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  • on Buddhist Culture (Compiled at BuddhaNet, 1998) Homepage :BuddhaNet ( Australia ) email : pannya@cia.com.au

    Do Buddhists pray?

    Buddhist donĺt pray to a Creator God, but they do have devotional meditation practices which could be compared to praying. Radiating loving-kindness to all living beings is a practice which is believed to benefit those beings. The sharing of merit is a practice where one dedicates the goodness of oneĺs life to the benefit of all living beings as well as praying for a particular person. For further discussion on the nature of Buddhist devotion and faith, see DEVOTION.ZIP and CRGFAITH.ZIP in BuddhaNet's file library - General section In Tibet prayer is going on most of the time. Tibetans pray in a special way. They believe that when certain sounds and words, called mantras, are said many times they arouse good vibrations within the person. If a mantra is repeated often enough it can open up the mind to a consciousness which is beyond words and thoughts. In Japan millions of Buddhists pray to Amida Buddha, the Buddha of Infinite Light. They believe that Amida has created a Pure Land in the west and that those who have faith and repeat Amidaĺs name in prayer will go there. Yet they also believe that Amida is really within them.

    How do you become a Buddhist?

    In one way being a Buddhist means belonging to a particular community of people and following a path of life taught by the Buddhas (enlightened beings). Members of the Buddhist community are formally joined by taking refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma (the teaching) and the Sangha (the community of noble disciples).

    Why do Buddhists chant?

    It reminds one of the Dharma so that it is not forgotten; when meditation is not possible and when bare mindfulness does not give much consolation, it can be used to great advantage as an extension of meditation into words to produce calm, some peace within; and certainly, it expresses oneĺs strong confidence in the Dharma. Reciting the same chants day after day also has an advantage - the making of wholesome repetitive karma which of course will bear very good fruit.

    What about Buddhist shrines and images?

    The shrine found in Buddhist homes or temples is a focal point of Buddhist observances. At the centre of the shrine, there is usually an image of the Buddha. This image may be made of a variety of materials such as marble, gold, wood or even clay. The image is a symbol that helps people to recall the qualities of the Buddha. The shrine may also have such objects as a volume of Buddhist scriptures to represent the Dharma. Some shrines may include other items such as images, pictures or photographs of Buddhist monks and masters to represent the Sangha. When a Buddhist stands before a shrine, the objects he sees on it help him to recall the qualities that are found in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. This inspires him to work towards cultivating these qualities in himself.

    Why do Buddhists bow?

    In Buddhism, the traditional gesture of reverence to the Triple Gem is to place the palms of both hands together and raise them high in front, usually up to the level of the forehead. In order to express deep veneration, a Buddhist may bow or prostrate before the image of the Buddha, members of the Sangha and the masters of the Teaching. When a Buddhist prostrates before an image, he acknowledges the fact that the Buddha has attained the perfect and supreme Enlightenment. Such an act helps the Buddhist to overcome egoistic feelings and he becomes more ready to listen to the Teaching of the Buddha.

    Are there Buddhist holy places?

    The four holy sites as places of pilgrimage for Buddhists are Lumbini where the Buddha was born, Bodh Gaya where the Buddha was enlightened under the Bodhi tree, Sarnath where the Buddha gave his first teaching of the Dharma and Kusinagara where the Buddha passed away. See "In Search of the Buddha" on BuddhaNet.

    What about Buddhist festivals?

    Buddhist festivals are always joyful occasions. Every May, on the night of the full moon, Buddhists all over the world celebrate Vesak for the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha such a long time ago. In the Theravada tradition, practices observed by laypeople at Vesak include the observance of eight precepts (the regular five plus not taking food after midday and celibacy and not over indulging in sleep). Also the laypeople may participate in chanting and meditation and listening to sermons. In Thai villages people get ready during the day. They clean their houses and hang up garlands of flowers. The men take clean sand from the river bank and spread it over the temple courtyard, where everyone walks with bare feet. Statues of the Buddha are brought out of the temple to be washed and polished and all the books come out to be dusted. When it is dark, the villagers gather with candles or small oil lamps. The biggest Buddha statue is put on a platform outside the temple and lights shine all round it. Scented water is thrown onto it. Holding their lights, everyone starts to move round the Buddha statue so that in the end it is encircled with light.

    What about Buddhist marriage ceremonies?

    Monks are prohibited from being marriage celebrants but they can "bless" the couple by reciting the Dharma (chanting) after the secular ceremony.

    What is a Buddhist funeral like?

    A simple ceremony where the good deeds of the departed are remembered, a Loving-kindness meditation can be done and a sharing of merits.

    What is a Stupa?

    When the person who has died is a Buddha (enlightened one) or an Arhant (saint) or an especially great teacher, relics are collected after the cremation. These may be placed in a stupa or pagoda (burial mound) or in a Buddha-rupa (image of the Buddha). Whenever the Buddhist sees a stupa in the countryside or a Buddha-rupa in a shrine room it is a reminder of the dharma (teaching) and it is honoured because of that.



    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup.
    Answers are from Punnadhammo Bhikkhu
    Email: arcc@baynet.net
    Arrow River Community Center

    I am curious about what Buddhists believe happens after one dies.

    The Buddha most certainly taught that consciousness re-arises after death, conditioned by karma, in a new body-mind. In fact this endless wheel of birth and death is seen as the central dilemma of existence. As Spasemunki has pointed out in another reply to this thread, this must be taken in the context of another central Buddhist doctrine, no-self (soul-less-ness) . The paradox to be understood is that rebirth happens, but there is nothing at all which re-incarnates.

    There is only one mind moment conditioned another in a stream unbroken for countless eons until final complete enlightenment.

    Transference of merit.
    What is the basis in the Pali cannon for transference of merit by sponsoring prayer or sutta recitation? I practise in the Tibetan tradition and sponsor prayer for the dead, living, and sick people but am wondering where this custom/practice started.

    In one of the minor books of the Khuddaka Nikaya there is passage concerning this. The story, partly commentorial, is that King Bimbisara gave a meal for the monks and was subsequently troubled at night by the wailing of ghosts. The Buddha explained that this was because he failed to offer any of the merit to his deceased relatives. He gave another meal and transferred merit thereby pacifying the ghosts.

    This has caused some difficulty in the exegesis, because according to strict theory karmas cannot be made for another. The explanation arrived at is that when one transfers merit the beings in the ghost realm rejoice and rejoicing in the wholesome is itself a good karma.

    Another explaination about rebirth from :-

    Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh from his book "No Death, No Fear", page 125-126:

    Ask yourself, 'Where shall I go after this?' Our actions and our words, which are being produced at this moment, take us in a linear direction. But they also take us in a lateral direction as they flow into and influence the world around us. They can make the world more beautiful and bright. that beauty and brightness can go in to the future. We should not look for our real selves in just one vertical direction.

    When I make a pot of oolong tea, I put tea leaves into the pot and pour boiling water on them. Five minutes later there is tea to drink. When I drink it, oolong tea is going into me. If I put in more hot water, making a second pot of tea, the tea from those leaves continues to go into me. After I have poured out all the tea, what will be left in the pot is just the spent tea leaves. The leaves that remain are only a very small part of the tea. The tea that goes into me is a much bigger part of the tea. It is the richest part.

    We are the same; our essence has gone into our children, our friends, and the entire universe. We have to find ourselves in those directions and not in the spent tea leaves. I invite you to see yourself reborn in forms that you say are not yourself. You have to see your body in what is not your body. This is called your body outside of your body.

    You do not have to wait until the flame has gone out to be reborn. I am reborn many times every day. Every moment is a moment of rebirth. My practice is to be reborn in such a way that my new forms of manifestation will bring light, freedom, and happiness into the world. My practice is to not allow wrong actions to be reborn. If I have a cruel thought or if my words carry hatred in them, then those thoughts and words will be reborn. It will be difficult to catch them and pull them back. They are like a runaway horse. We should try not to allow our actions of body, speech, and mind to take us in the direction of wrong action, wrong speech, and wrong thinking.

    If you look for yourself like that, you will be able to see your continuation into the future. You will not be caught in the idea that you will be annihilated. You will not be caught in the notion that you will not exist anymore when you die. The truth is that you are not permanent, but neither are you annihilated. When the flame of the candle reaches the end of the wick and goes out, it is still there. You cannot find it by looking in a linear direction. You have to find it also in the horizontal direction.

    Another explaination from

    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup.
    Answers are from Norbu Tragri
    Email: norbu_tragri@yahoo.com
    Date 29 December 2006

    Past and future lives are so much speculative thought....

    But we can see more immediate versions of them moment to moment:

    Life is just all this stuff we go...that's sort of a passive point of view...*reactions*...

    "meanings" are given to us from outside....Everyone has their own story and often we are cast as nothing more than bit players in their dramas...they might see us as friends or enemies of various types...we can dance to a hundred different peoples ideas of who we are and try to fit in into their various stories, spend all our time trying to communicate with them by trying to be who the want and expect us to be...

    Or we could be "reactive" to our own views, ...Then we run the risk of using others as puzzle-pieces of our own sense of "meaning".

    The Buddha saw all this - how we get caught-up in struggle - dramas - how we try to secure ourselves - and he simplified it to three principles:

    Everything composite/conditional/created/put-together is temporary/transitory....

    Everything transitory is going to fall apart, hence is frustrating, without resolution...

    Everything without resolution is without a core principle, without an "identity" - it's just composite ideas, beliefs, etc clung to due to some belief about who we are and how we need to prop up this thing-self with thing-others - there's no real self/resolution/ etc in that drama - it's just clinging to fleeting shadows, passing ideas.

    so

    Everything put together falls apart

    Everything that falls apart is frustrating

    Everything that is frustrating clinging to a false sense of resolution, some lame idea we have of ourselves and others, so to speak....

    There was a sort of fouth principle the Buddha also taught, that getting unstuck is "bliss"...

    Dropping all the self imposed drama...

    But of course there's a catch....

    If we try to drop the b.s. struggle we're just creating a new b.s. struggle and avoiding the intuitive guts of what is actually happening in our everyday life - our heart, rather than all this figuring it out stuff...

    So we cut the struggle at home instead of hoping for some ideal world out there.

