Looking into Buddhism?

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by Snoopy, Mar 7, 2009.

  1. Avi

    Avi Interfaith Forums

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    Hi folks, I have been reading this thread and there are many interesting links for people just starting to learn about Buddhism. Thanks for posting them.

    My first question about these resources is a very general one.

    I asked a little about dogma in an earlier post, but I am still trying to understand it with respect to Buddhism.

    Would you say that the Eightfold Path and Noble Truths are dogmatic principles ?

    Also, I we discussed the idea of dogma in the quantum mechanics thread:

    So SG indicated that dogma would be challenged by Zen practice. Can you give me an example how that challenge would manifest ?

    Thanks.
     
  2. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    Hey Avi,

    I had to look up the definition of dogma just to make sure I wasn't steering you wrong. But according to the definition, the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path do qualify as dogma.

    I've never found them to be bad or limiting. They are the foundation of one's practice, but certainly not the end-all product. The end-all product is what's staring you right in the face this moment... and the next moment... and the moment after that.
     
  3. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    One possible approach would be to look into Zen ethical relativism, which lent itself to the development of the fanatical military culture of imperial Japan, where we see monks assisting war criminals. There was also something about war as a means to enlightenment.

    My impression of male Japanese culture is that it has elements that are authoritarian, militaristic, patriarchal, and abusive toward women. D.T. Suzuki considers Japanese culture to be Zen culture, and he is probably a credible source on this. He has written many books, including one that is specifically concerned with Zen and Japanese culture.
     
  4. Avi

    Avi Interfaith Forums

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    Thanks for responding to my question about dogma, CZ. I realized after posting it, and after reading your response, that I am better off coming back to dogma later. I have been trying to deal with the issue of dogma in my own religion, Judaism, for about three years now, and have made little progress. So it is probably not a great place to start thinking about Zen, which I know nothing at all about :). It is a complex issue.

    I have started reading the link that Snoopy provided to the Eightfold Path, and it is quite intriguing. I am very interested in the notion of ending suffering. But I have what I guess will be another naive question: don't most of our emotions play an important part in our survival and lives ? For example, we all learned as children, in elementary school, that pain plays in important role in our safety, right ? If we put our finger in the fire and it didn't hurt, we would burn like a candle. Isn't there an analogy to suffering ?

    I have been reading about Bhikkhu Bodhi, who wrote the summary of the Eightfold Path provided in the link. He seems like quite a brilliant man. Would you say that his greatest contribution is putting these ideas about Zen into this readable form ?


    NN, thank you also for responding to my question about an example of challenge to dogma. This is an interesting example, indeed. I have seen D.T. Suzuki quoted elsewhere on this thread, he looks like one of the luminaries.

    Oh, and I had missed this part earlier, it looks like this thread was more fun than I realized :D.
     
  5. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    Avi, one Zen master I highly recommend is Thich Nhat Hanh. He's written many, many books, and the ones that I have read have been very clear and easy to understand. He's also quite eclectic in his approach to Zen and Buddhism, so his teachings really resonate across a broad spectrum of cultures. :)
     
  6. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    Pema Chodron, for clear expressions of everyday zen.
     
  7. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    On the issue of dogma:
    Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even Buddhist ones. Buddhist systems of thought are guiding means; they are not absolute truth.

    ~Thich Nhat Hanh

    That was at the top of the list....
    The Fourteen Precepts of Engaged Buddhism


     
  8. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    When I told Avi that the Four Noble Truths and the Eight-Fold Path were dogma I was applying this definition from Merriam-Webster.com...

    2. a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church

    But in reality, and in practice, I totally agree with your post.

    A Buddhist quickly learns that doctrine is not the Way.

    Thich Nhat Hanh rocks. But if I met him on the road, I'd probably have to kill him too.
     
  9. Netti-Netti

    Netti-Netti New Member

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    That concerns me! The problem is that nonattachment to doctrine can mean moral relativism.
     
  10. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    Well then, you should keep a tight hold of your wallet when walking in my neighborhood.
     
  11. Avi

    Avi Interfaith Forums

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    Right CZ, this is one of the problems that I have been considering with respect to dogma. So, for example, if there are relatively simple "doctrines, beliefs, axioms, principles, rules", etc. It seems to me that they are dogmatic.

    On the other hand, if these relatively simple concepts can be expanded to have much deeper meaning, then they are no longer dogmatic. So it seems to me that it depends on how the individual interprets and uses these "doctrines" in their own way to determines whether the ideas are dogmatic. Do you agree with that perspective ?
     
  12. Avi

    Avi Interfaith Forums

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    SG, CZ and NN, thank you for the resources that you have suggested. They look like very interesting materials for study. :)
     
  13. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    I'll agree with that. For me, Buddhist "dogma" is not something to focus on in a day to day way. It's more like a touchstone to return to now and again to test one's understanding and see how it and you have changed over time.
     
  14. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    It's the spirit behind the doctrine that is important. If you are not guided by the spirit behind the doctrine, then the doctrine becomes an empty shell. Veneration of an empty shell is idolatry, is it not?
     
  15. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    Amen, SG... amen.
     
  16. Avi

    Avi Interfaith Forums

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    These are very interesting......."precepts" :).

    It seems to me that there are some "transcendent" ideas which appear in this list and which are held by other faiths as well. I believe this might be an important potential of interfaith study, to try to identify these transcendent (universal) truths. :)
     
  17. Avi

    Avi Interfaith Forums

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    Looks like another remarkable leader to me :)
     
  18. citizenzen

    citizenzen Custom User Title

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    Inside Buddhist humor. ;)
     
  19. Avi

    Avi Interfaith Forums

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    Thanks, I will make sure not to tell anyone about it ;).
     
  20. seattlegal

    seattlegal Mercuræn Buddhist

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    That is true. It can be dangerous.
    Clinging to the letter of doctrine, rather than the spirit of the doctrine can actually become a hindrance in transforming the kleshas.


    Letting go
    Two monks were returning to the monastery in the evening. It had rained and there were puddles of water on the road sides. At one place a beautiful young woman was standing unable to walk accross because of a puddle of water. The elder of the two monks went up to a her lifted her in his arms and left her on the other side of the road, and continued his way to the monastery.
    In the evening the younger monk came to the elder monk and said, "Sir, as monks, we cannot touch a woman ?"
    The elder monk answered "yes, brother".
    Then the younger monk asks again, " but then Sir, how is that you lifted that woman on the roadside ?"
    The elder monk smiled at him and told him " I left her on the other side of the road, but you are still carrying her "
     

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