the greatness of Gautam, why?

Discussion in 'Buddhism' started by Susma Rio Sep, Dec 12, 2006.

  1. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Susma,

    Yes, "wear your ASBO with pride"!! I well remember my own - indulged - sense of "martyrdom" when three posts of mine were removed abruptly from the Beliefnet Christian Forums. (In my own defence, this was not because they were offensive in any way, shape or form, but because, as a self-professed "Buddhist" I was not allowed by the rules to post on that particular Forum. Fair do's I suppose)

    Though I sympathise in many ways with those who are banned for whatever reason from a particular forum, I have to say that from my own experience on the old "Tricycle" Buddhist forums, the moderators do a needed job. On the Tricycle forums, which seemed to lack any attempt at moderation/censure, there were those registered under multiple names arguing with each other, even to the point of suffering apparent martyrdom at their own hands!! (If it be asked just how this was known, I would only say that any semi-perceptive person would see what was totally obvious) Flaming was rife, to the point where many sent personal emails to me saying they were actually afraid to post at all, so merely came as guests. (This after I posted a thread saying "Come on in, the waters lovely!!") Anyway, eventually the Tricycle Forums folded - perhaps in part because of the anarchy...............though an overworked server seemed also to be involved.

    Anyway, getting back to "greatness" or whatever, and whether or not such a word can be attributed to Gautama or not................To a certain extent I have no issues over this. Attribute what you like - or not - to anybody. I would just say that to my own observations, those who are truly "great" seek not to be served - or adored - but to serve.

    Having said that, and reflecting further on Tarzan, I would just offer the words of Marcel Proust, who said "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes". Is there ever any total "originality" in this world? The Jewish writer Leo Baeck, in his book "The Essence of Judaism" makes the same point concerning the "originality" of the Jewish people................"Israel's originality consists neither in an innovation of spiritual elements nor in a complete lack of connection with any past. Its unique originality lies in its power to struggle for that individuality of spirit by which it brings to life the given material. Independence manifests itself not so much in the germination of an idea as in the power to take an already existent idea and make it productive"

    Once again, speaking personally, I will seek to learn from any who I begin to respect for whatever reason. To consider them "great" or not seems beside the point. I do not live in a vacuum, nor in a jungle!!

    Just to finish, a little story, which I have often related before in various contexts. It seems to have infinite meanings and significance......

    "A newly enlightened Westerner was walking through the Zendo with an old Zen master who only spoke broken English. At each of the images of the Buddha the old master bowed deeply, even prostrating himself. Eventually the Westerner turned to the old master with a look of deep disdain and said......"I say, don't you think you and I are a bit above this sort of thing now? Speaking for myself, I think I would just as soon spit at these statues as bow to them". To which the old master replied...."OK. You spit. I bow" "

    :)
     
  2. Snoopy

    Snoopy Active Member

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    Hi,

    Anarchy expunged, the Tricycle Forums are with us once more. They do not seem to be the most active ones on the internet at present, but I thought I'd let you know...:)

    s.

    Tricycle Forums
     
  3. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Snoopy,

    Thanks! Yes, I had heard...................via a poster known as "fattedcalf" after a brief exchange of PM's on the E-Sangha Boards. I took a peep, but have not registered as yet. Love all the info on Stephen Batchelor, also loved seeing Jeff Wilson's ugly mug again! (My apologies Jeff!) It was Jeff who introduced me to Pure Land Buddhism........

    All the best
    Derek
    :)
     
  4. Susma Rio Sep

    Susma Rio Sep New Member

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    Re: the greatness of Gautama, of spitting and bowing before Buddha's images.

    "A newly enlightened Westerner was walking through the Zendo with an old Zen master who only spoke broken English. At each of the images of the Buddha the old master bowed deeply, even prostrating himself. Eventually the Westerner turned to the old master with a look of deep disdain and said......"I say, don't you think you and I are a bit above this sort of thing now? Speaking for myself, I think I would just as soon spit at these statues as bow to them". To which the old master replied...."OK. You spit. I bow" " -- Tariki

    At the risk of sounding hypocritical, I do feel qualms of conscience for exhibiting as Vaj here tells me a knack for attempts at demolishing Buddhism. I think that is attributing too much to me; just the same I do feel guilty, and at times fearful; because some Buddhist zealots might seek me out and leave some physical souvenirs on my person if not even irreversible termination. What was that about death and mayhem within the inner circle of the Dalai Lama? witnessing to the fact that Buddhist monks are not above inter-sectarian violence on a murderous scale.