    We accept ourselves just as we are, without judgement, we just watch ourselves - this is done by meditation and mindfulness practice....meditation can be done by many different means - just sitting - watching - or by chanting...etc....Some folks can also use sitting and/or chanting to avoid letting-go of the bs, to impose rigid suit of armor so that they don't have to come down to earth. People of either sort might appear relaxed or stiff....so you might want to ignore trying to evaluate them and just see what works for you....the break-through is not some heavenly light but when you accept the afraid/smelliest/angriest parts of yourself as ok, sane, workable - then some sort of honest awareness is happening beyond the mere contents of awareness or thought....

    we can get beyond the conceptual meaning of some limited being reacting to 'the outside' into the meaningfullness of an openheart/mind intentionally engaged with a living world...

    There are good and lame teachers in every tradition. Find the honesty in your own heart and you will be able to recognize them.

    - n.




    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup.
    Answers are from Thomas Reale a.k.a Theravad
    Email: theravad@earthlink.net

    Buddha means enlightened one. It is a title given by the people to Prince Sidhartha Gautama some 25 centuries ago in India. The Buddha was neither a god or God but a man. The Buddha preferred the title, Tathagata which means "one who came and went". Others came before him,were Supremely Enlightened and went and others will come after him.

    Dhamma is a complex term. Capitalized, Dhamma, it means the Unborn, the Uncreated about which nothing can be said but it must be experienced directly. It can also mean the Buddha's teachings concerning the Dhamma which lead to direct experience of it. Uncapitalized dhamma, refers to the things in our environment and the rules which seem to govern them.

    Sangha is the fraternity of monks dedicated to the teaching of Dhamma and self perfection for the good of all. In some schools it refers to the community of believers.




    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup.
    Answers are from Tang Huyen
    Email: thuyen@bu.edu

    Stream Entry ( First Stage of Arahantship )

    Indeed, there is much more to Stream Entry than swearing allegiance to the Buddha, for it involves a firm though still perfectible understanding the no-self -- the abandoning of the view of the own-body (sva-kaya-drsti). Blind faith doesn't do a thing here. What it means is that one has started really and truly on the way to detachment, dispassion and letting-go, and first of all regarding one's sense of self. One has made a serious commitment to detaching oneself from any sense of self, to becoming dispassionate with regard to it, and to letting it go. By extension, one has also started to detach oneself from any invested essence or substance in words and concepts, especially in transcendent entities like God or the Absolute, with or without attributes.

    That's what Stream Entry is all about. And I don't think that's that lame at all -- it is serious work and serious attainment. And it is not specifically oriented toward the Buddha in person (or anybody else in person, for that matter), it is rather a commitment to the Law as discovered and taught by him. One no longer has doubt with regard to it, and one no longer indulges in rites and rituals for good luck from outside sources. One has unshakable conviction in its truth, and not in contrary teachings, like those of theism, Brahmanism/Hinduism, shamanism, animism, materialism, scepticism (eel-wriggling), or any doctrine or practice other than detachment, dispassion and letting-go. One knows ahead of time that at the end, one will also let go of the Law because it is only like a raft to cross over to the other side, though in the meantime one will abide with it to go to the point where one will ... drop it. The Law takes delight in being ultimately self-defeating, otherwise it wouldn't be the Law. It is for crossing over, not for clinging to.


    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup.
    Question from Kok Chee Chiong
    Email: kcc@np.edu.sg
    Answers are from Jaran Olsen
    Email: jarano@online.no

    QUESTION
    From the sutras we know that even amongst arahants there were different levels of attainment. From the suttras we also know that Buddha's have certain attainments that arahants do not have, including all the siddhis. This suggests to me that arahants, though free, have not reached the pinnacle of their spiritual attainment.

    Can an arahant then continue their cultivation in some "pure abodes"(terms taken from sutras) to reach Buddhahood or do they need to take on human rebirth to continue their cultivation ?

    ANSWER

    There are four noble individuals (ariya-puggala):

    -the Stream-winner (Sotapanna )this one has a maximum of 7 rebirths before the attainment of Nibbana. He/she has cut of the three first fetters:
    (1) personality-belief (sakkaya-ditthi),
    (2) skeptical doubt (vicikiccha) and
    (3) attachment to mere rules and rituals (silabbata-paramasa).

    -the Once-returner (Sakadagami ) this one will be reborn once again as human before reaching Nibbana. He/she is free from the first three fetters, and nearly free from the 4th and 5th, sensous craving (kama-cchanda) and ill-will (vyapada ).

    -the Non-returner (Anagami ) this one will be reborn in one of the Deva planes and reach Nibbana. He/she is free from all the five first fetters (mentioned above).

    -the Holy One (Arahat) this one has reached Nibbana, and realised it in this life. He/she is also free from the five higher fetters:
    (6) craving for fine material existence (rupa-raga),
    (7) craving for immaterial existence (arupa-raga),
    (8) conceit (mana),
    (9) restlessness (uddhacca) and lastly
    (10) ignorance (avijja).

    The threefold classification of enlightenment:

    1. The Noble disciple (savaka-bodhi) i.e. an Arahant.
    2. The Independently Enlightened One (pacceka-bodhi)*
    3. The Perfect Enlightened One (samma-sambodhi)

    *This one is someone who has discovered the Dhamma, but do not teach, is unable to teach.

    This threefold division, however, is of later origin. Neither in the canonical texts nor in the old commentaries is it stated that a follower of the Buddha may choose between the three kinds of enlightenment and aspire either to become a Buddha, a Pacceka-Buddha or an Arahant-disciple.

    Note that the Buddha called himself an arahant in the statement in the Mahavagga of Vinaya Pitaka, "There are now six arahants in the world", i.e., the five first disciples and the Buddha.






    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup.
    Zaphod wrote:

    I have just started to look into buddism, I have recently seen things on quantum physics that say everything in the universe is connected at the smallest level through time, distance everything. My knowledge on these things is severely limited to basically observing and small opinions which are forming. A thought is that what buddism is in enabling that level of consciousness in self, the real reality is that everything is one, on a level I peer through dark glasses and distorted lenses but thats ok because weather or not I find it in this body I will in the passing on of this life back to the all consciousness. Any comments or flames welcome

    John


    Answer is from Mubul

    The motivation of the scientist is quite different from the motivation of the Buddha. For the scientist, discovering reality is an end in itself. The discovery of reality is to be carried out without any regard for practical utility, morality, commercial interest, the common good or patriotic concerns. For the Buddha, discovering reality was a means to an end, namely, the elimination of dukkha.

    Thankfully, the Buddha was not a scientist at all. He was a man intent on finding a way to help people eliminate unnecessary and avoidable pain. Towards this end he was far more interested in perceptions and subjective realities than in objective reality. He was more interested in adjusting attitudes than in discovering external realities. He was a poet, a philosopher, and a psychotherapist, not a physicist. My guess is that he would have found physics rather pointless.

    The four noble truths were perfectly clear before quantum physics came on the scene. Quantum physics has not shed any light whatsoever on such matters as siila, samaadhi and pa~n~naa, nor on any one of the four noble truths. It has no connection at all with the qualities that make up a buddha. It has no connection at all with nirvana, the dharma to which Buddhists go for refuge. And it has no connection at all with the community of noble persons who have broken through the barriers of belief in a self, attachment to rites and vows, and the malaise of despair. In short, quantum physics has nothing to say about going for refuge or about the actual practice of changing one's attitudes from counterproductive to productive ways of viewing external or internal events.

    The Buddha said nothing at all about modern physics, just as modern physicists have nothing to say about going for refuge. The two domains are quite distinct. It is true that Buddhists can interpret Oppenheimer's words to suit their own ends; they can use his words as a kind of upaaya (though not a very effective one, I think). But it hardly follows from this that he was speaking in the Buddhist idiom. He was speaking the idiom of science. Some Buddhists have translated that idiom into their own way of speaking, although I can't see why they have bothered.

    A Buddhist's efforts might better be spent trying to grasp the practical implications of what various Buddhist traditions have taught than diverting their attention to irrelevant topics such as quantum physics. Examining technical details of quantum mechanics will not do much to shed light on practical details of following the path to nirvana. But that consideration may not suffice to keep Pietzsche from muddying the clear waters of the Dharma by the discussion of such irrelevant matters as quantum mechanics.

    Mubul






    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup.
    Answers are from SRyuei
    Email: sryuei@aol.com

    What is Nichiren Buddhism?


    What are the main teaching of this sect ?


    The major contribution of Nichiren Shonin (the 13th century Japanese founder of Nichiren Buddhism) is the Three Great Secret Dharmas which clarify the faith, teaching and practice of Nichiren Buddhism and also clarify the Nichiren Buddhist understanding of the threefold training and the three treasures. These are:

    1. The Gohonzon (Supreme Focus of Devotion) which is the Eternal Shakyamuni Buddha of the Essential Section of the Lotus Sutra in the act of transmitting the Wonderful Dharma to his original disciples, the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. This defines the proper focus of meditation and the proper understanding of the Buddha.

    2. The Daimoku (Sacred Title) which is Namu Myoho Renge Kyo. This is the Sino Japanese phrase which means "I devote myself to the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Flower Teaching." This phrase is our expression of faith in the Wonderful Dharma, and it is also the seed of Buddhahood in that it manifests the interaction between our latent Buddha nature and the actualized Buddha nature of the Unborn and Undying Shakyamuni Buddha. The Daimoku defines the source and fruition of wisdom and is the correct Dharma for this age.

    3. The Kaidan (Precept Platform) which is no longer a government sponsored ordination platform to recieve monastic precepts but it now anywhere where the true spirit of the Wonderful Dharma of the Lotus Sutra is upheld. This defines the real meaning of precept practice in this age and it also teaches that the Sangha is composed of those who uphold the Wonderful Dharma by practicing Namu Myoho Renge Kyo.

    What are the main differences from other Buddhist sects ?
    Nichiren Buddhism is a Mahayana school that specifically teaches that the highest truth of the Buddha was taught in the Lotus Sutra, and that in this age the way to practice the Lotus Sutra is by confidentally rejoicing in its teaching that the Buddha is still present in our lives and through the Daimoku enables us to actualize our own Buddhahood.

