Author Topic: Buddhist Self Deception  (Read 4366 times)

Offline Ben Yuan

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Buddhist Self Deception
« on: July 24, 2011, 11:47:44 pm »
As you may know, the Buddha in the Agamas clearly rejects ritual on the grounds that one who engages in it "goes this way and that, fettered by his senses".

But indeed many Buddhists persist in ritual. Why is this?

I found this essay quite useful in elucidating the matter. That there are skilful (competent) mental attitudes and unskilful (incompetent) mental attitudes, and that Buddhist ritual develops the skilful mental attitudes. One suspends their disbelief, and pretends to offer to the Buddha in order to develop the ease of generosity required for liberation.

http://www.unm.edu/~rhayes/ritual.pdf

Any thoughts?

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Buddhist Self Deception
« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2011, 11:57:07 pm »
Coincidence... I was reading that one yesterday and his conclusion pretty much sums it up:

After sketching out this Buddhist theory of self-deception, I have tried to show that two common forms of deception recognized by early Buddhists were individualism (believing in one’s individual uniqueness) and partisanship (belief that one belongs to a social group that is unique). On the basis of the observation that rituals can be a strong mechanism for promoting partisanship, I have argued that a possible reason behind the Buddhist rejection of ritualism was their insight into the potential that rituals have for creating a false sense of group solidarity. It has also been argued that ritual behavior in general is not a kind of action but rather a form of pretending to act. But then, noting that Buddhists in practice do quite frequently resort to rituals, I have suggested that some rituals can be seen as promoting, under carefully monitored circumstances, confidence in the advantages of cultivating what are regarded as healthy attitudes. It is only under these special circumstances that ritual behavior can be called something other than a form of self-deception.

Offline t

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Re: Buddhist Self Deception
« Reply #2 on: July 25, 2011, 12:03:55 am »
Quote
But indeed many Buddhists persist in ritual. Why is this?

Well I can think of some...

For some, it was useful as a tool/aid....

For some, it's a family thingy...
Quote
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.31.0.nara.html
Now at that time, young Sigala, a householder's son, rising early in the morning, departing from Rajagaha, with wet clothes and wet hair, worshipped with joined hands the various quarters — the East, the South, the West, the North, the Nadir, and the Zenith.
"My father, Lord, while dying, said to me: The six quarters, dear son, you shall worship. And I, Lord, respecting, revering, reverencing and honoring my father's word, rise early in the morning, and leaving Rajagaha, with wet clothes and wet hair, worship with joined hands, these six quarters."


For some, their or sect told them so....

For some, it brings in the for the centre/temple...

For some, they use it as a means of control ...

For some,

The list is endless...

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Buddhist Self Deception
« Reply #3 on: July 25, 2011, 12:10:47 am »
And for most converts, especially in the West, ritualism is something that's already habitual in nature because of the bells and whistles of Western religion, no different then the tendency to be impressed by titles and brightly colored robes.

Offline ground

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Re: Buddhist Self Deception
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2011, 12:27:28 am »
Any thoughts?

Everything can develop into a ritual. Meditation, listening to a teacher, thinking thoughts ... everything.


Kind regards

Offline Ben Yuan

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Re: Buddhist Self Deception
« Reply #5 on: July 25, 2011, 12:49:29 am »
Thanks for your thoughts,
Quote
And for most converts, especially in the West, ritualism is something that's already habitual in nature because of the bells and whistles of Western religion, no different then the tendency to be impressed by titles and brightly colored robes.
Yes, interestingly Eastern Religions have as much requisite for ritual and gurus (as t points out). In Hinduism the Guru is the centre of sacredness, and one's practice is usually shaped by their particular Guru at any given time. Confucianism has rituals which reflect the social hierarchy.

Interestingly it seems that the Christian church developed rituals around social hierarchy. Imagine what the Galilean carpenter would say if he entered St. Peter's or saw the American Christians who promote prayer in schools, let alone churches in general!
"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men." "But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret."

You see similar things in Buddhist temples too of course, people will be sure to place their donations into the donation box slowly, holding it up in the air first for all to see, etc..

"When giving, a Bodhisattva gives without the notion of an individual."

In a way it seems that the ritual discussed in the essay is that which would allow one to give as naturally as one eats and drinks. I was about to take down my Buddhist images half way through the essay, and by the end I felt obliged to put more up!

 :buddha2:

Best Regards,
Ben Yuan

Yeshe

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Re: Buddhist Self Deception
« Reply #6 on: July 25, 2011, 12:58:15 am »
And for most converts, especially in the West, ritualism is something that's already habitual in nature because of the bells and whistles of Western religion, no different then the tendency to be impressed by titles and brightly colored robes.

