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'Orthodox' Buddhism

edited May 2005 in Buddhism Today
Hi one and all,

My first post on this forum.

I have had a curiousity about buddhism for a number of years - but my background as a secular humanist makes me see it in a different light maybe from many people.

What seems to be the case is a guy called Sidartha [sic] came up with some good ideas about how to approach life, then in the time that followed his teachings were mystified and ritualised.

What kind of records exists for what the Buddha actually said. I've heard of something called the Baghavad-Gita, what is this? Where can I find it?

Do you think there is a need for a more orthodox version of Buddhism, maybe with it's own label in order that it can be distinguished from the other schools. I think the Theravada school is most similar to what I am think of, but not quite.

I remember seeing on the news a couple of years ago a news story about Buddhists travelling across continents to climb a pyramid of steps and ring a 'sacred' bell at the top. To me, with my possibly naive understanding of what the Buddha was about, this seems absolutely crazy.

I have the feeling that these 'religious' Buddhists are not Buddhists at all, because so much of what they do seems to contravene the intent of the original guy who came up with these ideas. They kind of turn him into a God, especially the idea of the Buddha re-incarnated over and over. Did these ideas come from Siddartha himself, or added later by the usual channels of religious evolution?

I don't mean to offend, and I recognise my lack of experience in this subject.

I really feel a curiousity for getting to the core of what Siddartha actually said. He seems quite a visionary, and at the same time quite egoless (i.e. doesn't claim to be the son of God like Jesus Christ or David Ike), given my current understanding, but I need to get at some evidence...

--gav.

Comments

  • edited May 2005
    I think what I am talking about may be reasonably termed 'Secular Buddhism'.

    Whether or not it could be defined as orthodox would depend on what the Buddha actually said, and whether parts of that could not be described as secular.

    --gav.
  • 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
    edited May 2005
    hello gavinfo, and welcome! Thank you for an interesting and thought provoking post!
    I think if you were to peruse this site, most of your questions would be answered, particularly by Brian, who is the site creator, and Matt, who is a 'super Moderator' and extremely experienced in these matters. There are also others who have much to say that is interesting....all in all the general input here is constructive and informing. Try looking through the FAQ contributors zone, and the site for Aethists, Christians and the "introduce yourself" thread.
    Everyone has a different slant on things, Buddhist or otherwise, but this much is known. Buddhism has often been described as both a Religion and a Philosophy. There is no such thing as orthodox Buddhism, in my view; Siddharta Gauthama wasn't Buddhist. Buddha merely means "awake" in the sense of being conscious and in the present, with no illusions.
    When anyone - be they Buddhist monks, pilgrims, Christians or yoginis - subject themselves to certain rituals, they are reminding themselves of several things, perhaps.
    One is that the body is a fragile and temporary object, and that the Mind is stronger. Therefore they subject themselves to a physical discipline which requires determination, mental strength, focus and dedication.
    Secondly, any form of devotional practise may at one time or another require a certain amount of sacrifice and effort. If one can tolerate and overcome a physical hurdle, it may attest to a person's ability to endure something which would tax and push them to a certain limit.
    Rituals which to some may seem futile and pointless, is a way to the practicant, of affirming their personal determination to "see things through" whatever form these "things" may take. Hence the practise as you mention of climbing hundreds of steps to ring a bell, and of giving things up for Lent, maybe.

    Siddharta Gauthama himself stated that he remembered many of his previous lifetimes, once he became enlightened. And Voltaire said 'it should be no more astonishing to be born twice than to have been born once.' Christianity concurred with the idea of re-birth (as opposed to re-incarnation - the two ARE different) until about four hundred years ago, when greater control was exercised by the Church over the people, by threatening poor frightened ignorant christians with promises of hell fire and brimstone, if they didn't toe the line. (I come from a long line of Roman Catholics, I know all about guilt trips!!) Man has seriously messed with conventional religion to the point where the original teachings have become obscured and adulterated. the trick is to try and separate the two.... ;)

