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Thread: Superiority Conceit in Buddhist Traditions

  1. #1

    Superiority Conceit in Buddhist Traditions

    Bhikkhu Analayo just released an excellent book on the way different Buddhist traditions can feel a sense of superiority to other traditions. He looks at 4 issues: (1) how male superiority exists in Buddhism, (2) the Mahayana conceit that it the Bodhisattva ideal exists only in the Mahayana tradition and that Mahayana is a superior way to what it used to call the Hinayana, (3) the Theravada conceit that it is the original teachings of the Buddha, and (4) the secular Buddhist conceit that it is superior and gets rid of superstitious beliefs.

    Great way to challenge one's own conceits and a great history lesson.

    https://www.amazon.ca/Superiority-Co...4397909&sr=8-1

    Sent from my SM-T510 using Tapatalk
    Last edited by Jundo; 03-01-2021 at 02:09 AM.

  2. #2

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by JimInBC View Post
    Bhikkhu Analayo just released an excellent book on the way different Buddhist traditions can feel a sense of superiority to other traditions. He looks at 4 issues: (1) how male superiority exists in Buddhism, (2) the Mahayana conceit that it the Bodhisattva ideal exists only in the Mahayana tradition and that Mahayana is a superior way to what it used to call the Hinayana, (3) the Theravada conceit that it is the original teachings of the Buddha, and (4) the secular Buddhist conceit that it is superior and gets rid of superstitious beliefs.

    Great way to challenge one's own conceits and a great history lesson.

    https://www.amazon.ca/Superiority-Co...4397909&sr=8-1

    Sent from my SM-T510 using Tapatalk
    Same yet sometimes very different; Often very different, yet always just the same.

    Each with its strengths and weaknesses, one person's fruit another person's poison, different paths suited to different path walkers.

    Zen is Best! ... for me and others who walk and flourish on the Zen path, for others it may not be so.

    Gassho, J

    STLah

    PS - Look forward to reading the book.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    I think my favorite section was the one on secular Buddhism. I hadn't realized the extent to which Stephen Batchelor's arguments echo the arguments of the Christian missionaries who were trying to convince Asians to reject Buddhism in favor of Christianity. In Batchelor's case, he wants people to reject traditional schools of Buddhism in favor of materialism combined with selected aspects of Buddhism.

    Gassho, Jim
    ST/LaH

    Sent from my SM-T510 using Tapatalk
    No matter how much zazen we do, poor people do not become wealthy, and poverty does not become something easy to endure.
    Kōshō Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought

  5. #5
    I think we get in trouble when we elevate the tools and tactics that we use over what we are trying to accomplish. Yes, yes zazen is useless, but that is our koan because if there wasnít an aim to all of this it would be pointless, and that is certainly not the case; at the same time, if we do this for something as a diversion and to add to our trophy collection thatís not it either. So we aim at something in a way that is outside or beyond how we nornally do things. This is getting hyperbolic lol

    In software development, often times, people get so hung up in their particular programming language and software development methodology that they become fundamentalists; all of a sudden these tools that we use begin to own us as we establish them as religions. Teams are forced into development patterns that donít always make sense for the problem being solved. When all you have is a hammer everything becomes a nail.

    So to me this isnít what is better than the other, which is facetious because to measure value, you need a metric; what can you measure? time to enlightenment? hahaha zen wins: we already are

    seriously, multiple paths; however, when we find our path we should commit to it; I know when i flit and flat to this and that itís because Iím looking for novelty; this is that idea of ďspiritual materialismĒ. But for me I canít get into the meat of my life until iíve done my practices wholeheartedly, or really give myself to my path.

    gassho

    risho
    -stlah

    ps apologies for going over
    Last edited by Risho; 02-27-2021 at 04:30 PM.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    I think we get in trouble when we elevate the tools and tactics that we use over what we are trying to accomplish. Yes, yes zazen is useless, but that is our koan because if there wasnít an aim to all of this it would be pointless, and that is certainly not the case; at the same time, if we do this for something as a diversion and to add to our trophy collection thatís not it either. So we aim at something in a way that is outside or beyond how we nornally do things. This is getting hyperbolic lol

    In software development, often times, people get so hung up in their particular programming language and software development methodology that they become fundamentalists; all of a sudden these tools that we use begin to own us as we establish them as religions. Teams are forced into development patterns that donít always make sense for the problem being solved. When all you have is a hammer everything becomes a nail.

