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What are the most controversial topics in Buddhism?

matthewmartinmatthewmartin Amateur BodhisattvaSuburbs of Mt Meru Veteran
And what is the Buddhist way to deal with them? (yup, already heard about the rule about speech, not being divisive, etc-- which superficially sounds like just not talking about sensitives issues, i.e. leave the debate about sensitive issues who don't care much about those rules)

Vegetarianism, laxity (i.e. pragmatics vs the ascetic ideal), weapons, murder in self defense, national defense, abortion, the literal vs metaphorical interpretation of rebirth & karma come to mind as topics that modern society and the various branches of Buddhism haven't reached consensus on.

I've heard there is a system of structure debate in the Tibetan tradition, anyone know about that?
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Comments

  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited January 2014
    vegetarianism is without a doubt one of the most "controversial" going back of course to the time of the Buddha when Devadatta attempted to split the sangha by requesting that 13 additional rules be implemented, one of which being vegetarianism. The Buddha was wise and said that if monks want to adopt these practices they can, but they are not forced to.
    matthewmartinTheEccentricInvincible_summerKundo
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    The doctrine of emptiness vs. the idea of nothingness.

    Not compatible as emptiness implies potential for change whereas nothingness implies, well... Nothing.
    matthewmartinBhikkhuJayasaraVastmind
  • I like what @cvalue advised.

    For me the most controversial subject is should I practice Buddhism or tell others where they are going right . . .
    matthewmartincvalueKundo
  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran
    There are certain people who are controversial.

    Trungpa Rinpoche is a controversy magnet. The mere mention of his name online seems to bring out the worst.

    Michael Roach has his share.

    Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.

    Ole Nydahl.
    matthewmartin
  • 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
    I find the subjects which bring up the most controversy and heated debate are (not necessarily in this order):

    Abortion - rights and wrongs.
    Killing in self-defence
    Vegetarianism.

    On a lesser scale:
    Re-birth
    karma (collective, past deeds, people born with disabilities, etc)
    Self/Not-self
    The First Noble Truth.

    That word 'suffering' causes a whole lot of it.
    matthewmartinVastmindKundo
  • And the fifth precept.
  • "Clergy" sexual misconduct in the sangha. Although for some reason this isn't as controversial in Zen (though I guess it used to be, but Zen is facing it square on, now) as it is in Tibetan Buddhism. Problems arise in Theravada here and there, too. Fiscal malfeasance, too.
    BhikkhuJayasaramatthewmartinVastmind
  • matthewmartinmatthewmartin Amateur Bodhisattva Suburbs of Mt Meru Veteran
    Jeffrey said:

    And the fifth precept.

    And the 1st (guns, abortion, murder in self defense, national defense) and the 2nd (who's property right system, marx, ayn rands or adam smiths?), and the 3rd (does this mean Elizabethan prudery?) and the 4th (white lies, "expedient means" ala the Lotus Sutra, and so on)

    And the very idea of a list of rules.

    BhikkhuJayasara
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    Dakini said:

    "Clergy" sexual misconduct in the sangha. Although for some reason this isn't as controversial in Zen (though I guess it used to be, but Zen is facing it square on, now) as it is in Tibetan Buddhism. Problems arise in Theravada here and there, too. Fiscal malfeasance, too.

    Good one! This is something that the Catholic Church gets destroyed for, it should be the same for monastic institutions that turn a blind eye.
  • DaftChrisDaftChris Spiritually conflicted. Not of this world. Veteran
    I can think of a few.

    - Can Buddhists believe in a creator God?

    - Is Buddhism a philosophy or religion?

    - If it is a philosophy, can one practice it along with another religion?

    - Is Buddhism the "only true path" to the cessation of suffering?

    - Is SGI a cult?

    What is the Buddhist way of dealing with such topics? Understanding, compassion, open-mindedness, and being willing to hear the other side before making concrete conclusions.
    matthewmartinKundo
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited January 2014
    DaftChris said:


    - If it is a philosophy, can one practice it along with another religion?

    I like the way you worded this. This is very interesting. I don't recall this topic coming up on this forum in exactly this way. The can-Buddhists-believe-in-God question has, but not this.


    I'd also add that one of the most controversial issues in Buddhism can be whether or not being gay is ok. I hate to even mention it because it's such a sensitive topic, but given that there are texts (not sutras, but commentaries/interpretations) in the Mahayana that get a bit Puritanical, this can be an issue. Though for the most part, Buddhists tend to be live-and-let-live types, and interpret the relevant precept broadly rather than narrowly.

    matthewmartin
  • Chaz said:

    You rounded things up nicely. You may have left out some.

