Author Topic: Going back to square one  (Read 2282 times)

Offline Namaste253

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Going back to square one
« on: July 19, 2015, 02:20:54 am »
Hello, Dharma friends. I would like to please announce that I am giving up on attempting to exclusively conform my beliefs to Jodo Shinshu teachings. I am thankful for Buddhist Churches of America in that it doesn't insist upon Jodo Shinshu teachings as the exclusive truth.

Instead, BCA encourages me to have questions and to find my own path, even if it's a journey that takes a lifetime, one that we're all in together as links in Amida's golden chain.

I will continue to trust in the Nembutsu, in the compassion of the Buddha, rather than in my own efforts, to attain enlightenment, but part of that compassion, at least to me, entails not having to get your beliefs exactly right.

What attracts me to a figure like Shinran is not that he was a strict dogmatist who insisted that all people believe a certain way, but instead because he showed the same compassion for all people, regardless of their beliefs.

There are some questions that the Buddha himself refused to answer, and I don't claim to be a wiser man than him. I believe that we can love, embrace, and practice the traditions of Jodo Shinshu or any other school of Buddhism without having to believe the particulars of that school exactly right.

What I would like to do, then, is to get straight to the root of Buddhist teachings, to find a book like the Dhammapada that explains the teachings common to all schools of Buddhism, and then do my best, with the help of Buddha's light and compassion, to base my life around those teachings.

My intent in studying Buddhism is not to be born into a Pure Land after I die, but not to deny the existence of a Pure Land either. Instead, what I hope to do is study Buddhism as a pathway to peace in this lifetime.

Even if full inner peace is something that I'll never find in this lifetime as a foolish, limited being, I'll be more peaceful and compassionate than I otherwise would have been if I study and try to live out the teachings of Buddha in this body, in this life.

 For what it's worth, this is my results from the Belief-O-Matic quiz, though I would never claim it to be the ultimate arbiter of truth:

1. Hinduism (100%)
2. Mahayana Buddhism (96%)
3. Taoism (94%)
4. Jainism (85%)
5. Unitarian Universalism (83%)
6. Theravada Buddhism (79%)
7. Sikhism (73%)
8. Liberal Quakers - Religious Society of Friends (70%)
9. New Age (67%)
10. New Thought (67%)
http://www.selectsmart.com/RELIGION/

 I am sorry if I am offending anyone in explaining these things. We are all in this together as links in Amida's golden chain. Thank you for helping and supporting me along this path. Gassho.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2015, 03:34:53 am by Namaste253 »

Offline Cobblers Apprentice

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Re: Going back to square one
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2015, 03:36:05 am »
Hi again Namaste, back to square one? I don't see the "path" as some sort of boardgame where we plod along the various squares.......even though the fall of the dice can throw in a bit of randomness! I think a lot of our "progress" takes place beyond our own calculations and understanding, that headway can be made more in spite of our beliefs than because if them.

That said, no need not to try to keep our motivations pure.

"Master, Master! What should I do to gain illumination?"

"Well my son, you must rise in the morning, dress and then eat"

"But Master, I do not understand!"

"Well, if you do not understand, you must rise in the morning, dress and then eat"

 :buddha:

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Going back to square one
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2015, 03:48:25 am »
I think a lot of our "progress" takes place beyond our own calculations and understanding, that headway can be made more in spite of our beliefs than because if them.

Thank you for your helpful words. This reminds me of the idea that trusting in Other-Power, however one chooses to define it, frees us from relying on self-calculation.

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Going back to square one
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2015, 03:58:12 am »
I wrote this a few months ago. I hope it can express my general interest in Buddhism, though it's not an all encompassing explanation of this interest:

The Buddha never claimed to be a god or to be certain of what happens after we die. Instead, he promised one thing, to show the way toward ending mental suffering, so that we may have peace with ourselves and each other. Taking refuge in the Buddha means trusting in him as your awakened teacher, like how you would trust in a good doctor, not worshiping him as God.

I started reading the Tao Te Ching when I was in fifth grade because I accidentally discovered it in a bookshelf at a retired Jesuit home. Then in seventh grade, I did a school presentation on the life and teachings of Lao Tsu, and in ninth grade, I was taking the Tao Te Ching to school and actively sharing it with people. What Hinduism and Buddhism teach about the Dharma and what Taoism teaches about the Tao are practically the same concept.

By the end of freshman year, I got involved in the wrong crowd, and any interest in eastern philosophy or meditation became muddled in that. It was something cool because that's what the Beatles did, basically, but my interest didn't go any deeper than writing a Buddhist interpretation of Star Wars.

