Secular Buddhism discussion

So it’s over now, thanks so much to Winton and Lizzie for agreeing to take part; thanks to the Buddhist Library and Paget for hosting us; and thanks to all those who helped – and not forgetting you all, who helped stimulate the conversation.

The night was, in my ever so humble, an excellent dialogue, one of the few occasions where we really managed to actually pursue some important matters and have a real exchange of ideas, rather than simply stating our positions.

For myself, I learned that this idea of ‘enlightenment’ as a process, rather than a completed state, is central to the secular Buddhist perspective. I had heard the idea before, but didn’t realize how significant it was.

The second thing I learned was a better grasp of why they call themselves ‘Buddhists’. Often the Secular Buddhist crowd are criticized because they don’t fit some externally defined set of criteria for being Buddhist. But in our secular world, belonging to a religion is basically what you write on the census form. If I say I’m a Buddhist, that’s what I am. So Secular Buddhists feel a sense of identity that makes them want to call themselves Buddhist.

These two points are useful for me to help understand where Secular Buddhists are coming from. In addition, it’s starting to dig down to something more interesting. The word ‘Buddha’ means ‘Awakened’. It is a past participle, denoting a completed or perfected state. The finality of the Buddha’s Awakening is fundamental to the whole Buddhist literature and is, for example, a major theme of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. To say ‘the Buddha is not Awakened’ is an oxymoron.

Now we could leap up and down and say, ‘But that’s just irrational.’ And maybe it is. But how many people choose their religion for rational reasons? I certainly didn’t. And the vast majority of people believe in a religion because that’s what their parents believe. If the Secular Buddhist position really is irrational, then this is not a criticism, it is an acknowledgement that forces other than reason are at play. And so: what might those forces be?

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239 thoughts on “Secular Buddhism discussion

  1. The conversation touched on key issues and differences without getting heated. I doubt anyone’s minds were changed, but it was very helpful for everyone to gain a better understanding of the other view.

    I too was struck by the notion of process as key to what adherents of Secular Buddhism are doing in their practice. Thinking of the Buddha as experiencing a continual process that just ended at his death seemed to me like it was mostly a way to avoid accepting anything transcendental, i.e. if the Buddha’s awakened, then he must have attained something that’s beyond what most others have attained. Is it possible that an Enlightenment concern with egalitarianism is the reason why they refuse to accept the possibility of a transcendental reality? Honestly, I don’t think that’s it exactly. I think it has more to do with an attachment to samsara and a desire to fix it. Either way, the problem is mostly the result of getting stuck on the term “transcendental.” Maybe they should think more about the nature of conditioned phenomena, which is, well, not reality, such that awakening is nothing more complicated than having the unwavering ability to know that, ultimately, samsaric existence is not real.

    And then there was the issue of Mara. As I understand the stories, part of the point is that, upon awakening, the Buddha did not fix or end samsara. The unwholesome roots still existed. The Buddha encountered them all the time. The Buddha’s awakening did not liberate him from having to deal with Devadatta trying to drop a boulder on him, for example. Or, for a better example, the Buddha’s awakening did not stop Ajatasattu from committing parricide; but check out the way the Buddha dealt with Ajatasattu when this new young king (who had killed his own father and one of the Buddha’s followers) came to the Buddha for advice (DN 2).

  2. Yes, quoting the ‘Mara stories’ as evidence that the Buddha’s enlightenment was somehow incomplete seems to be missing the point. That the Buddha faced temptation (however you interpret the nature of Mara) throughout his life is surely no more remarkable that he was subject to physical illness and injury. In both cases the important factor is the equanimous manner in which he dealt with them. It is just this that distinguishes an enlightened being from those of us who respond with various combinations of greed, anger and delusion, thereby experiencing dukkha.

  3. Would the following statement be a fair way of summarizing your point?

    It’s possible to face temptations without being tempted at all.

  4. Just to clarify the two senses of the word ‘tempt': it’s possible to face enticements without allowing them to give rise to desire – in the same way as it’s possible to face illness or injury without allowing them to give rise to distress.

  5. But then is the enticement the product of a subjective psychological process, or is it something external that tries to wheedle its way in (like a virus, perhaps)?

  6. In the case of the Buddha and all arahants, I would think that there’s no unwholesome or unskillful subjective psychological process for the external objects that entice the rest of us to come together with.

    That which entices me when the two come together does not entice them. Why this is a problem for adherents of Secular Buddhism, I don’t know. My point in the original comment above is that they appear not to understand the nature of samsara and, not understanding it, will spin their wheels accomplishing little more than finding a bit of temporary comfort.

  7. I was introduced to this concept of ‘progressive disendarkment’ recently & really liked it, because you can look at your practice/life & see how this is happening even though enlightenment might still seem a long way off!

    But what Ratanatdhammo said about it being due to an attachment to samsara & a desire to fix it makes a lot of sense. I don’t think people like Buddha or Jesus could have had such an impact unless they had transcended the ordinary state of mind.

    Which takes me off on a tangent – I realised this morning whilst meditating that I really like this idea of a God & worshipping a God, even though I’m a Buddhist. I don’t know whether it’s because I was raised a Catholic or because that is my ancestry. But as soon as I remembered (because I have had the same thought before a few times but always forget about it) what ‘worshipping a God’ really means I realised where secular Buddhism goes wrong. Worshipping a God means loving reality, pursuing truth & goodness & compassion, repentence (e.g. shame/regret that I have got caught by Mara & sincerely desiring to follow the path). The Recollective Awareness meditation style I’ve been using lately (secular Buddhist) is great for observing & understanding oneself but there is a potential for a lot of misery to be created by the removal of faith. What I mean by the removal of faith is trusting the mind, trusting the organism to find it’s way (which is what the secular Buddhist teachers I learnt from advocated). This is where I find the concepts of God & Mara & faith (which is really just what one has learnt from experience anyway) to be very useful in giving me the energy to choose wholesome over non-wholesome, present moment over fantasy, simply because it is black & white & sometimes my mind needs that to cut through all the rubbish & abandon what isn’t right (whether that’s obsessing about renovations like it has been recently or whatever).

    I’m sure this sounds irrational but irrational is okay, yay :)

    ultimately i think secular Buddhism is a cultural adaptation. Because of our adherence to the belief system of rationality (western scientific) we feel cynical about & uncomfortable with certain aspects of Buddhism that clash with that culture. I say ‘we’ because I share the mind-set, but I don’t think it is correct but actually ethnocentric. For example I trust what Ajahn Brahm says above what my rational mind tells me because my experience has shown this to be sensible.

  8. the idea of ‘God’ is useful because in our delusion of self we need something non-self to reach out to (i’m talking about people like myself). Once that delusion is penetrated, overcome, then the concept wouldn’t be helpful.

  9. “Is it possible that an Enlightenment concern with egalitarianism is the reason why they refuse to accept the possibility of a transcendental reality? Honestly, I don’t think that’s it exactly. I think it has more to do with an attachment to samsara and a desire to fix it.”

    We don’t accept things not in evidence. Provide a clear definition for transcendental reality, and some evidence of it that can be falsified and is predictive, and we’re totally with you. That’s all we’re asking for. It’s not a refusal to accept the possibility of any assertion, we just want more than stories. Otherwise it is no more compelling to us than any other claims about heaven, Valhalla, etc.

    And again we see the discriminatory attitude that secular Buddhists must be “attached” to something as an explanation for us not thinking like our more traditional fellow Buddhists. Not so. We are simply not attached to what’s not in evidence.

  10. “Provide a clear definition for transcendental reality, and some evidence of it that can be falsified and is predictive, and we’re totally with you.”

    “…some evidence that can be falsified…” Is that really what you meant to type?

  11. What you’re describing – ascribing to others with the collective “we”? – is not Buddhism, as you’ve jettisoned the entire concept of taking refuge in the Buddha (who was self-awakened and taught others how to awaken), the Dhamma (the teaching), and the Sangha (proof that others have awakened and can help point the way).

    The entire point is that you will not have all the evidence you want until you’ve awakened. Demanding that you must have evidence before you’ve cleared the dust from your eyes just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Demanding that anyone provide you with a description, i.e. “clear definition,” for transcendental reality is the best evidence I could have that what you’re talking about is mostly nonsense. Achieving awakening isn’t about attaching to something, it’s about letting go of all attachments, including the attachment to self. The only question is whether your Batchelor teaching will get you there. It’ll get you some of the way. That’s abotu it.

    Frankly, I’m not sure it matters whether or not you find any idea more compelling than “other” claims about heaven, Valhalla, etc, though your suggestion that what Buddhists are talking about amounts to heaven or Valhalla is simply ridiculous.

    Anyway, my concern isn’t what you believe so much as it is you teaching others that what you believe is what the Buddha taught, because it isn’t.

  12. Ratanadhamma,

    I am confused as to where you get your ideas or concepts from. mOst people on here sort of put in references to where their knowledge comes from or state that they are ordained people who have studied the dharma with various tradition and teachers, or if it is their own thoughts or ideas on a topic state this.

    Where does you information come from, what linage or teacher are you connected with, how come you never reference anything that you put on this blogsite?

    Are you a student of Ajhan Sujatos, or Ajahn Brahmali’s or Ajahn Brahm’s?

  13. Another thought:

    You require evidence for a reality beyond all conditioned phenomena. It doesn’t work that way because, while all sankharas are dhammas, there is the unconditioned dhamma beyond all sankharas. Thus, you’re asking for evidence – something from momentary, conditioned reality – to support something beyond all momentary conditioned realities.

    By the way, through which of the six sense gates would you like this evidence? The Buddha taught that such evidence doesn’t exist short of someone who has let go of all attachments to all conditioned phenomena – including attachment to self – experiencing it.

    I’m not sure why you think you can whip out your pair of scissors, cut up the Buddha’s teaching, and claim that the result is somehow what the Buddha would have taught if he just weren’t so caught up in his time and place.

    If you think it’s better than what the Buddha taught, that’s fine. But what you’re presenting isn’t what the Buddha taught. Just accept it, admit it, and move on.

  14. Dear The Secularist Buddhist

    I have just been listening to your excellent podcasts with Steven Hagen, Glenn Wallis, Stephen Batchelor & Tim Ward etc.

    What a breath of fresh air!

    re this current chat with Ratanadhammo et al – as you probably remember, in his podcast Stephen Batchelor makes a good point by saying it is probably fruitless trying to persuade a commited traditionist in the strength of your position – they would probably need to start seriously questioning aspects of the traditional approach first before being open to an alternative.

    Keep up the excellent podcasts

    PS can you get Stephen back to discuss rebirth? I should start giving my dana to you guys….

    cheers

    Geoff

  15. PS re Ratanadhammo’s comment:

    .”….Anyway, my concern isn’t what you believe so much as it is you teaching others that what you believe is what the Buddha taught, because it isn’t.”

    Why, were you there to hear what the Buddha actually taught, Ratanadhammo?

    As Stephen Schettini – “Reflections from an old mutual friend” (one of links Bhante Sujato refers to at the beginning of his first post on Secular Buddhism) :

    “I don’t know exactly what the Buddha taught. I wasn’t there. Even if I had been, I can’t say what I’d have made of his words, let alone his presence and body language. After all, there’s far more to communication (and miscommunication) than mere ideas. What do you think?”

    (I’ll have to listen to his podcasts as well!)

    Cheers Geoff

  16. Geoff,

    I’m sure the podcasts are excellent. Sincere people who are basing a lot of what they’re saying on part of what the Buddha taught are sure to have a lot of great things to say.

    The simple fact is that no amount of searching among the phenomena of samsaric existence is going to produce evidence for anything other than the phenomena of samsaric existence, which includes evidence of a lot of ego-stroking that keeps one stuck in the phenomena of samsaric existence.

  17. Ratanadhammo,

    But what if you are agnostic / sceptical about devas, various realms of existence & rebirth?

    The beauty of the secular approach is you don’t have to necessarily accept all doctrinal aspects of the teachings (as laid out in the Pali Canon), which people like Batchelor have been courageous enough to reinterpret for our current modern Western culture. (By the way Batchelor defines ‘secular’ to means “of our age” not simply ‘non-religious’.)

    We are all unavoidably influenced by our culture. If we see the Buddha (Gotama) as a human and not as a man/god, we would accept that he too was unavoidably influenced by the culture of his time & place 2,500 years ago. Some of this is not necessarily relevant to us today. (Of course there are others who can put forward the secular perspective much more comprehensively and persuasively than me.)

    I think the crucial distinction between the ‘traditionalist’ and ‘secularist’ approaches is whether we see the Buddha as a man or as a man/god hybrid. This is the only way I can understand, for example, Bhante Sujato believing the Buddha was able to see back billions (trillions?) of years into his past lives (see his post Secular Buddhism – some more bits).

    In all due respect, I also think discussing these issues with you and other staunch traditionists is largely a waste of time because you are a committed ‘true believer’ who has much at stake in bringing your beliefs into question. I am in the fortunate position of being open to both perspectives.

    All the best

    Geoff

  18. Geoff,

    I get what you’re saying. I’m not sure what I’ve said that has given you the impression that I see the Buddha as a man/god hybrid. Honestly, there is nothing at stake in bringing my beliefs into question, other than the possibility of being steered down a path that is painfully limited to conditioned phenomena and nothing more. You can pin all the labels – traditionist, true believer… whatever – on me that you like, but all you’re really doing is making a weak effort at grouping me with others in order to set up a straw man that you can more easily knock down.

    In other words, Batchelor apparently is teaching you more about the joys of using logical fallacies to “win” debates than about seeking truth.

    There’s really nothing much of value in the repackaging called Secular Buddhism that isn’t already part of the Theravada teachings or ripped off from Buddha’s teaching as presented in the Pali Canon.

    Frankly, what I see this Secular Buddhism doing is substituting all the sets of add-ons found in various Mahayana traditions (eg. devotional practices emphasizing the call for assistance from Buddhas and Bodhisattvas) with another crowd-pleasing add-on in the form of familiar Enlightenment values that really have little – not nothing necessarily, but certainly little – to do with what the Buddha discovered.

    And then Secular Buddhists need to see to their attachment to self, as demanding to see evidence of the unconditioned before they awaken to it totally misses the point of the three characteristics of existence.

  19. Ratanadhammo,

    As I mentioned earlier, Batchelor made the observation that ‘traditionalists’ (for lack of a better term) would most likely have to start having serious reservations on aspects of those teachings before being open to alternative ‘secularist’ perspectives. (Batchelor adds that he has seen and heard from many ‘traditionalists’ who have experienced this.)

    That is simply a cheap shot you make claiming I am more interested to “win debates that seeking truth”. I don’ t think that applies to Batchelor et al either. You are simply demeaning their purpose. In fact in my observation of this secular discussion on this blog, it is Bhante Sujato if anyone who has reverted to trying to score debating points than answer awkward questions put to him by the likes of Glenn Wallis etc.

    Yes secularists want an evidence-based practice. If not, why choose Buddhist practice, as you apparently have, over say a yoga practice? By the way, this point on the problems of a faith-based practice stumped Bhikkhu Bodhi (as I referred to in one my earlier replies). (Although I haven’t looked into it, I am sure there are excellent aspects to yoga.)

    I also want to say secularists like Batchelor et al pay far more respect to the Pali Canon than ‘traditionalists” pay to Batchelor’s views. (eg when was the last time you or Sujato paid any attention to what Batchelor is actually trying to say and perhaps acknowledge that he maybe making some valid points?) Instead Bhante for example just dismisses him as a ‘amateurish’ when in fact he has been carefully studying the Pali texts for twenty years.

    This conversation could continue but I see little point as I think we are on different wavelengths. Despite your best attempts, I suspect like me you too will continue to be “painfully limited to conditioned phenomena”.

    Like having irritating people like me on this blog – lol

    All the best

    Geoff

  20. No amount of serious reservations about any aspect of the teaching as presented in the Pali Canon would lead me to the limited teaching that Batchelor is inappropriately attributing to the Buddha.

    As it is, Batchelor has convinced a lot of people that what he’s selling is what the Buddha would have taught if he were alive today. Well, it isn’t.

  21. PS – if I may add a little more on the subject of debating secularism…..

    By accusing me of trying to “win debates rather than seeking truth”, I think Ratanadhammo has raised an important issue about debating and “seeking truth”. If I may make a few observations:

    When answering my queries concerning “supernatural phenomena” (eg devas, various realms of existence, rebirth etc) with Bhante Sujato, it is telling how he responds.

    For example, I asked Bhante several questions concerning the Buddha recollecting past lives (as part of the the Three Knowledges on the night of his enlightenment). Rather than address my specific query on how the Buddha was able conceive of his past life as (say) a primitive mammal or a simple celled organism, as evolutionary theory would suggest, Bhante simply chose to ignore this point. (If interested see Bhante’s recent post: Secular Buddhism – some more bits).

    Bhante has done this on several occasions. When I have raised a difficult doctrinal issue (for me at least – another asking exactly how craving leads to rebirth), he sidesteps this query and answers the more straightforward part of my question.

    Is this a case of trying to “win debates rather than seeking truth”? I don’t know.

    On another issue, in his recent exchange with Winton Higgins I didn’t think Bhante presented particularly well. I suspect part of the problem is the level of deference he receives as a monk and Abbot. Bhante is simply not challenged much in his regular talks. (I have observed this many times over the last 18 months). Rather than having a more open style of presentation (as Winton is familar with in academia), Bhante is use to people keeping quiet and listening to him. (I know there are questions at the end but the emphasis is on courteousness and deference.)

    What this means is that when he is challenged by someone of the calibre of Winton or Glenn Wallis, to me he comes across as defensive and unconvincing.

    Also while I have a bone to pick with Bhante…. (I know he can’t defend himself as he is on the Rains retreat) – I don’t particularly like the way he gives the impression he can draw on his “text critical” credentials to silence objections, when academics such as Glenn Wallis have similar credentials. (And simply dismissing Batchelor as ‘amateurish’ is disrespectful – how much has he actually listened to what Batchelor is trying to say? – there are plenty of his recent talks available on podcast.)

    cheers

    Geoff

  22. I wasn’t accusing you of anything sinister, so much as I was pointing out the fact that your response was partially based on a bad assumption and partially based on a logical fallacy. From what you’ve written, it sounds like you learned that particular fallacy from Batchelor.

    Anyway, if you’re going keep banging your head against a wall (I rather you wouldn’t!, but if you are going to keep doing it), at least you might eventually penetrate one of the three characteristics of existence – dukkha – in depth. It’s possible, I suppose.

    I don’t know that you’d ever penetrate either of the other two with your current line of questioning.

  23. My apologies for the lateness of my reply, work has been extremely busy and I’m only just starting to catch up.

    > Regarding what is called secular Buddhism, in the article linked above, Dr. Higgins writes that Batchelor discerned a “deep agnosticism” in the Buddha’s own teaching. That’s not entirely correct. Batchelor offered assertions based on misinterpretations of a few passages from a couple of suttas. Batchelor didn’t discern a “deep agnosticism” in the Buddha’s teaching so much as he inaccurately asserted that there is a “deep agnosticism” in the Buddha’s teaching. There’s a difference. To my knowledge, the Buddha didn’t teach that he wasn’t sure about what he had discovered upon awakening.

    Nor mine, I agree, that is not found to my knowledge in the canon. This is Batchelor’s interpretation of what he is seeing there. Bear in mind, that is only one way in which people find an appeal of secular Buddhism — I do not, nor do many others. We find the entire discussion of “what Buddha said” to be a fun diversion, but ultimately, useless as evidence for what parts of that teaching bear out in the real world.

    > Otherwise, Dr. Higgins review of the shift from a monastic to a lay setting as Buddhist practices moved to the West (where, he says, it has attracted attention among those more familiar with the category of voluntary association in Western civil society) is entirely irrelevant to the discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of this secular Buddhism. Those who find benefits in the limited practices of what is called secular Buddhism, who seek a little bit of extra comfort in samsaric existence and who care not at all about the worldview of the Buddha, about the discovery he made, or about the goal of the Dhammavinaya, which is to help others reach the same shore, should not be tricked into thinking that the Buddha was really just one of them. He wasn’t. It’s just a fact.

    You’re making a fact statement about the worldview of a figure from over two thousand years ago, which no one can do. You have a belief in it, you can conjecture about it, but you don’t *know* about Gotama’s intent any more than a televangelist *knows* about God’s intent. Batchelor is engaging in interpretation, in conjecture. Again, it’s fine to disagree, that’s the nature of such dialogues.

    Higgins’s discussion is relevant in that it provides an evolutionary track of what has contributed to the formation of secular Buddhist practice. He’s talking about our history, to us it’s interesting and relevant.

    You call our practice “limited”, which is plain old discrimination from the assumed position of spiritual superiority.

    And in light of recent allegations of child molestation by Buddhist monastics (http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-monk-sex-cases-20110724,0,7057292,full.story), Bikkhu Bodhi’s misaligned outburst and disrespectful behavior at Garrison, outdated views of women limiting their right to ordain, Alan Wallace likening people with different views to Hitler, and the plethora of self-serving actions in Thailand by monastics outlined *by a monk* in Broken Buddha, I’m finding such claims of spiritual superiority to be utterly without merit.

    You are incorrect, we do care about the world view of Gotama. That’s the point — he would have been the product of his culture, just like we are. And we’re not in India thousands of years ago. Suffering and its causes have not changed, but our environment, challenges, and opportunities certainly have.

    > It’s incorrect to say that all Batchelor is doing is participating in the “re-rendering of Buddhism in culturally appropriate terms for Westerners who, from the 1970s, began to practice meditation seriously in this tradition in significant numbers.” To put this another way, if all the spiritual guidance and writings of the monks and nuns since the 1970s were taken away, or even if those who are teaching us and writing today were just to stop now, it would become apparent in no time that what is called secular Buddhism is not Buddhism at all and that it offers little more than the therapeutic value that, say, a good vacation can offer. In other words, it offers nothing more than a respite from work, materialism, and the fast pace of the modern world, much like what a good vacation offers.

    Actually our practice offers much more than the therapeutic benefits of a good vacation. It is very positively transformative, and of great benefit in how we engage with the problems that naturally occur in life. You’re welcome to doubt that, that’s okay.

    We are maintaining a designation of “Buddhist” precisely because many of us — including Batchelor, by the way — see a hazard in reducing the dhamma to only MBSR. That is not what we want, nor is it at all what has been said.

    > Finally, vipassana practice is about perceiving dukkha, anicca and anatta directly as a means to enlightenment. So what then is the goal of secular vipassana meditation practice? If it’s about achieving insight into the miserable nihilism that ultimately is the sum total of Batchelor’s teaching, then may their practice go well.

    To answer your question, it is still about experiencing an insight into dukkha, anicca, and anatta. When you say “directly”, though, we probably differ.

    > My assessment of what is called secular Buddhism does not stem from a sense that there is nothing of value in the practice that is presented in by people calling themselves secular Buddhists. It stems from a concern about Batchelor and others making claims about the Buddha’s teaching as part of what appears to be an effort to inappropriately claim authority for their piecemeal approach to his teaching.

    Batchelor claims no authority, none of us are. We’re quite open about that. Fundamentalists claim authority.

    > Batchelor’s teaching is obviously based on what the Buddha taught. It may even be better than what the Buddha taught (I don’t think it is). But it is not what the Buddha taught. If he cared about the Buddha’s teaching at all, he would stop claiming that it is.

    But you’re claiming you know what the Buddha taught, if you know what someone else is saying isn’t it. What is the one “true” Buddhism from which you’re making your own claim? There’s quite a nice discussion of some points of the construction of the canon in an article in Insight Meditation Journal by Chip Hartranft that may help dispense with the false claim of a perfect canon.

    Saying Batchelor is uncaring about the teaching is just factually incorrect, and setting him up as being so if he continues his work is equally unjustified. He cares quite deeply, and this is one way he’s showing that care. Many of us resonate with this interpretation, you do not — that’s fine.

    > It’s not Buddhism without the ultimate goal of the cessation of suffering. The temporary reduction of suffering is fine, but the Third and Fourth Noble Truths have a goal. Honestly, I am comfortable saying that any philosophy that does not uphold the cessation of suffering as the ultimate goal is not Buddhism. Batchelor offers the temporary reduction of suffering. Unless I’m missing something, there’s nothing more to his teaching. You’ve missed my point. What you’re calling Buddhism – albeit of a secular kind – does not offer a cure to suffering. It offers nothing more than a temporary reduction of suffering.

    I agree with what you’re saying here for the most part. Where we tend to diverge is that I see no evidence for a permanent end to suffering. There may be, but of the 350 million Buddhist world wide, how many have achieved it? How do we define this ending of suffering? How do we test for that fact claim in the natural world?

    I’ve known, respected, and learned from monastics who’ve been working on this perfect enlightenment for the better part of seventy years, and they still get irritated and snappish — clear and present evidence that they do not have a permanent achievement of equanimity. And frankly, with examples like that of wonderful, sincere, learned people who have been able to dedicate almost their entire life to practicing, and yet not achieving such a goal… Yes, I’m quite content to have the temporary relief from suffering, because that’s all that’s in evidence.

    I would be very happy to be convinced otherwise, of course. What’s the criteria for enlightenment? How do we test for it? And here’s the *real* problem: even if you have someone, we all agree they never get upset, etc., we still don’t see this happening with *any* kind of consistency or success.

    I’m a runner, but not a gifted one. I’m content to complete marathons in my own very slow time, and I’m content to continue lessening suffering in *this* life. You’re welcome to do a two-hour marathon, more power to you.

    > What confuses me most about this secular Buddhism is why its adherents feel the need to assert that it is an accurate – indeed, a more accurate – representation of what the Buddha taught. It isn’t. There’s not even much to debate about the fact that it isn’t, which may explain why Batchelor – one of the main advocates who bases his claim to having authority to spout nonsense on the fact that he was a former monk – decided a few years back that he really had to stop debating it with people who know better.

    “Who know better”? You have a perfect recording of Gotama’s talks, that must be nice! Perhaps you could share that, us lowly “limited” practitioners would like to learn from our “betters”. Then maybe you “betters” won’t insist we ride in the back of the bus. “Spout nonsense”… You believe in talking animals, levitation, teleportation, invisible spirits who insert rebirth consciousness as sperm penetrates egg in the back seat of mom’s Buick, and *we’re* spouting nonsense?

    Unless you don’t. Which would be welcome news, as it would show you have a rational grasp of the natural world and can discern at least some fact claims that are made in the canon may not be exactly as represented.

    > Get Batchelor here to debate what could possibly be the basis for the moral order of the universe as he understands it. Would it be e=mc2? What else could it be? Let me guess, the master of agnostic nonsense would say, “I just don’t know.” The Buddha had a few things to say about people who spun entire webs based on the unedifying phrase “I just don’t know.” Come to think of it, I think he more or less mocked them.

    I think he may have mocked people who said “I know for sure.”

    The reason we tend not to debate people who have faith assertions is that there is no reasoning with them, in the same way there is no reasoning with Creationists — we speak at cross purposes. And subject ourselves to childish personal attacks like that of Wallace and you, who “know better” from our “limited” practice…

    > The Secular Buddhist: I just noticed that you provided the link to your website. Your Mission Statement begins with this assertion: “Share accurate information, clarify misperceptions, and critically examine the teaching and practice of early Buddhism of interest to a secular audience.”

    Yes, that’s the mission of the podcast called The Secular Buddhist. I also have had brain scientists on the podcast, and *gasp* even a Catholic astronomer! It is not the mission of secular Buddhists the world over, it’s just a podcast.

    The world domination plans are at least another year away.

    > Any critical examination of the teaching and practice of early Buddhism must be a comprehensive examination of the teaching and practice of early Buddhism. You cannot dismiss this fact by adding to your assertion a clause like “of interest to a secular audience,” as if that gives you license to be selective in your examination while still calling it critical. You certainly have a right to chop up the Buddha’s teaching if you like. You should not, however, pretend that the results of what you’ve done to it amount to a critical examination of the teaching and practice of early Buddhism.

    Why, actually, yes, I can. I did, in fact. That’s a fact assertion that *is* in evidence. And let me give you an example of how that “of interest to a secular audience” plays out in a podcast (not a comprehensive encyclopedia of Buddhism, which is what you’re incorrectly insisting this must be to have any validity). Claims not in evidence about other lifetimes are not of interest to a secular audience, so we’re not going to discuss them. We are going to and do examine things like the effects of meditation on the brain. That is one of the outcomes of *critical* examination of Buddhist teachings on vipassana — what is actually happening there in the biological system of this fathom long body.

    This is not a podcast of Theravadin dhamma talks, nor was it ever intended to be. There are lots of places to go for that, this isn’t it. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, you don’t have to listen.

    Others do, about a thousand people every week at this time, and growing. Especially as people tire of being called “limited” by fundamentalists.

    > After an odd nod to the style of the Pali Canon, i.e. your statement that you’ve made an attempt to imitate something of its style, you assert that your goal is to separate “what is accurate and what is not” in order to arrive at the “best understanding of what early Buddhism presents.” Well, what do you think that early Buddhism presents according to the Pali Canon?

    Suffering and the extinguishing of it, just like Gotama said. Do I think that many of the other things in the canon (including talking animals, levitation, and teleportation) are accurate representations of fact? No. But I do think the eightfold path is a valid practice for people to engage more positively with life.

    > You write: “The Pali canon is a common root in Buddhist thought, and offers practical insights to leading a tranquil, happy life without dependency on anything but oneself.” The Buddha’s teaching as presented in the Pali Canon is most certainly not about merely “leading a tranquil, happy life” in the sense that you think it means, i.e. an ability to achieve a lasting happiness in this life. If you believe that such a lasting happiness is possible in samsaric existence, fine. But you cannot claim that such a belief accurately reflects the Buddha’s teaching as presented in the Pali Canon.

