Buddhism V Western Philosophy

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mango smoothie
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Buddhism V Western Philosophy

Postby mango smoothie » Sun Jul 22, 2007 10:21 pm UTC

So, hello, I'm new here and I have some serious business you may or may not wish to discuss.
I am currently studying philosophy at college (if you are American, this is 6th form college, not university) which I find fascinating, and my dad is a practising buddhist.
Western philosophy is great and interesting, but when my dad explains buddhist philosophy to me, the west seems pretty backward in comparison. Philosophers get themselves tied up in silly little tricks of grammar and whilst this is good brain exercise, they often fail to say anything remotely relevant that might actually change the way we live. I am currently reading "Language Truth and Logic" by A. J. Ayer, and its very clever, but to be honest I don't care.
Buddhism on the other hand simply doesn't bother with all this, and goes straight on to saying real things which make a lot of sense. They are also thousands of years ahead of Western science.
I wonder if this might partly be because of religion - in our Chritian society we were forbidden to think for hundreds of years, whereas buddhism is all about thinking and trying to understand your own mind.
SO, gosh, I don't know, its just something I was thinking. I don't know, is anyone out there a buddhist or a philosopher? Or just someone with an opinion?
Does anyone, in actual fact, care?

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Postby Thematic-Device » Sun Jul 22, 2007 10:57 pm UTC

Buddhism lines up with a lot of western philosophies. The problem is with philosophy as a department, not with either culture. Whats more you have to understand that Buddhism focuses largely on analysis, but it hasn't always been a major religion in the countries that practice it (nor has it always been all that tolerant, e.g. Mount Hiei, and the persecution of Christians in Japan)

Confucianism for example is all about blind obedience to tradition and to authority. Following orders is Confucianism's Raison D'etre, and because of this it became the major religion in China, the two religions which challenged this Taoism, and Buddhism, were more sidelined because of it. In fact you can see that even in modern China today, since while the PRC officially did away with all the old religions, in essence much of their authoritarian philosophy was simply a rehash of Confucist tenets.

By contrast many of the actual teachings in the bible can be interpreted to demand rigorous interpretations.

Soft Power is now far more taught in western nations, even if Taoism (as Sun Tzu, and the Art of War are Taoist) was one of the original proponents of the tactic.

The concept of marginal utility, and of J.S. Mill's concept of two different kinds of utility line up very well with the Buddhist tenet that material goods can only reduce pain, not create happiness.

When it comes to governance Tao Te Ching in comparison to the concepts of the thinkers of the Enlightenment the concepts line up very well. For example compare the concept of "The government which governs least governs best" to verse 17 of the Tao Te Ching

When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
Next, one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.

If you don't trust the people,
you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn't talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, "Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!"


Many of these concepts can be seen in actual practice in the west. Particularly around the time of the American Revolution. The middle paragraph epitomizes the sentiments voiced by the founding fathers of America. They believed full heartedly that should a government spy on or invade the privacy of its citizens that it should be opposed. To put it simpler, because they weren't trusted, they were willing to start a revolt (be untrustworthy).

The final paragraph lines up very well with application of capitalism. The governments hand is rarely directly involved with the day to day business of the economy, some twerking here and there and everything runs on its own.

In short, western and eastern philosophies came to many of the exact same conclusions with very little contact between the two at the time the ideas were started. If there was a distinction it is that the western nations actually applied the theory, and as a result the writings are of a far more practical nature.

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Postby Dark Ragnarok » Sun Jul 22, 2007 11:11 pm UTC

I honeslty want to be serious about this as much as i can. As much as a philosopher i am and whatnot, my only comment just leans towards. Buddhism just owns... flat out, over anything western. praise taoism!

But trying to be serious...

i agree with what you're saying. Buddhism to me is the only religion (i barely call it that as it is) that objectively looks at the world for how it works and how we interact with it. Finding the balance between 2 forces is best way to live life. Everything to me about it makes perfect sense. It's hte best way to look and appreciate life in my opinion.

I'm not totally sure what o say about it. I think everyone HAS to try out this way of looking at things before they can see they know anything at all.

And if you;'re really interested, one of my favorite books of all time that i recommend to you is:

"The Way of Zen" by Allan Watts.

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Postby Thematic-Device » Sun Jul 22, 2007 11:42 pm UTC

Dark Ragnarok wrote:Buddhism just owns... flat out, over anything western.


Hrmm I have to disagree, Buddhism is fine for the individual, but when it comes to governance Buddhism is incredibly lacking as far as actual philosophical tenets, and combined with the best elements of western philosophy, dropping some of Buddhism's own trappings, is the best manner of approaching it in my opinion. The strict doctrines of Buddhism while interesting are useless kept on their own, the true importance is when it comes to integrating elements of other philosophies from around the world.

It has its benefits, but is by no means a comprehensive philosophy.

Dark Ragnarok wrote:Finding the balance between 2 forces is best way to live life.


There is the saying "Everything in Moderation" but the less quoted second half of that is "including moderation".

Halfway between good and evil is to be either uninvolved or self-serving. This is not the best way to go about things. Life isn't as simple as looking at one side and looking at the other, and sitting down in the middle. Sometimes you have to pick a position.

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Postby Dark Ragnarok » Mon Jul 23, 2007 12:58 am UTC

Hm, you know i didn't think at all but how Buddhism does not effectively govern people. That's true, it can be ideal for individuals, but not practical for masses of them as a collective body.

However, i will argue that Buddhism actually professes (not argues) your point on moderation. It teaches to not indulge in one extreme for too long, and then to not try so hard to stay directly in the middle. It's about finding that balance.

If i find my book, i'll even cite the note on that issue.

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Postby Thematic-Device » Mon Jul 23, 2007 1:16 am UTC

Dark Ragnarok wrote:Hm, you know i didn't think at all but how Buddhism does not effectively govern people. That's true, it can be ideal for individuals, but not practical for masses of them as a collective body.

However, i will argue that Buddhism actually professes (not argues) your point on moderation. It teaches to not indulge in one extreme for too long, and then to not try so hard to stay directly in the middle. It's about finding that balance


I know, I was objecting to your comment, not to buddhism as a whole, and to the current attitude in the US, that if you halfway in between two sides your a 'moderate'.

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Postby Bondolon » Mon Jul 23, 2007 1:21 am UTC

Well, I think that to talk about these, we really have to realize there are two sides to Buddhism. Buddhism proper is a religion. I say that because it holds a literal mythology, even if it's not a theistic religion. Buddhism itself is nothing special, in that it holds the same unconquerable axioms as any other religion in the world. However, Zen Buddhism, taken to its roots, can basically be thought of as anti-logic. By that, I mean that it's not concerned with discovering who you "are" as much as getting rid of whatever it is that chains you to life. Zen is the practice of deconstructing reality in one's own mind, and embracing the mu (which is nothingness). I speak as a Zen Buddhist and a philosopher, and I am literally saying that if you hear anything that makes sense to you coming from Buddhism, it's either part of the religious sector, and as such a wee-bit untrue to the original message, or you are understanding it wrong. To break one's mind is the "point" of Zen Buddhism, and I personally think it was likely the original point of the Buddha.

