Author Topic: Secular Buddhism  (Read 5716 times)

Offline Chaz

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #15 on: March 27, 2017, 03:31:58 pm »
It is my intuition, and my educated guess that traditions within the cultures in which his "experience" was disseminated that put lingering religious and cultural spins on what he taught.

I think it goes farther than culture.  I think it's an entirely human trait to take ideas like what the Buddha taught, and frame it in a way that it becomes what we call a religion.  This includes devotion to a set of principals that have supreme importance or authority assigned to them, adhered to as a matter of faith.  This also has a cultural spin involved, religion being a consistent part of the structure of culture in general.  So, it's nearly impossible to separate the role of religion from the collective human experience.  There is bound to be cultural influence both from aond towards religion within a society.

"Tibetan" Buddhism is an excellent example.  Coming from both India and China and meeting a status quo represented by Bon,and being somewhat isolated,  Buddhism in Tibet took on a distinct character, not found in SE Asia for eample or in the areas that influenced it - India and China.  Given time in the west, a lot of time, and a degree of isolation for it's source, Buddhism will take on a distinct character of it's own, but that's likely to take centuries.




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It is difficult to eliminate these psychological filters through which any new learning or even first hand experience   As time passed, corruption and warping of Buddhism as he conceived it only worsened. 

I don't know that we can say "worsend" in any fairness to the history of Buddhism.  It has certainly changed.  That much is certain and is inevitable.  It changed in the centuries between when the Buddha lived and taught and when his teachings were finally codified.  Because writing apparently existed as early as 3000 bce on the subcontinent, but the earliest Buddhist writing doesn't seem to exist prior to 1 ce.  It would appear that over 500 years passed before cononization.  This makes it impossible to say just what the Buddha actually "concieved" without a measure, and a large one, of faith.

This of course brings us back to religion.

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We see this happening today as what I will call "hairy-fairyness" and outright delusion arises within Buddhist communities. 

That would mean that you think of what you think Buddhism should be, and is actually reasonable. Based on the near total lack of reliable historical data on which to base such an assertion, is hard to to accept as true.

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Stories meant for children become dogma, and adults with brains in their heads come to realize the absurdity of it and are forced to move on to something more beneficial to human survival.

If you refer to the more mythological aspects of Buddhism, or religions in general, such stories, myths, weren't meant for children, because children are not experientially equipped to understand them.  They may have been told to children, but real understanding didn't come along till much later in life.

Have you read Joseph Campbell?

Yes, sometimes these myths become dogma, but maything in our experience become so and not only aspects of religion.  While in college, I encountered a number of time times where resistence to new science was met with resistance based soley on recalcitrant, dogmatic clinging to the staus quo.

We can be certain of one thing, and that is you do not accept the status quo in Buddhism.  That's ok - you can believe what you like and practice according to that.  However I would caution you.  There will be a point where you secularize your view of Buddhism to the point that your refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha will become meaningless, and what you espouse will be Buddhist in name only.  Anyone can "follow" the Buddha's teaching, Ron, but that doesn't make them Buddhist.  It doesn't make them something wrong either.  Being a nice guy is a good thing, has it's own rewards, but not the realization the Buddha pointed us to.

I applaud you spreading your view beyond the Theraveda.  I think it's healthy, but it has pitfalls.  Tread softly.

Offline francis

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #16 on: March 28, 2017, 02:33:38 am »
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francis:  "And, it doesn’t get more real than that. Well except for the Heart Sutra.

Glad that you decided to join us, francis.

Buddha's insight into human nature struck me with awe as well.  The concept of "soul" was an imprisoning attachment , as was, most certainly, the belief in an all powerful, all seeing (G)od, an idea culturally induced having been raised and indoctrinated as a Roman Catholic like yourself.  These left me clinging and grasping foolishly as well and left me with a sense of resentment and betrayal when I realized their foolishness and gave them up.   

In my estimation that is why Buddha's teachings regarding emptiness and anatta are best retained, as you wisely stated, not because of any attachment to them, but, because they are  valuable and critical facts of life, which, if understood and embraced referentially, will lead to better life choices, directed towards preventing harm, wherever and whenever possible.

And, I believe this is where the idea of "ignorance" causing harm arises, I think.  For, if out of ignorance, we are unaware what harm we are causing, why would we ever be motivated to prevent harm?

I am not certain if this idea is profound, or just so fundamental that it is constantly overlooked, requiring the insight of a Buddha to point it out to us as in The Four Noble Truths, and his Dependent Origination.

