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Switch to Forum Live View Is Buddhism a secular philosophy?
7 years ago  ::  Oct 25, 2010 - 4:49PM #41
mountain_man
Posts: 44,029

Oct 25, 2010 -- 2:52PM, JGL57 wrote:

Well, you say that NOW.  LOL.



I've said it all along. [removed insult]

Moderated by Jcarlinbn on Oct 27, 2010 - 08:52PM
Dave - Just a Man in the Mountains.

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.   Isaac Asimov
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7 years ago  ::  Oct 25, 2010 - 5:08PM #42
JGL57
Posts: 527

Oct 25, 2010 -- 4:49PM, mountain_man wrote:


Oct 25, 2010 -- 2:52PM, JGL57 wrote:

Well, you say that NOW.  LOL.



I've said it all along. 





Uh huh.  You put All Buddhism down starting with your first post and continuing with several other posts.  To you Buddhism is based in religious dogma and faith, thus end of debate for you.  You have done nothing BUT pass judgment on all Buddhists and all of Buddhism for all time, and yet now suddenly what others believe is of no interest or concern of yours.


If you don't give a damn about Buddhism one way or another, then why have you bothererd to post so much on this thread and the topic of Buddhism?


You're not sounding very rational here.  Are you SURE you  are  an atheist?  I thought all atheists were dedicated to rational thought.

Moderated by Jcarlinbn on Oct 27, 2010 - 08:53PM
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7 years ago  ::  Oct 25, 2010 - 8:39PM #43
BillThinks4Himself
Posts: 3,242

Oct 25, 2010 -- 3:03AM, Eudaimonist wrote:

I find it strange for me to be defending Buddhism when I'm not a Buddhist, but I just want to clarify a few things I've learned about Buddhism from Buddhists.


"Suffering is a part of life; it's not the essence of life."


I agree with you, but I don't think that this is truly the point the Buddha is trying to make here.


I don't disagree.  The quote in red is just my critique of the statement, "Life is [full of] suffering."  I don't doubt there's a more nuanced way to either state it or read it.  I'm just offering a straight-forward critique of the statement, which is big and bold, but open to reasonable criticism.  I think a literal reading of the statement is as flawed as a literal reading of Jesus's sayings in The Sermon on the Mount.  In both cases, a broad hyperbole is used for stylistic reasons.


My point was that "Life is Suffering," even if nuanced, comes across as a bit heavy on the role of suffering in life.  To its credit, Buddhism confronts this problem - which is one western religions tend to hide behind their back.  In Judaism, God is busy saving Noah, impregnating the hag, Sarah, parting the Red Sea for Moses and making the sun stand still for Joshua - long before he abandons Israel for the next three millennia.  In the Gospels, Jesus is born of a virgin, has a star worth following, escapes Herodian slaughter, blows minds at age 12, gets the full-court blessing at his baptism, turns water into wine, heals the sick, feeds a colosseum full of followers, walks on water, rebukes the weather, curses a fig tree and raises the dead - before being betrayed, arrested, beaten and crucified.  And even if Islam doesn't quote Muhammad's last words as being, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Islam still does little to explain why God lets little children get abducted, abused and murdered without so much as a mean stare from the Man in the Sky.  (Atheism provides a simpler explanation: They're helpless.)


Western religions hide the Problem of Evil in the fine print.  Moses only finds out he's banned from the Promised Land at the last minute.  Jesus gets his bad news in Gethsemane, after praying, "Let this cup pass from me," and realizing it isn't going to happen.  Buddhism, on the other hand, plunges in as if it were designed with a midlife crisis in mind.  One wonders if the Buddha were really the pampered prince who coped badly at the sight of the world beyond his comfy cocoon - or if he were another fairy-tale figure meant to represent the spiritual angst of an entire generation.  


Just as Jesus reflects the frustrations (and yearning) of a generation with a Middle-East problem of their own, the Buddha may represent and reflect a breakdown in Hinduism, which has no central prophet and no single, orthodox position to defend.  If Hinduism is so diverse it even includes an atheist sect, it's not hard to imagine Buddhism as beginning as a Hindu sect, albeit one that rejected caste.  It assumes certain Hindu ideas - such as karma and reincarnation - which means it came out of Hinduism.  But it also explicitly rejects certain Hindu ideas - such as caste.  It's hard not to notice the comparison to Christianity, which also thrived outside its homeland, to dwarf the established faith in whose shadow it began.