    Some Buddhists believe they can attain Buddhahood through self-power, others stress the Other-power of the Buddha. In the Nichiren school, we teach that Buddhahood is achieved through the synergy of the Buddha's presence, our receptivity through faith and rejoicing, and the power of the Daimoku which is the Wonderful Dharma.

    One way of thinking of this is that our Buddha nature is like a fallow field, the Buddha is like the farmer who sows the field, and the Daimoku is the seed which is sown on the field. The resulting crop is the actualization of Buddhahood in our own lives.






    Buddhist Retreat
    Why I gave up on finding my religion.
    By John Horgan
    Posted Wednesday, February 12, 2003, at 12:54 PM PT
    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup


    For a 2,500-year-old religion, Buddhism seems remarkably compatible with our scientifically oriented culture, which may explain its surging popularity here in America. Over the last 15 years the number of Buddhist centers in the United States has more than doubled, to well over 1,000. As many as 4 million Americans now practice Buddhism, surpassing the total of Episcopalians. Of these Buddhists, half have post-graduate degrees, according to one survey. Recently, convergences between science and Buddhism have been explored in a slew of books-including Zen and the Brain and The Psychology of Awakening-and scholarly meetings. Next fall Harvard will host a colloquium titled "Investigating the Mind ," where leading cognitive scientists will swap theories with the Dalai Lama. Just the other week the New York Times hailed the "rapprochement between modern science and ancient [Buddhist] wisdom.

    Four years ago, I joined a Buddhist meditation class and began talking to (and reading books by) intellectuals sympathetic to Buddhism. Eventually, and regretfully, I concluded that Buddhism is not much more rational than the Catholicism I lapsed from in my youth; Buddhism's moral and metaphysical worldview cannot easily be reconciled with science-or, more generally, with modern humanistic values.

    For many, a chief selling point of Buddhism is its supposed de-emphasis of supernatural notions such as immortal souls and God. Buddhism "rejects the theological impulse," the philosopher Owen Flanagan declares approvingly in The Problem of the Soul. Actually, Buddhism is functionally theistic, even if it avoids the "G" word. Like its parent religion Hinduism, Buddhism espouses reincarnation, which holds that after death our souls are re-instantiated in new bodies, and karma, the law of moral cause and effect. Together, these tenets imply the existence of some cosmic judge who, like Santa Claus, tallies up our naughtiness and niceness before rewarding us with rebirth as a cockroach or as a saintly lama.

    Western Buddhists usually downplay these supernatural elements, insisting that Buddhism isn't so much a religion as a practical method for achieving happiness. They depict Buddha as a pragmatist who eschewed metaphysical speculation and focused on reducing human suffering. As the Buddhist scholar Robert Thurman put it, Buddhism is an "inner science," an empirical discipline for fulfilling our minds' potential. The ultimate goal is the state of preternatural bliss, wisdom, and moral grace sometimes called enlightenment-Buddhism's version of heaven, except that you don't have to die to get there.

    The major vehicle for achieving enlightenment is meditation, touted by both Buddhists and alternative-medicine gurus as a potent way to calm and comprehend our minds. The trouble is, decades of research have shown meditation's effects to be highly unreliable, as James Austin, a neurologist and Zen Buddhist, points out in Zen and Brain. Yes, it can reduce stress, but, as it turns out, no more so than simply sitting still does. Meditation can even exacerbate depression, anxiety, and other negative emotions in certain people.

    The insights imputed to meditation are questionable, too. Meditation, the brain researcher Francisco Varela told me before he died in 2001, confirms the Buddhist doctrine of anatta, which holds that the self is an illusion. Varela contended that anatta has also been corroborated by cognitive science, which has discovered that our perception of our minds as discrete, unified entities is an illusion foisted upon us by our clever brains. In fact, all that cognitive science has revealed is that the mind is an emergent phenomenon, which is difficult to explain or predict in terms of its parts; few scientists would equate the property of emergence with non-existence, as anatta does.

    Much more dubious is Buddhism's claim that perceiving yourself as in some sense unreal will make you happier and more compassionate. Ideally, as the British psychologist and Zen practitioner Susan Blackmore writes in The Meme Machine, when you embrace your essential selflessness, "guilt, shame, embarrassment, self-doubt, and fear of failure ebb away and you become, contrary to expectation, a better neighbor." But most people are distressed by sensations of unreality, which are quite common and can be induced by drugs, fatigue, trauma, and mental illness as well as by meditation.

    Even if you achieve a blissful acceptance of the illusory nature of your self, this perspective may not transform you into a saintly bodhisattva, brimming with love and compassion for all other creatures. Far from it-and this is where the distance between certain humanistic values and Buddhism becomes most apparent. To someone who sees himself and others as unreal, human suffering and death may appear laughably trivial. This may explain why some Buddhist masters have behaved more like nihilists than saints. Chogyam Trungpa, who helped introduce Tibetan Buddhism to the United States in the 1970s, was a promiscuous drunk and bully, and he died of alcohol-related illness in 1987. Zen lore celebrates the sadistic or masochistic behavior of sages such as Bodhidharma, who is said to have sat in meditation for so long that his legs became gangrenous.

    What's worse, Buddhism holds that enlightenment makes you morally infallible-like the pope, but more so. Even the otherwise sensible James Austin perpetuates this insidious notion. " 'Wrong' actions won't arise," he writes, "when a brain continues truly to express the self-nature intrinsic to its [transcendent] experiences." Buddhists infected with this belief can easily excuse their teachers' abusive acts as hallmarks of a "crazy wisdom" that the unenlightened cannot fathom.

    But what troubles me most about Buddhism is its implication that detachment from ordinary life is the surest route to salvation. Buddha's first step toward enlightenment was his abandonment of his wife and child, and Buddhism (like Catholicism) still exalts male monasticism as the epitome of spirituality. It seems legitimate to ask whether a path that turns away from aspects of life as essential as sexuality and parenthood is truly spiritual. From this perspective, the very concept of enlightenment begins to look anti-spiritual: It suggests that life is a problem that can be solved, a cul-de-sac that can be, and should be, escaped.

    Some Western Buddhists have argued that principles such as reincarnation, anatta, and enlightenment are not essential to Buddhism. In Buddhism Without Beliefs and The Faith To Doubt, the British teacher Stephen Batchelor eloquently describes his practice as a method for confronting-rather than transcending-the often painful mystery of life. But Batchelor seems to have arrived at what he calls an "agnostic" perspective in spite of his Buddhist training-not because of it. When I asked him why he didn't just call himself an agnostic, Batchelor shrugged and said he sometimes wondered himself.

    All religions, including Buddhism, stem from our narcissistic wish to believe that the universe was created for our benefit, as a stage for our spiritual quests. In contrast, science tells us that we are incidental, accidental. Far from being the raison d'ŕtre of the universe, we appeared through sheer happenstance, and we could vanish in the same way. This is not a comforting viewpoint, but science, unlike religion, seeks truth regardless of how it makes us feel. Buddhism raises radical questions about our inner and outer reality, but it is finally not radical enough to accommodate science's disturbing perspective. The remaining question is whether any form of spirituality can.

    *Footnote: See Theory of Meditation (or The Key to Happiness), produced and promoted by Colin Hankin






    Taken from : http://www.accesstoinsight.org/bfaq.html
    Are Buddhists vegetarian?


    Some are, some aren't. I know of no evidence in the Pali Canon to suggest that the Buddha discouraged his lay followers from eating meat. Although some people may point to the first of the five precepts as evidence that the Buddha asked his followers to be vegetarian, this precept only concerns the intentional act of depriving a living being of life, and says nothing about consuming the flesh of an animal that is already dead. Many Buddhists (and, of course, non-Buddhists) do eventually lose their appetite for meat out of compassion for other living creatures, but from the strict Theravada Buddhist perspective, the choice of whether or not to eat meat is purely a matter of personal preference.

    Theravada monks are forbidden to eat certain kinds of meat,[1] but because their food is provided by the generosity of lay supporters,[2] who may or may not themselves be vegetarian,[3] they are not required to practice strict vegetarianism. Nor are Theravada monks required to eat everything that is placed in their alms-bowl; a monk intent on pursuing vegetarianism may therefore simply ignore the meat in his bowl. In parts of Asia where vegetarianism is unheard of, however, vegetarian monks face a clear choice: eat meat or starve.

    Taking part in killing for food (hunting, fishing, trapping, butchering, etc.) is definitely incompatible with the first precept, and should be avoided.

    But what if I eat -- or just purchase -- meat: aren't I simply encouraging someone else to do the killing for me? How can letting someone else do the "dirty work" possibly be consistent with the Buddhist principle of non-harming, that cornerstone of Right Resolve? This is tricky. Although the suttas are silent on this question, I personally believe it would be wrong to order someone, "Please kill that chicken for me," since it incites that person to break the first precept.[4] Surely this is unskillful kamma. (Consider this whenever you're tempted to order, say, a fresh-killed lobster at a restaurant; by placing your order you are, in fact, ordering its death.) But purchasing a piece of dead animal meat is another matter. Although my purchase may indeed help keep the butcher or restaurateur in business, I am not asking him to kill on my behalf. Whether he kills another cow tomorrow is his choice, not mine. This is a difficult but important point, one that reveals the fundamental distinction between personal choices (choices aimed at altering my own behavior) and political ones (those aimed at altering others' behavior). Each of us must discover for ourselves where lies the boundary between the two. It is crucial to remember that the Buddha's teachings are, first and foremost, tools to help us learn to make good personal choices (kamma); they are not prescriptions for political action.

    We could not survive long in this world without bringing harm of one sort or another to other creatures. No matter how carefully we trod, countless insects, mites, and other creatures inadvertently perish under our feet with every step. Where, then, do we even begin to draw the line between "acceptable" and "unacceptable" harm? The Buddha's answer was very clear and very practical: the five precepts. He didn't ask his followers to become vegetarian; he simply asked us to observe the precepts. For many of us, this is challenge enough. This is where we begin.

