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Dare we update the dharma?

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran
edited November 28 in Buddhism Today

I came across this article in Lions Roar,

https://www.lionsroar.com/dare-we-update-the-dharma/

I think it is a really good question. In a way the dharma contains a lot of old material, things that were relevant 2500 years ago such as gods and cosmology. But do we dare to formulate a new version? It is difficult to know what is essential to the teaching, and what is merely window dressing that has accumulated through people’s superstitions.

I thought the article was interesting because it takes a different view, that we should consider any current update to be no different from past Buddhist adaptations to different cultures. Very refreshing, and relatively liberated.

Comments

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    In the article it lists a number of things the author would like to keep unchanged...

    Many aspects of the dharma have never been “updated” or changed—nor should they be. These include Buddhism’s emphasis on the primacy of mind, its realistic account of suffering, its insight into impermanence, its detailed analysis of mind and emotions, its subtle exposition of psychological and moral causation, its insight into no-self/emptiness, its stress on meditation, its vision of spiritual freedom, its inspiring artistic expressions, and its altruistic ethics. All these fundamentals have carried across generations and continents, and they need no revision.

    Which I thought was a good start.

    Dhammika
  • 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

    There is the danger of turning it into a modern-day psycho-babble manual for those interested in the workings of THE Mind, as opposed to continuing to be the most wonderful go-to for those interested in 'Mind'. Remove too much of the poetry, the history, the wonderment of 'then and now' and you're left with a textbook classic all wannabe psychologists will claim as their own.

    DhammikaFosdicklobsterVastmind
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Some things you can update and others you can’t. I think at best you could arrive at a kind of core teaching, and then around that a lot of other material which is older and not updated. For example can you imagine trying to update the Dhammapadda? These things are composed entirely in verse.... so I don’t think you could entirely separate the updated material from a matrix of other Buddhist content.

    Look at what happened with mindfulness, im sure a lot of practitioners are not aware that it was originally a Buddhist teaching. Perhaps psychologists looking for new areas of psycho-babble will try to take other portions of the Buddhist thought and strip it of its context, im not sure if that would even be a bad thing.

    There is a saying that in any of the buddha’s teachings all the rest of his dhamma can also be found. That might mean that out of all the people learning corporate mindfulness now a portion will end up as Buddhists in all but name... eventually...

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the void Veteran

    I agree too that there are some aspects that should be updated, or adapted to the culture, and some things that shouldn't.

    I would say that it would be best if changes are made by people who have actually gained the spiritual realizations and can speak from first hand experience whether the changes are staying true or not, rather than a scholarly effort.

    A couple comments about points made in the article. In adopting more western attitudes I'd prefer it if sanghas didn't become so political, let people do that in their own time. Doing so basically turns off a large portion of people who could benefit from the teachings but have a different politics. I've been to a teaching where a guest teacher had us chant the protest song "We Shall Overcome" rather than Buddhist chants. And some argue that being political is essential to being a "good" Buddhist. Saying everything touches politics isn't the same as making everything political. When Buddha accepted women as monastics that had a social and political impact, but he didn't do it for political reasons. He wasn't trying to score political points for his team or take down his rivals.

    About the existence of conservative Buddhists
    https://www.lionsroar.com/elephant-in-the-meditation-room/

    And then regarding hierarchies. Its true that hierarchies often become corrupted and people can think that just because someone is high on a hierarchy that they are automatically fit to be there or better in some way. I think there is an important point that Roger Jackson makes against pure egalitarianism. I think hierarchies of genuine competence are valuable and should be implemented and maintained. I think a teacher with decades of practice experience opinion is worth more than someone new to the sangha.

    Vastmind
  • DhammikaDhammika Veteran Veteran
    edited November 28

    Some things you can update and others you can’t. I think at best you could arrive at a kind of core teaching, and then around that a lot of other material which is older and not updated. For example can you imagine trying to update the Dhammapadda? These things are composed entirely in verse.... so I don’t think you could entirely separate the updated material from a matrix of other Buddhist content.

    DHAMMIKA: Every modern translation is, in essence, an update and interpretation. See the different word choices and phrasings of the Dhammapada as translated by Gil Fronsdal or Bhante Sujato’s recent release of his mammoth re-translation project of Early Buddhist texts at http://suttacentral.net. We are constantly dealing with re-focusings and re-interpretations. (See this thread for someone taking cranky issue with Bhante Sujato’s translation in one instance: https://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?t=34985)

    In the end, after we experience the teachings, their interpretations and translations and watered down versions and, in my case, my muddled, stumblebum attempts to put them into practice, it would be good to keep Bhante Gunaratana’s North Star observation in sight:

    "Don't get lost in the details of practice and forget the big picture. Always make sure your efforts actually bring more wholesome states
    ."~Bhante G

    ("Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness," p. 192)

    Kerome
  • lobsterlobster Veteran Veteran
    edited November 29

    Dare we update the dharma?

    Dare we not ...
    https://www.lionsroar.com/buddhisms-next-40-years-a-time-of-reformation/

    On a personal level I cherry pick. Is it useful, relevant, working?
    Otherwise it goes in the bin marked, 'bin there' ...

    Don't get lost in the details of practice and forget the big picture. Always make sure your efforts actually bring more wholesome states
    Indeed. Wholesome states. Wholemeal dharma - cherry pie. Yum 😉

    ... actually gained the spiritual realizations and can speak from first hand experience

    Ah ha. Recipe follows:

    Take your ingredients
    bake in kindness, wisdom and virtue
    share with fiends 🤗 friends 💗🙏🏽🦞

    VastmindDhammika
  • LionduckLionduck Veteran Veteran

    the Dharma is updated every moment of every day. Or rather, the dharma does not change but our expression and understanding of the dharma is in constant change.
    for instance, if we were talking about Gravity, we must note that gravity itself has not changed. The laws of gravity are basic, unchanged from before Newton described it to today. Yet, though it has not changed, our understanding about gravity has. Our understanding of the nature of gravity and our relation to it and it to us and the other universal forces has changed greatly and continues to change and grow. Still, gravity remains gravity.
    Just so with the Dharma.

    Peace to all

    FosdickDhammikaperson
  • FosdickFosdick in its eye are mirrored far off mountains Alaska, USA Veteran

    Same old dharma, always new.

    ShoshinDhammikalobster
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited November 29

    My personal opinion is that the Dhamma itself is timeless, but the package it's wrapped it may vary with time and place and colloquial terminology. Focus on the moon, not the finger.

    VastmindDhammikalobsterperson
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    It depends on how you teach things... the dharma we are talking about is what is taught to those who wish to study. If you had a series of foundation texts that showed an updated version of the dhamma, then you’d be a lot further along.

    But what tends to happen now with books that are written about the dhamma is that they are read by the author’s students and some of the curious intelligentsia, and not really accepted as a starting point for learning.

  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Yes the whole series of “the next 40 years of Buddhism” that Lions Roar is doing is very worth reading. It’s a lot of articles arranged around a number of topics, good stuff.

    https://www.lionsroar.com/buddhism-the-next-40-years/

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