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Re: Buddhism V Western Philosophy

Postby BoomFrog » Mon Jul 23, 2007 1:55 am UTC

mango smoothie wrote:So, hello, I'm new here and I have some serious business you may or may not wish to discuss.
I am currently studying philosophy at college (if you are American, this is 6th form college, not university) which I find fascinating, and my dad is a practising buddhist.
Western philosophy is great and interesting, but when my dad explains buddhist philosophy to me, the west seems pretty backward in comparison. Philosophers get themselves tied up in silly little tricks of grammar and whilst this is good brain exercise, they often fail to say anything remotely relevant that might actually change the way we live. I am currently reading "Language Truth and Logic" by A. J. Ayer, and its very clever, but to be honest I don't care.
Buddhism on the other hand simply doesn't bother with all this, and goes straight on to saying real things which make a lot of sense. They are also thousands of years ahead of Western science.
I wonder if this might partly be because of religion - in our Chritian society we were forbidden to think for hundreds of years, whereas buddhism is all about thinking and trying to understand your own mind.
SO, gosh, I don't know, its just something I was thinking. I don't know, is anyone out there a buddhist or a philosopher? Or just someone with an opinion?
Does anyone, in actual fact, care?


I'm making some assumptions here but I am guessing your father is very intelligent and independent thinker. It's not that Western Philosophy is about not thinking. The problem with your comparison is that your view of Buddhism includes someone who is giving you logical and reasonable discussions but your view of Western Philosophy is coming from books that are full of crap.

There is a lot of truth in Western Philosophy and occasionally you will meet an intelligent Christian, Jew or Muslim who can explain and discuss it with you. However ANY religion or philosophy that has a large following will attract people who want to manipulate it for personal reasons instead of altruistic reasons. This leads to nonsensical practices, followers who are encouraged to be sheep and contradictory ideas.

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Postby Dark Ragnarok » Mon Jul 23, 2007 2:09 am UTC

Bondolon wrote:Well, I think that to talk about these, we really have to realize there are two sides to Buddhism. Buddhism proper is a religion. I say that because it holds a literal mythology, even if it's not a theistic religion. Buddhism itself is nothing special, in that it holds the same unconquerable axioms as any other religion in the world. However, Zen Buddhism, taken to its roots, can basically be thought of as anti-logic. By that, I mean that it's not concerned with discovering who you "are" as much as getting rid of whatever it is that chains you to life. Zen is the practice of deconstructing reality in one's own mind, and embracing the mu (which is nothingness). I speak as a Zen Buddhist and a philosopher, and I am literally saying that if you hear anything that makes sense to you coming from Buddhism, it's either part of the religious sector, and as such a wee-bit untrue to the original message, or you are understanding it wrong. To break one's mind is the "point" of Zen Buddhism, and I personally think it was likely the original point of the Buddha.


I really need to keep that in mind, cause i mean Zen Buddhism whenever i refer to it. *mental note to make arguments clearer next time*

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Postby zenten » Mon Jul 23, 2007 2:21 am UTC

There are also very philosophical (as opposed to religious) focus movements of Buddhism that aren't Japanese.

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Postby Bondolon » Mon Jul 23, 2007 2:36 am UTC

zenten wrote:There are also very philosophical (as opposed to religious) focus movements of Buddhism that aren't Japanese.


Which, specifically, are you referring to? Again, I was speaking of a fairly purist version of Zen Buddhism, as Zen itself can still feature a good bit of dogma. Point being, most of the others with fairly philosophical leanings still have a ton of dogma associated, but I'm certainly not going to claim perfect knowledge, as I've really ever "committed" myself to Zen Buddhism.

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Postby mikesty » Mon Jul 23, 2007 3:09 am UTC

Thematic-Device wrote:When it comes to governance Tao Te Ching in comparison to the concepts of the thinkers of the Enlightenment the concepts line up very well. For example compare the concept of "The government which governs least governs best" to verse 17 of the Tao Te Ching

When the Master governs, the people
are hardly aware that he exists.
Next best is a leader who is loved.
Next, one who is feared.
The worst is one who is despised.

If you don't trust the people,
you make them untrustworthy.

The Master doesn't talk, he acts.
When his work is done,
the people say, "Amazing:
we did it, all by ourselves!"


Many of these concepts can be seen in actual practice in the west. Particularly around the time of the American Revolution. The middle paragraph epitomizes the sentiments voiced by the founding fathers of America. They believed full heartedly that should a government spy on or invade the privacy of its citizens that it should be opposed. To put it simpler, because they weren't trusted, they were willing to start a revolt (be untrustworthy).

The final paragraph lines up very well with application of capitalism. The governments hand is rarely directly involved with the day to day business of the economy, some twerking here and there and everything runs on its own.

In short, western and eastern philosophies came to many of the exact same conclusions with very little contact between the two at the time the ideas were started. If there was a distinction it is that the western nations actually applied the theory, and as a result the writings are of a far more practical nature.


For the record, your post was very good. I applaud you.

I do consider myself a philosopher, yet I do not read a lot of philosophy and thus I do not have too many doctrines to subscribe to or any works to cite as you do. I am, with the exception of "pop philosophy" which is impossible to avoid, self-taught in the field of philosophy. Yet I think it is time I start reading other's viewpoints more. I may be able to look at things in-depth and make very rational conclusions most of the time, but there are many flaws in my thought and I think I can reach further with a little help. Standing on the shoulders of giants, perhaps.

I think I should start reading philosophy more. That quote is very fascinating and remarkably true and inline with my own view. In fact, it did a fantastic job of summarizing my own thoughts.

I hate to spin this topic out of control, but does anyone have any recommendations on philosophy literature? I'd prefer more generic, encompassing philosophy, and I'd like to avoid narrow, specific drivel and zealotry. Eastern philosophy sounds appealing.
Have A Nice Day :)

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Postby zenten » Mon Jul 23, 2007 3:26 am UTC

Bondolon wrote:
zenten wrote:There are also very philosophical (as opposed to religious) focus movements of Buddhism that aren't Japanese.


Which, specifically, are you referring to? Again, I was speaking of a fairly purist version of Zen Buddhism, as Zen itself can still feature a good bit of dogma. Point being, most of the others with fairly philosophical leanings still have a ton of dogma associated, but I'm certainly not going to claim perfect knowledge, as I've really ever "committed" myself to Zen Buddhism.


Theravada would be one of the more philosophical types that aren't Zen.

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Postby Bondolon » Mon Jul 23, 2007 3:39 am UTC

zenten wrote:
Bondolon wrote:
zenten wrote:There are also very philosophical (as opposed to religious) focus movements of Buddhism that aren't Japanese.


Which, specifically, are you referring to? Again, I was speaking of a fairly purist version of Zen Buddhism, as Zen itself can still feature a good bit of dogma. Point being, most of the others with fairly philosophical leanings still have a ton of dogma associated, but I'm certainly not going to claim perfect knowledge, as I've really ever "committed" myself to Zen Buddhism.


Theravada would be one of the more philosophical types that aren't Zen.


But... the goal of the whole school is to attain nirvana so that you no longer are reincarnated. Putting aside that Nirvana itself is (in Theravada, at least) an extremely mystical thing, their concept of spiritual attainment specifically revolves around how many more times one must be born before reaching nirvana. Many of their practices are secular, but I'd hardly call them philosophical.

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Postby zenten » Mon Jul 23, 2007 4:10 am UTC

Bondolon wrote:
zenten wrote:
Bondolon wrote:
zenten wrote:There are also very philosophical (as opposed to religious) focus movements of Buddhism that aren't Japanese.