    So to me this isnít what is better than the other, which is facetious because to measure value, you need a metric; what can you measure? time to enlightenment? hahaha zen wins: we already are

    seriously, multiple paths; however, when we find our path we should commit to it; I know when i flit and flat to this and that itís because Iím looking for novelty; this is that idea of ďspiritual materialismĒ. But for me I canít get into the meat of my life until iíve done my practices wholeheartedly, or really give myself to my path.

    gassho

    risho
    -stlah

    ps apologies for going over
    To be clear about the book, its point is not that we shouldn't choose and stand by a path. Its point is that we should be aware of the potential superiority conceits of our chosen path and, as Buddhists, root them out. If Zen is one's path, great. But if one subtly (or not so subtly) looks down on those who practice to be Arahants rather than Bodhisattvas that's a superiority Conceit that one might wish to challenge.

    Also, if you are a bit of a history nerd like me it's just a really fascinating read.

    Edit to Add: I do find it interesting that on a Zen board the two responses so far - by people who haven't read the book - have included the phrases "Zen is best" and "Zen wins", respectively. Even though said tongue in cheek, maybe suggests exploring superiority conceits in Zen thinking is a worthwhile exercise?

    Gassho, Jim
    ST/LaH



    Sent from my SM-T510 using Tapatalk
    Last edited by JimInBC; 02-27-2021 at 05:18 PM.
    No matter how much zazen we do, poor people do not become wealthy, and poverty does not become something easy to endure.
    Kōshō Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought

  7. #7

  8. #8
    That sounds interesting and I have come across all of those. As a former moderator of a Buddhist e-list discussion group, the second and third were the most pervasive although the fourth is one I see increasingly often now. The first seems less prevalent in the west but has obviously been a part of history everywhere, ot just in Buddhism.

    Thank you for the recommendation.

    Gassho
    Kokuu
    -sattoday-
    ------------------------------------
    Feel free to message me if you wish to talk about issues around practicing with physical limitations. This is something I have been sitting with for a fair while and am happy to help with suggestions or just offer a listening ear.

  9. #9
    I still am in favor of getting rid of superstitious beliefs ...

    ... but only for those of us who wish to be rid of superstitious beliefs, let alone view them as "superstitious." I may not believe in leprechauns (or the equivalent within the Zen and other Buddhist traditions of belief in leprechauns), but others may find great value and inspiration in leprechauns. Good for them, and let us celebrate their right to do so, and the beauty and power they find in such beliefs. The others may not see leprechauns as leprechauns at all, but as wondrous beings, and that is their precious perspective too. They may be right, those of us who do not believe may be wrong. But I also speak for the beauty and power and right of interpretation of those of us who do not wish to believe in leprechauns, or to have leprechauns as a part of our practice. Leprechauns are not crucial to Zen practice.

    I will make room for some leprechauns, however, if I can find reason in my heart in terms that make sense to me, for example, that they are just symbols for something without being literally true, such as the "pot of gold" at the end of enlightenment's rainbow. Or, I might see how belief in leprechauns may bring comfort to somebody's heart in times of struggle, so that belief in leprechauns helps people who need. However, short of that, I personally will not believe in leprechauns, Buddhist or otherwise.

    I do think that Stephen Batchelor went too far in his way of modernizing Buddhism, by trying to recast the historical Buddha as just an ethicist and modern thinker, stripping away any belief that the Buddha happened to share with another Indian religion or philosophy. Batchelor is as much a fundamentalist in some ways as the people he criticizes. For me, there is no reason to think that the historical Buddha had to agree with all modern interpretations of Buddhism. Seemingly the Buddha, for example, believed in very literal views of rebirth. Seemingly Dogen did too. That is fine, but I am still going to maintain my stance as an "open minded" agnostical skeptic about such things.

    Maybe leprechauns exist in the world, playing their tin whistles, and not just in our hearts or peoples' imaginations. It could be. I am open to it, but I am rather doubtful.

    In any case, leprechauns or no leprechauns ... chop wood, fetch water, live gently, sit Zazen. In Zazen, one sits as what is. If there are leprechauns, then sit as leprechauns. If there are no leprechauns, then sit as no leprechauns. In any case, Just Sit.

    (My new book, "The Zen Master Dances On ... " touches on this somewhat).

    Sorry to run long.

    Gassho, J
    STLah
    Last edited by Jundo; 02-28-2021 at 01:19 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Risho View Post
    In software development, often times, people get so hung up in their particular programming language and software development methodology that they become fundamentalists; all of a sudden these tools that we use begin to own us as we establish them as religions. Teams are forced into development patterns that don’t always make sense for the problem being solved. When all you have is a hammer everything becomes a nail.
    I think I've seen this behaviour in most spheres of human activity with just some examples being: diet - vegan/keto; fitness - HIIT/lifting heavy, sports team - the mighty Tottenham Hotspur/there aren't any alternatives here; investment methodology - index funds/crypto; political outlook - left/right

    I guess it's all a form of attachment we need to be aware of.

    Gassho,

    heiso

    StLah.

