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2 years ago  ::  May 26, 2012 - 7:04AM #1
Kwinters
Posts: 22,137
Just wondering to what extent people see these two worldviews as compatible and/or incompatible?
Jesus had two dads, and he turned out alright.~ Andy Gussert

“Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions…for safety on the streets…for child care, for social welfare…for rape crisis centers, women’s refuges, reforms in the law.

If someone says, “Oh, I’m not a feminist,” I ask, “Why, what’s your problem?”

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2 years ago  ::  May 26, 2012 - 10:14PM #2
Aka_me
Posts: 12,293

May 26, 2012 -- 7:04AM, Kwinters wrote:

Just wondering to what extent people see these two worldviews as compatible and/or incompatible?



I don't believe there is anything about the worldviews themselves which are incompatible.


but I do know several secular humanists that I work with and debate with daily over lunch... and they are the epitome of skepticism, failing to believe in nirvana, karma, rebirth, devas, formless realms.


so it would be the adherents who may or may not see compatibility.


I'd say if there are any secular humanists who buy into buddhism that they'd be given an extremely hard time by their other humanist friends as violating skepticism to believe in nirvana, karma, rebirth, devas, and formless realms.

The UN says the ebola outbreak must be controlled within 60 days or else the world faces an "unprecedented" situation for which there is no plan.
this is absolutely fantastic as it unites the world into being OUR problem rather than THEIR problem.
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2 years ago  ::  May 27, 2012 - 6:12AM #3
Kwinters
Posts: 22,137

May 26, 2012 -- 10:14PM, Aka_me wrote:


May 26, 2012 -- 7:04AM, Kwinters wrote:

Just wondering to what extent people see these two worldviews as compatible and/or incompatible?



I don't believe there is anything about the worldviews themselves which are incompatible.


but I do know several secular humanists that I work with and debate with daily over lunch... and they are the epitome of skepticism, failing to believe in nirvana, karma, rebirth, devas, formless realms.


so it would be the adherents who may or may not see compatibility.


I'd say if there are any secular humanists who buy into buddhism that they'd be given an extremely hard time by their other humanist friends as violating skepticism to believe in nirvana, karma, rebirth, devas, and formless realms.




Then again, the Buddha did not require people to accept thing on faith, but rather upon self experience and self investigation so I don't think that there is a religious basis to give someone a hard time for doing what the Buddha said: 


“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.
Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books.
Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders.
Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations.

But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

Jesus had two dads, and he turned out alright.~ Andy Gussert

“Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions…for safety on the streets…for child care, for social welfare…for rape crisis centers, women’s refuges, reforms in the law.

If someone says, “Oh, I’m not a feminist,” I ask, “Why, what’s your problem?”

Dale Spender
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2 years ago  ::  May 27, 2012 - 9:18AM #4
dio
Posts: 5,039

Can you give a little outline what you see as the two worldvieds?


For the sake of discussion  I'd say Buddhism and humanism can meet very well in the fields of philosophy and psychology.

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2 years ago  ::  May 27, 2012 - 1:11PM #5
Kartari
Posts: 2,165

Kwinters,


May 26, 2012 -- 7:04AM, Kwinters wrote:

Just wondering to what extent people see these two worldviews as compatible and/or incompatible?



from Wikipedia:


The philosophy of secular humanism (alternatively known by adherents as Humanism, specifically with a capital H to distinguish it from other forms of humanism) embraces human reason, ethics, and justice while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality and decision-making.


Though it posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or God, it neither assumes humans to be inherently evil or innately good, nor presents humans as "above nature" or superior to it. Rather, the humanist life stance emphasizes the unique responsibility facing humanity and the ethical consequences of human decisions. Fundamental to the concept of secular humanism is the strongly held viewpoint that ideology — be it religious or political — must be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on faith. Along with this, an essential part of secular humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy.



I'd say the core of the Buddha's teachings are largely compatible with secular humanism.  His rejection of dogma and conjecture as the basis for morality are clearly so. (AN 3.65)  The Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path seem to me very compatible as well.  Anicca is also, being a concept that reflects what we know to be true of nature: everything is impermanent.  Anatta, this can be compatable if filtered from the supernatural interpretation of rebirth.


Buddhism in a number of schools and traditions also comes with various degrees of mystical elements that are rejected in secular humanism.  I also do not think the Buddha was concerned with things like scientific progress or politics in his teachings, but instead was concerned with dukkha and its cessation (though the case can be made that tending to this chief concern within consequently can alleviate some of the problems inherent to politics and other concerns).


