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Literal or figurative?

opiumpoetryopiumpoetry Delaware, Ohio, USA New

Some people take ideas like rebirth, karma, Pure Lands, etc. as literal truth. Others interpret them figuratively. How about YOU?

Comments

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    I take karma as cause and effect and so as a matter of fact. Even when we take into consideration things like intent I can't help but figure it's all the logistics of causation.

    Rebirth and pure lands may be literal but serve as good illustrations for moral stories.

    My stance is an agnostic one.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    I’ve always assumed they were meant to be taken literally, which is why i’ve always found them problematic.

    I’ve had different stances, but I tend towards the skeptic.

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    Literal

    Kundo
  • 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

    Karma - literal.
    Six realms - figurative
    Rebirth - literal. With a soupçon of figurative.

    Lionduck
  • Karma - literal and mutable
    10 Worlds - Literal when taken as condition of life, not fixed relms
    (Hell, Hunger...Humanity..Bodhisattva, Buddha)
    Figurative if viewed as states of being or relms in which one resides
    "Rebirth" or "Reincarnation" - Literal (life continues but specific memory is impermanant)

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    All literally.

    lobster
  • 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

    ... + "Insightful"..... :)

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited September 8

    @opiumpoetry said:
    Some people take ideas like rebirth, karma, Pure Lands, etc. as literal truth. Others interpret them figuratively. How about YOU?

    So, I see rebirth and karma as largely the same thing. I believe in karma, so I believe in rebirth, but does that mean I believe everything the Buddha is supposed to have said about karma and rebirth?

    There are so-called "early Buddhist texts" where the Buddha says that all dancers, musicians, and entertainers, are hell-bound assuredly, to a special hell for those to encourage frivolity. There are also so-called "early Buddhist texts" where the Buddha says you can become a God just by wishing for it hard enough. Do I believe this?

    Similarly, some famous Mahāyāna texts (I am thinking of the Lotus Sūtra in particular) double down and focus on jugglers: jugglers are going to hell. Do I believe this? More troublingly, there are many Buddhist texts that say homosexuals and the effeminate are going to be reborn in hell. Do I believe this?

    Do I believe musicians are destined to their own particular hell for having a good time? Not really. So, we all pick and choose what seems reasonable amidst the storm of things the Buddha "supposedly" said.

    Keromeadamcrossleyopiumpoetry
  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited September 8

    There are also many, many, Buddhists texts who say that being born in a woman's body is unfortunate karma on account of their menstrual bleeding, that they need to reborn as men to attain awakening. Do I believe this? Also no.

    Keromeadamcrossleyopiumpoetry
  • 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

    @Vimalajāti said:
    There are also many, many, Buddhists texts who say that being born in a woman's body is unfortunate karma on account of their menstrual bleeding, that they need to reborn as men to attain awakening. Do I believe this? Also no.

    Would you be kind enough to cite sources for the above? I personally have honestly never seen this written anywhere... but that's not to say I'd be surprised...

  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @federica said:

    @Vimalajāti said:
    There are also many, many, Buddhists texts who say that being born in a woman's body is unfortunate karma on account of their menstrual bleeding, that they need to reborn as men to attain awakening. Do I believe this? Also no.

    Would you be kind enough to cite sources for the above? I personally have honestly never seen this written anywhere... but that's not to say I'd be surprised...

    I've heard reference to this in Tibetan Buddhist teachings. Nothing specific but just the odd comment. No mention of it having anything to do with menstrual bleeding though.

    Sorry, doesn't help much haha!

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited September 11

    @federica said:

    @Vimalajāti said:
    There are also many, many, Buddhists texts who say that being born in a woman's body is unfortunate karma on account of their menstrual bleeding, that they need to reborn as men to attain awakening. Do I believe this? Also no.

    Would you be kind enough to cite sources for the above? I personally have honestly never seen this written anywhere... but that's not to say I'd be surprised...

    I wouldn't say there are many, but they do exist. One example from the Pali Canon is MN 115:

    They understand: ‘It’s impossible for a woman to be a perfected one, a fully awakened Buddha. But it is possible for a man to be a perfected one, a fully awakened Buddha.’ They understand: ‘It’s impossible for a woman to be a wheel-turning monarch. But it is possible for a man to be a wheel-turning monarch.’ They understand: ‘It’s impossible for a woman to perform the role of Sakka, Māra, or Brahmā. But it is possible for a man to perform the role of Sakka, Māra, or Brahmā.’

