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Sam Harris on the perennial philosophy

JeroenJeroen Do it with a smileNetherlands Veteran
edited July 24 in Philosophy

I have been reading the book “Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion”, written by Sam Harris, and in it there is a section where Sam talks about the perennial philosophy. For those not in the know, that is the view that all religions lead to the same end, which is an old idea but most recently championed by Aldous Huxley. Sam basically says that this idea doesn’t stand up to scrutiny beyond a quick glance, and as an example he cites the differences between Islam’s attitude to violence and Jainism’s attitude to non-violence. I found his reasoning persuasive.

Thinking about it further, it seems to me that there is perhaps a core experience that is the origin of all the religions, as they were in their beginnings, but that as they are now, with all the editing of the original accounts they are based on, translation and transcription, that they no longer fairly represent those experiences. Certainly they no longer all seem to lead in the same ultimate direction.

You could say that starting with a religion gets you certain things, a concentration of mind, whether that is through prayer or meditation, and a focus on certain virtues. That is true. And most religions have a mystical tradition, such as Meister Eckhart in the Christian space, or Rumi as representative of the Sufi’s in Islam. However these are small streams and not representative of the majority view. Most orthodox religious leaders would not guide you towards them. Moreover the more advanced teachings of each religion tend to be specialised and diverse, and more often trending towards instilling obedience rather than developing intelligence and wisdom.

It leads me to think that not all religions will lead to the same outcomes with respect to wisdom and maturity. If it were so, we would expect to see many people with the wisdom of Zen masters in places like Iran or Afghanistan, religious strongholds. Which is patently not the case.

What is attractive about the perennial philosophy is that it puts all religions on an equal footing and thus encourages tolerance and inter-faith dialogue. These are goals which most common people and politicians would subscribe to, and so a lot of otherwise sane people accept it with little scrutiny.

personlobsterDairyLama
«1

Comments

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    In my view all religions and psycho/spiritual practices have the ability to lead people towards wisdom and compassion. I don't think that means they are all equally good at doing it. Even if the teachings and scriptures originate from an authentic and deep spiritual experience cultural attitudes and practices shape them in different ways, leading both towards and away from authentic spirituality.

    Regarding Sam's stance towards Islam, since you're spending time digesting him. IMO he has a strong bugaboo towards magical and irrational thinking, believing that that sort of mind set opens the door towards all manner of destructive paths. (Which I agree with him). Again IMO he sets his sights on Islamic extremism because that is probably the easiest and maybe most pressing target today. He often makes passing remarks that other religions and ideologies have and do do the same sorts of things, and I do think he believes that. But he doesn't spend much time on them so I think its important keep in mind that there are plenty of other belief systems that can lead people to harmful behaviors, Tamil Tigers, Irish Catholic/Protestants, hardline Zionists.

    JeroenlobsterコチシカShoshin1
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    In my view all religions and psycho/spiritual practices have the ability to lead people towards wisdom and compassion. I don't think that means they are all equally good at doing it.

    Certainly any contemplative practice is better than none. But I think 10 minutes of mindfulness are going to be massively better than a perfunctory Hail Mary and spectacles-testicles-wallet-and-watch. The practical side of things means that some religions provide no more than a pointer to the lay faithful, while others encourage the whole population to spend at least six months as a monk, as they do in Thailand.

    Being “able” to “lead to wisdom” is a difficult claim, because often they also install much that goes counter to wisdom, like the belief in a heavenly order rather than being instilled with a belief in one’s own capabilities. Some of what is taught is very much counter to what we’d expect from the wise. I think it is the exceptional people who find wisdom, almost in spite of what they are taught.

    You might remember Hein Thijssen, the mystic who started out as a Catholic priest for thirty years before recanting and going his own way towards awakening. Even someone like Anthony de Mello was subject to posthumous censure.

    But he doesn't spend much time on them so I think its important keep in mind that there are plenty of other belief systems that can lead people to harmful behaviors, Tamil Tigers, Irish Catholic/Protestants, hardline Zionists.