    Not to flatter myself too much, the vice of self-vainglory; I am just a lowly critic in one or a few online boards in the vast ocean of the net.

    What I am truly most inquisitive about is not the doctrines and observances of Buddhism but the phenomenon of Westerners brought up in the tradition of democracy, skepticism, independence, anti-authoritarianism, and science/technology, yes most important, critical thinking, taking up with Buddhism.

    That is why I also find it over-reacting on the part of Western converts to Buddhism to try to strip Buddhism of its superstitious elements supposedly alien to the pure genuinely authentic mind and heart of the Gautama, like for example showing almost deific reverence to statues of Buddha.

    So, I have a good laugh to read that the smart traditional Eastern Buddhist tells his Western colleague to just spit if he feels like it, but he himself the traditional Buddhist from the Far East will continue to bow before the statues of the master.

    I will just add: the Eastern Buddhist should cordially request the Western one to for the sake of aesthetics and hygiene. to clean up after the spitting; because "We would not want to leave a bad impression to non-Buddhists that we Buddhists are careless in regard to neatness and sanitation with our iconographic images and monuments.


    About my qualms of conscience in criticizing Buddhism, no I have no remedy to that kind of a bad mental state, it is like feeling a chill when I have to go downstairs in the darkness after watching a ghost movie; but Buddhism is not a ghost movie, that is why I have to think of a solution to my sense of guilt in criticizing Buddhism.

    What do the Buddhist users here say about that? Should I stop altogether my criticism of Buddhism, and instead take up something less bothersome to one's conscience like what? like criticizing the brutality of violent sports like boxing and bullfight and cockfight and dogfight (also the aerial dogfight)?

    What about it being a service to Buddhism, just like every criticism to any art or technology or science is a service to artists, technologists, scientists to do better?



    Susma
     
  5. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    Susma,

    Once again we have various points of agreement. The Dalai Lama himself has advised deep caution before "switching" faiths, implying that many Westerners should remain with Christian/Western insights and values rather than seeking to clothe themselves with "exotic" eastern ideas. Is it the "exotic" that is the draw? And one of the foundation stones of Thomas Merton's life (the Christian Trappist monk, and one of my own mentors and guides) was his meeting with the Hindu Bramachari, who at a time in Merton's life prior to his conversion when he was interested in the Eastern religions, nevertheless advised him to seek out some of the many Christian spiritual classics. This he did, and it was only many years later that Merton truly began to integrate in a profound way some of the understandings and insights of Buddhism.

    Often we just find what we are looking for and see who we already are, not what is there. There is no genuine transformation. This is not an accusation, more a recognition of my own "journey". (Merton has said that "we need to travel where God is leading us...................and that for this very reason we do not know the way". Understanding and assimilating those words is a journey in itself!)

    As far as spitting - or not - is concerned, thank you for your reaction to the story. As I said, the story has "infinite meanings and significance". I can understand, as given within the context of this thread, why you have responded to it in the way that you have and given your own reaction/reading. Context IS everything and you are entitled to see it in the way you have.

    If I sought to articulate its meaning for me I would become entangled in words........................not being "enlightened" myself!

    :)
     
  6. Francis king

    Francis king New Member

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    yeah, but... the buddha himself says that these things we cling to, the ideas, the doctrines, etc, are sometimes in themselves fetters... I don't see why we can't, as westerners, take buddhism and shape it to suit ourselves better...

    tell u what! let's all drink yak butter tea, and speak only in Tibetan- this is the way to enlightenment! Well, its worked for Guru so-and-so, so maybe it'll work for me... its precisely this slavish devotion to doctrine and tradition which is proscribed against in buddhism...it runs counter to everything we are taught about truth, and the nature of truth, and so too do the more "superstitious elements" of buddhism.

    For instance, within the Bible there is a passage which, if we read it literally, exhorts us to pick up and subdue big poisonous snakes. Scores of holy rollers get bitten every year, and some of them die. If we, in the civilised west, laugh at these literalist xtians and their snake bites then should we not also laugh at the buddhist who thinks that Shinje weighs out the black and white pebbles in a little brass scale before we move onto heaven and hell?