    On the Mahayana side, there's the five obstructions in the twelfth chapter of the Lotus Sutra, which is similar to the above (although the Dragon King's daughter seemingly proves this to be bullshit by instantly becoming a Buddha, but she turns male first, so...), and the Japanese Ketsubon kyo.

    Sadly, even Buddhist texts aren't free from sexism. But as Vimalajāti asks, do I believe them? No. There are many more that contradict these kinds of texts and highlight the abilities of women and their attainments, and I chalk these up to patriarchal and sexist biases towards women by insecure men and those seeking to maintain their positions of authority and power.

    Bunksfederica
  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran

    @federica said:

    @Vimalajāti said:
    There are also many, many, Buddhists texts who say that being born in a woman's body is unfortunate karma on account of their menstrual bleeding, that they need to reborn as men to attain awakening. Do I believe this? Also no.

    Would you be kind enough to cite sources for the above? I personally have honestly never seen this written anywhere... but that's not to say I'd be surprised...

    Certainly. Its going to take me a few, because I have to dig through some Abhidharma texts and Āryopāsakaśīlasūtra, etc., but I will say now that I misspoke in the above: there are "many, many texts" that say a woman's birth/body is impure, has latent defilement not present in the male, etc., and that Supreme Buddhas cannot be women, and there a few texts that take this to the level of menstruation taboos. I can have another post within the week following up on this.

  • 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 September 10

    Thank you @Vimalajāti by all means seek if you would like, but I am - and always have been - of the same opinion as @Jason :

    There are many more that contradict these kinds of texts and highlight the abilities of women and their attainments, and I chalk these up to patriarchal and sexist biases towards women by insecure men and those seeking to maintain their positions of authority and power.

    This is why the Buddha's stance on the ordination of women, and his alleged comments regarding how the Dhamma will be curtailed by their inclusion, leave me to doubt that they are his words. And Enlightened being does no contradict him - or her - self.
    The caveats are additions from later contributors, of this I am certain.

    There are other texts where clearly, the Buddha not only allowed, but enjoyed the inclusion of female followers, as he did not discriminate.

    Thus, he spoke of Subha:

    ... See this Subha, the goldsmith's daughter,
    standing firm in the Dhamma,
    entering the imperturbable state,
    doing jhana at the foot of a tree.
    This is the eighth day of her going forth
    confident, beautiful through the true Dhamma.
    Trained by Uppalavanna,
    she's a three-knowledge woman
    who's left death behind;
    freed from slavery, debtless,
    a nun with developed faculties,
    set loose from all ties,
    her task done,
    fermentation-free.

    From here.

    adamcrossley
  • @opiumpoetry said:
    Some people take ideas like rebirth, karma, Pure Lands, etc. as literal truth. Others interpret them figuratively. How about YOU?

    I am fanatically unfanatical. Therefore believe Nothing and Everything ... and what is in between you and me ...

    To put it another way, ridiculous, outdated fantasies/delusions the Buddhas are unfeminine etc belong in the Christmas Cracker form of dumber dharma.

    There is Silence and it speaks to us. :) 🙊

    Bunks
  • opiumpoetryopiumpoetry Delaware, Ohio, USA New
    edited September 18

    @Vimalajāti said:
    "There are also many, many, Buddhists texts who say that being born in a woman's body is unfortunate karma on account of their menstrual bleeding, that they need to reborn as men to attain awakening. Do I believe this? Also no."

    @federica said:
    "Would you be kind enough to cite sources for the above? I personally have honestly never seen this written anywhere... but that's not to say I'd be surprised..."

    There's also the 8th vow of the Medicine Buddha in the Medicine Buddha Sutra: "I vow that in a future life, when I have attained Supreme Enlightenment, those women who are extremely disgusted with the ‘hundred afflictions that befall women’ and wish to abandon their female form, will, upon hearing my name, all be reborn as men. They will be endowed with noble features and eventually realize Unsurpassed Supreme Enlightenment."