    Very definitely true, a lot of the fringe beliefs have very unhealthy positions.

    personDairyLama
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Dear Friends of the Unbelieving, unbelievable and leavings,

    As we know all roams lead to roads or paths. It is just a question of not wandering around in circular tracks.

    I am a great believer in by their works/actions/words we find the nature of being. It is why the wise rarely talk. God as supremely wise, never talks and better still, rarely if ever, exists. It is impossible to be or state the perennial philosophy but I think (not too much) it involves incredible paradoxes of uncertain resolution:

    Shoshin1
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    This seems to me a classic heart-based understanding versus a rational argument. The heart wants to think that beliefs are equal, because you know what your belief is worth to you, you think that other people’s beliefs are the same for them…

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited July 27

    I'm an advocate of perennial philosophy myself, and I believe that most religions do point in the same direction, particularly within the mystical traditions as mentioned (I think this is because their focus tends to be more experiential rather than doctrinal). Most of the differences seem to be related to the historical context each tradition arises in and is conditioned by, and they may be dramatic in many instances). However, there are so many similarities that I find it pretty amazing when people don't notice them. Perhaps it all boils down to focus, but I'm more drawn to the works of people like Karen Armstrong, Richard Rohr, etc. who focus on the similarities vs. the differences. I've also personally discovered these similarities in my pwn study and practice of multiple spiritual traditions.

    federicaFosdicklobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    We can distinguish between regional religion, the inner experiential unfolding @Jason mentions and the limits of 'clever ignorance' masquerading as:

    • insightful science
    • peaceful propoganda
    • agenda cults

    and other controlling containers.

    We too are containers of this 'junk nutrition' that feeds our overriding assumptions. What is left when we empty rather than move our junk around?

    An emptiness. A clearing. A clarity.

    Jason
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @lobster said:
    We can distinguish between regional religion, the inner experiential unfolding @Jason mentions and the limits of 'clever ignorance' masquerading as:

    • insightful science
    • peaceful propoganda
    • agenda cults

    and other controlling containers.

    We too are containers of this 'junk nutrition' that feeds our overriding assumptions. What is left when we empty rather than move our junk around?

    An emptiness. A clearing. A clarity.

    Yeah, that's an excellent way of putting it.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    I'm not a fan of perennialism because it often involves misrepresenting individual traditions in order to make them sound similar. And trying to compare the Abrahamic and Dharmic traditions is fraught with difficulty, IMO, because the underlying assumptions are quite different.
    So I think it is better to acknowledge and respect the differences.

    Shoshin1Jeroenlobster
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    This seems to me a classic heart-based understanding versus a rational argument. The heart wants to think that beliefs are equal, because you know what your belief is worth to you, you think that other people’s beliefs are the same for them…

    I think we can recognise other peoples beliefs as being important to them, without needing them to be similar to our own. It's about respecting differences.

    Jeroenperson
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    Respecting the differences is a good way to put it. For me it’s about what direction an average teacher of the religion will lead you into. There’s no doubt that a mystic or inherently talented and wise spiritual person will find their way, but if you’re an average 30-year-old just making contact after a life-changing illness, what is likely to happen?

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Respecting the differences is a good way to put it. For me it’s about what direction an average teacher of the religion will lead you into. There’s no doubt that a mystic or inherently talented and wise spiritual person will find their way, but if you’re an average 30-year-old just making contact after a life-changing illness, what is likely to happen?

    @Kerome said:
    Respecting the differences is a good way to put it. For me it’s about what direction an average teacher of the religion will lead you into. There’s no doubt that a mystic or inherently talented and wise spiritual person will find their way, but if you’re an average 30-year-old just making contact after a life-changing illness, what is likely to happen?

    I think it's often a bit hit and miss for people. It might come down to what's available locally, or what their friends suggest. And the choice can be bewildering, with lots of sects and sub-schools within each tradition. People can research stuff on the Internet of course, but there is often a gap between what you read about, and what actually happens on the ground.

    lobster
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited July 27

    There was a time when I was all about perennialism. I actually thought I had coined the term "Omnitheism" 15 or so years ago but there was an obscure group that had already done that. My feeling was that all religions are at least partially true because we are all partially God (for lack of a better word). They also share a common moral thread in their varied expressions of the Golden Rule.