Hi Ron,

It’s a good point that ignorance of the Four Noble Truths is the root of all suffering and understanding the Buddha’s teachings on human nature will lead to better life choices.  After all, ignorance in the nidana chain is portrayed as a blind man.
"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline Chaz

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #17 on: March 28, 2017, 07:53:55 am »
Don't you think Buddhism can be both religious and secular depending on the practicioner, but holding the higher teachings personal? Maybe only disclosing them depending on the situation at hand?

I don't know.

Buddhism, by most broad definitions, is a religion.  How can a religion be non-religion?

As far a secularism, in this context, is concerned, a person can certainly form a path that suits them.  However if we look at what the purpose of Buddhism is, to achieve enlightenment/Buddhahood for the benefit of beings, what evidence is there that a secular approach will actually enable the practitioner to achieve it?  Extant lineages, all religious I might add, have charted histories of practitioners gaining enlightenment. and were founded on such people.  Secular practice has no such history.  You can certainly actively eliminate religion from your practice, but where will it lead?  We don't know.  Can the suffering of beings wait for the answer?

I guess what I'm leading up to is why would you want to be both religious and secular in your practice?  If you're just interest in practice and nothing else, a secular approach is fine.  You can meditate and follow the N8FP untill the cows come home and not even be  Buddhist.  Doing that won't make you one, either.  You don't need a religion to to be mindfull or a nice guy/gal and there's nothing wrong with that.


Offline Chaz

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #18 on: March 28, 2017, 08:39:03 am »
I think there has been a misunderstanding. I wasn't implying making it completely secular. But as a religion, disclosing it as being secular to those who are mainly anti-religion for their approval and eventual benefit!

Ok, fair enough....but there's  already something like that out there.  Shambhala.

Offline lisehull

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #19 on: March 28, 2017, 09:09:49 am »
Interesting that you say Shambhala is secular. Why do you say that? I don't see it that way.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #20 on: March 28, 2017, 10:07:28 am »
So,  for the first off-shoot of this "Secular Buddhism" thread: Secular Buddhism - Morality


Can we live with these five precepts as the lowest bar, feeling free to raise them for our personal preferences.:

1.  Cause no harm to living beings (except in self defence or in the defence of others).

2.  Abstain from mind altering (addictive) substances.

3. Abstain from sexual misconduct.  e.g. Rape, Incest, adultery, pedophilia, intentionally passing on sexually transmitted diseases.

4.  Abstain from taking that, which has not been freely given.  (stealing, cheating on taxes, etc.)

5.  Refrain from abusive speech.

Should we discuss each one from a secular perspective?  For example

1. "Cause no harm to living beings."

  a.  Antibiotics are allowed to prevent dying from blood borne, or air borne pathogens.
  b.  Returning fire is allowed when first fired upon.
  c. Use of lethal force is allowed to prevent rape or assassination.
  d.  etc.



5.  Refrain from abusive speech.
« Last Edit: March 28, 2017, 11:50:39 am by Ron-the-Elder »
What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Chaz

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #21 on: March 28, 2017, 10:23:55 am »
Interesting that you say Shambhala is secular. Why do you say that? I don't see it that way.

Ok, you may not see it that way, but they sure do.

Trungpa's Shambhala teachings were sans religious viewpoint.  It took the concept of the warrior in the world and ran with it.  Shambhala Trainning makes very little mention of the Buddha, or Buddhism, and focuses on mindfullness practices derived from shamatha/vipassana and practical application in the world.

Shambhala, as an organization, has a more religious component as well, but the practitioner if free to go with one, the other or both.

I was always a little amazed at group practices where the "Buddhists" would begin with their opening chants, and then the "Shambalians" would come in and sit when we were done.  We even had a "ready room" of sorts, just off the shrine room where people would wait.  The really cool thing about it is that this was a sangha of like-minded practitioners - a sangha to take refuge in, and not some abstract idea of community.

Offline Chaz

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #22 on: March 28, 2017, 10:27:39 am »
Ok, fair enough....but there's  already something like that out there.  Shambhala.

How coincidental, I was just about to read a book about Shambhala.

Cool!  Which book are you looking at reading?

Shambhala - The Sacred Path Of The Warrior is a good start.

Offline Pixie

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #23 on: March 28, 2017, 11:16:17 am »
If anyone is seriously interested in "Secular Buddhism" it might be worth reading  "After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age " by Stephen Batchelor.

https://www.amazon.com/After-Buddhism-Rethinking-Dharma-Secular/dp/030020518X

I think he also has some lectures about secular Buddhism on YouTube.







