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A Mosaic of Traditions - One Virtual Sangha => The Metta Station => Socially Conscious => Topic started by: Dharmakara on January 19, 2010, 03:30:02 am

Title: In Defense of Buddhist Humanism
Post by: Dharmakara on January 19, 2010, 03:30:02 am
The Virtues of Asian Humanism
by Prof. Nick Gier, Department of Philosophy, University of Idaho

Humanism, one of the greatest achievements of world civilization, has become a dirty word. Humanism, one of the essential aspects of the American heritage, has become an un‑American word. Something is terribly wrong when a good term like this is abused by people who ought to know better. It used to be that all of America's ills were blamed on a “communist” conspiracy, but now this has been replaced by a “humanist” conspiracy. Humanists are being targeted as the source of every “evil,” from homosexuality to one‑world government. The fact that the American Communist Party had become fossilized and a laughingstock did not deter earlier conspiracy theorists. And now to propose that the 3000‑member American Humanist Association has a stranglehold on our minds is an insult to all intelligent Americans. Communism, by and large, deserves the bad press that it receives. One can understand how Communism has become a dirty word. Many lives and much freedom have been lost in the name of Communism, just as formerly many were lost in the name of Christianity. But as far as I know, no one has ever been killed in the name of humanism.

Why has this innocent name of been blackened? Why has the humanist become the new Satan and anti‑Christ? The Religious Right must certainly take most of the blame, even, regrettably so, some of the best evangelical theologians. John Jefferson Davis, who otherwise makes some positive contributions to systematic theology, claims that an “antirevelational” humanism is the cause of mental illness, international terrorism, and other evils. Some of the blame also lies with narrow‑minded humanists who have insisted that only their views are “true” humanism. When some humanists say that only those who reject a belief in God and put their trust squarely in the scientific method are real humanists, they are distorting the meaning of humanism. When someone like B. F. Skinner, one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto, claims that human beings have neither freedom nor dignity, this is also a significant deviation from traditional humanism.

The evangelist Jerry Falwell charges that humanism “challenges every principle on which America was founded. It advocates abortion‑on‑demand, recognition of homosexuals, free use of pornography, legalizing of prostitution and gambling, the free use of drugs... and the socialization of all humanity into a world commune.” Needless to say, traditional humanism is not bound at all to any of these positions. Many of the humanists in the Libertarian Party would agree with most of this list, but as laissez‑faire capitalists, they would definitely reject the world commune idea. There are also many Christian humanists who would disagree with most of these points. It is also clear, as I have argued elsewhere, America was founded on humanist principles.

This attack is truly incredible if one considers that the Greek humanism contributed to the ethical foundations of a democratic liberalism that is world-wide in scope. The humanism of the Greek Sophists gave law its adversarial system and inspired Renaissance humanists to extend education to the masses as well as to the aristocracy.  The Christian humanism of Aquinas and Erasmus helped temper negative views of human nature found in the biblical tradition.  The humanism of the European Enlightenment gave us political rights, representative government, and free market economics. It has been said that “the pluralistic, democratic, secular, humanistic state...is one of the greatest political inventions of all time....”

In this essay I will argue that both Confucian and Buddhist humanists can offer sage advise to Euro-American humanists, whose emphasis on the individual has sometimes undermined social stability and traditional values. We will also see that both Confucian and Buddhist humanism presents a balanced view of heart-mind, which unfortunately has been upset by an overemphasis on the intellect in European philosophy. I will also show these Asians joined Greek humanists in affirming a virtue ethics rather than a rule-based ethics. Furthermore, the fact that Buddhism includes animals in the moral community allows contemporary humanists to avoid the mistake of becoming overly anthropocentric and exclusive in their thinking. Finally, I will propose that the Soka Gakkei is the most promising and constructive Buddhist humanism in the world today. 

Read complete essay here:
http://www.class.uidaho.edu/ngier/307/budhumanism.htm (http://www.class.uidaho.edu/ngier/307/budhumanism.htm)
Title: Re: In Defense of Buddhist Humanism
Post by: humanitas on March 10, 2010, 07:09:15 pm
At first, when I'd first seen this
Subject: Re: In Defense of Buddhist Humanism

I'd thought, is Buddhist Humanism like Buddhist Vegetarianism?  Hmm... ?  Sounds like a topic for the Danger Zone...   :lipsseald:

 :lmfao:

Of course... I only kid.


