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Thread: Buddhism and Belief

  1. #1

    Buddhism and Belief

    Hello fellow Treeleafers!

    Lately, especially since taking Jukai with you all not so very long ago, I've been feeling the urge to expand my book learning about Buddhism, and to become more familiar with its different, non-Zen, flavors. I've been sitting for a couple of years now, and most of what I know about Buddhism come strictly from my butt on a Zafu in the Japanese Zen context. I've been doing some reading, popping into local Buddhist temples here in Vietnam (though I confess I still don't really know what's going on; I just light incense and bow alot) and participating in a few other online forums, mostly "general buddhism" in flavor. One thing that I've been rather shocked by is how many people have been telling me that I'm not a "real Buddhist" because I don't have unquestioning belief in the literal factual historicity of what I call the "Hindu stuff:" things like reincarnation, rebirth into the heavenly realms of the Devas, etc. Nor do I believe in the literal factual historicity of the "Buddhist superpower" stuff, where Buddha flies around and people are instantly enlightened because the Buddha looks at them funny.

    My arrogant secular Western American egotistic mindset is, apparently, destroying "real Buddhism" and replacing it with evil deluded perversions. This doesn't bother me so much; I grew up in fundamentalist conservative Christian country, and I'm used to that kind of thing. But I was nonetheless quite surprised. The reason I became interested in Buddhism in the first place is that it was always presented as a way of life, in which the practice of ethics and self liberation etc was always more important than a checklist of weird metaphysics in which you are required to literally believe. My experience in the world of Zen has certainly been along those lines. Is that not the norm in World Buddhism? Here in Vietnam, nobody seems to much care one way or the other how you conceptualize the world, as long as you're friendly. I know that Japanese Zen has always kind of been off in a corner by itself, but are we really so different from the rest of the Buddhists? Is insistence on a checklist of beliefs the norm in non-Zen Buddhism?

    Disclaimer: this post is not meant to disrespect or belittle those people who DO believe in the literal factual reality of rebirth, heavenly Deva realms, etc. I don't claim to DIS-believe those things either. I'm quite open to the possibility, actually. I simply cannot verify the reality those things for myself, and while I find the stories useful, I do not find literal belief in them necessary for the practice of the Dharma, nor do I see how insistence that everyone MUST believe in them as such is useful to the practice of the Dharma. In fact, such insistence seems actively counterproductive. On the other hand I do recognize that for some people the literal belief is useful for their practice of the Dharma, and I completely respect that.

    Gassho,
    Kyoshin
    Sat/lah

  2. #2
    The reason I became interested in Buddhism in the first place is that it was always presented as a way of life, in which the practice of ethics and self liberation etc was always more important than a checklist of weird metaphysics in which you are required to literally believe. My experience in the world of Zen has certainly been along those lines. Is that not the norm in World Buddhism?
    No, that is not the "norm" in much of Asia, nor for more traditional folks among Western Buddhists. Master Dogen professed a very literal belief in Karma and future lives in many of his writings. Buddhism, including Japanese Zen, is a religion for most folks, not unlike most other world religions, with Buddha as God, miracles, and various fantastic beliefs to take on faith. The turn away from some things (like a belief in literal, post-mortem rebirth) is pretty much a trend of the last century or so, known as "Buddhist modernism." Some are critical of this (as you have discovered in your interactions with the fundamentalists), but i happen to feel it is a good thing to do away with various fantastic beliefs.

    Does it make it impossible to be a Buddhist? Not at all. First, literal rebirth was never so important in Zen (including for Dogen) because of the emphasis on liberation right in this life and world. Second, it is still possible to preserve rebirth in some guise, such as as an allegory. (i am agnostic on rebirth, but often say that it is not important to me, because i am most concerned with the "hells" that people create for themselves in this life).

    Just today, i heard an interesting interview with a philosopher who say that "rebirth" was and is "real" as an ethical lesson more than as a metaphysical truth (in other words, the real meaning is about not doing bad things, not about actual future lives).

    http://readingreligion.org/books/reb...nd-stream-life

    So, fear not. You are a "good Buddhist" ... when you do good, and avoid doing bad.

    Gassho, J

    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-05-2019 at 10:31 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  3. #3
    PS - A book you may be interested in at some point if interested in the history of Buddhist modernism. Again, some people consider it a terrible development and deviation, and others (like me) consider it just the latest turn in the long history of Buddhist developments.

    https://www.oxfordscholarship.com/vi...-9780195183276

    The Making of Buddhist Modernism
    David L. McMahan

    ABSTRACT
    This book elucidates the complex cross-cultural genealogy of themes, ideas, and practices crucial to the creation of a new hybrid form of Buddhism that has emerged within the last 150 years. Buddhism modernism is not just Buddhism that happens to exist in the modern world but a distinct form of Buddhism constituted by cross-fertilization with western ideas and practices. Using primarily examples that have shaped western articulations of Buddhism, the book shows how modern representations of Buddhism have not only changed the way the tradition is understood, but have also generated new forms of demythologized, detraditionalized, and deinstitutionalized Buddhism. The book creates a lineage of Buddhist modernism that includes liberal borrowing from scientific vocabulary in reformulations of Buddhist concepts of causality, interdependence, and meditation. It also draws upon Romantic and Transcendentalist conceptions of cosmology, creativity, spontaneity, and the interior depths of the human being. Additionally, Buddhist modernism reconfigures Buddhism as a kind of psychology or interior science, drawing both upon analytic psychology and current trends in neurobiology. In its novel approaches to meditation and mindfulness, as well as political activism, it draws heavily from western individualism, distinctively modern modes of world-affirmation, liberal political sensibilities, and modernist literary sources. The book also examines this uniquely modern Buddhism as it moves into postmodern iterations and enters the currents of global communication, media, and commerce.
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-05-2019 at 12:25 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    What you dont believe everything word for word out these 1000 or so books?!? OMB you will be reborn as a dog!