    The Abrahamic religions do have an awful lot of blood, gore and perversion within their Holy books and here in Canada we have been sickened as a nation lately over the ongoing grizzly findings in the lots of the church run residential schools (cultural genocide facilities) sanctioned by those who founded our very country. Priests and nuns inflicting untold suffering on over 1000 (so far) little children in little, unmarked graves that were ripped from their homes and forced to give up their heretage until that force ended them.

    And yet we have many wonderful, kind and giving people of all three Abrahamic faiths in their many forms.

    Maybe we shouldn't be looking to that which could connect religions. Maybe we should see how we can better connect as a species and as life itself.

    JeroenlobsterShoshin1
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited July 28

    @DairyLama said:

    @Kerome said:
    This seems to me a classic heart-based understanding versus a rational argument. The heart wants to think that beliefs are equal, because you know what your belief is worth to you, you think that other people’s beliefs are the same for them…

    I think we can recognise other peoples beliefs as being important to them, without needing them to be similar to our own. It's about respecting differences.

    I may be wrong, but I don't think most advocates of perennialism think that every spiritual tradition is the same and without difference. Rather, they've simply come to the conclusion that many of the core teaching and experiences of the founders and other masters of various religious traditions point in a similar direction.

    Most advocates of perennialism that I've encountered, at any rate, recognize and appreciate the differences is approach and language and how historical and cultural contexts have made each religion unique. At the same time, they can see ideas such as anatta (Buddhism), dying to self (Christianity), and fana (Islam) and argue/recognize that they are pointing towards something similar, even if the underlying assumptions and theological approaches to them are very different. Experientially, however, they are revealed to be quite similar and have similar effects on the individuals who put them into practice, and their teachings in turn reflect this.

    On top of that, the type of perennialism I subscribe to also posits an underlying shared reality or truth, which one can call God, Dhamma, the ground of being, or the nature of consciousness. But the general idea is that there is something universal and open to all to explore from their own POV (many roads to the same mountain), something we can touch or experience in the here and now, which is why perennialism is often focused more on the mystical and contemplative side of traditions than the doctrinal side, where the differences tend to be the most striking.

    I wasn't an advocate of perennialism in any sense myself until I started talking to people of other religious traditions, reading other religious texts in a less antagonistic way, and started practicing within those traditions. I don't think this is mandatory, but I do find it helpful in connecting with people of other faiths or whatnot, and I've definitely learned things that have helped in my own spiritual practice.

    lobsterコチシカ
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Very well explained @Jason

    • Atheists may follow an ethical kindness, develop qualities and retain an animosity to religious drivel (not sure what the right speech term is)
    • Followers of the Tao may not be too interested in some of its sillier magical manifestation
    • The Ain Soph Aur is God gone beyond being … yeah baby
    • Christian mystics if talking about God, similarly refer to something that is beyond the thingy
    • Magicians weld and mould a power, that transcends human norms
    • Artists are well aware of something beyond the format of expression

    I'll join =)

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @Jason said:

    @DairyLama said:

    @Kerome said:
    This seems to me a classic heart-based understanding versus a rational argument. The heart wants to think that beliefs are equal, because you know what your belief is worth to you, you think that other people’s beliefs are the same for them…

    I think we can recognise other peoples beliefs as being important to them, without needing them to be similar to our own. It's about respecting differences.

    I may be wrong, but I don't think most advocates of perennialism think that every spiritual tradition is the same and without difference. Rather, they've simply come to the conclusion that many of the core teaching and experiences of the founders and other masters of various religious traditions point in a similar direction.

    Most advocates of perennialism that I've encountered, at any rate, recognize and appreciate the differences is approach and language and how historical and cultural contexts have made each religion unique. At the same time, they can see ideas such as anatta (Buddhism), dying to self (Christianity), and fana (Islam) and argue/recognize that they are pointing towards something similar, even if the underlying assumptions and theological approaches to them are very different. Experientially, however, they are revealed to be quite similar and have similar effects on the individuals who put them into practice, and their teachings in turn reflect this.