    Notes:

    1. Theravada monks are forbidden to eat the flesh of humans, elephants, horses, dogs, snakes, lions, tigers, leopards, bears, hyenas, and panthers. A monk is also forbidden to eat raw fish or meat, or any fish or meat that he sees, hears, or suspects was killed specifically for him (see the description of "staple foods" in The Buddhist Monastic Code). A monk who eats any of those kinds of meat commits an offense that he must then confess to his fellow monks. These rules do not imply that a monk must not eat meat -- only that a monk must be careful as to which kinds of meat he does eat. [Go back]

    2. See "The Economy of Gifts" by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. [Go back]

    3. Monastics within some schools of Mahayana Buddhism do practice vegetarianism. See The Buddhist Religion: A Historical Introduction (fourth edition) by R.H. Robinson & W.L. Johnson (Belmont, California: Wadsworth, 1997), pp. 213-14. [Go back]

    4. This is in keeping with the monks' rule about not eating meat that he sees, hears, or suspects was killed specifically for him. See The Buddhist Monastic Code [Go back]






    Answer from: Tang Huyen
    Email: tang_huyen@yahoo.com
    Subject: Rejoicing in finitude
    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup
    Date: Sunday, December 21, 2003 12:18 AM

    naked ape wrote:
    Only Self can say that Self doesn't exist. Why is that?

    I have written many times on this topic, but here it is.

    As to the self and its absence: Buddhist discourse gets complicated because Buddhism pushes critique far past what is normally taken for granted, what is usually taken to be the case. It suspends all the tacit assumptions that we humans no longer think about (or *never* think about) when we go about our daily routine, and therefore what it says (or doesn't say) depends on how far back it stands in that critique.

    In modern critical philosophy, there is the widespread idea that ancient metaphysics was built on false problems, problems that were based on language in general and on grammar in particular, and that were created by taking words and concepts seriously and for real, namely as things, essences, substances, especially such words as "I", "self", "soul", God", etc., and making them exist independently, each on its own side (that is, apart from the words and concepts that stand for them, and even apart from our daily world altogether). In modern philosophy of science there is the widespread idea that if you ask a wrong question, you won't even get a wrong answer.

    In modern critical philosophy, there is the widespread idea that even physical objects of our daily life, like tables and chairs, are logical constructs, which don't exist as such in sensation but are constructed from bits and pieces of the sense-field. All the more so for non-physical entities or non-entities that we construct on a much more abstract level, by much more complicated constructions, like "I", "self", "soul", God", etc.

    The Buddha twenty-four centuries ago in India had understood such ideas and even pushed them to their logical end. To him, our basic problem is that we follow speech to chase realities, and the most basic errors that we commit in that direction and inflict as problems on ourselves are "I", "mine", "self", "soul", "God", etc., not to mention concrete physical objects, like tables and chairs, which we logically construct from bits and pieces of the sense-field. We build our lives on such words and concepts, stabilise and congeal the flowing reality around them, and thereby offer resistance to the flowing reality. Suffering comes from such resistance, and the ending of suffering comes from no longer putting up such resistance.

    So the Buddhist method (dharma) comes down to dissolving such resistance to the flowing reality. One part consists in paying attention to what happens and therefore to reverse the usual scattering of thought in memories of the past and expectations of the future, memories and expectations that converge on "I", "mine", "self", "soul", "God", etc. Another part consists in examining whether there is anything that corresponds to such words and concepts, or whether they are mere ideas without referent.

    The referents in total are admitted only in so far as they are received into some sense-fields, and all that surpasses the sense-fields altogether is banished as outside of range, without object, and mere figments of the imagination. Thus the referents are admitted as they fall into the five classes of experience called the five aggregates, except for those constructions (those compositions, belonging to the fourth aggregate) that surpass the sense-fields, like "I", "mine", "self", "soul", "God", etc.

    As one advances on the fore-mentioned practice, one learns to undo the patterns that create suffering and substitute other ones that don't. In meditation, one even calms down all mental activites other than mere cognition of raw sensation, and thus quiesces all mentation altogether. In such state, even the ideas of "I", "mine", "self", "soul", "God", etc. don't arise. One doesn't create a self for oneself to carry around, doesn't inflict the problem (a false problem, built on language) of "I", "self" on oneself. Thus one has no problem to solve, for one doesn't create problems for oneself.

    "'The self, the self (aatmaa aatmeti),' monks, [thinks] the foolish common person who follows speech (praj˝aptim anupatito). But there is no self and what belongs to self there (na caatraasty aatmaa naatmiiya.m vaa). This suffering, arising, arises, this suffering, ceasing, ceases (du.hkham ida.m bhik.saaava.h utpadyamaanam utpadyate, duhkha.m ida.m niruddhyamaana.m niruddhyate). Compositions, arising, arise, ceasing, cease (sa.mskaraa utpadyamaanaa utpadyante, nirudhyamaanaa nirudhyante)." MA, 62, 498b, Sangha-bheda-vastu, I, 158, Waldschmidt, Catusparisatsutra, 354-356.

    "If the recluses and brahmans see the self, all see it in relation to the five aggregates of grasping. The recluses and brahmans see form [and the other aggregates] as the self, form as different from self, self in form, form in self." SA, 45, 11b.

    "The foolish common person sees form [and the other aggregates] as self. This seeing is a composition (yaa kho pana saa samanupassanaa sa.nkhaaro so, Skt. yaa saa samanupa'syanaa sa.mskaaraas te)." SA, 57, 14a14, SN, III, 96 (22, 81), Dietz, Dharma-skandha, 53.

    To the Buddha the alleged self/soul is not a thing, not a substance, not an essence existing on its own side, but merely a composition, a product of the compositions (the fourth aggregate), and in Nirvana, which is nothing more than the calming of all compositions (sabba-sankhara-samatho), one does not compose a self for oneself, and that is the truth of the absence of self. This absence of the self is not the absence of a thing, a substance, an essence existing on its own side, but merely the absence of a composition, the composition of the self (sorry for the pleonasm), and when one calms one's compositions all the way, one does not compose a self for oneself to carry around.

    Even less does one chase one's past lives and future lives and attempt to figure out one's past deeds and their returns and future deeds and theirs, and so on and so forth.

    All those issues, along with all else (the self included), have been laid to rest, when one calms one's compositions all the way. The only thing self-evident then is raw sensation, shorn of all mentation. There is no truth separate from that, even less dogmas.

    In that state, all has been settled, and yet one flows right on with reality. One doesn't try to bend reality one's way (and the self is the centre of convergence of such bending), but merely flows along with it.

    But to return to your question, why is it that only Self can say that Self doesn't exist?

    In the awakened state, the awakened is not aware that he has no self, and if he doesn't teach, he won't need to know that fact. But if he teaches others, he has to activate thinking and reflection, and then he is aware that he has no self and can tell his students that fact. So, in the normal awakened state, there is no thought of the absence of self. It is unreflected spontaneity. There is no mentation in such a state, even less naming and labelling.

    So in the awakened state, the awakened does not mentate the absence of self, and only when he reflects on such a state does he arrive at the idea of the absence of self. When he compares said state to the normal deluded state, he sees that the latter is made up of compositions, is packed chokeful with compositions -- compositions that converge and culminate in the self, which itself is also a composition -- and that compared to that deluded state, the awakened state is free of the compositions in general and of the self in particular. So when all the compositions are quiesced whilst one still is fully aware of what happens, they no longer are around to build up a self.

    The absence of self is a fact (if we were to process it in language and thought), but such a fact needs not be mentated.

    So, Jim, your question is a wrong question in the first place, as it poses a Self (in capital, too) in order to deny it. The state of the absence of all the compositions -- Nirvana -- simply cognises sensation unmodified but does not pose such a self just to deny it.

    The denial is in view of deludeds who create such a self and carry it around, and when they know how *not* to create it and carry it around, they also no longer need "the absence of self" as a burden to carry around.

    Remember, the Buddha says that even the Law (Dharma) has to be dropped, how much more so the Non-Law (a-dharma), like the self. That is in the early canon and reproduced verbatim in the Diamond Scripture.

    The right question is along the line of: I have a self, I have an idea of self, where does that self come from? Is it for real or is it only fictitious, made up, composed, unreal and untrue? Does the good that it does me outweigh the harm, or is it a burden that I create for myself and that inflicts suffering on me for nothing, quite literally?

    Buddhist practice attempts to verify the Buddha's discovery, that there is no self as a real and true object, but that such a self is only a fiction, composed and put together by the compositions (the fourth aggregate).

    In raw sensation there is no self (there is no table and chair, either), but it takes thinking to cognise the fact that there is no self, just as in deludeds it takes thinking to construct the self, though the deludeds then go on to take that self seriously whilst the awakened merely cognises the absence of self and teaches that fact to others as a mere means to arrive at the same awakened state but does not cling to it as if it were a thing, a substance, an essence existing on its own side.

    The awakened goes back past our normal assumptions of concrete concept-delimited things like tables and chairs, and even past abstract constructions like "I", "mine", "self", "soul", "God", etc., to just raw sensation, and he experiences a wholesome sense-field (though to say so is already to trespass into his unmentated experience), which is fully differentiated, but he simply receives it intact and does not proceed to cut it up and label the parts (like tables and chairs, which are already not in sensation) and build up fancy ideas like "I", "mine", "self", "soul", "God", etc. at quite some removes from raw sensation.

    Tang Huyen






    Answer from: Tang Huyen
    Email: tanghuyen@gmail.com
    Sent: Monday, March 28, 2005 6:36 AM
    Subject: Prayer
    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup
    Derek Wray wrote:

    Prayer - pleading for favours?

    Prayer - an essential religious experience?

    Prayer - does its have any value?

    Tang Huyen replied....

    Einstein says that from the general laws of physics "it should be possible to attain by pure deduction the description, that is to say, the theory of every natural process, including those of life, if such process of deduction were not far beyond the capacity of human thinking. To these elementary laws there leads no logical path, but only intuition, supported by being sympathetically in touch with experience [EinfŘhlung in die Erfahrung]." Gerard Holton, Thematic Origins of Scientific Thought: Kepler to Einstein, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1973, 377.