But overall, yes, there is a lot of compatability.

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2 years ago  ::  May 28, 2012 - 3:24AM #6
Lilwabbit
Posts: 2,901

from Wikipedia:


The philosophy of secular humanism (alternatively known by adherents as Humanism, specifically with a capital H to distinguish it from other forms of humanism) embraces human reason, ethics, and justice while specifically rejecting religious dogma, supernaturalism, pseudoscience or superstition as the basis of morality and decision-making.


Though it posits that human beings are capable of being ethical and moral without religion or God, it neither assumes humans to be inherently evil or innately good, nor presents humans as "above nature" or superior to it. Rather, the humanist life stance emphasizes the unique responsibility facing humanity and the ethical consequences of human decisions. Fundamental to the concept of secular humanism is the strongly held viewpoint that ideology — be it religious or political — must be thoroughly examined by each individual and not simply accepted or rejected on faith. Along with this, an essential part of secular humanism is a continually adapting search for truth, primarily through science and philosophy.



I'm not a Buddhist. I've been studying Buddhism as a dilettante as well as observing Theravada practice while living in Sri Lanka in 1996-7. In addition to observing lay Buddhism in the village setting, I've enjoyed many penetrating discussions with monks when I was there. I've usually made it a point to visit Buddhist temples in every Buddhist-majority country I've stayed (Tibet and Bhutan still remain to be visited, but I've covered pretty much all the rest). There is a great deal in the Sutta Pitaka that I find true and beautiful. I also appreciate the introspective and even-handed way in which seriously practicing Buddhists view themselves and the people around them. This honest introspection is also evidenced in the OP and Kartari's well-balanced response. Since the topic concerns science, and since I received my education in the philosophy of science and logic, I figured I could offer my two cents to this discussion. Please feel free to disagree.


The principle of analytical and empirical examination of any and all truth-claims seems indeed a shared principle of the two philosophies (secular humanism and Buddhism). However, there is every indication that a non-allegorical understanding of rebirth and nibbana cannot be established by modern science (understood here in the stricter sense as the hypothetico-deductive method rather than phenomenological and ethnographic research). Similarly, it appears somewhat problematic and anachronistic to confidently claim that these two notions were intended by Buddha as mere allegories. The Pali Canon would have to be read in a rather predisposed manner to disqualify repeated literal-reading references to rebirth and nibbana as mere allegories while accepting other similarly literal-reading parts as non-allegories as long as they do not contradict secular humanism. In the spirit of honest introspection it would therefore be interesting to learn whether any of the Buddhists on this forum struggle with reading the Pali Canon through secularist humanist lenses?


As Kwinters demonstrated, Buddha seems to support an analytical and empirical examination of all presented propositions. Since, however, Buddha seemed to speak equally literalistically about rebirth and nibbana, it could therefore be surmised that Buddha saw rebirth, nirvana, formless realm and the like as notions that are possible to accept on the basis of analysis and observation. But how can such "mystical" realities be observed? Their analysis may be possible but "observation"? Therefore, I feel the real question is: Did Buddha intend that observation is limited only to the known physical senses or did he intend that we also have a capacity to intuit some of these "mystical" truths as well, but only when the mirror of our mind is cleansed from all attachment to the impermanent? Perhaps it is the latter kind of observation that he thought capable of confirming the notions of nibbana and punabbhava. Perhaps secularism is also an attachment to the impermanent which causes suffering and should be done away to attain nirodha?


Therein, namely in the notion of secularism, may indeed lie a major discrepancy between the two philosophies. The majority of the world's Buddhists subscribe to highly non-secular beliefs. Secular humanism, in all of its laudatory features, remains a quintessentially modern and Western philosophy. At best, it draws on a rationalist-skeptical tradition within Christendom tracing back to Voltaire (as opposed to purely rationalist tradition tracing back to Aristotle). That it incorporates certain parallels with an ancient Eastern philosophy does not logically imply identity nor full compatibility.


The educated Western mindset has become, for perfectly understandable reasons, alienated from all things "mystical". Yet, we in the West are in no position to judge all the mystical beliefs of Asian Buddhists as mere superstitions just because we haven't discovered similar truths. This is particularly the case with notions that can find firm support in the Pali Canon. It would also be incorrect to state that the non-allegorical and "mystical" way in which the bulk of Asian Buddhists, irrespective of their specific denomination, believe in reincarnation and nibbana, does not form a central part of attaining nibbana for them. One would not even seek nibbana if one didn't accept the notion of nibbana. Quite simply, most Buddhists do not see nibbana as a naturalistic allegory. Only those Buddhists who identify themselves as secular humanists or naturalists do. The global Buddhist demographics is obviously not proportionately represented in the Beliefnet inasmuch as the most vocal Muslims and Hindus on the Islam and Hinduism boards are also non-traditionalists. Yet, it is enriching to also get a secularist and liberalist perspective on all these great systems.