It wasn't until 2010, after my first child was born, that I took up an interest in Buddhism as a way of training my mind to better handle stress, but at the time, I still lived in my home town and my family of origin considered it a cult.

Now that I am in a new town and struggling with more new stresses in my life, like being back in school again, I've had to find a way to peace of mind without taking drugs or therapy. That's what's drawn me back to Buddhism and eastern philosophy. It's first and foremost a practical matter, though I've been familiar with the devotional and spiritual side of it for some time.

There's more to Buddhism than just meditation. Most Buddhists in the world probably don't regularly practice meditation. Overall, Buddhism is a way of looking at life, finding the reasons why we suffer in life and finding the way out of it through changing our thinking.

http://buddhism.about.com/od/basicbuddhistteachings/a/genesis.htm

In 2011, Unity Spokane held an exhibit that's traveled the world featuring the relics of the Buddha. I was blessed with a relic of the Buddha by Thubten Chodron, an American nun who studied under the Dalai Lama. It is a day I will never forget. I was very humbled by the experience.

http://m.spokesman.com/stories/2011/jul/23/relics-of-the-buddha-tour-welcomes-all-for/

It is natural for humans to seek out altered states of mind whether it be due to stress, boredom, or discontentment. What if there were a free alternative to taking drugs or spending thousands of dollars on psychiatry?

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Going back to square one
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2015, 04:45:49 am »
This reminds me of the parable of the blind men and the elephant:

http://www.cs.princeton.edu/~rywang/berkeley/258/parable.html

Since we all have blind passions, we are in a sense like blind men, but the compassion of the Buddha reaches us all.
« Last Edit: July 19, 2015, 05:03:13 am by Namaste253 »

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Going back to square one
« Reply #5 on: July 19, 2015, 10:20:52 am »
Hey guys, I went a head and moved this thread because it didn't really belong in the Buddha Basics section --- truth be told, I'm not sure where it does belong, so I moved it to the Seeker's section.

Offline Cobblers Apprentice

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Re: Going back to square one
« Reply #6 on: July 19, 2015, 11:01:31 am »
Hey guys, I went a head and moved this thread because it didn't really belong in the Buddha Basics section --- truth be told, I'm not sure where it does belong, so I moved it to the Seeker's section.

Ah ha, "Seekers Corner".......Dharma as a lifetime practice instead of Buddhism as a religion.

Fair enough, I remember the opening of Stephen Batchelor's book "Buddhism Without Beliefs" where he speaks of the actual words of the Theravada texts, that each of the Four Truths are related to how they are to be acted upon. He then contrasts this with the Four Truths as four things to believe, rather than the different things to believe of other Religions. At this point, Batchelor says, when instead of acting upon them, they are believed, Buddhism itself becomes a religion.

Thanks


Offline Namaste253

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Re: Going back to square one
« Reply #7 on: July 19, 2015, 12:20:28 pm »
double post
« Last Edit: July 19, 2015, 01:23:45 pm by Namaste253 »

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Going back to square one
« Reply #8 on: July 19, 2015, 12:28:16 pm »
Like D. T. Suzuki, I am convinced that Jodo Shinshu is the most advanced and helpful form of Buddhist teachings, even if I don't always agree with them in every detail:
http://jkllr.net/2008/03/02/dt-suzuki-praising-shin-buddhism/

Though Suzuki is often associated with bringing Zen to the West, he was a Jodo Shinshu believer as well, and he claimed that more people become enlightened from Jodo Shishu than from Zen. This, according to Suzuki, is due to the inherent contradiction of abandoning your ego by relying on your own efforts.

Suzuki's understanding of Buddhism was all embracing in its breadth and depth, and yet he found the culmination of it in Jodo Shinshu.

When asked if the Mahayana sutras are historically accurate and literally true, Suzuki's response is that it ultimately doesn't matter, because they present the teachings of the living Buddha in a more universal form than the texts which preceded them:
http://theendlessfurther.com/is-mahayana-the-genuine-teaching-of-the-buddha/

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Going back to square one
« Reply #9 on: July 19, 2015, 01:46:55 pm »
Suzuki's understanding of Buddhism was all embracing in its breadth and depth, and yet he found the culmination of it in Jodo Shinshu.


Not everyone would agree with your sentiment about DT Suzuki:

Quote
Daisetsu Teitarō Suzuki (1870-1966) has been widely celebrated as the first transmitter of Japanese Zen to the ‘West’, especially the USA and Great Britain. In the course of his long life, he published dozens of books that practically defined the meaning of Zen for western audiences. In recent decades, however, the shine on Suzuki’s reputation has been somewhat worn off by some heavy criticisms.