    You’re misrepresenting my words with the same wonderful facility with which you misrepresent Batchelor’s. I wrote that it “offers practical insights to leading a tranquil, happy life,” etc. — and it does. I most certainly did not say that’s all it has, or that it’s “merely” about that. Nor do I think there is any problem with achieving a lasting happiness in this life than there is in the pleasant abiding of jhana.

    > And you certainly are free to think that you can cure suffering “without dependency on anything but [yourself],” but you can’t dismiss the fact that the Pali Canon presents the Dhammavinaya for a good reason.

    Child molesting monks, gender discrimination, facilitating selling girls in Thailand into prostitution, Bikkhu Bodhi’s outburst…. You can sing about the wonders of the vinaya when it produces results more positive, stable, and measurable than that.

    > While it’s possible to become self-awakened, it’s exceedingly rare. That’s why the Buddha taught the Dhamma and formed the Sangha. To my knowledge, as presented in the Pali Canon, every one of the bhikkhus and bhikkhunis who entered the stream from the time the Buddha awakened to his Parinibbana did so as a result of his teaching, i.e. they did so not without dependency on anything but themselves. You have inappropriately tossed taking refuge in the Three Jewels as if there’s no basis for it in the Pali Canon.

    Rare or non-existent, but let’s set that aside for the moment. You’re again misrepresenting me, so let’s clarify: I said without “dependency on anything but oneself.” That’s the admonishment of Gotama, not me. “Therefore, Ananda, be ye an island unto yourself, a refuge unto yourself, seeking no external refuge; with the Teaching as your island, the Teaching your refuge, seeking no other refuge.”

    And it doesn’t mean we operate in a vacuum, that’s the logical fallacy reduction to the absurd. Of course you need to have heard the teaching, I never said you didn’t.

    > The closest thing to a goal of your secular Buddhism that I can find on your website amounts to finding a bit of comfort in samsaric existence, what you call “leading a tranquil, happy life” on the Mission page, and the notion that there being a community of practitioners is integral to “the positive development of society” on the Guiding Principles page. Neither of these goals is what is presented in the Pali Canon as the ultimate goal of the Dhammavinaya.

    As you seem to have missed it, I’ll just reiterate it here — it’s a companion website for a *podcast*, not a political movement, not a teacher’s site, it’s for people who are interested in secular practice. Per the home page’s very first sentence:

    “This is the companion website to the podcast The Secular Buddhist, where we examine early Buddhist teaching and practice with a critical eye to its secular application. If this is your first time here, you may want to check out the Mission page for some specifics on what this podcast is about in a little more depth.”

    Note the part “on what this PODCAST is about”. “Secular application”, not traditional application. Of course we’re interpreting, that’s the idea, because we’re not in India thousands of years ago.

    > If you return to Bhante Sujato’s blog, we should take a closer look at the way in which your views would twist the meaning of a sutta like the Upanissa Sutta, only to rob from it what the Buddha taught about the ability to gain knowledge of things as they really are and only to deny the ultimate goal of the Buddha’s teaching as presented in the Pali Canon, all while you’re inappropriately pretending that all you’re doing is examining critically his insight and teaching as presented in the Pali Canon.

    Why wouldn’t I return with such a welcoming attitude as yours to greet me and other secularists?! Here are the top accusatory hits from *just your final paragraph*:

    twist
    rob
    deny
    pretending

    This is exactly why most secular Buddhists have the good sense to stay away, attacks like this instead of positive, friendly engagement and meaningful dialogue. THAT is what turns people away from traditional practice, and that’s why we stay away.

  24. First, I’m sorry I offended you by pointing out that Batchelor is inappropriately attributing to the Buddha a teaching that is mostly just a limited version of what the Buddha taught. If pointing it out is the reason why secular Buddhists stay away from the Buddha’s teaching, that’s not my fault.

    I have already more than sufficiently addressed your insistence on the need for evidence before you can or will accept the existence of the very thing the Buddha discovered, i.e. the unconditioned, a bliss that is not based on anything that can be discovered by means of the sense gates or concepts that are formulated based on sensory experience. As I see it, this is exactly what separates you from me. It’s the reason I’ve mentioned the three characteristics of existence a few times.

    You wrote:

    I agree with what you’re saying here for the most part. Where we tend to diverge is that I see no evidence for a permanent end to suffering. There may be, but of the 350 million Buddhist world wide, how many have achieved it?

    Indeed, and there are probably now far fewer who will penetrate the depth of the full teaching thanks to the likes of Stephen Batchelor. Anyway, you see no evidence for a permanent end to suffering despite the Buddha (who achieved it), the Dhamma (his teaching that helped others achieve it), and the Sangha (those who achieved it thanks to his teaching)? Really?

    What you write about the flaws of some in the Sangha as evidence of the Vinaya being flawed isn’t really worth commenting on, other than to say that the flaws of a particular monk or nun or a particular institution are evidence of nothing more than the flaws of a particular monk or nun or a particular institution.

    And you wrote:

    We find the entire discussion of “what Buddha said” to be a fun diversion, but ultimately, useless as evidence for what parts of that teaching bear out in the real world.

    Frankly, I agree. What we have in the Pali Canon comes the closest to the historical Buddha’s full teaching. You presumptuously think we should take a pair of scissors to it or tack things onto it that were not meant to be there. I, instead, think we should discuss it and penetrate its meaning as best we can. Of course, we would have to start with your assertion that, when the Buddha said he was a fully self-awakened Buddha, he was wrong or lying. You really think that? You really think that no one has fully awakened? That’s what secular Buddhism is teaching people? Ok.

    You wrote about your podcast:

    This is not a podcast of Theravadin dhamma talks, nor was it ever intended to be. There are lots of places to go for that, this isn’t it. If you don’t like it, that’s fine, you don’t have to listen.

    All I said was that your podcasts appear to be the product of sincerity and that they’re based on a lot of what the Buddha taught, though you do seem to limit it to the conditioned phenomena and take away from it the very thing that makes the Buddha, well, the Buddha, i.e. one who awakened to the unconditioned. In other words, the best part of your teaching comes from the Buddha’s teaching as we have it in the Pali Canon, but that it is a reduced and painfully limited version of it.

    According to your own words in the comment to which I’m responding, that’s what it is.

    Well, if it helps you to walk away from a discussion rather than just admit that you’re too full of self to trust the Buddha’s teaching as best we have it and use it the way it was intended (to help beings reduce suffering AND achieve awakening), claim to be offended all you like and walk away.

  25. “Indeed, and there are probably now far fewer who will penetrate the depth of the full teaching thanks to the likes of Stephen Batchelor” ??????

  26. Batchelor strips too much out of the teaching, reducing it to conditioned phenomena that are accessible by reason and to sensory perception.

    The Buddha taught something far greater. Not only the links of dependent origination, but also the three characteristics of existence. The entire point is to experience the unconditioned that is beyond reason and beyond sensory perception, to unlearn what we have learned, to form skillful habits, etc.

    Batchelor keeps you stuck in conditioned phenomena.

    It’s just not what the Buddha taught.

    Also, Batchelor seems to be reacting to various communal religious beliefs, which were add-ons in Buddhism, with other add-ons (including the Enlightenment values that are familiar to most of the people who follow him) in order to speak to the needs of people who need a communal belief/philosophical system. That Batchelor is taking away the goal of Buddist practice is his business, I suppose. But attributing it to the Buddha, not ok.

  27. Dear The Secular Buddhist,

    I had better be quick because I’m at work (how secular of me – don’t tell my boss!)……

    Just want to say what a great piece you have written (I like your format – like your response to Wallace – although I was a little confused at first – I thought what Ratanadhammo was saying were your thoughts!)

    I’ll have to give it more attention later but you are spot on about the lack of friendliness from the ‘traditionalists’ (for lack of better term).

    I have to say again that Bhikkuni Ordination fuss (with Brahm & Sujato etc) was mind blowing – I walked in on this group just when it happened (late 09). I couldn’t believe that in this day & age there could be a serious issue about whether men & women should be treated equally (especially from the likes of a certain Western senior Ajahn – who will remain nameless – whose books I’ve been buying over the years!!) . I was also blowed away by the spitefulness between the monastics from the two camps.

    I remember telling my wife about it at the time who simly said “but aren’t Buddhists suppose to be peaceful and friendly?”

    Then you come on to this blog & get your head bitten off by the likes of Ratanadhammo. All I can say is I hope he’s not the PR man for monastic recruitment because I reckon his job might be under threat……

    Rock on TSB

  28. Geoff,

    Why do you insist on continually whipping out a few talking points and taking personal shots rather than discussing the substance of this so-called secular Buddhism, an oddly self-centered philosophy that nonetheless calls itself Buddhist, which oddly denies that the Buddha was fully awakened and oddly argues that his teaching was not the product of his experience with the unconditioned, all while claiming to know better about what the historical Buddha actually taught or would be teaching if he were alive today?

  29. Dana Nourie,

    I am responding to you on this thread because this is where we’ve been having the most recent conversation and because you can read my comments above to see my explanations of the difference between Batchelor’s teaching and the depth of what we know of the historical Buddha’s teaching.

    You wrote:

    Why do you feel so threatened by secular Buddhism that you have to bad mouth Batchelor?

    I do not feel threatened by secular Buddhism in the slightest. I am speaking openly and honestly about my view of Stephen Batchelor’s teaching and have explained clearly why I think it amounts to nothing more than rip off of the Buddha’s teaching from the Pali Canon (a painfully limited one at that, as it insists that people not aspire to anything beyond conditioned phenomena of samsaric existence), combined with the crowd-pleasing add-on of familiar Enlightenment values.

    My only problem with Batchelor is that he’s trying to convince people that his teaching is what the Buddha taught or would be teaching if he were alive today. It isn’t. There is the teaching that is presented in the Pali Canon, and there is Batchelor’s painfully limited and self-centered CliffsNotes version of what we have of the Buddha’s teaching as presented in the Pali Canon. People have a right to know that there is a huge difference.

    You wrote:

    The thicket of views you appear to be caught in seems to be causing you to lash out.

    Thicket of views? I have written about what the Buddha taught concerning unsatisfactoriness (the causal links of dependent origination, dealing with the nature of conditioned phenomena, is all about their inherent inability to satisfy), concerning attachment to conditioned phenomena (the craving and attachment that are the cause of suffering), concerning the three characteristics of existence (dukkha, anicca and anatta, which includes the view that we can end the suffering), and the fact that the Buddha clearly taught that there is a goal to our practice (the eightfold path!).

    My entire point has been that Batchelor et al are perfectly free to believe whatever you all like, but you should expect to be call out for severely reducing what the Buddha taught while inappropriately cutting up the teaching in the Pali Canon in order to assert that it is the sum total of what the Buddha taught. It isn’t.

    The Buddha taught awakening to the unconditioned and the bliss that exists in experiencing the unconditioned.

    Batchelor teaches wallowing in conditioned phenomena with no aspiration for the cessation of suffering and tries to convince people that his painfully limited teaching is what the Buddha taught. It isn’t.

    You remind me so much of heterosexuals who adamantly object to gay marriage.

    I haven’t had on opportunity to state my view of gay marriage in this course of this discussion, but I’ll take this opportunity now to say that people who use religion to justify denouncing gay marriage and who tell young people that homosexuals are damned to hell are full of hate and are the creators of their own hell.

    Other than yet another lame effort to take a personal shot at me by claiming that I’m someone who can’t think for myself (I’m talking about the others above who have been making this assertion in various other ways), I don’t really know why else you even made this comment, comparing my contributions to this discussion to “heterosexuals who adamantly object to gay marriage”).

    Metta is ultimately about learning how to let go of attachment to self. Batchelor doesn’t teach much of anything about letting go of attachment to self, which is an important part of reaching liberation from suffering.

  30. To Rattanadhammo, I am not much of a writer or reader but I have always enjoy reading your comments. The thing about fear, it arises when threat is at the door step. But why do we have to fear if what we trust is true, if it is true.

  31. Wouldn’t it be something had patent laws were available 2,500 years ago. Had the teaching been patented, no one would have the right to alter or clip off parts that do not suit their life style. Had the teaching been patented he would still let we utilize it for free on conditions. To alter something that we can not fully fathom is not wise because the receipe one rewrote could yield a hard as rock baked cake.

  32. Rat, Ted wrote:

    “Spout nonsense”… You believe in talking animals, levitation, teleportation, invisible spirits who insert rebirth consciousness as sperm penetrates egg in the back seat of mom’s Buick, and *we’re* spouting nonsense?

    I’d like to hear your answer. Because the minute you suggest that you don’t believe in all the fanciful mythology of the suttas, you’re doing the same thing we are — taking what seems valuable and makes sense, and leaving behind (or at least, repurposing) what doesn’t. This is inevitably an act of interpretation. The important difference between what Secular Buddhism does and what the traditions do is this: Secular Buddhists admit that they are interpreting an unreliable, profoundly heteroglossic text, whereas the traditions pretend (in contradiction to historical fact) that their interpretations are the One True Buddhism passed in unbroken transmission over the millenia.

    As for your feeling threatened, go back and read what you wrote. There is vituperation in almost every line. People who don’t feel threatened find no need for emotional outbursts. Strangely, your tone is very similar to most conservative reaction to Secular Buddhism — long on name calling, sutta thumping, and indignation, short on engagement and integrity.

    We don’t care if you continue your adherance to traditional dogma. We do not claim that we hold the one inviolable definition of “what the Buddha taught.” What we are doing is taking a set of ideas and practices that are contained in the Pali texts (and are abundantly represented there), appreciating their resonance with our lives and using them to help support our practice. If you agree that there is nothing pernicious about that project, then I would suggest this conversation is at an end. (If, on the other hand, you do believe arahants walk through walls and that unorthodox teaching sends people to hell, then I guess the conversation is over as well.)

  33. Secular Buddhist needs evidence. what if that evidence never arrive or take more than the time available to us to realized anything at all. What do we do? At an early age, how many of us knew much about this world? Did not we had to blindly walk through life by our parents advice and have trust in them at first? We all had to take a leap of faith in the beginning.

  34. There was once a turtle who lived in a lake with a group of fish. One day the turtle went for a walk on dry land. He was away from the lake for a few weeks. When he returned he met some of the fish. The fish asked him, “Mister turtle, hello! How are you? We have not seen you for a few weeks. Where have you been? The turtle said, “I was up on the land, I have been spending some time on dry land.” The fish were a little puzzled and they said, “Up on dry land? What are you talking about? What is this dry land? Is it wet?” The turtle said “No, it is not,” “Is it cool and refreshing?” “No it is not”, “Does it have waves and ripples?” “No, it does not have waves and ripples.” “Can you swim in it?” “No you can’t” So the fish said, “it is not wet, it is not cool there are no waves, you cant swim in it. So this dry land of yours must be completely non-existent, just an imaginary thing, nothing real at all.” The turtle said that “Well may be so” and he left the fish and went for another walk on dry land.

  35. I responded to your comment at another site.

    Batchelor doesn’t threaten me in the slightest. He does trick people into thinking that what he teachings is the sum total of what the Buddha taught. It isn’t. He knew that people would call him out for it. My best guess is that he was counting on controversy to sell his largely ripped off and painfully limited teaching. It is what it is.

    How you go from the factuality of a talking animal to the dismissal of the Buddha’s entire view of the moral order to the universe (khamma) and dismissal of the Buddha’s teaching of the unconditioned, I don’t really know.

    Interpreting the teaching and cutting it up with a pair of scissors are two very different things.

  36. Dear The Secular Buddhist,

    I know you are busy with work & family etc (that why you are the TSB! – I’m in the same situation) – but if you could find the time I have a query and would be very interested in your thoughts.

    As you probably recall you spoke with Glenn Wallis on the issue of beliefs and knowledge on one of your podcasts. I should listen to the podcast again but as I recall you mostly focused on the theistic (“blind faith”) aspects of beliefs.

    As you would know the traditional Buddhist approach claims to be a little more nuanced. Bhikkhu Bodhi, for example, says we should start by testing the teachings in fairly straightforward ways to see in everyday life the existence of impermanence and hence inherent dissatisfaction etc. Once we have gained confidence that the Buddha was on to something, we are then encouraged to place faith in aspects of the teachings that are beyond immediate experience eg rebirth, realms of existence etc. This we are told will be revealed to us eventually through deep meditative states.
    At the same time we find people like Sujato, being a ‘progressive’ Western educated monk, acknowledging (having to acknowledge?) the importance of science in understanding reality and the need for empirical verification.

    I am interested in your response to Sujato’s attempts to bridge this scientific evidence based approach with his claim to ‘knowledge’ (not just belief) in the existence of devas, various realms of existence & rebirth (as found in the Pali Canon). I have quoted some excerpts below from his recent posts on this blog under the secular topics. Firstly part of his response to Glenn Wallis, followed by his posting on my queries titled Secular Buddhism – some more bits:

    Much appreciated any feedback (if you can find the time!) Again I want to say what an excellent site TSB is.

    Cheers – Geoff

    “The argument that belief in devas, etc. contradicts the Buddha’s anti-metaphysical position is also wrong. This point has been analyzed at length by the Buddhist empiricist philosopher David Kalupahana (whose excellent work seems to be unaccountably ignored by the secularists). The basic point is that the Buddhist treatment of such things as devas rigorously removes any truly metaphysical aspects – for example, they are not eternal, all-powerful, creators of the world, and so on. Devas are, in fact, conditioned, impermanent, suffering creatures very much like you or I in all spiritually important aspects. And, crucially, knowledge of such things is an empirical knowledge, derivable from the meditative extension of ordinary sensory faculties, and confirmable, in some cases, by reference to socially verifiable external facts (as in Ian Stevenson’s research). “

    ********

    “Remember, empiricism as I understand it, and as presented in the Suttas, does not mean ‘direct experience only’. (This is a fallacy commonly found among certain modern meditation teachers, but clearly against the Suttas and the entire Buddhist tradition, in India at least.) It means ‘direct experience’ (paccakkha) and ‘inference’ (anumāna). What inference is exactly is hard to pin down. Practically, it means that we stay relatively close to experience. If I have never drunk wine, I will have hardly any idea what it tastes like. But if I have drunk wine regularly for many years, I may never have had a Chateaux de Chateaux (which I hear is very passable), but I will have a pretty good idea what it will taste like.

    Similarly, if I have recollected, say 3 or 4 past lives, it is not such a big leap to 30 or 40, or 300 or 400 lives. The basic fact of the thing is more or less the same.

    This contrasts with what I have characterized as ‘metaphysical’ claims. The difference is precisely the difference between a very very big number and infinity. The Buddha claims to have exercised his memory over billions of years. The difference between that and our ordinary experience of time is very great, but not outside the capacities of inference. After all, geology and astrophysics claim to tell us what happened billions of years ago, relying on inference from fairly sketchy data.

    Most religious doctrines, however, speak of eternity. God, the soul, the atman, heaven, or whatever lasts not for mere billions of years, but literally forever. It is not possible, and never will be possible, to infer from the data available in this temporal world to ‘eternity’. Any claim to ‘know’ this eternity is a claim to know something that is utterly and absolutely outside any experience of consciousness.”

  37. mcnick,

    Please take another look at the exchange between TSB, Dana and me earlier today at TSB’s site. Don’t you agree that we should be trying to understand each other rather than just keep turning up the heat?

    I went there to express my regret over my part in generating the heat. Honestly, I answered as well as I could your thoughtful comment there. But now, seeing your heat-filled comment here, I found myself once again responding to heated words with more of the same.

    Please accept my apology, and let’s try to discuss each others’ views without all the harshness and heat.

  38. I have $100 (after tax of course) I would like to donate. Now let’s see….

    I have a choice between putting the money towards assisting the starving in the Horn of Africa or supporting the monks / nuns and others at Santi during their three month Rains retreat (although the monsoonal rains have eased up).

    What a dilemma. I may be able to lessen the suffering of the dying in Africa but will I be gaining more ‘merit’ for my future rebirth if I gave it to Santi?

    I told Sujato after the last Rains retreat that I had donated money to the Pakistani earthquake victims (remember them?) rather than offer support to Santi. Sujato said that that was OK.

    I suppose you become that magnanimous after all those years of practice…..

  39. The purpose of cultivating generosity and the purpose of cultivating lovingkindness are nearly the same, if not the same, no?

    Don’t let possessions possess you. Don’t cling to self. Send the money where you think it can be put to good use. Let it go. Wish all beings well. And let go of your sense of self-satisfaction, too.

  40. Nice story! It reminds me of Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, though this story has talking animals. :)

  41. Peter,

    What part of what I’ve written in this comment or any other has struck you as not including at least the aspiration of using human intelligence skillfully?

  42. Ratanadhammo, The comment was not ment as a direct instuction to you. It was a continuation :).

  43. re my $100 donation:

    I’m using my intelligence knowing Santi doesn’t need my $100 when it can rely on the continuing donations from the devotional (primarily) Sri Lankan & Thai communities – most of whom I suspect don’t even know this blog exists.

    But I know what concerns Sujato is the lack of support from the next generation in these communities – however so long as immigration levels continue I suspect Santi will be OK.

    I am happy to stand corrected but from my observations most of those from a Western background are a financial drain on Santi – I’m hoping for Santi I am wrong in this.

  44. hi secular buddhist

    i feel moved to respond to one thing in yr post – i’m not sure why as i find the dialog around most things to do with buddhism these days like a slaughter house of views and opinions – it feels almost suicidal to wade into the thick of this blog – but here i go – Basically i’m wading in in defense of Bhikkhu Bodhi.

    And to challenge his name in your list of offensive behaviors:

    As in…
    “Bikkhu Bodhi’s misaligned outburst and disrespectful behavior at Garrison, ….outdated views of women limiting their right to ordain, Alan Wallace likening people with different views to Hitler, and the plethora of self-serving actions in Thailand by monastics outlined *by a monk* in Broken Buddha, I’m finding such claims of spiritual superiority to be utterly without merit.”

    I was at Garrison and witnessed this exchange – My – and many others – understanding was that BB simply misheard what the person was saying – He thought they were ripping off Asian Buddhists – they weren’t – it was a turn of phrase they used, which I simply think he didn’t hear. And so he jumped to the defense of Asian Buddhists – as I am to his defense. I do agree he was a bit over reactive – but hey – it’s really small blip in the scheme of things – And who am I to talk about being a bit over reactive – or any of us… It happens

    Anyhow he certainly doesn’t deserve to be put in a list of offending buddhists in this way.. he has very much defended & supported Bhikkhuni ordination (for jaysus sake he’s written a whole book about it) and has come out very radically (that is for scholarly types) in support of Compassionate Outreach in response to world hunger (see http://www.buddhistglobalrelief.org) And I’m also aware that at the moment he is taking a break due to severe health problems – so maybe one can cut him some slack and send some good wishes.

    Anyhow that’s it – that’s all i wanted to say – other than Stephen Batchelor certainly gets us all thinking hey!

    OK – peace (i shall now run for cover!)

  45. Even if he is very academicmaybe Bhikku Bodha – if he needs a holiday and a healing place …well maybe he could come and do some teachings in the Blue Mountains of Australia while having a holiday and recuperating (alot of people come here if they are sick) and spread the word of the original teachings to all us weirdo’s and nutta’s up here.

  46. Hi Sis Thanissara
    i’ve also not been following much much of the posts here.

    Thanks for clarifying the situation abt Bikkhu Bodhi. i have always been referring to his books. I didn’t know he’s been sick. i hope and pray that he be recovered soon and may the God/s deva/s help in his healing as well.

    hmmm… wouldn’t the Sangha’s recitation of the Bojjhanga Sutta help him?

    Off topic but wanna share a beautiful poem by Helen Steiner Rice that i was reading and sharing with my daughters this morning.

    THERE’S SUNSHINE IN A SMILE
    Life is a mixture
    of sunshine and rain,
    Laughter and pleasure,
    teardrops and pain,
    All days can’t be bright,
    but it’s certainly true,
    There was never a cloud
    the sun didn’t shine through-
    So just keep on smiling
    whatever betide you,
    Secure in the knowledge
    God is always beside you,
    And you’ll find when you smile
    your day will be brighter
    And all of your burdens
    will seem so much lighter-
    For each time you smile
    you will find it is true
    Somebody, somewhere
    will smile back at you,
    And nothing on earth
    can make life more worthwhile
    Than the sunshine and warmth
    of a beautiful smile.

    Peace _/\_ (do i need to run for cover as well?)

  47. Dear Secular Buddhist

    Much appreciate your time

    You are right of course about the importance of Right Speech – I think it has been lacking at times, especially on this sensitive topic of secularism.

    I include myself in this. I think I could have chosen some of my words more carefully. Its all part of the practice…..

    Cheers

    Geoff

  48. Wonderful!!!

    Here we have a thoroughly positive exploration of differences between traditionalist and secularist interpretations of the Buddha’s teachings. No name-calling or personal criticism, but a reasoned, respectful exchange focussing on the merits of the respective positions.

    With both sides respecting the right of the other to hold – and present – their views, this is a worthy successor to the debate between Winton and Sujato. Congratulations to Geoff and TSB.

    I am grateful for this opportunity to explore a little deeper into those differences.

    For me, a key point lies about halfway through the response from TSB. He says:

    “Problem Number Two, then, is once we’ve removed the false dichotomy of assertions between a particular faith vs. free inquiry, what is acceptable as evidence? Certainly people have very personally beneficial, positively transformative, and deeply meaningful experiences during meditation and other kinds of inspired moments. That is not in question, nor is it the intent of secular Buddhists to say one can’t and shouldn’t value such experiences. If they are beneficial to you, wholesome in their content and impact, fabulous. Secular Buddhism recognizes that not everyone is willing to accept such revelations’ explanations as being factually accurate, however.
    “This in itself opens secular Buddhism to others much more broadly than other traditions, which have a certain sense of necessary acceptance of “things unseen.”

    It is this final assertion about ‘necessary acceptance’ that I would like to explore.

    My understanding of the Buddha’s teachings is that there is no requirement for acceptance of any aspect of those teachings. The doctrine of ‘ehipassiko’ and the Kalama Sutta make it very clear that everything is open to be investigated, challenged and tested.

    Having grown up in a traditional Christian setting, it was precisely this openness that resonated for me and led me to take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha. In passing I note that the works of Bishop John Spong have opened up a fascinating perspective on the life and teachings of Jesus. By treating many of the familiar stories in the Bible as metaphor rather than literal, he offers something far more appealing to this old sceptic. However, his approach is controversial and it still requires acceptance of God as an all-powerful, eternal, unchanging, creator entity. No, thanks.

    The open, rational approach offered by the Buddha’s teachings allows us to work with those aspects that are immediately verifiable (the peace and insight that arises from meditation practice, and the benefits for me and others from the slightly more skilful actions that arise as a result, for example). It allows us to treat other aspects as reasonable and plausible hypotheses, even though they are not immediately verifiable (such as the deeper states of calm, concentration and insight promised with extended practice). And importantly for the present debate it allows us to retain a sceptical perspective on many aspects that seem at face value to conflict with a modern, scientific mindset (for me, the whole Buddhist cosmology comes into this category, as does the doctrine of rebirth).

    As one’s practice develops, one gains a deeper appreciation for the power and relevance of more and more of the teachings. TSB talks about “a transition from the meaning of the Pali saddha from ‘confidence’ to ‘faith’ in the Judeo-Christian sense”. I too find the word ‘faith’ problematical, and prefer to use ‘conviction’ to portray the openness to suspend disbelief concerning things that are not yet supported by available evidence, but are part of an overall scheme presented by a teacher who has earned enormous respect through the validity of those aspects of his teachings that are verifiable.

    Which brings us back to the “necessary acceptance of “things unseen”. I feel no pressure either from the teachings themselves or from the monks, nuns and lay teachers I have encountered, to accept any aspect of the teachings that I am not comfortable to accept. Again, it is this openness that seems to distinguish the Buddhist traditions from their counterparts in other religions.

    Further, I find this openness permits of a more tolerant attitude towards those “things unseen”. The eightfold noble path offers a journey into experiences that are difficult to comprehend at first. The journey offers the possibility of further experiences that are currently unknown. Part of this journey involves changes to ones perspective in a way that opens our minds up to deeper insights. Why then should we reject the possibility that we may, at some future point on the journey, experience a paradigm shift that permits us to appreciate even the more anomalous teachings.

    In a way I feel that there may be a parallel here with the transition away from classical Newtonian physics. Only when physicists were able to perceive matter in terms of waveforms and energy rather than as solid particles, could they comprehend phenomena that were previously seen as anomalous. Maybe a fundamental shift in the way we envisage doctrines such as rebirth is needed before we can comprehend them.

    It is encouraging to see debate around any and all aspects of the teachings, including critical scrutiny of those aspects that do not sit easily with available verifiable evidence. But let us not confuse non-proof of existence with proof of non-existence. We are not dealing with classical physics here, and much depends on the perspective of the observer. Indeed, we may find more in common with modern quantum physics where the very actions of the observer can influence the observation.

    with much metta, Robert.

  49. A video called “Nonsense in Buddhism” in which a talk on rebirth by Ajahn Brahm is “critiqued”. It has certainly picked up a lot of comments.

  50. Well, who knew that such rude people could be so amusing? He offers a couple of clips and uses them to paint broad strokes with a broad brush in order to say nothing of value whatsoever.

  51. Robert

    Thanks for your kind words. I also have to commend TSB for the friendly approach taken in this discussion. I will carefully read your comments but I firstly want to get this off my chest….