    I don't believe in angels with big wings flying round the earth doing Jehovahs bidding, and nor do I believe that peaceful bodhisattva's grant me benificient boons from buddhist seventh heaven... buddha himself didnt mention anything about shinje, and nor did he mention anything about bowing before big statues and nor did he mention any of the great buddhist deities that we all know and love now, either...

    maybe we then in the west, aiming to strip Buddhism of it's ridiculousness, are not trying to change something which shouldn't be changed, but maybe its the nature of things to change... after all, we can only be present, and in the moment, and so maybe this is the expression of the moment, maybe instead of brown-nosing the gurus and elbowing our way into the upper echelons of the heirarchy and indulging in fantasy and speculation maybe buddhism is better off stripped back, pared down, thinned out...

    as you may or may not know, there are two classes of teachings within the teachings of buddhism- we have definitive, and we have non definitive texts and teachings. Definitive teachings are those which deal with the nature of emptiness and the division of the two truths. Unfortunately, most of the buddhism which is presented to us is not based on these definitive teachings, and instead we have become immeshed in the cult of the guru, and the tinsel and baubles and pretty colours of alien cultures.

    its precisely because I am a "westerner brought up in the tradition of democracy, skepticism, independence, anti-authoritarianism, and science/technology, yes most important, critical thinking" which makes buddhism all the more appealing to me, and buddhism is a fitting vehicle for my rationality, it accepts my anti-authoritarianism, and it allows me the independence that I find lacking in other "religions".

    take the superstitious and ridiculous elements out of religion, do away with the miracle births and the magical powers and what do u have left? Hopefully, u should be left with a philosophy, a wisdom which has come from the mind, not a theosophy, or a study of God.

    if there is no god, then how can there be a religion? buddha never mentions god, or suggests u worship a guru or father or master... and, if there is no-one to praise, then why pray? what is the purpose of prayer then? Is it just a method to self indoctrinate? Buddha doesn't tell me to pray. And he certainly doesn't tell me to pray to him.

    so... why then do we pray? we pray because everyone else does. We pray because if we don't the group can tell we don't belong to it. We sit cross legged, even though it doesn't really matter how you sit. We learn foreign languages when our own tongue is perfectly servicable, we draw our buddhist artworks and we attend the festivals, we imagine fantastical higher beings are dissolving into our bodies and we spend years visualising overflowing vessels showering down rains of upala blossoms upon the unenlightened, but all religions do this... the beauty of buddhism is that it goes beyond religion, tradition, cultural differences, and if it doesn't then what u have in ur hand isnt buddhism at all, but a sorry approximation of buddhism...

    but just because I'm a savage dirty westerner I'm not likely to come to ur temple and spit on your floor- rather, I'd be taking my shoes off and bowing, much as everyone else does... I'm not doing it though so you think I'm part of the gang, though, but soley for the benefit of those who might need to see it... and yes, I always wear clean socks... ultimately though, I would prefer to come into the temple when there are just a handful of earnest seekers in the house... I'm not big on public demonstrations...
     
  7. Tariki

    Tariki New Member

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    The madman runs to the East
    and his keeper runs to the East:
    Both are running to the East,
    Their purposes differ.


    (Zen Proverb)

    Not quite sure exactly what this means in the context of Zen, but to my mind it does indicate that there can be as many reasons for "running to the East" as there are human beings, each being unique, each living their own unrepeatable life.

    (There is an interesting Sutta in the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism, which depicts Ananda - the Buddha's closest disciple - speaking with great delight and awe concerning some of the wonderful birth stories of the Buddha that then abounded, full of marvels. The Buddha responds by saying........"That being so, remember this also as a wonderful and marvellous quality of the Blessed One. The Blessed One's feelings of pleasure, pain or equanamity are known to him as they arise, known to him as they are present, and known to him as they subside. So to his perceptions. So to his thoughts.")
     
  8. jiii

    jiii ...

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    Re: the greatness of Gautama, of spitting and bowing before Buddha's images.

    Susma-

    I can't help but realize that you seem to be quite proud of your 'demolitions' prowess. Although I don't really have any particular problem with you doing excercises in rhetoric, your unrelenting attempt to deconstruct Buddhism, and at that make it appear as if the deconstruction is an easy cinch, has, over the last few pages of posts, made me somewhat curious as to what exactly your underlying premiss or premisses actually are.

    Many times, people on this board, including myself, have instructed you that various viewpoints you have expressed on the topic of Buddhism are not actually very accurate. You seem to have passed over many of these comments without a second thought...at least not a second thought that you felt compelled to post.

    I suppose my confusion with your actual standpoint has to do with the fact that you don't employ any kind of approach to Buddhism, or the various topics concerning it which have been raised, that could in any way be called 'systematic'. That is to say, when I browse your numerous posts on this thread, I get the feeling that greatest depth your insights have to offer is: "Buddhism isn't very good; you shouldn't trust it."

