« Letting go of the 'blankie' | Main | Where's the essence? »

March 13, 2011


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

"I tend to look upon the West’s secularizing of Buddhism as a somewhat clandestine attempt [to] colonize Buddhism by putting in its place, over time, the ideology of secularism."

Ah, a conspiracy theory? "Paranoia runs deep, into your life it may creep." But perhaps this is just a Limbaugh-esque attempt at humor.

I think you're missing the point that Buddhism is value-adding onto secularism, and that secularism can't really change the Buddha's dhamma, and doesn't seek to change it, only to make it more visible to more people. The sorts of people who reject religious dogma in favor of a purely secular approach to life can recognize that the Buddha's insights and the Buddha's system add much that is missing from secular discussions, and that the two, in fact, combine quite neatly with no bending or twisting of the truth required. There just is no conspiracy to replace Buddhism with secularism. You are mistaking seekers seeking for usurpers usurping (which may tell us more about you than about those you are sniping at, a point I will make a bit later).

"...secular Buddhism pretty much sees itself as independent of important traditional Buddhist tenets such as karma and rebirth."

Again, you miss the point. Secular Buddhists may see themselves as "independent of tradition" but not of "Buddhist tenets such as karma and rebirth." I know there are SBs who are not comfortable with the use of the word "karma" because of the popular understanding of it as retributive ("Don't help those street kids, they did something awful in a past life and need to work out their karma.") but I have not met a single one who wants a Buddhism independent of an accurate understanding of what's being taught about morality and intention and consequences through the Buddha's discussions of karma and rebirth. Speaking for myself, I can say that I absolutely believe in karma and rebirth, in exactly -- and I do mean exactly -- the same way I believe in anatta, through direct experience, by transcending the mundane way of seeing things to gain insight into the very spirit of the teaching.

"Next, secular Buddhism’s own light and guidance, like that of secularism, comes from mundane truths (we could even say science)." That sounds like an insightful statement, but I am not getting any very precise meaning from it as written. Taken with your previous posts, though, perhaps you're saying that, in your limited view of Secular Buddhists' practice -- viewed from the outside of the practice since clearly you are not a Secular Buddhist -- SBs cannot possibly ever transcend mundane understanding, or experience what is beyond anatta, because... what? Because they talk about things in everyday terms? Because you feel they don't look for exactly what you are looking for -- that transcendent self that was the Brahminical focus that you seem to be saying the Buddha preached by not denying? The reason Secular Buddhists don't seek that transcendent self is because they are working hard to follow what the Buddha actually taught -- that any clinging to self is a mistake -- they are aiming to be Buddhists all the way through, not simply dress up some variant on a Vedic world view with the improvements of insights and systems the Buddha introduced, and say that's what the Buddha really meant.

It really is ironic that you make so much noise about one group distorting the Buddha's teaching and conspiring to replace his dhamma with something else, since, on the surface of it, that would seem to be your intention, to try to convince people that the Buddha taught that there *is* a self, after all, but a transcendent one, rather than that he taught that -- in whatever way we conceive of the self -- we need to just let go of the conception, because it is that conceiving that is at the root of our problems. It's as if all the shouting at Secular Buddhism you do is designed to convince people that you would *never* distort the Buddha's teaching, you would *never* try to replace what he taught with your personal improvement on it -- of course not, that's evident by seeing how strongly you object when others do this -- so obviously it's not what *you* are doing. . . right? Do you really think no one will notice that it is exactly what you are doing? Taking 90% of what the Buddha taught, preaching it very very well, and then just replacing the last 10% with the Vedic belief in a transcendent self? Well, I guess if people are fooled, it's just their karma, isn't it?

"Whatever secular Buddhists wish to make of the importance of secularism, the scope of traditional Buddhism goes far beyond whatever benefits secularism claims to offer."

With the removal of the word "traditional" this is my point exactly, as made above. And I would make a further point that, because what the Buddha taught was not woo-woo mysticism but a way to get beyond conventional thinking through practice grounded in experience, it supports a secular life without either the Buddha's dhamma or Secularism having to bend even one bit.

And what is clinging to "traditional" other than clinging to views? Shouldn't one do as the Buddha suggested in the Kalama sutta and see for oneself, and balance potential self-delusion by contact with the wise? And I note he didn't define "the wise" there as "only those who preach what they say is my dhamma". He was building a double-check system that would help prevent both kinds of delusion: that fostered by those who say they teach the dhamma but aren't (whether far off or just slightly off), and delusional views built on what one sees in meditation which can also be misinterpreted as something otherworldly (simply because it is outside the normal frame of reference, and we still *want* to cling to the self, and that clinging is very hard to eradicate).

Finally, though, it's nice to see you supporting one of the secular tenets ("secular Buddhism is based on knowledge that can be obtained in this life which is capable of being tested by experience") with your advancement of "...that [which] can be attained in this lifetime....and inwardly verifiable" as a good thing. And, really, if you stop there, with an experience of the transcendent in this life time, and no building up views about that transcendent being "self" or what it might mean after death, then you, too, are a Secular Buddhist.

The comments to this entry are closed.

My Photo