    I personally thought TSB was particularly generous in his appraisal of Sujato. Perhaps I should be equally generous but I must say I have been disappointed by the generally dismissive way Sujato has handled this current “secular debate” on his blog.

    Firstly, by his comments Sujato seemed quite surprised by the level of response to his inital posting on Secularism in June. That in itself says something.

    I put this down to the fact that Sujato simply doesn’t have much interest in the secular debate. (In fact I was quite surprised he even made that initial posting.) I gain the distinct impression that Sujato would rather have the issue out of the way so he can move on to matters that really interest him, such as the history of Buddhist mythology (the topic of his new book).

    For example, when I asked Sujato (which I had to do twice) to comment on Glenn Wallis’ article “the Buddhist Manifesto” (a highly articulate and fair promotion of secular concerns with ‘traditional’ Buddhism), he finally responded by saying,” I haven’t time to comment on everything in this article, so let me pick out a few things”.

    (Now this might sound petty and self centred of me – “why isn’t he paying attention to ME”- but I’ll be interested to see how much time he has available to talk about his new book when the Rains are over – I think he is planning to discuss the book by chapter.)

    I mention all this not to be ‘catty’ but to suggest another reason why there is a growing appeal to ‘secularism’ and why ‘traditional’ Buddhism fails to resonate with many.

    As TSB indicated, Sujato is one of the least offenders, but to me he is still indicative of how the structure of monasticism allows monks be out of touch with the common concerns of many interested in Buddhism in the West. (By the way, disappearing for 3 months doesn’t help – didn’t the Buddha introduced this practice during the monsoonal period as the monks found it hard to travel? – hardly an issue today in Australia).

    I am sure Sujato would be unfazed by my remarks (and I wouldn’t only put this down to his metta practice). Being a regular Friday night attendee at his talks in North Sydney (and giving my $20 dana for his “petrol money” from Bundanoon), I am simply a very minor part of his constituency. The major part of his constituency is made up of the devotional (primarily) Thai and Sri Lankan communities who offer their ongoing support to Santi. Their interest and approach to Buddhism is considerably different to mine. I suspect very few of this group would even know this blog existed.

    This means the monastics’ commitments need not extend much beyond this constituency (eg undertaking various religious observances etc). This allows them to spend a considerable period following their own particular interests and having little need to concern themselves with issues that affect the rest of us (family, work etc).

    I have spent much time listening to Sujato over the last 18 months as he impressed on me his knowledge of Pali and the early canonical texts and the importance of his interpretation of these in understand the core of Buddhism. I have since discovered there are others who are equally knowledgeable who take a considerably different and, for me, more relevant approach for living in this particular time and place.

    I am happy to stand corrected on any of my remarks. I am simply stating my observations in regards to the “secular debate”.

    Cheers

    Geoff

  52. Geoff,

    Will you ever be getting to a point about anything of importance? Mostly, you focus on a handful of issues that are not really – or should not really be – the main focus of Buddhist practice and push and push and push for answers, not in order to understand, but to belittle something you don’t understand, all while whining about how others are dismissive of secular Buddhism.

    It’s ridiculous.

    Why do you think it’s ok to be so dismissive of something you clearly don’t want to understand on any level while, at the same time, you whine about how others are so dismissive of secular Buddhism?

    You’re not focusing on what’s most important to any Buddhist path. Frankly, it looks a lot like you don’t care to focus on what’s most important to any Buddhist path so much as you want to pull at strings of a teaching you don’t want to understand on any level in order to see if it’ll unravel.

    It’s pathetic.

    Bhante’s patience with you, on the other hand, has been inspiring. It’s evidence that his practice can lead to equanimity in the face of all manner of nonsense.

    Buddhist meditation practice is meant, in part, to reduce the noise in order to gain important insights.

    All you are interested in doing is making a lot of noise.

    I wouldn’t have had even a small fraction of the patience Bhante has had in dealing with your pushing and pushing – the equivalent of pounding on the table and shouting like a child – all of which you do for no apparent reason other than to ensure that ignorance prevails.

  53. Brian, are you okay? This response just seemed a little strident in the face of Geoff’s sharing some thoughts and opinions. It may of course be my own perspective in the discussion, but I had not read anything overtly hostile from Geoff in his post.

    Metta,

    Ted

  54. I guess some are just more skilled in communication. I think in the context of the wider world he wouldn’t be considered to be overly rude but again we are focusing on the person. Has anyone listened to the talk by Ajahn Brahm? Is it Buddhism?

  55. Peter,

    I was born and raised just outside NYC. I know a thing or two about rudeness in the wider world. This dude was just rude.

    TSB is right. He could have gotten a lot farther with his point if he had not gone far out of his way to be rude.

    I also think he could have made more of a contribution to the discussion had he anything of value to say. He didn’t.

  56. Peter,

    It would also probably be beneficial to you to stop worrying so much about what is and what is not “Buddhism” and just focus on making a sincere effort to learn as much about the Buddha’s Dhammavinaya as possible.

  57. Peter,

    Rest assured that I have tried to learn about the Buddha’s Dhammavinaya, including trying to understand the views of those advocating secular Buddhism, while you waste your time with nonsensical questions and putting up videos that are a waste of time.

  58. Do you think that the people of South Wales are as cruel as Ajahn Brahm says they are in the talk below? Have you got your head and your heart around the “fact” that you are going to be reborn again? Has it caused a radical change to your values?

  59. I don’t mean to cause any offence and I am happy to stand corrected on anything I say.

    I don’t wish to abuse the use of blogging (there is already far far too much of that on the net). I just want to honestly tell it as I see it having spent a fair amount of time (18 months most weeks) listening and speaking with Bhante Sujato and some of the Santi group at his weekly talks.

    I don’t believe those talks are the right forum to raise most of these issues. People have gone to listen to Sujato, not me. I am just saying some things that I think others would rather left unsaid.

    Like that brave guy on YouTube criticising Ajahn Brahm (the Dalai Lama of WA) posted by Peter. I think a lot of it comes down to how you want to approach Buddhism. If I was depressed (& more confused than I am) I would certainly rather have the consoling words of AB than SB (I dare not speak his name). But you just don’t want to ask too many questions with AB.

    Again on this question of friendliness. It really intrigues me how touchy many of the ‘traditionalists’ are. This point was raised by TSB re eg Bhikkhu Bodhi’s outburst @ Garrison Insititute etc. My general impression is they seem to be less friendly than the secular when any point of contention comes up.

    You scratch the surface with many of these guys & they display less than impressive behaviour. (I’ve heard AB has used rather unkind words when the name SB has been raised – although I must say I didn’t hear it myself). You can also hear it on his talks to the monks (see Deeper Dhamma on BSWA website). He changes his tone quite considerably with the monks – much less “touchy feely” than his Friday talks. And don’t mention Abidhamma to him – it seems to be always followed by the word ‘rubbish’.

    I’m just telling it as I see it without any need to maintain a stance. I’m more than happy for anyone to convince me of rebirth (thats why I spent so much time listening to Bhante Sujato). Here another snippet of Bhante which to me demonstrates his need to find support (in eg Stevenson’s ‘research’ on reincarnation – it only ever seem to be Stevenson…..) for the “leap in faith” he made in Chieng Mai in 1992 (below):

    Firstly here’s a quote from Bhante Sujato on his blog 17 March 2010 addressed to me followed by one he made to me on 18 July 2011;

    **********

    .”…And so, even though it meant changing my own long-held beliefs, I came to accept the teachings on rebirth.

    I can still remember very vividly when this happened. It was Christmas morning, 1992, outside a Church in a leper colony south of Chieng Mai. Suddenly, for no reason I can explain, these beliefs that had seemed so strange to me just came home. I felt a sense of ‘largeness’, of a place within an unfathomably vast whole. Since then, it has always seemed the most reasonable way of understanding our place in the scheme of things.”

    (Why should this necessarily be a Buddhist experience? This sounds like it could be any religious experience eg Christian, Hindu or even a non-religious experience – see eg TSB podcast Episodes 8 & 9 “Spirituality for Atheists” *** my addition)

    *********

    “Hi Geoff,

    Stevenson’s work has ‘too many holes’ – ha! With all due respect, the seriousness, methodology, and almost obsessive care with which Stevenson has painstakingly assembled his evidence and addressed his critics over decades leaves Batchelor’s historical work in the shade.”

    What do other make of this?

    I’ll be interested in your thoughts

    Cheers

    Geoff

  60. PS re Bhante’s comment I quoted earlier:

    “Stevenson’s work has ‘too many holes’ – ha! With all due respect, the seriousness, methodology, and almost obsessive care with which Stevenson has painstakingly assembled his evidence and addressed his critics over decades leaves Batchelor’s historical work in the shade.”

    *******

    Despite a numer of studies seriously questioning Stevenson’s methodogies (eg http://www.skepticreport.com/sr/?p=482), Bhante seems to rate Stevenson’s findings up there with the scientific evidence that heavy smoking is a significant contributor to lung cancer.

    When was the last time Bhante actually listened to what SB had to say? There are plenty of his recent talks available. SB has been carefully studying the Pali Canon for 20 years which shows a great concern for the Canon, whatever your views on him. This should be respected – rather than simply dismissed him as ‘amateurish’ – a previous Sujato remark – and saying he’s been left “in the shade” by Stevenson’s work.

    Again to me this just demonstrates that Sujato et al are simply not interested in the issues raised by secularism. I think they are hoping it will all go away.

    Also to quote Bhante Sujato 18 Jul11:

    “My belief in rebirth is most emphatically provisional, as are all my beliefs.”

    ********

    Am I the only one who finds this unconvincing?

    **********

    and in reply to my question:

    “Of course it’s still one thing to demonstrate an occurence of rebirth per se, it’s another to demonstrate that this was the result of kammic (ie intentional) influences.”

    Bhante replies:

    And you are quite right, establishing that rebirth happens does not prove that everything Buddhists say about rebirth is correct, including kamma. But it’s a start!

    ********

    So might the kammic consequences of rebirth (central to Buddhist doctrine) may not be correct? Don’t think your constituents or AB will be happy with that.

    Bhante seems to have already decided in advance on the existence of kammic influences on rebirth (ie ” a leap in faith”) without any supporting evidence – even Stevenson doesn’t help him there and despite all his previous references to ‘empiricism’ and ‘inferences’ to dress it up as scientific.

    And then he gets defensive and says: “But its a start!”

    Yeah and with a long way to go………

    Cheers

    Geoff

  61. G’day Brian – is that your name?

    By the way have you seen the Life of Brian? One of my favourite movies. The kids got the DVD for my birthday……

    Just making polite conversation – thought maybe we should lighten things up …….

    Lol

    Geoff

  62. PPPPS Brian

    I think you might be right – I don’t know why I’m wasting my breath on this blog. What does it matter what you guys think so long as you’e not doing any harm……

    I’ll have to put on Life of Brian again – I think I need a laugh……

    All the best Geoff

  63. This guy talks about humilty but acts and talks as if he is the universal expect on religion without even stating who he is or what qualifications he has or experience he has… but then criticises AB for not be humble and for the same thing even though AB has been a monk for generations and studied Buddhism thoroughly, and could easily be said to be a world expert on Buddhism if there is such a thing

    He then He goes on about AB saying stuff on Darwin’s theory implying AB doesn’t have the qualifications do this but AB is a graduate from Harvard – in science

    You met people like this they tend to talk really convincingly and confidently with such belief in what they say but if you are around these people for longer than it takes to listen to the egocentic ideas the ridiculousness of their concepts becomes so glaringly apparent it is almost humourous there is no basis or logic to their arguments which are just based on the fact that this is what I believe therefore it must be right because I am me a being that is right and can’t be wrong so they twist and justify everything to make themselves right becasue they just believe they are born as a solid entityte that is right or superior….I don’t know anything aobut this guy…and am guessing here ..maybe he is some expert in religion but I would suggest he might be what is commonly referred to as …an idiot.

  64. We attended a lecture by Professor Erlendur Haraldsson, of the University of Iceland, here in Kandy a few years back. He was quite an impressive speaker, by impressive I mean he seemed quite rigorous about his methodology and limited in his claims. The case that struck us as the most compelling was one from Lebanon, a Druze boy who was unshakable in his conviction that his parents were not his real parents but that he had been the bodyguard of a Druze leader and died protecting him. The detailed evidence, including identifying his wife and picking out his prize possession from that life, the very gun. Read it and see for yourself. If we really respect the Kalama Sutta, we won’t be satisfied with another’s (rude) prejudices and mockery.

    w/metta,
    Visakha
    http://notendur.hi.is/erlendur/english/cort/lebanese3children.pdf

    and the following …. if it is of interest. Agree or disagree, but don’t prejudge.

    http://archived.parapsych.org/members/e_haraldsson.html

    Erlendur Haraldsson is a professor of psychology at the University of Iceland. Studied philosophy at the universities of Iceland, Edinburg and Freiburg 1955-58. Writer and journalist 1959-63. Studied psychology at the University of Freiburg and University of Munich where he obtained the Dipl. Psych. in 1969. Research fellow at the Institute of Parapsychology in Durham, N. C. 1969-70, internship in clinical psychology at the Department of Psychiatry, University of Virginia in Charlottesville 1970-71. Ph.D. in psychology from the University of Freiburg in 1972. Research associate at the American Society for Psychical Research 1972-74. After that in the Department of Psychology at the University of Iceland. Visiting professor at the University of Virginia, 1982-83, and at the Institut für Grenzgebiete der Psychologie und Psychohygiene in Freiburg 1993-95. Dr. Haraldsson has published numerous scientific articles and book chapters, and is the author of four books, two of which have appeared in English, At the Hour of Death (with Karlis Osis) and Miracles Are My Visiting Cards (US edition Modern Miracles).

    Children who speak of memories of a previous life, case studies and psychological characteristics
    Erlendur Haraldsson (1991). Children claiming past-life memories: Four cases in Sri Lanka. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 5(2), 233-262.

    Erlendur Haraldsson. (1997). Psychological comparison between ordinary children and those who claim previous-life memories. Journal of Scientific Exploration, 11, 323-335.

    Erlendur Haraldsson and Godwin Samararatne (1999). Children who speak of memories of a previous life as a Buddhist monk: Three new cases. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 63(857), 268-291.

    Erlendur Haraldsson (2000). Birthmarks and claims of previous life memories I. The case of Purnima Ekanayake. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, 64(858), 16-25.

    Erlendur Haraldsson (2000). Birthmarks and claims of previous life memories II. The case of Chatura Karunaratne. Journal of the Society for Psychical Research. 64 (859), 82-92.

    Erlendur Haraldsson, Patrick Fowler & Vimala Periyannanpillai (2000). Psychological Characteristics of Children Who Speak of a Previous Life: A Further Field Study in Sri Lanka Transcultural Psychiatry, 37, 525-544.

    Erlendur Haraldsson and Majd Abu-Izzeddin (2002). Development of Certainty about the Correct Deceased Person in a Case of the Reincarnation Type: The Case of Nazih Al-Danaf. Journal of Scientific Exploration. 16(3), 363-380.

    Erlendur Haraldsson (in press). Children who speak of past-life experiences: Is there a psychological explanation? Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory Research and Practice.

    – – – – –
    and this, for what it is worth ….

    http://www.scimednet.org/evidence-of-reincarnation

    Evidence of Reincarnation

    Elizabeth Fenwick

    Reincarnation – the transmigration of the soul after death to another living body – is one of the oldest and most widely held of mankind’s spiritual beliefs and still forms a central part of the doctrines of Eastern religion. In its most primitive form the concept was independent of any moral teaching, but in more modern times, the idea of reincarnation is associated with reward and punishment, and with a continuity of moral consequences in successive lives. In Hinduism for example, reincarnation is associated with retribution and the law of karma. In Tibetan Buddhist teachings, the cycle of death and rebirth continues until earthly desires are extinguished and enlightenment is achieved. The term ‘rebirth’ rather than reincarnation is often used in Buddhist religion, to imply only the continuation of life without the continuation of personal identity.

    Even among cultures which accept reincarnation, beliefs about it differ. It is, for example, important for the Tlingit of Alaska to be reborn into the family of one’s mother, but for the Igbo of Nigeria to be reborn into one’s father’s family. In some cultures birthmarks are attributed to some injury in a previous life and may help to identify a baby’s previous personality. Not surprisingly, when cases of supposed reincarnation do occur, they reflect these differing beliefs.

    The idea of reincarnation is attractive to many people either because the concept of karma seems to offer an explanation for the inequalities of life or because it suggests that there is a meaning and purpose to life. For others, the idea of a ‘past life’ feels intuitively right because it helps to explain feelings, empathies, abilities, which seem to have sprung from some quite inexplicable source and for which there seems to be no logical explanation.

    Belief in reincarnation does not require that previous existences can be remembered. However a few people do claim to have such memories, and past-life memories seem to occur regardless of any cultural or religious belief.. Typically, a child may start to talk about a past life when they are very young, as soon as they are able to talk. Usually the memories seem to fade between the ages of five and eight although some adults do retain these childhood memories. Others have spontaneous flashes of such memories for the first time in adulthood, sometimes triggered by a place or a person who seems unaccountably familiar. Under hypnotic regression most people seem able to recover apparent past-life memories.

    Attempts to ‘prove’ the validity of a past life are very seldom successful, largely because such memories are usually so scanty or non-specific that it is impossible either to prove or to disprove them. A few researchers, notably Professor Ian Stevenson and Professor Erlendur Haraldsson, have reported some persuasive and well documented cases. A more fruitful approach to past-life research may be that of Professor Haraldsson; to try to find common characteristics amongst children who have such memories.

    For most past-life memories, especially those retrieved under hypnosis, there are rational explanations, for example cryptomnesia (the emergence of forgotten memories) suggestibility, fantasy or imagination, hysterical dissociation, wishful thinking or self-delusion. A few, especially those of very young children, seem to defy rational explanation. Whether reincarnation provides that explanation remains debatable. The fact remains that a few such cases do seem to offer evidence for the transfer of information independently of a brain. The search for a mechanism for such extra-cerebral information transfer continues.

    Key texts

    Stevenson, Ian., Children who Remember Previous Lives University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville. 1987. ISBN 0 8139 1154 0.
    Probably the best scientifically argued account of the case for reincarnation. Stevenson reviews the history and world-wide extent of belief in reincarnation and presents summaries of 12 of the most compelling cases he has studied, the majority Asian, but including a few Western examples. Stevenson sometimes fails to give enough weight to the cultural and social factors which may be involved in ‘proving’ a past life, but many of his cases are convincingly argued and all make interesting reading.

    Stevenson, Ian. Reincarnation and Biology: A Contribution to the Etiolgoy of Birthmarks and Birth Defects. (Two volumes). Praeger Publishers, Westport CTO6881, USA 1997. ISBN 0 275 95282 7 and,
    Stevenson, Ian, Where Reincarnation and Biology Intersect Praeger Publishers, Westport CTO6881, USA 1997. ISBN 0 275 95188 X
    The latter book is an abbreviated version of the former, which is Ian Stevenson’s impressive two volume work on reincarnation. In many of the cases he has studied, violent death has played a part, and the main thrust of this work is to establish a correlation between birthmarks and birth defects in children and marks of violent death in a supposed previous life. Stevenson is a conscientious and meticulous researcher; all of his data is interesting and much is very persuasive. He is, however, no more successful than anyone else in suggesting a credible mechanism for the transfer of memories in apparent reincarnation, or in explaining how physical characteristics of a dead person could become imprinted on an unborn fetus. Essential reading for anyone interested in reincarnation.

    Stevenson, Ian. Unlearned Language: New Studies in Xenoglossy University Press of Virginia. 1984.
    Xenoglossy, the ability to speak and understand a language that has apparently never been learnt, is one of the most fascinating, and unusual phenomena of apparent reincarnation. In this book Stevenson explores two of the most interesting and well documented such cases on record; Dolores Jay, who under hypnosis manifested as ‘Gretchen’, a German speaking personality, and Uttara Haddur, who over a fifteen year period of her life, was repeatedly taken over by the personality of ‘Sharada’ a young 19th Century Bengali – and Bengali speaking – woman.

    Fenwick, Peter and Elizabeth. Past Lives Headline, 1999. ISBN 0 7472 1841 2.
    A good overview of the topic, it re-examines many of the most interesting and best-attested cases on record, and also analyses over a hundred first hand British accounts given to the authors by people who believe they have memories of a past life. The Fenwicks discuss how far a Western scientific framework can explain these memories, and where we might look for answers outside such a framework.

    Cockell, Jenny, Yesterday’s Children. London, Piatkus Books, 1993. ISBN 0 7499 1246 4.
    Throughout an unhappy childhood Jenny Cockell was haunted by dream memories of an Irish woman called Mary, her death in her mid-thirties, and the eight children she left behind. As an adult she underwent a hypnotic regression in which she seemed to recover sufficient details about her family and her circumstances to try to trace them. The book is a personal account, describing her successful search for the family she felt she had abandoned in a previous life. Jenny’s transparent honesty and her total conviction make her story worth reading, whether or not one accepts it in its entirety. Her later book, Past Lives, Future Lives (Piatkus, 1996) extends her story.

    Pasricha, S. 1990 Claims of Reincarnation: An Empirical Study of Cases in India. Harman Publishing House, New Delhi.
    Satwant Pasricha is an associate of Ian Stevenson’s,. and has independently investigated Indian cases of children than any other Indian researcher. She describes 45 such cases and compares them with cases studied in other countries. The main weakness of her cases is one that applies to many such cases – the child’s statements are seldom recorded at the time they are made, and have often been contaminated by the passage of time and the rewriting of history that tends to happen when a family makes its own attempts to ‘solve’ a case.

    Rogo, D. Scott The Search for Yesterday, New Jersey, Prentice-Hall, 1985.
    The first book by a parapsychologist to examine the evidence for reincarnation. A popular, journalistic, rather than an academic book, it identifies the few good hypnotic regression cases, but under-estimates and sometimes misjudges Ian Stevenson’s work in the field.

    TenDam, Hans Exploring Reincarnation, London, Arkana, 1987. ISBN 0 14 019204 2.
    An excellent book for the serious student. Comprehensive and dispassionate, it begins with a consideration of the hypothesis and its history, moving on to experiences, including spontaneous recall, prebirth memories, regression and experiences around death. The third section is an extensive philosophical discussion of various possible views of the topic.

    Woolger, Roger Other Lives, Other Selves, London, Crucible, 1987. ISBN 1 85274 084 1.
    One of the best books on hypnotic regression and its implications for psychotherapy. The author, originally a sceptic, is trained in Jungian analysis. Here he expands Jungian theory beyond childhood events and offers a holistic approach to altering destructive emotional patterns. With the help of case histories, he explores the connection between past life illness and current life fitness – both emotional and physical. He documents a number of psychological conditions that have responded to this approach.

    Bowman, Carol Childrens’ Past Lives, Shaftesbury, Element, 1997. ISBN 1 86204 149 0.
    Extends Woolger’s work into children. The author recounts the discovery of the ostensible past life source of her own children’s phobias – her son’s phobia of loud noises completely disappeared after remembering an experience from the Civil War. The first part reports many new cases, the second gives guidance to parents and the third reports on children’s insights into the nature of life and death.

    Weiss, Brian L. Many Lives, Many Masters, London, Piatkus, 1994. ISBN 0 7499 1378 9.
    The first in a series of three books by psychiatrist Dr. Brian Weiss, in which he documents his own astonishment when he tried hypnosis on a young patient and she began to channel messages about his own life that only made sense within a larger metaphysical framework than that acquired in medical schools. These are followed up by Through Time to Healing (Piatkus, 1992) and Only Love is Real (Piatkus, 1996), which are also well worth reading.

    Leggett, D.M.A. and Payne, Max A Forgotten Truth, Pilgrim Books, 1986. ISBN 0 946259 14 3.
    The title refers to the hypothesis of serial existence and the book is a rigorous and scholarly treatment of the theme. Part 1 looks at the question of evidence and scriptural references, framing a hypothesis that life can be likened to a school. Some fascinating philosophical reflections follow from an alleged discarnate Teacher. Part 2 considers the implications for science, religion and society. A searching study.

    Head, Joseph and Cranston, Sylvia Reincarnation: The Phoenix Fire Mystery. New York, Julian Press, 1977. ISBN 0 517 528932.
    A comprehensive historical anthology bringing together thoughts about reincarnation across cultures and history. A sourcebook that should be in every library. Cranston’s follow-up book Reincarnation: A New Horizon in Science, Religion and Society (with Carey Williams, Julian Press, 1984) gives further material from scientists and religious teachers, while also taking a look at some perennial social issues from a reincarnation viewpoint. Both books advocate a reincarnation view and do not consider possible objections. For a critical discussion from a Christian angle, see Hick, John, Death and Eternal Life (Collins, 1976), chapters 16-19. Geddes McGregor’s book Reincarnation in Christianity (Theosophical Publishing House, 1978).

    http://notendur.hi.is/erlendur/english/

  65. Hey Brian

    Guess what I did last night? I watched The Life of Brian !

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monty_Python's_Life_of_Brian

    Thanks, you reminded me of the movie. I reckon its one of the funniest and cleverest I’ve seen. To quote Wikipedia:

    “The film contains themes of religious satire that were controversial at the time of its release (1979), drawing accusations of blasphemy and protests from some religious groups……. The film makers used such notoriety to benefit their marketing campaign, with posters stating “So funny it was banned in Norway!”.

    You should check it out. I think it has some relevance to our current discussions.

    Now I think about it Brian….. as a monk (if thats what you are) I presume you would not be allowed to watch such pleasures. (Apparently your worldly delights are only allowed to extend to making character assasinations on blogs?)

    Thank you Ted (TSB) for defending me but it was unnecessary. As my mother used to say, I had realised Brian was as “nutty as a fruitcake” quite some time ago.

    I think this blog needs a critical injection of humour.

    Ted – have you see the movie? I’m sure you would like it. I think you should make it mandatory viewing for all TSB supporters!

    Cheers

    Geoff

  66. My only delight is making character assassinations on blogs, you say?

    One cannot assassinate the character of someone who has no character to assassinate.

    I am not a monk. Never said I was a monk. I have tried to understand a very profound teaching in my discussions with others at this blog and one other.

    Please get some perspective.

    Metta.

  67. Geoff said: “I’m more than happy for anyone to convince me of rebirth”.

    I venture to suggest that no one is going to convince you, just as they are not going to convince me, no matter how hard they try. That is not so much a comment about us, as it is about the nature of the topic we are struggling to comprehend.

    After many years of wrestling with it, I am convinced that it is just not capable of explanation using the language and concepts that we rationally focussed people work with. Indeed the more people try to do so, the more difficulty I find with it. The video of Ajahm Brahm’s talk posted above didn’t even come close. I’m happy to declare myself to be a longstanding supporter of AB; he has been of great help in my faltering steps on the path, but this talk leaves me with more questions than answers.

    The studies by Professors Stevenson and von Lommel present fascinating evidence of the complexities of the human mind but in doing so they seem to compound the problem rather than helping to resolve it. They certainly fall short of offering proof of the doctrine of rebirth. Supportive of it, possibly, but not enough on their own to convince an impartial observer, let alone a sceptic.

    What we have here is an extraordinarily complex paradox. A self-contradictory phenomenon that appears to differ from what we expect it should be like. We see it from a particular standpoint and it just doesn’t feel right. The more we struggle to resolve it, the harder it gets.

    If it were a simple paradox then it might be possible for someone to explain the key to resolving it. But even with a simple paradox it can be difficult to shift one’s standpoint and to experience the phenomenon in such a way that it makes sense. The most effective way to resolve a paradox is often to walk away from it and allow the mind to relax; then the ‘eureka’ moment can happen and we wonder how we didn’t see it before.

    So this is the way I have chosen to respond to rebirth. I can’t pretend that I believe in it – I don’t have enough evidence for that. But nor do I have enough evidence to believe that everything about me is annihilated at death. I simply don’t know, and that is a position I’m quite comfortable with. I have learned along the way that there are phenomena for which science has not yet provided explanations, and others for which science has provided explanations that later proved to have severe limitations.

    What I can see is the possibility that when the mind is ready, when it is rid of the defilements to a sufficient degree, when enough sila, samadhi and panna have accumulated, then the ‘eureka’ moment will arise.

    May all sentient beings realise that ‘eureka’ moment in due course.

  68. Secular Buddhism should readjust your clock because you are in a different time zone. Ratanadhammo, I think you are wasting your time trying to get points across. They don’t want to hear truths or wisdom or any virtuous precepts. Just a thought, how do you bake a cake without flour? And if there are frustrated and angry secular then they should meditate more-I heard it might waork.
    There are no shortcuts in life people. Otherwise you would be deluding yourself. Feel the sufferings and maybe you might learn something. After all it is about suffering.

  69. What does an apple taste like to everyone? We are here discussing about how an apple should, might, is taste like. If I have not taste an apple in ny life, I can wonder forever about its taste. Intellect is important but to a certain extent only. Neither side can validate or invalidate subjects in the Buddhist Canon fully because we are lacking in experience and practice

  70. Rebirth doubters….

    I had the opposite experience to you – I accepted rebirth instantly – it seemed to answer all the questions I had about why are we here, it made complete and absolute sense to me. Without the concept of rebirth I can’t see the point of karma ie why do we need to be good people if we all end up in the same place after we die, what then would life be like if we all went around without even trying to be virtuous.

    Where do animals come from? why do some people have afflictions not others? how come some people who seem so dumb achieve success or how come good or smart people have such ordinary lives, how come families have the same idiocyncronisities – surely this cannot just be explained by DNA. Why do some people learn things so easily without effort others don’t. Why are some people born into good lives others are not.