  • 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 September 18

    Yeah. That's bollocks, frankly. I am entirely, 100% convinced that was never said, by the Medicine Buddha or indeed, any other one.
    That's so misogynistic as to defy any credence whatsoever.

    I appreciate your finding a source, but it just confirms my suspicions.

    Shoshin
  • opiumpoetryopiumpoetry Delaware, Ohio, USA New

    @federica said:
    Yeah. That's bollocks, frankly. I am entirely, 100% convinced that was never said, by the Medicine Buddha or indeed, any other one.
    That's so misogynistic as to defy any credence whatsoever.

    I appreciate your finding a source, but it just confirms my suspicions.

    I guess that proves that every Buddhist should choose for themselves what to believe and what not to. Luckily for us, no Buddhist is dumb enough to believe that they or other Buddhists are going to hell for what they believe or don't.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @opiumpoetry said:
    @Vimalajāti said:
    "There are also many, many, Buddhists texts who say that being born in a woman's body is unfortunate karma on account of their menstrual bleeding, that they need to reborn as men to attain awakening. Do I believe this? Also no."

    @federica said:
    "Would you be kind enough to cite sources for the above? I personally have honestly never seen this written anywhere... but that's not to say I'd be surprised..."

    There's also the 8th vow of the Medicine Buddha in the Medicine Buddha Sutra: "I vow that in a future life, when I have attained Supreme Enlightenment, those women who are extremely disgusted with the ‘hundred afflictions that befall women’ and wish to abandon their female form, will, upon hearing my name, all be reborn as men. They will be endowed with noble features and eventually realize Unsurpassed Supreme Enlightenment."

    Well found @opiumpoetry ... this to me confirms the view that there is a lot of cultural and superstitious junk still to be found in any ancient scripture. It’s very difficult to guarantee the source of transmission, and monks in olden times seem to have just added things.

    lobster
  • 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

    Two words:

    Kalama Sutta.

    'Nuff said.

    Shoshin
  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran

    @federica said:
    I appreciate your finding a source, but it just confirms my suspicions.

    [quote above originally in responce to @opiumpoetry ]

    When you wrote "by all means seek if you would like," I figured you were perhaps not as interested as I had originally read you as (the lack of tone is the eternal dilemma of internet communication, as we all know).

    There is also the Bahudhātukasutta at Majjhimanikāya 115, the standard narrative: It’s impossible for a woman to be a perfected one, a fully awakened Buddha. But it is possible for a man to be a perfected one, a fully awakened Buddha.

    But instead of more of this, I would like to instead quote from the Accounts of the Elder Nuns, the Therīpadāna, in particular, one of my favourites, the Yasodharāpamukhāṭṭhārasabhikkhunīsahassāpadāna (try to say that five times fast!), or Eighteen Thousand Buddhist Nuns Headed Up by Yasodharā, a dialogue between the elder nuns and the Buddha presented as a hymn:

    Buddhist nuns, eighteen thousand strong,
    who were born in the Śākyan clan,
    headed up by Yasodharā,
    went up to him, the Sambuddha.

    All those eighteen thousand women
    are superpower-possessors.
    Worshipping the feet of the Sage,
    they’re announcing their strength’s extent.

    "Birth is destroyed, old age, disease,
    and death is as well, O Great Sage;
    Guide, we travel the peaceful path,
    deathless and without defilement.

    If there’s trouble in the city,
    even for everyone, Great Sage,
    they all know our imperfections;
    Leader, give us your forgiveness.”

    "Now display your superpowers,
    doers of my dispensation;
    to that extent cut off the doubt
    among all of the assemblies.”

    "We’re Yasodharās, Great Hero;
    desirable, speaking sweet words.
    And in the home, O Great Hero,
    we all were fixed as your chief queens.

    In your household, O Hero, we
    were the leaders, the lords of all
    of the women there, who numbered
    one hundred thousand ninety six.

    All us women are endowed with
    the virtues of beauty and grace;
    youthful, well-spoken, we’re revered,
    like gods are revered by people.

    All us eighteen thousand women,
    born in the clan of the Śākyas,
    are famous ones, Yasodharās,
    the leaders of thousands back then.

    Beyond the essence of desire,
    fixed as the essence of beauty,
    we’re unmatched in terms of beauty
    among other thousands, Great Sage.”