    Every post you make sounds reasonably intelligent...hey, some are even well-written...but when I juxtapose your various posts, I don't feel like your really expressing some kind of insight that is available to you which in turn differs much from Buddhism, so much as you are mostly taking each topic raised, examining it for logical weaknesses, and then proceeding to show (mostly using logic) that Buddhism's view on so-and-so is clearly incorrect, or if not, at least in need of repair.

    The problem, Susma, is that your logical approach to deconstructing Buddhism really is the perfect cinch that I mentioned earlier. Anyone, even a Buddhist himself, if he was so inclined, could run through every line of every sutra in the entire Tripitaka, scouring them for 'inconsistencies' and leaving the whole thing in a big shamble of pages and words decorated with red-pen strikethroughs where passages were interpreted as 'rationally unintelligble' or 'impractical' or 'possibly misleading'. Buddhists aren't without logic, Susma. You should not assume, just because some lines from a sutra or a few words by a master can't make it through your rigorous testing criteria, that the ordinary Buddhist isn't perfectly aware of how Buddhism can be misused or misinterpreted.

    You almost seem to think that the mere fact that you aren't a Buddhist makes you much more aware of the 'downsides' of religion, in general. But, quite honestly, Susma, I think nearly everyone on this forum could produce his or her own giant bulleted list of the terrible things it would seem man has done in the name of religion, or the foolish things he has believed in its defense, and all of the 'wasted' life he has exhausted for it. That, so far as I can see, is where most of your solid ideas actually lie...not concerning Buddhism specifically, but rather just religion at large. But then, you seem to channel this overall disagreement with religion, in general, into Buddhism, specifically. And, if I might add, it seems pretty clear that you are mostly against it...or, at least, those parts of it which don't give you the satisfaction of being the self-proclaimed wrecking ball of religious ideas and texts (for which purpose, there is at least one thing about Buddhism which you seem to enjoy).

    Frankly, I just don't really see where you're going with this. If you were particularly familiar with Buddhism (and as I have mentioned in earlier posts, it is clear from some understandings you express of Buddhists ideas that you aren't), you would know that most of the flaws you have pointed out in the 'basic framework' have been addressed over the years by Buddhists themselves.

    Of course, not in the sense you tend to address them. You see, what I find shaky in your lines of argumentation is this: you tend to work upon the assumption that wherever it is possible, by hook or by crook, to find some kind of ambiguity or one-sided language in religion, it inherently means that so-and-so portion of the religion should be eliminated. A paradox here...we shouldn't be confusing ourselves; a vague passage...why can't they just come out and say it?; any ethical idea...why should I bother; any belief at all...why should I pay any attention?

    All of these are actually very good questions...questions that many Buddhists explore for themselves. Where you differ is that you're aiming mostly for destruction wherever you ask these questions. If you can't get an answer, or if logical analysis shows you otherwise, you condemn the pertinent message as being foolish, incorrect, impractical, or non-sensical. And, throughout this entire thread, I still have the unshakable feeling that you're a guy who has perhaps read about Buddhism here or there...maybe even gotten through a handful of books directly concerning it and only it, mostly with your mind alert and ready to interpret it in the most over-critical light imaginable.

    And so, armed with sweeping general notions such as 'Give up your material desires and attachments', you set off to enlighten those mislead Buddhists which apparently aren't aware of the idiocy of their religion (because, if they were, they obviously would've ditched it already, right?).

    The fact of the matter is that you, yourself, mention that criticizing Buddhism has, in one way or another, made you more spiritual, yourself. I imagine you mean that by examining the premisses expressed by Buddhism and finding problems with them, you feel like you've perhaps gotten more in touch with something that could be more genuinely called 'spirituality'.

    Susma, that's also exactly what Buddhists do, too...they simply see no need to dowse the whole tradition with gasoline and drop a match on it once they've gotten what they want out of it.

    Anyone can walk into a room and start trashing the place, Susma...it's not really all that tough. With a few well-placed words and the right crowd, a skilled talker can make Buddhism look totally ridiculous...and while he's at it, he can toss in a few one-liners about Christianity and Hinduism that are sure to go over well. But, so too can a skilled talker make just about anything they please look pretty foolish.

    In light of having read a good deal of your own opinions, I would say that it is my opinion that your lack of timidity in investigating the validity of religious beliefs is refreshing, but your predisposition exclusively toward deconstruction techniques simply yields little or nothing that is really all that constructive and worthwhile. You oppose this and condemn that, but in the end none of your posts really come together to create anything but fragmentary criticism which, for the reason that it is in no way sytematic itself, actually REQUIRES Buddhism to make it look at all coherent.
     

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