    I appreciate in some ways what you are saying and why you don’t believe in rebirth and your doubts on the issue of rebirth because I had and still have none – the concept of rebirth just clarified so many aspects of life that seem to make no sense; for me it completely made a kind of natural order and meaning to life which would otherwise be nothing more that a stupid and somewhat meaningless chaotic romp that end in blackness (ie death without the theory of rebirth)

    Having said that if it is just our negative karma that is reborn then I would like to have the luxury of not believing in rebirth and like a christian just believe that I would not be reborn and go to heaven without any effort on my part or by just believing in God – but that makes no sense to me. One has to be extremely virtuous or awakened I think to have the luxury of not believing in rebirth or not being reborn!

    I would like to think I have no greed, hatrd and delusion and would not be reborn; unfortuneatley I have to admit I am not an arhat so at this stage ‘me and all my s…” will come back until I purify it; again and again and again.

    Even if I didn’t really believe in rebirth I think just to be on the safe side I would try because without the theory of rebirth there would be no reason to believe in karma and therefore no reason to be virtuous (unless you naturally have a conscience or whatever) and therefore easier to side into the hell or animal realms – so I would play it safe and believe in rebirth anyway-….just in case :)

  71. I would really like to believe in rebirth – I agree it appears to make karma a lot more effective and to provide a much more powerful incentive to be virtuous.

    But does it really? This is the paradoxical part of it. It’s not ME that is reborn – because there is no ME in the first place. It’s certainly not this body or this mind that is reborn. It may be some collection of waveforms that have been set in motion in this life and continue thereafter and somehow coalesce with the waveforms of another lifeform. But how much of a connection is that? If I wasn’t inclined to be virtuous to begin with, why would I become virtuous simply to assist another being with such a remote connection?

    In any case, it seems unsatisfactory to believe in rebirth simply because it extends the operation of karma and removes much of the apparent unfairness in the universe. Maybe the universe is inherently unfair. I can’t accept this as a valid basis for believing in rebirth any more than I can accept the Christian belief in God as an explanation for why things happen the way they do.

    I do not mean to be disrespectful of your belief, in fact I rejoice in it and in the help that it provides you on your journey. I am just in a different space at present.

  72. Robert

    No one is saying you have to believe in it.

    I disagree that it is not you that is reborn, it is your mind or consciousness that continues on so that is the most important part of you; the feeling part, the part that feels happyness or suffering.

    The present makes the future…I do not no what line of work you are in but say you are an in some sort of finance would you tell a customer not to worry and just to spend money on useless things and not to worry about how to pay the morgage etc o if you were a mechanic would you tell some one “hey look just don’t worry about the petrol and oil just drive it the petrol and the oil don’t matter, the engine doesn’t matter – it is not the car so why does it matter if you put petrol or oil in it or if the engine doesn’t.

    Your mind controls, forms your body so if you have a defiled mind both your mind and body will suffer, everything will suffer, you will suffer in the future and in the next life.

    Ask your self do you want a good and happy life then the karma you create in this life is important for your future rebirth because if you don’t create good karma you, your mind; your consciousness will go into a life that will be a miserable and suffering one if you aren’t virtuous in this one and you yes you will suffer in the next life.

    I tell you I work with people with physical and mental suffering and I cannot understand how things can be this way they are the loveliest of people; it is so unfair how can life be so crue, some of them are the kindest people I have ever met; how can life just dish out suffering to some and not to others and they were born like this… but you can see some tendencies in them that may have got them into this situation, not because they were bad people but just through ignorance they may have done something wrong even though mainly they are great people, kind and good and funny but through not really understanding the consequences of their actions thinking maybe I have to do this there is no other way; or for what ever reason they did a silly thing and have got a bad rebirth- trust me believe in karma, virtue and believe in rebirth – you do not want this suffering; no one would. :)

  73. Robert,

    i should add i do believe personally that there are dangers too in believing in rebirth.

    The dangers are that people who have good rebirths in this life start judging and punishing other who don’t – become self righteous and superior – if people can’t have compassion for others who have less fortunate births then maybe it is better they don’t believe in rebirth; as maybe their lack of compassion creates even more bad karma for them than not believing in rebirth, i don’t know.

    Surely people who have fortunate rebirths who go around being awful to people less fortunate do not again get to have a good rebirth.

    Also I have heard that karma can ripen in this life from many life times ago – good or bad; so there is no point in being judgemental of others karma ie so I might have a great rebirth as a princess but suddenly end up marrying a frog rather than a prince because of bad karma from many life times ago .. so it is important not to judge because none of us really know if or when we can go from having a good rebirth but then having to experience the ripening of karma from many life times ago ie thinking you will end up living in a palace with a prince because you have a good life but suddenly and unexpectantly due to some past karma rather end up living in a dirty hole rather than palace with a very slimy creature instead of a prince!

  74. Thanks Buddhadhamma, there’s a lot here that needs to be mulled over.

    I will just say that the question I get stuck on is not so much WHETHER rebirth happens, as HOW it happens. I have a strong conviction (saddha) – because it is so fundamental to the Buddha’s teachings – it must be true. But until I can comprehend just what it means – either with tangible evidence, or with a clear inference based on such evidence, then I must must retain a degree of scepticism.

    And yes, I am familiar with the story of the soldier who dies because he insists on knowing all about the arrow in his chest before it can be removed. It’s just where I am right now. Perhaps it is the result of some kamma from a previous life. Ironic, huh?

    PS, frogs aren’t slimy but princes can be.

  75. Hi Robert,

    Thanks – and frogs can be princess too…I guess in a next life.

    I dont understand the perspective of rebirth from a scientific or technical viewpoint either or how it happens – something about the mind goes to the bardo for a ??couple of months or something then all the cravings or defilements are pulled into a womb towards parents of similar karma or who you are attracted to … any way if someone or when Ajahn Sujato or Brahmali return maybe they will explain it properly and thoroughly as I would like to hear that as well.

    Also I don’t mean to explain karma or rebirth as a form of fear “be good or you won’t go to heaven . I hate that” but knowing that if in following the eight fold path, virtue etc then we (technically, theoritically) have nothing to fear or do not need to fear the future for me creates freedom.

    Anyway thanks and hopefully someone will come up with a concise explanation of how it happens.

    Kind regards

  76. Is it possible that, by focusing on birth, or on rebirth, or on anything else among the aggregate mass of any and all sankharas (conditioned phenomena), we’re focusing on the wrong thing when trying to understand what’s really important in the Buddha’s teaching?

  77. Hi. I don’t think it’s a waste of time. If nothing else, I’m learning something from it.

    There are no shortcuts in life, indeed!

  78. I am not too sure what you are talking about … if you are referring intention and compassion I think it is all important and people should be informed…not have to be at the mercy of stupid dominating power crazy young people and cult leaders.

    Intention and compassion can be misused as well so what is it that is or isn’t important – the whole path is important.

  79. …also maybe it is up to karma what people hear and see sometimes not up to anyone else to control. If people want to learn the Dhamma and ask for teachings then I think monks and nuns have to teach it – they cannot withhold information and if it is taught right considering the karma of that person how can their be a problem with teaching the whole path…rather than withholding information etc or deciding for ourselves what is important or not ..to me that is just a form of control and a form of a person trying to make themselves superior to others.

  80. What a wonderful and skillful teaching on “show me proof and I’ll believe!” And, in the heat of this dialog it was perfect. It is easy and free for one to contemplate the meaning of consider the current of this debate. It is said the Buddha was challenged often. His response was very much like this without an animal story. What one knows directly, one knows. I was neutral on devas myself until I actually saw one. Now I speak of them in passing and don’t really care whether the hearer believes or not. His view does not negate my encounters at all. And, I didn’t have to believe it first to “see” it, either. Just being open to whatever is there without a need to cling to a view is priceless. With practice, we can tell whether we are clinging to views or the need to be right. And, when we realize it, with practice we can just STOP.

  81. Here another snippet from Bhante Sujato which I think provides a good example of the sort of confusing remarks one often encounters in the presentation of Buddhist practice.
    http://www.dhammanet.org/hosted/dhammanet/download.php?view.140) Talk on Anapanasati (Rains retreat talk 2006?)

    (I did ask Bhante to clarify this about two months ago but did not receive a response. Perhaps others could help clarify this for me. Bhante is talking about nimitas one may encounter through deep mediation.)

    To quote Bhante: ”…. Nimitas aren’t anything, it’s just the way you are seeing the breath, seeing the mind, the way this is interpreted to itself. Nimita is a metaphor (ie “the lights have gone on – light bulb above you head”). Nimitas are represented, interpreted as light by the mind (there is no actual light there). So that light is very powerful, overwhelming and it will change your life. You would understand that if you were a Christian, you would say – I have seen the face of God – you wouldn’t have any doubt about that. This is how it’s described – like when Brahma appears – the Nimita appears, the light appears. So what you are seeing is the mind which has this power, which in fact is the power of God, it’s not like it’s just like that, it actually is (the power of God). This is the power that the great and mighty devas get their power from, the Brahma gods, from seeing these lights, from this experience…..”

    Also to quote Bhante earlier in a post addressed to me: “…Devas are, in fact, conditioned, impermanent, suffering creatures very much like you or I in all spiritually important aspects. And, crucially, knowledge of such things is an empirical knowledge, derivable from the meditative extension of ordinary sensory faculties…… “

    My questions are: how are we to understand this “empirical knowledge, derivable from the meditative extension of ordinary sensory faculties”? Are the latter (Buddhist) devas referred to above the same as the Brahmanical ones earlier? (If so doesn’t this indicate the cultural influence of Brahmanism on Buddhism?) But if you were a Christian, would it ‘really’ be the face of God or might you be deluding yourself? Presumably a Buddhist wouldn’t see it as the face of God. Also if you were an agnostic / atheist scientist might it legitimately be explained in physiological and psychological terms? If so, is there a need to overlay a religious interpretation to the earlier comment above: “Nimitas aren’t anything, it’s just the way you are seeing the breath, seeing the mind, the way this is interpreted to itself. Nimita is a metaphor (ie “the lights have gone on – light bulb above you head”). Nimitas are represented, interpreted as light by the mind (there is no actual light there).”?

    Is anyone able to make sense of this for me?

    If anyone else is similarly confused by Bhante’s comments, as a comparison I suggest listening to The Secular Buddhist podcast Episode 11: Enlightenment Experiences: Validity & Usefulness which presents similar ideas but present these in a much more coherent way.

    Cheers

    Geoff

  82. Geoff,

    As I understand it, nimitas are the product of a mind that turns to perception (memory) when it reaches for some way to make sense of an experience in meditation that is free of input from the other five senses, input by the way which the mind also interprets by means of perception (memory) when reaching for some way to make sense of it. Nimitas can be something visual, tactile, even emotional (e.g. in the case of metta meditation).

    To ask whether the Buddha’s assertions regarding the existence of devas is the result of the cultural influence of Brahmanism on the Buddha and to assert that, if this is so, it is therefore evidence of the need to reject those parts of the Buddha’s teachins that refer to devas doesn’t make sense to me.

    First, as so many have pointed out before, the Buddha rejected (caste system, the self) or transformed a great many things of Brahmanism. He was perfectly capable of thinking for himself. So, he must have had some reason for asserting that the devas exist.

    Second, he was teaching from the point of view of the Dhamma Asankhata (the Unconditioned Dhamma), having extinguished all attachment, aversion and ignorance, and there is no reason to assume that he would not have asserted the existence of beings beyond those that we can sense with our sense organs unless he had a good reason.

    All Brahmas, devas, humans and other beings are the product of aggregates that are subject to arising, i.e. they are part of conditioned phenomena, and therefore focusing on the existence of the devas when trying to understand what the Buddha taught about the cessation of suffering might cause you to miss the bigger picture and miss what the Buddha was pointing to.

    You don’t have to believe in the existence of devas to recognize the importance of trying to understand what the Buddha was pointing to when he sometimes made reference to them, i.e. when he was teaching about the way to extinguished all attachment, aversion and ignorance.

  83. This was something I was going to post Bhante when he returns from the Rains but perhaps you guys might have some ideas…

    Bhante,

    Welcome back – hope you enjoyed the Rains.

    To quote your earlier comments on this post before Vassa ( in reference to one of the three Knowledges on the night of the Buddha’s enlightenment concerning recollecting his past lives) * in your post 11/7/11 titled Secular Buddhism – some more bits:

    “This contrasts with what I have characterized as ‘metaphysical’ claims. The difference is precisely the difference between a very very big number and infinity. The Buddha claims to have exercised his memory over billions of years. The difference between that and our ordinary experience of time is very great, but not outside the capacities of inference. After all, geology and astrophysics claim to tell us what happened billions of years ago, relying on inference from fairly sketchy data.”

    ********

    You say “The difference is precisely the difference between a very very big number and infinity.”
    But is it a finite “very, very big number”? eg did the Buddha go back (say) 34.3569 billion years & then think “that’s it – that’s as far back as I go”?

    Did the Buddha claim to have exercised his memory over billions of years? Maybe it was trillions of years? Or perhaps it was more than that?

    If that’s the case, “the difference is precisely the difference between a very very big number and infinity” becomes increasingly blurred.

    Do you honestly feel this is “not outside the capacity of inference” and still hold that this figure was human? If this is the case why shouldn’t we start seeing the Buddha as losing his conceivable human characteristics and becoming a man/god hybrid?

    You draw on claims to ‘empiricism’ and “capacities of inference” and try to distance yourself from ‘metaphysics’ but could you please explain why your comments are not simply demonstrating a religious “leap in faith”?

    If you could please clarify another query:

    Re your earlier comments on Dependent Origination:

    How / why /does / should ‘clinging’ give rise to ‘becoming’ and how /why/ does / should ‘becoming’ give rise to (re)birth?

    Are you able to support this empirically? Are you able to provide any verifiable evidence of this?

    Much appreciated your time

    PS Alternatively it might just be best to put it all to one side and admit we simply don’t know and rework what we can from Buddhist practice from that.

    eg The Secular Buddhist doesn’t seem to have any problem with this – why should the rest of us?

    cheers

    Geoff

  84. The talk by Ajahn Brahm is so patently nonsense that I find it hard to see how anyone can possibly take it seriously. Is it Buddhism?

  85. I’ve only had time to listen to the first half so far. In it, Ajahn Brahm is knocking down the arrogant notion that we human beings are created by a god and that everything else is just to be exploited. And he is exposing the human potential for thoughtless cruelty towards animals. Not nonsense.

    Anyone making a sincere effort to understand the nature of conditioned existence is far more worth listening to than is anyone who makes insincere and thoughtless off-hand comments about such sincere efforts to understand amounting to nonsense.

    Is what he is saying Buddhism? For me, answers to questions about the nature of conditioned phenomena (leading to suffering) are useful, but they are not as important as is the focus on the cessation of suffering, at which point rebirth ceases to be an issue.

  86. Peter,

    Nonsense, what nonsense.

    I too certainly have my doubts about Buddhism Peter and while I don’t agree with what you say I understand where you are coming from, but I don’t think there is any benefit in cutting people down if you cannot put up an opposing argument that verifies your claims; it takes no intelligence or compassion to do this, possibly just ill-will and ignorance, so you need to back up your comments.

    If you don’t believe in rebirth or Buddhism what is your theory on how and why we are here – you must have a better one, or access to some knowledge i haven’t yet seen – I would absolutely love to find an easier way than Buddhism; seriously if I am doing all this work and don’t have to I am going to be mightly p….. off if you have a better and easier way but obviously you do and have found a better path–please share :)

    Please put up you your explanation on why we are here, how we got here and how we get out of suffering.

  87. Guys, thought I would also place this here under the Secular posting for your thoughts…….

    Bhante

    Thought I would put this under the White Bones post as I figure you are more likely to read it….

    You don’t have to be a social researcher to read something from the number of responses to the secular postings compared to others such as this one.

    Not that I would expect it to deter you from launching into your series of postings on your new book on Buddhist mythology (and continue to pay little more than lip service to secular concerns)….

    Concerns such as: “why should anyone give their (hard earned after tax) money to a group of voluntary renunciants when there are involuntary starving people in the world?”

    (eg East Africa is facing the world’s most severe famine. The combination of drought and ongoing conflict has affected more than 12 million people – resulting in an extraordinary crisis.)

    Also other small matters such as: “how does craving ACTUALLY lead to rebirth?” (i.e. can be scientifically verified as you claim Stevenson has done with rebirth per se.)

    By the way I gave my $100 to East Africa rather than Santi. Hope you don’t mind. Hope that’s not a mark against me for my rebirth. Lol

    Cheers

    Geoff

  88. Geoff,

    The only mark against you regarding your $100 that you can’t seem to stop putting in Bhante’s face is that you haven’t actually given it away. You’re still holding onto it! Let it go.

  89. I am not too sure how anyone can call themselves a Buddhist if they don’t believe in rebirth but maybe – who knows – but even from the limited sutta study I have done the Buddha spoke about rebirth…. and a literal rebirth not a metaphysical one.

    Just as importantly and for me an ordinary being he also spoke about ways to overcome any negative karma we may have created in this life and he/she gives clear advice and instruction on how to be reborn into a fortunate life and even for people who can’t accept rebirth this advice could only make for a happy or happier life…yippee, now would I prefer movie star, king, queen or pro surfer, musician maybe umm..or enlightenment umm

  90. I actually work in community welfare, day in day out, so feel the need to support people who spread the Dharma as I see it benifical as a way out of suffering for both starving people and middle class people.

    A meal and a place to sleep is the most necessary thing for those in need of course and obviously, and donations are incredibly important…but if possible giving them the ability to create their own means of providing for themselves and their communities and a spiritual path is for hte rest of the time and the words of the Dhamma can give them this rather than just a quick and temporary fix.

    So any spare money I make from working in the community sector (yeah probably $100 considering the low wages we get!!) will go towards those who spread teh Dhamma because without this – speaking from the front line of welfare work – I could not last more than a day in a job like this!

    Also I just noticed that Ajahn Sujato has written various books probably many of which cover the questions you ask ..so maybe if you have time reading those might answer your quesitons until he returns from the retreat.

    Metta

  91. I must also admit though that at times it makes me wonder too.. working in this crappy job then giving money to people who …do what?

    I am though confident in AB and his disciples doing so much good and work for free in so many ways that they deserve more than I could every imagine giving.

    I have to say though if I were an employer…. from the few Buddhists I have had to work with in the community sector I would never employ a Buddhist – they are without doubt the worst and most selfish people to work with.

    Muslims – I don’t go for their beliefs at all… sorry Muslims – but their work ethic and compassion towards the less fortunate is unbelievable! The Muslims I worked with were so hard working and tolerant – maybe they had another agenda but I couldn’t see it and could just watch in awe at their tireless efforts and their compassion for those less fortunate than themselves.

    Christian umm OK

    but Buddhists – I don’t know why… but they seem to be so busy thinking they are superior to everyone, they are useless

    So I would just like to clarify that I would donate money to AB and his disciples because they do seem to work hard and be beneficial to others and because I think they deserve it.

  92. Ratanadhammo, Have you got to the part about mutant cats yet? Ajahn Brahm is making proclamations, do we not need to investigate? Are the anecdotes that he relays as fact convincing? Are humans getting taller because of a desire to be taller?

    Is it it not okay to call a spade a spade. In my opinion the talk is whack. I also find it hard to understand how it can be seen any other way. I guess it is my “ignorance” or my lack of parami from previous lives (I’m sure the second would be Ajahn Brahms view).

    I wonder how sincerity is measured and what the levels are like for secular Buddhists.

  93. Insincerity is easy to spot:

    You come along, put down what others are saying, and say little to nothing that helps anyone learn anything.

    See buddhadhamma’s comment to you at Aug 15 2011 9:52 am.

    Or, like another commenter who comes around here for laughs, you ask questions that are intended to pull at the threads of a profound teaching while offering nothing to help make sense of the profound teaching, all while displaying your disdain for monks and nuns who dedicate their lives to understanding the profound teaching and to helping others understand it as best they can.

    Ajahn Brahm’s efforts to turn what happened to cats that were born in certain conditions into something from which we can learn just isn’t that much of a problem. What human beings sometimes do to animals for fun, on the other hand, is truly horrible. Frankly, I’m surprised he didn’t entertain the idea that the blind cats were the reincarnations of the stupid humans who were cruelly throwing the parents of the blind cats down to their deaths. They most probably were not, but the idea is worth considering for a moment.

    What I heard was Ajahn Brahm’s main arguments: A) knocking down the arrogant notion that we human beings are created by a god and that everything else in existence is just there for us to exploit; and, B) exposing the human potential for thoughtless cruelty towards animals.

  94. Right on Pete

    I think ABs’ had too much of a free run…..

    I know that guy on YouTube could have been more polite but fair dinkum AB’s ideas explaining why there are few animals and more humans!!

    To think the guy was scientifically trained too – just goes to show what anyone can be lead to believe if they want to – bit scary really….

  95. Peter,

    Don’t let him get to you – while buddhists teachers are supposedly great compassionate beings at a certain level they just do what ever they can to get reactions and find your breaking points or to push you beyond your normal concepts.

    Being assholes and pushing you beyond what you want to hear etc is all part of their strategies.

    And while I support ordainment for women good luck to those that do it because to be honest in actual fact it looks about as exciting as watching paint dry or babysitting you younger siblings with the local christian ministers wife breathing down you neck watching your every move …with that hypocritical morality that says stuff like “well don’t eat another biscuit or you might get fat but then at the same time condeming women who wear short skirts, isn’t that why they don’t want them to get fat so they can attract a man….and isn’t that why they wear short skirts.

    Ordainment for men might be an adventure but for women it is just seems so domestically dull and boring like dying and going to the “hell of mundane bordom” or suffocating in the safely and security of a girls boarding (boring) school. Go into the homeless life so you can live exactly the same life you left uhhh what??

    So utterly goody goody safe and boring it makes a Christian Camp to the Scout Hall look like an wild our there adventure; or the local bingo game a “night to remember”

    Anti-discrimination against women should include NOT PLACING THEM IN SITUATIONS WHEREBY DEATH BY BOREDOM MAY OCCUR – this is as much murder as any other form of violence.

    Best wishes

  96. Ratanadhammo, The point about the cat story is that it is not true. When does the fiction end? How much do we want to believe in some of these things? Can we take stories that are so obviously ludicrous and also stories which are so clearly beyond verification (hairy baby) and try and use them to support a preconceived notion about the way things work and present this as Buddhist teaching?

    I personally feel this is a useful area of exploration. just as useful than an exploration of the ideas of Stephen Batchelor

  97. buddhadhamma,

    If you think that Buddhist teachers (monks like Bhante and Ajahn Brahm, in this case) are the provocateurs in these exchanges and that it’s their goal in life to badger people like Peter and Geoff, you’re really not paying any attention here at all.

  98. Peter,

    How do you make the leap from putting down Ajahn Brahm’s assertion about cats to asserting that Batchelor has anything useful to say about the Buddha’s spiritual path? I’m not saying that Batchelor has nothing useful to say about the Buddha’s spiritual path, but Batchelor’s tendency to cut up the Pali Canon to fit his own biases greatly reduces his views to something far less useful. Your leap is just plain non sequitur.

  99. Ratadhammo,

    If you think that reading a text is some logical linear way to enlightenment and that is all you have to do then fine – but it is really no different from saying if I follow a guru I will end up enlightened.

    I do not think Brahm, Sujato or any other monk or nun are any different from the Tibetan cults and cult leaders, and they no it; while they may follow the texts some what closer…. so what; because even in the Suttas it says that it they have intention they can do what they want, lie etc

    I do not think Peter is just a provocator, he is the student who seems to think that there is some solid realness, some point of logic, some strong and solid authority figure who can lead people to this solid realmess that we are all searching for and that when we find it we can rest in that feeling important and that we have made it- he just seems to be looking for the wrong thing having expectations – when in fact their is no solid real anything, no Buddhist teacher that is anything more than a Buddhist teacher…. what ever that is .

    We need to know what we are looking for where we are going – what is enlightenment which path to take; follow a guru who makes your life hell to test your ego “for you own good and for the good of others” or read the suttas and feel secure in the rules and academic logic of that – unfortunatley for cult followers and adherants to logic and academic nonsense alike I would suggest it is best to not get such in either because when you do it will become the opposing path it is all same just a different path.

    Why I say AB and other buddhist teachers are the provocators is because that is there job – it is not their job to be your heros, or to analyse the suttas and know every nuance of some theoritical writings and it is not their job to be our point of safety and security or give you all the stuff you never got from your family – it is not your job to give you a ten out of ten for you academic knowledge or your ability to do what they say – it is their job to get people to emptiness full of compassion or free from greed hatred and delusion; how ever you want to look at it and beyond that I am not sure –

    So although I do not like the way Peter cuts down the teachers and Buddhists, I find it disrespectful and even dangerous because without Buddhist teachers etc we are surely be lost to suffering for ever, ill will is not part of the Buddhist path at all even though I am sure we all have it, but while I don’t like this I and I try my best to apprecitate and have great respect for any Buddhist teacher and it is what we need to tolerate to get to enlightenment – to me the greatest aspect of enlightenment will be freedom from Buddhist teachers…to go forth into the monestryless life… to get to the final day of pre-school, school or uni to shake their hands and move on.

    So go to Buddhist school, do what you are told to do etc etc score some brownie points and graduate at the end of it all…whatever but don’t tell me it was a walk in the park with your bestie OK, and don’t tell me you have managed to get to sit up the front of the class with the teacher.. getting there is not more important than how you got there – cause I just don’t give a rats.

  100. buddhadhamma,

    Your response to me is full of a lot of assumptions. I have never attended a Buddhist school. I am not in a monastery. I have never stayed at one. I have no guru. I did go on a three-day retreat once.

    Learning from the best source for the teaching of the Buddha is not academic nonsense. Cultivating right view as best we can is not a waste of time, but enhances practice and helps give it direction.

    If you think that what Peter is doing is logical and are impressed with it, great. If you’re referring to Batchelor as the “strong and solid authority figure who can lead people to this solid realness that we are all searching for,” then you are certainly free to put aside the best source for the teaching of the Buddha in favor of Batchelor’s reduced version of it that panders to the egos and preexisting worldview of all who embrace it.

    What is “this solid realness,” anyway? And why do you revere human logic as if it can lead to anything beyond knowledge of conditioned phenomena?

  101. You said:

    “If you think that what Peter is doing is logical and are impressed with it, great. If you’re referring to Batchelor as the “strong and solid authority figure who can lead people to this solid realness that we are all searching for,” then you are certainly free to put aside the best source for the teaching of the Buddha in favor of Batchelor’s reduced version of it that panders to the egos and preexisting worldview of all who embrace it”.

    I am definately not impressed with Peters ill will but I understand his confusion is all I am saying…we try to follow some theorically based Buddhism based on the teachings of the buddha but then AB goes off on his Vajrayana type interpretation of Buddhism – I am just saying I understand his confusion – nor am I trying to pin him down AB and say he should stick to the theoritical aspect of buddhism because he is a scientist and that is what people expect of him or saying that is wrong just that at some point the theories can dissapear or become illogical and this can be disconcerting for those that think they are following theoritical Buddhism; following a scientists.

    As for secular Buddhism again I believe what the Buddha said is the way to enlightenment and to be honest haven’t bothered reading about Stephen Bachelor or what he says; in no way was I stating Stephen Bachelor is anything like that – who the hell is he anyway?? I have no idea to be honest and wasn’t referring to him in any way.

    Does the fact that secular buddhism exists bother me – umm not if it helps people ..but I beleive secular buddhists should clarify that (a) they take their information form buddhism to a point but don’t follow buddhism thoroughly …or conversely (b) even though some of their info is based on Buddhism they are not following Buddhist practise as taugh by the Buddha. They should clearly state this on their books etc otherwise I believe it is misleading.

    I find the whole concept of secular Buddhism sort of boring to the point that I don’t really look into it much – like I just don’t want to go there fore some reason – so no I was not referring to Batchelor – who ever the hell he is??

    Although many of the lamas etc in alternative traditions don’t follow specifically what the Buddha taugh or think they can take bits of it and expand on that – but it is not called Secualr Buddhism they consider themselves ordained Buddhists?? so what do you think of that?

    I am not making assumptions about you so much it is a general assumption about being “a student” in Buddhism – like it is good to not have too many expectation about teachers.learn what you can but never think things are static or unchangeable.

    Your said:
    What is “this solid realness,” anyway? And why do you revere human logic as if it can lead to anything beyond knowledge of conditioned phenomena?

    I don’t think there is a solid realness – but don’t you think that most non-buddhist do didn’t you before you studied buddhism and it seems to me that is what Peter is looking for or still believeing in.

    I agree with you statement that human logic cannot do anything more than understand conditioned phenomena, thanks for that I hadn’t looked at it that way before – I like it :)

  102. Guys,

    I want to share a little story about Bhante’s Friday night group which I think has some relevant to the secular debate. I’d be interested in your responses.

    It has nothing to do with interpretation of the Pali Canon but is part of the reason I will no longer be attending the group after regularly attending for 18 months.

    About 2 months ago after one of Bhante’s talks, I was waiting to use the bathroom. The person who emerged just before I went in was well known to Bhante and other regulars. He has been involved in fundraising for Santi and has stayed there for extended periods.

    Anyway, I went into the bathroom and found urine all over the toilet seat. I proceeded to clean the seat for myself and for anyone following me.

    What’s that about? Even if he hadn’t been responsible (which is unlikely), why didn’t he clean it up?

    What does this say about the type of person attracted to Santi? I never confronted this at the secular group I’ve also attended.

    You can say all you like about the Unconditioned but there was nothing unconditioned about that toilet seat…….

