Difference between revisions of "Talk:Buddhism"
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Oh sorry, I missed the 'most' somehow - it is accurate :). Just commenting on the section about the translations... [[User:Robertinventor|Robert Walker]] ([[User talk:Robertinventor|talk]]) 12:02, 13 February 2018 (CST)
Oh sorry, I missed the 'most' somehow - it is accurate :). Just commenting on the section about the translations... [[User:Robertinventor|Robert Walker]] ([[User talk:Robertinventor|talk]]) 12:02, 13 February 2018 (CST)
Revision as of 16:47, 19 February 2018
Archive page for extracted content
I am going to remove sections from this article that are not up to snuff. I will add the sections to the archive page below, so that I can review the extracted content at some point and determine what to do with it.
Statement in the lede about creator god
This statement in the lede needs some work I think:
" Most significantly, unlike other major world religions, Buddhism rejects the belief in a creator-god"
Two things wrong with it.
First, many world religions do not have the idea of a creator god. E.g.
The other is that the statment that Buddhism rejects the belief in a creator-god suggests it is a form of atheism. But many would say it is not, nor a form of agnosticism either. Trungpa Rinpoche talks about the path of the Buddha as nontheism, a word he coined. Here is one of his students Rob Lee talking about the idea 
"Nontheism is not a dictionary word but a word Trungpa created to express the Buddhist viewpoint. It is quite different from atheism; Buddhism neither denies nor asserts the existence of God. Nor is nontheism agnosticism, meaning the belief that it is not possible to know ultimate truths. Buddhism asserts that it is possible to know the ultimate through direct meditative perception. (Albeit not through intellect and logic; all “proofs of God” are held to be fallacious.) Nontheism is simply the Buddhist teaching that salvationism might eventually lead to spiritual obstacles: perhaps resentment towards God—or doubt towards one’s own worthiness—in the face of strong adversity. Perhaps, more subtly, it may be a tendency to see “someone else” as responsible for the general well-being of oneself and the world. And from there might arise a whole subconscious system of helplessness, entitlement and blame. "
And Trungpa himself talking about it in How to Become a Buddhist in his teaching about going for Refuge:
"One of the big steps in the Buddha’s development was his realization that there is no reason we should believe in or expect anything greater than the basic inspiration that exists in us already. This is a nontheistic tradition: the Buddha gave up relying on any kind of divine principle that would descend on him and solve his problems. So taking refuge in the Buddha in no way means regarding him as a god. He was simply a person who practiced, worked, studied, and experienced things personally. With that in mind, taking refuge in the Buddha amounts to renouncing misconceptions about divine existence. Since we possess what is known as buddhanature, enlightened intelligence, we don’t have to borrow somebody else’s glory. We are not all that helpless. We have our own resources already. A hierarchy of divine principles is irrelevant. It is very much up to us. Our individuality has produced our own world. The whole situation is very personal."
The statement about no first cause (see next comment) doesn't really rule out a creator God because depending how one thinks of it, a creator God could in principle also create time and indeed create a universe without any beginning or end. When you think of it this way - then ideas such as Samantabhadra as Adi-Buddha are not really so very different from some variations on Christian ideas of God - even though not thought of as a creator God as such in Buddhism - but the idea of a primordial Buddha that never became unenlightened, and the ideas of a tiny seed of confusion as what lead us into the long journey through Samsara. Robert Walker (talk) 07:35, 12 February 2018 (CST)
- Thank you. Great points. I had not realized that Trungpa coined the term "non-theism". These are great quotes. Khandro Rinpoche used the term as well. I used a quote from her in the lead for Karma in Buddhism.
describe a universe without beginning or end
This is a somewhat tricky one also. Because in the parable of the poisoned arrow, one of The unanswered questions is
- The world is eternal.
- The world is not eternal.
Similarly also in the Sabbasava Sutta the questions
- Did I exist in the past?
- Did I not exist in the past?
Walpola Rahula refers to Samsara as a continuity, e.g. 