Which, specifically, are you referring to? Again, I was speaking of a fairly purist version of Zen Buddhism, as Zen itself can still feature a good bit of dogma. Point being, most of the others with fairly philosophical leanings still have a ton of dogma associated, but I'm certainly not going to claim perfect knowledge, as I've really ever "committed" myself to Zen Buddhism.


Theravada would be one of the more philosophical types that aren't Zen.


But... the goal of the whole school is to attain nirvana so that you no longer are reincarnated. Putting aside that Nirvana itself is (in Theravada, at least) an extremely mystical thing, their concept of spiritual attainment specifically revolves around how many more times one must be born before reaching nirvana. Many of their practices are secular, but I'd hardly call them philosophical.


Isn't that the goal of any form of Buddhism?

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Postby Bondolon » Mon Jul 23, 2007 4:21 am UTC

zenten wrote:
Bondolon wrote:
zenten wrote:
Bondolon wrote:
zenten wrote:There are also very philosophical (as opposed to religious) focus movements of Buddhism that aren't Japanese.


Which, specifically, are you referring to? Again, I was speaking of a fairly purist version of Zen Buddhism, as Zen itself can still feature a good bit of dogma. Point being, most of the others with fairly philosophical leanings still have a ton of dogma associated, but I'm certainly not going to claim perfect knowledge, as I've really ever "committed" myself to Zen Buddhism.


Theravada would be one of the more philosophical types that aren't Zen.


But... the goal of the whole school is to attain nirvana so that you no longer are reincarnated. Putting aside that Nirvana itself is (in Theravada, at least) an extremely mystical thing, their concept of spiritual attainment specifically revolves around how many more times one must be born before reaching nirvana. Many of their practices are secular, but I'd hardly call them philosophical.


Isn't that the goal of any form of Buddhism?


No, as Zen itself only revolves around their particular form of meditation. It doesn't fundamentally make any sort of mystical claim, though, again, there are many, many sects of it that have created whole mythologies to go along with it. In any case, the goal of Zen is satori, not nirvana. Satori differs from nirvana in that satori is just an ultimate "getting it" (i.e. understanding the mu, which is nothingness, or the temporal nature of reality itself), whereas nirvana involves the removal of oneself from the cosmic cycle of renewal, in which we all return to life after death.

As meditation is only a practice, and satori is, fundamentally, just a realization of the principles of the school, based on a set of beliefs that is a philosophy rather than a mythology, purist Zen is a philosophical belief about the nature of the universe and the human condition. Most other forms of Buddhism are too invested in notions of reincarnation and transcendence to claim philosophical aims.

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Postby Thematic-Device » Mon Jul 23, 2007 5:19 am UTC

mikesty wrote:I hate to spin this topic out of control, but does anyone have any recommendations on philosophy literature? I'd prefer more generic, encompassing philosophy, and I'd like to avoid narrow, specific drivel and zealotry. Eastern philosophy sounds appealing.


I've taken a course dedicated to philosophy and to be honest I couldn't stand it. I got most of it either self taught or from various history/econ/polisci courses. The philosophy department itself struck me as arguing without any interest in facts, which led them to argue semantics, and word use more then anything relevant.

I'm a fan of philosophy directed towards more narrow fields. In my experience the more broad the writing gets the more prone it is to over-simplifications and tautologies.

But for Taoism I'd recommend simply reading the original texts, both the Tao Te Ching and the Art of War are good, and quick reads (Tao Te Ching is complex tho). For Buddhism I'd recommend more towards reading articles and books which are about the original books rather then the books themselves.

I've never thought much of confucianism so i can't offer any specific advice for that.

Montesquieu/Locke/Hobbes/JS Mill/etc. are probably best covered by legal texts which give background to the US Constitution and the opinions of the founding fathers.

Course, I've always annoyed my philosophy teachers since when asked to write a paper on whether kantian, utilitarian, or virtue ethics were the best I ended up splicing the three together*. I'd avoid anything by Thomas Friedman or Michael Ignatieff, at least don't pay money for their books.




*My idea was that whether an action causes more good then bad (described as whether they increase overall happiness or utility or decrease it) determines whether or not the action is, accordingly good or bad / right/wrong, however you want it, while kantian ethics (the intention of the act determines whether it was good or evil) determine whether an act was noble or ignoble, while virtue ethics serve as a mental shortcut to utilitarian ethics, since we can't possibly calculate everything we note certain things which are generally good.

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Postby Thematic-Device » Mon Jul 23, 2007 5:28 am UTC

Bondolon wrote:But... the goal of the whole school is to attain nirvana so that you no longer are reincarnated. Putting aside that Nirvana itself is (in Theravada, at least) an extremely mystical thing, their concept of spiritual attainment specifically revolves around how many more times one must be born before reaching nirvana. Many of their practices are secular, but I'd hardly call them philosophical.


Attaining Nirvana is not simply a thing to do to stop reincarnation (arguably this would be a greedy aim and prevent attainment) but something which is undertaken to take oneself out of the cycle of suffering.

This is not simply an issue of reincarnation but living your life so you don't cause suffering to other people, or incur suffering upon yourself. Reincarnation is vastly over emphasized imo.

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Postby Bondolon » Mon Jul 23, 2007 5:29 am UTC

Thematic-Device wrote:
Bondolon wrote:But... the goal of the whole school is to attain nirvana so that you no longer are reincarnated. Putting aside that Nirvana itself is (in Theravada, at least) an extremely mystical thing, their concept of spiritual attainment specifically revolves around how many more times one must be born before reaching nirvana. Many of their practices are secular, but I'd hardly call them philosophical.


Attaining Nirvana is not simply a thing to do to stop reincarnation (arguably this would be a greedy aim and prevent attainment) but something which is undertaken to take oneself out of the cycle of suffering.

This is not simply an issue of reincarnation but living your life so you don't cause suffering to other people, or incur suffering upon yourself. Reincarnation is vastly over emphasized imo.


Well, yeah, it is overemphasized. The thing you are describing is satori, if you take out the notion of reincarnation. That's why I'm saying that Zen can be purely philosophical instead of mystical, which Nirvana necessitates.

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Postby Thematic-Device » Mon Jul 23, 2007 5:32 am UTC

Bondolon wrote:Well, yeah, it is overemphasized. The thing you are describing is satori, if you take out the notion of reincarnation. That's why I'm saying that Zen can be purely philosophical instead of mystical, which Nirvana necessitates.



I disagree, from what I've seen of Zen overemphasizes absolutely useless tasks which are supposed to bring you closer to enlightenment, but seem to do little along those lines. Understanding nothingness, while difficult, and a task to achieve, is not particularly useful in day to day life. For example, meditation as a whole, is incredibly overemphasized in many traditional sects, but especially with the rigidity its applied.

Thinking and contemplating are useful, and to be alone with your thoughts to contemplate things are well and fine, but when that can be done anywhere, in almost any position. Focusing on your breathing/posture, seem to me to be utterly irrelevant. The thoughts and the understanding attained are whats important, not how you sat.
Last edited by Thematic-Device on Mon Jul 23, 2007 5:41 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby Bondolon » Mon Jul 23, 2007 5:36 am UTC

Thematic-Device wrote:
Bondolon wrote:Well, yeah, it is overemphasized. The thing you are describing is satori, if you take out the notion of reincarnation. That's why I'm saying that Zen can be purely philosophical instead of mystical, which Nirvana necessitates.