  103. Hi Ratanadhammo,
    I guess my meaning was unclear – I did not mean to say that Stephen Batchelor had anything useful to say per se but that it would be just as useful for all to turn our minds towards looking and thinking about what their own teachers are saying and where they are leading us..

    The main point was that in the talk above Ajahn Brahm was using anecdotes which were are fiction and anecdotes which are unsubstantiated and ideas which would be considered “nonsense” by many to try and validate pre-conceived ideas.

    It seems to question one like Ajahn Brahm is seen as ill will or delusion or confusion or not yet being ripe. Now how are cults created and allowed to flourish?

  104. Geoff,

    Gee what an interesting way to measure the worth of a Buddhist teacher – by the amount of urine on the toilets seats – I never thought of measuring a teacher by that method – are you for real??

    I am wondering whether your post is a joke or something – – you ought to check out my toilet after reading your ridiculous ungrateful and rude post – because it is covered in vomit.

    Maybe you should try a few practises like they do in other countries like sitting with corpses in graveyards etc – have you ever been to a third world country; have you ever worked with elderly people – a bit of urine on a toilet seat …errr..

    I don’t think by behaving like a complete prude you will get far in Buddhism and to even comment on that fact that someone left urine on a toilet seat on a public website is far worse and far more ill mannered than leaving urine on a toilet seat – that for what it is worth is my comment on you comment.

    Seriously dude you need to book a ticket to India – you really need to get out more! :)

  105. Peter,

    You are not questioning; you are proclaiming what is said is wrong and not possible etc – how is that questioning – just because you haven’t experienced anything other than the ordinary doesn’t mean others haven’t – why do you have the right to blatently denegrate other peoples experiences?

    Some people may have had experiences that verify rebirth – you haven’t; fair enough but to say that their experiences are nonsense or experiences other than the normal day to day, get born, live and die experiences are fiction etc is more lthe making of cults than letting or getting people to expand their thinking and beliefs beyond the normal.

    What is cult anyway – a bank is a cult – corporate organisations are cults, Maccas is a cult… they limit and conform people to a certain way of thinking that suits their purposes; if AB, AS or any other Buddhist teacher conforms peoples or my thinking or mind to a way of thinking that suits the Buddhas purpose of enlightenment for me and all sentient beings to gain enlightenment if I could do it, if I had the merit I would join that cult any day – yep i would prefer a life of enlightenment to a life of french fies and hamburgers..but hey thats just me but you make your own choice.

  106. Geoff,

    I had a few thoughts while reading your comment that I’d rather not share, but I will say that overall you’ve presented a fairly good analogy for what you’re doing very publicly in your spewings at this site.

    Maybe you should focus more on cleaning up your own act.

    It is ironic that you’re presenting this incident as the reason not to return to the group after regularly attending for 18 months. While it’s unfortunate that you’re no longer going to benefit from attending, it does seem as though you’re not ready to attend with an open mind or make a real effort to benefit from attending at this time.

    Be well.

  107. buddhadhamma, the story about the cats is wrong. It is not a true story.

    The story about the hairy baby may be true, I don’t know, but it is certainly unsubstantiated. I lived in Thailand for a number of years. Possibly longer than either Ajahn Brahm or Bhante Sujato and such stories are fairly common their and are in context of the society. In Australia it is out of context. I don’t think that I have denigrated anyone’s experience. We all have “experiences” at times and we all give different importance to different experiences and interpret experience in different ways.

    So you believe it is your lack of merit that is preventing you from joining a cult ?

  108. Geoff,

    Actually I have re-thought my comment possible I was a little uncompassionate (is that a word)..

    Oh My God! … I mean you poor thing. Oh My God, OMG OMG OMG OMG!! oh….my….god!!!

    Seriously…. how frightful for you – are you recovering..oh…my…god, what a dreadful, dreadful experience for you.

    What is it with Monks today …I mean honestly letting people who urinate into Buddhist classes..especially in North Sydney.

    People in North Sydney do not use public toilets; do not urinate and do not and I repeat do not leave urine on toilets seats!! Who let this person into North Sydney in the first place.

    I hope you washed, sanitised, sterilised, antibacterialised and manicure afterwards- do you need some counselling. OH MY GOD you poor dear…and to think in other countries people urinate in public places, don’t even have toilets, can’t even afford toilet paper and actually I hate to say it ..work in jobs where they actually clean toilets – could you imagine… oh dear me, dear dear me and you had to actually wipe urine off a toilet seat..once.

    Geoff Darling …are we becoming like ….them – and in North Sydney; something must be done or we will end up like those poor poor dears West of the Harbour Bridge, and we could not have that, absolutely not…just wait till I tell the girls about this …they will be horrified OMG!

    Bhante Sujato – toilet monitors – on duty – that is the answer.; absolutely… I insist..every toilet must be checked after use…white gloves..this cannot continue absolutely toilet monitors! Infact why should people be allowed to urinate in the first place, it is a vile and disgusting habit that only the unenlighten partake off, it has to stop – shut the public toilets and ask anyone to leave who attempts the act of urination. There!

    … a manure in Double Bay… a coffee… abit of retail therapy, a lie down…(quite a few drinks) at the Country club and bear up old chap and you will get through it, I know you will!

  109. Peter,

    I am not sure what merit I have or don’t have.. but I don’t really believe that following the Buddha’s teachings is following a cult.. because no one is forcing me or manipulating me to do it and it is the truth and for benefit of everyone not the Buddha himself…I mean how does the Buddha profit?

    If I was being forced and manipulated into something I would consider that a cult yes; if on the other hand I agreed with what I saw and wanted to follow something because it led to happyness and enlightenment even if it wasn’t easy I would not consider following the teaching a cult or such an organisation a cult because why would I bother going if (a) i was not prepared to learn or question (b) I was already enlightened and didn’t need to go.

    So to answer you question I guess it depends on the group; either it is my merit or it is a choice not too because for example I see it as sooooo boring or I don’t trust it, see that it would make a difference or believe it I choose not to (which could also just be my karma but then maybe not.

    I am not too sure if at my level if I see things as they really are or through my own karmic defilements, but either way I don’t think I could be forced to do something I seriously didn’t like or found deathly boring either way and would probably just rebel …hughly!! he he

  110. I feel in moments when we are confused and don’t know which direction to turn…

    We can always turn to the one person who makes sense….

    Who else but Woody Allen who speaks so eloquently about the important life and death matters:

    Dying is one of the few things that can be done as easily lying down.

    Eternal nothingness is fine if you happen to be dressed for it.

    I am not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.

    I don’t believe in the after life, although I am bringing a change of underwear.

    I don’t want to achieve immortality through my work. I want to achieve it through not dying.

    It is impossible to experience one’s death objectively and still carry a tune.

    Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering – and it’s all over much too soon.

    Not only is there no God, but try finding a plumber on Sunday.

    There are worse things in life than death. Have you ever spent an evening with an insurance salesman?

    To you I’m an atheist; to God, I’m the Loyal Opposition.

    Tradition is the illusion of permanance.

    What if everything is an illusion and nothing exists? In that case, I definitely overpaid for my carpet.

    What if nothing exists and we’re all in somebody’s dream?

    Why are our days numbered and not, say, lettered?

    You can live to be a hundred if you give up all the things that make you want to live to be a hundred.

  111. You said:

    “I feel in moments when we are confused and don’t know which direction to turn…

    We can always turn to the one person who makes sense….

    Who else but Woody Allen who speaks so eloquently about the important life and death matters”

    Woody Allen ..the guy who left is wife for his stepdaughter one third of his age? nice guy!

    If you are a secular Buddhist and don’t like original Buddhism that is fine; so what and good on you.

    I use to follow lots of different spiritual, new age things… some could probably be classed as secular Buddhism – it was usful and helped me alot – but also because it was not like the whole path it left me confused abit.

    questioning an investigation other spiritual paths is one thing but why tear- down with negative ill-will what you don’t like – why not just follow and support what you believe in; it is not like anyone is pushing or forcing you to go to AS classes is it?

    I don’t think anyone is tearing down SB’s secular Buddhism – constructive criticism is different to negative ill-will.; I am sure he has alot of good things to say but also – if he is not putting in a disclaimer or something that clarifies to people that he is not including the complete path that the Buddha taught I do think from personal experience this may be harmful or at least not benefical or misleading for people. I say this because when I followed some teachers who used the Buddhas teaching from their own perspecitve too much or too much for me it really really confused me.

    surely if they take some teachings from the Buddha then they should state this otherwise it is plagerism and they are also breaching copyright regulations by taking other peoples ideas or theories without paying or getting permission or referencing and possibly confusing and misleading people but if you like SB then why come here why not go to his website?

    There is a Buddhist say, Zen or something, Tibetan maybe…

    “you can’t cover the world with leather but you can wear leather shoes”.

    ie you can go round tearing down anyone who challenges secular Buddhism or you could just follow it yourself and see if it works.

  112. The Mahayana notion that Bodhisattvas are striving to replace the force of karma with that of bodhicitta is interesting. Not sure it holds up, though, as karma can’t be replaced in samsaric existence. It even continued to catch up to the Buddha until his Parinibbana. Of course, as Batchelor just throws out the whole idea of a moral order to the universe (he inserts something like one lazily into his scheme, but that’s about it), I’m not sure it matters much either way to those who revel in his worldview.

    So, which is better, a guy who gives a $100 to a good cause (but can’t shut up about it and, oh yeah, doesn’t urinate on a toilet seat), or a person who has been involved in fundraising for Santi (but may or may not have urinated on a toilet seat in circumstances that we know nothing about)?

    Geoff seems to think it’s the guy who gives a $100 to a good cause (but can’t shut up about it and, oh yeah, doesn’t urinate on a toilet seat) because he’s that guy.

    Geoff, I thought you were leaving. Didn’t you say that you don’t associate with people who know someone who may or may not have urinated on a toilet seat in circumstance that you know nothing about?

  113. “”So, which is better, a guy who gives a $100 to a good cause (but can’t shut up about it and, oh yeah, doesn’t urinate on a toilet seat), or a person who has been involved in fundraising for Santi (but may or may not have urinated on a toilet seat in circumstances that we know nothing about)?””” good point I might go for the guy who does volunteer work at a monestry.

    Geoff from that article “your” Stephen Bachelor seems quite an informed person – I agree in some ways because maybe it is the degree of believe in rebirth that is the issue – in Tibetan buddhism they make a big big issue out of it with Tulkus etc which from my experience takes away any liberation for people as they are just expected to be slaves to the tulkus forever and ever or until they become enlightened – if you are not born a tulku – why do they just not give each person the inforration and teaching to find their own liberaiton instead of keeping them ignorant and telling them the only way is to be obedient slaves to young kids – (but maybe that is what they want) but i don’t agree if he is saying rebirth doesn’t exist or matter at all.

    I think I have said before I work with people with a lot of issues – people who were born like that …rebirth it does matter as far as i can see.

    The fact is even from the Suttas I have read the Buddha taught about rebirth… that it exists literally – so for any person to say they are teaching Buddhism but claim rebirth doesn’t exist or it is not part of the path just seems blatently wrong to me. Like me trying to teach Christianity but claiming Jesus did exist or matte.

  114. Thanks for the link Geoff.

    Did you have a look at the article Ratanadhammo? It’s not bad. I do agree with you though, this rebirth thing is really just a distraction. I think being sceptical towards rebirth is a healthy position.

  115. Hi Visakha, The talk is linked to in my post dated “Aug 7 2011 7:25 pm”. It is the same talk that the bearded man is critical of.

  116. Ratenadhammo,

    They say certain actions like acting like a Bodhissatva, helping others can help purify karma don’t they even though maybe mediation is the quickest way??

    Even getting sick like the Buddha is not such a bad thing as probably he was purifying any negative karma therefore didn’t have to be reborn, wheras if he didn’t get sick before he died maybe he would have to be reborn because of that karma and then there is the added danger of loosing the path in the next life. I would prefer to get sick before I died, burn up that negative karma so that I could get a better life or not be reborn.

  117. Hi Venerable Panavatti or whoever can answer this quesiton,

    I have tried to read about Devas and vaguely understant it…but cannot seem to find any information that really resonants …does anyone have a clear, concise but not overly technical explanation of what a Deva is?

    Thanks

  118. I once asked a Buddhist teacher if other religions etc (including possibly secular Buddhism)
    could get people to enlightenment.

    While he agreed they had their uses and did some good, he then said, with regard to getting people to enlightened:

    “if they don’t teach the way to enlightenment, how are they going to get people to enlightenment”

    I then felt a little bit stupid for asking the question because the answer seemed so obvious …… but at least I understood the answer:)

  119. Just another thing that’s keeping me awake at night…..(not really)

    Bhante likes to keep impressing on us his “text critical” credentials in order to put forward his interpretation of the Buddha’s teachings while dismissing alternative, more secular ones.
    I have one small problem with this…..

    Even if we accept Bhante’s “text critical” interpretations, how might we interpret the period of time from the moment the Buddha’s words left his lips to the time these ‘texts’ were created? Bhante is prepared to talk for 4 hours at a stretch about his suggestion of what the original Satipattana Sutta might have looked like (see his recorded talks), but what about the 400 year period prior to the Sutta being transcribed?

    What are Bhante’s “oral critical” credentials? What are anyone’s?

    I have heard Bhante himself say how he was often misreported by the press when he was a musician. Why might this not have happened to the Buddha (ie “taken out of context”)? There was no accurate sound or visual recordings of the Buddha which might have given us some insight into eg his vocal intonations or expressions (idiom or “turn of phrase”) or visual recordings which may have provided some insight into eg his body language.

    Of course to further complicate matters, the Buddha wasn’t speaking in modern day English and was living in a far different cultural environment (eg we don’t find ourselves in discussion with Brahmins or Jains, rather we find ourselves in discussions with sutta thumpers).

    Could anyone please clarify this for me?

  120. Geoff Said

    “What are Bhante’s “oral critical” credentials? What are anyone’s?”

    He is an ordained Monk who has been studing the Suttas for years. Do you seriously think he could do that, would do that, would last as a Monk as a disciple of AB’s etc for that long, if he didn’t know what he was doing.

    Also it seems he has not just been faithfully following a Teacher like many do to “hung in there” and to have the kamma to remained ordained he has also been studying the Suttas and the actual teachings of the Buddha.

    I don’t know him and I am sure he is not perfect but what more do you want?

    Would the Buddha have given his teachings to those who did not have the karma to hear,interprete or record them He was the Buddha!! …even if he did those who heard or “hung out” with the Buddha would have had the right or best kamma or Right view etc of the time to write them down and interpret them

    To put it simply he has and the Buddha’s disciples had :
    Right view
    Right intention
    Right speech
    etc etc
    that is ….follows the eight fold path which is the path to enlightenment – the path that secular buddhists seem to take a pick at and leave the rest they don’t like – which I personally don’t hold as wrong as long as they and the people who follow them know this, because it can be helpful at the times for people and maybe at times it is all people can handle or deal with if they are busy – certainly by exploring different spiritual paths and sort of secular buddhist it led me to the real thing – so I will forever be grateful to the wonderful teachers (similar possibly to SB etc) that started me on the search.

    The only issue I have is it can create a sort of dependance or or powerlessness ie giving people a taste of the carrot but not whole carrot, does it make people dependant? does it confuse people…does it make people angry if they are told one thing but intuitively no that no Buddha would teach such a thing. possibly not IF they are honest and don’t lie and tell people it is not all of the teachings of the Buddha.

    For example if Stephen B. said “many traditional ordained Buddhists assert that rebirth is as important as etc etc but I don’t deal with that in my teachings on Buddhism ….’
    Also I have to say if I had the choice again I wouldn’t want to waste so much time and would go straight to the teachings of the Buddha…but that is just me…but please don’t think I am ungrateful to those teachers or groups becasue I am not.

    It is abit like the secretive buddhist cults – they say that is the only way they can function but do they have the right to hurt and lie to people and still call themselves Buddhist….I don’t know and possibly they do, I am sure they do so much good, but my personal view and it is just my personal view based on my own experience with these groups is that they should tell people they have adapted the teaching and tell them that they can read the actual Buddhas teaching for themselves..then how is there a problem? I mean it can send you mad if someone tells you they are a great Buddhist teacher but you just cannot see it , can’t feel it – if the groups assert that some young kid is suppose to be teacher or Buddha but they simpoly remind you of the girl next door – it can cause depression and confusion as it is like your only hope apparently for salavation but it is not working and you cannot see it or feel it …but if they said this ..or this person can teach the Dhamma a bit but to get the full teaching straight from the Buddha read the Suttas etc.

    You said

    “Of course to further complicate matters, the Buddha wasn’t speaking in modern day English and was living in a far different cultural environment”

    If you listen to some of the talks and Suttas on the Dhammaloka website I think they explain that the Suttas were found in different countries, and when translated and compared they all said basically the same thing – so this sort of verifies the accuracy of them.. I think there is a talk by
    Ajahn Brahamali on this but sorry cannot remember which one.

    Please note I am just talking from my own personal experiences with different buddhist groups and secular groups and this is just my opinion based on my experience for what it is worth.
    Sometimes you can analyse the teachers and teachings but really putting into practise and seeing if it works for you is the best way to go…a teacher cannot do it for you and if it doesn’t work then either that teacher is not right for you or you should try a different teacher or something

    Regards

  121. Geoff

    I think your post in the other section raises another important question:

    Would secular Buddhism be so popular or even have needed to exist if the teachings of the Buddha had not been misinterpreted through the eyes of masogynists and also if Metta meditation had had more emphasise”..I say this because most of the alternate groups I know are (a) populated by women (b) gave up or dislike or state Theravardin Buddhism as they see it as too academic becasue often they make light of Metta Meditation and believe that many Theravardens are people who only want for themselves ie who are selfish..but this also seems to be wrong if the Buddha taught metta mediation or even Mega Metta mediation as AB does.

    Regards

  122. Interesting point you make about metta practice, buddhadhamma. There are certainly a lot of women attracted to the secular group I’ve been involved with. Mind you, there are also more women than men in Bhante’s group. I am sure Bhante’s sensible attitude towards women is a strong reason for this.

    Just on another matter……

    While Bhante will no doubt want to talk about his new book when he returns from the Rains, I find Bhante himself a more interesting subject.

    Why does a middle aged, middle class, white, university educated, Aussie bloke from a Christian background (just like me), go from being a self-confessed atheist to believing in devas and a human being able to recall past lives dating back billions of years?

    Also Bhante becomes the abbot of a monastery in Australia with Asian rituals and primarily Asian supporters but continues to reflect his Western background by acknowledging the importance of science and the equality of women. Does this cause him any cognitive dissonance? (thanks TSB for the term)

    I can only imagine the break up of his band twenty years ago must have shaken him greatly. Despite his many years of metta practice I can still see that intensity in him. People in these circles often like to emphasis the commonality of people but it is also interesting to reflect how different people are…..

    It’s a funny old world……

  123. Geoff,

    Geoff said:

    “Why does a middle aged, middle class, white, university educated, Aussie bloke from a Christian background (just like me), go from being a self-confessed atheist to believing in devas and a human being able to recall past lives dating back billions of years”.

    You are confused and it seems abit angry over the fact that a person (just like you) who comes from a good home and has had a fortunate life but who was an atheist then becomes a believer of the teachings of the Buddha and therefore I guess a Monk.

    Some Buddhist might say that you and him have good karma to have been born into such lives! lucky you!

    Geoff that is a very very good question; it is also an extremely difficult question to answer and one I think someone like maybe Ajahn Brahm or someone far more qualified in Buddhism than myself should answer or that because AS is the person you are talking about he should answer that.

    I would guess though that the simple answer is; like most people who turn to Buddhism or any other spiritual teachings while obviously he had a good and fortunate life he may have found greater joy happiness and satisfaction in following a spiritual path.

    This is I will admit a really bad analogy….. but It might be like saying why would Prince William married an ordinary sort of girl like Kate instead of some beautiful model, some rich aristocratic princess or some movie star… answer: because he (hopefully) made the choice between “love” a more spiritual happyness path and qualifty … over wealth, position and sex or or a relationship based on having it all.

    Which is not to say that the worldly life is bad necessary just that a spiritual one can actually lead to more happyness and joy.

    I think a great question is that if you have the same background roughly as AS why is it he chooses a spirtual life but you don’t ..do you know why?

    i wouldn;t get to worried or caught up in the more esoteric teachings of the Buddha; remember he was in India at the time and his teachings had to appeal to a culture that was very esoteric. What appeals to me are the aspects of morality and virtue that he says lead to happyness.

  124. Geoff

    My issue on rebirth is not whether it is true or not..I believe it but…..

    My question is:

    “Just how much emphasise and importance should be placed on it” Just how much emphasise and importance did the Buddha say to place on it?… actually from the little I have read he does not seem to place more importance on it that other aspects of the path!!

    I mean the Tibetan sects live and breath rebirth… I think I heard in one of AS talks about the women who claimed the world was built on the back of turtles… (this was meant as a joke or analogy)

    Do we build our reality of the back of turtles ie karmic score points of merit based on past life achievements. You are better than me because you are this or that, I ‘ll sit behind you because you are taller, shorter, uglier etc than me.

    Really i don’t know…. but basically personally I would like to acknowlege and accept rebirth as true but leave it at that… and live in the present! be with people who in the present are people who are skillful , tall, short, old, young men or women… rathering than for example having to tolerate sexist men preaching Buddhism because in past life they were monks or whatever…even though in this life they are just basically sexist.. or being with people in position who are bad because in a past life they were good.

    I don’t believe this issue can be controlled necessarly..karma is karma it happens….but at the same time if it cannot be controlled then that works both ways … the control by certain sects whereby they purposely select and use people based on their past life karma is also …..control!

    So I would say yes I believe in rebirth but more importantly… I live in the present… not the past or the future, so unless I am about to be reborn right now I am not too sure I want to build my reality, my universe on rebirth any more than I do on turtles and if I live in the present following the eight-fold path then I should not have to worry too much about where I am reborn any way…if the Buddha is correct in his teachings.

    If he is not …err :)..just kidding I have faith in the path..all the path not just (*&&^()() … rebirth!

  125. Geoff, I would say it is just a way of trying to establish a place/position/identity within a scary old world. I don’t think Bhante Sujato was middle aged when he ordained.

  126. Geoff,

    I think the moderation guidelines don’t really hold for too much personal discussion about people or speculation on people’s private and personal decisions anyway.

    It is not really anyone else’s business unless he decides to discuss… but maybe you can ask him when he comes back, it might make for good reading and an interesting topic

    Quote from Moderation Guidelines:
    “I am very happy to host a diversity of viewpoints and vigorous debate here, but please keep your posts kind, reasoned, and – if possible – grammatical. I’ll ban posts that get too personal, off-topic, offensive, potentially defamatory, or just plain silly. If your post doesn’t appear, and is none of the above, then it may have been dismissed as spam by WordPress’s automated filters. Let me know if this happens. I’ll check the spam folder occasionally” Quote from Sujato’s moderation guidelines.

    I think being able to take a three month break in the middle of the year would be good enough incentive to ordain – even Universities only get half that don’t they..six weeks twice a year of something but 3 months, excellent …I sure that must be a big drawcard…especially if they throw in a few overseas holidays.

    Anyone if 3 months break is good enough for them it is good enough for me …so this is me loggin off from this website..wishing you all lots of loving kindness and enlightenment :) :):):)

  127. Peter,

    moral integrity??

    AB is holding a retreat in a resort.

    He is not using the money from donations to fund a holiday for himself in a resort.

    So why is that a problem?

  128. Would anyone like to discuss what constitutes harrassment, bullying and slander?

    -First of all what DOES NOT constitute harrassment, bullying and slander

    ..differences of opinion and non-agressive disgreements (ie discussion debate), managing…and counselling …DO NOT constitute slander or harrassment.

    -What DOES constitute harrassment, bullying and slander

    Harassment means verbal or physical conduct which, because of its severity and/or persistence, is likely to create a hostile or intimidating environment which may detrimentally affect an individual or environment.

    Bullying is repeated unreasonable behaviour that creates a risk..a broad range of behaviour can be bullying and these behaviours can be direct or indirect. Examples of direct forms of bullying include repeated and continual acts of: verbal abuse, putting someone down, spreading rumours or innuendo and interfering with someone’s personal property or work equipment.

    (Workcover legistation NSW, 2009) (NSW Anti-discrimination ACT, 1977)

    -Examples of harrassment include…continual and repeated…

    -unjustied criticism or complaints
    -excessive scrutiny
    -displaying material that is racist, sexist, sexually explicit, homophobic…or put on a computer or fax machine or on the internet
    -derogatory comments that put down or stereotype people
    -intrusive questions into a persons personal life, including their sex life
    -continually displaying written or pictorial material to degrade or offend

    Just for the record:

    Sexual harassment: means unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual contact and verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when submission to, or rejection of such advances, requests or conduct is explicity or implicitly a term or condition affecting employment or education decisions; and/or when such advances, requests or conduct have a detrimental effect on an individual’s life/work or study environment (Sex Discrimination Act, 1984)

  129. Peter
    On the broader subject of moral integrity, is it right for those from comfortable Western backgrounds be supported materially by the hard working and devotional from Thai and Sri Lankan backgrounds (as is the case at Santi and elsewhere)?

    PS How’s your anger management going Brian?

    Speaking of disrespectful behaviour – I have just been re-reading Sujato’s comments on Glenn Wallis’s work (see “Discussion on Secular Buddhism” Sujato post – June11).

    (Glenn Wallis holds a Ph.D. in Buddhist studies from Harvard University’s Department of Sanskrit and Indian Studies. His scholarly work focuses on various aspects of Buddhism. He is chair of the Applied Meditation Studies program at Won Institute of Graduate Studies in Glenside, Pennsylvania and specialises in Indian Buddhism and is the author and translator of Basic Teachings of the Buddha and The Dhammapada: Verses on the Way. )

    Notice the disrespectful and defensive way Sujato comments on Wallis’ carefully reasoned work (“the Buddhist Manifesto” article). Talk about doing a “hatchet job” and “handwaving away a problem (secularism)”!

    This is what triggered the confrontation between the two in what should have been a mutually respectful exchange.

    “The notion that the Buddha merely talked about these things from unreflexive cultural conditioning is, to my mind, plain silly. Any 8 year old is quite capable of understanding that Santa Claus and the tooth fairy are not real. Can anyone honestly think that the Buddha, who displayed such consistent intelligence, reflectiveness, and conscious care in his use of language and cultural idioms, simply didn’t notice that every time he said “I have seen this with my direct knowledge”, in fact he was just mindlessly repeating cultural superstitions? And if one really thinks the Buddha was so impossibly stupid, then why bother paying any attention at all to what is said.

    This argument is made with so little genuine attention to the textual situation that I cannot take it seriously, and I have never heard of a serious scholar who has proposed such a thing. Of course there are genuine questions as to the way the culture influenced the Buddha, but this kind of argument does not engage such questions, it merely invokes them to handwave away a problem.”

    I find this defensiveness is common among the secular critics. If they were so confident in their views, why be so defensive? I asked Bhante to explain a number of points he made in this exchange with Wallis but he failed to respond.

  130. Geoff,

    Mate he is away … what is it you don’t get about that .

    Bhante is away on a Rains retreat and still you continue to badger and harass, slander and verbally abuse in an agressive manner and delibratly use this space and take advantage of the fact that because he is not here to make slanders comments.

    My only problem with Ajahn Sujato is that he tolerates an abusive, slanderers like yourself and that he continues to tolerate your harrassment and continued bullying while other people have been moderated on this forum for lesser behaviour.

    Personally I don’t come to Buddhist forums to have to read the rude, abusive badgering and slanderous trash you throw at Bhante and Buddhists and Buddhism in general.

    You live in Sydney so do I, and as a Sydneysider I know that your behaviour would not be tolerated any where else and you would have been cautioned for harrassment and slander by any other religion, organisation or if you carried out your harrassment and badgering in a public place and apparetnly you are a racist in that you seem to find some difference in whether who supports Bhante or not ..

    Is verbal abuse or badgering of a Monk and discrimination against Buddhists allowed in Australia any more than abuse, discrimination of Muslims or Christians..uh NO!.

    I think if any one with a pschotic and unreasonable hatred of me came anywhere near me I would call the cops.. how else can anyone deal with unreasonable and persisitent verbal abuser and slander like yourself… I hope if you do turn up at any of his classes or retreats they do … because I certainly would, your posts verify the necessity for this.

  131. In a luxery resort in Phuket for excutive disciples? Far removed from the daily lives of the of the general populace. It stinks!

  132. Peter,

    It stinks? Perhaps it does. But so what? In the greater scheme of unfairness in the world, this doesn’t seem like a very big deal. It doesn’t effect my practice in the slightest to know that a monk is giving teachings to rich people “far removed from the daily lives of the of the general populace.”

    In the blogging world, I think your assertions would be called “concern trolling.”

    Get over it.

  133. I’m “concern trolling.”? That’s a rather Orwellian acusation.

    Get over what exactly?

  134. How is the effort to understand what you’re doing in any way Orwellian? It isn’t.

    Get over your concern about a non-issue.

  135. Okay, I think the term “concern trolling” is rather Orwellian because the second word is trying to negate the first word. I see it is a way of trying to negate my assertions by portraying me as a troll.

    If it is a non-issue for you fair enough. I think that it is worth giving the bubble a little prick. Who know’s maybe if Ajahn Brahm ever gets a chance to read this thread he may find my input to be of value?

  136. Peter,

    Whether you are aware of it or not your comments come across not as helpful but as comments aimed at the Monks to hurt and slander. There is a difference between and good humoured discussion or asking questions to clarify moral integrity of the ordained and slander…

    Why if you disagree with everything do you post here – is someone through will power and mind control forcing you???