Yeah, personally I fall for any ritual with lots of incense and chanting.   Maybe it's because I used to be a chorister and was raised on Golden Dawn and OTO Magick  ............... after all, Crowley was a Buddhist too. ;)

The growth of Vajrayana in Catholic-dominated  countries would make a good MA study.
« Last Edit: July 25, 2011, 01:13:35 am by Yeshe »

Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: Buddhist Self Deception
« Reply #7 on: July 25, 2011, 03:39:01 am »
Any thoughts?

Everything can develop into a ritual. Meditation, listening to a teacher, thinking thoughts ... everything.

Yes, you could say that rituals are formalised habits.  Maybe it's about replacing bad habits with good habits, but sooner or later we need to move beyond habitual perceptions. 

Spiny

Offline Dharmakara

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Re: Buddhist Self Deception
« Reply #8 on: July 25, 2011, 08:13:27 am »
Interestingly it seems that the Christian church developed rituals around social hierarchy. Imagine what the Galilean carpenter would say if he entered St. Peter's or saw the American Christians who promote prayer in schools, let alone churches in general!

The same could be said in regard to the historical Buddha in general... kind of like "if you meet the Buddha on the road, RUN, you're about to get b*tch slapped"  :teehee:

Yeshe

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Re: Buddhist Self Deception
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2011, 09:20:44 am »
Interestingly it seems that the Christian church developed rituals around social hierarchy. Imagine what the Galilean carpenter would say if he entered St. Peter's or saw the American Christians who promote prayer in schools, let alone churches in general!

The same could be said in regard to the historical Buddha in general... kind of like "if you meet the Buddha on the road, RUN, you're about to get b*tch slapped"  :teehee:

I understand that sponsors of church-building believed that the higher the spire the more likely they were to enter heaven.

I do see signs of such deluded materialistic pride in the building of  huge Buddhist statues and temples in modern times, while behind the holy scenes the corrupt land deals and bribery pave the way.

I wonder if they ever had the ascetic trogloditic hermit's equivalent, in reverse of course:
'My cave's darker than yours.'
'Ah, but mine's always damp.'
'Damp?  Sheer luxury. My cave's full of snakes.'
'Snakes, you say.  My cave's stinks so much the snakes would die - it's full of guano!'
'Guano?  All I have to eat is the slime left by the slugs!' 

LOL :)

Offline Monkey Mind

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Re: Buddhist Self Deception
« Reply #10 on: July 25, 2011, 09:51:57 am »
It is strange, I've played both sides of this debate. When I was focused on being an "independent practitioner", I was vehemently opposed to any kind of ritual or "Buddha worship". I think that had something to do with my upbringing in the "Bible Belt", and neighbors who went to tent revivals and spoke in tongues...

A few years ago I went through a bit of a revival myself, and decided I would "opt in" regarding all those "optional" rituals I had refused in the past. I've discovered that chanting helps set a certain mindset. Lighting candles and making formal "offerings" to my Buddha rupa helps to set an intention for my practice. Now I can see rituals as a means to an end, and certainly not something that replaces the actual practice itself.

Offline heybai

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Re: Buddhist Self Deception
« Reply #11 on: July 25, 2011, 04:04:41 pm »
^  Yes, I feel similarly. 

Ritual gives form.  When it is imbued with meaning, it is a great aid.  When it is not, it can be worse than useless.

Offline lowonthetotem

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Re: Buddhist Self Deception
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2011, 07:39:57 am »
I would say that ritual isn't imbued with meaning.  Rather meaning is assigned to ritual, sometimes more arbitrarily than other times. It is very similar to language in this regard.

In the end, as with most things, it depends on the motivation of the practicioner. Abidharma (sp?) trestises tell us that the more we visualize or consider things, the more likely they are to arise. In this way, ritual can be useful. In contrast, the more we go thorugh the motions, the more we go through the motions.

I've found a certain amount of ritual, such as chanting, the use of incense, and other methods of sensory "overload" are useful in quieting the mind. Meditating in the same place often is ritualistic, and over time we may find that our minds settle more easily as we approach that space with its familiar sights, sounds, and smells. In contrast, we may find it hard to settle our minds without going there. Sometimes it is good to be lulled into going through the motions so we can see how that feels and learn to recognize that attitude within ourselves. The challenge is stepping outside of ourselves long enough to recognize that it is happening, but it is exceedingly hard to effectively guard yourself against something you've never experienced. Of course, there is something to be said for circumventing it altogether. As usual, I don't really embrace an absolute view of the subject. Just being my wishy-washy self.

Offline heybai

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Re: Buddhist Self Deception
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2011, 10:08:36 pm »
Yup.  I wrote "when it is imbued with meaning," so it is conditional. 

Personally, I like rituals, but only when I believe (i.e. when they are imbued with meaning), but they are never indispensable.

Offline Spiny Norman

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Re: Buddhist Self Deception
« Reply #14 on: July 28, 2011, 08:43:29 am »
Now I can see rituals as a means to an end, and certainly not something that replaces the actual practice itself.

I agree.  It's about creating the right conditions for practice really.

Spiny

 


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