  11. #11
    I hadn't realized the extent to which Stephen Batchelor's arguments echo the arguments of the Christian missionaries who were trying to convince Asians to reject Buddhism in favor of Christianity. In Batchelor's case, he wants people to reject traditional schools of Buddhism in favor of materialism combined with selected aspects of Buddhism.
    I find that the secular buddhists and their "co-religionists", the neo-atheists, are not immune to the fundamentalism found in the religions they so strenuously denounce.

    Sat today.


    No merit. Vast emptiness; nothing holy. I don't know.

  12. #12
    Best to consider one's practice to be the most ridiculous nonsense imaginable, and then get on with it. I stopped caring/comparing with other traditions long ago. Every religious practice is completely ridiculous to me, including Buddhism/Zen. We take ourselves far too seriously. But be serious about your ridiculousness. Just because it's ridiculous is no excuse not to practice it diligently.

    -sT
    Thanks,
    Kaishin (Open Heart aka Matt)
    Please take this layman's words with a grain of salt.

  13. #13
    Kaishin, yes. _()_

    IIRC Shunryu Suzuki said something to the effect that a frog's practice might be "best." _()_

    gassho
    doyu shonin sat this morning
    Visiting unsui, take w/salt.

  14. #14
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaishin View Post
    Best to consider one's practice to be the most ridiculous nonsense imaginable, and then get on with it. I stopped caring/comparing with other traditions long ago. Every religious practice is completely ridiculous to me, including Buddhism/Zen. We take ourselves far too seriously. But be serious about your ridiculousness. Just because it's ridiculous is no excuse not to practice it diligently.

    -sT
    Just so - nicely said!
    Gassho, Shōkon
    昭魂 - Bright Spirit
    Sat Today

  15. #15
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaishin View Post
    Best to consider one's practice to be the most ridiculous nonsense imaginable, and then get on with it. I stopped caring/comparing with other traditions long ago. Every religious practice is completely ridiculous to me, including Buddhism/Zen. We take ourselves far too seriously. But be serious about your ridiculousness. Just because it's ridiculous is no excuse not to practice it diligently.

    -sT
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Kaishin View Post
    Best to consider one's practice to be the most ridiculous nonsense imaginable, and then get on with it. I stopped caring/comparing with other traditions long ago. Every religious practice is completely ridiculous to me, including Buddhism/Zen. We take ourselves far too seriously. But be serious about your ridiculousness. Just because it's ridiculous is no excuse not to practice it diligently.

    -sT


    gassho

    risho
    -stlah

  17. #17

    Conceit in Buddhism

    This looks like an interesting read for all Buddhists:

    https://www.amazon.com/Superiority-C.../dp/1614297193

    Anālayo claims there are four main conceits in Buddhism:

    1. the androcentric tendency to prevent women from occupying leadership roles, be these as fully ordained monastics or as advanced bodhisattvas
    2. the Mahayana notion that those who don’t aspire to become bodhisattvas are inferior practitioners
    3. the Theravada belief that theirs is the most original expression of the Buddha’s teaching
    4. the Secular Buddhist claim to understand the teachings of the Buddha more accurately than traditionally practicing Buddhists

    Note: I can attest that Anālayo is a very thorough scholar and I respect his work very much even if I don’t practice his form of Buddhism.

    “It is by diminishing ego, letting go of arrogance, and abandoning conceit that one becomes a better Buddhist,” he reminds us, “no matter what tradition one may follow.”


    Gassho,
    Tom
    SatLah
    Last edited by StoBird; 03-31-2021 at 01:37 AM.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by StoBird View Post
    This looks like an interesting read for all Buddhists:

    https://www.amazon.com/Superiority-C.../dp/1614297193

    Anālayo claims there are four main conceits in Buddhism:

    1. the androcentric tendency to prevent women from occupying leadership roles, be these as fully ordained monastics or as advanced bodhisattvas
    2. the Mahayana notion that those who don’t aspire to become bodhisattvas are inferior practitioners
    3. the Theravada belief that theirs is the most original expression of the Buddha’s teaching
    4. the Secular Buddhist claim to understand the teachings of the Buddha more accurately than traditionally practicing Buddhists

    Note: I can attest that Anālayo is a very thorough scholar and I respect his work very much even if I don’t practice his form of Buddhism.

    “It is by diminishing ego, letting go of arrogance, and abandoning conceit that one becomes a better Buddhist,” he reminds us, “no matter what tradition one may follow.”


    Gassho,
    Tom
    SatLah
    Hi Tom,

    The book was already mentioned a couple of weeks ago so, if okay, I am going to move your post over.

    It is on my reading list too.

    Gassho, Jundo
    STLah
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  19. #19
    Yep thank you

    Gassho,
    SatLah

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