    Reincarnation is the actual flesh being made again, and coming back in its' previous form (re = again carne = flesh. latin.) Re-birth is a re-manifestation of the energy you developped and manifested in life, which could re-emerge as a worm, a gnat a whale a donkey or another human being. Even the science of physics will tell you that Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only channeled, transformed and manifested. Your heart beats, but what keeps it beating? your lungs expand and contract without you even thinking about it, but how and why? Re-birth is like (and you'll find that I've written this elsewhere already) taking two candles, one lit, one not lit. Use the flame to light the second candle. Now blow the first one out. is it the same flame, or a different one? It is a creation of the first, and exactly the same, but not the same at all..... :)

    Look, I think I've said quite enough for now! Others I hope will add more (in fact, probably less - I talk a lot!!) But I hope I have given you a bit of insight on what I have learned and absorbed. I speak for me and only me. if others agree, that's OK. others will have different opinions, views and things to tell you. And that's ok, too.
    DO look round the site. Enjoy the trip! Hope to see you around again soon....

    Federica
  • edited May 2005
    Gavinfo,

    Welcome! Like you I am also new to Buddhism. I have been learning alot though. I am a Nichiren Buddhist. I am also learning alot about it myself but basically, Nichiren Buddhism teaches that the Buddha nature is within all of us and that when we chant, we work on ourselves to become happier, more confident people. We also work to become Bottisattvas (teachers of compassion to others). This is just a base of an explanation because I am a student like you. I have much to learn and I look forward to it. Anyway, welcome!

    Adiana :) :) :D :D
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited May 2005
    I agree with federica that there is no real "orthodox buddhism". The people who I think live the closest to what the Buddha taught are the Thai forest monks. They took everything in the Suttas that the Buddha supposedly said and picked what was really a part of the practice. The only thing they feel is authentic and of real use is anything that deals with dukkha and the way that leads to ceassation of dukkha. They focus on meditation and leave most of the rituls to others. The Buddha was not a big fan of rites and rituals. He understood that normal lay people need them but that in reality they were empty and did not help a person find truth. There is a passage in the Majjhima-nikaya(which is part of the Tipitaka, the collection of the Buddha's teachings which you can find at http://www.accesstoinsight.org/canon/index.html) where he is asked whether he could sum up his teachings into one phrase in which the Buddha replied,"Sabbe dhamma nalam abhinivesaya". That means "Nothing whatsoever should be clung to". Meditation is used to examime all things in life, from the mind and it's movements, to the body and it's characteristics. Once you see how everything is impermanent, uncertain, and without self you begin to see the truth of all conditioned things. The Buddha tries to teach us how to see the ego and the sense of "I" and "me" for what it actually is. Forest monks like Ajahn Chah, Buddhadasa bhikkhu, and Taungpulu Sayadaw have their teachings posted online as well as in books from recordings of their talks. I advise you to read some of these and see what you think of them. And a note, the Baghavad-gita is a Hindu text which has nothing to do with Buddhism.
  • edited May 2005
    Thanks Elohim!

    Don't know where I got baghavad-gita from, the tipitaka is what I meant...

    Better start reading, great link!

    --gav.
  • 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
    edited May 2005
    I forgot to mention Elohim, and he is one serious mine of good, valid and reliable information. Glad you got some answers at least, and I hope it all helped! :)
  • edited May 2005
    You referred to the Bhagavad-Gita. As far as I know, this is a Hindu text and not so important to Buddhism. As far as I know, all of it predates Buddha. Sorry I can't tell you more. If you are interested, Yahoo seems to pull up plenty of results, but you did have the spelling wrong (heh, even I had to look it up) which might have hurt your previous efforts.
  • ZenLunaticZenLunatic Veteran
    edited May 2005
    If by orthodox you mean something closer to what the Buddha himself practiced, then you might want to check out the 3 wheels or vehicles of buddhism.

    http://www.onmarkproductions.com/html/schools-three-vehicles.shtml

    Theraveda (or Hinayana, which from what I understand, is more of a derogatory term) is probably closest to what Buddha taught.

    Remember, as any religion or school of thought passes through different cultures, it's bound to pick up the local beliefs/customs into its practice. That's why some flavors of buddhism have 'gods' while others are strictly non-theist.

