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An article on leaving Buddhism...

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran

I came across this article from 2003 today, and thought it was worth sharing. The author, John Horgan, reflects on why he left Buddhism, and some of his thinking is similar to a lot of what Westerners go through when first contacting Buddhism and has some bearing on the way Western Buddhism seems to be forming.

http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2003/02/buddhist_retreat.html

Bringing this kind of thinking out in the open seems to me to have some benefits, in that it shows people the questions that many have about Buddhism.

Bunksperson

Comments

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Buddhism is varied, reinterpreted, updated or changed according to need.

    Here are some of the things I personally don't need:

    • God
    • Reincarceration until superman/buddhahooded
    • Rogue 'teachers'

    Here are things I find useful:

    • Meditation
    • Meditation
    • Meditation

    I iz fanatic 🤪

    person
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Here’s a quote from the article which I found interesting:

    Buddhism's moral and metaphysical worldview cannot easily be reconciled with science—or, more generally, with modern humanistic values.

    The scientific part seems true to me, but it leads to the question, what is science’s moral and metaphysical worldview? Morality in science seems to boil down to the law of the jungle or perhaps modern society’s materialism. Is that what we want for our future, is that the best that we can achieve? I think buddhism’s view on morality is a lot closer to the ideal than what we have now.

    And the metaphysics of science, does it even have any? And as far as reconciling with humanist metaphysics is concerned, there too we struggle with a lack of definition. The only interesting area for debate is how Buddhist morality and humanist morality might compare.

    It sets you to thinking, an article like this.

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    It's clear that the author does not understand Buddhism all that well.

    Like its parent religion Hinduism, Buddhism espouses reincarnation, which holds that after death our souls are re-instantiated in new bodies, and karma, the law of moral cause and effect. Together, these tenets imply the existence of some cosmic judge who, like Santa Claus, tallies up our naughtiness and niceness before rewarding us with rebirth as a cockroach or as a saintly lama.

    It doesn't espouse that at all...nor does it imply that...

    lobster
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran

    I think that anyone who consents to actually practice what Buddhism preaches will have to admit it: Buddhism is a pain, both literally and metaphorically, in the ass. Why? Because no one can out-think it, as torrents of caring 'scientists' continue to try.

    Is Buddhism bullshit wrapped in a lavender sachet? Sure. But anyone who looks at the components of his or her life has to admit there is a bullshit quotient to everything and the only way to certify potentially nourishing components is to dive in rather than stand at an intellectually-refined distance. The question is, what element of a bullshit-laden life is anyone willing to honestly investigate? Don't like Buddhism? Fuck it, don't do it. But don't, in the same breath, assert that there is a better mouse trap -- something that can and will respond adequately to the changes that muddle any human life.

    So-called religion separates man from the god s/he may claim to admire. And in this realm, the uncertain intellect -- imagined lord of all it surveys -- would like to achieve the benefits (being happy and at ease) without probing the particulars...

    Oh well ... I feel a rant coming on and apologize. A question I always liked is this: "If I'm so smart, how come I'm not happy?" Does Buddhism deserve room in a nearby waste basket? I would say yes. But I would also say that anyone trying to parse and out-think Buddhism without first diving in is just playing with Tinker Toys.

    Got doubts? Use 'em. Got courage? Employ it. Got patience? Prove it. But just for a change of pace, pay attention to and take responsibility for your own 'spiritual' well-being. I know of no serious Buddhist who wouldn't agree: Buddhism is bullshit. And likewise I know of no serious Buddhist who wouldn't agree: Buddhism is not bullshit.

    Oh well ... not enough coffee this morning. :)

    lobsterVastmind
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    edited May 12

    @Kerome said:
    Here’s a quote from the article which I found interesting:

    Buddhism's moral and metaphysical worldview cannot easily be reconciled with science—or, more generally, with modern humanistic values.

    The scientific part seems true to me, but it leads to the question, what is science’s moral and metaphysical worldview? Morality in science seems to boil down to the law of the jungle or perhaps modern society’s materialism. Is that what we want for our future, is that the best that we can achieve? I think buddhism’s view on morality is a lot closer to the ideal than what we have now.

    It's a deep question. My best understanding is that the metaphysics of science is a physicalist, reductionist one. That everything that exists has at its foundation physical objects and that sociology is just psychology, psychology is just biology, biology is just chemistry, and chemistry is just physics.