    -you “continually display written or pictorial material to degrade or offend” AB ie place utube videos not for the purpose of discussion but to encourage others to slander AB

    you “continually put down’ AS and AB

    Your criticism are continually negative to the point of possibly being slanderous

    How is this helpful anyone, how is trying to destroy and bring down someone who is doing such good, helping women etc, helpful?

    Rich people need dharma too; plus they can influence the growth of the dharma, and don’t forget AB worked with prisoners for years and probably still may; it is not like he is living in luxury, he simply ran a retreat in a resort probably at the invitation and paid for by these people who provided this accomodation for him

    Last I heard he had not and doubt he has any plans to permanently move out of his hut into a 5 star resort!

  137. Buddhadhamma,

    I agree with you that AB & AS are to be greatly admired for their courage in standing up for the ordination of women and for the comfort they provide others such as prisoners etc. Also if they get rich people to question their self- serving values, all to the good.

    Re the YouTube posting on AB by Peter

    I agree with you that the guy presenting the video detracted from his comments by being disrespectful in some of his remarks.

    However this guy still made some legitimate points in questioning ABs views on rebirth. To me he demonstrated healthy scepticism in questioning unsubstantiated claims repeatedly made by AB (& AS for that matter), such as the validity of Ian Stevenson’s research on reincarnation.

    I haven’t heard of anyone else specifically questioning anything AB has previously said (how many talks does he have on the BSWA site – over 200?). This doesn’t necessarily make those questioning him right of course but it is healthy in a democracy for alternative voices to be heard.

    (Furthermore questioning rebirth per se is the “easy part” – if we leave aside the further claim made by AB & AS that our rebirth is conditioned by our kamma. Stevenson – or any other researcher I am aware of – doesn’t even try to validate that claim.)

    For critiques of Stevenson’s work see for example:
    http://www.skepticreport.com/sr/?p=482
    http://www.skepdic.com/stevenson.html

    Also if I can quote Ted Meissner in some detail as he makes some excellent points in reference to Stevenson’s research:

    “As I’ve said elsewhere, these are cases even he (Ian Stevenson) acknowledged in his introduction were not evidence. They are stories. They are interesting, inspiring, cool as all get out. So are a lot of stories that may not be factually accurate, like Muhammad’s winged horse, loaves to fishes, or swallowing the ocean. Even Stevenson himself titled the book with the words “Suggestive of Reincarnation” — he did not say “Proving Reincarnation”. He was also a long time believer who did not have any kind of controls on his “studies”, some of which were done as interviews years after such events were reported to have happened. The fact is, and yes there is documented evidence, that memory is fallible and changes over time. What one says years after an event may not be an accurate retelling — how big was that fish Uncle Joe caught years ago? Like that!

    Here’s an alternate and natural explanation: first, quite unintentional cold reading. Children making statements that adults put meaning into that may not be reflective of fact. The child says something interesting, the adult reads into it (as we see people do when John Edwards “speaks” to the dead). They may not even be aware this is what’s happening, as is the case with Facilitated Communication. Another aspect to this is the creation of false memories, as recounted in many scientifically controlled studies, that require a mere suggestion of the possibility, and a little bit of encouragement. How much more effective the creation of such memories under the conditions of meditative states!

    Again, we’re not saying these are not convincing thoughts that arise, or that they are intentionally false. They *are* very realistic, they are totally without artifice, having had such thoughts arise in a quite convincing fashion in my own meditation. That doesn’t make them real, and this is a perfectly natural explanation for past life “memories.” I have an upcoming interview with Elizabeth Loftus on this very topic.

    Also bear in mind that it is not very realistic to expect the brain to be a tape recorder. It isn’t. People who can’t remember their own childhood — or do, but incorrectly — are somehow remembering previous lives with much greater clarity? Using what as a storage medium after death? What is the evidence for the mechanism of that storage? In the natural world a damaged brain does not function normally, a truly dead one (not one that has an old wive’s tale about having been clinically dead for hours, but the person miraculously came back) does not function at all.”

    See http://thesecularbuddhist.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/response-to-faith-and-belief-in-secular-buddhism/

    Just because the Suttas make these claims doesn’t necessarily make them true anymore than we should accept what is said in the Bible at face value.

    Cheers

    Geoff

  138. Karma. it came around to you lot. It’s awful to read it happening again after daisy harrassed me across topics of this blog and into my blog and emails. I unsubscribed because of it. I am busy translating sutras and just published 3 books. So I am pretty busy now.

    Right view, respect for the Triple Jewels is important for Buddhists to maintain and especially here. Disrespecting bhikshus/bhikkhus and bhikshunis/bhikkhunis and other monks and nuns here is not appropriate. Not standing up for Sangha is also not good. You lot ignored my situation across several topics. And I noticed when topics are not this one but elderly monks and raped nuns you say nothing or little at all. Hmmm. This is a bhikhu’s blog, reign it in a bit, please.

  139. Buddha folk,

    Thank you so much … I am sure Peter and Geoff could do with some of your wise words and wisdom .

    Being an ordained person I am sure you could explain how to act in a respectful manner towards the ordained and what is appropriate behaviour for bloggers on a Buddhist website…I have tried but I do not have the knowledge…over to you!

    I hope they are greatful to have your wise words and that you have appeared on this blog to benefit us all!

  140. Buddhadhamma,

    I agree with you that AB & AS are to be greatly admired for their courage in standing up for the ordination of women and for the comfort they provide others such as prisoners etc. Also if they get rich people to question their self- serving values, all to the good.

    Re the YouTube posting on AB by Peter

    I agree with you that the guy presenting the video detracted from his comments by being disrespectful in some of his remarks.

    However this guy still made some legitimate points in questioning ABs views on rebirth. To me he demonstrated healthy scepticism in questioning unsubstantiated claims repeatedly made by AB (& AS for that matter), such as the validity of Ian Stevenson’s research on reincarnation.

    I haven’t heard of anyone else specifically questioning anything AB has previously said (how many talks does he have on the BSWA site – over 200?). This doesn’t necessarily make those questioning him right of course but it is healthy in a democracy for alternative voices to be heard.

    (Furthermore questioning rebirth per se is the “easy part” – if we leave aside the further claim made by AB & AS that our rebirth is conditioned by our kamma. Stevenson – or any other researcher I am aware of – doesn’t even try to validate that claim.)

    (Can provide websites for critiques of Stevenson’s work if requested – my previous posting blocked due to excessive website addresses?) :

    Also if I can quote Ted Meissner in some detail as he makes some excellent points in reference to Stevenson’s research:

    “As I’ve said elsewhere, these are cases even he (Ian Stevenson) acknowledged in his introduction were not evidence. They are stories. They are interesting, inspiring, cool as all get out. So are a lot of stories that may not be factually accurate, like Muhammad’s winged horse, loaves to fishes, or swallowing the ocean. Even Stevenson himself titled the book with the words “Suggestive of Reincarnation” — he did not say “Proving Reincarnation”. He was also a long time believer who did not have any kind of controls on his “studies”, some of which were done as interviews years after such events were reported to have happened. The fact is, and yes there is documented evidence, that memory is fallible and changes over time. What one says years after an event may not be an accurate retelling — how big was that fish Uncle Joe caught years ago? Like that!

    Here’s an alternate and natural explanation: first, quite unintentional cold reading. Children making statements that adults put meaning into that may not be reflective of fact. The child says something interesting, the adult reads into it (as we see people do when John Edwards “speaks” to the dead). They may not even be aware this is what’s happening, as is the case with Facilitated Communication. Another aspect to this is the creation of false memories, as recounted in many scientifically controlled studies, that require a mere suggestion of the possibility, and a little bit of encouragement. How much more effective the creation of such memories under the conditions of meditative states!

    Again, we’re not saying these are not convincing thoughts that arise, or that they are intentionally false. They *are* very realistic, they are totally without artifice, having had such thoughts arise in a quite convincing fashion in my own meditation. That doesn’t make them real, and this is a perfectly natural explanation for past life “memories.” I have an upcoming interview with Elizabeth Loftus on this very topic.

    Also bear in mind that it is not very realistic to expect the brain to be a tape recorder. It isn’t. People who can’t remember their own childhood — or do, but incorrectly — are somehow remembering previous lives with much greater clarity? Using what as a storage medium after death? What is the evidence for the mechanism of that storage? In the natural world a damaged brain does not function normally, a truly dead one (not one that has an old wive’s tale about having been clinically dead for hours, but the person miraculously came back) does not function at all.”

    (Can provide website if requested – the Secular Buddhist – post Response to faith and belief in secular buddhism Aug 11)

    Just because the Suttas make these claims doesn’t necessarily make them true anymore than we should accept what is said in the Bible at face value.

    Cheers

    Geoff

  141. Geoff,

    Fine, but I don’t think harasssing AB or AS or slandering them personally because they believe in rebirth gets anyone any where; any more than me going on Stephen Bachelors website and having a go at him for not believing in rebirth would be a reasonable way of challenging the fact he doesn’t believe in rebirth.

    I respect his right to question rebirth; who hasn’t and who wouldn’t in the West! but I also respect peoples right to believe in it.

    I think we need to keep away from the “personal” and stick to the issue (and this is in fact what AB teaches to focus on the issue not the person).

    The issue here is whether there is evidence to support rebirth or whether the evidence presented can be taken seriously and proven, or something isn’t it; not a character assasination of AB or AS.

    If it was necessary to question the ethics and morality of a particular monk or nun then I think there are appropriate challenges to question this behaviour of the ordained and a public blogsite unless a last resort does not seem to me a appropriate avenue.

    Sure I would be the first to question AB – and I have- if I thought there was a reason to (I really do not think he encourages blind faith at all)…but it would be respectful I hope (if I am having a good day that is ) because listening to his talks has benefited me so much. Personally he has helped me with so, so many issues..could this be negatated by the fact that he stays in a resort once to give a retreat, or he makes a comment I don’t like …even if this were wrong ..I absolutely could not.

    The same with AS ..as a western women I have at times been shocked by the sexism in Buddhist and appecriate his efforts to explain how men (especially in the East) think about women; honestly i really didn’t understand it to any depth but he is making efforts to help overcome this and this is not easy.

    I mean if I started to attack Mother Theresa for the fact she lied once or something would that be fair considering she devoted her life to looking after lepers or what ever she did?

    Neither am I saying that you have to like or dislike Buddhism or AB or AS or any other monk or nun, lets just stick to the topic without making it personal and trying to be resonable although it is hard to know what is good logic, reasoning or whatever.

    I found this quote on faulty logic… which I thought was rather funny (he/she must have been blonde, just kidding blondes!)

    “Not everyone who smokes gets lung cancer
    Some people who do not smoke get lung cancer.
    Therefore, smoking does not cause lung cancer”.

    So lets just stick to the topic ..you present your evidence/argument, they present theirs; agree disagree, learn something whatever ….but as one of the many people who have benefitted from the teachings of MOnks and Nuns and Buddhism and would hate to see these efforts negated over differences of opinion I kist think that if we just stick to the topic and not make it personal they no harm can be done.. not saying I am a good example but at least I have the theory right! I think!

  142. Geoff,

    Also I can see your arguments against Stevenson’s work and for not believing in Buddhism are reasonable. I have not done any research into rebirth from a theoretical perspecitive so cannot respond to these facts as I am sure AS or AB could.

    My reasons for believing in rebirth are from:

    – Personal experiences or happenins that seem can only be answer by a theory like rebirth
    – Working with people who have a lot of mental and physical problems from birth – how else can this be explained?
    – Having had people close to me pass away and sometimes feeling their presence etc nothing wacky or weird just a feeling (not that this explains rebirth but it does explain a spiritual dimension whereby people who pass away do not just dissappear or go into a blackness but exist sort of spritually or something)…don’t really understand it but it is something i sense sometimes and has also lead me to Buddhism. I hope that doesn’t sound weird because it is not,., no great visions or pixies, or even flying cats simply a strong feeling of a familiar presence.

  143. buddhadhamma, I’m sorry if you don’t find my posts helpful. I personally feel that I’m raising some points that are worth of being looked at. I don’t feel that I have crossed any boundaries of what is acceptable. As I have stated before I appreciate this blog and the opportunity that Bhante Sujato has created.

  144. Can’t you just lighten it with some positive posts ..I mean do you actually believe in Buddhism, listen to any of AB’s talks, have anything positive to say “As I have stated before I appreciate this blog and the opportunity that Bhante Sujato has created” that is a start … and can’t you just keep your points to points on Buddhism rather than directing them as personal attacks or insults on AB or AS.

    Do you know any good jokes (don’t say me) ha ha

  145. Dear Buddhafolk / buddhadhamma

    Of course it is awful that old monks are suffering & nuns are being raped, just as it’s awful for it to happen to anyone.

    I hope you don’t feel harassed on this blog. The only person I’m really addressing is Bhante for what I feel is his dismissive attitude towards secularism (eg referring to it as ‘amateurish’ etc). I thought others may be interested in hearing alternative points of view but perhaps I was wrong.

    (I was going to wait until the end of the Rains but I figured I’d be drowned out by talk of his new book)

    All the best

    Geoff

  146. Geoff,

    I don’t feel harrassed at all.

    It does make it difficult that the host just dissappears like that, but I guess he has to host the rains retreat too.

    Maybe he will start another secualar Buddhism thread if people are interested later on in the year although possibly most people on a Monks blog maybe more entrenched in Buddhism completely; maybe have been involved in other secular Buddhist organisation but decided to take on Buddhism completely rebirth and all and can’t or don’t want to come back from that.

    I think to it can be hard to say why or how you believe in rebirth if it is not from a theoretical perspective but just from experience and reading the suttas…how do you explain why you beleive in something if it just makes sense to you?

    do you listen to any of AB’s talks on the Dhammaloka website you might prefer the sutta talks they are less full of analogies and more intellectual.

    For me once the idea of rebirth clicked I couldn’t get my head around not believing in it although I wish to a point it wasn’t true as it certainly makes things difficult.

    Also being a fully ordained monk like AB and AS part of that probably entails the belief in rebirth so they can probably only put forth what they believe in and hope it helps others and leave it at that.

    Anyway he will probably start another thread on it later, have you read the book, or are you going to read the new book?

    I have started it, it is quite good so far.

  147. Geoff,

    Bhante didn’t call secularism “amateurish.” He said that the textual analysis of one particular person was amateurish.

    On the other hand, please note that you’ve said far worse about the views of other Buddhists, even at times very much making your assertions personal and also denigrating toward monastics generally. Interspersed among your few more reasonable sounding comments, this blog is full of your disdain for Buddhism and monastics.

    You’re misunderstanding the goal of discussing secular Buddhism at this blog, I think.

  148. I think it is also important to remember that Buddhism is not just an intellectual practise.

    While the theoritical approach may be attractive buddhism is also much less lofty in many ways that all that, it is also about practise.

    Practising restraint of greed, hatred and delusion, generosity and helping those in need.

    When the head becomes detached from the heart then there won’t be much spiritual transformation; so knowing the theory, studying the suttas, considering secular versus traditional Buddhism, debates, theories etc are all well and good but I think for it to work and be of use it has to be practised not just theorised.

  149. Dear Geoff and your little argument buddies:

    I am a Vinaya bhikshuni and Ajahn Sugato is a Vinaya bhikkhu thus my dharma brother. Even I do not know hime personally other than a brief meeting, it is offensive to read slanders and attacks agaisnt him and any other Buddhist monastics talked about in a derogatory way. We uphold the Vinaya and the Buddhadharma of rest of the Tripitaka. We are robed and vowed. You know that.

    It would be better for Buddhists who follow Ajahn Sugato to have you discuss your arguments for arguments sake elsewhere. Most of his readers are not posting but know him and his writings. We just want to read his dharma topics and learn some of his ideas and like the comments to brief and welcome the resources supplied by other readers.

    Arguments for arguments sake! What a waste of precious time. Why don’t you carry on elsewhere, like make another secular buddhism blog and subhead it arguments welcome for arguments sake!

  150. Geoff, Peter and other argument buddies,

    It is all fine and well for the ordained to say they are ordained when they seem to do what they want, when they want; ie use harsh speech, slander others, gossip, and lie.

    I think someone pointed out the rains retreat is not even something the Buddha stipulated as something the ordained must do anymore than living with pious young virgins.

    Nor..for that matter is Zen/Chan Buddhism!

    Anyway as I said previously I I have to move on moving in with my young 18 year old virgin boyfriend.

    See ya’s

    Regards

  151. ….but I should correct that ..not really moving in with a 18 year old virgin.. …but then I guess I am about as believeable as a monastic, just make it up as I go you know ..who says the Buddha taught this and that.. and this tradition is right or wrong and there are no gurus or obedience..what ever suits you at the time ..all cowards who hide away in there little hideaways.

    what ever suits you hah..tibetan, theravarden just make it up as you go along whatever..bring on enlightenment ..hopefully an escape from bordom and lies of Monastics…whatever color bit of material you wear.

  152. * Warning – this comes with an OMA classification (Open Minded Audience) *

    For those interested & willing to be exposed this is the full response by Ted Meissner on the Secular Buddhist site to an email I sent him earlier this month regarding queries I had on this blog (titled Response to Faith and Belief in Secular Buddhism):

    Response to Faith and Belief in Secular Buddhism
    by Ted Meissner, a.k.a. The Secular Buddhist

    What follows below is taken from an email I received today from Geoff, regarding one of the threads on Sujato’s Blog. I thought this audience might be interested in the full response, and I’ll also see if I can find the spot on Sujato’s site to respond there as well. Many of the topics here are very relevant and core to secular Buddhist practice. (Geoff’s questions in inverted commas, Ted’s response > )

    “As you probably recall you spoke with Glenn Wallis on the issue of beliefs and knowledge on one of your podcasts. I should listen to the podcast again but as I recall you mostly focused on the theistic (“blind faith”) aspects of beliefs. “

    >Yes, Glenn is a good friend who has been on the podcast a couple of times, and will be more in the future. The interview where we chatted about that topic is Episode 40.

    “As you would know the traditional Buddhist approach claims to be a little more nuanced. Bhikkhu Bodhi, for example, says we should start by testing the teachings in fairly straightforward ways to see in everyday life the existence of impermanence and hence inherent dissatisfaction etc. Once we have gained confidence that the Buddha was on to something, we are then encouraged to place faith in aspects of the teachings that are beyond immediate experience eg rebirth, realms of existence etc. This we are told will be revealed to us eventually through deep meditative states.”

    > Yes, and I certainly do understand that position. Let me also make perfectly clear that the secular approach is merely another way to engage with the dhamma, one that is a natural growth from Western contemporary culture, which does have a strong secular inclination. As we see from recent surveys, the American Religious Identification Survey in 2008 as an example, people identifying as having no religion whatsoever are showing the most growth.

    Secular Buddhism is a newly forming branch of Buddhism distinct from the other “big three” Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana, in that the practice and teaching is not dependent on that which is not in evidence in the natural world. We are still Buddhists, we are still engaged in the Eightfold Path, and do not presume to tell other practitioners what should be more fulfilling to them. That is a matter of their own experience in what is most beneficial to them.

    Where secularists may diverge from Bikkhu Bodhi’s encouragement in how to practice the Buddha sasana is the part where we put our faith in things unseen. This is a transition from the meaning of the Pali saddha from “confidence” to “faith” in the Judeo-Christian sense (“While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:18, King James translation). Though our experiences in what we’ve been told in the natural world are bearing out in the practice, which is wonderful, that does not mean that the concepts about what is not seen, what is not demonstrable in the natural world, are factually correct. Secularists are not denying that may be a possible reality, just that we don’t have any reliable way to show it, and therefore to speak of it as factually correct is not something we can do in good conscience. It is disingenuous to call such claims True when we cannot demonstrate them.

    Why do we have this suspension of willingness to assert such claims? Because there is a history and planet full of such claims, many of which are in conflict, and cannot be logically factual. The televangelist speaks with the same faith in the historical veracity of Jesus walking on water, and the Biblical flood, that the Buddhist does about the existence of the Tusita heaven as the place Maitreya awaits his birth in the human realm, as the Hindu does about the literal existence of Ganesha, as Harold Camping did and still does predict the literal Rapture in 2011.

    Secularists ask for evidence for any such claim because it is the only way to tell fact from fiction. If we do not have a common framework for verification, all claims are equally suspect.

    “At the same time we find people like Ajahn Sujato, being a ‘progressive’ Western educated monk, acknowledging (having to acknowledge?) the importance of science in understanding reality and the need for empirical verification.”

    >We do, yes. And even more helpful in the dialogue, I think, is Ajahn Sujato’s friendliness in the discussions, however much he may disagree with our particular approach. That is the kind of open, non-judgemental communication I had hoped would be common from my fellow Buddhists, but the people who have been most open to positive, meaningful dialogue have been from the atheist and skeptic communities. This may be an indication that the problem is not between different flavors of Buddhist ideology, but between tradition and free inquiry. I see positive benefits to keeping the discussions friendly and sincere in a desire to understand, and if so, disagree with that same friendliness.

    “I am interested in your response to Sujato’s attempts to bridge this scientific evidence based approach with his claim to ‘knowledge’ (not just belief) in the existence of devas, various realms of existence & rebirth (as found in the Pali Canon). I have quoted some excerpts below from Sujato’s recent posts on his blog under the secular topics. Firstly part of his response to Glenn Wallis (after I had asked Sujato for his thoughts on Glenn’s Buddhist Manifesto article), followed by Sujato’s posting on his blog on my queries titled Secular Buddhism – some more bits:”

    >Happy to respond below, though Glenn is much more adept with words!

    “Much appreciated any feedback (if you can find the time!) Again I want to say what an excellent site TSB is. Cheers – Geoff”

    >Thank you. Tell all your friends
    ***********

    (To quote Sujato) “The argument that belief in devas, etc. contradicts the Buddha’s anti-metaphysical position is also wrong. This point has been analyzed at length by the Buddhist empiricist philosopher David Kalupahana (whose excellent work seems to be unaccountably ignored by the secularists). The basic point is that the Buddhist treatment of such things as devas rigorously removes any truly metaphysical aspects – for example, they are not eternal, all-powerful, creators of the world, and so on. Devas are, in fact, conditioned, impermanent, suffering creatures very much like you or I in all spiritually important aspects. And, crucially, knowledge of such things is an empirical knowledge, derivable from the meditative extension of ordinary sensory faculties, and confirmable, in some cases, by reference to socially verifiable external facts (as in Ian Stevenson’s research).“

    >I’m happy to read David Kalupahana’s work that addresses this, I’ve just not been given the reference in the past. It is not an intentional avoidance, simply a lack of introduction to his work. What would be best? History of Buddhist Philosophy: Continuities and Discontinuities?

    The basic point made, however, is not correct in that it “rigorously removes any truly metaphysical aspects”. If that were so, there would be evidence. THAT is rigorous removal. Saying that invisible pink unicorns are not immortal doesn’t leap the gap of them being real, either; this is a flawed argument. Saying that God is not all powerful doesn’t *poof* him into existence, and it doesn’t do that for devas, either. We can suppose *any* kind of invisible and perhaps imaginary being we cannot detect externally, and give it whatever qualities we can conceive, including dukkha, anicca, and anatta.

    Problem Number One, I would say, is that there is an expectation of a dichotomy between Buddhist metaphysics and naturalism. This is as false as Pascal’s Wager, which assumes a Christian God vs. atheism in its own false dichotomy, or Creationism vs. Evolution, which again assumes a Judeo-Christian ideology. The point of view is one’s own religious structure, and that means that every religious structure is equally correct, which they cannot be because they are in conflict.

    The problem is not between Buddhist faith assertions and secularism, the *real* problem is between Buddhist faith assertions vs. Christian faith assertions vs. Hindu faith assertions vs. Islamic faith assertions vs. an endless number of faith assertions! Once *that* has been narrowed down in some impossible way, *then* we can talk about what is left vs. secularism.

    Now, some will say they have seen devas. This is interesting, inspiring, a great story, but not evidence. People have seen lots of things that may not have been real, including angels and other beings from different (and again conflicting) pantheons. It does not mean that these people are lying or committing any kind of intentional misrepresentation. What we’re saying is that evidence is necessary to confirm such a belief, and in the absense of it, there are natural explanations for what people experience.

    Problem Number Two, then, is once we’ve removed the false dichotomy of assertions between a particular faith vs. free inquiry, what is acceptable as evidence? Certainly people have very personally beneficial, positively transformative, and deeply meaningful experiences during meditation and other kinds of inspired moments. That is not in question, nor is it the intent of secular Buddhists to say one can’t and shouldn’t value such experiences. If they are beneficial to you, wholesome in their content and impact,fabulous. Secular Buddhism recognizes that not everyone is willing to accept such revelations’ explanations as being factually accurate, however.

    This in itself opens secular Buddhism to others much more broadly than other traditions, which have a certain sense of necessary acceptance of “things unseen.” Those with other religious or non-religious traditions are welcome, and there is no expectation that they change their views. Secular Buddhism is about this world, and what is in evidence in human experience of the path that positively contributes to one’s engagement with this life. So it is not uncommon for atheists and skeptics to find this approach more suited to them, as would Hindus, Christians, etc.. One has exactly *zero* need to adopt any kind of culture, assertions, or religious tradition whatsoever with secular Buddhist practice.

    Ah, Ian Stevenson’s book! As I’ve said elsewhere, these are cases even he acknowledged in his introduction were not evidence. They are stories. They are interesting, inspiring, cool as all get out. So are a lot of stories that may not be factually accurate, like Muhammad’s winged horse, loaves to fishes, or swallowing the ocean. Even Stevenson himself titled the book with the words “Suggestive of Reincarnation” — he did not say “Proving Reincarnation”. He was also a long time believer who did not have any kind of controls on his “studies”, some of which were done as interviews years after such events were reported to have happened. The fact is, and yes there is documented evidence, that memory is fallible and changes over time. What one says years after an event may not be an accurate retelling — how big was that fish Uncle Joe caught years ago? Like that!

    Here’s an alternate and natural explanation: first, quite unintentional cold reading. Children making statements that adults put meaning into that may not be reflective of fact. The child says something interesting, the adult reads into it (as we see people do when John Edwards “speaks” to the dead). They may not even be aware this is what’s happening, as is the case with Facilitated Communication. Another aspect to this is the creation of false memories, as recounted in many scientifically controlled studies, that require a mere suggestion of the possibility, and a little bit of encouragement. How much more effective the creation of such memories under the conditions of meditative states!

    Again, we’re not saying these are not convincing thoughts that arise, or that they are intentionally false. They *are* very realistic, they are totally without artifice, having had such thoughts arise in a quite convincing fashion in my own meditation. That doesn’t make them real, and this is a perfectly natural explanation for past life “memories.” I have an upcoming interview with Elizabeth Loftus on this very topic.

    Also bear in mind that it is not very realistic to expect the brain to be a tape recorder. It isn’t. People who can’t remember their own childhood — or do, but incorrectly — are somehow remembering previous lives with much greater clarity? Using what as a storage medium after death? What is the evidence for the mechanism of that storage? In the natural world a damaged brain does not function normally, a truly dead one (not one that has an old wive’s tale about having been clinically dead for hours, but the person miraculously came back) does not function at all.

    Problem Number Three is that we can’t accept someone’s personal experience, or even many people’s experiences, as evidence because of the inherent unreliability of the brain. If you don’t think that’s a valid statement, let’s take a look at some optical illusions, or the fact that many people are still preparing for Harold Camping’s predictions to come true because of the experiences they “know” they had with angels.

    Note that the very language use is assertive: “… devas are, *in fact*…” No, they’re not. That’s an assertion not in evidence, and we can just as easily apply this thinking to any supposed being undetectable through any externally verifiable means. If it were fact, it would have evidence. Until then, this is an interesting idea and nothing more.
    *******

    (Sujato) “Remember, empiricism as I understand it, and as presented in the Suttas, does not mean ‘direct experience only’. (This is a fallacy commonly found among certain modern meditation teachers, but clearly against the Suttas and the entire Buddhist tradition, in India at least.) It means ‘direct experience’ (paccakkha) and ‘inference’ (anumāna). What inference is exactly is hard to pin down. Practically, it means that we stay relatively close to experience. If I have never drunk wine, I will have hardly any idea what it tastes like. But if I have drunk wine regularly for many years, I may never have had a Chateaux de Chateaux (which I hear is very passable), but I will have a pretty good idea what it will taste like.”

    >I don’t see any reason to expect there is such a thing as direct experience. Read Metzinger’s The Ego Tunnel for more about that, it’s just too big to handle here!

    (Sujato) “Similarly, if I have recollected, say 3 or 4 past lives, it is not such a big leap to 30 or 40, or 300 or 400 lives. The basic fact of the thing is more or less the same.”

    >I respectfully disagree here. Our memories in a single lifetime are not accurate and correct, why should we expect that even if they did somehow carry over that they would be viable?

    (Sujato) “This contrasts with what I have characterized as ‘metaphysical’ claims. The difference is precisely the difference between a very very big number and infinity. The Buddha claims to have exercised his memory over billions of years. The difference between that and our ordinary experience of time is very great, but not outside the capacities of inference. After all, geology and astrophysics claim to tell us what happened billions of years ago, relying on inference from fairly sketchy data.”

    >Yes, but it is also data that is *in evidence*. It is also not a single human brain recounting all the data from billions of years, it is a set of hypothesis and theories coming from a set of data points. And it’s tentative, even with evidence, yet scientists are accused of hubris while fundamentalists of every religion claim they are absolutely correct with *no* evidence!

