Buddhism - a paradox?

iBrian

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I'm under the impression that at the heart of Buddhism is the edict:

"Anything we teach could be wrong; we are fallible, learn for yourself"

And yet Buddhism seems fairly steeped in traditions and doctrines across the different schools.

Does this mean that my initial impression is flawed, or does it mean that Buddhism is its own paradox?

Simply a curious question. :)
 
I think this applies to all religions of the world. Although I'm not one to answer this I would say yes. In Christianity we have the Old Testament telling us an Eye for an eye but in the New Testament telling us to forgive.



"Anything we teach could be wrong; we are fallible, learn for yourself"


That phrase is great :)^

I live my life in a paradox philosophy, nothing is right, yet everything is right. I have been doing so for the past year.
 
Hmm, I was not aware that such a teaching was part of Buddhism. The Buddha certainly did not belive what he was teaching was wrong, on the contrary he felt he was teaching the ultimate truth of the universe. Later Buddhist sects also claimed to be teaching the truth. Learning for yourself is a big part of Buddhism though, even this should be done with the perscribed methods and texts of Buddhist tradition.
 
Buddhism I believe is one of the few beliefs that doesn't ask anyone to blindly follow, instead Buddha instructs those who are thinking of taking up Buddhism to try out the teachings for themselves and see if what they're hearing marries with the experiential reality.
 
NewAgeNerd said:
Hmm, I was not aware that such a teaching was part of Buddhism. The Buddha certainly did not belive what he was teaching was wrong, on the contrary he felt he was teaching the ultimate truth of the universe.
I'm not very well read on Buddhism at all I'm afraid - but one story that always comes to mind is about Buddha Guatama walking through a woodland with some followers, when he picks up some leaves from the ground, and compares it to the extent of the knowledge that he can teach them.

I always took the meaning as suggesting that the Buddha was explaining his limitations.

Perhaps it is an erroneous interpretation? Or perhaps there is only a particular school in Buddhism where the Buddha is seen as limited in knowledge?
 
I've never heard that story before and to be honest it disturbs me a little to think of Buddha as limited. I think this example actually demonstrates more that although Buddha can help, enlightenment is a state of mind and as such an individual must learn it for himself.

Mahayana buddhism teaches that the first step on the path to enlightenment is to put your trust in a spiritual guide, but there are many more steps on the path (well, there are only 8 actually if we accept the words of Boddhisattva Langri Tangpa). What Im trying to say is that although we need guidance, we also need great effort and commitment to achieve great enlightenment.
 
I said:
I'm under the impression that at the heart of Buddhism is the edict:

"Anything we teach could be wrong; we are fallible, learn for yourself"

And yet Buddhism seems fairly steeped in traditions and doctrines across the different schools.

Does this mean that my initial impression is flawed, or does it mean that Buddhism is its own paradox?

Simply a curious question. :)
Gautama certainly did say check it out yourself-i.e., don't accept anything on faith alone but by experiential learning. When you speak of the various traditions and doctrines, you are getting at a certain "tension" or "paradox" : as Buddhist teaching is all about realizing the three marks of existence: anitya, (impermanence), dukkha, (suffering), and anatman, (absence of self), essentially all of Buddhist teachings are considered to be "upaya" or skillful means to move one to the point of full realization and embodiment of those truths. i like the metaphor of the 100 foot pole in Zen. Essentially, various traditions and teachings are the upaya to get one to notice and then climb the pole. It takes effort, a certain goal-directedness to do so. But no matter how far up a pole you are, you're still "clinging" to it-it is only when you finally let go of it all, that you can flie free-en-light(as air)-enment. This seems to be the central paradox/creative tension of buddhism. Take care, Earl
 
I said:
I'm under the impression that at the heart of Buddhism is the edict:

"Anything we teach could be wrong; we are fallible, learn for yourself"

And yet Buddhism seems fairly steeped in traditions and doctrines across the different schools.

Does this mean that my initial impression is flawed, or does it mean that Buddhism is its own paradox?

Simply a curious question. :)
Fascinating concept. If we look deeply at what a paradox really is, I think we will find that it has no inherent existence, that it is an experience only. The Buddha understood that he could not become enlightened for anyone, and therein lies the limitation. Interestingly enough paradox exists only until a unity of thought reconciles the dualistic conundrum.

But then again, I could be wrong about that...:)
 
I said:
I'm under the impression that at the heart of Buddhism is the edict:

"Anything we teach could be wrong; we are fallible, learn for yourself"

And yet Buddhism seems fairly steeped in traditions and doctrines across the different schools.