    As for the morality of science, I think it is largely amoral. It's focus is on what is, morality is concerned with what ought to be. Sam Harris tries to make the argument that you can build a moral system out of science with two is's. One, that there are sentient beings that can feel pain and that the greatest imaginable, unending, pointless suffering for all beings is bad. And if you can take that as a given then we can use the other is of science to understand what actually brings about flourishing and well being.

    As far as the law of the jungle, the way science looked at animal behavior looked at the way they compete and seek advantage. But there is lots of more recent research looking at the much more common animal behavior of cooperation. So science isn't a full picture of reality and it can and does go off the rails but it is self correcting and, I think, the best method we have for understanding the world.

    And the metaphysics of science, does it even have any? And as far as reconciling with humanist metaphysics is concerned, there too we struggle with a lack of definition. The only interesting area for debate is how Buddhist morality and humanist morality might compare.

    I have come across some thinking that compares the two but I never really got into it. In general, they do seem to be fairly similar but not totally.

    It sets you to thinking, an article like this.

    :+1:

    JasonKerome
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    If you want to take a deeper dive into what science can tell us about the evolution of morality in humans.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @Kerome said:
    I came across this article from 2003 today, and thought it was worth sharing. The author, John Horgan, reflects on why he left Buddhism, and some of his thinking is similar to a lot of what Westerners go through when first contacting Buddhism and has some bearing on the way Western Buddhism seems to be forming.

    http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/culturebox/2003/02/buddhist_retreat.html

    Bringing this kind of thinking out in the open seems to me to have some benefits, in that it shows people the questions that many have about Buddhism.

    On the one hand, I think you'e right. I also think he's right in pointing out things like the preference towards male monasticism/teachers in many Buddhist traditions. There are certainly supernatural elements in Buddhism, as there are in other religions, and one is free to ridicule them or set those aside as unimportant and leftovers from cultural superstitions. That said, I disagree with a lot of his critique and feel he mischaracterizes many of the teachings, especially his charge of anti-rationality. Here's my own reply to this critique and the main things I have issues with: "why i can't embrace john horgan's critique."

    personlobsterKerome
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited May 12

    Just to add to what @person and myself have shared, here's an interesting talk I watched a while back dealing with the biological basis for morality: 'Morality: From the Heavens or From Nature?' I agree Dr. Thomas that morality is natural in the sense that it comes from the "evolved architecture" of our minds, which is why I believe that, psychologically speaking, the quality of the intentions behind our actions (kamma) can determine how the results, whether positive or negative, are experienced (vipaka).

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Since @Jason mentioned a previous NewBuddhist thread dealing with this article I thought I’d track it down and link it so that others can enjoy the jewels of our shared heritage... here it is:

    http://newbuddhist.com/discussion/9456/dissing-buddhism/p1

    It is from 2011, though you will see a few familiar faces ;)

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran
    edited May 12

    Now I agree the article’s author is imperfect in understanding Buddhism, and a lot of his claims are somewhat off true. But this one did spur some thoughts for me:

    But what troubles me most about Buddhism is its implication that detachment from ordinary life is the surest route to salvation. Buddha's first step toward enlightenment was his abandonment of his wife and child, and Buddhism (like Catholicism) still exalts male monasticism as the epitome of spirituality. It seems legitimate to ask whether a path that turns away from aspects of life as essential as sexuality and parenthood is truly spiritual.

    It’s something that has bothered me about a lot of religious inclinations, this turning towards renunciation and monasticism. It separates the deeply spiritual, those with strong convictions, from the family, the tribe and the rest of society, as well as away from the natural path of development over a human lifetime.

    Perhaps spirituality is something that is meant to come about in the human mind after the child rearing years are over. For a woman this is a natural transition, for a man less so, although in an Osho lecture I did come across a segment where he says that “if one has had enough sex, there comes a time around 40 years of age where you see it for the game that it is, and the interest drops away, and the mind naturally starts turning towards meditation.”

    In the view of western Buddhism, there is also the question of how realistic this is. Here there isn’t the same drive towards monasticism or the same support mechanism for it, and a lot of western Buddhists are people like, well, us, who are interested in insight and practice, but don’t necessarily have the time or opportunity to memorise all the sutra’s or follow monastic discipline.

  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    No, that is still a misunderstanding. The Buddha returned to his family, all of whom followed him in his sangha.
    I find his comment about means of salvation to be equally mistaken. There is nothing anywhere that states that you need to be a renunciate to gain Nibbana or enlightenment.

    No, sorry. He's talking nonsense.

    Bunkslobster
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited May 12

    To address the quote you posted above, OP; the Buddha also had nuns in his movement. He didn't exalt male monasticism over female monasticism. That came later. Also, the Buddha had householder-followers who did reach Enlightenment, demonstrating that complete renunciation isn't absolutely necessary to attain an Enlightened state.

