Thought on Buddhism...

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  • Adam
    Member
    • Oct 2009
    • 127

    Thought on Buddhism...

    Hello Everyone,

    I have been doing a lot of reading on Zen and Buddhism lately, and recently watched the (wonderful) Buddha documentary on PBS. I have some thoughts and questions that I would like to pose to the Sangha. But first, I must ask that whoever reads these lines, please forgive me because I don't know if I'll be able to explain the exact thoughts and questions that have decided to make my mind home these past couple days. Well, I can only try, so here we go. While watching the Buddha documentary the other night, I couldn't help but question the "miraculous" sections of the documentary. I know that some sects of Buddhism take these miracles as fact, but I am a little more "skeptical." I believe that the Buddha was a historical figure and that he did awaken, and shared the path with those he came in contact with, but I do not believe that he was more than human. I guess the question I would have about this particular example would be, why was Buddha transformed into more than just a man? Is it easier to follow a particular example if that example is some how able to perform great, seemingly, godlike, feats? It seems that, as a people, we tend to gravitate towards these miracles easier than if it was just some guy that had this wonderful realization. Is the teaching, or the teacher more important? I believe the teaching is more important, but not everyone would agree. Would we have as many Christians if Jesus wasn't depicted as performing miracles? To go even further, if Jesus was alive today, would he be Christian? Would Buddha be Buddhist? Buddha is viewed as someone who was a level above everyone else, but was that really true? I've heard it said that only a Buddha can speak with a Buddha, but why is that? Is it because they are awake and the rest of the population would not possibly understand their words? In addition, when we hear of enlightenment and nirvana, why is it presented in a way that it's something that we need to reach? I've always believed that Nirvana and Enlightenment are here, NOW, not "out there" somewhere. We just have to awaken to the true nature of reality. The answer is in ourselves, not in scriptures, or even Buddha. The path is laid out in front of us through these teachings, but we can never awaken to this reality without direct experience. I believe that is why Zen Buddhism is vastly different than other forms of Buddhism. I have more questions and thoughts on these matters, but I'm going to leave just this section, as is, for now. I would like some opinions on this before going deeper into the subject. I sure hope I'm making sense, and I will explain further if anyone has any questions.

    Gassho,

    Adam
    "Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment." - Lao Tzu
  • Eika
    Member
    • Sep 2007
    • 806

    #2
    Re: Thought on Buddhism...

    There is a lot to learn from old stories, but I might say that any bit of superstition, religious or otherwise, that would prevent us from practicing wholeheartedly should be rejected, or taken with a grain of salt. Stories that place buddhahood on some pedestal that can only be reached after millions of lifetimes of practice are enabling the very caste system that the historic buddha (if he ever existed at all) was trying to dismantle. The magical stories are simply hagiographic tribute to the teachers of the past. No problem as long as we know that and see through it . . . But it's a big problem if we take those fantasies as real, historical events. Sometimes a good story is just that, a good story. We can learn a whole lot from fiction, but we shouldn't expend a great deal of energy defending the veracity of these tales any more than we would other teaching stories.


    My bit,
    Gassho,
    Eika
    [size=150:m8cet5u6]??[/size:m8cet5u6] We are involved in a life that passes understanding and our highest business is our daily life---John Cage

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    • Jen
      Member
      • Feb 2008
      • 166

      #3
      Re: Thought on Buddhism...

      Hi Adam,
      Men who perform great deeds often have their more human-like mistakes forgotten or forgiven, especially over the course of 2,500 years. In recent history, Einstein is respected for many things but rarely is the fact that he squandered his Nobel Prize money or had several mistresses remembered.

      This likely goes even more so for the Buddha, who in attaining enlightenment likely did not deny or try to hide any of his previous mistakes. (In fact, some people today try to point out his fallibility in 'abandoning' his wife and child).