Does this mean that my initial impression is flawed, or does it mean that Buddhism is its own paradox?

Simply a curious question. :)
Hello Brian.

I think your conclusion is flawed. :)

The most common quote from Buddhism is the Buddha's exhortation to his followers to find out for themselves. However, many traditions do have rituals etc. However, those rituals, in my mind, are a help along the path. Being human beings of varying degrees of ability to understand and walk the path, there are many tools that people use to "wake up". Rituals can be helpful.

But once you wake up, you don't need it. You don't even need dharma or Buddhism because you are beyond the "need" for those conceptual restraints.

Does this make any sense? If not, I'll elaborate. Or just wait around for Vajra to do it as eloquently as always ... :p

Metta,
Jacqui
 
I said:
I'm not very well read on Buddhism at all I'm afraid - but one story that always comes to mind is about Buddha Guatama walking through a woodland with some followers, when he picks up some leaves from the ground, and compares it to the extent of the knowledge that he can teach them.

I always took the meaning as suggesting that the Buddha was explaining his limitations.

Perhaps it is an erroneous interpretation? Or perhaps there is only a particular school in Buddhism where the Buddha is seen as limited in knowledge?
Hi I just come across this website.

If I am not mistaken, he told the followers (monks) that the Dharma topics taught by him are as many as all of the leaves in the woodland but one needs only few things (like leaves in his hand) to study, practice and (probably) reach Nirvana.

This happened when someone asked him about the existence of God(s). The question led to something that are not really benefitial to know (Ajintai?).
 
Hi bgn, and welcome to CR. :)

Indeed, perhaps I did read it wrong. :)
 
bgn said:
Hi I just come across this website.

If I am not mistaken, he told the followers (monks) that the Dharma topics taught by him are as many as all of the leaves in the woodland but one needs only few things (like leaves in his hand) to study, practice and (probably) reach Nirvana.

This happened when someone asked him about the existence of God(s). The question led to something that are not really benefitial to know (Ajintai?).
Hi guys. Yes this reference comes from the Dhammapada and my understanding of it relates to interpretors who state that as regards to ultimate "metaphysics," the buddha stayed mum.

"The Buddha's penetrating insight attracted many intellectuals, one of whom, Malunkyaputra, grew more and more frustrated as the Buddha failed to settle certain basic metaphysical questions. Finally he went to the Buddha in exasperation and confronted him with the following list:
"Belssed One, there are theories which you have left unexplained and set aside unanswered: whether the world is eternal or not, whether it is finite or infinite, whether the soul and the body are the same or different, whether a person who has attained nirvana exists after death or not, or whether perhaps he both exists and does not exist, or neither exists nor does not. The fact that the Blessed One has not explained these matters neither pleases me nor suits me, I will give up spiritual disciplines and return to the life of a layman."

"Malunkyaputra, the Buddha gently replied, when you took to the spiritual life, did I ever promise you I would answer these questions?"

"M:No, Blessed One, you never did."

"B: Why do you think that is?"

"M: Blessed One, I haven't the slightest idea."

"Suppose Malunkyaputra, that a man has been wounded by a poison arrow, and his friends and family are about to call a doctor. Wait, he says, I will not let this arrow be removed until I have learned the caste of the man who shot me. I have to know how tall he is, what family he comes from, where they live, what kind of wood his bow is made from, what fletcher made his arrows. when I know these things, you may proceed to take the arrow out and give an antidote for the poison. What would you think of such a man?"

"He would be a fool, blessed One...His questions have nothing to do with getting the arrow out, and he would die before they are answered."

"Similarly, Malunkyaputra, I do not teach whether the world is eternal or not eternal, whether it is finite or infinite, whether the soul and the body are the same or different, whether a person who has attained nirvana exists after death or does not, or whether perhaps he both exists and does not exist, nor neither exists nor does not. I teach how to remove the arrow..."

Further on.."Perhaps, a disciple suggested discreetly on another occasion, there are matters which the Blessed One himself has not cared to know."
"The Buddha did not answer, but smiled and took a handful of leaves from the branch of a tree under which they sat. 'What do you think, he asked, 'Are there more leaves in my hand or on this tree?'"

"Blessed One you know your handful is only a small part of what remains on the branches. Who can count the leaves of a shimshapa tree?"