    Is that round about what your heard?

    I heard a buddhist teacher once say "your beliefs are irrelavant, the truth with unfold without your belief in it" or something like that.

    Just keep sitting



    Washu

    Sat today

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-J727AZ using Tapatalk
    --Washu
    和 Harmony
    秀 Excellence

    "Trying to be happy by accumulating possessions is like trying to satisfy hunger by taping sandwiches all over your body" George Carlin Roshi

  5. #5
    Call me crazy but I've just never understood why, for some people, enforcing assent to a list of metaphysical beliefs about a teacher, like the Buddha or Jesus, is a higher priority than putting their teachings into practice.

    Thanks for the resources, Jundo! The infinite reading continues to grow.

    Gassho,
    Kyōshin
    Sat/lah

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by threethirty View Post
    What you dont believe everything word for word out these 1000 or so books?!? OMB you will be reborn as a dog!

    Is that round about what your heard?

    I heard a buddhist teacher once say "your beliefs are irrelavant, the truth with unfold without your belief in it" or something like that.

    Just keep sitting



    Washu

    Sat today

    Sent from my SAMSUNG-SM-J727AZ using Tapatalk
    That's more or less what I heard. Basically, you could live your whole life according to the Buddha's teachings, following all the precepts to complete perfection, but it counts for nothing if you're not 100% certain you'll be chilling with Vishnu in your next life.

    Gassho
    Kyōshin
    Sat/lah

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk

  7. #7
    Great topic Kyoshin

    I come from a family with very strong Baptist roots. I married into a family of Catholics (although my wife is not a practicing Catholic any more). The one exception was my father who kept a very open mind about religion and it was actually through the books on his shelves that I learned the basics of a Buddhism. I say all this because in my mind I’ve been mentally preparing for a discussion or argument which never seems to come. “Why do I believe in all that Buddhist stuff?” “Why do I believe in Buddha?” As if Buddha equals The Christian God.

    The truth is I don’t really consider Buddhism a religion. I like what you said about it being a way of life and set of ethics. I purposely avoid the “ist” and “ism” of the Buddha and used the word “practice “ instead.

    More I practice the more I become comfortable in my own skin on the topic and I’ve really just boiled it all down to
    1. Sit Zazen daily
    2. Follow the Precepts to the best of my abiliity
    3. Chop wood and carry water


    Religion is a tricky topic. I have no interest in arguing this or that with others. I guess that is why I am here. At Treeleaf I find we are encouraged to drop the philosophizing and just sit with what is.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah
    泰林 - Tai Rin - Peaceful Woods

  8. #8
    I like this topic. it is very in tune with something I've been wrestling with for a while.

    I come from a strict Christian/Catholic family, but I never fit in well with Christianity or Catholicism. I finally left the church a while back. I left because of Buddhism (my choice), but also because I had converted (very quietly) to Judaism, on my own. This is actually a trend in Judaism, of Jews who also practice Buddhism, but it's complicated. I digress.

    Anyway -- it's still a dilemma for me, as I was welcomed (mostly) wholeheartedly into Judaism, yet Judaism is also like all other religions -- it has its quirks, politics, sectarianism and requirements. I love Judaism and I do attend Shul (online and sometimes in-person, health depending) fairly regularly.

    Yet ..... I feel most at home and myself at TreeLeaf, with Zen Buddhism. Why ...... TreeLeaf's mission, purpose and practice, and the mismatch I experience in my daily life (expectations, labels, categories) -- as someone who does not fit most of society's standard labels or expectations -- I find peace, equanimity, and refuge here.

    I come, sit, silent, read, reflect, exist, respect, learn. Occasionally I write.

    What/who I am, look like, ability, etc. -- all irrelevant.

    Essentially (for me), physical existence becomes irrelevant. At TreeLeaf, in a way, "I" am consciousness. I deeply appreciate this opportunity.

    I hope that made sense -- language is somewhat limiting with a topic like this.

    gassho
    kim
    st lh

  9. #9
    Hi Kyoshin!

    Very interesting topic! I personally sit somewhere in the middle of it all. I would say agnostic toward rebirth but I probably lean a little more toward belief in all honesty, at least in the sense that each moment is a rebirth of sorts, and who is to say what happens after death? Just another moment. As far as the miraculous events we find in the sutras, I lean more toward the secular side of things!

    It has been my experience, and what many of my teacher have taught, that those miraculous events serve a couple of purposes. They help make the stories much more memorable and they point out that something very important is happening, even if the miraculous events themselves are not true.

    I often think of the Birth story of the Buddha. Did he really walk and speak right after being born? Probably not, but it certainly helps to mark the importance of the event!

    I think it is of note that Buddhism (like most religions) began as an oral tradition, and we have a much easier time remembering the fantastic than we do the banal!

    One of the reasons why I became so drawn to Zen was because it allows us to explore all of that, while at the same time reminding us that what really matters, what is truly "real" is the present moment and that we can experience that fully by "just sitting"!

    Gassho,

    Junkyo
    SAT

    Sent from my SM-G955W using Tapatalk

  10. #10
    If anyone hasn’t seen it, after Shokai’s talk during the Zazenkai the other day, we discussed this subject a little bit. It’s in the Zazenkai netcast section if anyone wants to give it a listen!