    Plotinus, Enneads, IV, 4, 40, tr. Armstrong: "But how do magic spells work? By sympathy and by the fact that there is a natural concord of things that are alike and opposition of things that are different, and by the rich variety of the many powers which go to make up the life of the one living creature. For many things are drawn and enchanted without anyone else's magical contrivance: and the true magic is the 'Love' and also the 'Strife' in the All. And this is the primary wizard and enchanter, from observing whom men came to use his philtres and spells on each other.... They use as well figures with power in them, and by putting themselves into the right postures they quietly bring powers upon themselves, since they are within one universe and work upon one universe." IV, 32: "This one universe is all bound together in shared experience (sumpathes) and is like one living creature, and that which is far is really near."

    Less literally, this last sentence can be understood thus: the universe is a sympathic whole, and parts that are far apart can still co-vibrate in sympathy.

    My view of Buddhist cultivation is that it centres on the empathy that one can muster with oneself primarily, with others secondarily. Mindfulness is based on the ability to connect with oneself, relink with the alienised parts of oneself, bring them into consciousness and reconcile with them, so that one becomes a sympathic whole, whose parts that are far apart can still co-vibrate in sympathy and never in antipathy. One is sympathetically in touch with experience (EinfŘhlung in die Erfahrung), primarily one's own, secondarily others', that of the universe included, so that one is within one universe and works upon one universe.

    It matters little whether there are beings out there, God or the gods, who can see one's thought and feeling and react to them, perhaps to carry out one's wishes for one on one's behalf. It matters a great deal that when one prays, one gathers in one's faculties (instead of letting them get dispersed) and puts them in harmony with one another, so that one becomes more and more whole and not divided or fragmented, surely not divided against oneself.

    Ultimately, this inner co-vibrating with oneself ushers in the total action in which one acts as a whole, so that one's actions is of a single piece, not fragmented, not divided, surely not divided against oneself. When one brings harmony with oneself to fruition, one is so harmonious that one can safely get over oneself, drop oneself and go free of one's self, and in that case action becomes non-action, because there is no self around to act.

    Even if one prays for the benefit of another or some others, live or dead, the primary recipient of the benefit is still oneself. Whether they get any benefit or not, one benefits oneself by praying, or rather by one's *prayerful attitude*, which brings about peace and harmony to oneself. And the less self one carries around, the more benefit one heaps up on oneself, though there is accordingly less self around to receive it.

    Tang Huyen




    Answer from: Tang Huyen
    Email: tanghuyen@gmail.com
    Sent: Tuesday, March 29, 2005 10:23 AM
    Subject: To whom do Buddhists pray?
    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup
    Scot Kamins wrote:

    Folks,

    I have never had this question answered to my satisfaction although I've asked it many times over the years. (I once asked it in a Zen newsgroup, and all I got back was a bunch of koans. 8-D )

    If Buddhism is a "supreme being"-free religion, to whom do Buddhists pray?

    (This is a serious question, by the way.)

    Thanks,
    - Scot

    Tang Huyen replied

    Praying is a set-up, the way a stage is set up to entertain the audience, and it matters little whether the objects in that set-up, like the content of the prayer, the object which is prayed to (a Buddha or the gods or whatever) and the intended recipients (like some departed people dear to the person doing the praying) exist or not and do what they are supposed to do in the prayer (like bestowing some benefit or receiving it) or not.

    What matters is the attitude of the person doing the praying, and this attitude tends to be concentrated and receptive. That is, the person doing the praying concentrates his mind on the act of praying, gathers his faculties in the act of praying, and this gathering in is calming (samatha), as contrasted with the normal scattering which tends to be, if not perturbing, at least not calming. On top of that calming, the act of praying tends to put the person doing the praying in a receptive, communicative mood, which can lead to the penetration of normal blocks. This is insight (vipassana). Both calming and insight work best when the person doing the praying inserts as little of his self as possible into his act of praying and effaces himself as much as possible from the act of praying. As the praying advances, the act of praying takes more and more precedence, and the self doing the praying recedes more and more. After a while there is only the act of praying, and even it can disappear in favour of just quiescence, more precisely quiescence of all mentation, which is awakening.

    If such lofty state cannot be attained, at least the person doing the praying gathers himself in, harmonises his faculties with each other, accords himself with himself. That is what the set-up is for. It is a stage prop to help the person doing the praying help himself end his suffering, or at least alleviate it. The person doing the praying benefits himself. The set-up helps him fool himself into helping himself, more precisely into helping himself get himself together, and perhaps even drop himself. Whether anything happens outside of him or not is inconsequential. Whether the object he prays to (a Buddha, a Bodhisattva, some gods or whatever) exists or not and can deliver any benefit or not matters little. Etc. They're all props. Perfectly fungible.

    You can test the above hypothesis by skipping the props and going directly into harmonising your faculties with each other and according yourself with yourself, without mediation. The benefit is exactly the same. The rigmarole is just a roundabout way to protect the innocent.

    Tang Huyen




    Answer from: Tang Huyen
    Email: tang_huyen@yahoo.com
    Subject: Rejoicing in finitude
    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup
    Date: 2002-01-30 16:49:12 PST

    Question: Aeholling <aehollingus@yahoo.com wrote :-

    In addition, what you have presented is only half the picture. It is the observation that finite existence is impermanent, the stuff of pain, and insubstantial (anatta). On the positive side, there is the attÔ (soul) which is beyond the ken of the senses (not to mention the Tathagata), which we, as Buddhists take refuge in ("The soul is refuge with no other as refuge [attasaranam anannasaranam])." - DN.2.100).

    If modern Buddhists wish to linger of the shore of their finitude, which is little more than nihilism in some respects (at least Hindu nihilism/nastika), I can well see that their future is not going to have a good outcome. And they will miss entirely the 'other shore'. At least for me, modern Buddhists are excessive in their one-sidedness, viz., to see all is finite, with no hope of a beyond. The positive side of Buddhism they wish not to hear of or even study. They selectively read the canon declaring afterwards that all is conditioned-even the Buddha's enlightenment. What they don't read, nor seem to understand, is that the Buddha spoke of the absolute (sammÔ) and separated it from the finite. Moreover, nibbana provided the unfolding process to that absolute. >

    Answer:-
    Ardie sweetie, You're into unverifiable metaphysical fantasmagoria worthy of our resident Hinduist monk Punnie, who is a firm comrade-in-arms of yours all these years.

    The Buddha says: "There are four stations for consciousness. What are the four? Approaching form, consciousness, standing, stands, takes-as-its-object form, with form as platform, delights in it, waters it and grows it; approaching feeling, consciousness, standing, stands, takes-as-its-object feeling, with feeling as platform, with notion, compositions as platform, delights in them, waters them, and grows them.

    Monks! In them consciousness comes, goes, dies, gets born and grows. If one was to declare consciousness' coming, going, dying, getting born, and growing apart from them, that would only be speech (Skt. vag-vastu-matram), and if asked one would be unable to answer, it would increase one's stupidity (Skt. sammoham apadyeta), for it would be beyond one's sense-field (Skt. avisayatvat).

    When passion with regard to the modality of form is done away with, the contact occasioned by mind getting entangled with form is cut, and when the contact occasioned by mind getting entangled with form is cut, the taking-as-object ends, when the taking-as-object ends, consciousness has no place to stand on, and will no longer grow.

    When passion with regard to the modalities of feeling, notion, and compositions is done away with, the contact occasioned by mind getting entangled with them is cut, and when the contact occasioned by mind getting entangled with them is cut, the taking-as-object ends, when the taking-as-object ends, consciousness has no place to stand on, and, unestablished (apatitthita), will no longer grow. As it no longer grows, it no longer composes (na abhisankharoti), when it no longer composes, it is stable (thita), when it is stable, it knows that it has enough (thitatta santusito), when it knows that it has enough, it is liberated (santusitatta [vimutto]), when it is liberated, with regard to the world it has nothing to grasp ([vimuttam] na ki˝ci loke upadiyati, Skt. na ki˝cil loka upadatte), not grasping he is unperturbed, unperturbed, internally he fully blows out (aparitassam paccatta˝˝eva parinibbayati, Skt. aparitasya atmaiva parinirvati).

    Birth is ended, the chaste life has been lived, what has to be done is done, one knows for oneself that there is no further becoming. I say that that consciousness will not go east, west, south, north, the zenith or nadir, the intermediaries, or any other direction (nanyatra), in the present things it is shadowless (nischaya), blown-out (parinirvvati or parinirvrta), cooled, become pure (brahmi-bhuta)." SA, 39, 9a, 64, 17a, SN, III, 54-55 (22, 54), 58 (22, 55), Vyakhya, 271-272, 668.

    The important part, which survives in the Chinese _Conjoined Agama_ (Samyukta-Agama) and in Sanskrit fragments, says very clearly that anything outside of the six sense-spheres (or the five aggregates) is "only a thing of speech (Skt. vag-vastu-matram)", or more completely:

    "If one was to declare consciousness' coming, going, dying, getting born, and growing apart from them [the four stations for consciousness, which are the four aggregates outside of consciousness], that would only be speech (Skt. vag-vastu-matram), and if asked one would be unable to answer, it would increase one's stupidity (Skt. sammoham apadyeta), for it would be beyond one's sense-field (Skt. avisayatvat)."

    Again, if you do not take that to be explicit enough about the "all", the Buddha makes the famous declaration: "All (sarva), that is the twelve places (dvadasayatanani), from the eye and forms to the mind and objects-of-mind, that is how the Tathagata makes known the all (sarvam ca praj˝apayati) and the concept of the all (sarva-praj˝aptim ceti). If any recluse and brahman was to declare: 'this is not the all, I shall revoke it and declare another all,' that would only be speech (vag-vastu-matram), and if asked one would be unable to answer, it would increase one's stupidity (sammoham apadyeta), for it would be beyond his sense-field (a-visayatvat)." SA, 319, 91a, Zitate, 507, SN, IV, 15 (35, 23), Maha-vibhasa, T, 27, 1545, 378b-c.

    So, Ardie luv, that is the "all" (sarva) and the "concept of the all" (sarva-praj˝apti), according to the Buddha, back twenty-four centuries ago. That would make him very "modern" and sadly bounded by "finitude" and "nihilism", going by your terminology, eh, dearie?