    On top of that, the type of perennialism I subscribe to also posits an underlying shared reality or truth, which one can call God, Dhamma, the ground of being, or the nature of consciousness. But the general idea is that there is something universal and open to all to explore from their own POV (many roads to the same mountain), something we can touch or experience in the here and now, which is why perennialism is often focused more on the mystical and contemplative side of traditions than the doctrinal side, where the differences tend to be the most striking.

    I wasn't an advocate of perennialism in any sense myself until I started talking to people of other religious traditions, reading other religious texts in a less antagonistic way, and started practicing within those traditions. I don't think this is mandatory, but I do find it helpful in connecting with people of other faiths or whatnot, and I've definitely learned things that have helped in my own spiritual practice.

    I don't think the assumption of "many roads to the same mountain" is actually a good way to explore and appreciate other traditions. It implies a sort of superior understanding ("I can see a bigger picture"), which people in the various traditions might well regard as somewhat patronising.
    So I think it is better to approach each tradition with an open mind, without such assumptions, and thereby recognise it's uniqueness.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    Which is what I did and discovered many of the similarities I have mentioned here numerous times. Perhaps you have not had the same experience, but it is there to be had nonetheless.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 28

    @Jason said:
    Which is what I did and discovered many of the similarities I have mentioned here numerous times. Perhaps you have not had the same experience, but it is there to be had nonetheless.

    "It is there to be had" is another assumption. It depends what you're looking for, but wishful thinking doesn't make it so.
    I went to mass at my local Catholic church this morning (there isn't a local Hindu temple) , but I wouldn't presume to suggest that the God they worship is anything like Brahman. And if I do get to a Hindu temple eventually, I wouldn't presume to suggest that their "God" is anything like the Abrahamic God. Nor would I presume to suggest that "mystical" experiences are the same, basically because these are always interpreted and experienced according to underlying doctrinal assumptions. Leaving aside the vagueness of "mystical" as a description of anything.

  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @Jason said:
    Which is what I did and discovered many of the similarities I have mentioned here numerous times. Perhaps you have not had the same experience, but it is there to be had nonetheless.

    For the lucky few who fall into the mystical or contemplative paths. The vast majority will have to make do with the large doctrinal divergence in the knowledge that they get given.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited July 28

    @DairyLama said:

    @Jason said:
    Which is what I did and discovered many of the similarities I have mentioned here numerous times. Perhaps you have not had the same experience, but it is there to be had nonetheless.

    "It is there to be had" is another assumption. It depends what you're looking for, but wishful thinking doesn't make it so.
    I went to mass at my local Catholic church this morning (there isn't a local Hindu temple) , but I wouldn't presume to suggest that the God they worship is anything like Brahman. And if I do get to a Hindu temple eventually, I wouldn't presume to suggest that their "God" is anything like the Abrahamic God. Nor would I presume to suggest that "mystical" experiences are the same, basically because these are always interpreted and experienced according to underlying doctrinal assumptions. Leaving aside the vagueness of "mystical" as a description of anything.

    I wasn't initially looking for anything. I spent much of my time studying Theravada exclusively, and rejecting everything outside of Buddhism as mostly just superstition and delusion. But the more I talked to people in other traditions and took the time to read some things with a more curious and open mind, I found that many of them seemed to point towards something similar.

    If you were to read my words carefully, I do not say that every religion or religious practice is identical. But for those with the eyes to see, they are more alike than many realize; and I think the similarities arise out of people's shared discovery and experience of what is called God, Dhamma, Nature, Truth, etc. How a Catholic mass celebrates Jesus is obviously different from how Buddhist monks recollect the Buddha during evening chanting, and if that is what you focus on, you will almost certainly miss how the teachings of both come from/point to a similar, if not entirely identical, place.