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Tairin View Post
    Great topic Kyoshin

    The truth is I don’t really consider Buddhism a religion. I like what you said about it being a way of life and set of ethics. I purposely avoid the “ist” and “ism” of the Buddha and used the word “practice “ instead.

    More I practice the more I become comfortable in my own skin on the topic and I’ve really just boiled it all down to
    1. Sit Zazen daily
    2. Follow the Precepts to the best of my abiliity
    3. Chop wood and carry water


    Religion is a tricky topic. I have no interest in arguing this or that with others. I guess that is why I am here. At Treeleaf I find we are encouraged to drop the philosophizing and just sit with what is.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah


    Gassho,
    Jack
    Sattoday/lah

  12. #12
    So many excellent comments. You people are fantastic.
    Gassho
    Kyōshin
    Satlah

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Jakuden View Post
    If anyone hasn’t seen it, after Shokai’s talk during the Zazenkai the other day, we discussed this subject a little bit. It’s in the Zazenkai netcast section if anyone wants to give it a listen!

    Gassho,
    Jakuden
    SatToday/LAH
    Thank you, Jakuden. I was not able to yet. I will try to.

    I'm trying to figure out extended activities in a constantly changing and moving household.

    Gassho
    Kim
    St lh

    Sent from my SM-G930U using Tapatalk

  14. #14
    Xin Xin Ming:

    "The Great Way is not difficult
    for those not attached to preferences.
    When not attached to love or hate,
    all is clear and undisguised.
    Separate by the smallest amount, however,
    and you are as far from it as heaven is from earth.

    If you wish to know the truth,
    then hold to no opinions for or against anything.
    To set up what you like against what you dislike
    is the disease of the mind."
    .
    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by allwhowander View Post
    Thank you, Jakuden. I was not able to yet. I will try to.

    I'm trying to figure out extended activities in a constantly changing and moving household.

    Gassho
    Kim
    St lh

    Sent from my SM-G930U using Tapatalk
    My household is also constantly changing and moving. I try and sit the Zazenkai in instalments throughout the week before everyone else gets up. Although recently an early waking child has made this a bit difficult this week.

    Oh and you mentioned an online shul in a previous post, is that PunkTorah or somebody else?

    Gassho,

    Neil

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by EnlistedHipster View Post
    My household is also constantly changing and moving. I try and sit the Zazenkai in instalments throughout the week before everyone else gets up. Although recently an early waking child has made this a bit difficult this week.

    Oh and you mentioned an online shul in a previous post, is that PunkTorah or somebody else?

    Gassho,

    Neil

    With Sim Shalom and Central Synagogue NY.

    Gassho
    Kim
    St lh
    Last edited by allwhowander; 05-09-2019 at 12:59 AM.

  17. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Tairin View Post
    Great topic Kyoshin

    I come from a family with very strong Baptist roots. I married into a family of Catholics (although my wife is not a practicing Catholic any more). The one exception was my father who kept a very open mind about religion and it was actually through the books on his shelves that I learned the basics of a Buddhism. I say all this because in my mind I’ve been mentally preparing for a discussion or argument which never seems to come. “Why do I believe in all that Buddhist stuff?” “Why do I believe in Buddha?” As if Buddha equals The Christian God.

    The truth is I don’t really consider Buddhism a religion. I like what you said about it being a way of life and set of ethics. I purposely avoid the “ist” and “ism” of the Buddha and used the word “practice “ instead.

    More I practice the more I become comfortable in my own skin on the topic and I’ve really just boiled it all down to
    1. Sit Zazen daily
    2. Follow the Precepts to the best of my abiliity
    3. Chop wood and carry water


    Religion is a tricky topic. I have no interest in arguing this or that with others. I guess that is why I am here. At Treeleaf I find we are encouraged to drop the philosophizing and just sit with what is.


    Tairin
    Sat today and lah

    Tarin,

    Your experiences and perspective resonates very well with me. It parallels my life. Personally I have developed an aversion to the words “belief” and “believe” (and religions) not judgmental of others who use those terms to describe their spiritual self (my wife is a wise and open minded practicing Orthodox Christian with beliefs). I make a consciousness effort to never use them. My self dialogue is always what I think I know and what I don't know with the latter the dominant state.

    Gassho
    Doshin
    Stlah

  18. #18
    I don’t believe in anything. But I’ve been doing this for 30 years...

    Gassho,

    Kirk

    Sat
    I know nothing.

  19. #19
    Member Getchi's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Location
    Between Sea and Sky, Australia.
    If it helps, my first teacher fled from Burma (Myanmar) and was a respected teacher in the "Forest Tradition" of Nth.Thai. He always told me htere is nothing except having faith in Buddhas good works, and my own practicing of samadhi, sila and prajna as one movement and no seperation between what I think im thinking and whats actually being thought by my own mind. Bit confusing, but over the years ive met ppl who believe absolutly the buddhist hells and spirits exist, and those who see no reason to spend time worrying over appearance/non-appearance of the supermundane.

    All i know is that Jundo allowed me to see that cats and cows exist, even though devas and devils were what I originally thought id find. Eventually, the same path offers itself to you again, at that point ask yourself the question again, and listen to what is behind that voice?


    TLDR; since ther eis no limit to our imagination except for thinking of things that never existed even in our mind, then we should remember that "belief" is inherited from someone else, usuallu someone we love very much, and maybe focus more on the physical aspect of grinding-bones Zen. Maybe try looking into PureLand belief first, see how big that field is!


    Good Luck.

    Gassho,
    Geoff.