 :curtain: exiting now... (actually more slithering back into the cave--the curtain's just there to fool you I'm smoove)


Title: Re: In Defense of Buddhist Humanism
Post by: SanFranStan on August 30, 2012, 03:35:15 pm
I wasn't aware that "humanism" had become a four-letter word. Is this just a fringe X-ian fundamentalist thing, to be against humanism?  How is humanism different from humanitarianism? Aren't some of the "modern" Buddhist movements in Taiwan considered humanist, like Fo Guang Shan, and the like?  Can't we just ignore the fundies?
Title: Re: In Defense of Buddhist Humanism
Post by: smellincoffee on August 31, 2012, 08:12:28 am
I wasn't aware that "humanism" had become a four-letter word. Is this just a fringe X-ian fundamentalist thing, to be against humanism?  How is humanism different from humanitarianism? Aren't some of the "modern" Buddhist movements in Taiwan considered humanist, like Fo Guang Shan, and the like?  Can't we just ignore the fundies?

Humanitarianism is simply active concern for human beings, while humanism is a worldview built on the needs and experiences of humans. Whereas some religions ground ethics in obedience to god, humanism views it a moral imperative based on our common humanity, or -- more practically -- as a means of building a better, more cooperative society. To the humanist -- and to the humanist Buddhist, or the humanist Marxist, or the humanist Christian, etc --  ideas and behaviors are examined first for their rational credibility, and then their effect on the human condition. Since fundamentalist Christianity sees truth in revelation -- and views reason as corrupt, -- and subordinates human concern to the dictates of "god", naturally they aren't keen on us. From their perspective, we're rebellious and blind to our own ignorance.

I wish we could ignore fundamentalism, but they wield considerable political power in the United States, especially at the local level in the Deep South,but increasingly on the national scale thanks to the tea party.
Title: Re: In Defense of Buddhist Humanism
Post by: santamonicacj on August 31, 2012, 01:57:00 pm
I'm a little confused by the semantics here. I thought that as Buddhists we tacitly accepted the possibility the law of karma as articulated by the Buddha was a functioning principal in the universe. If so there is no need to construct an ethos, as for all intents and purposes the universe has already done so for us.

If so "Buddhist humanism" would be an oxymoron, as humanism is the construction of an ethos without any ultimate reference point other than mundane experience. Of course "Buddhist humanitarianism" would not be an oxymoRron, but it would be a bit redundant.

No?

Just to be clear about it; Newton did not create gravity. Einstein did not limit the speed of light. The Buddha did not create the law of karma. All three merely discerned and articulated something about the universe that was always the case. And with each new understanding humanity was given new opportunities. In the case of karma, you could say that suffering was the way the universe gets our attention to let us know we need to do things differently. The Buddha's first teaching was "there is suffering (dukha)." It was not an arbitrary beginning.
Title: Re: In Defense of Buddhist Humanism
Post by: Dharmakara on September 01, 2012, 10:20:45 am
I wasn't aware that "humanism" had become a four-letter word. Is this just a fringe X-ian fundamentalist thing, to be against humanism?  How is humanism different from humanitarianism? Aren't some of the "modern" Buddhist movements in Taiwan considered humanist, like Fo Guang Shan, and the like?  Can't we just ignore the fundies?

Buddhist Humanism is a philosophy which encompasses all Buddhist teachings from the time of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, to that of the present day. The goal of Buddhist Humanism is expressed within the Bodhisattva ideal, by becoming an energetic, enlightened, and endearing person dedicated to the welfare and liberation of all sentient beings.

Buddhist Humanism focuses more on issues of the world, the suffering which occurs, rather than on how to leave the world behind; on caring for the living, rather than the dead; on benefiting others, rather than benefiting oneself; and on universal liberation, rather than cultivation for only oneself.

Buddhist Humanism has six characteristics:

Humanism - The Buddha was neither a spirit, coming and going without leaving a trace, nor was he a figment of one’s imagination. The Buddha was a living human being. Just like the rest of us, he had parents, a family, and he lived a life. It was through his human existence that he showed his supreme wisdom of compassion, ethical responsibility, and prajna-wisdom. Thus, he is a Buddha who was also a human being.