    (Sujato) “Most religious doctrines, however, speak of eternity. God, the soul, the atman, heaven, or whatever lasts not for mere billions of years, but literally forever. It is not possible, and never will be possible, to infer from the data available in this temporal world to ‘eternity’. Any claim to ‘know’ this eternity is a claim to know something that is utterly and absolutely outside any experience of consciousness.”

    >I would agree with that!

    “PS fantastic podcasts @ TSB eg with Glenn Wallis, Stephen Batchelor & Winton Higgins etc!!”

    >I would agree with that, too

  153. Theravarden, tibetan, secular, monks, nuns ,stephen bachelor, dalai lama…

    let whoever teach and rave about what ever they want WHO CARES what ever gets people to enlightenment or for those pious obedient people ordainment… I don’t care all I care about is getting some form of enlightenement so I can get away from it all and them all..!

  154. Dear Critics

    If you are not interested in what I have to say, you can always just ignore it…..

    As I said I am primarily directing my comments to Bhante Sujato (who I have taken seriously and been listening to in person & through podcasts & writings for over 18 months) and to anyone else who maybe interested in an alternative modern perspective on Buddhism.

    Don’t worry I’ll be disappearing & Bhante will be back soon. Again apologies if any offence has been caused to you personally.

    All the best

    Geoff

  155. PS

    As far as Bhante is concerned, I wouldn’t worry about him. I’m sure he’s big enough to take anything I say.

    Compared to what he’s had to endure from his fellow monastics over the Bhikkhuni Ordination issue, I wouldn’t even rate as a flea bite. (I was going to say ‘mozzie bite’ but you Yanks probably would know what that was – lol)

    Besides, what’s all the metta practice been for? Lol again

    I’ll get out of your way…..

  156. Geoff,

    The Buddha did state that although understanding impermanence, suffering and not-self can lead to some sort of understanding to reach Nibbana, to directly see Nibbana you have to see Dependent Origination or rebirth.

    Seeing Impermanence, suffering and not-self is not realizing nibbana.

    Seeing impermanence, suffering, not-self etc AND dependant orgination or rebirth is seeing nibbana.

    Best wishes and may you and all beings be happy :)

  157. Geoff,

    I think the main point here is the Buddha said…. NOT TO DO HARM; if something leads to peace, harmony, helping others, enlightenment etc then it is not harming others and it is helping others; so secular buddhism could be helpful to people if it leads to those qualities, aspects.

    If though it is pushed and used in a way as to dissade others from doing the whole eight-fold path, to turn people away from good teachers like Bhante Sujato, AB or even from the authoritarian cults if they are doing some good etc when people are benefitting more from their teachings and leads to disharmony, greed, hatred and delusion then there is not much point to it because it is doing more harm than good.

  158. It is interesting to juxtapose these comments associated with Bhante Sujato & Santi.

    The first is a standard introduction to Bhante & Santi as sent on regular emails to attendees to the Friday night gatherings.

    The other is Bhante’s first response after remaining silent for about a month while on retreat @ Santi (posted under On the 32 Marks) . (I may be wrong but I have not noticed he has responded to anything else recently on this blog.)

    ***

    About the Good Life

    The teachings are presented by Australian born Buddhist monk, Bhante Sujato, the Abbott of Santi Forest Monastery (http://santifm.org/santi/about/) in Bundanoon, NSW. The emphasis of the approach taken is on authenticity, depth, and practicality.

    Take this opportunity to deepen your meditation practice with the support of an experienced and respected teacher.

    Learn insightful ancient teachings on understanding the human mind and how they apply to your life.

    Ask any questions you may have at the Q&A session at the end.

    ********

    o sujato / Sep 2 2011 12:08 pm

    Hi Jayarava,

    I just noticed your comment as I dropped by my blog to see if there’s any comments needing approving – it was too interesting to ignore!

    Bavari is mentioned as meaning ‘Babylonian’ in the context of the 32 marks in the PTS dict, see note 3 pg. 202, also note on pg. 197. The derivation is straightforward, but the connection with the Mahapurisalakkhana is more tenuous. I don’t take the name ‘Bavari’ as meaning he must have been personally from Babylon – maybe it was a family name……

    ***********

    Could anyone please explain how Bhante’s response to Jayarava is helping us “learn insightful ancient teachings on understanding the human mind and how they apply to your life”?

  159. To the Committee of Santi Monestry

    Could anyone please explain why the slanderous attacks on Bhante Sujato by the poster going by the name of “Geoff” continue.

    Seriously this persons goal and vindictive intent it seems to try to create and spread malicious “gossip” about buddhism and Buddhists and to undermine everything that is done by this site is ridiculous.

    If it does not stop soon I suggest you get his IP tracked and send it to his internet service and they can take action against him.

    Also maybe his full name should be given here so that other Buddhist groups can be on the look out for this person should he take his discrimination and harrassment of it seems ordained Buddhists to other Buddhist groups.

    Also I think the committee or whoever runs this internet site should seriously consider limiting question to the host of 3 a week. This might go someway to stopping people who have nothing better to do with there time than troll Buddhist websites denegrating and slandering Buddhists out of ill-will and vengenence from doing this.

  160. …..Which is not to say that people shouldn’t question.

    The Buddha encouraged sceptical doubt and people have the right to quesiton a teacher or Abbot and his Sangha’s actions if they can; at least in this tradition they are accessible, but not to malicously gossip or slander them out of a vengence to get back at them for not “getting enough attention”.

    The rains retreat sure is apparently not even part of the Vinyaya but if an abbot or whatever decides to do it then I suppose that is there choice. I don’t know.

    As for living on isolated farms with pious young women as many of the so called celebate monks seem to do these days. umm

    I find the hypocrisy and judgement of worldly lust and women abit odd.. a pious young women bowing and giving power to a man and living with him on an isolated property is somehow wholesome.. women brining up kids and working etc who is married is not or is single is not?

    All these tibetan lamas with their hoards of adhoring fans who must be subserviant to them but then when they are are treated like whores or like if they go to a Buddhist teaching it is because they lust after the teaher.. and are treated like whores, yet if they bow and scape and be subserviant to them, give up their will and mind then they are some how respectable women.. umm

    Personally I have yet to actually meet a so called “Buddhist” who is kind, good and wholesome or skillful; even the Buddha himself deserted his young kid and wife in the middle of the night … what a bastard of a thing to do.. yet he tell us not to hurt people as his main teaching.

    But still I do believe the Buddha’s teachings are right, good and skillful and the way to enlightenment and freedom.

  161. …not to mention the groups of Buddhist nuns or women practioners that hung together in their clicky little groups keeping others out and subseriant to their hieracy and think they are so superior to worldly women –

    But still I do believe the Buddha’s teachings are right, good and skillful and the way to enlightenment and freedom and that you can find that yourself and that is the best thing!

  162. I’d be interested in anyone’s thoughts on this…..

    “So, at a later time, while still young, a black-haired young man endowed with the blessings of youth in the first stage of life—and while my parents, unwilling, were crying with tears streaming down their faces—I shaved off my hair & beard, put on the ochre robe and went forth from the home life into homelessness.”— Ariyapariyesana Sutta

    ******

    In one his talk on Secular Buddhism (see Dharma Seed), Stephen Batchelor makes an interesting (if rather provocative) comment that he sees himself more in keeping with the Buddha in this regard than the average (current Western) monastic.

    Batchelor makes this claim by saying that, since leaving the monastic order (Korean Zen order about twenty years ago?) he has also lead a ‘homeless’ existence to some respects, having to live on his ‘wits’ as a teacher and the generosity of others. By contrast, Batchelor says that the average Western monastic is far from ‘homeless’, having relative security from (mostly Asian born) supporters.

    ******

    This talk has stimulated my thoughts on the economic structure and operation of Santi.

    Ajahn Brahm has a standard joke you often hear in his talks (see Dhammaloka site). The joke is: “Buddhism is a religion…. for tax purposes”. (I have also heard Bhante allude to this.)

    What Brahm is referring to is of course is the tax exempt status that many religious institutions enjoy in Australia (& elsewhere?). What that means is that those who are Australian residents can claim a tax deduction on any financial contribution they make, for example, to Ajahn Brahm’s monastery or Santi. This would include the many Thai and Sri Lankan born Australian residents, who as I understand it, are the backbone of Santi’s continuing operation. (Incidentally, I also suspect they are largely oblivious to this blog or Bhante’s personal interests eg writing books on Buddhist mythology etc).

    Whether Santi is subject to any taxation I am not sure but I suspect not. By contrast, I suspect Stephen Batchelor and his supporters cannot claim any tax deductions, as Batchelor does not have religious institutional status.

    (I am happy to stand corrected or clarified on any of what I say.)

    What this means to me is that when eg Bhante Sujato leaves Santi and uses any public facility (such as public roads etc) my taxes (and the rest of the Australian tax paying public) are supporting him. If, for example Bhante is seriously ill he knows he has access to world class medical care in either Canberra or Sydney that will not cost himself or Santi one cent.

    We keep hearing from those opposed to secularism that we must return to the original teachings for guidance. In the case of ‘homelessness’ (in Australian monasticism at least), this to me sounds like a far cry from the Ariyapariyesana Sutta quoted above.

    cheers

    Geoff

  163. Geoff,

    Firstly personally I would say

    (1) Can we see Stephen Bachelors accounts are they open and accessible to all – I bet he is making a tidy profit from his earnings.
    (2) He is married and has a wife and possibly kids…umm he obviously hasn’t given up sex or the comforts of a family life.
    (3) Are you saying Stephen Bachelor and his wife live on the streets, do they have children do they all live off the streets.
    (4) It is really up to individual people whether or not they wish to donate to charitable causes and this also probably means Monestries
    (5) I work for a non-profit organisation; if you are going to investigate all organisations including public servants as to whether tax payer money is going where it should; whether politicans who still deserve what they earn then you will have a busy life…If you want to go on about tax payers money being spent on ridiculous things I doubt the occasional monastic using a public road is of concern considering the peace, harmony and good they do.
    (6) If you are going to worry where tax payers money is going what about the war in Iran, what about
    the millions spent on projects by the government that we never hear about.
    (7) what about people not only don’t pay taxes but receive welfare payments or other payments, what about the girls that have kids to get financial support. I think the majority of people are honest and only claim support if they need it but not only do they not work they get tax payers money and the uses of tay payer funded facilities, but as I said I believe 90% of people are honest and only get welfare support when they need it.
    (8) The Buddha also taught that the Dhamma should be suited to the country and culture of the country it is taught in.. so the homeless life is not really a necessity or reality in the West, the west being such a materlistic place it would probably turn people off going to the Dhamma.
    (9) If you compare where SB lives to the huts in the pictures at Santi…do you have photo of SB house or what sort of car he drives, does his wife have a job, what sort of car does she drive?
    (10) Is Zen even a Buddhist teaching..apparently it isn’t really, it was never taught by the Buddha from what I have heard so the fact that he doesn’t claim exemption from tax for religious purposes is probably because he does not run a religious based cause, neither do self help groups becasue they are not religious not for profit groups and many make a real lot of money!
    (11) If SB can’t claim religious tax exemption that is probably because he is not in himself a religtion or a god, niether can I but then I don’t consider myself a god so don’t see this as an issue ha ha:)

    I would be interested if you could answer the following otherwise it is hard to compare a medicant monk or monestry to SB’s life style

    How can he afford to go travel around?
    Can we please have a look at SB finances?
    What is his income from his books?
    Does his wife work?
    Are you saying he gives his books away and provides talks and books etc free of charge like many of the Buddhist do?

  164. “Personally I have yet to actually meet a so called “Buddhist” who is kind, good and wholesome or skillful; even the Buddha himself deserted his young kid and wife in the middle of the night … what a bastard of a thing to do.. yet he tell us not to hurt people as his main teaching”

    …except maybe Ajahn Brahm even though I haven’t actually met him…:) :) :)

  165. Also from a quick look at his bio SB apparently

    “In August 2000, he and Martine moved to Aquitaine, France, where they live in a small village near Bordeaux with their cat Zoë. While at home he pursues his work as a scholar, writer and artist. For several months each year, he travels worldwide to lead meditation retreats and teach Buddhism (see Schedule). He is the translator and author of various books (see books) and articles on Buddhism (see Publications) including the bestselling Buddhism Without Beliefs (Riverhead 1997). His most recent publication is Living with the Devil: A Meditation on Good and Evil (Riverhead, 2004). His book Confession of a Buddhist Atheist will be published in March 2010 (Spiegel&Grau/Random House).

    Roughly he lives in a house with his wife in France, paints, studies and writes and travels worldwide and sells numerous books..how is this life of luxury equatible to living in a monestry. Are you saying SB a not for profit organisation?

  166. PS Bhante says in the preamble:

    “But how many people choose their religion for rational reasons? I certainly didn’t.”

    Not wrong there. That says it all………

  167. Geoff,

    Academics (like Bhante Sujato) are a breed unto themselves. All I could work out from Uni was that Academics have a train of thought rational to themselves even though that rationality maybe irrational to others.

    But apparently what is rational to them is right but what is rational to others is wrong even though there rationality maybe doesn’t make sense to anyone else and is therefore irrational.

    Having been involved theoritically with music for a while.. musicians umm well that is a void that if yoy turn inside out is the opposite to what it projects on the outside anyway warning warning!! don’t even go there!

    I would probably give up trying to work it out.

    ..this is me loggin off this website..farethewell :)

  168. …no really I shouldn’t say that ..academics and researchers do great work and come up with some very useful theories.. (even though they are impossible to relate to anything in the unacademic world)..no just kidding no brillant people …(even though most of them are happy to twist any thing they do to keep their academic backsides on their academic chairs) ..no seriously they have great theories and do fantastic research, (especially into which is the prettiest girl in the class) .. ……academic theories and research are very important and university is not just a waste of time and a way to keep academics employed and off the streets at the expensive of people who actually go there to learn something (because of course according to most academics you should no everything before you get there otherwise you are not bright which doesn really explain why you pay all those fees to go there and have to put up with them… but I suppose it is to get a bit of paper at the end that no one outside universities really cares about or respects anyway) but no seriously the theories and research is invaluable and very usefull

  169. …and Bhante Sujata is not just an academic or researcher or musician obviously, but a Monk and they deserve respect because they give up the pleasures and defilements of the the world we live in to follow a virtuous life; some of them claim also to help others or teach others to do this.

    Why does it have to be rational or irrational, something good or wholesome or skillfull can be irrational, like the people on the news last night getting a man out of a burning car. If you think about that rationally it makes no sense and you would not do it – but it worked and they did it.

    Best wishes and good bye

  170. ..oh yeah and Buddhists are really thoughful;

    if you can’t understand the lofty, academic and precise teachings of the Theravarden Buddhists (not that the Buddha ever said that learning Buddhism was a game of technical gymnastists but it is obviously important to get the translations right) and/or you work like me and do not have the time to read volumes of written material, many of the alternative traditions supply teachings from babbling baby talk taught by 5 years to those they consider have that level of mentality to general teachings taught to you by your everyday western people, you know like the girl next door or something, even though you are not suppose to see them like that..becasue apparently the see themselves as the Buddha .. and very special as do there male teachers, anyway whatever

    So the Buddha taught to different karmas so if you aren’t the academic type like me, or young and full of energy and enthusiasm, don’t have the time due to work commitments, aren’t ordained and supported to study dharma all day or simply aren’t inspired to do so, there are plenty of other types of teachings or talks on the internet, that explain the eight-fold path.

    See ya

  171. ..and with so many young people ordaining and so many people having ordained so long ago and having such good births and karma and knowing the Suttas and teachings inside and out …… there is no necessity for other people worry too much about how and where Buddhism is going, finances and support of monestries etc, it is all “safety” in their hands; which is great and frees other people to just …drift off into enlightenment or as near as possible.. well deserved if having had to work with certain ex-monk for any length of time… that is enough education for at lest three life times.

  172. It’s rather a shame that “secular buddhism” has or is becoming associated with a particular movement in my opinion. I personally feel that secularisation is more to do with behaviour and action rather than thought/belief. When religion or culture is transported I guess there will always be an amount of secularisation but is there a point that can be crossed at which the institutions of that religion/culture cease to have value?

    I wonder if Bhante Sujato may come back to this discusion or has it gone to far?

  173. Peter,

    Yes good point, I actually seem to be associating secular Buddhism myself with people that don’t believe in rebirth. This just seems wrong to me anyway as the Buddha taught rebirth as one of the essential elements of buddhism and I don’t see how anyone can really write books claiming to be a Buddhist if you don’t believe in the essentials, but anyway!

    Actually I would class myself as a secular Buddhist if you define Secular Buddhism as “not bound by religious vows or to a monastic order”, although if you use the other definitions “not connected with religion or church” “relating to worldly as opposed to sacred things” I don’t think so.

    Maybe this topic is becoming abit tired but possibly Bhante Sujato will come back to it although he might want to move onto new and fresh things after his retreat, which would be understandable.

    Kind Regardss

  174. “I don’t see how anyone can really write books claiming to be a Buddhist if you don’t believe in the essentials”. Possibly they don’t see Buddhism as a religion of belief? Belief is just another changing condition of the mind; impermanent, not self, and unsatisfactory. Not worth clinging to. Is that Buddhism?

  175. Peter

    I think Glenn Wallis takes an interesting perspective – (this is from a guy who has been involved with Buddhism for 35 years and is a highly qualified US academic in early Buddhism, Sanskrit & Pali.)

    “…who cares what the Buddha said? I don’t. I only care about the claim being made or the idea being presented or the suggestion about how I might live my life. That’s all. This move is also an example of what I call the cancellation of Buddhism’s warrant. The idea, that is, that I find on the page is not – as Buddhists would have it –a priori valid or, indeed, even interesting. Only once it is deflated can we in fact investigate its relevance and value.”

    cheers

    Geoff

  176. .
    “I don’t see how anyone can really write books claiming to be a Buddhist if you don’t believe in the essentials”. Peter’s quote Possibly they don’t see Buddhism as a religion of belief? Belief is just another changing condition of the mind; impermanent, not self, and unsatisfactory. Not worth clinging to. Is that Buddhism”

    No the teachings and beliefs do not change, they might be interpreted differently by different teachers or when related to students, but the concepts of karma, rebirth, the eight-fold path, nibbana etc do not change and are inherent in Buddhism.

    Peter you always seem to be talking about the destination not the journey.. sure once you reach enlightenment there is no self, no beleif etc but you have to get there first.

    It is like you want to get to a certain place but refuse to read the map (the teachings), you don’t even want to acknowledge that there is a map even though following that map is the way to get you to enlightenment or out of suffering

    To get to your destination .. you have to buy the map, read it, study it, think about it and then put the work in to get to where you are going – but apparently you and other secular buddhist who claim to be buddhist but don’t believe in what the buddha taught (??) just somehow expect to get to the destination by some sort of time travel; you don’t want to have to work to get the car to drive to the destination you just want by some sort of esoteric means just to be at the destination, by some sort of magic. like oh stuff buddhists I am just going to zap myself to enlightenment .. sounds good but are you enlightened does it work?

    It is like you want to get paid for the job you do but you refuse to believe that you have to go to work and do the work to get paid.

    The Buddha wrote the map to get to the destination, he called it Buddhism.

    To take these ideas change them and make them your own seems like plagerism, just like taking money if you haven’t done the job, or taking someone elses book, taking out some ideas and claiming they are your own?

    If you want to get to your destination by some sort of time travel, out of body experience or by using a pink flying elephant , fine do that but I am just saying and I think most people who follow the Buddha’s teachings are saying they are following the map and travelling in the car to get to the destination, because that seems the most rational way to go.

    There are many other religions or philosophies that don’t include rebirth and have lots of similarities to Buddhism …but without rebirth these philoshoies, religions etc are I think called Christianity or new age spirituality…so you are a new age sort of guy as is Geoff…good on you..there is nothing wrong with that!

    As for what Geoff says..
    “Peter
    I think Glenn Wallis takes an interesting perspective – (this is from a guy who has been involved with Buddhism for 35 years and is a highly qualified US academic in early Buddhism, Sanskrit & Pali.i

    “…who cares what the Buddha said? I don’t. I only care about the claim being made or the idea being presented or the suggestion about how I might live my life. That’s all. This move is also an example of what I call the cancellation of Buddhism’s warrant. The idea, that is, that I find on the page is not – as Buddhists would have it –a priori valid or, indeed, even interesting. Only once it is deflated can we in fact investigate its relevance and value”

    So what? I don’t personally see Glen Wallis is wrong… what he is saying is to take the Buddha’s teachings test them for yourself. I mean So what.. there is absolutely nothing new in what Glen Wallis is saying and you do not need phd’s or degrees to have studied one of the basic teachings of the Buddha that you should “not take my (the Buddha’s) words as truth but test it for yourself”….nothing new here, the Buddha said this himself and it a basic lesson in Buddhism. In fact I think I was taught that lesson in the second Buddhist class I ever went to “that the Buddha does not want or expect you just to follow the theory of his teachings but to test his theories for yourself”

    Also it sound like Glen Walles does not have the lofty goal of enlightenment for himself and his followers, why should he the Buddha’s teachings can also be a way just to have a better quality of life, most of the groups I use to go to especially the Tibetan ones teach just this, how to have a more moral and happy life..or how to be a happier, kinder person not necessarily how to reach enlightenment and this is great nothing wrong with that.

    I don’t think though having a vindictive hatred or descrimination towards Buddhists as opposed to secular buddhism is conducive to a healthy and friendly discussion!

    Does Glen Wallis encourage hatred as a means of being right or “winning” if he is any sort of Buddhist I doubt it, as “hatred” (in the form of revenge, vengence) is one of the root defilments I think all religions, philophies say we must overcome not use as a weapon against each other.

    I haven’t read much of Glen Wallis but do not believe he promotes hatred or religious discrimination any more than he promotes war or discrimination against women! does he?

    Kind wishes

  177. Peter

    I really don’t think that Geoff promoting Glen Wallis or Stephen Batchelor as sort of “redneck bigots” who hate religion is doing them any good or this discussion any good.

    On that basis I think I will sign off from any futher discussion on secular Buddhism.

    It really is a serious subject that should be discussed rationally and cordially. Especially if you are publicly going to quote well known scholars and writers etc and in doing so make them look like rednecks. I am sure GW and SB are very intelligent educated men and not the redneck bigots they seem to looking like but this can happen when quotes are taken out of context

    This is especially important if they work for Universities or organisations where any kind of attitude of discrimination as Geoff seems to be promoting them as having would be considered pretty serious. (ie he seems to be making out they have a a vengeful discriminatory attitute toward religion rather than just a rational academic perspective, but I am sure this is not true. )

    Anyway

    Best Wishes

  178. Some more thought provoking stuff from Glenn Wallis:

    http://glennwallis.com/blog/2009/10/21/gotamathe-buddha/

    Glenn Wallis – Gotama / the Buddha

    Prelude.

    Gotama is Socrates, an opaque enigma; he is Thoreau.

    The Buddha is Us, as transparent as a Hollywood star; he is People.

    Gotama is a man whose life we have barely begun to imagine or investigate.

    The Buddha is a literary figure imagined and fashioned by anonymous compilers of the canonical literature over two millennia ago, and embraced by countless faithful ever since.

    Gotama wraps himself in cloth collected from a dung heap or cremation ground. He stinks. He is earthy, precise, specific, adamant.

    The Buddha fancies tiaras and golden robes. He exudes the fragrance of sandalwood and lotus. He is cosmically complex.

    Explanation.

    Why do I call him “Gotama” (or, in Sanskrit, “Gotama”) rather than “the Buddha.” The short answer is that I agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson that our life-guides “must be related to us, and our life receive from [them] some promise of explanation.” Gotama fulfills this basic requirement. The Buddha does not.

    I have given up on the Buddha. That is to say, I have given up on the Enlightened One, the Blessed One, the omniscient Lord of people and gods who works miracles, knows unknowable things, and continues to exert his power from beyond. When I ask Buddhists to explain why I should accept their revered sage as a modern-day life-adviser, I am typically offered only articles of faith (claims to be believed in or rejected) and rarely good (that is, examinable and testable) reasons.

    I imagine that some readers are like me in this regard: we have been inoculated from the religious bug. We are no longer willing, or indeed even able, to acquiesce to the inscrutable sureness of the religious authorities’ advice concerning the most important matters of life and death. Like the Kalamas in ancient India, living at a crossroads of competing religious-philosophic commerce, we have eyes only for what lies in full view. And what lies in view is the merit of a claim, not its sacred origins in some cosmic or cognitive transcendence, such as “enlightenment.”

    But along the way, something unexpected happened. I met one of the world’s most gifted teachers. He is Gotama, the human figure behind the fanciful facade of the Buddha. Like the Stoics, Epicureans, and Platonists in ancient Greece and Rome, Gotama instructed in the manner of a philosopher, a lover of wisdom. He taught and modeled a viable way to human flourishing, and did so rooted firmly in everyday life. With precision, care, and intelligence, Gotama articulated for us the categories and practices through which we may clearly understand our lives and, doing so, know for ourselves the simple happiness of existing, in difficult as well as trouble-free times. And all of his advice on these matters stands in full view—conspicuous, open to scrutiny, testable.

  179. just to clarify…what i said above may seem to go against what Bhante Sujato says:

    “It is a past participle, denoting a completed or perfected state. The finality of the Buddha’s Awakening is fundamental to the whole Buddhist literature and is, for example, a major theme of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. To say ‘the Buddha is not Awakened’ is an oxymoron

    This I believe too and am not saying that Buddhism is a process as the secular buddhist do I agree with AS but am saying that to get to the final state of awakening the process that is too be followed are the teachings of the buddha and it won’t work if you leave out concepts like karma or rebirth or don’t follow these teachings.

    Having said that if you just want a better life or some self improvement then possibly you can just follow some aspects of Buddhism, sure it will improve your quality of life by following the principles of buddhism…but whether it is ethical or correct to say you teach the Buddhist path if it doesn’t lead people to enlightenment is probably debateable.

  180. “Gotama instructed in the manner of a philosopher, a lover of wisdom. He taught and modeled a viable way to human flourishing, and did so rooted firmly in everyday life. With precision, care, and intelligence, Gotama articulated for us the categories and practices through which we may clearly understand our lives and, doing so, know for ourselves the simple happiness of existing, in difficult as well as trouble-free times. And all of his advice on these matters stands in full view—conspicuous, open to scrutiny, testable”.

    Thanks Geoff, that is lovely

  181. Buddhadhamma, I think you are twisting or misinterpereting what I said.

    P.S, I wish you would stop telling me what I am and what I’m talking about.

  182. For people who do not believe in karma, or rebirth but want to follow a spiritual path, christianity has alot of basic similarities but does not have rebirth as one of its fundamental beliefs. They still believe in:

    -the divine spirit (god)
    -not lieing
    -stealing
    -adultry etc
    -not coverting
    -not having hatred (or malicious intent ie vengence or revence to those who don’t give us enough attention, give us what we want, or we are jealous of etc or who we just don’t like).
    etc

    They are also somewhat more friendly, kind and accepting than most Buddhist groups and do alot more work to help the community such as welfare work, helping the sick and poor etc than most Buddhist do.

  183. I’d be interested in others’ views on this….

    I find the issue of Ian Stevenson’s work on reincarnation an interesting subject as Ajahn Brahm & Bhante Sujato often refer to his work in order to find supporting ‘scientific’ verification for the non-secular views on rebirth (see for example Ajhan Brahm’s talks on Dhammaloka website).

    This is in contrast to a number of secular critics, who believe Stevenson’s work has too many questionable aspects to be taken seriously as valid research (see eg The Skeptic Report).

    A good example is comparing the two opposing comments made by Bhante Sujato (in reply to one of my queries on this blog in July) with Ted Meissner (also in reply to one of my queries in August) that I have attached below.

    Without thoroughly studying Stevenson myself, I suspect Meissner probably has a more accurate perspective. I say this for the simple reason that I feel Ajahn Brahm & Bhante Sujato have strong ulterior reasons for ‘enlisting’ Stevenson to the rebirth view.

    I contend that both Brahm & Sujato are keen to demonstrate that the traditional view on rebirth is not incompatible with ‘scientific’ research as a defensive move to maintain this view in modern, especially Western, society.

    This degree of defensiveness can be seen for example by Bhante Sujato rather overstated claim (below) to Stevenson’s research credibility, implying that Stevenson’s research rivals, for example, the now numerous medical studies worldwide indicating there is a strong correlation between heavy smoking with increased risk of lung cancer. It is also interesting how often it is only Stevenson who is referred to by Brahm & Sujato, in contrast to the many researchers throughout the world who are in broad agreement on issues such as the causal link between smoking and lung cancer.

    (Of course, as mentioned before, this issue only refers to rebirth per se. Gaining supporting scientific research for the claim that rebirth is the consequence of kammic factors is another issue again.)

    *******

    1. o sujato / Jul 18 2011 5:10 pm

    Hi Geoff,

    Stevenson’s work has ‘too many holes’ – ha! With all due respect, the seriousness, methodology, and almost obsessive care with which Stevenson has painstakingly assembled his evidence and addressed his critics over decades leaves Batchelor’s historical work in the shade.

    Ted Meissner:

    Ian Stevenson’s book! As I’ve said elsewhere, these are cases even he acknowledged in his introduction were not evidence. They are stories. They are interesting, inspiring, cool as all get out. So are a lot of stories that may not be factually accurate, like Muhammad’s winged horse, loaves to fishes, or swallowing the ocean. Even Stevenson himself titled the book with the words “Suggestive of Reincarnation” — he did not say “Proving Reincarnation”. He was also a long time believer who did not have any kind of controls on his “studies”, some of which were done as interviews years after such events were reported to have happened. The fact is, and yes there is documented evidence, that memory is fallible and changes over time. What one says years after an event may not be an accurate retelling — how big was that fish Uncle Joe caught years ago? Like that!