    SatToday
    LaH.
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

  20. #20
    I’ve found that what I understand is more important than what I believe. I’ve also found that cultivating helpful beliefs and discarding unhelpful beliefs as they are revealed to you is a much more practical approach than obsessing over what is objectively true and ultimately unprovable.

    Buddhism is for everybody. Everyone is invited to listen to the Dharma and find use for it. All kinds of people who believe all kinds of things.

    Gassho

    Say Today
    Last edited by Byrne; 05-16-2019 at 01:47 AM.

  21. #21

    Thank you all.

    Gassho
    SatToday
    流道
    Ryū Dou

  22. #22
    Quote Originally Posted by Byrne View Post
    I’ve found that what I understand is more important than what I believe. I’ve also found that cultivating helpful beliefs and discarding unhelpful beliefs as they are revealed to you is a much more practical approach than obsessing over what is objectively true and ultimately unprovable.
    I think that's pretty typical of Westerners, and is certainly typical of me. However, I'm beginning to flirt with the idea that there's a difference between belief and faith. I think that belief is a mental experience, whereas faith involves something deeper - an amount of trust. When Jundo says we should sit with the knowledge that there is no other place to be, nothing else to do, that shikantaza is a complete act - that goes beyond belief. There's a trust that needs to be present. To me, that's faith. I don't just believe in the process, I trust it.

    Shinshou (Dan)
    Sat Today

  23. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by Shinshou View Post
    I think that's pretty typical of Westerners, and is certainly typical of me. However, I'm beginning to flirt with the idea that there's a difference between belief and faith. I think that belief is a mental experience, whereas faith involves something deeper - an amount of trust. When Jundo says we should sit with the knowledge that there is no other place to be, nothing else to do, that shikantaza is a complete act - that goes beyond belief. There's a trust that needs to be present. To me, that's faith. I don't just believe in the process, I trust it.

    Shinshou (Dan)
    Sat Today
    I'm inclined to agree with that view. I've heard the word entrust sometimes used as a synonym for faith. Not the same thing as blind faith, which many people assume the word faith means. Westerners have cultivated quite an obnoxious tradition of reading religious texts as if they were legal documents. I don't think that's necessarily a great approach to approaching spiritual matters which are meant to transcend temporal limitations. But spirituality has a way of moving through time, place, language, and culture in so many unexpected ways. We have to respect and acknowledge that as we approach our own doubts and understandings concerning our own practice.

    Gassho

    Sat Today
    Last edited by Byrne; 05-22-2019 at 08:05 PM.

  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by Byrne View Post
    I'm inclined to agree with that view. I've heard the word entrust sometimes used as a synonym for faith. Not the same thing as blind faith, which many people assume the word faith means. Westerners have cultivated quite an obnoxious tradition of reading religious texts as if they were legal documents. I don't think that's necessarily a great approach to approaching spiritual matters which are meant to transcend temporal limitations. But spirituality has a way of moving through time, place, language, and culture in so many unexpected ways. We have to respect and acknowledge that as we approach our own doubts and understandings concerning our own practice.

    Gassho

    Sat Today
    But we should also recognize our history, and not discount scholarship. There is nothing about knowing the complete story of how our texts developed that robs them of their richness.

    For example, in answer to some Buddhist folks on facebook who said my proposal to sometimes call the Buddha "She" or "They" is "changing the facts" and that one should not "change the Buddha," I wrote the following.


    The image and story of the Buddha has been "tweeked" numerous times, from day one. An excellent excellent book that I can recommend to you is "The Concept of the Buddha: Its Evolution from Early Buddhism to the Trikaya Theory." (http://dl4a.org/uploads/pdf/The%20co...e%20Buddha.pdf) Without a constant tweeking of the story of the Buddha, there would be no Mahayana Buddhism. That said, nothing about the possibility of also referring to Buddha as sometimes "She" or "They" discounts the thorough possibility of the "He." That can be 100% true too. Zen folks know how to think and feel about Buddha more ways than one, and we are more than "one track mind" people.
    The Buddha, in a nutshell, became ever more idealized and fantastic in the descriptions his "His" aspects, then became two then three bodies of Buddha, with details of his birth and origin story added and expanded over time.

    To know that the biography of the Buddha was created over time, embellished by religious authors and elaborated, does not take away in my heart from the teachings and symbolism contained in that story, and the wisdom and compassion it seeks to express.

    Gassho, J
    ST Lah
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-22-2019 at 08:34 PM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    But we should also recognize our history, and not discount scholarship. There is nothing about knowing the complete story of how our texts developed that robs them of their richness.
    Thank you, Jundo. As someone within the academic world, the scholar study of Buddhism is important to me. Indeed, my first contact with Buddhism and Zen was through a History of Philosophy book from David Cooper (“World Philosophies”), a book that I still use in my classes today.
    And I also think that this study only enriches our comprehension and practice instead of disenchant it.
    Gassho,
    Mateus
    Sat/LAH

  26. #26
    Member bayamo's Avatar
    Join Date
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    Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil
    Quote Originally Posted by allwhowander View Post
    .... but also because I had converted (very quietly) to Judaism, on my own. This is actually a trend in Judaism, of Jews who also practice Buddhism, but it's complicated. I digress.

    gassho
    kim
    st lh
    I actually worked with three people who fall into this category back when I lived in the States, each one practicing the respective faiths to varying degrees.
    #sattoday
    Oh, yeah. If I didn't have inner peace, I'd go completely psycho on all you guys all the time.
    Carl Carlson

  27. #27
    Well, seems I am an oddity around here, because I BELIEVE.