I disagree, from what I've seen of Zen overemphasizes absolutely useless tasks which are supposed to bring you closer to enlightenment.


Well, the usefulness or uselessness of a task doesn't really relate to whether it's philosophical or mystical. My point was that, despite a pretty significant effort on the part of many Zen practitioners to mysticize Zen, the foundations of said school of thought are philosophical, rather than mystical, as satori itself isn't a mystical thing. Any school that has a doctrine of Nirvana must necessarily be a mystical school. Sure, Zen might have its shortcomings, but that's not really the point of my argument.

edit: Ah, you were editing. Still, you're discussing the shortcomings of Zen, but those don't have much to do with whether it's philosophical or not.

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Postby Thematic-Device » Mon Jul 23, 2007 5:49 am UTC

Bondolon wrote:Well, the usefulness or uselessness of a task doesn't really relate to whether it's philosophical or mystical. My point was that, despite a pretty significant effort on the part of many Zen practitioners to mysticize Zen, the foundations of said school of thought are philosophical, rather than mystical, as satori itself isn't a mystical thing. Any school that has a doctrine of Nirvana must necessarily be a mystical school. Sure, Zen might have its shortcomings, but that's not really the point of my argument.


But from the very start Nirvana was simply enlightenment, understanding the world as it is, it could be used to stop reincarnation, but it happened in the mortal world. When Siddhartha attained Nirvana it was an understanding in how to live to minimize suffering in oneself and in the rest of the world by decreasing greed.

This is the same throughout Buddhism, and all the various sects have the trappings of theology to them, they simply have different forms. (Which is why I've never clung to closely to any particular creed). Zen has different trappings, but that doesn't mean it has less or that those trappings are better/worse.

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Postby Bondolon » Mon Jul 23, 2007 5:55 am UTC

Thematic-Device wrote:
Bondolon wrote:Well, the usefulness or uselessness of a task doesn't really relate to whether it's philosophical or mystical. My point was that, despite a pretty significant effort on the part of many Zen practitioners to mysticize Zen, the foundations of said school of thought are philosophical, rather than mystical, as satori itself isn't a mystical thing. Any school that has a doctrine of Nirvana must necessarily be a mystical school. Sure, Zen might have its shortcomings, but that's not really the point of my argument.


But from the very start Nirvana was simply enlightenment, understanding the world as it is, it could be used to stop reincarnation, but it happened in the mortal world. When Siddhartha attained Nirvana it was an understanding in how to live to minimize suffering in oneself and in the rest of the world by decreasing greed.

This is the same throughout Buddhism, and all the various sects have the trappings of theology to them, they simply have different forms. (Which is why I've never clung to closely to any particular creed)


Well, I wouldn't say "simply". The very start of Buddhism was hinduism, which is why so many sects of Buddhism feature the concept, and why Nirvana itself is so problematic as a philosophical belief rather than a mystical one. Sure, one might say, "But the IMPORTANT thing is the freedom from suffering," and that one might or might not be right. Point being, the doctrine is necessarily mystical, regardless of its strengths. Hell, one of the definitions of the word is "freedom from rebirth" (nir - 'negation' + vana - 'rebirth').

edit: Again, I agree that Zen is different and, again, I am in no way making a value judgment or saying that Zen is "better" or "worse". I'm simply saying that it can be purely philosophical, while all of those that feature Nirvana are necessarily mystical.

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Postby Thematic-Device » Mon Jul 23, 2007 6:08 am UTC

Bondolon wrote:Well, I wouldn't say "simply". The very start of Buddhism was hinduism, which is why so many sects of Buddhism feature the concept, and why Nirvana itself is so problematic as a philosophical belief rather than a mystical one. Sure, one might say, "But the IMPORTANT thing is the freedom from suffering," and that one might or might not be right. Point being, the doctrine is necessarily mystical, regardless of its strengths. Hell, one of the definitions of the word is "freedom from rebirth" (nir - 'negation' + vana - 'rebirth').


And the point is? Even if a person comes up with a belief about the nature of mankind for a mystical application it still has relevance to a philosophical discussion. All you do if you want a philosophical discussion is strip out all the metaphysical applications, and your still left with a philosophy.

We can have a philosophical discussion of Paganism, Christianity, or anything else.

edit: Again, I agree that Zen is different and, again, I am in no way making a value judgment or saying that Zen is "better" or "worse". I'm simply saying that it can be purely philosophical, while all of those that feature Nirvana are necessarily mystical.


Then a distinction without relevance?

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Postby Bondolon » Mon Jul 23, 2007 6:38 am UTC

Thematic-Device wrote:
Bondolon wrote:Well, I wouldn't say "simply". The very start of Buddhism was hinduism, which is why so many sects of Buddhism feature the concept, and why Nirvana itself is so problematic as a philosophical belief rather than a mystical one. Sure, one might say, "But the IMPORTANT thing is the freedom from suffering," and that one might or might not be right. Point being, the doctrine is necessarily mystical, regardless of its strengths. Hell, one of the definitions of the word is "freedom from rebirth" (nir - 'negation' + vana - 'rebirth').


And the point is? Even if a person comes up with a belief about the nature of mankind for a mystical application it still has relevance to a philosophical discussion. All you do if you want a philosophical discussion is strip out all the metaphysical applications, and your still left with a philosophy.

We can have a philosophical discussion of Paganism, Christianity, or anything else.

edit: Again, I agree that Zen is different and, again, I am in no way making a value judgment or saying that Zen is "better" or "worse". I'm simply saying that it can be purely philosophical, while all of those that feature Nirvana are necessarily mystical.


Then a distinction without relevance?


A mystical explanation of reality is not a philosophical explanation. Sure, there are philosophical aspects to any religion, and eastern religions are especially heavy with philosophy. One can discuss the philosophical aspects of any religion, sure, but there's a problem with considering an actual religion to be a philosophy. If one says that human existence is suffering, that's a philosophical claim. If one then says that the suffering is important because it continues, unabated, until one escapes the cycle of suffering by no longer being reborn, that's a mystical claim. One simply can't discuss a mystical belief philosophically. You can strip out the religion out of any religion, but if you do that you are no longer talking about that religion. The reason that one can discuss Zen metaphysics is that Zen's metaphysics are philosophical, and not mystical. The relevance, then, is that Zen is the only form of Buddhism that can actually be compared to any other philosophy (in whole), and even then it's just not a good discussion. Western Philosophy and Zen Buddhism simply have different metaphysical views. His initial claim was that Buddhism has a "head start" on Western Philosophy, but that doesn't apply, since Zen Buddhism (and, admittedly, Buddhism at-large) isn't concerned with the same questions. He then said that things in Buddhism "make a lot of sense", which I said wasn't really a good claim to make, since Buddhism isn't concerned with making sense. My point was that the only one that can directly compare is Zen Buddhism, and it just doesn't compare.