      As for miraculous behavior, that is just the nature of reminiscing. Really no different than fish stories. Of course the catfish I caught wasn't the size of a VW bug, but the story is so much better when told as if it was :twisted: Did Jesus turn water to wine, or was he kind enough to share the last of his wine with some people? We may never know the truth, but my guess was he shared. But telling the story as though he performed some magical feat makes people stand up and take notice more so than the mundane truth. Anyone can be kind, but can anyone else perform this same kindness in such a miraculous way?

      I'm having trouble putting thoughts to words here, but one last go at it still using the Jesus example. Someone comes up to me and tells me they met a great man who shared wine with them. 'Hmmph," I say, "What is so great about that? I could share my wine as well. Anyone could." So this person, who actually sat by Jesus and heard him speak and his high on the wonderful, charismatic guy Jesus is, says the first thing that comes to mind to try and get me to see the same greatness, "Well, it wasn't just any wine! He used a miracle of God to turn plain water into wine, first!"

      But I could be completely off and these people did perform miracles. I've been wrong before!

      Gassho,
      Joshin
      Joshin
      Not all those that wander are lost- JRR Tolkien

      Comment

      • Jundo
        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
        • Apr 2006
        • 39450

        #4
        Re: Thought on Buddhism...

        Ah, to see the 'miracle' that is in the most ordinary right before your eyes, and that is the eye too ... A breeze felt on one's cheek is astounding and preaches the Dharma, yet folks do not feel it.

        It is difficult for most people to develop the subtle appreciation of a sublime, simple message, so they demand "special effects" that would put Hollywood to shame.

        I think Jen and Eika have said it well.

        Originally posted by Adam
        ... , why was Buddha transformed into more than just a man? Is it easier to follow a particular example if that example is some how able to perform great, seemingly, godlike, feats? It seems that, as a people, we tend to gravitate towards these miracles easier than if it was just some guy that had this wonderful realization.
        It is a process of story retelling and hero-izing known to all religions and societies. A Buddha or Ancestor, Jesus or any Saint has died and ... century by century ... those in the religion (looking from afar at what those attainments actually were on the part of their "religious heroes" and with need to depict their power) start to imagine, fantasize and exaggerate the wonderful nature of the teacher and teaching into something super-human. What was merely "Great, Profound and Wonderful" must become "Mysterious, Wondrous and (often) Ridiculous". The result is called an "hagiography"

        A hagiography is a biography, usually of a saint or saintly person, and usually written to idealize their life or justify their sainthood. In other words, a hagiography is usually a positive presentation of a life, rather than an objective or critical biography. When using a hagiography as a research source, the purpose and style must be taken into consideration, as the writer probably omitted negative information and exaggerated or even created positive information about the subject of the hagiography. Lives of the saints are typically hagiographies.
        I have no doubt that Buddha and the Ancestors, Jesus and St. Francis of Assisi too, were great human beings. But over the centuries, a Buddha who was a man ... with early stories that show he was of flesh & blood ... becomes a god-like figure floating in the air. Statues are carved, dipped in gpld and placed on a pedestal. Even during his lifetime, the process appears to have begun ... and many of the earliest Sutta and art forms (although all created centuries after his death) are already quite worshipful and describe super-human qualities.

        In the view of many, however, the power of his teachings are their immediate value to ordinary people just like us, and he was just one ... even if a very special and gifted, insightful human being.


        I've heard it said that only a Buddha can speak with a Buddha, but why is that? Is it because they are awake and the rest of the population would not possibly understand their words? In addition, when we hear of enlightenment and nirvana, why is it presented in a way that it's something that we need to reach? I've always believed that Nirvana and Enlightenment are here, NOW, not "out there" somewhere.
        Yes, in the very very early stories of Buddha, his message on the Noble Truths appears quite simple. People were "enlightened" right and left, by the hundreds and within days, hours! The bar was quite low. But quickly, as the ranks of his followers swelled, the "Golden Ring" had to be moved farther and farther away, and great complexity added to the teachings. There are many theories as to why, but it does seem that part is the inner dynamics of any church or like group to perpetuate itself. We cannot all be as were the simple early disciples following Jesus, but instead an entire church and complicated theology of mysteries must be built and maintained.