    Those topics you view as controversial only seem to be that way in forums such as this. Out in the world there seems to be a greater emphasis on practice. It's hard to argue with someone when the whole room is meditating.

    Ain't that the truth.
    It concerns me that those whose only contact with Buddhadharma is via online forums
    Might think that this is what Buddhadharma is like.
    It isn't.
    I am beginning to wonder if online Dharma is possible...which of course is likely to be controversial in itself.
    VastmindChaz
  • jaejae Veteran
    @Hamsaka... my learning is in its infant stages but I have learnt a lot from your posts and kindness I agree with what you are saying.

    I have also learnt a lot from reading all the posts but try to stay away from those are trying to 'out Buddha' each other with relentless bickering as it is counter productive and confusing for me.

    So thanks to everyone really :)
    VastmindcvalueDharmaMcBum
  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran
    edited January 2014
    Citta said:

    Chaz said:

    You rounded things up nicely. You may have left out some.

    Those topics you view as controversial only seem to be that way in forums such as this. Out in the world there seems to be a greater emphasis on practice. It's hard to argue with someone when the whole room is meditating.

    Ain't that the truth.
    It concerns me that those whose only contact with Buddhadharma is via online forums
    Might think that this is what Buddhadharma is like.
    It isn't.
    I am beginning to wonder if online Dharma is possible...which of course is likely to be controversial in itself.
    I'm so with you on that. I sometimes shudder to think what some newcomer to the dharma may pick up on a forum like this one. Some stuff may sound good, but oftentimes it's not.

    Like that comment about Bodhisattva Vows being a bunch of "shall nots" or something like that. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Someone could pick that up and run with it and all it will do is create confusion and prejudice. That's not to mention that person could walk into a Mahayana sangha and drop that in conversation or teaching, get corrected and be massively embarassed.

    I'm of the opinion, boards like this should actively discourage discussions of things like emptiness. Nobody online really understands it and shouldn't be discussing it based on their misunderstanding.

    This is peoples' karma we're dealing with, for chrissakes.

    I wonder, too, if Dharma presented online is possible, especially on the context of an open forum. I think if the presentation is offered by someone with more than just street creds, such as Ven. Samahita, there's a chance that someone might get the right instruction but in a free-for-all like we have here, I have my doubts.
  • matthewmartinmatthewmartin Amateur Bodhisattva Suburbs of Mt Meru Veteran
    re: online dharma vs offline sanghas
    One thing that I'd get if I'd just go to one of the local centers/temples/viharas is that in any particular place, I could assume that most people agree on broad doctrinal issues. For example, among SGI, they aren't going to be arguing over the efficacy of mantras, the Thai Vihara isn't going to be arguing for and against if Amitabha is a god/if Pure Land Sutras were preached by the historical Buddha, etc.



    BhikkhuJayasaracvalue
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    edited January 2014
    Hamsaka said:

    Citta said:

    Chaz said:

    You rounded things up nicely. You may have left out some.

    Those topics you view as controversial only seem to be that way in forums such as this. Out in the world there seems to be a greater emphasis on practice. It's hard to argue with someone when the whole room is meditating.

    Ain't that the truth.
    It concerns me that those whose only contact with Buddhadharma is via online forums
    Might think that this is what Buddhadharma is like.
    It isn't.
    I am beginning to wonder if online Dharma is possible...which of course is likely to be controversial in itself.
    So far, I don't attend a local Buddhist group, though there are several, nor do I have a formal teacher. I need one more and more, as my practice develops. I see a therapist who does Vipassana meditation herself, but our therapeutic relationship is coming to and end and she doesn't teach Vipassana or meditation. Everything else; I've gotten online :)

    I don't consider the 'behavior' of online sanghas such as NB as anything but what a bunch of human beings do when they come together for a common goal. The Buddhadharma isn't 'here', or even specific to a real life temple or sangha. The Buddhadharma is THIS. It's everywhere you look because it is 'behind' your eyes looking out :D .

    I don't get too worked up about 'only' having an online sangha, I don't even see it that way. Just that more people here practice the Practice than I interact with IRL.