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Postby mango smoothie » Mon Jul 23, 2007 11:32 am UTC

Wow... it looks like you guys all know a lot more than me about this.
Just to clarify, I didn't mean that Western philosophy is about not thinking, I meant that it comes from a society where thinking was suppressed, and so during the Enlightenment, we had to start all over again.
Umm, I don't actually know anything about Zen buddhism, my Dad is a Tibetan Buddhist, and basically all my knowledge of buddhism comes from reading the Dalai Lama's books. The way I understand it, the point is not really to just reach Nirvana - the are different levels of motivation - the highest one is to wish to attain enlightenment and then be reincarnated anyway by choice in order to help all other beings reach Nirvana.
I do see that Buddhism and Western philosophy aren't concerned really with the same questions, and this is kind of my point - we have been asking the wrong questions.
Although, actually having said that, there are basic fundamental questions which all philosophies attempt to answer - what is right and wrong, is this the ultimate reality, what are we all doing here anyway, that sort of thing.
The whole metaphysical thing is also something I've been thinking about - if I understand and believe in so much of the teachings of the Dharma, does it make sense for me to believe in reincarnation as well? Buddhists have already proved that they are ahead of Western science - for example the concept of emptiness, which physicists are just starting to pick up on. I don't know, I don't know, its all very difficult. Actually I'm reading a book called "What makes you not a Buddhist". We'll see.
Thanks for all your extremely enlightening comments anyway, although I must confess that some of it is still a little too advanced for me.

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Postby QuantumTroll » Mon Jul 23, 2007 6:21 pm UTC

Like mango smoothie, most of what I know about Buddhism comes from the Dalai Lama. A lot of what I've found in bookstores in the US are writings with a specifically non-Buddhist bent, i.e. he went through extra effort to make sure the book could be appreciated by non-Buddhists. Most of this stuff is sensible, and even logical. Most of Ethics in the New Millenium parallelled my own thoughts on the matter, which pleased me greatly.

What I've taken away from Buddhism is a method or philosophy that attempts to minimize the suffering of the self and of others. My attempts to follow what the Dalai Lama teaches have been productive, although it's difficult at times. This may be because of other things I've read, like Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha.

I've also read a little about things like mindfulness meditation, which has Buddhist roots. Actually, I was practicing something very close to this style of meditation way before I ever read about it anywhere. It just came naturally. This has led me to take Buddhism a lot more seriously than I used to. While I believe there's a lot of mystical mumbo-jumbo associated with Buddhism, it also contains many valuable teachings.

I have a question: How and why do you pick a branch of Buddhism?

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Postby Bondolon » Mon Jul 23, 2007 6:40 pm UTC

QuantumTroll wrote:Like mango smoothie, most of what I know about Buddhism comes from the Dalai Lama. A lot of what I've found in bookstores in the US are writings with a specifically non-Buddhist bent, i.e. he went through extra effort to make sure the book could be appreciated by non-Buddhists. Most of this stuff is sensible, and even logical. Most of Ethics in the New Millenium parallelled my own thoughts on the matter, which pleased me greatly.

What I've taken away from Buddhism is a method or philosophy that attempts to minimize the suffering of the self and of others. My attempts to follow what the Dalai Lama teaches have been productive, although it's difficult at times. This may be because of other things I've read, like Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha.

I've also read a little about things like mindfulness meditation, which has Buddhist roots. Actually, I was practicing something very close to this style of meditation way before I ever read about it anywhere. It just came naturally. This has led me to take Buddhism a lot more seriously than I used to. While I believe there's a lot of mystical mumbo-jumbo associated with Buddhism, it also contains many valuable teachings.

I have a question: How and why do you pick a branch of Buddhism?


I see no point in choosing one at all, as that pretty purposefully violates the middle path. Buddhism is a paradox, in which a long dead figure warns against religion and mythology, and a bunch of people decide they like what he has to say and make a religion out of it, complete with mythology.

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Postby Vaniver » Mon Jul 23, 2007 6:40 pm UTC

Buddhism may seem more complete, because it has reached nihilism before the West did, and its nihilism is far more respectable, but I am not a nihilist, nor do I intend to become one.

They are also thousands of years ahead of Western science.
Rofl. Do you mean science here, or philosophy?

Halfway between good and evil is to be either uninvolved or self-serving. This is not the best way to go about things. Life isn't as simple as looking at one side and looking at the other, and sitting down in the middle. Sometimes you have to pick a position.
But very few choices are the choice between good and evil.
Aristotle wrote:Some vices miss what is right because they are deficient, others because they are excessive, in feelings or in actions, while virtue finds and chooses the mean.


Just to clarify, I didn't mean that Western philosophy is about not thinking, I meant that it comes from a society where thinking was suppressed, and so during the Enlightenment, we had to start all over again.
I'm not sure what you mean by this. Which philosophy are you referring to? Which philosophers? The Enlightenment was not so much starting over again as resuming.

I do see that Buddhism and Western philosophy aren't concerned really with the same questions, and this is kind of my point - we have been asking the wrong questions.


Western Philosophy is concerning with knowing, and wrapped up with knowing is semantics. As Bondolon points out, Buddhism seems more interested in peace; with peace one does not need to debate semantics, just follow a path.

I do see that Buddhism and Western philosophy aren't concerned really with the same questions, and this is kind of my point - we have been asking the wrong questions.
I'm assuming "we" is referring to Western philosophy here.

Let me make an example from differential equations; it probably won't be helpful to those unfamiliar with the subject, but I'll try to explain it.

Let's say that y = dy/dt; that is, the rate of change of some quantity is equal to that quantity. Now, there are multiple solutions to this. One of them takes some thinking to figure out, and another takes some cleverness.
The clever response is "y=0." Its rate of change is 0, which is its value; it works.
The response that takes work is "y=e^t." I won't explain how one gets to that or what it means; it would take many posts of this length.

Buddhism seems to me to be the null solution. Embrace mu. Enlightenment is the absence of thought. Desires are the cause of suffering, so abandon them.

Western philosophy is the active solution. Find truth. Enlightenment is the abundence of correct thoughts. Well-chosen desires are the path to happiness, so fulfill them.
I mostly post over at LessWrong now.

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Postby Thematic-Device » Mon Jul 23, 2007 6:51 pm UTC

Bondolon wrote:A mystical explanation of reality is not a philosophical explanation. Sure, there are philosophical aspects to any religion, and eastern religions are especially heavy with philosophy. One can discuss the philosophical aspects of any religion, sure, but there's a problem with considering an actual religion to be a philosophy. If one says that human existence is suffering, that's a philosophical claim. If one then says that the suffering is important because it continues, unabated, until one escapes the cycle of suffering by no longer being reborn, that's a mystical claim.


I think you misunderstand, suffering continues unabated until you attain nirvana, but you attain Nirvana in this world, and even then you may still be reincarnated (except then it is a choice).

One simply can't discuss a mystical belief philosophically. You can strip out the religion out of any religion, but if you do that you are no longer talking about that religion.


No you really are. If you talk about Christianity, and never discuss the afterlife, you're still discussing Christianity. Whats more the theory has been openly postulated in buddhism that

1.) Some of the parts aren't the whole truth*
2.) The afterlife part may be wrong

So when the afterlife part is questioned both by its scholars, and by Siddhartha himself then reincarnation is not really a central tenet. The central tenet was ending suffering.

The reason that one can discuss Zen metaphysics is that Zen's metaphysics are philosophical, and not mystical. The relevance, then, is that Zen is the only form of Buddhism that can actually be compared to any other philosophy (in whole), and even then it's just not a good discussion.


I disagree, completely, one needs to strip out all the metaphysical parts of zen buddhism too, the specific ways you need to sit, are not philosophical claims they're religious, same goes for almost all the meditation techniques.

He then said that things in Buddhism "make a lot of sense", which I said wasn't really a good claim to make, since Buddhism isn't concerned with making sense.