        It is difficult to get people to see "just this, right here" ... and it is difficult to have them hear "this world is at the heart of it, when tasted as such". It is easier to get people to understand "pie in the sky when you die" and like other-worldly rewards for the faithful, Great Mysteries that only the priestly class can penetrate (for a donation), and flying Buddhas with Auras of Golden Light.

        I did not express this very elegantly today, but something like that.

        Gassho, J
        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

        Comment

        • Jen
          Member
          • Feb 2008
          • 166

          #5
          Re: Thought on Buddhism...

          Perhaps this:

          Originally posted by Jundo
          Yes, in the very very early stories of Buddha, his message on the Noble Truths appears quite simple. People were "enlightened" right and left, by the hundreds and within days, hours! The bar was quite low. But quickly, as the ranks of his followers swelled, the "Golden Ring" had to be moved farther and farther away, and great complexity added to the teachings. There are many theories as to why, but it does seem that part is the inner dynamics of any church or like group to perpetuate itself. We cannot all be as were the simple disciples early following Jesus, but instead an entire church and complicated theology must be built and maintained.

          Is explained by this:
          Originally posted by Jundo
          I did not express this very elegantly today, but something like that.
          Buddha may have have had the ability to use his actions and words to help others break through to enlightenment, but those who came after him were less elegant in their expression, unable to to get their message across as clearly. The right combination of charisma, people skills and elegant speech does not manifest in everyone, and I would assume the same is true even for enlightened beings! The further removed you get from the original, the more pomp and ceremony is required to convey how wonderful the original was.

          And of course, there is human nature to take into account. Most tend to value what they work for more than they value that which is given to them.
          Joshin
          Not all those that wander are lost- JRR Tolkien

          Comment

          • Rich
            Member
            • Apr 2009
            • 2601

            #6
            Re: Thought on Buddhism...

            The miracle is you and I think we all have a little magic too. The historical buddha is cold and dead but you might find him/her living in your self. To get a more realistic view you might read Old Path White Clouds by Thich Nhat Hanh which is a biography of Gautama based on Thich's interpretation of various sutras. That PBS movie actually put me to sleep.

            /Rich
            _/_
            Rich
            MUHYO
            無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

            https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

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            • Jundo
              Treeleaf Founder and Priest
              • Apr 2006
              • 39450

              #7
              Re: Thought on Buddhism...

              Let me add that myths and legends, such as those about the Buddha(s), carry deep and profound truths about the human condition. The most creative symbolically represent and express many profound Buddhist teachings, and convey them as story. I do not mean to say that we cannot find many many Truths and valuable teachings in even the most fantastic of stories. Tale telling and "heroes" are important to our civilization, as Joseph Campbell and others speak about so beautifully ...

              http://www.amazon.com/Joseph-Campbell-S ... 1583500545
              ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

              Comment

              • Taigu
                Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
                • Aug 2008
                • 2710

                #8
                Re: Thought on Buddhism...

                may I add something else...

                Myths and legends are metaphors. They stand and express the very reality you are living in/with. And yes, as Jundo suggests, Joseph Campbell is the best guy to get a grasp of what a spiritual hero is about ( beleive the old University creature I used to be).


                gassho


                Taigu

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                • Hans
                  Member
                  • Mar 2007
                  • 1853

                  #9
                  Re: Thought on Buddhism...

                  Hello,

                  another great Campbell fan here. One thing I notice again and again in discussing the meaning and power of myths, legends etc. with people is that they think that something being "just" a metaphor makes it less real and significant. Love, comradeship, oaths...pledges...marriage, dreams....all metaphors. But not "just" metaphors. Painful, wonderful, alive.

                  Gassho,

                  Hans

                  Comment

                  • Taigu
                    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
                    • Aug 2008
                    • 2710

                    #10
                    Re: Thought on Buddhism...