    Answer from: Tang Huyen
    Email: tang_huyen@yahoo.com
    Subject: Inside or outside of the aggregates
    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup
    Date: 2002-08-05 16:42:39 PST

    Question : - kojizen wrote:

    Answer:-
    Ardie luvvie, The Buddha thinks and talks about the discursive mind (de intellectu), you and your comrade-in-arms Punnie think and talk about things (de re).

    When the Buddha talks about "detachment from", he means purely mental (intellective, affective, etc.) detachment, whilst the material world is fully unchanged. Only one's *attitude to* the object of detachment has changed, whilst the object of detachment and the rest of the world are intact.

    But you and your comrade-in-arms Punnie with your realist and literalist bent charge in and take in a realist and literalist manner what the Buddha says, and thoroughly misunderstand him.

    Punnie this morning talks of "his [the arhat's] experience of the transcendental". Usually he talks of nibbana which is "outside the aggregates", blessed with "the inneffable, trans-logical nature of nibbana", which "being outside the conditioned realm is completely inexpressible in logical discourse".

    He simply and crudely takes the detachment in a spatial, material sense, so that by detachment from the aggregates one floats away in a "transcendental" world "outside the aggregates", etc. & etc.

    He and you think and talk in a blatant physical "quid pro quo" manner (what is outside of the aggregates, be it nibbana or the soul, in exchange for what is inside), though he likes to throw the curse of "materialism" at those who disagree with him.






    Answer from: Tang Huyen
    Email: tang_huyen@yahoo.com
    Subject: Inside or outside of the aggregates
    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup
    Date: Wednesday, June 11, 2003 9:49 AM

    Jonathan Jennings :< Well, if you want to cling to the idea that 'dhamma' does not exceed 'sankhara' in range, thereby leaving room for a 'soul', you should definitely cling very tightly to that 'Dh-A'>

    Ludwig: < Well he could cling very tightly to that proposition I agree, there is just about room for a soul within those very narrow parameters. But there is no real evidence to suggest that the Buddha intended his teaching to be understood in this way.>

    Tang Huyen : Both of you, Jonathan and Ludwig, are mistaken on the Buddha's position on the various classes in question here.

    Dhamma does exceed the sankhara in range, in that the former includes all (for us humans: all thinkables) whereas the latter includes the compositions (which is what sankhara means), more specifically the compositions of mind, the fourth aggregate, and excludes what is outside of the compositions, for instance the state of mind in which the compositions (the fourth aggregate) are quiesced whilst one still is fully conscious, and this state is Nibbana, which is defined as the calming of all compositions (sabba-sa.nkhaara-samatho), or as Yawwn translated a few days ago: the stilling of all formations.

    The uncomposed dhamma is just that state, the quiescence of all the compositions, and the composed dhamma-s are the compositions themselves.

    Nibbana is then only one special state of the five aggregates, in which the second aggregate (feeling) and fifth aggregate (consciousness) are active whilst the third aggregate (notion, idea) and the fourth (the compositions) are quiesced and do not proceed. It is merely an aspect of the same world as we deludeds live in, only there is no mental activities other than pure cognition (the fifth aggregate) of raw sensation (the second aggregate). In both Samsara and Nibbana, the first aggregate (form) is the same, and so are the second and fifth aggregates.

    Samsara and Nibbana are merely two aspects of that same world, two ways of looking at it, with the compositions and without. There is no other difference.

    Ludwig commits the same error as Jonathan and Ardie and Kenny, in that he charges right in and takes the self/soul (atta) as a something, a thing, a substance, something that exists on its own side, but the Buddha never made that error. The Buddha exercised critique, more specifically a critique of our habits of thinking and talking, and he found that the self is only a composition (sankhara), that it is a product of the delusory habit of deludeds in following speech to chase realities.

    Thus he said:

    "'The self, the self (aatmaa aatmeti),' monks, [thinks] the foolish common person who follows speech (praj˝aptim anupatito). But there is no self and what belongs to self there (na caatraasty aatmaa naatmiiya.m vaa). This suffering, arising, arises, this suffering, ceasing, ceases (du.hkham ida.m bhik.saaava.h utpadyamaanam utpadyate, duhkha.m ida.m niruddhyamaana.m niruddhyate). Compositions, arising, arise, ceasing, cease (sa.mskaraa utpadyamaanaa utpadyante, nirudhyamaanaa nirudhyante)." MA, 62, 498b, Sangha-bheda-vastu, I, 158, Waldschmidt, Catusparisatsutra, 354-356.

    "If the recluses and brahmans see the self, all see it in relation to the five aggregates of grasping. The recluses and brahmans see form [and the other aggregates] as the self, form as different from self, self in form, form in self." SA, 45, 11b.

    "The foolish common person sees form [and the other aggregates] as self. This seeing is a composition (yaa kho pana saa samanupassanaa sa.nkhaaro so, Skt. yaa saa samanupa'syanaa sa.mskaaraas te)." SA, 57, 14a14, SN, III, 96 (22, 81), Dietz, Dharma-skandha, 53.

    Thus to the Buddha the alleged self/soul is not a thing, not a substance, not an essence existing on its own side, but merely a composition, a product of the compositions (the fourth aggregate), and in Nibbana, which is nothing more than the calming of all compositions, one does not compose a self for oneself, and that is the truth of the absence of self. This absence of the self is not the absence of a thing, a substance, an essence existing on its own side, but merely the absence of a composition, the composition of the self (sorry for the pleonasm), and when one calms one's compositions all the way, one does not compose a self for oneself to carry around.

    When one has reached that state, which is Nibbana, one realises that the self that one has previously created for oneself is a mere figment of the mind, a figment of the mind that one created for oneself on the basis of speech (praj˝aptim anupatito), and the whole time, one took seriously a mere product of the compositions (the fourth aggregate).

    Other than Nibbana, the other dhamma that is usually taken to exist outside of the compositions is Dependent Arisal, and it is usually taken to be the bulwark of all thing-events, but after quiesceing one's compositions, one no longer pays attention to it, it has been released, along with all the compositions. Whether it exists or not, what its status is (for example, whether it is a thought-up relation or a real relation, whether it exists or only holds [besteht]), all those issues are moot, for one mentates neither Dependent Arisal nor those issues about it.

    All those issues, along with all else (the self included), have been laid to rest, when one calms one's compositions all the way. Which is what the ending of suffering is all about. There is no more to Buddhism than that.

    Tang Huyen






    From: Robert McDonald
    Emal: bobmcdonld@worldnet.att.net
    Date: 19 October 2006
    Subject: Prayer in Buddhism
    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup.
    Answer from: Tang Huyen
    Email: tang_huyen@yahoo.com

    Robert McDonald wrote:

    I have recently seen two references to prayer and Buddhism, which I really do not understand. It was my understanding that the idea of praying was antithetical to Buddhism.

    Elucidation would be appreciated.

    B
    ________________________

    Reply
    In the Buddha's Buddhism thee is no prayer directed to some specific entity or non-entity, like God or some god(s). However one can meditate on the Four Divine Abodes -- friendliness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity -- and extend them to the whole universe. One can also meditate on them and beam them to some specific people as intended beneficiaries, and whether they benefit or not, one makes oneself better in the process. One can well be the only beneficiary of it (perhaps all prayers and ceremonies are for the benefit of only the people performing them), though at least one's intention is good. One can't control the world, including whether one's meditation or prayer does anything for one's intended beneficiary, but one can control oneself in simply meditating or praying in sincerity.

    That said, it is permissible to pray for the benefit of some specific person(s), live or dead, but address the prayer to no specific entity or non-entity. One doesn't know whether one's prayer does anything for one's intended beneficiary, but one simply prays. It is even better to pray for no specific person and address the prayer to no specific entity or non-entity. The less one binds one's mind to anything, like the intended beneficiary or the intended benefit or the entity or non-entity to which one addresses one's prayer, the freer one becomes by one's absence of mooring. Thus the best kind of prayer is prayer addressed to no entity or non-entity, with no content to the praying, such as the intended benefit for some intended beneficiary. It's just a free-floating prayer in which one stops at nothing, stands on nothing, settles down into nothing. The prayerful attitude does wonders to one's mind, and the less one moors it down to anything, like the intended benefit or the intended beneficiary or the recipient to which one addresses one's prayer, the more fruitful it is to oneself. One simply prays in the void, as it were.

    In other words, just the prayerful attitude alone without any mark or sign associated with it (i. e., with an empty mind) is best of all. Discard everything -- all marks and signs -- and simply enter a prayerful attitude unmoored to anything. That's a mighty meditation. The best Buddhist masters can't do anything better than that.

    Tang Huyen






    Subject: How To Tell A Buddhist
    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup.
    By Rev. Brian Robertson"
    Email: Rev. Brian Robertson

    From the blog TheBuddhaMind.com

    One is a Buddhist not by the books or sutras one reads, not by the personal choice in a Buddha statue or the design of an altar, not by how straight one sits up in meditation or how well one can chant. The Buddhist is not known by his or her choice of clothing, or length (or absence) of hair, by a particular necklace or by a ring of mala beads. The follower of the Buddha is not seen walking a foot off the ground, not standing on the street corner pounding a book, finger raised in the air, and is not recognized by the particular fragrance of incense that wafts through their house.

    One is a Buddhist, a student of Buddhism, in moments where she, quite naturally, is herself. When the rain falls on the roof and the sound and the smell are simply what there is and all there is. When it's perfect that the rain falls on the wicked and the just, permeating all things without regard to good or bad, gay or straight, here or there.

    When, for a moment, the world is simply what it is, not what we wish it to be or how we would bend it to be, at that moment we are Buddhists. When we see another person and we give aid and support, spontaneously, in the form of taking some of their load or, perhaps, offering a smile and the briefest of nods, we are Buddhist.

    When the Buddha speaks to the Buddha there is only the Buddha. By the time we think that, it is over.