    Nothing I say can convince someone otherwise who sees very sharp dividing lines between religions and does not seek to cross them as I have, but it is the experience I have had and share with others. When you hang out long enough with mystics and contemplatives of other traditions, you start to find that you're talk the same language. Funny enough, 10 years ago I was making the same arguments against the similarities with past members like @simonthepilgrim; and now here am, being the one to defend them. Anyway, here are a few examples of the similarities I see, and maybe they will plant the seeds in your mind as they were planted in mine:

    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/comment/412089/#Comment_412089
    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/comment/529454/#Comment_529454
    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/comment/529455/#Comment_529455
    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/comment/537119/#Comment_537119
    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/comment/546246/#Comment_546246
    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/comment/553905/#Comment_553905

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @Kerome said:

    @Jason said:
    Which is what I did and discovered many of the similarities I have mentioned here numerous times. Perhaps you have not had the same experience, but it is there to be had nonetheless.

    For the lucky few who fall into the mystical or contemplative paths. The vast majority will have to make do with the large doctrinal divergence in the knowledge that they get given.

    Yes, the causes and conditions for my own spiritual journey were fortunate enough that I was led/fell into those paths and I am very grateful for that.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 28

    @Kerome said:

    @Jason said:
    Which is what I did and discovered many of the similarities I have mentioned here numerous times. Perhaps you have not had the same experience, but it is there to be had nonetheless.

    For the lucky few who fall into the mystical or contemplative paths. The vast majority will have to make do with the large doctrinal divergence in the knowledge that they get given.

    I'm not convinced that "mystical and contemplative" is even a valid category, given its vagueness. You would need to be much more specific, though I suspect that being specific would reveal more differences than similarities.
    In any case, I still feel it is better to respect differences, rather than assuming or imagining similarities.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 28

    @Jason said:
    I wasn't initially looking for anything. I spent much of my time studying Theravada exclusively, and rejecting everything outside of Buddhism as mostly just superstition and delusion. But the more I talked to people in other traditions and took the time to read some things with a more curious and open mind, I found that many of them seemed to point towards something similar.

    If you were to read my words carefully, I do not say that every religion or religious practice is identical. But for those with the eyes to see, they are more alike than many realize; and I think the similarities arise out of people's shared discovery and experience of what is called God, Dhamma, Nature, Truth, etc. How a Catholic mass celebrates Jesus is obviously different from how Buddhist monks recollect the Buddha during evening chanting, and if that is what you focus on, you will almost certainly miss how the teachings of both come from/point to a similar, if not entirely identical, place.

    Nothing I say can convince someone otherwise who sees very sharp dividing lines between religions and does not seek to cross them as I have, but it is the experience I have had and share with others. When you hang out long enough with mystics and contemplatives of other traditions, you start to find that you're talk the same language. Funny enough, 10 years ago I was making the same arguments against the similarities with past members like @simonthepilgrim; and now here am, being the one to defend them. Anyway, here are a few examples of the similarities I see, and maybe they will plant the seeds in your mind as they were planted in mine:

    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/comment/412089/#Comment_412089
    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/comment/529454/#Comment_529454
    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/comment/529455/#Comment_529455
    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/comment/546246/#Comment_546246
    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/comment/553905/#Comment_553905

    Maybe in another 10 years you'll be back to your original position. That would be OK of course.
    As for "crossing dividing lines", I would suggest it is better to drop all preconceptions when doing so. Including preconceptions about similarity, unity, etc.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @DairyLama said:
    I'm not convinced that "mystical and contemplative" is even a valid category, given its vagueness. You would need to be much more specific, though I suspect that being specific would reveal more differences than similarities.
    In any case, I still feel it is better to respect differences, rather than trying to impose similarities.

    Is it imposed if someone discovers them quite naturally in the course of their life and practice? One can appreciate the differences while uncovering, appreciating, and developing the similarities and seeing in them a common source/goal. It does not seem you hold much respect for those who do the latter, however.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 28

    @Jason said:

    @DairyLama said:
    I'm not convinced that "mystical and contemplative" is even a valid category, given its vagueness. You would need to be much more specific, though I suspect that being specific would reveal more differences than similarities.
    In any case, I still feel it is better to respect differences, rather than trying to impose similarities.

    Is it imposed if someone discovers them quite naturally in the course of their life and practice? One can appreciate the differences while uncovering, appreciating, and developing the similarities and seeing in them a common source/goal. It does not seem you hold much respect for those who do the latter, however.