    I admit I have a TON of neurotic residue about being around people practicing something spiritual (or self-improvement, life-improvement) in groups. It's all reaction, on my part, admittedly. The urge to compare myself against the APPARENT behavior of others in their practice is strong and the crap that comes up in my head is annoying and destructive. Obviously, being with RL folks doing this is the next step BECAUSE of the above :)

    The online thing turns out to have been a great start for me, though. I'm an information seeker, and independent thinker and need a solid, self-generated base so I can focus on where to seek training specific to where I am going. Where I'm going is becoming more and more clear, thus my search for a teacher is going to be more specific and I hope to spend less time 'interviewing', getting my hopes up and dashed over and over until I find someone who resonates and off we go.

    Online dharma IS possible because it is happening right here and now. Individual intention is the key. I believe online dharma has its limitations, and a sincere seeker will encounter the limits and move beyond them into RL. These are only my opinions of course. Some have little or no choice because of where they live, and the onus is on their sincerity and intention to work with what is available.

    Gassho :)

    I don't think it is . And if one day you find yourself in regular real world Sangha I think you will see why the Buddha said that it was " all of the spiritual life" .
    This is meant to be kindly rather than critical.
    But Buddhadharma simply is not an individual endeavour..that's why the Buddha left THREE jewels.
    This of course cuts across a certain type of modern axiomatic mindset which values individuality above all things and fails to see that all that arises is interdependant.


    _/\_



    ChazNek777HamsakaKundo
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    how said:

    Anybody trying to define enlightenment or nirvana!

    Another great one.
  • The mystical aspect.
    matthewmartinDakiniVastmind
  • VastmindVastmind Memphis, TN Veteran
    edited January 2014
    IMO, forums may not be best for formal teachings...but it's still
    a nice platform to have for social interactions about Buddhism.
    It's up to each person to find out if who they hang out with...here..
    or IRL...is saying the 'right' stuff....hahaha

    It's a good place to talk out the controversies..hahaha
    Chazjae
  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran
    how said:

    Anybody trying to define enlightenment or nirvana!

    That's not controversial. It's dumb.

    :eek2:
    BhikkhuJayasara
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    Chaz said:

    Citta said:

    Chaz said:

    You rounded things up nicely. You may have left out some.

    Those topics you view as controversial only seem to be that way in forums such as this. Out in the world there seems to be a greater emphasis on practice. It's hard to argue with someone when the whole room is meditating.

    Ain't that the truth.
    It concerns me that those whose only contact with Buddhadharma is via online forums
    Might think that this is what Buddhadharma is like.
    It isn't.
    I am beginning to wonder if online Dharma is possible...which of course is likely to be controversial in itself.
    I'm so with you on that. I sometimes shudder to think what some newcomer to the dharma may pick up on a forum like this one. Some stuff may sound good, but oftentimes it's not.

    Like that comment about Bodhisattva Vows being a bunch of "shall nots" or something like that. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Someone could pick that up and run with it and all it will do is create confusion and prejudice. That's not to mention that person could walk into a Mahayana sangha and drop that in conversation or teaching, get corrected and be massively embarassed.

    I'm of the opinion, boards like this should actively discourage discussions of things like emptiness. Nobody online really understands it and shouldn't be discussing it based on their misunderstanding.

    This is peoples' karma we're dealing with, for chrissakes.

    I wonder, too, if Dharma presented online is possible, especially on the context of an open forum. I think if the presentation is offered by someone with more than just street creds, such as Ven. Samahita, there's a chance that someone might get the right instruction but in a free-for-all like we have here, I have my doubts.
    @Chaz & Citta

    Right... Totally get what your saying.

    Like what if someone new comes here and misses their chance to see the truth, the way and the light of Zen because some other poser here is just horsing around with a flashlight.

    Really???
    VastmindDavid
  • CittaCitta Veteran
    edited January 2014
    Post deleted.
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    Chaz said:

    how said:

    Anybody trying to define enlightenment or nirvana!

    That's not controversial. It's dumb.

    :eek2:
    No argument there. That other thread asking where the stupid buddhists hung out could have been easily answered with a link to the volumes of threads trying to define those two.
    Chaz
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited January 2014
    I think it's a good idea to try to understand what Nirvana is. Otherwise you only have 1 Jewel, the sangha. To have Buddha or Dharma as a jewel you should at least have an open question regarding what Nirvana is.

    Sorry @how and @Chaz, I beg to disagree.