First, Suzuki has been accused of complicity with Japanese nationalism and thus tainted by the jingoism of nihonjinron (the view that Japanese culture was uniquely superior).iii This has prompted accusations that he reconciled Zen with killing and warfare, and so legitimated military aggression towards China, Korea, and Russia (Victoria 1997). Second, he has been accused of misrepresenting Zen by ignoring its history (Hu Shih 1953), its sectarian status (Faure 1993), its Buddhist provenance (Sharf 1995), as well as its ritual context. These criticisms amount to a charge that Suzuki basically ignored the way in which Zen is a historically produced Buddhist sect embedded in a specific cultural field. Third, Suzuki has been charged with presenting Zen in an over-intellectual manner without recognising the importance of spiritual practices, such as meditation (zazen), and therefore of ignoring important historical Zen figures such as Dōgen (1200-53) and the Sōtō tradition in his voluminous writings (Faure 1993). At the extreme, Suzuki is accused of making up his own version of Zen that wasn’t really Zen at all, simply his fantasy idealisation of it. Consequently, so the argument goes, many of the received understandings of Zen, both of scholars and the wider public, are seriously flawed because of Suzuki’s distorted presentation of the subject.


read more here >>> http://www.westernbuddhistreview.com/vol5/suzuki-gentium.html

On the other hand, my personal criticism of Suzuki is that he single-handedly set the stage for a whole generation of practitioners who these days could be best described as pasty white doughboys who want to be Jedi Knights.



Offline Namaste253

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Re: Going back to square one
« Reply #10 on: July 19, 2015, 01:49:56 pm »
It's important to remember that Suzuki was rasied in Jodo Shinshu and, by the end of his life, spoke of Jodo Shinshu being superior to Zen:
Quote
Later in life Suzuki was more inclined to Jodo Shin (True Pure Land) practice on a personal level, seeing in the doctrine of Tariki, or other power as opposed to self power, an abandonment of self that is entirely complementary to Zen practice and yet to his mind even less willful than traditional Zen. In his book Buddha of Infinite Light (2002), (originally titled, Shin Buddhism) Suzuki declared that, "Of all the developments that Mahayana Buddhism has achieved in East Asia, the most remarkable one is the Shin teaching of Pure Land Buddhism." (p. 22)
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D._T._Suzuki

As for his support of Japanese nationalism, I can't comment on it since I don't know enough about it. 

One thing I've heard is that Honen and Shinran may not have had access to Pali scriptures like the Dhammapada, so it would be unfair to say that they didn't focus enough on them. In BCA temples today, however, the Pali canon is often used to present basic Buddhism or beginning Buddhism. I like to interpret Jodo Shinshu, not as a deviation from the Eightfold Path and other traditional Buddhist teachings, but as a different method of interpreting and practicing them.

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Going back to square one
« Reply #11 on: July 19, 2015, 01:59:46 pm »
One thing I've heard is that Honen and Shinran may not have had access to Pali scriptures like the Dhammapada, so it would be unfair to say that they didn't focus enough on them.

Sorry, but it's unlikely that they wouldn't have had access to the Dhammapada in one form or another --- the distribution of the Dhammapada was certainly widespread by that time.

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Going back to square one
« Reply #12 on: July 19, 2015, 03:06:07 pm »
One thing I've heard is that Honen and Shinran may not have had access to Pali scriptures like the Dhammapada, so it would be unfair to say that they didn't focus enough on them.

Sorry, but it's unlikely that they wouldn't have had access to the Dhammapada in one form or another --- the distribution of the Dhammapada was certainly widespread by that time.

That might be true, but I don't think they ever envisioned that Jodo Shinshu would expand to outside Japan, let alone the Western world, and would have to re-evaluate its teachings in light of Buddhism as a whole.

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Going back to square one
« Reply #13 on: July 19, 2015, 03:19:52 pm »
That might be true, but we're talking about whether Honen and Shinran had access to the Dhammapada, in essence making an excuse for them through the use of poor apologetics --- the reason I'm referring to it as "poor apologetics" is because to make such a statement as defense would have a serious implication against the libraries at Mt. Hiei, namely that when it came to Buddhist practice it could hardly have been considered a seat of higher learning.

My friend, that is the implication of such a statement and it shouldn't be ignored.

Offline Namaste253

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Re: Going back to square one
« Reply #14 on: July 19, 2015, 05:10:26 pm »
To be honest, it's something I heard in passing on a podcast that Japanese Buddhists didn't start studying Pali canon until the late 19th or early 20th century. I am sorry if I conveyed wrong information.

 


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