"It is this 'thirst', desire, greed, craving, manifesting itself in various ways, that gives rise to all forms of suffering and the continuity of beings. But it should not be taken as the first cause, for there is no first cause possible as, according to Buddhism, everything is relative and interdependent."
So - I think perhaps the lede needs a bit of work. Perhaps a quote from a Buddhist author would help at that point? I mean not to labour the point. Just felt there was a little bit hard. Perhaps especially because it is in the same paragraph about that statement characterizing Buddhism as a form of atheism. Robert Walker (talk) 07:27, 12 February 2018 (CST)
- Thanks again. I agree with all your points. For the lede, I will probably try a quick fix for the short term, and then think about a longer term solution. Dorje108 (talk) 22:41, 12 February 2018 (CST)
Useful glosses for lede
From Peter Harvey:
- As ‘Buddha’ does not refer to a unique individual, Buddhism is less focused on the person of its founder than is, for example, Christianity. The emphasis in Buddhism is on the teachings of the Buddha( s), and the ‘awakening’ of human personality that these are seen to lead to. Nevertheless, Buddhists do show great reverence to Gotama as a supreme teacher and an exemplar of the ultimate goal that all strive for, so that probably more images of him exist than of any other historical figure.
- In its long history, Buddhism has used a variety of teachings and means to help people first develop a calmer, more integrated and compassionate personality, and then ‘wake up’ from restricting delusions: delusions which cause attachment and thus suffering for an individual and those he or she interacts with. The guide for this process of transformation has been the ‘Dhamma’ (Skt Dharma): the patterns of reality and cosmic law-orderliness discovered by the Buddha( s), Buddhist teachings, the Buddhist path of practice, and the goal of Buddhism, the timeless Nirva (Pali Nibbna). Buddhism thus essentially consists of understanding, practising and realizing Dhamma. - Harvey, Peter (2012-11-30). An Introduction to Buddhism (Introduction to Religion) (p. 2). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.
From Carol Anderson:
- Buddhism is a tradition that focuses on personal spiritual development. The Buddha-dharma is simply a starting point; concepts that if practiced and applied will bring peace, acceptance and freedom from pain. The basic tenets of Buddhist teaching are straightforward and practical: nothing is fixed or permanent, all actions have consequences, and all life is interdependent. It enables people to realize and use its teachings to transform their life experience, to be fully responsible for their lives and to find relief from suffering. To do no evil To cultivate good; To purify one's mind: This is the teaching of the Buddha. - Anderson, Carol (2013-08-26). BASIC BUDDHISM: A Beginner's Guide: Volume 1 - Origins, Concepts and Beliefs (Kindle Locations 286-294). Carol Anderson. Kindle Edition.
Basic Buddhist Concepts
I think it would be good to have some mention of basic concepts of Mahayana - which are also in Therevadha. And when it talks about the Mahayana traditions as the ones that use the Mahayana sutras, to make it clear to the reader that this does not mean that there are no Mahayana teachings in Therevadha which is a common confusion I think, to roughly equate Therevadha with Hinayana which could hardly be further from the truth.
I've just been reading about how concepts of Mahayana are already present in Therevadha, and not only that, in the earliest sutras of the Therevada teachings so in the teachings attributed to Buddha himself, though the bodhisattva path is not taught explicitly, that Buddha himself was a bodhisattva of course, and that there is much in common between the path of the arhat and of a bodhisattva suggesting that the bodhisattva teachings are to some extent implicit to someone following the path of the arhat even if not brought out explicitly in Bhikkhu Boddhi's Arahants, Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas. I just did a cursory read of it so far but it's one I wish to re-read. But that anyway suggests that some concepts that seem fundamental to the Mahayana path already can be mentioned in that first section. I don't know which of those concepts go back to the earliest Buddhist teachings.