"What I know, the Buddha said, is like the leaves of that tree; what i teach is only a small part. But what i offer, i offer to all with an open hand. What do i not teach? whatever is fascinating to discuss, divides people against each other, but has no bearing on putting an end to sorrow. What do i teach? Only what is necessary to take you to the other shore?"

Don't know if Buddhism was really agnostic as much as aphasic:p
Have a good one, Earl
 
Namaste all,


for your reading pleasure, a snippett from the Kevatta Sutta:


Conversations with the Gods


"Once, Kevatta, this train of thought arose in the awareness of a certain monk in this very community of monks: 'Where do these four great elements -- the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property -- cease without remainder?' Then he attained to such a state of concentration that the way leading to the gods appeared in his centered mind. So he approached the gods of the retinue of the Four Great Kings and, on arrival, asked them, 'Friends, where do these four great elements -- the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property -- cease without remainder?'

"When this was said, the gods of the retinue of the Four Great Kings said to the monk, 'We also don't know where the four great elements... cease without remainder. But there are the Four Great Kings who are higher and more sublime than we. They should know where the four great elements... cease without remainder.'

"So the monk approached the Four Great Kings and, on arrival, asked them, 'Friends, where do these four great elements... cease without remainder?'

"When this was said, the Four Great Kings said to the monk, 'We also don't know where the four great elements... cease without remainder. But there are the gods of the Thirty-three who are higher and more sublime than we. They should know...'

"So the monk approached the gods of the Thirty-three and, on arrival, asked them, 'Friends, where do these four great elements... cease without remainder?'

"When this was said, the gods of the Thirty-three said to the monk, 'We also don't know where the four great elements... cease without remainder. But there is Sakka, the ruler of the gods, who is higher and more sublime than we. He should know... '

"So the monk approached Sakka, the ruler of the gods, and, on arrival, asked him, 'Friend, where do these four great elements... cease without remainder?'

"When this was said, Sakka, the ruler of the gods, said to the monk, 'I also don't know where the four great elements... cease without remainder. But there are the Yama gods who are higher and more sublime than I. They should know...'...

"The Yama gods said, 'We also don't know... But there is the god named Suyama... He should know...'...

"Suyama said, 'I also don't know... But there is the god named Santusita... He should know...'...

"Santusita said, 'I also don't know... But there are the Nimmanarati gods... They should know...'...

"The Nimmanarati gods said, 'We also don't know... But there is the god named Sunimmita... He should know...'...

"Sunimmita said, 'I also don't know... But there are the Paranimmitavasavatti gods... They should know...'...

"The Paranimmitavasavatti gods said, 'We also don't know... But there is the god named Paranimmita Vasavatti... He should know...'...

"So the monk approached the god Vasavatti and, on arrival, asked him, 'Friend, where do these four great elements... cease without remainder?'

"When this was said, the god Vasavatti said to the monk, 'I also don't know where the four great elements... cease without remainder. But there are the gods of the retinue of Brahma who are higher and more sublime than I. They should know where the four great elements... cease without remainder'...

"Then the monk attained to such a state of concentration that the way leading to the gods of the retinue of Brahma appeared in his centered mind. So he approached the gods of the retinue of Brahma and, on arrival, asked them, 'Friends, where do these four great elements -- the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property -- cease without remainder?'

"When this was said, the gods of the retinue of Brahma said to the monk, 'We also don't know where the four great elements... cease without remainder. But there is Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be. He is higher and more sublime than we. He should know where the four great elements... cease without remainder.'

"'But where, friends, is the Great Brahma now?'

"'Monk, we also don't know where Brahma is or in what way Brahma is. But when signs appear, light shines forth, and a radiance appears, Brahma will appear. For these are the portents of Brahma's appearance: light shines forth and a radiance appears.'

"Then it was not long before Brahma appeared.

"So the monk approached the Great Brahma and, on arrival, said, 'Friend, where do these four great elements -- the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property -- cease without remainder?'

"When this was said, the Great Brahma said to the monk, 'I, monk, am Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be.'

A second time, the monk said to the Great Brahma, 'Friend, I didn't ask you if you were Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be. I asked you where these four great elements -- the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property -- cease without remainder.'

"A second time, the Great Brahma said to the monk, 'I, monk, am Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be.'

"A third time, the monk said to the Great Brahma, 'Friend, I didn't ask you if you were Brahma, the Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be. I asked you where these four great elements -- the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property -- cease without remainder.'

