loss of ego. This is shown by scientific studies of brains of meditating Buddhist monks. I guess Buddhists here are too afraid of the conclusions that can be drawn from these "inflammatory" Buddhist brain studies to face intellectual challenge. Too bad. I had hoped for more intellectual honesty here on these boards.
 
What are you talking about? You jump to conclusions far too quickly. I'd love to hear your opinion about Buddhism.

by de-activation of the sense of self center
shunting electrical activity
You make us sound like machines. It's not that cut and dry.

right frontal cortex
I thought it was the left pre-frontal cortex?

it seems to impart a "oceanic" oneness-with-existence feelings as well as loss of ego.
These are one and the same.

I guess Buddhists here are too afraid of the conclusions that can be drawn from these "inflammatory" Buddhist brain studies to face intellectual challenge.
So what conclusions do you think can be drawn? That just because the mechanism doesn't display any signs of a 'spirit', that we should stop using it, even though it works. Monks volanteered to have their brains' scanned. They are not bothered by the apparent conclusions you speak of.

Too bad. I had hoped for more intellectual honesty here on these boards.
Give me a chance lad. You've only been here for 4 posts.
 
The problem with the post is that it was simply an attack on Buddhism per se.

The actual studies that you are relating to apply to any form of general relaxation techniques, and were reported, for example, to also be applicable to praying nuns in the same original study.

Discussing the neurology of relaxation is absolutely fine - applying the ideas to religious practice is fine. But the original post was seen simply as an attack on Buddhism and Buddhist beliefs, rather than an erstwhile exploration of the physical processes of Buddhism.

Anyway - you can always try to open up a new discussion on the topic - though perhaps this time taking a little care to ensure that your intentions are not misconstrued. :)
 
samabudhi said:
I'm not quite sure what you mean, or more importantly, what the problem is. Could you elaborate please?
I'm about 80% sure you weren't talking to me, but just to be on the safe side, I'll say something more. I'm always afraid of putting my foot in my mouth here. Its difficult to offer a negative opinion without sounding overly critical. And emoticons just seem condescending.

Anyhoo, I was just saying that meditation seems to relieve the illusions of the world, but a lot of people don't take advantage of the Buddhist revelations. Now, I'm getting tongue tied. Meditation should continue even as you regard the mundane in life. Just because something borders on being a figment shouldn't discourage pleasurable exploitation of those figments.

Eh, I'm talking out my butt. Nevermind.
 
I said:
The problem with the post is that it was simply an attack on Buddhism per se.

The actual studies that you are relating to apply to any form of general relaxation techniques, and were reported, for example, to also be applicable to praying nuns in the same original study.

Discussing the neurology of relaxation is absolutely fine - applying the ideas to religious practice is fine. But the original post was seen simply as an attack on Buddhism and Buddhist beliefs, rather than an erstwhile exploration of the physical processes of Buddhism.

Anyway - you can always try to open up a new discussion on the topic - though perhaps this time taking a little care to ensure that your intentions are not misconstrued. :)
I don't understand the point of discussion if one has to disguise one's beliefs about other religious or philosophic paths. If I post that I do not believe in Buddhist claims of "enlightenment" because the source of such claims is very dubious once the Buddhist brain scan information is taken into consideration, I run the risk of offending Buddhists on these boards or the Administrator. Why is that? Are we not free to believe in our own spiritual paths that arise after comparisons with other paths? What's the point of debating anything if the debate is cut off as soon as real feelings about things appear. Debate without freedom to criticize and be criticized is empty of any value--might as well be talking about the weather with each other..

I stick by my assessment of Buddhism and yes, each and every medititational path to "bliss" or "enlightenment" or "higher consciousness" that is based on physically shutting down electrical activity in the brain's sense of self center. It makes little sense to use a single brain state as the standard for judging reality, especially a brain state that features a significant "hole" where awareness of one's self in relation to the world resides.

If Buddhism goes the Hindu yoga route, i.e., with Westerners using yoga as a physical health benefit and discarding the Hindu religion, then Buddhist meditation has much to offer once the "Void" philosophy is tossed aside that is only a projection put onto the screen of reality through the creation of the physical void inside meditating Buddhist minds.
 
Yes. I was talking to you. If I don't quote, then I'm probably talking to the person just above me.

Meditation should continue even as you regard the mundane in life.
True, true.

Just because something borders on being a figment shouldn't discourage pleasurable exploitation of those figments.
There's nothing wrong with enjoying those figments. It is becoming attached to them that is the problem. Expecting enjoyment. This is conterproductive. It is the source of suffering. You expect something and then you don't get it. 'Waaaaaaaaa!'
 
syzygy said:
I don't understand the point of discussion if one has to disguise one's beliefs about other religious or philosophic paths.
You don't. Just word it so that it doesn't offend anyone.

I do not believe in Buddhist claims of "enlightenment" because the source of such claims is very dubious once the Buddhist brain scan information is taken into consideration

I stick by my assessment of Buddhism and yes, each and every medititational path to "bliss" or "enlightenment" or "higher consciousness" that is based on physically shutting down electrical activity in the brain's sense of self center. It makes little sense to use a single brain state as the standard for judging reality, especially a brain state that features a significant "hole" where awareness of one's self in relation to the world resides.
OK. I'm following you now. You think that our minds are perfect observational units, and that interfering with them is contrary to the concept of 'enlightenment'.
We need to look at some fundamental truths before going further. For instance. There is suffering. Why? We suffer because we are driven by our genes to survive. Why? Because if we weren't, then we wouldn't be here, so it must be so. We wouldn't be here if we didn't have to be. The meaning of life? The gene! There is no benevolence or malice in genes, this is just how they work, and we are the result of them. Our entire lives are devoted to, directly (sex) or indirectly (passing exams), the success of our genes.

But through evolution a new 'force' has arisen. It is that of sentience. A new type of entity which lives at the whim of the genes, just as the genes live at the whim of the environment. The genes try to win over the environment and survive. Sentience tries to win over it's genes, and be happy. That is what every man and women wants. To be happy, however that is accomplished.

When Buddhists meditate, we are overcoming our genes. We are overcoming our boundaries and abandoning our slave-nature to our desires. We want to be free of struggle and strife. How can we be happy if every moment of our day is spent serving a master who offers us no end to our entrapment. Every reward does not last, suffering is what this life is.
To transcend our circumstances, we must abandon our desires; this does not mean abandoning joy, it means abandoning the desire for joy. Joy will come whether we try for it or not. I child can be entertained by the simplest things. An adult is only happy with the most refined tastes. The adult has worked so hard, and yet he doesn't enjoy any more than the child, in fact, many argue, he enjoys less. Joy comes to both, but the adult no longer appreciates things. It has become conditioned to the world. Rigid and breakable. Where the young green stem can bend and is of no interest to the axe, the rigid wooden trunk is hard and it's death-bed is set.

As for your claims about self and the world being separate, it would help if you investigated the concept of emptiness. I'm not going to spoon feed it to you. The literature is vast and the concept difficult to grasp.
Suffice to say that in order for the genes to hold you in their scheme, they need to dupe you into thinking that you are separate and that you, the mind-body phenomena, requires special attention above the rest. You must admit, the whole show wouldn't work if you considered everyone your equal. This would not help your selfish genes' cause at all, (see Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene.)

once the "Void" philosophy is tossed aside that is only a projection put onto the screen of reality through the creation of the physical void inside meditating Buddhist minds.
Ah, but this reality is not just seen in meditation. It has been proven and accepted by Buddhists for 2500 years. Buddhist insight meditation is the removal of these projections. We all have filters through which we view the world. One should aim to see the world for what it really is.
 
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