    Worshipping the Sambuddha, they
    showed the Teacher superpowers.
    They displayed great superpowers,
    diverse, having various forms.

    Body big as the universe,
    they made the continent up north
    their heads; both other islands wings;
    and made India their torsos;

    tail feathers: the southern ocean;
    other feathers: varied rivers;
    their eyes were the moon and the sun,
    their crests were cosmic Mount Meru.

    In their beaks, mountain at world’s end,
    they carried a tree with its roots.
    Coming up to him, fanning him,
    they’re worshipping the World’s Leader.

    Then they made themselves elephants,
    likewise horses, mountains, oceans,
    the moon and the sun, Mount Meru,
    and Śakra, the king of the gods.

    "We’re like Yasodharās, Hero;
    We worship your feet, Eyeful One.
    Through your majesty, Hero,
    we’re perfected, Leader of Men.

    We’ve mastered the superpowers
    like the “divine ear” element.
    We’re also the masters, Great Sage,
    of the knowledge in others’ hearts.

    We remember our former lives;
    our “divine eyes” are purified.
    All the defilements are destroyed;
    we will not be reborn again.

    In meaning and in the Teaching,
    etymology and preaching,
    this knowledge of ours was produced
    in your presence, O Great Hero.

    Our meeting with all the Buddhas,
    the World-Lords, was displayed to you;
    our extensive service to them
    was for the sake of you, Great Sage.

    O Sage, recall the good karma,
    which formerly was done by us;
    that merit was heaped up by us
    for the sake of you, Great Hero.

    We kept from misconduct, hindered
    the nine impossible places;
    we have sacrificed life itself
    for the sake of you, Great Hero.

    We were given to be your wives,
    several tens of billions of times.
    We were not distressed about that,
    for the sake of you, O Great Sage.

    We were given to do service,
    several tens of billions of times.
    We were not distressed about that,
    for the sake of you, O Great Sage.

    We were given to provide food,
    several tens of billions of times.
    We were not distressed about that,
    for the sake of you, O Great Sage.

    We have given you all our lives,
    several tens of billions of times.
    We’ll liberate ourselves from fear,
    giving up our lives once more.

    Great Sage for your sake we do not
    conceal the things of a woman,
    numerous clothes of varied types,
    ornaments affixed to our limbs.

    Wealth and grain have been given up,
    villages and also small towns,
    fields and sons and daughters as well
    have been given up, O Great Sage.

    Elephants, horses, also cows,
    slaves as well as servant-women
    are given up beyond all count,
    for the sake of you, O Great Sage.

    Whatever we are told to give
    as alms to beggars, we give that;
    we don’t witness any distress
    from giving the ultimate gift.

    We have experienced dis-ease
    of diverse types, beyond all count,
    in this much-varied existence
    for the sake of you, Great Hero.

    Attaining comforts, we don’t thrill;
    We don’t get distressed by troubles.
    Everywhere we remain balanced
    for the sake of you, O Great Sage.

    After experiencing both
    pleasure and pain along the way,
    the Great Sage reached Awakening,
    the Teaching for which Buddha strived.

    By you and by us there was much
    meeting with the other World-Lords,
    whether you’re the god Brahmā or
    Gotama Buddha, World’s Leader.

    We performed a lot of service,
    for the sake of you, O Great Sage;
    while you sought the Buddha's Teaching,
    we were always your attendants.

    One hundred thousand aeons and
    four incalculable aeons
    hence, Dīpaṅkara, Great Hero,
    the Leader of the World was born.

    Someplace in a nearby country,
    inviting him, the Thus-Gone-One,
    happy-minded folks are cleaning
    the road on which he is coming.

    At that time there was a brahmin,
    known by the name of Sumedha.
    He was making the road ready
    for the All-Seer who was coming.

    At that time we all were maidens,
    who had been born in brahmin clans;
    we carried to that assembly
    flowers grown in water, on land.

    Just then the Greatly Famed Buddha,
    Dīpaṅkara, the Great Hero,
    prophesied future Buddhahood
    for that sage with a lofty mind.

    The earth together with its gods
    was shaking, roaring and quaking,
    as he was praising his karma
    for that sage with a lofty mind.