    Okay, I do not exactly expect that when I praise Kannon that he/she will nod all her 11 heads or wave any of her 1000 arms in my way ... but I truly and sincerely believe that I am very far away from a point where I can actually *understand* things, so believing is all I have got.

    Why has believing more relevance to me than understanding?
    The way I understand (ouch, no pun intended ... better: 'how I think I understand') the working of the five skandhas, there is no way for anyone (at least not Buddhism noobs like me) to get straight from pure perception to understanding ... everytime there are discriminations and mental formations involved. Thus I can never be sure how much of what I think I "understand" I actually just conceptualize based on my already existing understanding of the world. So I can never be certain that my understanding of the world is really based on objective facts. In the end I have to chose what I take for facts and what I attribute to wishful thinking. That choice is what one might call "belief". So yes I am truly a believer, not an understander ... I guess.


    Gassho
    Gero (sat & lah)

  28. #28
    Member Koki's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2017
    Location
    Parma Ohio (just outside Cleveland)
    Very good discussion thread! Thank you for sharing!

  29. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Gero View Post
    The way I understand (ouch, no pun intended ... better: 'how I think I understand') the working of the five skandhas, there is no way for anyone (at least not Buddhism noobs like me) to get straight from pure perception to understanding ... everytime there are discriminations and mental formations involved. Thus I can never be sure how much of what I think I "understand" I actually just conceptualize based on my already existing understanding of the world. So I can never be certain that my understanding of the world is really based on objective facts. In the end I have to chose what I take for facts and what I attribute to wishful thinking. That choice is what one might call "belief". So yes I am truly a believer, not an understander ... I guess.
    This is a "proof is in the pudding" Practice, in which we trust until we taste for oneself.

    However, it can also be easy to miss because right in front of our eyes all along. It is sometimes said that it is like the eye looking for the eye, or maybe looking for the eye glasses perched right on our nose.

    I am reminded of a joke somewhere about a man who is born and, all his life, he is looking for life. He is a teenager, then married with kids, all the ups and down, then old. On his death bed, he is still looking ... all his life. Looking for "Buddha" or "Kannon" is much like that.

    For me, "Kannon" is alive every time our human hands and eyes become two of her hands and eyes and act with compassion.

    XVII - Whattsa Who'sa Bodhisattva? - Avalokiteshvara (Kannon)
    http://www.treeleaf.org/sit-a-long/w...ra-kannon.html

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  30. #30
    It's very important to me, for whatever reason, to treat Buddhism as a non-religious secular practice. Our leaders are "teachers" and not "priests" (sorry). We have "sanghas" and not "congregations". There is "practice" and not "liturgy". I know it's all just semantics that don't really matter when you know what is truly being talked about, but these are terms that have very specific meanings in general society. Most of the people I have ever known, who would benefit the most from Buddhist practice, would never show a single sign of interest if they thought it was definitely, beyond any doubt, a religion.

    A religion has very specific characteristics: belief in supernatural beings, rules which must be followed unquestioningly, punishments for going against those rules, and rituals which must be performed to appease or communicate with supernatural beings. A more nuanced and open definition of religion is, frankly, not what anyone I've ever met would think of first. It is simply unhelpful to associate Buddhism with these things.

    I also don't think "belief" and "faith" are very useful words in Buddhist practice. My definition of "dharma" has changed over time from being "wisdom" to the more literal translation of "law". It feels like gravity: something that's happening whether we believe in it or not, whether we understand it or not. It's not something I think you can have "faith" or "belief" in. Maybe I'm wrong here though, am I just being dogmatic?

    I truly and sincerely believe that I am very far away from a point where I can actually *understand* things, so believing is all I have got.
    This is a very healthy perspective, and the only way I could ever understand Buddhism as a "faith" or "belief".

    For me, "Kannon" is alive every time our human hands and eyes become two of her hands and eyes and act with compassion.
    This is so, so much cooler than believing Kannon's just some magical thousand-limbed god up in the sky, don't you think?


    Gassho,
    Kenny
    Sat Today

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Kenny View Post
    It's very important to me, for whatever reason, to treat Buddhism as a non-religious secular practice. Our leaders are "teachers" and not "priests" (sorry). We have "sanghas" and not "congregations". There is "practice" and not "liturgy". I know it's all just semantics that don't really matter when you know what is truly being talked about, but these are terms that have very specific meanings in general society. Most of the people I have ever known, who would benefit the most from Buddhist practice, would never show a single sign of interest if they thought it was definitely, beyond any doubt, a religion.
    As my father from the Bronx used to say, " Call me anything ya want, but don't call me later for dinner!" :-)

    Nishijima used to waver between calling Buddhism a "philosophy" or "religion," and finally decided it did not matter much. He defined anything (even communism or atheism) as " religion," which he definded generally as any belief system that informs who you think we are in the universe, which belief system you then proceed to act from.

    A religion has very specific characteristics: belief in supernatural beings, rules which must be followed unquestioningly, punishments for going against those rules, and rituals which must be performed to appease or communicate with supernatural beings. A more nuanced and open definition of religion is, frankly, not what anyone I've ever met would think of first. It is simply unhelpful to associate Buddhism with these things.
    Basically this is me too. However, i do say that Zen practice does provide some not always obvious insights into our relationship to the rest of reality (spoiler alert: not two), and keeps an open mind that there may be aspects of reality that, as Hamlet said, we have not yet "dreamt of in our philosophy, Horatio" However, i am pretty skeptical of most wild claims that seem to defy the evidence and laws of physics. Now, i will note that even atheists have come to appreciate the value of some rituals, songs and ceremonies, and that everyone loves a wedding or graduation, although i do not do them to appease any spirits except those in my own heart.