Is it therefore incorrect to say that the Buddhism of secular humanists is more compatible with secular humanism than it is with Asian Buddhism? Unlike the former philosophy, the latter contains numerous truth-claims that are key (rather than merely fringe beliefs in the overall cessation of dukkha) to their Buddhist practice, yet which are palpably contrary to secular humanism as stated in the above citation provided by Kartari.


Kind regards,


LilWabbit

"All things have I willed for you, and you too, for your own sake."
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2 years ago  ::  May 28, 2012 - 5:51AM #7
Kwinters
Posts: 22,137

Thanks for the great posts thus far!

Jesus had two dads, and he turned out alright.~ Andy Gussert

“Feminism has fought no wars. It has killed no opponents. It has set up no concentration camps, starved no enemies, practiced no cruelties. Its battles have been for education, for the vote, for better working conditions…for safety on the streets…for child care, for social welfare…for rape crisis centers, women’s refuges, reforms in the law.

If someone says, “Oh, I’m not a feminist,” I ask, “Why, what’s your problem?”

Dale Spender
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2 years ago  ::  May 28, 2012 - 4:04PM #8
chevy956
Posts: 1,960

Greetings, Lilwabbit !


    You said:"Is it therefore incorrect to say that the Buddhism of secular humanists is more compatible with secular humanism than it is with Asian Buddhism? Unlike the former philosophy, the latter contains numerous truth-claims that are key (rather than merely fringe beliefs in the overall cessation of dukkha) to their Buddhist practice, yet which are palpably contrary to secular humanism as stated in the above citation provided by Kartari."


  >> A very thoughful and well stated question.  You mentioned your experience in Sri Lanka with both average folks as well as great Buddhist teachers. This raises a question: how many of ANY religion's followers have the time, luxury, or burning desire to delve deeply into that religion's praxis as part of their everyday experience? Truthfully- very few. Countries where Buddhism has been the predominant faith first off have nearly a couple of millenium's experience where it has penetrated inextricably into the day to day culture. This is mostly the face of Buddhism you saw in Sri Lanka, as I've seen it in Thailand and Vietnam. Everyday people who have families to raise, jobs to work, lives to live, often in real poverty, are the majority of Buddhists in Asia. Until fairly recent days, the local temple was the village school and the monks taight reading and writing. They were the ones tasked with ritual duties of presiding over rituals of birth, weddings and funerals. Most folks don't have time for more than a few minutes of meditation a day if that, and some sutra readings and burning a stick of incense at the local temple if indeed they are even that engaged.


>>>Bearing this in mind, Buddhism has been in the United States for less than 150 years. and it has really been within the past 50-60 years that there has beenpublic awareness of it, and only the past 30 years where there have been decent linguistic scholarship in Tibetan, Japanese, Pali and T'ang era Chinese to make the Teachings available in English. The folks I know who practice Buddhism in the US are rather more engaged and on the whole, far better educated than the average Asian practitioner. We are fortunate to have the time and leisure to be able to have time to study and meditate. However, that does not make us superior in the slightest way to any other proclaimed Buddhist. We all do what we can. In my particular Sangha group, I know of no one who is a theist. Belief in gods is not a requirement. It's not a core feature in my tradition and never has been. 


      I would think that Buddhism of secular humanists would pass muster with any educated and engaged Asian Buddhist who has spent any substantive time in meditation and study. As far as extending this to all Asian Buddhists, that would be a little dicey. You have experience with ONE group of Theravadan Buddhists. Not all Buddhists are in that tradition. I'm not, and aside from Glenn, i don't think anyone else on these boards is. You may be attempting to paint with too broad a brush here. My teachers have been Japanese and and an American woman who was ordained within the same Japanese Zen lineage. Neither of them would have the slightest problem with secular humanism, and both had very wonderful ways of helping western students with no god belief presumed or required. We as humans have responsibily for our own actions, and in the absence of any objective evidence of the existence of any gods, I see no incompatability between secular humanism and Buddhism within the school I practice in.