    Here's another common sticking point: to someone who sees himself and others as unreal, human suffering and death may appear laughably trivial. This may explain why some Buddhist masters have behaved more like nihilists than saints.

    What's missing in people who run amok, claiming morality is "relative", and abuse is ok, because suffering is a manifestation of ego, etc., is compassion. They haven't developed sufficient compassion. As the Dalai Lama says, their understanding of the Dharma is "wrong-footed" and incomplete. They're fallen into the trap of nihilism, which the Buddha was very careful to eschew, as "wrong view".

    The Buddha also discouraged devotion to himself or any teacher, believing it was counter-productive to the development of non-attachment, and Enlightenment. That, too, is very interesting, in view of the excessive awe and devotion some Buddhist "schools", or errant teachers therein, tend to foster.

    personlobster
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited May 12

    I understand the difficulties many have with the idea of renunciation, but I take a different approach and see the external methods as simply a means of aiding an internal process that doesn't necessarily require turning towards monasticism or leaving one's family. I don't have time to write it a response right now, so I'll just link to something from 2014 that addresses this.

    Keromeperson
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Thanks @Jason, that’s an interesting way of looking at things.

  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    Strictly speaking, one can't leave Buddhism, because Buddhism is about who we truly are (empty awareness). We may be ignorant of or choose to abandon who we are and almost the whole world does, but that doesn't change the existence or non existence of those inherent qualities.
    Buddhism is the best way i know to discover our true nature, at least Buddhism that incorporates authentic teachers, teachings and practices, and abandoning it is a mistake of limitless dimensions and implications.

    ShoshinKerome
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Strictly speaking, one can't leave Buddhism, because Buddhism is about who we truly are (empty awareness). We may be ignorant of or choose to abandon who we are and almost the whole world does, but that doesn't change the existence or non existence of those inherent qualities.

    Yes....Great faith & "Great doubt" are so I've been told the two ends of the spiritual walking stick....It would seem they are part and parcel of the path...

    "Great Faith and Great Doubt are two ends of a spiritual walking stick. We grip one end with the grasp given to us by our Great Determination. We poke into the underbrush in the dark on our spiritual journey. This act is real spiritual practice -- gripping the Faith end and poking ahead with the Doubt end of the stick. If we have no Faith, we have no Doubt. If we have no Determination, we never pick up the stick in the first place."

    However when the ego grabs hold of the doubt end covering it with pride, it can be hard for some to let go...

  • TsultrimTsultrim Hawaii Veteran

    @Shoshin said:

    Strictly speaking, one can't leave Buddhism, because Buddhism is about who we truly are (empty awareness). We may be ignorant of or choose to abandon who we are and almost the whole world does, but that doesn't change the existence or non existence of those inherent qualities.

    Yes....Great faith & "Great doubt" are so I've been told the two ends of the spiritual walking stick....It would seem they are part and parcel of the path...

    "Great Faith and Great Doubt are two ends of a spiritual walking stick. We grip one end with the grasp given to us by our Great Determination. We poke into the underbrush in the dark on our spiritual journey. This act is real spiritual practice -- gripping the Faith end and poking ahead with the Doubt end of the stick. If we have no Faith, we have no Doubt. If we have no Determination, we never pick up the stick in the first place."

    However when the ego grabs hold of the doubt end covering it with pride, it can be hard for some to let go...

    Hi @Shoshin. I really wasn't talking about faith and and doubt, but i'm familiar with your comment. You will find in some Zen literature references to the doubt mass that is created in Zen, and how the greater the mass the greater the realization that follows.

    Ego grabs on to everything including doubt, that's its nature. It's the source of grasping and fixation.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Strictly speaking, one can't leave Buddhism, because Buddhism is about who we truly are (empty awareness).

    I guess one can't really leave what one never signed up to in the first place :)
    ....And one can't really sign up to what "is"... because it just "is".....

    Ego grabs on to everything including doubt, that's its nature. It's the source of grasping and fixation.

    True...Ego has got a lot to answer for...bloody trouble maker ;)

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @federica said:

    No, sorry. He's talking nonsense.

    Tee hee!

    Talking nonsense or in symbols, might be useful for others if skilfully utilised but straight talking is direct and efficient and normally preferable ...

    We all talk nonsense until we wake up and smell the coffee that @genkaku mentions.

    It is our history/karma.

    Superficial strawman attacks against dharma are easy to spot.

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