                    Hans,

                    Metaphors are truly powerful and alive once you experience them. Flowers of emptiness. They are real. Dogen and Campbell both agree on that.

                    And I did not write " just".

                    Hans, you seem to misread the good old stupid Taigu so often ... .

                    gassho


                    Taigu

                    Comment

                    • Hans
                      Member
                      • Mar 2007
                      • 1853

                      #11
                      Re: Thought on Buddhism...

                      Hi Taigu,

                      I know you didn't write "just", but "the people" I was referring to used the word "just" when talking about metaphors. "The people" meaning a whole group of hardcore materialists I talked to throughout the course of my life. Trust me, if I want to criticize you or your teachings in any way, I will use your name. No hiding behind strange sentences.

                      So just to clarify once, my post might have followed yours, but I had absolutely no intention of critizing you, precisely because what I wrote was on the same page as your posting IMHO.

                      Gotta love the internet sometimes.

                      Gassho,

                      Hans

                      Comment

                      • Grizzly
                        Member
                        • Mar 2010
                        • 119

                        #12
                        Re: Thought on Buddhism...

                        Did Jesus exist, even as a man? No reliable evidence for that. In fact some scholars are suggesting that, given the parralels with Buddhist literature, the four gospels are reworkings of Buddhist teachings for a different culture! Did Buddha exist? No evidence either. In fact these stories, with those from other cultures too, have so many similarities in terms of miracles, events and teachings that they all may point to a single genesis of a myth.

                        Who know's? Don't Know- as always- Don't Know.

                        Could myths actually be dangerous? Heroes need enemies..this can be just more of the same. We paint that which stands against as bad and we are good. Reflections of the injustices we do to the world painted in Hollywood feel-good pictures. Peaceful coexistence needs no heroes perhaps?

                        Back to this very moment and "don't know". Time to wash up. If I just wash up what import has any of this?

                        Rich

                        Comment

                        • Jundo
                          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                          • Apr 2006
                          • 39450

                          #13
                          Re: Thought on Buddhism...

                          By coincidence or Karma, I happen this week to be rereading portions of D.T. Suzuki's translation of the Lankavatara Sutra. It is a work which even Suzuki admits is not actually "the words of the historical Buddha", but something cooked up centuries later, in bits and pieces by many authors ... and it is also a typical Mahayana Sutra with fantastical visual images to put Tim Burton's movies to shame ...

                          ... But buried in (or expressed by) all that are various Teachings of Mahayana Buddhist philosophy that are at the heart of much of our Practice. For example, this section ... in which a fellow (Ravana, the Yaksha nature spirit) has a vision of himself talking to the Buddha ... or rather, a vision of countless himselfs talking to countless Buddhas on countless mountaintops ... but then realizes, as all disappear in a flash, that things are not quite as they appear, and even "Buddhas" might not be something to stick a name on ...

                          I have put in BOLDFACE a couple of lines that are worth the whole price of admission, for they say straight out that the "real Buddha" is ... well ...

                          33. On the summit of each mountain the Buddha himself was visible, and R?va?a, the Yaksha, also was found standing there.

                          34. Thus the entire assembly was seen on each mountain-peak, and all the countries were there ...

                          35. Here also was the King of the R?kshasas and the residents of La?k?, and the La?k? created by the Buddha rivaling [the real one].

                          36. Other things were there, too, —the A?oka with its shining woods, and on each mountain-peak Mah?mati was making a request of the Buddha,

                          37. Who discoursed for the sake of the Yakshas on the Truth leading to the inmost realisation; on the mountain-peak he delivered a complete sutra with an exquisite voice varied in hundreds of thousands of ways.

                          38. [After this] the teacher and the sons of the Buddha vanished away in the air, leaving R?va?a the Yaksha himself standing [above] in his mansion.

                          39. Thought he, "How is this? What means this? and by whom was it heard? What was it that was seen? and by whom was it seen? Where is the city? and where is the Buddha?