    If you are looking for a text from buddha's time, the dhammapada may be what you are looking for.
  • edited May 2005
    Hi all, thanks for your replies.

    I had the idea that orthodox buddhishm would be secular buddhism, but I see now that that is not the case.

    The aspects of buddhism I have read about emphasise the experiental aspects of living. This intrigues me as it mirrors agnosticism: 'do not pretend that conclusions are certain which are not demonstrated or demonstrable' (Thomas Huxley).

    I am wondering whether there exists a school of buddhism that fits this agnostic viewpoint, that emphasises experience over taught ideas and rituals (no room for re-birth or karma here I'm afraid).

    Would zen buddhism fit this description? I have always naturally steered clear of zen because it seemed 'trendy', but I can't explain why I have that reaction.

    Thanks for all your great advice.

    --gav.
  • ZenLunaticZenLunatic Veteran
    edited May 2005
    Zen may be the path you are looking for. But remember, there are many paths to many mountains!

    Don't be too put off by 'trendiness'. There's a commercialized idea of what 'zen' is and then there's Zen. Do your own searching. As Buddha said, "be a light unto yourself."

    Tibetian buddhism is also 'trendy' thanks to Richard Gere and the Beastie Boys (MCA in particular, i believe).
  • 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
    edited May 2005
    I would suggest rather that it is agnosticism that reflects that particular thread of Buddhism, as Agnosticism is linked to organised and structured religious beliefs, whereas some would say that Buddhism is a philosophy and not a Religion (see 'FAQ's!) Buddhism is slightly older than the western Religions we know today, so it has the advantage of time on its' side....!
    I have heard it said that Zen Buddhism is seen by some as being nihilistic, and true to say, it is not a path that appeals to me personally, although there are many who adhere strongly to the principle of 'No-Mind, No-Time, No-Thing'.....
  • edited May 2005
    This has to be the most flame-free forum I have ever posted on. 12 posts by people with differing ideas but not even the hint of an argument!

    --gav.
  • edited May 2005
    "Zen is beyond religion. Religions remain what they are. Zen is meditation. Meditation is the foundation of every religion."

    - S. Suzuki

    Seems zen doesnt stress karmic rebirth, but it hangs around in the background.

    So what I am left with is vipassana, which is actually where I started. I should just get on and meditate. Thanks again for all your input.

    --gav.
  • BrianBrian Detroit, MI Moderator
    edited May 2005
    Gav: That's the conclusion I arrived at as well, after about two years of searching for the "right" buddhism for me. I realized I was becoming too attached to the concept of looking for buddhism, and not actually getting anything done.

    "I should just get on and meditate" is going to be my quote of the day, if you don't mind :)
  • ZenLunaticZenLunatic Veteran
    edited May 2005
    My favorite quote is

    "Don't just do something, sit there!"



    Gav.. we may get sidetracked, but rarely flame. Too much anger in flaming.. very un-buddhist like ;)
  • edited May 2005
    gavinfo wrote:
    This has to be the most flame-free forum I have ever posted on. 12 posts by people with differing ideas but not even the hint of an argument!

    --gav.

    Gav,

    Yes, you are right. This is about the most flame-free forum that I have ever posted on as well. I am new to Buddhism myself but have found that I can ask any question and someone will answer and not make me feel like an idiot. That is a big plus in my opinion! :lol: :lol:

    I am reading about different sects of Buddhism because I feel that it is important for me to do so. However, Nichiren Buddhism is the path I have decided to choose for me and Zen is right; it would not be very Buddhist-like to flame others for their choice of path. It is so nice to belong here and be able to express yourself and get answers to questions.

    Adiana :bigclap: :bigclap: :bigclap:
  • 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
    edited May 2005
    Oh no it isn't....! :lol:
  • edited May 2005
    Hi, Fed!

    LOL!

    Adiana
  • edited May 2005
    Logically, there is no orthodox buddhism. Any hard, fast, strict "rules" in buddhism would be self-defeating. The point of buddhism is to strip away crystalized views so that every moment of reality is revealed in its pure and natural light without the filters of expectation and prejudice.
    Emptiness.
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