    There are no dumb questions.
  • Isn't Nirvana the end suffering? Why complicate things?
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited January 2014
    In the Mahayana peaceful Nirvana is the end to suffering. But the final Nirvana is liberated even from peaceful Nirvana. A Buddha has developed all of the qualities to help sentient beings. We only see Nirmanakaya of the trikaya or three bodies of Buddha.
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    Jeffrey said:

    I think it's a good idea to try to understand what Nirvana is. Otherwise you only have 1 Jewel, the sangha. To have Buddha or Dharma as a jewel you should at least have an open question regarding what Nirvana is.

    Sorry @how and @Chaz, I beg to disagree.

    There are no dumb questions.

    @Jeffrey
    Ohhhhh This is like me begging you not to think or a purple elephant.

    IMO Enlightenment & Nirvana are better described by what they are not, but only to deal with the graspings that do not yet understand, going, going, always going on, always becoming...............!

    Eventually such questioning, loses the questioner and the best definition turns out to be that loss.

    Aaaarrrgghhh. Who you calling Dumb!
  • @how, I'll let you know when I have gone across to the other shore. :p
  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran
    wangchuey said:

    Isn't Nirvana the end suffering? Why complicate things?

    Because you're conceptualizing Nirvana and by definition Nirvana is beyond conceptualization. As long as you do that you miss what Nirvana is. Because we can't help but conceptualize these things, it's kinda pointless to pursue Nirvana's definition or description. To engage in pointless intelectual excercise is kinda dumb.
    robothowlobster
  • I think it's an individuals practice in whether to question Nirvana. It seems to me that you shouldn't strive for something without questioning your destination. That's only common sense though. Or at least so as it seems to me.
  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran
    edited January 2014
    What are the most controversial topics in Buddhism?

    '!" am a 'buddha' and experience 'Nirvana' and 'Samsara'

    'You' are an ignorant 'buddha' and without knowing it experience 'Nirvana' and 'Samsara'
  • I'll just stick with "The end of suffering" it's pretty black and white to me. I would not dare go any further until I can fathom what that means to me first.
  • anatamananataman Who needs a title? Where am I? Veteran
    wangchuey said:

    I'll just stick with "The end of suffering" it's pretty black and white to me. I would not dare go any further until I can fathom what that means to me first.


    You don't have to end suffering in this lifetime, thats what being incarnated as a human human is about, so don't end suffering, live with it and see it for what it is - you just have to develop equanimity. Ta da - that might enable you to end your suffering1
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    @Jeffrey
    Good luck with that.
    I was only allowed one call...
    No wait..that was somewhere else.
    Chaz
  • BeejBeej Human Being Veteran
    i think self/not-self is the stand alone conroversy of buddhism. every single practicioner struggles through this personal controversy.
  • Thanks for the well wishing, @how
  • person said:

    Tantra

    Stephen Batchelor

    Good one, @person!

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited January 2014
    Rebirth and vegetarianism seem to be the main ones. Not that I would ever dream of starting a thread on these topics just for a good argument....( ahem )

    Kundoseeker242
  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran
    person said:

    Tantra

    Stephen Batchelor

    Tantra is only controversial outside Tantra.

    SB is controversial because he wants to be.
  • person said:

    Tantra

    Stephen Batchelor

    Buddha.
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran
    Well said, Dakini!
  • ChazChaz The Remarkable Chaz Anywhere, Everywhere & Nowhere Veteran
    edited January 2014
    Dakini said:


    Batchelor's "agnostic" approach toward rebirth ....

    Batchelors?


  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited January 2014
    Buddhists have been arguing amongst themselves since before Buddha died. Originally, whether or not to admit women to the group and make the Sangha co-ed and treat women as equal in authority seemed to be the biggest controversy. Eventually that particular controversy was settled when women lost out big time in the fight for leadership after Buddha's death. For most of Buddhist history, it was assumed that of course the temples would be filled with men and in recounting the list of Patriarchs, nobody asked, "Where the women at?"

    But that was replaced with other controversies, as people have this innate drive to ask "Why not...?" and the Sangha is a living, changing thing whether we accept it or not. In China, Buddhism evolved into Chan and then there was a Northern and Southern school who argued about who had the correct lineage and practice, sudden versus gradual enlightenment being the huge controversy. Gradual lost the battle when they lost their royal patronage.

    So we have a new, modern list of controversies today. The next generation will laugh at our list and create their own.

    See, controversy is not a bad thing. It means even in defending what is passed down to us, we must actually use our minds and think, not just parrot what we have been taught.

    Chaz
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