                          40. "Where are those countries, those jewel-shining Buddhas, those Sugatas? (9) Is it a dream then? or a vision? or is it a castle conjured up by the Gandharvas?

                          41. "Or is it dust in the eye, or a fata morgana [a mirage], or the dream-child of a barren woman, or the smoke of a fire-wheel, that which I saw here?”

                          42. Then [R?va?a reflected], "This is the nature as it is (dharmat?) of all things, which belongs to the realm of Mind, and it is not comprehended by the ignorant as they are confused by every form of imagination.

                          43. "There is neither the seer nor the seen, neither the speaker nor the spoken; the form and usage of the Buddha and his Dharma—they are nothing but discrimination.

                          44. "Those who see things such as were seen before, do not see the Buddha; [even] when discrimination is not aroused, one does not see the Buddha; the Buddha being fully-enlightened is seen where the world itself is not evolved.

                          The Lord of La?k? was then immediately awakened [from his reflection], feeling a [turnng backward] (par?v?iti) in his mind and realising that the world was nothing but his own mind: he was settled in the realm of non-discrimination, was urged by the stock of his past good deeds, acquired the cleverness of understanding all the texts, obtained the faculty of seeing things as they are, was no more dependent upon others, observed things excellently with his own wisdom (buddhi), gained the insight that was not of discursive reasoning, was no more dependent upon others, became a great Yogin of the discipline, was able to manifest himself in all excellent forms, got thoroughly acquainted with all skilful means, had the knowledge of the characteristic aspects of every stage, by which he would surmount it skilfully, was delighted to look into the self-nature of Citta, Manas, Manovijñ?na, got a view whereby he could cut himself loose from the triple continuation, had the knowledge of disposing of every argument of the philosophers on causation, thoroughly understood the Tath?gata-garbha, the stage of Buddhahood, the inmost self, found himself abiding in the Buddha-knowledge; [when suddenly] a voice was heard from the sky, saying, "It is to be known by oneself.”
                          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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                          • Adam
                            Member
                            • Oct 2009
                            • 127

                            #14
                            Re: Thought on Buddhism...

                            Hello Everyone,

                            Thanks to all that have replied so far! I just find it interesting how many people seem to be drawn to the more magical side of religions, than the teaching or practical side. I was drawn to the Buddha's teachings even before I knew much about Buddha himself (if he even existed). I have a Buddha and alter, but I use those as reminders of the path that I am on, not as devotional tools. I'm currently reading Zen Buddhism by D.T. Suzuki, and it brings up the same subject that we are talking about here. Is the personality of these religious leaders the reason for these religions (philosophies) lasting through so many generations. How much of Christianity, or Buddhism, for that matter, still have to do with the actual words that these two spoke? For example, some Buddhist sects believe in reincarnation, but the Buddha himself never spoke on the subject (from what I understand). It's just interesting how teachings change over the years to better fit those living now.

                            Gassho,

                            Adam
                            "Respond intelligently even to unintelligent treatment." - Lao Tzu

                            Comment

                            • Tb
                              Member
                              • Jan 2008
                              • 3186

                              #15
                              Re: Thought on Buddhism...

                              Hi.

                              There is a number of scholars (maybe most fronted by stephen batchelor) who believe that any sutta or text putting forth Buddha as some god/semigod/having godllike powers etc is to be considered as an "more cultural thing" than anything the buddha would actually have said himself.
                              This does not mean it doesn't have any meaning by the way...

                              And it is not in kalamaputtasuttan as he takes up "remember monks, What i have declared to be declared and what-i have to ask the note declared note declared" and where he deals with things like reincarnation and rebirth of "undeclared".
                              While you may interpret what he said in another Sutra as he is reborn again, or believes in rebirth.

                              But, you should also remember that he talked and worked in an environment where belief in reincarnation or rebirth was the norm, and that he may have used it as an example to explain the different theories or approaches to people around him.

                              Mtfbwy
                              Fugen
                              Life is our temple and its all good practice
                              Blog: http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/

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