    Here’s an alternate and natural explanation: first, quite unintentional cold reading. Children making statements that adults put meaning into that may not be reflective of fact. The child says something interesting, the adult reads into it (as we see people do when John Edwards “speaks” to the dead). They may not even be aware this is what’s happening, as is the case with Facilitated Communication. Another aspect to this is the creation of false memories, as recounted in many scientifically controlled studies, that require a mere suggestion of the possibility, and a little bit of encouragement. How much more effective the creation of such memories under the conditions of meditative states!

    Again, we’re not saying these are not convincing thoughts that arise, or that they are intentionally false. They *are* very realistic, they are totally without artifice, having had such thoughts arise in a quite convincing fashion in my own meditation. That doesn’t make them real, and this is a perfectly natural explanation for past life “memories.” I have an upcoming interview with Elizabeth Loftus on this very topic.

    Also bear in mind that it is not very realistic to expect the brain to be a tape recorder. It isn’t. People who can’t remember their own childhood — or do, but incorrectly — are somehow remembering previous lives with much greater clarity? Using what as a storage medium after death? What is the evidence for the mechanism of that storage? In the natural world a damaged brain does not function normally, a truly dead one (not one that has an old wive’s tale about having been clinically dead for hours, but the person miraculously came back) does not function at all.

  184. Hi Geoff
    I personally feel that the insistence on citing Ian Stevenson’s as some kind of proof or convincing evidence of literal rebirth negates credibility. I don’t think it has any relevance to the practice of Buddhism. It’s a bit like the desire of some Christians to try and find physical evidence of the Ark.

    I don’t think Ajahn Chah ever really put any emphasis on teaching or talking about literal rebirth.

  185. Peter,

    The notion that the Buddha’s teaching has to be validated by the methods of modern science is nonsensical at best. Even if modern science figures out a way to teleport every particle of the body of a human being from one place and recreate with perfect accuracy each and every one of those particles in another place so that the body is exactly as it was, for example, even then I don’t think it’ll be able to figure out all the workings of karma, much less tell us anything of importance about what exists outside of all the conditioned phenomena of samsaric existence.

    And so what?

    If there will be people who will not accept the Buddha’s teaching on those grounds, then there’s not much to do about it but wish them well.

    Meanwhile, why the two of you think that there’s any point to having this circular conversation over and over and over again, harping on an issue that even Batchelor knows it’s much of a winner (other than among people who are too wrapped up in their preconceived views to accept the possibility of anything beyond them), at Bhante Sujato’s blog I’ll never understand.

    We’re all going to have to agree to disagree and wish each other well in our practice.

    Mettā.

  186. Ratanadhammo
    “The notion that the Buddha’s teaching has to be validated by the methods of modern science is nonsensical at best.”, I totally agree and that’s is the point I was trying to make in the above post. On the subject of rebirth I think the “Questions about Rebirth and Awareness” in Ajahn Sumedho’s book “The Sound of Silence” is worth a read.

    I’m not quite sure what the circular conversation I have been taking part in is but I’m sure it will end soon :)

  187. Ajahn Sumato? ….oh yeah I saw a picture of that guy in a photograph proudly holding a gun when he was in the army before he became a monk.

    Don’t know much about him I may be wrong here but isn’t he the ‘OFS’ (that is short for “old fashioned sexist”) who doesn’t support women ordaining? What exactly are Sumato’s views of women ordaining?

    He may think rebirth is speculative, that is his choice but that belief does not come from the teachings of the actual Buddha (should he therefore even be ordained)

    It is obvious Ajahn Chah believes in literal rebirth if you read anything he wrote… for example google “Unshakeable Peace”, the Teachings of Ajahn Chah where he talks about the eight-fold path and literal rebirth.

  188. Brian aka the Rat (re your 16/9 comment addressed to me)

    Why would I want to go to those other sites you suggest when I can have more fun getting a reaction out of you?

    If you are looking for a constructive purpose why don’t you see me as Mara and a further opportunity to practice lovingkindness?……

  189. Ajahn Chah

    “If a thought of hate arose, I asked myself why…whether it’s labelled as a thought or called a psychological factor, so what? Just penetrate this one point until your able to resolve these feelings..until they completely vanish from the heart” (then the theory will start to make sense to you).

    “The Buddha did not teach about the mind and its psychological facits so that we’d get attached to the concepts. His sole intention was that we would recognise them as impermanent, unsatisfactory and not-self. Then let go. Initially, however, you have to familiarize yourself with the theory in order that you’ll be able to abandon it all at the later stage. This is a nautral process. Take the Noble Eightfold path, for example when wisdom views things correctly with insight, this is Right View then leads to Rigth Intention, Right Speech, Right Action and so on. This all involves psychological conditions that have arisen from the pure knowing awareness. This knowing is like a lantern sheding light on the path ahead on a dark night. ”

    If the knowing is right, is in accordance with truth, it will pervade and illuminate each of the other steps on the path in ture.

    “The knowing of the Buddha leads to letting go. It results in abandoning and renunciation. Because it’s precisely this mind that leads us to get involved with both what’s right and what’s wrong. If we’re smart we get involved with those things that are right. If we are stupid we get involved with those things that are wrong.” (right things make good karma and lead to happiness and peace, wrong this to bad karma and unhappyness)

    …..Rebirth..A Chah

    “When there is birth there is death and what is born has to die. That which arises and passes away is caught in this unremitting cycle of becoming” (except when one reaches enlightenment)

  190. Bhante Sujato says in his exchange with Winton Higgins (re the recent Secular debate in Sydney):

    “(Stephen Batchelor claims) Mara is either a deva (an objectively existing spirit) or a psychological phenomenon (in Buddhist tradition Mara can be interpreted in both ways). But Batchelor is arguing that since, presumably he doesn’t believe in Mara as the objectively existing deity, therefore it must be a psychological phenomenon (and so this conclusion therefore is reached that the Buddha was still deluded after his enlightenment. This pulls at the heart of what it means to be a Buddhist.)

    “It seems to me that that argument is very naïve because it seems to me that what we are talking about are stories, then this tendency to say Mara must be an objectively existing thing (either a deva or a psychological state), where as to me it’s a story and we can’t infer from that story in any straight forward way either to an objectively existing spirit or to a psychological state. But we can infer to the nature of storytelling techniques which we used at the time of the Buddha.”

    So what or who is Mara? Can anyone please explain to me what Bhante is talking about?

  191. Mara is a term or analogy for the defilements, of greed, hatred and desire. Mara is negativity, hurting other people.

    This hurting others can be in the form of Greed, hatred and desire it creates bad karma or suffering for the person with the negative mind,

    The Buddhist path is to get out of suffering, therefore to take very very seriously and to be extremely careful about hurting others.

    Therefore it is essential to recognise when we are motivated by greed, jealousy or ignorance and desire and stop ourselves because this is negative toxic energy that creates toxic negetive circumstances for the person who gives it off.

    “When experiencing or giving out ill will, irriatation , anger understand that you are not following in the footsteps of the Buddha” Ajahn Chah “A monk at peace does not walk down those roads” Ajahn Chah.

    Creating peace and harmony, being virtuous through generosity and kindness creates happyness.. you may think it is fun trying to torment Buddhists and Monks is some sort of game but for your own sake please understand that you are creating for yourself future misery. It is like a young guy in a fast car who thinks it is fun driving recklessly and speeding, thinks he is immortal, in doing so not only does he risk becoming paraplegic or dead but he also risks hurting others.

    No amount of lovingkindness from an outside source can change negative circumstances you create for yourself.. Christians say “you reap what you sow”

    Sure question the Dharma but to slander and try to destroy It is like going to the local beach and poor pollution in it, do you think it is fun or good to try to destroy your local Red Cross store than provides cloths to people who can’t afford them.
    Sure you might politely ask about their finances but would you walk in there and carelessly accuse the volunteer at the front desk of stealing etc.

    RAther than asking harsh questions and constantly expecting Bhante to answer your question listen to some talks do some readings, as a Monk he has to follow the path of peace and is probably not allowed to respond to negative adn harsh questions too much anyway.

  192. Too not create negativeity in Buddhism it is essential to follow the basic lay precepts, these are the basic ways to make and uphold virtue, without following these as best you can you will not be able to understand Buddhism or create positive virtue for yourself.

    Not lieing – this includes not deceiving people knowingly by lieing or spreading malicious rumours or gossip

    Not stealing or wanting things, ideas, etc or anything that belongs to another

    Not using harsh speech- not talking harshly or negetively about someone, not slandering or spreading lies, sure be honest but in a respectful way. Also includes not thinking negative thought about another person or talking about someone behind their backs etc.

    No inappropriate sexual behaviour

    Not taking intoxicants.

  193. …that should be greed, hatred and delusion

    and killing (including animals insects etc) is also one of the basic precepts

  194. NOT killing (including animals and insects etc) is also one of the basic precepts…obviously NOT KILLING :) ummm :)

  195. Geoff,

    You admit that you ask questions not because you want to understand, but to antagonize others. That’s a start. Sadly, there’s no point in discussing the possible answers to your questions with you because you apparently don’t care about advancing yourself spiritually or about helping anyone else advance spiritually.

    You have far more in common with a teenager who, having just gone off to college, enjoys having pointless debates at 2am in dorm rooms than with anything that is meant by Mara. For example, it’s pathetic that you use so much energy for no other purpose than to amuse yourself by “getting a reaction” out of me or anyone else.

    Metta.

  196. Geoff,

    It is also a waste for yourself and everyone else that you waste the opportunity to learn about the Dharma by instead trying to “get a reaction”. Ajahn Brahm even says in one of his talks there is no great need to go around asking harsh questions, judging teachers etc to find a teacher etc. Just hang out and listen, ask questions if you don’t understand something ask but leave it at that. If it doesn’t connect with you try something else.

    If this type of Buddhism is not for you there are plenty of other forms of Buddhism; but you will never understand it or benefit from it unless you have basic morality; by trying as best you can to follow the basic precept of not lying, using harsh speech etc.

    Seriously connecting with the Dharma is a once in a lifetime opportunity especially if taught by good teachers. It is like you have won the lottery but are instead of using the money wisely or even helping family and friends you are spending the money on drugs and risking going to jail or something. Or like a college kid who has won a scholarship to a great university but instead of studying goes around yelling at the teachers and trying to distract other kids from studying, even thought they need careers and money etc. Or like a footballer who has won a contract with their favourite team but ruins it all by runiing his fitsness and by going out every night getting drunk.

    You are not Mara, obviously you have lots of goodness in you but you are behaving stupidly because you are throwing it all away, like the fit healthy footballer who throw away his opportunity by getting on druges or cheating on his wife.

    Personally I believe the Dhamma is the best counsellor but If you have a serious need to destroy yourself and others maybe you need to try counselling or something.

  197. Dear All,

    Don’t worry guys, Bhante (aka Dr Feelgood – remember that band from the 70’s?) will be back shortly (f/t – not just Babylonian issues), with his reassuring (if somewhat confusing) dissertations.

    That was a rather cumbersome sentence…..

    You probably already know this but the trick is not to ask too many questions. (Mind you I think most of you guys seem to be pretty good at this already.)

    I should be fair in saying there are some permissible questions – but they are within clearly set boundaries.

    If you are unsure just what these boundaries are – don’t worry – you will have Brian (aka the Rat aka The Enforcer) promptly remind you what they are. (If you don’t respond to initial warnings he may have to resort to insisting you no longer partake on the blog.)

    Bhante, you shouldn’t leave this blog for so long – look what happens…….

    lol

  198. Geoff,

    Are you seriously going to continue hanging around this blog complaining that no one or Bhante Sujatos does not talk to you or respond to you … when all you do is behave like a complete asshole, slandering, abusing and harrassing, using every devisive tactic you can think of to destroy …just what reaction to you seriously expect to get from verbally abusing , harassing and slandering anyone especially a “religious ordained person” and on their personal website.

    I mean if someone kept turning up at your house or job slandering and verbally abusing you, telling lies to your family about you etc and thinking it was a bit of fun doing this …seriously would you do, call the cops, umm

    You don’t seem like a stupid person, especially if you put your intelligence into doing something good and positive for people rather than trying to destroy and find fault with them, but to expect that people enjoy or appreciate your behaviour is just stupid not to mention morally wrong.

    Buddhist maybe patient even forgiving people but they are not fools, nor do not tolerate fools .

    Maybe he will respond to you in the future…….. maybe he is a saint ……not just a monk, either way he is not a fool ah soo umm

    If I was you I would be too ashamed to show my face or name around here or Bhante Sujato or anything to do with him.

    Best wishes

  199. I’m feeling in a nostalgic mood so I thought I might replay some of my hightlights of The Rat’s (aka The Enforcer) unique ability to charm and persuade fellow bloggers…..

    1. The Secular Buddhist / Aug 1 2011 1:30 am

    The Rat:

    “If you return to Bhante Sujato’s blog, we should take a closer look at the way in which your views would twist the meaning of a sutta like the Upanissa Sutta, only to rob from it what the Buddha taught about the ability to gain knowledge of things as they really are and only to deny the ultimate goal of the Buddha’s teaching as presented in the Pali Canon, all while you’re inappropriately pretending that all you’re doing is examining critically his insight and teaching as presented in the Pali Canon.”

    Ted Meissner:

    “Why wouldn’t I return with such a welcoming attitude as yours to greet me and other secularists?! Here are the top accusatory hits from *just your final paragraph*:
    twist
    rob
    deny
    pretending
    This is exactly why most secular Buddhists have the good sense to stay away, attacks like this instead of positive, friendly engagement and meaningful dialogue. THAT is what turns people away from traditional practice, and that’s why we stay away.”

    I should also have the good sense to stay away but unfortunately I’m enjoying myself too much…..

  200. I agree with Ted Messiner that traditional practitioners . tend to turn people away with their self-righteousness but I would specifically target the masognists and patriarchial that can find any excuse not to take women seriously as the main players in this.

    I have to say Ratendhammo posts for someone who is not even ordained or I think claims to even have much experience in Buddhist to be very good and that practitioners like him should be welcome not harshly bullied by secular buddhists.

  201. Brian (aka the Trickster!)

    You’re a clever guy – I finally figured it out!

    I admit I’ve been a bit slow but you’ve been having a lend of us all along! You have had us all going – Ted M, Glenn W, Peter D, Sam J & the whole gang!!

    There we were thinking you were just this obnoxious fundamentalist (is that a tautology?) when in fact you’re a sceptic like the rest of us!!

    I finally twigged when I realised no one could continue saying what you have for as long and be serious – the joke’s on us!!

    You must have been having a great laugh at our reactions.

    Brilliant – if you are ever in Sydney I’d like to buy you a beer sometime….

    Cheers

    Geoff

  202. By the way Geoff what is your last name….. does anyone know .. I think you seem like a dangerous person and your obvious discrimination against Buddhist quite threatening.

    Also where do you work, do you work

    Does your employer know that you spend your day on teh internet, and your family, do they know you spend you day on the internet threatening, discriminating against Buddhists?

    It would be good to know so that if you go near any Buddhists or groups in the future they can just call the police and have a AVO put out on you.

  203. Australian Human Rights Commission

    (In Australia) “Freedom of religion and belief is a fundamental human right protected by a number of international treaties and declarations, including article 18(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). This right encompasses freedom of thought on all matters and the freedom to manifest religion and belief individually or with others, in public or in private.

    The right to freedom of religion is supported by the right to non-discrimination on the grounds of religion, contained in article 26 of the ICCPR.

    *****International human rights law also protects people against the promotion of religious hatred which amounts to incitement of discrimination, hostility or violence (ICCPR, article 20)”.

  204. Australians that promote hatred and try to incite discrimination, a gang mentality, hostility or violence such as above are often referred to as “rednecks” or sometimes “bogons” “yoboos” or just plain thugs.. hopefully they are a dieing breed but apparently they do exist in various corners of the populations.

  205. To Secular Buddhists (even Geoff)

    The Buddha taught that what creates Peace, Freedom and Harmony, not narcissism, control, identity or divisivness is Buddhism….so as It is …..

    The International Day of Peace (“Peace Day”) provides an opportunity for individuals, organizations and nations to create practical acts of peace on a shared date. It was established by a United Nations resolution in 1981 to coincide with the opening of the General Assembly. The first Peace Day was celebrated in September 1982.

    In 2002 the General Assembly officially declared September 21 as the permanent date for the International Day of Peace.

    By creating the International Day of Peace, the UN devoted itself to worldwide peace and encouraged all of mankind to work in cooperation for this goal. During the discussion of the U.N. Resolution that established the International Day of Peace, it was suggested that:

    “Peace Day should be devoted to commemorating and strengthening the ideals of peace both within and among all nations and peoples…This day will serve as a reminder to all peoples that our organization, with all its limitations, is a living instrument in the service of peace and should serve all of us here within the organization as a constantly pealing bell reminding us that our permanent commitment, above all interests or differences of any kind, is to peace.”

    Wishing you all peace and may all beleifs, religions agree to disagree and live in harmony, peace and freedom together.

  206. I’d be interested in others’ take on this:

    Bhante says in the preamble above:

    “For myself, I learned that this idea of ‘enlightenment’ as a process, rather than a completed state, is central to the secular Buddhist perspective. I had heard the idea before, but didn’t realize how significant it was……….

    The word ‘Buddha’ means ‘Awakened’. It is a past participle, denoting a completed or perfected state. The finality of the Buddha’s Awakening is fundamental to the whole Buddhist literature and is, for example, a major theme of the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta. To say ‘the Buddha is not Awakened’ is an oxymoron. “

    In contrast Glenn Wallis says (in an earlier exchange with Bhante on this blog):

    “Have my views changed over time. Of course they have! Haven’t yours? Do you not believe, furthermore, that the Buddha’s–or Gotama’s–views changed over time, even after his “awakening”? Does anicca apply to everything in the universe but the Buddha’s cognition? “

    That last sentence is very interesting. I’d be interested in the answers to this question.

    Cheers

    Geoff

  207. Brian (aka The Trickster),

    This is probably my favourite one of yours…. That hissy fit you threw was very convincing….

    Of course at the time we didn’t realise you were doing a very convincing send- up of a bigoted sutta- thumper (another tautology?)…….

    But now I realise you’re actually one of us!!! Also I now realise you were doing the secular cause a much better service than the rest of us.

    I reckon satire’s the way to go – you figured it out before us….

    You even had Ted fooled….

    Right on brother!!

    o Ratanadhammo / Aug 7 2011 8:37 pm

    Geoff,
    Will you ever be getting to a point about anything of importance? Mostly, you focus on a handful of issues that are not really – or should not really be – the main focus of Buddhist practice and push and push and push for answers, not in order to understand, but to belittle something you don’t understand, all while whining about how others are dismissive of secular Buddhism.

    It’s ridiculous.

    Why do you think it’s ok to be so dismissive of something you clearly don’t want to understand on any level while, at the same time, you whine about how others are so dismissive of secular Buddhism?

    You’re not focusing on what’s most important to any Buddhist path. Frankly, it looks a lot like you don’t care to focus on what’s most important to any Buddhist path so much as you want to pull at strings of a teaching you don’t want to understand on any level in order to see if it’ll unravel.

    It’s pathetic.

    Bhante’s patience with you, on the other hand, has been inspiring. It’s evidence that his practice can lead to equanimity in the face of all manner of nonsense.

    Buddhist meditation practice is meant, in part, to reduce the noise in order to gain important insights.

    All you are interested in doing is making a lot of noise.

    I wouldn’t have had even a small fraction of the patience Bhante has had in dealing with your pushing and pushing – the equivalent of pounding on the table and shouting like a child – all of which you do for no apparent reason other than to ensure that ignorance prevails.

    Reply
     The Secular Buddhist / Aug 8 2011 3:59 am

    Brian, are you okay? This response just seemed a little strident in the face of Geoff’s sharing some thoughts and opinions. It may of course be my own perspective in the discussion, but I had not read anything overtly hostile from Geoff in his post.

    Metta,

    Ted

  208. Geoff,

    I may have been a bit harsh on you … and secular Buddhism.. and think it is the way to go with Buddhism.

    Lets re-open this debate

  209. Bhante,

    If you don’t mind I have a query dating to last year but unfortunately you were unable to answer as you were preparing for Vassa.

    *****

    I have a query regarding nimitas and devas that you referred to in a podcast talk on Anapanasati (Rains retreat talk 2006?)

    http://www.dhammanet.org/hosted/dhammanet/download.php?view.140).

    If I may paraphrase you:”…. Nimitas aren’t anything, it’s just the way you are seeing the breath, seeing the mind, the way this is interpreted to itself. Nimita is a metaphor (ie “the lights have gone on – a light bulb above your head”). Nimitas are represented, interpreted as light by the mind (there is no actual light there). So that light is very powerful, overwhelming and it will change your life. You would understand that if you were a Christian, you would say – I have seen the face of God – you wouldn’t have any doubt about that. This is how it’s described – like when Brahma appears – the Nimita appears, the light appears. So what you are seeing is the mind which has this power, which in fact is the power of God, it’s not like it’s just like that, it actually is (the power of God). This is the power that the great and mighty devas get their power from, the Brahma gods, from seeing these lights, from this experience…..”

    Bhante, to quote you earlier in the original Secular Buddhism post addressed to me (June11):

    “…Devas are, in fact, conditioned, impermanent, suffering creatures very much like you or I in all spiritually important aspects. And, crucially, knowledge of such things is an empirical knowledge, derivable from the meditative extension of ordinary sensory faculties…… “

    My questions are: how are we to understand this “empirical knowledge, derivable from the meditative extension of ordinary sensory faculties”? Are the latter (presumably Buddhist) devas you refer to above the same as the Brahmanical ones earlier? (If so doesn’t this indicate the cultural influence of Brahmanism on Buddhism?)

    As a Buddhist have you ever seen the face of God in meditation, rather than devas? I imagine not but if so what would you make of it? That God is real? Have Christians who have no knowledge of Buddhism reported to have seen Buddhist devas, rather than an image of God or Jesus? I also imagine not, in which case wouldn’t this reflect our preconceived ideas when entering deep meditation?

    Although you seem to be saying this can happen in a previous reply (to Glenn Wallis’s article in June11) when you use the biblical example of Saul to argue:

    “There are countless examples of people seeing ‘entities’ and often these have no relation to a person’s belief. For a historical example, Saul on the road to Tarsus. The notion that people only ever see what they previously believed in is a purely dogmatic assertion, and I have never seen any evidence in support of it. One might reject such accounts for any number of reasons, but it is simply wrong to say that no-one has seen such things.”(Incidentally, he was on the road to Damascus, not Tarsus.)

    If we leave aside those in psychiatric care who might see ‘entities’ that have no relation to their beliefs, how valid is the example of Saul? To quote Wikipedia:

    “While traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus on a mission to “bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem”, the resurrected Jesus appeared to him in a great light. Saul was struck blind, but after three days his sight was restored by Ananias of Damascus, and Paul began to preach that Jesus of Nazareth is the Jewish Messiah and the Son of God.”

    Are you saying this really happened? If so I would have imagined you would have remained a Christian. If not, what is the point of the example? What reasons might it be legitimate to “reject such accounts”? Or are you simply trying to score a debating point by saying “it is simply wrong to say that non-one has seen such things”?

    Getting back to your Anapanasati talk mentioned above: presumably if you were an agnostic / atheist scientist might these ‘entities’ be legitimately explained in purely physiological and / or psychological terms?

    In fact you actually say this before overlaying a religious interpretation:

    “Nimitas aren’t anything, it’s just the way you are seeing the breath, seeing the mind, the way this is interpreted to itself. Nimita is a metaphor (ie “the lights have gone on – light bulb above you head”). Nimitas are represented, interpreted as light by the mind (there is no actual light there).”?

    Could you please clarify

    Much appreciated

    Geoff

  210. Sorry Bhante – if I could trouble you again…..

    If you could also please clarify an earlier query of mine from the same period (July 2011) that you didn’t have time to respond to because of Vassa:

    sujato / Jun 15 2011 8:46 pm

    To quote you:

    “The Pali texts have been studied intensively in the West for over 100 years. I have personally studied, practiced, and taught them for nearly twenty years. Obviously there are many things we don’t know, but there are some things we do know. One of those things is that we can meaningfully distinguish between contexts where the Buddha is depicted as making definitive, straightforward doctrinal statements (such as that the second noble truth is ‘the craving that leads to rebirth’, or that the three knowledges include the ability to recollect past lives), and passages where he is speaking ironically or figuratively. As with so many distinctions, the Suttas themselves say that both these kinds of teachings exist, and that one should learn to not confuse them.

    Once we make this rather elementary distinction, it rapidly becomes apparent that in the narrative, verses, background stories, parables, and the like, the text is often playful and ironic (see, for example, the episode with Pancasikha in DN 21 Sakkapanha), and the notions of devas and so on owe much to popular Indian cosmology. In the contexts where the Buddha himself is speaking directly on a central doctrinal matter, such as the four noble truths, the three knowledges, the five spiritual faculties, and the like, there is no sign of irony or playfulness, and there is also much less influence of Indian cultural presuppositions. “

    Earlier you said:

    “Devas are, in fact, conditioned, impermanent, suffering creatures very much like you or I in all spiritually important aspects. And, crucially, knowledge of such things is an empirical knowledge, derivable from the meditative extension of ordinary sensory faculties… “

    My question is: does “the notions of devas (and so on) owe much to popular Indian cosmology (and “the text is often playful and ironic” and the Buddha “is speaking ironically or figuratively”)”?

    Or are “devas, in fact, conditioned, impermanent, suffering creatures very much like you or I in all spiritually important aspects”?

    PS: as a postscript to the previous queries I posted:

    Presumably Buddhist devas are different from Brahmanical ones for being conditioned, impermanent and suffering. But why should that necessarily make them any more real?

    Could you please clarify

    Much appreciated

    Geoff

  211. Dear Bhante,

    If I can trouble you again about another query I had while you were on Vassa last year…..
    I acknowledge your “text critical” analysis to help our understanding of the Buddha’s teachings.
    However I have a query with this – if I may ask for clarification.

    ****

    Despite our “text critical” knowledge, how might we interpret the period of time from the moment the Buddha’s words left his lips to when these texts were first recorded? How can we apply an “oral critical” analysis to this 400 year period?

    I have heard you say how you were often misreported by the press when you were a musician. Why might this not have happened to the Buddha (ie “taken out of context”)? Of course there was no sound or visual recordings of the Buddha which might give us some insight into eg his vocal intonations or expressions (idiom or “turn of phrase”) or visual recordings which may have provided some insight into his body language etc. Furthermore it would have been obviously beneficial to have had some in-depth interviews to help clarify some points of contention which we lack.

    Of course to further complicate matters, the Buddha wasn’t speaking in modern day English we didn’t have to translate and was living in a radically different cultural environment (ie we don’t find ourselves in discussion with Brahmins or Jains and contending with their specific concerns).

    If the Buddha was a non-religious figure would we be more cautious what we attributed to him, given the lack of historic evidence ? How do we know what is attributed to the Buddha doesn’t reflect more what the Buddhist Councils (over many years) felt should be attributed to him, especially during the initial oral transmission period?

    Of course there would still be differences in interpretation even if the Buddha was alive today but surely the scope for interpretation would be much narrower. For example, we could at least dispense once and for all with any doubt that the Buddha actually said those things attributed to him.

    (As an indication of the lack of certainty – even on the question of Pali text interpretation and given your close affiliation – it was interesting to note on this blog how much Ajahn Brahmali / Ajahn Brahm and yourself differ in your interpretations on (what I would consider) fairly central issues. For example, on the Buddha’s meditative attainments prior to the night of his Enlightenment, you believed he attained the level of the Formless Attainments (but of course not reaching Nibbana), whereas Brahmali / Brahm believed he didn’t even reach the Jhana stages. I can provide the references if you are interested.)

    Could you please clarify this?

    Much appreciated

    Geoff

  212. Bhante

    PS re my earlier point:

    (As an indication of the lack of certainty – even on the question of Pali text interpretation and given your close affiliation – it was interesting to note on this blog how much Ajahn Brahmali / Ajahn Brahm and yourself differ in your interpretations on (what I would consider) fairly central issues. For example, on the Buddha’s meditative attainments prior to the night of his Enlightenment, you believed he attained the level of the Formless Attainments (but of course not reaching Nibbana), whereas Brahmali / Brahm believed he didn’t even reach the Jhana stages.)

    ****

    I find this above example particularly interesting, as it indicates just how wide open the suttas are to interpretation. On the one hand Ajahns Brahmali & Brahm appear to dismiss the level of any non-Buddhist meditative attainment, believing the term jhana used in the relevant sutta (I’m sure you know which one I’m referring to – but I can check) can’t have the same meaning as the Buddhist term, whereas you interpret the sutta quite differently.

    Your interpretation of the sutta is that in fact the Buddha (to be) did attain very deep meditative absorption through instructions from his former teacher(s), surpassing the Four Jhanas to the level of the Formless Attainments.

    As I recall Bhante, your reasoning for this was that the Buddha achieved the deepest levels of meditation available – but still was dissatisfied – because he realised he had not escaped the rounds of rebirth once and for all (ie Nibbana). Instead he had ‘only’ achieved the Formless Attainments, where he was able to foresee (unlike his teachers who presumably believed they had reached the ultimate Atman) that he had entered the (impermanent) celestial realms (albeit for many eons) but still not final cessation “without remainder”.

    My query is: how did the Buddha (to be) realise he had not attained Atman but ‘only’ the (impermanent) Formless Attainments when he hadn’t achieved Buddhahood yet?

    Much appreciated

    Geoff

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