Oh, btw, "dissatisfaction with life" is a closer translation. We tend to be dissatisfied in life because no good thing is permanent and everlasting. We tend to cling to what is good, instead letting go when it passes out of existence.


"2. The cause of suffering is desire.  I don't think so.  Desire, whether you're talking about temptations or cravings or outright addictions, certainly pose a threat in the sense that if you're blind to all but your desire, you're walking on thin ice."


Desire here is better translated as "obsessive craving".  It's not desire in the broader sense the word is used in English.


And suffering (or dissatisfaction) does not refer to physical suffering.  The Buddha wouldn't deny that one can experience hardships, and suffer physically, even when one doesn't crave anything.


Controlling your passions and desires will eliminate a source of suffering - called making stupid decisions - but it won't guarantee you anything beyond that.  In some cases, I'd rather have the suffering than to narcotize my senses.  When, for example, your sister dies of cancer, is it really better to feel emptiness than to feel grief?  I don't think so.


I agree with you here, but I'd prefer for a Buddhist to address this issue in his own words.  I'm not so sure that a Buddhist would insist that one should feel "emptiness" in such a situation.  He may simply insist that one shouldn't cling to grief, but let it pass naturally and quickly. One should "let go" of one's sister rather than to torment oneself about the fact that she is no longer present.


I agree that a Buddhist would offer more nuanced answers, answers that would sound a lot more reasonable.  My criticisms were fairly one-dimensional.  They were not really intended to dismiss Buddhism so much as present a somewhat glib atheist reply.  I was looking for a distinction to make.  While there are atheists who would simply dismiss Buddhism - for having any connection to religion - there are others who would draw distinctions between the classic Buddhist message and the classic Atheist message.  As you can see, there's always room, but for overlap as well as for reasoned resolution of differences.  If a Buddhist presented the Buddhist message in the terms you've described, I'd have nothing but respect for a very positive tradition that seems to hit a lot of the same issues Atheists wrestle with, albeit without any need for concepts like karma or reincarnation.


Personally, I have a tremendous respect for Buddhism and think it has a lot of appeal for atheists approaching it from the dry side of the mountain.  While there are versions of it that are virtually indistinguishable from the pre-Buddhist, indigenous, ancestor cults of southeast Asia, I see no reason why a westerner, without such a context, would approach it as a philosophy, discipline or method for handling the rough weather of life.


Going back to Buddhism's unique starting point, this is the only tradition I know of that confronts conflict head-on.  It doesn't begin in Paradise and only later discover that something's gone terribly wrong.  It begins at the very point of disenchantment: "Life is suffering."  This is a tradition that doesn't end up on the ledge; it starts there.  Its answer doesn't come in the form of a Promised Land to retake, a Messiah to wait for or a Prophet whose message should cover the earth.  It's instead, a message of inner peace.  Judaism is about protecting and preserving a historical community.  Christianity and Islam are selling a better world - the Kingdom of God - one through faith in a personal messiah (and his amazing transformational story), the other through submission to the will of God, as delineated by his last prophet.


Buddhism sets forth a problem (suffering), a cause (desire), a solution (self-control) and a way (the Eightfold Path).  What Buddhism is really selling is relief from anguish by changing one's perspective, intentions, actions, livelihood, efforts, mentality and concentration.


One key difference I see in Buddhism is this idea of finding happiness - not by having something go right in this world (like the reclamation of Zion), and not by leaving this world behind (by going to Heaven or Paradise) but by learning to overcome the "suffering" inherent in one's daily existence.  I prefer the idea of meditation to prayer.  I also prefer the idea of "withdrawing" as a metaphor.  There are Buddhist monks who, like Christian monks and old Jewish ascetics, are part of a tradition of withdrawing from the world in order to purify oneself from sin.  But there are also Buddhists who are "withdrawing" while engaging the world.  This I find an interesting concept.  It's possible to be quite involved with the world, and totally in the thick of it, yet mentally and spiritually at peace, by cultivating a certain state of mind.


4.  The way to overcome desire is to follow the Eightfold Path.  This is what Buddha was selling.


We all have something to "sell".  Even you, in the very post I am replying to.  You are trying to sell us on your critique of Buddhism.  It is not at all shameful to advocate a position on some issue, or to explain how to achieve some goal.