    Gassho, Jundo

    SatTodayLAH
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  32. #32
    No matter who you are you believe things that aren’t true. Maybe some will be revealed to you and others you’ll take to your grave.

    Recently I’ve been listening to a series of lectures on the history of Christianity in the US by an evangelical scholar. One might assume that his faith would create a problematic bias, but in many ways it has been the opposite. Since he so fervently believes in the inherent value and truth in Christianity in a deeply personal way he is actually quite transparent about the information he presents. Including things that may call his own faith into question. Since he is sincere he is willing to personally confront his own bias and openly present information that others may interpret quite differently. I admire that even if I may not agree with some of his conclusions. One of my favorite things about Treeleaf is how Jundo presents the history of Buddhism in a similar way.

    On the other side of “faith” there is doubt. When we sit zazen we won’t benefit very much unless our doubts concerning the practice are settled. Without honestly confronting our doubts in some shape or form we fall into the trap of blind faith. Without doubts to mill through I’m not certain anyone can truly have “faith” (or deep entrusting) in anything. We uncover our doubts within ourselves and with the help of teachers we can settle them. Without confronting doubts I don’t think any sort of “faith” can be helpful.

    The incredible diversity that is Buddhism is equally accessible to the superstitious and the scientific mind. Whether we identify as a secularist or a spiritualist or even a Buddhist is unimportant IMHO. Our perceived identity is not what the Buddharma is meant to enhance. If anything Buddhism teaches us a way to liberate ourselves from the suffering that comes with those temporary identities.

    People of the future will most likely look back at us and think we were pretty naive. Bless our first world scientific rational hearts. At least we can always return our focus to the breath when distracting thoughts become a problem.

    Gassho

    Sat Today

  33. #33
    I’ve been trying not to get involved in this discussion, as I professionally studied Philosophy and many of this questions are the same that philosophers of religion (not to be confused with theologians), political philosophers and epistemologists have been debating for more than two and a half thousand years. But I decided to give a little contribution here.

    So I can never be certain that my understanding of the world is really based on objective facts. In the end I have to chose what I take for facts and what I attribute to wishful thinking. That choice is what one might call "belief".
    I think this is basically the consensus in the philosophical study of knowledge today. With the little observation that knowledge/understanding is not really opposed to belief. It is indeed a kind of belief, a belief that is founded and justified rationally (like Mathematics) or empirically (like Biology) or both (like Physics). Depending on how one defines belief, it really is impossible not to have them, unless one completely stops thinking in terms of true and false. It’s what the Greek skeptics did: to live only by appearances and giving up all pursue of knowledge and truth.

    A religion has very specific characteristics: belief in supernatural beings, rules which must be followed unquestioningly, punishments for going against those rules, and rituals which must be performed to appease or communicate with supernatural beings. A more nuanced and open definition of religion is, frankly, not what anyone I've ever met would think of first. It is simply unhelpful to associate Buddhism with these things.
    I understand your point here and I know it’s a predominant view in the West, for both “believers” and atheists, but I think this is a very western-centric definition of religion that many western philosophers themselves nowadays reject. It basically defines religion using Christianity as the paradigm of a religion and judging every other system of beliefs and practices in terms of proximity to Christianity.

    Even hardcore western philosophers like Rousseau viewed patriotism as a religion, a civic religion in this case (not a supernatural one). Even some catholic theologians speak of natural religion as basic systems of belief and practice that are not dependent on supernatural revelation. And I know philosophers of law, like John Gardner, who view faith as a basic requirement for the very existence of a legal system.

    I think it’s very reductionist to think of religion only in terms of supernatural. I prefer Nishijima Roshi’s definition of religion. At least for me, Soto Zen Buddhism is my religion, even if I don’t believe in supernatural beings: it is a system of beliefs (based on experience, reason and also faith) that serve as a basis for a practice (that in itself suports the belief system).

    Indeed, even when I was a Christian, I understood God, Christ and Heaven as metaphors, not literal supernatural beings. Eternal life, for exemple, I used to saw (and continue to do so even now) as a metaphor for living in the present. My inspiration for this was this quote by Wittgenstein:

    If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present.
    Wittgenstein (Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus)
    I think Byrne is right:

    On the other side of “faith” there is doubt.
    The difference between knowledge and faith, both different kinds of beliefs, is that faith requires doubt while knowledge is incompatible with doubt. Faith is like a bet, if we know something is true, than there is no space for faith. It doesn’t require anything supernatural.

    I hope the Sangha doesn’t take these remarks as pedantic arrogance. Believe me, it is not. I just am very timid in person and the online nature of our discussions here give me a space to express my views. Of course, they are only views and in no way I expect to be true in everything I believe and say.

    Thank you all for this opportunity of debating really interesting and personally important matters.

    Gassho,
    Mateus
    Sat today/LAH
    Last edited by mateus.baldin; 05-24-2019 at 08:31 PM. Reason: Bad English correction

  34. #34
    Member Getchi's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2015
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    Between Sea and Sky, Australia.
    Im just reminded of a quote HH Gyatso DalaiLAma gave;

    "Peace is not the abscence of War, but rather the functioning of Human Copassion".
    The older I get, the more I realise that simply dropping these handfuls of dust is not peace, understanding dust is a fact of life has worked much better so far. As a side note, the RedQueen is the only one to tell the truth in Alice, Alice had all the answers and asked the wrong questions.

    Also Jundo, love the spoiler alert!!

    LaH
    SatToday.