    Divine maidens, human women,
    we and the whole world with its gods,
    worshipping with various things
    to be offered, we made wishes.

    The Buddha with the name “Bright Lamp”
    prophesied to them at that time:
    “Who wished today, they’re going to be,
    reborn together, face-to-face.”

    Rejoicing about Buddha’s speech,
    we lived behaving in that way
    the Buddha prophesied for us
    numberless aeons ago.

    We brought pleasure to our minds when
    that karma was well done by us;
    we experienced countless wombs,
    divine as well as human ones.

    Undergoing pleasure and pain,
    among gods and human beings,
    when our last rebirth was attained,
    we were born in the Śākyan clan.

    Beautiful and very wealthy,
    famous and likewise virtuous;
    endowed with every attainment,
    we’re much-honored among the clans.

    Riches, fame, hospitality,
    and indulgence in worldly things –
    they do not agitate our minds;
    we have no fear from anything.

    We were appointed to attend
    on what the Blessed One had said
    within the harem of the king
    in the kṣatriyan city then.

    We are women who are servants,
    and those who feel pleasure and pain,
    and women who declare the facts,
    women who are compassionate.

    Well-practiced, the Teaching-practice;
    that practice is not ill-practiced.
    We’re at ease practicing Teaching,
    in this world and in the other.

    After abandoning the home,
    going forth into homelessness,
    when eight months had not yet elapsed,
    we attained the Four Noble Truths.

    Like the waves upon the ocean,
    folks are bringing many varied
    monastic robes and alms to eat,
    requisites as well as lodgings.

    Our defilements are now burnt up;
    all new existence is destroyed.
    Like elephants with broken chains,
    we are living without constraint.

    Being in Best Buddha's presence
    was a very good thing for us.
    The three knowledges are attained;
    we have done what the Buddha taught!

    The four analytical modes,
    and these eight deliverances,
    six special knowledges mastered,
    we have done what the Buddha taught!

    Thus many sorts of suffering
    and many types of happiness;
    the pure life now has been achieved,
    we have obtained all achievements.

    Woman who are giving themselves
    for the merit of the Great Sage
    attain companionship with him,
    and unconditioned nirvana.

    The past is thoroughly destroyed,
    and the present and the future;
    all of our karma is destroyed:
    we worship your feet, Eyeful One.”

    “What more can I say to women
    who are going to nirvana?
    Pacifying conditioned flaws
    you should attain the deathless state.”

    I don't think the Buddha would say to these women, "What more can I say to women who are going to nirvana? Pacifying conditioned flaws, you should attain the deathless state,” if it were impossible.

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited September 19

    @Vimalajāti said:
    one of my favourites, the Yasodharāpamukhāṭṭhārasabhikkhunīsahassāpadāna

    I actually have something I like more from a similar body of literature. I am rather partial to Venerable Muttātherī's list of five things she is thankful for after joining the order of nuns:

    I'm free, well-freed.
    Freed from three crooked things that bent me down:
    My mortar, my pestle, my husband.
    Uprooting craving leading to being,
    I'm free from age and death.

    -Therīgāthā 1.11, Hymns of the Elder Nuns

    lobster
  • 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

    'My mortar, my pestle, my husband.'

    I collect Mortar and pestles....

    :lol:

  • 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

    Great posts, thank you, @Vimalajāti. :)

  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran
    edited September 20

    It reminds me of growing up learning about religion (mainly Catholicism and Judaism, which IMNSHO is the better of the two). You have the teachings and the halacha/laws. The teachings will ALWAYS be debated, twisted, re-interpreted to suit people's wants and desires to make them feel better about themselves. We see that in all paths everywhere - even here at times.

    The "laws" of Buddhism - precepts, 4NT and 8foldNP I take literally. As do some others. It makes for "interesting" posts in relations to taking drugs VS 5th precept.

  • The "laws" of Buddhism ...

    Laws eh? Morals eh?
    Thank Buddha I am a heretic. o:) I feel she would have approved. Probably just after starving herself bonkers as the Way to the Truth Fairy ... O.o

    I totally agree with a disciplined or literal adherence to a modus operandi as essential. It also means that for example not taking intoxicants, means not being drugged by our habitual responses ... o:)

    And if that is too hard, we can always use right speech to at least talk the walk ... ;) <3

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