"Then the Great Brahma, taking the monk by the arm and leading him off to one side, said to him, 'These gods of the retinue of Brahma believe, "There is nothing that the Great Brahma does not know. There is nothing that the Great Brahma does not see. There is nothing of which the Great Brahma is unaware. There is nothing that the Great Brahma has not realized." That is why I did not say in their presence that I, too, don't know where the four great elements... cease without remainder. So you have acted wrongly, acted incorrectly, in bypassing the Blessed One in search of an answer to this question elsewhere. Go right back to the Blessed One and, on arrival, ask him this question. However he answers it, you should take it to heart.'

"Then -- just as a strong man might extend his flexed arm or flex his extended arm -- the monk disappeared from the Brahma world and immediately appeared in front of me. Having bowed down to me, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there he said to me, 'Lord, where do these four great elements -- the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property -- cease without remainder?'

"When this was said, I said to him, 'Once, monk, some sea-faring merchants took a shore-sighting bird and set sail in their ship. When they could not see the shore, they released the shore-sighting bird. It flew to the east, south, west, north, straight up, and to all the intermediate points of the compass. If it saw the shore in any direction, it flew there. If it did not see the shore in any direction, it returned right back to the ship. In the same way, monk, having gone as far as the Brahma world in search of an answer to your question, you have come right back to my presence.

"'Your question should not be phrased in this way: Where do these four great elements -- the earth property, the liquid property, the fire property, and the wind property -- cease without remainder? Instead, it should be phrased like this:
Where do water, earth, fire, & wind
have no footing?
Where are long & short,
coarse & fine,
fair & foul,
name & form
brought to an end?​
"'And the answer to that is:
Consciousness without feature,
without end,
luminous all around:
Here water, earth, fire, & wind
have no footing.
Here long & short
coarse & fine
fair & foul
name & form
are all brought to an end.
With the cessation of [the activity of] consciousness
each is here brought to an end.'"​
That is what the Blessed One said. Gratified, Kevatta the householder delighted in the Blessed One's words.
http://accesstoinsight.org/canon/sutta/digha/dn11.html
 
Heh, the snippett from the Kevatta Sutta sounds a little like a slight against Hindu beliefs. :)
 
I said:
Heh, the snippett from the Kevatta Sutta sounds a little like a slight against Hindu beliefs. :)
Santana Dharma, I, Brian, not Hindu beliefs :) Hindu beliefs encompass a huge and vast variety of things, so much so, that it is only for linguistic convenience that we can use a term like Hindu.

however... you are abosolutely correct in your assessment. by way of comparison, Buddha Shakyamunis repudiation of the Sanatana Dharma is rather like John Calvins Reformation of the Catholic Church.

it's not a great comparison, but, i think that it should suffice.
 
heh.

the paradox of dharma viewpoints for me is that you guys talk about the non-reality of G!D in exactly the same terms that we use to explore the absolute reality. that always cracks me up - that we agree on almost completely nothing in practical terms yet have such a meeting of minds in mystical terms.

b'shalom

bananabrain
 
bananabrain said:
heh.

the paradox of dharma viewpoints for me is that you guys talk about the non-reality of G!D in exactly the same terms that we use to explore the absolute reality. that always cracks me up - that we agree on almost completely nothing in practical terms yet have such a meeting of minds in mystical terms.

b'shalom

bananabrain
Bananabrain, I essentially agree with you, but then I'd make both a heretical buddhist and a heretical monotheist. The school of buddhism I mostly associate with is zen and it very much stresses the importance of getting beyond the artificial confinement of words and concepts to what simply "Is." Similarly, the approach to Christian mysticism I would relate to is the apophatic one- to simply stop trying to imagine & out-think "God" allowing whatever "Is" to manifest within for you. For me, the meeting point for all mystical paths is in the "cloud of unknowing." Take care, Earl
 
Hi,
I Brian:

The Buddha was not a Buddhist.
The Christ was not a Christian.
They both realised something that others hadn't and attempted to communicate their experiences using Language with all its limitations, and sadly they failed.
Unenlightened men have since created dead religions using these communications.

These two people realised something by being able to change and be different, they opened their awareness to the truth of reality and allowed all the dogmas to drop away.

Their followers have since followed a frozen text, a set of rules and goals created by men as control tools.

To be religious you must be your own living religion, not a slave to someone elses.

Do as Buddha did and become him.
 
Hi,
Well why do they follow his teachings ?
Buddha didnt follow anyones teachings ?
Buddha didnt sit in temples reading Dhamas and following rules etc.
He got out there and discovered the truth for himself.

I didnt mean you try to become another Buddha.
You become your own Buddha/Christ whatever.
 
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