    Jundo - I was told a story that Avalakotisvara sees with her hands and helps with her eyes, and that sages and boddhisatvas do too. Does it mean that the "acts"(hands) we see as a result of compassion are her manifestation (like reaching for our pillow in the dark) and that her "eyes" are actually the tug of our own heartstrings and the start of that manifestation? I have thought a lot about "appearance and non-appearance".

    Im also sorry to anyone I dont engage with properly, frankly humans are the greatest jewels on Earth and the scariest thing ive ever met under heaven
    Nothing to do? Why not Sit?

  35. #35
    If we don’t believe that the Four Noble Truths are actually true we won’t get much out of Buddhism.

    For myself when I came to the conclusion that the Buddha was correct on these the Dharma became truly precious to me.

    Gassho

    Sat Today

  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by Byrne View Post
    If we don’t believe that the Four Noble Truths are actually true we won’t get much out of Buddhism.

    For myself when I came to the conclusion that the Buddha was correct on these the Dharma became truly precious to me.

    Gassho

    Sat Today
    When I first opened this can of worms, I wasn't so much thinking about things like the 4 Noble truths, the 8 fold path, zazen practice, etc. You're not wrong about that, if you reject those things and still try to call yourself a Buddhist you're probably on shaky ground. But those are things that are testable and verifiable; maybe not objectively measurable, but you can test out applying them to your life and determine for yourself if they are helpful, and in fact the Buddha encouraged his followers to do just that.

    I was thinking more about the people who shouted me down saying that I'm not a real Buddhist because I don't think that the accounts of, say, the Buddha levitating and shooting fireballs out of his butt, or that the tales of the Hindu gods that he referenced in his teachings are literal historical truth. Which is not to say that those fantastical stories aren't valuable, or even that they aren't "true." I think that one of the counterintuitive effects of the western materialistic worldview is that it has produced some exceptionally wacky beliefs because people can't imagine other ways for a fantastic story being "true."

    My personal experience of Christianity in the United States is that in general people seem to prioritize the enforcement of correct assent to absolutely literal belief in the historicity of the gospels and a checklist of metaphysical claims about who Jesus was. Perfectly following the actual teachings of Jesus was good and all, but if you let on that you have some doubt that a dude rose from the dead, you're still burning in eternal hellfire. That attitude was not something I had encountered in Buddhism before, and I found it jarring. How on Earth is belief in Levitating Buddha, or a laundry list of Hindu gods that, if real, I wouldn't encounter until my next incarnation at the earliest, more important than putting the precepts into action here and now?

    Though I doubt the literal historicity of the fantastic mythological stories, I would imagine that I'm actually one of the more "woo-woo" minded people here, so I don't want to sound like I'm denigrating anyone's beliefs. I'm firmly commiting to accepting whatever people need to do or believe to make it through their day, provided they aren't harming themselves or others. Conversely I get a bit cranky when people try to enforce their own beliefs on others.

    Gassho
    Kyōshin
    Satlah

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk

  37. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by Kenny View Post

    A religion has very specific characteristics: belief in supernatural beings, rules which must be followed unquestioningly, punishments for going against those rules, and rituals which must be performed to appease or communicate with supernatural beings. A more nuanced and open definition of religion is, frankly, not what anyone I've ever met would think of first. It is simply unhelpful to associate Buddhism with these things.

    I also don't think "belief" and "faith" are very useful words in Buddhist practice. My definition of "dharma" has changed over time from being "wisdom" to the more literal translation of "law". It feels like gravity: something that's happening whether we believe in it or not, whether we understand it or not. It's not something I think you can have "faith" or "belief" in. Maybe I'm wrong here though, am I just being dogmatic?

    Gassho,
    Kenny
    Sat Today
    It may be unhelpful for you to associate Buddhism with these things, but for someone else, it may be essential. One never knows.

    I also think your description of dharma as something that is true whether we believe it or not, is law, and therefore doesn't require belief or faith, is very close to my view, but lends itself to a destruction of the beginner's mind, and does border on dogmatism, which is what many of us were trying to escape bu coming to Zen in the first place.

    Shinshou (Dan)
    Sat Today

  38. #38
    Quote Originally Posted by bayamo View Post
    I actually worked with three people who fall into this category back when I lived in the States, each one practicing the respective faiths to varying degrees.
    #sattoday
    I'm a member of three synagogues that incorporate Buddhist practices (meditation, dharma teachings) into their services and davening. I have a few rabbi friends who do this also. I don't think this has reached mainstream Judaism yet, however (like Conservative, Reform), although it is gaining traction in Reconstructionist (my branch). The trend in unaffiliated Jews and post-denominationalism seems to be a growing movement including meditation.

    gassho
    kim
    st lh
    Last edited by allwhowander; 05-30-2019 at 07:54 PM. Reason: clarification

  39. #39
    Quote Originally Posted by mateus.baldin View Post
    I’ve been trying not to get involved in this discussion, as I professionally studied Philosophy and many of this questions are the same that philosophers of religion (not to be confused with theologians), political philosophers and epistemologists have been debating for more than two and a half thousand years. But I decided to give a little contribution here.



    I think this is basically the consensus in the philosophical study of knowledge today. With the little observation that knowledge/understanding is not really opposed to belief. It is indeed a kind of belief, a belief that is founded and justified rationally (like Mathematics) or empirically (like Biology) or both (like Physics). Depending on how one defines belief, it really is impossible not to have them, unless one completely stops thinking in terms of true and false. It’s what the Greek skeptics did: to live only by appearances and giving up all pursue of knowledge and truth.