Another tenet of Buddhism, that one is supposed to analyze every part of the religion and take what you agree with and leave what you don't. That almost determines that the religion has to make a lot of sense to any of its followers, as well it shows its concerned with making sense.

My point was that the only one that can directly compare is Zen Buddhism, and it just doesn't compare.


You just need to be more relaxed with the comparisons. You're overblowing the metaphysical aspect and ignoring the wealth of actual information, knowledge, and philosophy which is there. And even without the reincarnation aspect, the other parts are still filled with philosophy. You don't need to believe that the Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of the Buddha of Kindness to discuss his claims and his arguments, nor does he make his arguments on the basis of his position.

*

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Postby Bondolon » Mon Jul 23, 2007 7:19 pm UTC

Thematic-Device wrote:
Bondolon wrote:A mystical explanation of reality is not a philosophical explanation. Sure, there are philosophical aspects to any religion, and eastern religions are especially heavy with philosophy. One can discuss the philosophical aspects of any religion, sure, but there's a problem with considering an actual religion to be a philosophy. If one says that human existence is suffering, that's a philosophical claim. If one then says that the suffering is important because it continues, unabated, until one escapes the cycle of suffering by no longer being reborn, that's a mystical claim.


I think you misunderstand, suffering continues unabated until you attain nirvana, but you attain Nirvana in this world, and even then you may still be reincarnated (except then it is a choice).

One simply can't discuss a mystical belief philosophically. You can strip out the religion out of any religion, but if you do that you are no longer talking about that religion.


No you really are. If you talk about Christianity, and never discuss the afterlife, you're still discussing Christianity. Whats more the theory has been openly postulated in buddhism that

1.) Some of the parts aren't the whole truth*
2.) The afterlife part may be wrong

So when the afterlife part is questioned both by its scholars, and by Siddhartha himself then reincarnation is not really a central tenet. The central tenet was ending suffering.

The reason that one can discuss Zen metaphysics is that Zen's metaphysics are philosophical, and not mystical. The relevance, then, is that Zen is the only form of Buddhism that can actually be compared to any other philosophy (in whole), and even then it's just not a good discussion.


I disagree, completely, one needs to strip out all the metaphysical parts of zen buddhism too, the specific ways you need to sit, are not philosophical claims they're religious, same goes for almost all the meditation techniques.

He then said that things in Buddhism "make a lot of sense", which I said wasn't really a good claim to make, since Buddhism isn't concerned with making sense.


Another tenet of Buddhism, that one is supposed to analyze every part of the religion and take what you agree with and leave what you don't. That almost determines that the religion has to make a lot of sense to any of its followers, as well it shows its concerned with making sense.

My point was that the only one that can directly compare is Zen Buddhism, and it just doesn't compare.


You just need to be more relaxed with the comparisons. You're overblowing the metaphysical aspect and ignoring the wealth of actual information, knowledge, and philosophy which is there. And even without the reincarnation aspect, the other parts are still filled with philosophy. You don't need to believe that the Dalai Lama is the reincarnation of the Buddha of Kindness to discuss his claims and his arguments, nor does he make his arguments on the basis of his position.

*


This whole post leads me to believe you and I don't share the same meaning of "religion" or "philosophy". When one compares Western Philosophy to Buddhism, one finds that Western Philosophy is, in fact, philosophy. Buddhism is a religion, with a completely different justification for being, and as such you can't pit the two against each other in an epic struggle for dominance. Those "ways you sit" aren't religious, though, they're just doctrinal. I'm considering something religious if its justification is mystical or supernatural, and something philosophical if its justification is secular, or reason-based. One can certainly address the Dalai Lama's claims from a philosophical perspective, but one can't discuss philosophically who the Dalai Lama is. My point is, Buddhism is a religion, and as such features mystical axioms which can't be debated philosophically. As much of the foundation for any Buddhist thought, most Buddhist thought can only be debated in a limited Philosophical sense, and even then, only a select few notions. If one tries to branch into much else, you're going to find a fundamental disagreement in the approaches that the Philosopher and the Buddhist are going to have.

Relaxing the comparisons isn't Philosophical. It's not even Buddhist, it's just a lay-notion that the technicalities or the intricacies of a situation are just extraneous, rather than integral to it. To discuss a doctrine of Buddhism while ignoring its metaphysical basis is not a discussion of the whole issue, which is required for a Philosophical discussion of said doctrine.

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Postby QuantumTroll » Mon Jul 23, 2007 8:28 pm UTC

Bondolon wrote:
QuantumTroll wrote:I have a question: How and why do you pick a branch of Buddhism?


I see no point in choosing one at all, as that pretty purposefully violates the middle path. Buddhism is a paradox, in which a long dead figure warns against religion and mythology, and a bunch of people decide they like what he has to say and make a religion out of it, complete with mythology.

Ok. Pretty much what I thought. Doesn't harm to learn from it what you can, though, just like I do/did with Christianity and everything else I read :)

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Postby Thematic-Device » Mon Jul 23, 2007 9:21 pm UTC

Bondolon wrote:This whole post leads me to believe you and I don't share the same meaning of "religion" or "philosophy". When one compares Western Philosophy to Buddhism, one finds that Western Philosophy is, in fact, philosophy. Buddhism is a religion, with a completely different justification for being, and as such you can't pit the two against each other in an epic struggle for dominance. Those "ways you sit" aren't religious, though, they're just doctrinal. I'm considering something religious if its justification is mystical or supernatural, and something philosophical if its justification is secular, or reason-based. One can certainly address the Dalai Lama's claims from a philosophical perspective, but one can't discuss philosophically who the Dalai Lama is. My point is, Buddhism is a religion, and as such features mystical axioms which can't be debated philosophically. As much of the foundation for any Buddhist thought, most Buddhist thought can only be debated in a limited Philosophical sense, and even then, only a select few notions. If one tries to branch into much else, you're going to find a fundamental disagreement in the approaches that the Philosopher and the Buddhist are going to have.

Relaxing the comparisons isn't Philosophical. It's not even Buddhist, it's just a lay-notion that the technicalities or the intricacies of a situation are just extraneous, rather than integral to it. To discuss a doctrine of Buddhism while ignoring its metaphysical basis is not a discussion of the whole issue, which is required for a Philosophical discussion of said doctrine.


The doctrine you point to in buddhism is irrelevant. One can still be a buddhist and not believe in reincarnation. The key beliefs in buddhism are the Eightfold Path, and the four noble truths. Reincarnation does not enter into these philosophical debates at all unless you intentionally inject it into them.

Reincarnation is extraneous to both of them. Even if nirvana can only be attained in a single lifetime then it still applies, and the various writings are still worthy. Further one still can compare the philosophies with each other.

And Zen Buddhism isn't mystical or supernatural? Sit in a single position just right, breathing exactly so, and you'll attain enlightenment strikes me as very supernatural. Your creating a distinction between the metaphysical in zen and the metaphysical in mahayana or theravada not based upon fact but based upon that you believe in zen more.

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Postby mango smoothie » Mon Jul 23, 2007 9:57 pm UTC

Oh God what have I created! I'm leaving this thread now before it makes my head implode...