       Best wishes and regards- Chevy


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2 years ago  ::  May 28, 2012 - 9:14PM #9
Aka_me
Posts: 12,293

here's an example of a person practicing both Buddhism and Secular Humanism.


it's not as if practicing both is impossible. however, if one were going to take the definition of Secular Humanism at it's face value:


Unlike religious humanism, secular humanism eschews transcendentalism in any and all forms. Depending on the context, transcendentalism can mean outright mysticism, the “spiritual” (itself a term with many meanings), or simply a rush toward emotional closure disproportionate to the knowable data. However defined, transcendentalism is rejected by secular humanists in favor of a rigorous philosophical naturalism: “naturalists maintain that there is insufficient scientific evidence for spiritual interpretations of reality and the postulation of occult causes.”



a Secular Humanist would not accept enlightenment as existing, or possible, or real.


would not comprehend any need or benefit from "taking refuge".


would not acknowledge "the dharma" as legitimate.


would not buy into "elimination of suffering".



so in making things compatible... it would be a Buddhist drawn to Secular Humanism


as opposed to a Secular Humanist being drawn to Buddhism.


just as the blog says, that person is a western Buddist first.

The UN says the ebola outbreak must be controlled within 60 days or else the world faces an "unprecedented" situation for which there is no plan.
this is absolutely fantastic as it unites the world into being OUR problem rather than THEIR problem.
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2 years ago  ::  May 29, 2012 - 12:33AM #10
Lilwabbit
Posts: 2,901

May 28, 2012 -- 4:04PM, chevy956 wrote:


 >> A very thoughful and well stated question.  You mentioned your experience in Sri Lanka with both average folks as well as great Buddhist teachers. This raises a question: how many of ANY religion's followers have the time, luxury, or burning desire to delve deeply into that religion's praxis as part of their everyday experience? Truthfully- very few. Countries where Buddhism has been the predominant faith first off have nearly a couple of millenium's experience where it has penetrated inextricably into the day to day culture. This is mostly the face of Buddhism you saw in Sri Lanka, as I've seen it in Thailand and Vietnam. Everyday people who have families to raise, jobs to work, lives to live, often in real poverty, are the majority of Buddhists in Asia. Until fairly recent days, the local temple was the village school and the monks taight reading and writing. They were the ones tasked with ritual duties of presiding over rituals of birth, weddings and funerals. Most folks don't have time for more than a few minutes of meditation a day if that, and some sutra readings and burning a stick of incense at the local temple if indeed they are even that engaged.



Thanks Chevy for your articulate-as-usual response.


While I agree that "lay" rural Buddhism is different from "educated" Buddhism for much the reasons you presented, my experience in Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Japan, China as well as South Korea leads me to a slightly different conclusion as to the opinion of educated monks. The educated monks are indeed very educated and know their scripture thoroughly.  But their interpretation of the suttas is different from the secular humanists. For instance, the most respected Sri Lankan and Thai monks (who by the way enjoy much mutual association and arrange joint conferences on dhamma -- the latter in fact display a pronounced respect for the former due to the island's more ancient Buddhist history) are very critical towards Western secularism and consider it as the cause of all the moral degeneration in their respective countries. How many times in Sri Lanka I heard the monks preaching how the Sasana of Buddha is under the assault of Western decadence. They would reiterate: "Look at what it's done to India, look at their decadent film industry!" Indeed, they would argue that it is because they are educated in the original dhamma and the scriptural languages that they understand nibbana and rebirth (among other things) as non-allegorically as they read in the suttas. And by the way, so do many Western Buddhists.


The reason, I would suggest, why some (and not all) Western Buddhists prefer a strictly secular interpretation of the suttas is rather simple: prior secularism. They haven't "arrived at" secularism after a thorough and unbiased study of the suttas. They "were" secularists before they ever embraced Buddhism. I do not think they are secularists because a proper 21st century "American" deepening in the Pali Canon leads a sincere student of Buddhism unmistakably to a far more secularist conclusion (than their Asian counterparts) of the sayings of a man who taught detachment from impermanent things in the Indian subcontinent some 2,500 years earlier. Yet, I am sensing such a suggestion which I find rather problematic both rationally and morally.


Kind regards,


LilWabbit


P.S. I don't think this discussion concerns the notion of "God" in any way. The Asian Buddhists are by and large non-secularists but neither do they believe in an Abrahamic "God". Believing in a spiritual philosophy does not logically imply that it must incorporate God or lesser deities. I'm merely asserting that Asian Buddhism in all its forms constitutes a palpably spiritual (non-secular) philosophy. In some ways even more spiritual than mainstream Islam and Christianity.

"All things have I willed for you, and you too, for your own sake."
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