    I understand your point here and I know it’s a predominant view in the West, for both “believers” and atheists, but I think this is a very western-centric definition of religion that many western philosophers themselves nowadays reject. It basically defines religion using Christianity as the paradigm of a religion and judging every other system of beliefs and practices in terms of proximity to Christianity.

    Even hardcore western philosophers like Rousseau viewed patriotism as a religion, a civic religion in this case (not a supernatural one). Even some catholic theologians speak of natural religion as basic systems of belief and practice that are not dependent on supernatural revelation. And I know philosophers of law, like John Gardner, who view faith as a basic requirement for the very existence of a legal system.

    I think it’s very reductionist to think of religion only in terms of supernatural. I prefer Nishijima Roshi’s definition of religion. At least for me, Soto Zen Buddhism is my religion, even if I don’t believe in supernatural beings: it is a system of beliefs (based on experience, reason and also faith) that serve as a basis for a practice (that in itself suports the belief system).

    Indeed, even when I was a Christian, I understood God, Christ and Heaven as metaphors, not literal supernatural beings. Eternal life, for exemple, I used to saw (and continue to do so even now) as a metaphor for living in the present. My inspiration for this was this quote by Wittgenstein:



    I think Byrne is right:



    The difference between knowledge and faith, both different kinds of beliefs, is that faith requires doubt while knowledge is incompatible with doubt. Faith is like a bet, if we know something is true, than there is no space for faith. It doesn’t require anything supernatural.

    I hope the Sangha doesn’t take these remarks as pedantic arrogance. Believe me, it is not. I just am very timid in person and the online nature of our discussions here give me a space to express my views. Of course, they are only views and in no way I expect to be true in everything I believe and say.

    Thank you all for this opportunity of debating really interesting and personally important matters.

    Gassho,
    Mateus
    Sat today/LAH
    Quote Originally Posted by mateus.baldin View Post
    I’ve been trying not to get involved in this discussion, as I professionally studied Philosophy and many of this questions are the same that philosophers of religion (not to be confused with theologians), political philosophers and epistemologists have been debating for more than two and a half thousand years. But I decided to give a little contribution here.



    I think this is basically the consensus in the philosophical study of knowledge today. With the little observation that knowledge/understanding is not really opposed to belief. It is indeed a kind of belief, a belief that is founded and justified rationally (like Mathematics) or empirically (like Biology) or both (like Physics). Depending on how one defines belief, it really is impossible not to have them, unless one completely stops thinking in terms of true and false. It’s what the Greek skeptics did: to live only by appearances and giving up all pursue of knowledge and truth.



    I understand your point here and I know it’s a predominant view in the West, for both “believers” and atheists, but I think this is a very western-centric definition of religion that many western philosophers themselves nowadays reject. It basically defines religion using Christianity as the paradigm of a religion and judging every other system of beliefs and practices in terms of proximity to Christianity.

    Even hardcore western philosophers like Rousseau viewed patriotism as a religion, a civic religion in this case (not a supernatural one). Even some catholic theologians speak of natural religion as basic systems of belief and practice that are not dependent on supernatural revelation. And I know philosophers of law, like John Gardner, who view faith as a basic requirement for the very existence of a legal system.

    I think it’s very reductionist to think of religion only in terms of supernatural. I prefer Nishijima Roshi’s definition of religion. At least for me, Soto Zen Buddhism is my religion, even if I don’t believe in supernatural beings: it is a system of beliefs (based on experience, reason and also faith) that serve as a basis for a practice (that in itself suports the belief system).

    Indeed, even when I was a Christian, I understood God, Christ and Heaven as metaphors, not literal supernatural beings. Eternal life, for exemple, I used to saw (and continue to do so even now) as a metaphor for living in the present. My inspiration for this was this quote by Wittgenstein:



    I think Byrne is right:



    The difference between knowledge and faith, both different kinds of beliefs, is that faith requires doubt while knowledge is incompatible with doubt. Faith is like a bet, if we know something is true, than there is no space for faith. It doesn’t require anything supernatural.

    I hope the Sangha doesn’t take these remarks as pedantic arrogance. Believe me, it is not. I just am very timid in person and the online nature of our discussions here give me a space to express my views. Of course, they are only views and in no way I expect to be true in everything I believe and say.

    Thank you all for this opportunity of debating really interesting and personally important matters.

    Gassho,
    Mateus
    Sat today/LAH
    Well said! Thank you for taking the time to write out your thoughts. I agree that Buddhism, even without the more "superstitious" elements is a religion.

    Gassho,

    Nanrin

    St

  40. #40
    I'd also point out that a "religion" can simply be something that one gives importance ("environmentalism is the new religion"), and when we describe ourselves as doing something "religiously," we mean with regularity and dedication. No belief or supernatural aspects needed.

    Shinshou (Dan)
    Sat Today

  41. #41
    Joseph Campbell has pointed out that religions often start out not being "supernatural" at all. In fact for a religion and its mythology to be effective in people's minds, according to him, it must take into account and deal with the most up to date scientific understanding of the world. For example, at one time, astrology was cutting edge science, so religions that incorporated it were not necessarily doing so to embrace the supernatural, but rather deal with the mundane. Over time, as our understanding of the world changes, the beliefs of the religion either change more slowly or resist change altogether. Religions become more and more "supernatural" as the beliefs diverge with scientific understanding over time.

    Disclaimer: I'm probably butchering poor Joe's theories. This came from an interview I saw years ago that I'm probably not remembering with 100% accuracy.

    Gassho
    Kyōshin
    Satlah

    Sent from my Pixel using Tapatalk

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