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Postby Bondolon » Mon Jul 23, 2007 10:36 pm UTC

Thematic-Device wrote:
Bondolon wrote:This whole post leads me to believe you and I don't share the same meaning of "religion" or "philosophy". When one compares Western Philosophy to Buddhism, one finds that Western Philosophy is, in fact, philosophy. Buddhism is a religion, with a completely different justification for being, and as such you can't pit the two against each other in an epic struggle for dominance. Those "ways you sit" aren't religious, though, they're just doctrinal. I'm considering something religious if its justification is mystical or supernatural, and something philosophical if its justification is secular, or reason-based. One can certainly address the Dalai Lama's claims from a philosophical perspective, but one can't discuss philosophically who the Dalai Lama is. My point is, Buddhism is a religion, and as such features mystical axioms which can't be debated philosophically. As much of the foundation for any Buddhist thought, most Buddhist thought can only be debated in a limited Philosophical sense, and even then, only a select few notions. If one tries to branch into much else, you're going to find a fundamental disagreement in the approaches that the Philosopher and the Buddhist are going to have.

Relaxing the comparisons isn't Philosophical. It's not even Buddhist, it's just a lay-notion that the technicalities or the intricacies of a situation are just extraneous, rather than integral to it. To discuss a doctrine of Buddhism while ignoring its metaphysical basis is not a discussion of the whole issue, which is required for a Philosophical discussion of said doctrine.


The doctrine you point to in buddhism is irrelevant. One can still be a buddhist and not believe in reincarnation. The key beliefs in buddhism are the Eightfold Path, and the four noble truths. Reincarnation does not enter into these philosophical debates at all unless you intentionally inject it into them.

Reincarnation is extraneous to both of them. Even if nirvana can only be attained in a single lifetime then it still applies, and the various writings are still worthy. Further one still can compare the philosophies with each other.

And Zen Buddhism isn't mystical or supernatural? Sit in a single position just right, breathing exactly so, and you'll attain enlightenment strikes me as very supernatural. Your creating a distinction between the metaphysical in zen and the metaphysical in mahayana or theravada not based upon fact but based upon that you believe in zen more.


What about sitting in a certain position is supernatural? What about a certain way of breathing is supernatural? Nobody is claiming those things will bring about something non-natural, since satori is not a supernatural phenomenon, and those things are just practical (i.e. nobody claims they do something supernatural). If those things strike you as supernatural, you obviously don't know what supernatural means.

In any case, the eightfold path, the four noble truths, and the identity of the Buddha himself (in Mahayana) are highly suspect as religious (and not philosophical) doctrines. They can be secular, but Mahayana itself modified them to make sure that the immortality of the Buddha was taken into account. Theravada, also, premises itself on reincarnation. I know that you want to take it out, but if you do so for either Theravada or Mahayana, you are no longer talking about Theravada or Mahayana. It's in integral part of their doctrines. As a member of Mahayana, Zen doesn't escape this fact, save one thing: The fundamental doctrine of Zen Buddhism is meditation, which is not mystical. Therefore, one can take religious doctrines out of Zen and still be talking about Zen itself, rather than something different than Zen. If you take reincarnation out of Mahayana or Theravada, you are talking about something a lot like each of them, but you are no longer talking about them.

In any case, I don't "believe" in Zen more, it's just that Zen is the only one that doesn't (from a really, REALLY fundamental perspective) necessitate any of the traditional doctrines of Buddhism, almost all which are based on mystical premises. I'm not even saying that Zen is necessarily free of just, just that it's the only school of Buddhism that even has a chance of being purely philosophical, and most of the time it isn't. I'd accuse you, therefore, of failing to notice a distinction between the two based on your ignorance of the points I have already made, and a bias on your part to want to believe that Buddhism is a secular Philosophy instead of a religion. Again, you talk about irrelevance, but that means you are fundamentally altering the issue, since the "irrelevance" of that doctrine means that you are tailoring the religion to what you want it to be, rather than what it is.

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Postby Thematic-Device » Tue Jul 24, 2007 2:56 am UTC

Bondolon wrote:What about sitting in a certain position is supernatural? What about a certain way of breathing is supernatural? Nobody is claiming those things will bring about something non-natural, since satori is not a supernatural phenomenon, and those things are just practical (i.e. nobody claims they do something supernatural). If those things strike you as supernatural, you obviously don't know what supernatural means.


Its no different then crossing yourself. There is nothing, which is special about the lotus position, it doesn't make you think clearly, its simply a doctrinal method

In any case, the eightfold path, the four noble truths, and the identity of the Buddha himself (in Mahayana) are highly suspect as religious (and not philosophical) doctrines. They can be secular, but Mahayana itself modified them to make sure that the immortality of the Buddha was taken into account. Theravada, also, premises itself on reincarnation. I know that you want to take it out, but if you do so for either Theravada or Mahayana, you are no longer talking about Theravada or Mahayana. It's in integral part of their doctrines. As a member of Mahayana, Zen doesn't escape this fact, save one thing: The fundamental doctrine of Zen Buddhism is meditation, which is not mystical. Therefore, one can take religious doctrines out of Zen and still be talking about Zen itself, rather than something different than Zen. If you take reincarnation out of Mahayana or Theravada, you are talking about something a lot like each of them, but you are no longer talking about them.


Meditation in Zen is mystical. Sitting in a particular way will give you untold knowledge of the world. That is supernatural.

In any case, I don't "believe" in Zen more, it's just that Zen is the only one that doesn't (from a really, REALLY fundamental perspective) necessitate any of the traditional doctrines of Buddhism, almost all which are based on mystical premises. I'm not even saying that Zen is necessarily free of just, just that it's the only school of Buddhism that even has a chance of being purely philosophical, and most of the time it isn't. I'd accuse you, therefore, of failing to notice a distinction between the two based on your ignorance of the points I have already made, and a bias on your part to want to believe that Buddhism is a secular Philosophy instead of a religion. Again, you talk about irrelevance, but that means you are fundamentally altering the issue, since the "irrelevance" of that doctrine means that you are tailoring the religion to what you want it to be, rather than what it is.


You are fooling yourself and wrapping yourself up in terms and definitions and completely ignoring any possibility for actual discussion because you have determined that only zen can be discussed. Well I'll say this clearly and simply.

You are a fool to enter a thread discussing philosophy if your only intention is to argue that nothing should be discussed because you've defined it so in your own head.

You have decided that the two are incompatible, do you offer evidence? Create an argument? No, you simply decry that buddhists believe in reincarnation and cast out all of their knowledge as merely religious and not worth discussing. Multiple things can exist in parallel, and with theology and philosophy separated by a hairs breath its is ridiculous to suggest that you can't compare the two.

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Postby Bondolon » Tue Jul 24, 2007 3:08 am UTC

Thematic-Device wrote:
Bondolon wrote:What about sitting in a certain position is supernatural? What about a certain way of breathing is supernatural? Nobody is claiming those things will bring about something non-natural, since satori is not a supernatural phenomenon, and those things are just practical (i.e. nobody claims they do something supernatural). If those things strike you as supernatural, you obviously don't know what supernatural means.


Its no different then crossing yourself. There is nothing, which is special about the lotus position, it doesn't make you think clearly, its simply a doctrinal method

In any case, the eightfold path, the four noble truths, and the identity of the Buddha himself (in Mahayana) are highly suspect as religious (and not philosophical) doctrines. They can be secular, but Mahayana itself modified them to make sure that the immortality of the Buddha was taken into account. Theravada, also, premises itself on reincarnation. I know that you want to take it out, but if you do so for either Theravada or Mahayana, you are no longer talking about Theravada or Mahayana. It's in integral part of their doctrines. As a member of Mahayana, Zen doesn't escape this fact, save one thing: The fundamental doctrine of Zen Buddhism is meditation, which is not mystical. Therefore, one can take religious doctrines out of Zen and still be talking about Zen itself, rather than something different than Zen. If you take reincarnation out of Mahayana or Theravada, you are talking about something a lot like each of them, but you are no longer talking about them.