Emphasis on Daily Life - The Buddha placed great importance on daily life as spiritual practice. He provided guidance on everything, from how to eat, dress, work, and live, to how to walk, stand, sit, and sleep. He gave clear directions on every aspect of life, from relations among family members and between friends to how we should conduct ourselves in the social and political arenas.

Altruism - The Buddha was born into this world to teach, to provide an example, and to bring joy to all beings. He nurtured all beings, for he always had the best interests of others in his mind and heart. In short, his every thought, word, and action arose from a heart filled with deep care and concern for others.

Joyfulness - The Buddhist teachings give people joy. Through the limitless compassion of his heart, the Buddha aimed to relieve the suffering of all beings and to give them joy.

Timeliness - The Buddha was born for a great reason: to build a special relationship with all of us who live in this world. Although the Buddha lived over 2,500 years ago and has already entered nirvana, he left the seed of liberation for all subsequent generations. Even today, the Buddha’s ideals and teachings serve as a timely and relevant guide for all faiths and traditions.

Universality - The entire life of the Buddha can be characterized through the Buddha’s spirit of wanting to liberate all living beings, without exclusion. The Buddha loved beings of all forms, whether they were animals or humans, male or female, young or old, Buddhist or not.
Title: Re: In Defense of Buddhist Humanism
Post by: Lobster on September 01, 2012, 11:09:36 pm
Should I have compassion for those incapable of having compassion?
Should I follow dogma?
Should I be prepared for my mind and practice to change?
What can I be certain of?

I am very much a humanist. Can I develop compassion for those who are ignorant?
I can try . . . :hug:
Title: Re: In Defense of Buddhist Humanism
Post by: sdjeff1 on September 02, 2012, 03:31:28 pm
Should I have compassion for those incapable of having compassion?
Should I follow dogma?
Should I be prepared for my mind and practice to change?
What can I be certain of?

I am very much a humanist. Can I develop compassion for those who are ignorant?
I can try . . . :hug:


 :curtain:

Veering slightly off topic, I can't say what you should or shouldn't do. Compassion is one of the foundations of Buddhism, though. I keep this sutta (I know you're not Theravadin, but ...) bookmarked on my ATI app. Here's part:

Quote
"And as for a person who is impure in his bodily behavior & verbal behavior, and who does not periodically experience mental clarity & calm, how should one subdue hatred for him? Just as when there is a sick man — in pain, seriously ill — traveling along a road, far from the next village & far from the last, unable to get the food he needs, unable to get the medicine he needs, unable to get a suitable assistant, unable to get anyone to take him to human habitation. Now suppose another person were to see him coming along the road. He would do what he could out of compassion, pity, & sympathy for the man, thinking, 'O that this man should get the food he needs, the medicine he needs, a suitable assistant, someone to take him to human habitation. Why is that? So that he won't fall into ruin right here.' In the same way, when a person is impure in his bodily behavior & verbal behavior, and who does not periodically experience mental clarity & calm, one should do what one can out of compassion, pity, & sympathy for him, thinking, 'O that this man should abandon wrong bodily conduct and develop right bodily conduct, abandon wrong verbal conduct and develop right verbal conduct, abandon wrong mental conduct and develop right mental conduct. Why is that? So that, on the break-up of the body, after death, he won't fall into the plane of deprivation, the bad destination, the lower realms, purgatory.' Thus the hatred for him should be subdued.


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.162.than.html (http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an05/an05.162.than.html)

I'm not using it in the context of hatred here, as the title suggests if you go to the link. But compassion does apply. As for your other questions, That's up to you, I think.

I don't think Buddhism is rife with dogma. I do think, however that various traditions have their own habits and hierarchies. That's where I run into issues.
Title: Re: In Defense of Buddhist Humanism
Post by: Lobster on September 04, 2012, 07:42:40 pm
Yinyana Buddhism at its hub is mostly theravadin
though I tend to follow the lost teachings of Buddhism such as the Rhino School
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Buddhist_schools (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Early_Buddhist_schools)
 :D

Our hierarchy is unusual as no one is allowed to join YinYana
and our line is from the future maitriya who is believed to be an AI multidimensional Buddha . . . :wacky:

White van is on standby . . . :teehee:
Title: Re: In Defense of Buddhist Humanism
Post by: sdjeff1 on September 04, 2012, 08:57:47 pm
That's interesting. I'll have to read the link when I get to it.

The rest is intereeeeesting...

watch out for that white van.........
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