    Gassho,

    Rev. Brian Robertson

    TheBuddhaMind.com




    Subject: Fundamentalist Buddhist
    Taken from the Buddhist newsgroup.
    Answers are from David Yeung
    Email: Amitabh_Bachchan_Buddha@hotmail.com

    Evelyn:< We have had other examples around here of the same thing in the past, so he (Presectarian Buddhism) is not unique. I have no idea how anyone can study this same stuff and get something completely different out of it, eliminating some concepts and inventing the rest.>

    I have a good idea how someone can study Buddhism and end up being a triumphalist sectarian. It's a matter of not having been exposed to (or being unwilling to be exposed to) Buddhism as it is practised in real life. While a lot of non-Buddhists tend to think of Buddhists as lonely monk/nun types, actual Buddhist practice is very communal. After all, our third jewel is Sangha -- a community. Unlike revealed religions with fixed texts, our canonical tradition is not fixed and immutable for all time, but must be constantly evaluated by each person in the context of his or her experiences, as well as in the collective experience of the community.

    The sorts of remarks made by this so-called "Presectarian Buddhism" is exactly the types of things you hear from the fundamentalists of the revealed (i.e. text-based) religions. Substitute "the Bible" or "the Qur'an" for "the Sutras" ("God" or "Allah" for "the Buddha", etc.) in what he says and you'll get -- exactly -- a Christian or Islamic fundamentalist clone. (Try it and you'll see.)

    There's no sense in attempting to have a discussion with this kind of person, because he's already convinced that he alone possesses the revealed Truth. Anything that calls his dogma into question is automatically dismissed as an effort to "debate" him, and furthermore, he has already decided that the "debate" has been won -- by him. His answer to every attempt to present a point of view that is different from his is "The Sutras say so-and-so, and therefore I win and you lose!" Anyone who has had the experience of "discussing" religion with a fundamentalist Christian or Muslim will recognize this type of response. For such a person, the text says exactly what he interprets the text to say, and the possibility that others can read a text differently, or that he is imposing a context upon the text that isn't inherently a part of the text itself, does not occur to him. Even his language is borrowed from fundamentalist Christianity, e.g. in dismissing Theravadin Buddhism as a kind of "Buddhist Satanism".

    (Attempting to cut a discussion short by painting alternative views with "evil" is a common tactic amongst religious fundamentalists. Rather than discuss the merits or demerits of granting equal civil rights to homosexuals, or making abortion accessible, it's far easier to just chant "God hates fags" and "Abortion is murder". This sort of thing has even crept into the political discourse, e.g. repeatedly calling some countries "the Axis of Evil" rather than actually evaluating the good and bad actions of the governments in relation to the actions of other governments.)

    Unfortunately, there's likely no way to have any kind of actual discussion with this "Presectarian Buddhism" person, any more than you are likely to be able to convince the Jehovah's Witnesses at your front porch to consider that the Bible might just be a record of a people's mythology rather than the actual Word of God. (But it's fun to try though... any JW who comes to my place is going to get a lecture on what archeology has actually taught us about the Middle East, as opposed to what the Bible claims.) Human nature being what it is, there will always be people who are attached to the idea that they have "the Truth", and whose attachment is so strong that they cannot even begin to consider the possibility that things might be otherwise. Unless he opens himself to the possibility of other points of view, anything you say to this "Presectarian Buddhism" fellow is just going to feed his delusion that he's the sole possessor of the Truth. If you disagree with him, then in his mind you've lost a debate to him, and this in turn re-inforces his delusion that he possesses the Truth which he is defending against heretics.

    While this sort of behaviour is relatively uncommon amongst Buddhists (relative to believers in revealed religions), it is not unknown. There are many examples in history of Buddhists who held a triumphalist view of their own brand of Buddhism while dismissing others as heretical. Of course there continue to be such triumphalist Buddhist sects even in our own time, and "Presectarian Buddhism" is just adding one more to the mix. He's just not as unique or as special as he believes himself to be. But on the positive side, this sort of attitude can change over time. I've participated on Buddhist forums where I've seen people who were raised in or were first introduced to a particular tradition bring with them stereotypes or strong opinions about other traditions, but changed their minds when they learned about how Buddhism and Buddhist practice have evolved in history in relation to different social conditions.

    Even some of the famous Buddhist teachers in history have passed through a phase when attachment to scriptures was a "stumbling block" (to borrow a Christian phrase) to them. Anyone who's read the biography of Zen Master Hakuin will remember that his teacher berated him for being "a poor devil attached to the scriptures". But at least Hakuin realized that his attachment to scriptures was a problem and worked hard to realize Buddhism in actual practice. Similar stories exist in other Buddhist traditions. This "Presectarian Buddhism" isn't going to make any progress while he has such strong attachment to his dogma, and remains unwilling to practise actual Buddhism, in the context of a community of other practitioners.

    One of the major differences between Buddhism, and sectarian dogmas such as those espoused by the self- proclaimed "Presectarian Buddhism", is that people who actually practise Buddhism always do so in the context of a community of other Buddhists. Every actual Buddhist that I know has one or more Dharma teachers, and have some practices (meditation, chanting, puja) that are performed as a part of a group. (Even "individual" practices such as meditation must first be learned from a teacher, and usually initially in the presence of other students.) Talk to any Buddhist, and he or she will tell you about his or her teacher(s) and practices. The primary way that any practising Buddhist relates to Buddhism is always in the context of their life experience, and the influences that their practices have had on it. We ask questions such as "How can I manage my anger?" or "How should I react to the war?", and then look at our canonical and historical traditions to supply ideas that we then apply to our current situation. It's not that Buddhists are not capable of debating about the canon or have no tradition of doing so (the meaning of the Buddhist canon has certainly been debated to death by Buddhist scholastics), it's just that in Buddhism, the canonical tradition is not the primary focal point of our experience, unlike the case with revealed text-based religions.

    In contrast to actual Buddhism, all this "Presectarian Buddhism" fellow talks about -- in page after page after page of posts (I just came back to the group and had to scroll past like three screenfuls of post titles that essentially said the same thing: "My Buddhism is right and you're a bunch of idiots") -- is what he thinks is in the Buddhist canon, and why all Buddhists are wrong. In literally hundreds of posts, he has shared nothing about his teachers, or his practice, or his community, but only page after page of why some grammatical ending in Pali should be read differently than it has traditionally been read by scholars. He may very well believe that he's discovered "original" Buddhism, but if he has, the Buddhist canon would be full of stories about the Buddha correcting other people's grammar -- rather than the stories about the Buddha creating a community, instituting practices, and changing people's lives by teaching them to see and interact with the world differently, that the canon actually contains.

    So, to answer your question as to "how anyone can study this same stuff and get something completely different out of it, eliminating some concepts and inventing the rest", it's very simple. Unlike the Buddha, who created the community called the Sangha who would help each other understand his teachings, and unlike Buddhists, who study and practise the Buddha's teachings within a community whose members guide one another and each other's errors, "Presectarian Buddhism" is an army of one who has already decided what the Buddha's teachings should be, and whose attachment to his own dogmas are so strong that he is unable to consider other points of view except in the context of a "debate" that he has already won. In other words, he is behaving exactly as a fundamentalist believer in a revealed religion would. He lives in his own little world where he alone possesses the Truth (along, perhaps, with a few followers who believe in the same dogmas), and nothing you or I can say will persuade him otherwise. Regardless of what he believes about his discovering "original" Buddhism, he's actually very much attached to the ideas and modes of behaviour of revealed religion, and he's filtering Buddhism through that lens. Until he understands this for himself, there's nothing anyone can do for him.

    (And besides, who has that much time to attempt to have some kind of discussion with him anyways? You already know that he's just going to post that you're wrong, and repeat the same thing 100 times.)

    Evelyn: < But it happens..... and it is sad, because they can actually study the truth, and still get some incorrect message. Something in their perception is broken and no matter what sort of truth is presented to them they won't get it right.>

    Be very careful that you don't start down the same road! When someone comes at you with something that you disagree with, which they call "the Truth", it's very tempting to counter (even subconsciously) with "truth" of your own. But "truth" is an abstract concept. When we say "the truth", what we really mean to say is "the truth about some particular thing". Even religious fundamentalists who say "the Truth" really mean "the Truth about reality", or "the Truth about God", etc. The danger in using this kind of language, from a Buddhist point of view, is the ease with which we can deceive ourselves into thinking that "the truth" applies not just to some things which are true, but that it applies to everything. Religious fundamentalists don't see people of other religions or no religion merely as people with different opinions, but as "enemies of God". What you said above about people who "actually study the truth" and "still get some incorrect message" sounds too much like what I have heard some Christians and Muslims say about people who have read their holy books and still decide not to convert to their religion.

    Certainly, "Presectarian Buddhism" has been presented with the facts concerning how Buddhists traditionally understand the statements found in the Buddhist canon -- whether those statements are "the truth" or not. But for whatever reason, he is unable or unwilling to accept that the Buddhist understanding of the canon is different than his interpretation of it, and he continues to insist that Buddhists must come around to his views. That he disagrees with the traditional Buddhist views (i.e. what you or I might call "the truth") is no reason to dismiss him. We should never dismiss people who disagree with or bring into question what we consider "the truth", because closing ourselves off to alternate viewpoints is the surest way to trap ourselves in error. Having considered what he has to say, however, we can also see that he has nothing new to add. Every message subsequent to the first has been a recycling of the same thing. No progression in dialogue -- in fact, no dialogue -- is possible, because he's stuck on one thing, and nothing can shake him.

    Thus, while we don't dismiss him merely because he disagrees with us (i.e. merely because what he calls "the Truth" is different than we think or consider to be true), we can safely ignore him, because he has nothing new to say that we haven't already heard. :)

    Evelyn: < I killfiled the guy last time around when he was here spewing profanity at people. There is no way that is part of buddhism. It is incorrect speech, plain and simple. If someone uses incorrect speech, there is probably a good chance there is incorrect thought behind it. And incorrect thought is a disease that isn't easily set straight.>

    Profanity is to be expected on unmoderated newsgroups and isn't, in itself, a reason to killfile someone. I remember a few posters such as Richard Hayes and DharmaTroll who used the occasional profanity to get a point across. A lot of incorrect speech has to do with intent. In this case, though, from what I've seen, the poster is just using profanities to belittle others, which is surely not in the spirit of proper speech.