Meditation in Zen is mystical. Sitting in a particular way will give you untold knowledge of the world. That is supernatural.

In any case, I don't "believe" in Zen more, it's just that Zen is the only one that doesn't (from a really, REALLY fundamental perspective) necessitate any of the traditional doctrines of Buddhism, almost all which are based on mystical premises. I'm not even saying that Zen is necessarily free of just, just that it's the only school of Buddhism that even has a chance of being purely philosophical, and most of the time it isn't. I'd accuse you, therefore, of failing to notice a distinction between the two based on your ignorance of the points I have already made, and a bias on your part to want to believe that Buddhism is a secular Philosophy instead of a religion. Again, you talk about irrelevance, but that means you are fundamentally altering the issue, since the "irrelevance" of that doctrine means that you are tailoring the religion to what you want it to be, rather than what it is.


You are fooling yourself and wrapping yourself up in terms and definitions and completely ignoring any possibility for actual discussion because you have determined that only zen can be discussed. Well I'll say this clearly and simply.

You are a fool to enter a thread discussing philosophy if your only intention is to argue that nothing should be discussed because you've defined it so in your own head.


I am a Philosophy major. I have only defined it thusly in my own head because that's the way Philosophers define it. Your argument is meaningless and your points are neither non-trivial nor structured. You are misusing terms and ignoring my points. I am also a Buddhist. I refuse discussing my Buddhist beliefs against the methodologies of Western Philosophy because they judge them from a fundamentally problematic perspective. The "untold knowledge of the world" is in no way supernatural, as nothing in nature changes, only one's picture of the world. In satori, one finds nothingness. Satori is the realization of nothingness. Satori neither comes from a supernatural phenomenon nor a natural understanding of anything supernatural. Satori is a change in minds, and not in the world or anything about it, much less anything supernatural.

These two perspectives are askew of one another. They can't be rectified or pitted against each other in argument, as the argument would come out as a null. The OP proposed that Buddhism had something on Western Philosophy, when Buddhism isn't even remotely on the same path of development as Western Philosophy. It doesn't care about the same things, it doesn't hold the same premises. It's flat-out impossible to do that sort of comparison. Your words are empty, and your points aren't points at all. I'm out.

Cogita
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Postby Cogita » Tue Jul 24, 2007 4:42 pm UTC

It has been very entertaining to watch this debate devolve into roughly ad hominem attacks. It reminds me of two evenly matched fencers, swords flashing in brilliant parry and counter thrust until both are so tired they can barely lift their swords.
[/rant]

I don't think that Religion by its nature forbids its followers to think*. Rather I think that religion, as an entity itsself, posits certain truths as axioms upon which to build. Buddism has done better than other faiths, because primarly, it has fewer/less grand truths to accept.

*On the other hand, Religious Leaders are desperate for sheeple, since thinking followers are much more likely to question his authority.
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Azrael
CATS. CATS ARE NICE.
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Postby Azrael » Tue Jul 24, 2007 5:10 pm UTC

Vaniver wrote:
They are also thousands of years ahead of Western science.
Rofl. Do you mean science here, or philosophy?


I'm glad I checked to make sure my point wasn't already made, making my response redundant. But, with that knowledge:

Perhaps at one time eastern science was thousands of years ahead of western science. Perhaps.

But certainly not anymore. Now science is just ... science.

zenten
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Postby zenten » Tue Jul 24, 2007 6:52 pm UTC

Bondolon wrote:
Thematic-Device wrote:
Bondolon wrote:What about sitting in a certain position is supernatural? What about a certain way of breathing is supernatural? Nobody is claiming those things will bring about something non-natural, since satori is not a supernatural phenomenon, and those things are just practical (i.e. nobody claims they do something supernatural). If those things strike you as supernatural, you obviously don't know what supernatural means.


Its no different then crossing yourself. There is nothing, which is special about the lotus position, it doesn't make you think clearly, its simply a doctrinal method

In any case, the eightfold path, the four noble truths, and the identity of the Buddha himself (in Mahayana) are highly suspect as religious (and not philosophical) doctrines. They can be secular, but Mahayana itself modified them to make sure that the immortality of the Buddha was taken into account. Theravada, also, premises itself on reincarnation. I know that you want to take it out, but if you do so for either Theravada or Mahayana, you are no longer talking about Theravada or Mahayana. It's in integral part of their doctrines. As a member of Mahayana, Zen doesn't escape this fact, save one thing: The fundamental doctrine of Zen Buddhism is meditation, which is not mystical. Therefore, one can take religious doctrines out of Zen and still be talking about Zen itself, rather than something different than Zen. If you take reincarnation out of Mahayana or Theravada, you are talking about something a lot like each of them, but you are no longer talking about them.


Meditation in Zen is mystical. Sitting in a particular way will give you untold knowledge of the world. That is supernatural.

In any case, I don't "believe" in Zen more, it's just that Zen is the only one that doesn't (from a really, REALLY fundamental perspective) necessitate any of the traditional doctrines of Buddhism, almost all which are based on mystical premises. I'm not even saying that Zen is necessarily free of just, just that it's the only school of Buddhism that even has a chance of being purely philosophical, and most of the time it isn't. I'd accuse you, therefore, of failing to notice a distinction between the two based on your ignorance of the points I have already made, and a bias on your part to want to believe that Buddhism is a secular Philosophy instead of a religion. Again, you talk about irrelevance, but that means you are fundamentally altering the issue, since the "irrelevance" of that doctrine means that you are tailoring the religion to what you want it to be, rather than what it is.


You are fooling yourself and wrapping yourself up in terms and definitions and completely ignoring any possibility for actual discussion because you have determined that only zen can be discussed. Well I'll say this clearly and simply.

You are a fool to enter a thread discussing philosophy if your only intention is to argue that nothing should be discussed because you've defined it so in your own head.


I am a Philosophy major. I have only defined it thusly in my own head because that's the way Philosophers define it. Your argument is meaningless and your points are neither non-trivial nor structured. You are misusing terms and ignoring my points. I am also a Buddhist. I refuse discussing my Buddhist beliefs against the methodologies of Western Philosophy because they judge them from a fundamentally problematic perspective. The "untold knowledge of the world" is in no way supernatural, as nothing in nature changes, only one's picture of the world. In satori, one finds nothingness. Satori is the realization of nothingness. Satori neither comes from a supernatural phenomenon nor a natural understanding of anything supernatural. Satori is a change in minds, and not in the world or anything about it, much less anything supernatural.

These two perspectives are askew of one another. They can't be rectified or pitted against each other in argument, as the argument would come out as a null. The OP proposed that Buddhism had something on Western Philosophy, when Buddhism isn't even remotely on the same path of development as Western Philosophy. It doesn't care about the same things, it doesn't hold the same premises. It's flat-out impossible to do that sort of comparison. Your words are empty, and your points aren't points at all. I'm out.


So are you saying that any Buddhist that is like you, in that they practice a secular form of Buddhism, must be a Zen Buddhist? Or are you saying they are just creating their own unique form of Buddhism?


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