May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May they all be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May they never be deprived of true happiness devoid of any suffering.
May they abide in great impartiality, free from attachment to loved ones and aversion to others.

Offline Chaz

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #24 on: March 28, 2017, 06:29:28 pm »
If anyone is seriously interested in "Secular Buddhism" it might be worth reading  "After Buddhism: Rethinking the Dharma for a Secular Age " by Stephen Batchelor.

https://www.amazon.com/After-Buddhism-Rethinking-Dharma-Secular/dp/030020518X

I think he also has some lectures about secular Buddhism on YouTube.

Batchelor is a good source.  Looking up articles on Buddhism by Sam Harris would also be good.  He's into Dzogchen from a secular perspective.

Offline Chaz

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #25 on: March 28, 2017, 07:59:54 pm »

Should we discuss each one from a secular perspective?  For example

1. "Cause no harm to living beings."

  a.  Antibiotics are allowed to prevent dying from blood borne, or air borne pathogens.
  b.  Returning fire is allowed when first fired upon.
  c. Use of lethal force is allowed to prevent rape or assassination.
  d.  etc.
Unless you're willing to re-write the precept, it's "Cause no harm to living beings.".  Period.

It's not like you're breaking some rule that will leave you hell-bound.  There are karmic consequences, serious consequences, for taking life.  The Buddha didn't teach exceptions to this precept and perhaps you shouldn't either.  Following this course you set, you could say it's okay to take a life if your children are hungry.  Or your nieghbor's pet just dropped a deuce in your dichondra lawn.  When you start to rationalize exceptions, then there is no end to it.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #26 on: March 29, 2017, 02:51:47 am »
Quote
Idle Chater:  "Unless you're willing to re-write the precept, it's "Cause no harm to living beings.".  Period."

Yes.  I agree. This is the very highest bar of morality, the prime directive.  But this would leave us allowing only our immune systems to deal with microbial life-forms, and we would have to limit our diets to what has already died, or if plants, has become dormant, or produced fruit for the taking.  "No nuts or seeds allowed, since it would destroy the next generation of plants.



Quote
"There are karmic consequences, serious consequences, for taking life. "

Yes.  And that is why I think kamma should be left as a part of morality.  A wise mindful and moral person must be aware of the potential consequences of their intentional actions, and potential errors ( unintended actions) during the process of implementing their intended actions.

e.g.  ( The Road to Hell is paved with good intentions!)

What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline Ron-the-Elder

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #27 on: March 29, 2017, 05:08:00 am »
By Master Sheng Yen; From the book The Dharma Drum Lineage of Chan Buddhism, page 5:

Quote
In the sciences, innovation is usually achieved only at the expense of received traditions and perspectives. However, human history and culture are continuously built on the values of the past. It is a process of inheriting the past and inspiring the future. New paths are realized from the wisdom of our predecessors. This is especially true for Buddhists. If we were to disregard the wisdom of the Buddha and lineage masters to create a new form of Buddhism, then what we created would essentially not be Buddhism at all, but a new religion.

Maybe something to contemplate about.

Thank you for the quotation, Solodris.  I am not familiar with the contributions of Master Shen Yen.  It reminds me of a quotation constantly referenced in the sciences:  paraphrasing:    "Modern scientific discovery and understanding is/was built upon the backs of giants, referring to the precious generations of human scientists."

And yes, I have given this much contemplation when deciding to examine and explore the secular leg of the Buddhist path.

This leads me to something said by Idle Chater: 
Quote
As far a secularism, in this context, is concerned, a person can certainly form a path that suits them.  However if we look at what the purpose of Buddhism is, to achieve enlightenment/Buddhahood for the benefit of beings, what evidence is there that a secular approach will actually enable the practitioner to achieve it?  Extant lineages, all religious I might add, have charted histories of practitioners gaining enlightenment. and were founded on such people.  Secular practice has no such history.  You can certainly actively eliminate religion from your practice, but where will it lead?  We don't know.  Can the suffering of beings wait for the answer?

My personal answer to this is that truly I don't see any scientific evidence that "any" human beings have ever attained enlightenment, unbinding and release nibbana / nirvana, heaven, hell, realms of hungry ghosts, petas, goblins and etc.  So, why should an endeavor which chooses the secular path ever concern itself with such matters, things, etc.  These all seem to be human delusions as previously discussed.  I can say the same for Sainthood, gods,(G)ods, Buddhas and all the other magical beings including The Jinn, Trolls, Pixies, Fairies, Naggas, Bodhisattvas, and etc..