    Zeno wrote to Pastor Frank

    Pastor Frank wrote:
    Personally I can't see any REAL conflict between Christ and Buddha. However Jesus supercedes Gautama in that both knew their teaching was unattainable, and served only as a Koan, yet Christ's death on the cross rend the curtain dividing us from the holy of holies in the temple of God and instant illumination / the kingdom of God came into the reach of common man. The key to this in my view is how one reaches self-lessness.I would agree with your view that the Buddha and Christ were essentiallythe same. However, I would view the real meaning of Christ's death as metaphorical, in that the death on the cross signified the need to die to the bondage of self (a constant wheel of revenge, hatred and greed) so that one may live in the kingdom of God, an arisen state of being beyond the confines of self and culture. The way to the kingdom of God is through true forgiveness of the heart, awareness of the moment and gratitude to all of Being. When one is all this, the old self is no more. Every word you say is absolutely true, and at the same time absolutely unattainable, therefore useless. Buddha knew that, yet he sent people, including myself on this journey of the Noble Eightfold Path etc.My Deer cart quickly turned into a goat cart, and eventually into a snail cart. Nevertheless I owe Buddha my understanding of Christ and I am eternally grateful to Him for His guidance. For Christ means instant illumination.

    Zeno replied
    I disagree, Pastor Frank. Uselessness indicates that something is without value. I did not mean "without value", quite the opposite I think Buddha's teachings are of immeasurable value while nevertheless being quite unattainable, as one has no leverage against oneself. I strongly believe the key is not obvious, nor can it be in order to function. However I feel pretty certain that in Buddha's case his adjective of "compassionate" holds all the answers, completely and in all its glory, much as it did with Christ.

    The teachings are still relevant and priceless even though one may never become "totally enlightened." The insight and knowledge gained from studying and meditating on dhamma has great value, as you admit in the latter part of your paragraph. And yes, we all fail and forget the teachings during our lives but overall, we're still the better from being acquainted with it.The Buddha knew enlightenment was the most difficult thing to realize, yet he did come to realize, after initial doubt, that it was possible for all sentient beings to eventually realize dhamma.

    Pastor Frank wrote
    I admire your faith and steadfastness greatly, and I'm certain you will find what you seek.

    "I thank thee O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes."

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


    Rev. Donald Spitz wrote

    Buddha is a false teacher and anyone who follows him will end up in eternal hell fire. Buddha didn't do a think but flap his lips. Jesus died on the cross for your sins, and then rose from the dead. When you die, you will not be standing before Buddha, but before the LORD Jesus Christ. Anyone who would break the first commandment and follow a false prophet like Buddha will get what they deserve. The Lake of Fire.

    Matthew 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

    Pastor Frank replied

    Are you God, or do you just think you are? Didn't Jesus say: "Judge not, that ye be not judged" (Jesus in Matt 7:1). You obviously consider Jesus to be just "flapping his lips" when He said the above, don't you?
    Like Socrates, Buddha DID NOT considered himself other but a humble teacher, friend and philosopher and NEVER divine or an object of veneration.You judge and condemn the compassionate and the wise the Lord God sent to us, at the risk of you own salvation "Reverend". Besides, why do you call yourself "Reverend"? Show where that is a Biblical designation.

    Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: (Jesus in Matt. 23:34)






    How little the Pope knows about Buddhism


    Taken from : http://www.zip.com.au/~lyallg/PopeKnows.htm

    The Pope, who managed to get the United Nations "International Year for Tolerance" off to a good start with the launch of his book, 'Crossing the Threshold of Hope' - Johnathan Cape, London, has demonstrated his abysmal ignorance and lack of understanding of Buddhism. Although he, with reservations, expresses guarded approval of Judaism, Hinduism and Islam, he considers Buddhism beyond the pale. He trots out the usual cliches about Buddhism being "negative" and pessimistic. What really worries him is the appeal Buddhism has to the 'Western' mind, especially to Catholics who see in Buddhist meditation techniques something that has been lost from the contemplative tradition of early Christianity. He provides no logical arguments against Buddhism but resorts to dogma to prove his point.

    He is not happy with the impact that His Holiness, the Dalai Lama is having on the "Christian West", obviously feeling that it is solely a Christian right to convert others. The Christians have been trying to impose Christianity on "Buddhist" countries for centuries with little impact. Buddhists do not set out to convert Christians, but, if certain aspects of Buddhism appeal to Christians, such as its emphasis on non-violence and allowing investigation by its followers of its teachings, this is more a criticism of the Christian attitude than of Buddhism. Buddhism does not condemn those who follow other traditions. The Buddha never suggested that all people must follow his teaching but he invited them with the words "Ehi passiko" - come and see, to investigate and understand the nature of life. When referring to the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand, he places the word 'patriarch' in parenthesis, which infers that Buddhists are not entitled to use such a title. The words 'patriarch' and 'pope' come from the same root 'pater', meaning 'father', so he infers that others who use this title are usurping his position. How does he feel about the Patriach of Constantinople or the Patriarch of Russia who are both within the Christian tradition? Would he put their titles in parenthesis too or is his belittling attitude reserved for non-Christian traditions? He expresses distaste for the fact that the Supreme Patriarch of Thailand was surrounded by monks, several of whom were from the United States. At times, he is surrounded by Cardinals, several of whom, such as Cardinal Simon Pimenta from India, Cardinal Michael Meechai Kitboonchu from Thailand and Cardinal Sin from the Phillipines, come from Asian countries. It would be hoped that his Cardinal from the Phillipines does not perform any miracles for this would necessitate the Pope beatifying Sin - how unthinkable?

    He claims that "the 'enlightenment' experienced by the Buddha comes down to the conviction that the world is bad, that it is the source of evil and suffering for man". The Buddha never claimed that the world is bad and a source of evil and suffering. The emphasis in the Buddha's teaching is on the mind not the world. The world is neutral - it is only the mind of man which creates difficulties in the world. The source of suffering, taught the Buddha, is due to greed, anger and a deluded mind. These are not properties of the world but of man, himself. It could be suggested that another source of suffering for many, especially in the poorer countries, is the Pope, himself. He opposes population control and liberation theologians who promote better living conditions for the poor. Overpopulation is a source of misery but he denounces the very idea of contraception. Very little is said in the Buddhist scriptures about enlightenment other than it being the overcoming of greed, anger and a deluded mind. It entails the perfection of Karuna - compassion - and Maitri - boundless altruistic love - qualities which certainly do not demonstrate 'indifference' to the world. Like so many of us who are bound by greed, anger and a deluded mind, the Pope, who demonstrates such ignorance of the basic teachings of Buddhism is hardly one who should be entrusted with "infallible" pronouncements.

    His main objection to Buddhism seems to be that 'it is in large measure an "atheistic" system'. The Oxford Dictionary defines 'atheism' as 'Disbelief in the existence of a God'. The Buddha is described as the 'teacher of gods and men', so how can Buddhism be an atheistic system? Religious arguments often come down to the use of religious language. We must ascertain to what we are referring when we use the term "God". He uses the terms 'personal god' and 'living god' and 'god the creator'. What does he mean by 'personal god'. Many Buddhists believe that devas or 'gods' protect them. Would this be the same as 'personal gods', if so, we have no argument with him on that score. What is a 'living god'? Anything that is living is subject to death and decay, so why should we place ourselves in the hands of something which, like ourselves, is impermanent? If he is referring to the old man with a white beard who sits in the sky taking notes in his little black book ready for the day of judgement, then he is out of step with modern theological thinking and most other theologians.

    Fortunately, Christianity has come a long way since this simplistic way of thinking. Modern theologians, such as Paul Tillich, suggest that the term 'God' refers to the 'ground of being' - the very fact of existence. No Buddhist would argue with this but they may be reluctant to use the term 'god' to describe it. In the Itivuttaka, one of the books of the Buddhist canon, it says: "Monks, there is an unborn, a not-become, a not-made, a not-compounded. Monks, if that unborn, not-become, not-made, not-compounded were not, there would be apparent no escape from this that here is born, become, made, compounded. But monks, since there is an unborn, not-become, not-made, not-compounded, therefore the escape from this that here is born, become, made and compounded is apparent." In Indonesia, where it is illegal not to believe in God, this definition from the Itivuttaka is accepted by the government as the definition of God. Buddhists would call it 'Nirvana' - the ultimate reality - whilst others may call it 'God'. It is not the words that we use which are important but what those words refer to. When referring the ultimate reality or truth, worldly words become inadequate. That is why the Buddha did not elaborate on the meaning of Nirvana, but it is certainly not "indifference to the world". Buddhism accepts that 'karma' is our creator. Again, if we prefer to use the term 'god' instead of 'karma' then Buddhists cannot be accused of not believing in a creator. The Pope seems to be promoting a literal approach to the Christian teaching, something that most Christians condemn as being the province of the fundamentalists. If this is so, then I accept the comment made to me recently by a Jesuit when he said that this present Pope is setting the church back by three hundred years.

    Mysticism, according to W.L.Reese in his "Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion", 'can be understood as a spiritual and non-discursive approach with whatever is taken to be the central reality of the universe. When this is thought to be a transcendent God, one typical path is inward, away from the world, towards union with the transcendent One. ... Finally, there is the use of meditative techniques, mystical in tone, to achieve an enlightened state of being, apart from any concept of the divine. Each of these approaches has been developed in both East and West. The early Christian movement of monasticism stressed meditative and ascetic practices with personal purification as the goal'. The Pope cites several Christian mystics and decries the comparison, sometimes, made between their mystical experiences and those of Eastern asceticism. One of these, Meister Eckhart, a Dominican was summoned before the Inquisition in 1327 and forced to recant some of his writings. Meister Eckhart wrote that God is pure being, the final ultimate reality and "All things are a mere nothing" (Buddhists would say "All things are void of substance - sunyata), also "One must annihilate self interest, and empty oneself out; when one comes to be a desert, empty of things, he will be full of God". He mentions "the mysticism of marvellous men of action like Vincent de Paul, John Bosco and Maximillian Kolbe". Marvellous men they may have been but mystics they certainly were not.

    Finally, the Vicar of Rome warns Catholics who may be attracted to Buddhism - "First one should know one's own spiritual heritage well and consider whether it is right to set it aside lightly". Well may these wise words be heeded by Buddhists who, knowing little of what Buddhism has to offer, find Christianity attractive.

    By Graeme Lyall.




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