Also - that a practitioner in one of the Mahayana traditions is more likely to be following those as their main practices along the path rather than the noble eightfold path, as the way the teachings are presented, along with teachings on wisdom. With most focus on the Brahmaviharas which are covered over and over from many different angles. Unless that is something to do with teaching Westerners? That's been my experience from listening to many teachers in several different traditions of Mahayana Buddhism. Robert Walker (talk) 06:21, 13 February 2018 (CST)
On the three levels of dukkha including the general unsatisfactoriness, I think it may be worth saying just a bit more, for a Western reader, if you think of a Westerner who maybe encounters this article first as their first account of Buddhism, as may sometimes happen. Or indeed to dispell misunderstandings about Dhukkha.
It's about the way people tend to read this as saying that you have to be miserable all the time and that the path of the Buddha is about first learning to feel really rotten about what is happening in your life, and then when you are in the depths of despair about it, that enlightenment could break through. It's because that's an idea in Christianity I think that there's a great tendency to think like that, the idea of the Dark Night of the Soul which is especially strong in Catholicism - the idea of an essential crisis in spirituality, sort of inevitability of that, of self doubt along the path. Interestingly from reading that article it wasn't originally that in the poem it's quoted from but rather a confusion and obscuration, darkness in the sense of absence of light, not in the sense of despair. I find the theological articles in wikipedia are generally excellent so will just quote from Wikipedia's article on this poem by the sixteenth century spanish author St John of the Cross:
The "dark night of the soul" does not refer to the difficulties of life in general, although the phrase has understandably been taken to refer to such trials. The nights which the soul experiences are the two necessary purgations on the path to Divine union: the first purgation is of the sensory or sensitive part of the soul, the second of the spiritual part (Ascent of Mount Carmel, Ch. 1, 2). Such purgations comprise the first of the three stages of the mystical journey, followed by those of illumination and then union. St. John does not actually use the term "dark night of the soul", but only "dark night" ("noche oscura").
So - that's actually somewhat closer to the confusion in Buddhism but still that also is not what the third aspect of dukkha is about.
But the 'Dark night of the soul' as understood by many Christians is much more a kind of serious spiritural suffering, which is seen as a common, maybe even inevitable stage of the spiritual path and can sometimes last for many years. See the section in that article In Roman Catholic Spirituality
"St. Thérèse of the Child Jesus and the Holy Face, OCD, a 19th-century French nun and Doctor of the Church, wrote of her own experience of the dark night. Her dark night derived from doubt of the existence of eternity, to which doubt she nonetheless did not give intellectual or volitional assent, but rather prevailed by a deepening of her Catholic faith. However, she painfully suffered through this prolonged period of spiritual darkness, even declaring to her fellow nuns: "If you only knew what darkness I am plunged into..!""
So, with that background and context that many Western Christians will either have come across, or at least been indirectly influenced by, I think many would understand 'dukkha' as having at least elements of an experience like that if not explained clearly what it is.
I think we need to make it clear - not necessarily in an extensive passage, one sentence might be fine - that you can realize that the even the most pleasant life is unsatisfactory without any kind of experience of angst or suffering in the usual sense. That Buddha before he set out on his journey experienced a life of worldly happiness in which he was not even aware of Dukkha. And that becoming aware was a sort of unsatisfactoriness, but still, not in that angst sense. Awareness that his happy life was not a happy ever after final solution for himself or others, and a strong optimistic intuition that there is some truth to be discovered.
And along the path he learnt to practice meditative states that lead him not just to bliss but to states beyond bliss. (It might be worth mentioning this briefly in the section on the traditional account of his life). The four Rupajhanas. In these states then in the first jhana already, there is unblemished pure bliss, and later ones are more and more refined states of awareness even than pure bliss. There's no experience of unsatisfactoriness or suffering at all, not a trace or blemish. The only thing that makes them unsatisfactory is that they are dependent on conditions.
According to the ideas of formless realms then it is possible after death to enter so deeply into them that you don't even have a body but have just the pure experience of these states and can stay in there for countless eaons but eventually the causes fade and so even if your practice leads to rebirth in a formless realm, pure bliss and states beyond bliss, and without the unsatisfactoriness of a body either, you have still never actually left Samsara, dependence on conditions.