As for the reason or purpose in choosing such a path as secular Buddhism, my own personal reason is because it seems to help people, who truly embrace it, to work more effectively together, and to endure the travails of life with much less suffering.  But this remains to be proven.  At the least, it avoids the problem of constant debate over whose religion is the greatest guardian of "Truth".

How does that sound?   :listen:    Where am I going wrong?

What Makes an Elder? :
A head of gray hairs doesn't mean one's an elder. Advanced in years, one's called an old fool.
But one in whom there is truth, restraint, rectitude, gentleness,self-control, he's called an elder, his impurities disgorged, enlightened.
-Dhammpada, 19, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

Offline VincentRJ

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #28 on: March 29, 2017, 06:31:16 am »
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Idle Chater:  "Unless you're willing to re-write the precept, it's "Cause no harm to living beings.".  Period."

Yes.  I agree. This is the very highest bar of morality, the prime directive.  But this would leave us allowing only our immune systems to deal with microbial life-forms, and we would have to limit our diets to what has already died, or if plants, has become dormant, or produced fruit for the taking.  "No nuts or seeds allowed, since it would destroy the next generation of plants.


That's a bit confusing, Ron. As I understand, the Buddhist position on 'causing no harm to living beings' refers only to sentient creatures who can experience suffering, not plants.

The issue always relates to suffering. If one is striving to transcend all suffering, then it is not morally correct to cause suffering to others. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

As far as I understand, from our perspective of modern science, animals with simple nervous systems, like lobsters, snails and worms, do not have the ability to process emotional information and therefore probably do not experience suffering. However, vertebrates with spines have much more advanced nervous systems and can feel real pain and suffering.

An amusing scene in the book (and film), Seven Years in Tibet, occurred when Heinrich Harrer supervised the construction of a movie theatre for the Dalai Lama. The Tibetan labourers digging trenches for the foundations went on strike when they realised they were killing worms that they thought might have been reincarnations of their misbehaving, distant ancestors. The problem was resolved, as I recall, by encouraging the labourers to carefully remove, by hand, any worms they encountered during their digging, and place the worms in a secure plot of ground away from the construction.

One of the problems I see with traditional Buddhism is the prohibition against monks doing any work to support themselves. For this reason, I became quite interested in the slightly heretical Santi Asoke movement in Thailand which insists on growing its own food to support itself and all members in the community, and selling the very healthy, organically grown food they produce at bargain prices to the local community outside.

When I visited one of these Santi Asoke communities a few years ago in Thailand, I was expecting to see monks and nuns working together in the field, harvesting or planting the crops. However, I soon realised I'd received an incorrect impression from the articles I'd read on the internet, regarding the practices of the Santi Asoke group. Whilst the nuns and monks do work, they don't work in the fields in case they accidentally kill a few worms and insects.

Perhaps this is one of the practices of the Buddhist religion which could be modified in the light of the new knowledge of modern science, which the Buddha was not aware of (it's reasonable to presume).

We should also bear in mind (our illusory mind), that the various sects of Buddhism that exist today are not religions that were created by Gautama Buddha. The religions were created by others and gradually evolved to fit the traditions of other cultures where the religions were eventually established.

For example, as I understand, the Buddha did not want any statues made of himself. The practice of making statues of him came much later. The idea probably originated from a later influence due to the invasions of Alexander the Great who might have introduced the concept of making life-like or human-like statues of Greek deities.

It seems perfectly in order to me, to modify the Buddhist religion in the light of modern scientific knowledge, whilst still retaining the name, Buddhist. We can have Mahayana Buddhism, Theravada Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Chan Buddhism, and so on, but also Modern Buddhism, or Western Buddhism. Why not?
« Last Edit: March 29, 2017, 06:39:06 am by VincentRJ »

Offline stillpointdancer

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Re: Secular Buddhism
« Reply #29 on: March 29, 2017, 06:49:55 am »
That sounds very rational and pragmatic actually, Ron.

Previous Buddhist labels such as Buddhahood, Sainthood and Bodhisattva may simply be the product of psychological insights towards different experience's that modify behavior towards a more happy and moral conduct. I once read the definition of a God to be a moral person.

I personally believe there are transcendental experience's that make you realize and extensively reach a celestial plane as I have experienced it myself. But the labeling might need a change towards these experience's perhaps?
I've certainly had experiences which go beyond language, and which could be open to a certain degree of modification if I had bought into any particular definition at the time. Secular labeling might bring the same problems unless people share more about their experiences in plain language.
“You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.” Franz Kafka

 


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