You caught me in a Juan Williams moment.  I wasn't accusing Buddhists of "selling" something in a negative way.  I'm not using that term in a crass or jaded sense, the way one feels "sold" by the Jerry Falwells and Jimmy Swaggarts of our time.  My point is that this is what Buddhism is offering.  The Four Noble Truths all come down to the Eightfold Path.  The first three truths are basically reasons for adopting the Eightfold Path.

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7 years ago  ::  Dec 28, 2010 - 1:08PM #44
Larosser
Posts: 413

Man! Late to the party again! Cry Oh, well.  My two cents, anyway.


Buddhism, like most traditions, isn't monolithic. There are a number of different buddhist traditions, some of which have a very religious flavor, some of which do not. All of the buddhist communities I've experienced do share the search for something spiritual....enlightenment, onenesss, peace...although they are as likely to look for it in the concrete and mundane as in the esoteric.


The difference I see between buddhism and most other religions is that buddhist practice can be taken separately from any specific buddhist beliefs and still be of use. I practice Soto Zen, and I've meditated with Jesuits, Baptists, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Universalists and atheists, none of whom felt that the practice conflicted with their faith or worldview, all of whom chose to meditate because they found value in it.


And the Grave Precepts of Buddhism really don't have much to say about deities and religion. They talk about how to behave, and how to treat one another. I am confident that a person of secular perspective - or the perspective of most faiths - could practice them without much dissonance.


I'd like to finish by sharing my (Christian) daughter's description of Buddhist outreach, which I really enjoy. She says, "Most religions can't wait to tell you every detail of their good news - they want to show you the door to salvation, tell you how to reach it, what's on the other side, and why.  Buddhism says, "Hey, there's a door over there. Why don't you look and see what's behind it?" :)


 


Best to all,


La

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7 years ago  ::  Jan 06, 2011 - 4:26PM #45
Bhakta_glenn
Posts: 973


Is Buddhism a secular philosophy?




The Buddha never taught philosophy, he taught Dhamma.



Not to do evil,


to cultivate merit,


to purify one's mind


- this is the Teaching of the Buddhas.


Dhammapada [Path of the Dhamma]




Merit is Kamma [Karma]


Karma is generated by volition.


Evil volition leads to Dukkha, which is translated as suffering but, the Ancient Greek notion of 'Pollution' would be closer and more accurate to the meaning of the Pali word 'Dukkha'.


Good volition leads to Sukha, Happiness, which is free from Dukkha.


The Buddha was never thought of as the Founder of a Religion. To this day, the Buddha is considered to be a Physician by his Devotees. Many Devout Buddhists become Physicians as a means to 'following in his footsteps'.


 


 


 


 


 

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7 years ago  ::  Jan 07, 2011 - 6:30AM #46
Eudaimonist
Posts: 2,036

Jan 6, 2011 -- 4:26PM, Bhakta_glenn wrote:

The Buddha never taught philosophy, he taught Dhamma.



As far as I can see, those aren't mutually exclusive categories.  One can do both simultaneously.


The Buddha was never thought of as the Founder of a Religion. To this day, the Buddha is considered to be a Physician by his Devotees.



That's very similar to how the classical Greeks saw philosophers.  A philosopher to them was a "physician of the soul".


 


eudaimonia,


Mark

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7 years ago  ::  Jan 07, 2011 - 9:28AM #47
Bhakta_glenn
Posts: 973

Jan 7, 2011 -- 6:30AM, Eudaimonist wrote:


Jan 6, 2011 -- 4:26PM, Bhakta_glenn wrote:

The Buddha never taught philosophy, he taught Dhamma.



As far as I can see, those aren't mutually exclusive categories.  One can do both simultaneously.


The Buddha was never thought of as the Founder of a Religion. To this day, the Buddha is considered to be a Physician by his Devotees.



That's very similar to how the classical Greeks saw philosophers.  A philosopher to them was a "physician of the soul".


 


eudaimonia,


Mark




Thank you for the reply and the advice.


 


 


 

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7 years ago  ::  Mar 19, 2011 - 5:09PM #48
Wolfhoundgrowl
Posts: 82

From my perspective and understadning ...


Buddhism ... as an 'ism is really a western invention/ interpretation (out of necessity for the purposes of communication)


In reality Buddhism does not exist in Busshism's original context (if you understand the paradox of that scentence) only the practices of mindfullness and awakening.


 


So ... Buddhsims can be a secular philosophy, it can be a religion, and it can be a compliment to a secualr philosophy or a religion depending on how the practices of mindfullness & awakening are interpreted and applied.

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