So - it is really dependence on conditions that's the defining characteristic, not really unsatisfactoriness as an experience, and that this dependence on conditions is what makes it unsatisfactory.
Here is a quote from Walpola Rahula on the naure of dukkha and on worldly happinesses in his discussion of Dhukkha in 'What the Buddha Taught' :
"The First Noble Truth (Dukkha-ariyasacca) is generally translated by almost all scholars as " The Noble Truth of Suffering", and it is interpreted to mean that life according to Buddhism is nothing but suffering and pain. Both translation and interpretation are highly unsatisfactory and misleading. It is because of this limited, free easy translation, and its superficial interpretation, that many people have been misled into regarding Buddhism as pessimistic. "
"First of all, Buddhism is neither pessimistic nor optimistic. If anything at all, it is realistic, for it takes a realistic view of life and of the world. It looks at things objectively (yathabhutam). It does not falsely lull you into living in a fool's paradise, nor does not frighten and agonize you with all kinds of imaginary fears and sins. It tells you exactly and objectively what you are and what the world around you is, and shows you the way to perfect freedom, peace, tranquility and happiness. "
"One physician may gravely exaggerate an illness and give up hope altogether. Another may ignorantly declare that there is no illness and that no treatment is necessary, thus deceiving the patient with false consolation. You may call the first one pessimistic and the second optimistic. Both are equally dangerous. But a third physician diagnose the symptoms correctly, understands the cause and the nature of the illness, see clearly that it can be cured, and courageously administers a course of treatment, thus saving his patient. The Buddha is like the last physician. He is the wise and scientific doctor for the ills of the world (Bhisakka or Bhaisajya-guru). "
"It is true that the Pali word dukkha (or Sanskrit dukkha) in ordinary usage means 'suffering', 'pain', 'sorrow' or 'misery', as opposed to the word sukha meaning 'happiness', 'comfort' or 'ease'. But the term dukkha as the First Noble Truth, which represents the Buddha's view of life and the world, has a deeper philosophical meaning and connotes enormously wider senses. It is admitted that the term dukkha in the First Noble Truth contains, quite obviously, the ordinary meaning of 'suffering', but in addition it also includes deeper ideas such as 'imperfection', 'impermanence', 'emptiness', insubstantiality'. It is difficult therefore to find one word to embrace the whole conception of the term dukkha as the First Noble Truth, and so, it is better to leave it untranslated, than to give an inadequate and wrong idea of it by conveniently translating it as 'suffering' or 'pain'."
"The Buddha does not deny happiness in life when he says there is suffering. On the contrary he admits different forms of happiness, both material and spiritual, for laymen as well as for monks. In the Anguttara-nikaya, one of the five original Collections in Pali containing the Buddha's discourses, there is a list of happinesses (sukhdni), such as the happiness of family life and the happiness of the life of a recluse, the happiness of sense pleasures and the happiness of renunciation, the happiness of attachment and the happiness of detachment, physical happiness and mental happiness etc."
"But all these are included in dukkha. Even the very pure spiritual states of dhyana (recueillement or trance) attained by the practice of higher meditation, free from even a shadow of suffering in the accepted sense of the word, states which may be described as unmixed happiness, as well as the state of dhjana which is free from sensations both pleasant (sukha) and unpleasant' (dukkha) and is only pure equanimity and awareness—even these very high spiritual states are included in dukkha. In one of the suttas of the Majjhima-nikdya, (again one of the five original Collections), after praising the spiritual happiness of these dhyanas, the Buddha says that they are 'impermanent, dukkha, and subject to change' (anicca dukkha viparinamadbamma). Notice that the word dukkha is explicitly used. It is dukkha, not because there is 'suffering' in the ordinary sense of the word, but because 'whatever is impermanent is dukkha' (yad aniccam tam dukkham). "
- Thanks for this. The first part of the Rahula quote I really like and I have use in other articles, e.g. Dukkha. But I had no recollection of the last part about the higher states. I will circle back to this section. I think I was trying to be brief, but in this case, I was too brief. Dorje108 (talk) 09:39, 13 February 2018 (CST)
- Yes, great. Yes it wouldn't take much, one sentence probably, carefully chosen, enough to just indicate to the Western or Christian reader especially that it's not quite what their first impression might be, and leading them to be intrigued to find out more :). Robert Walker (talk) 09:46, 13 February 2018 (CST)
Theravada school texts
"The Sutta collections and Vinaya texts of the Pāli Canon (and the corresponding texts in other versions of the Tripitaka), are generally considered by modern scholars to be the earliest Buddhist literature, and they are accepted as authentic in every branch of Buddhism"
Just a minor quibble here. If I understand right, the early Buddhist sutras common to all the traditions are actually included in the Mahayana canon. Not just that they accept the Therevadhan texts as authentic. That they have their own copies of these sutras that have been independently transmitted that are almost word for word identical. I came across this while reading about the authenticity of the early sutras - this is part of the evidence that they must have been memorized at a very early stage, before the teachings spread out from India to other countries including China, because the sutra collections that were written down without independent contact in between have almost word for word identical copies of many of the sutras. Discussion of this in the Pali Canon article I think. Bhikkhu Sujato's long article about the authenticity of the early sutras goes into this a fair bit for instance. Robert Walker (talk) 07:33, 13 February 2018 (CST)
- I just deleted the sentence. Simplest approach. :)
- I have also pared down this section and the one on Mahayana. When I have time, i will try to rewrite the sections, because they don't really get to the essential differences in the traditions. Dorje108 (talk) 09:32, 13 February 2018 (CST)
- Okay great. If it is mentioned, perhaps the next section, the Mahayana may be a good point to do it, to say that the Mahayana sutra collections also include many of the sutras from the Pali canon almost word for word - and link to a list of the sutras they have in common. I have a feeling there is such a list in Wikipedia somewhere, if so, not sure where I saw it, it may also be in another website though. Robert Walker (talk) 09:44, 13 February 2018 (CST)
(Correction - I just misread this sentence, it seems okay)
I've now read to the end and see it has a section on the sutras later on. There's one statement there - it's cited to a Japanese author but not sure it is accurate. It's the sentence
" The Tibetan Buddhists have not even translated most of the āgamas (though theoretically they recognize them) and they play no part in the religious life of either clergy or laity in China and Japan"
If you go to the Wikipedia article Āgama (not yet imported) it says
"In Buddhism, the term āgama is used to refer to a collection of discourses (Sanskrit: sutra; Pali: sutta) of the early Buddhist schools, which were preserved primarily in Chinese translation, with substantial material also surviving in Sanskrit and lesser but still significant amounts surviving in Gāndhārī and in Tibetan translation. These sutras correspond to the first four Nikayas (and parts of the fifth) of the Sutta-Pitaka of the Pali Canon, which are also occasionally called agamas. In this sense, āgama is a synonym for one of the meanings of nikaya."
"There are four extant collections of āgamas, and one for which we have only references and fragments (the Kṣudrakāgama). The four extant collections are preserved in their entirety only in Chinese translation (āgama: 阿含經), although small portions of all four have recently been discovered in Sanskrit, and portions of four of the five āgamas are preserved in Tibetan"
It then goes on to say in detail about each collection about the surviving sections in Tibetan. BTW the article on the Agamas might be a good one to import into this encyclopedia. Robert Walker (talk) 11:59, 13 February 2018 (CST)
Archiving or deleting my comments here
@Dorje108: Just to say, if you want to archive or indeed just remove any of my talk page comments at any time, e.g. the ones you have dealt with, go ahead. As far as I'm concerned it's a conversation on the talk page which could as easily have happened via email. For as long as there are just the two of us editing the encyclopedia, then you are the only one who needs to read them. Robert Walker (talk) 10:47, 19 February 2018 (CST)