    Please see my edited post. People who assume or imagine similarities between traditions are not really respecting the people in those traditions. They're implying the superior knowledge of "I can see the bigger picture", which is patronising to those in the respective traditions.
    As I said, I don't find perrenialism convincing, it's just another set of preconceptions. Better to keep an open mind, IMO.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    Hm. So am I just assuming or imagining these similarities? How exactly do you determine if someone is assuming or imagining these things vs. their experience and knowledge being an organic result of sincere study and practice? And how is that not a sign of an open mind?

    David
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 29

    @Jason said:
    Hm. So am I just assuming or imagining these similarities? How exactly do you determine if someone is assuming or imagining these things vs. their experience and knowledge being an organic result of sincere study and practice? And how is that not a sign of an open mind?

    Maybe you're seeing similarities because you want to see them. Maybe you're downplaying the obvious differences. Maybe it's your way of reconciling or integrating the traditions you're drawn to.
    Anyway, I'm not critisizing your personal choices, I'm critisizing the perennialist attitude, and the assumptions behind it.
    I'm not really a Sam Harris fan, but I think his assessment is basically correct on this question.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 29

    @Kerome said:

    @Jason said:
    Which is what I did and discovered many of the similarities I have mentioned here numerous times. Perhaps you have not had the same experience, but it is there to be had nonetheless.

    For the lucky few who fall into the mystical or contemplative paths. The vast majority will have to make do with the large doctrinal divergence in the knowledge that they get given.

    When I first started doing "silent worship" with the Quakers, I assumed it was a type of meditation. But I eventually came to realise that it isn't a type of meditation, it's actually more like a devotional practice, quietly waiting to feel the presence of God "in the room". It was nothing like what a Buddhist would do.
    That's what I mean about dropping preconceptions of similarity. The preconceptions just get in the way.

    Jeroen
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @DairyLama said:

    @Jason said:
    Hm. So am I just assuming or imagining these similarities? How exactly do you determine if someone is assuming or imagining these things vs. their experience and knowledge being an organic result of sincere study and practice? And how is that not a sign of an open mind?

    Maybe you're seeing similarities because you want to see them. Maybe you're downplaying the obvious differences. Maybe it's your way of reconciling or integrating the traditions you're drawn to.
    Anyway, I'm not critisizing your personal choices, I'm critisizing the perennialist attitude, and the assumptions behind it.
    I'm not really a Sam Harris fan, but I think his assessment is basically correct on this question.

    That sounds very open-minded and not full of assumptions at all.

    lobster
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @DairyLama said:
    Anyway, I'm not critisizing your personal choices, I'm critisizing the perennialist attitude, and the assumptions behind it.
    I'm not really a Sam Harris fan, but I think his assessment is basically correct on this question.

    I think as soon as we limit the perennialist statement to just the mystical traditions, it is a lot more defensible. Certainly many of the main religions appear different enough that they don’t seem to be going in the same direction: Buddhism vs Islam vs Hinduism don’t seem very compatible at all.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited July 29

    @Kerome said:

    @DairyLama said:
    Anyway, I'm not critisizing your personal choices, I'm critisizing the perennialist attitude, and the assumptions behind it.
    I'm not really a Sam Harris fan, but I think his assessment is basically correct on this question.

    I think as soon as we limit the perennialist statement to just the mystical traditions, it is a lot more defensible. Certainly many of the main religions appear different enough that they don’t seem to be going in the same direction: Buddhism vs Islam vs Hinduism don’t seem very compatible at all.

    They are surprisingly compatible, at least for those who make the effort.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 29

    @Jason said:

    @Kerome said:

    @DairyLama said:
    Anyway, I'm not critisizing your personal choices, I'm critisizing the perennialist attitude, and the assumptions behind it.
    I'm not really a Sam Harris fan, but I think his assessment is basically correct on this question.

    I think as soon as we limit the perennialist statement to just the mystical traditions, it is a lot more defensible. Certainly many of the main religions appear different enough that they don’t seem to be going in the same direction: Buddhism vs Islam vs Hinduism don’t seem very compatible at all.

    They are surprisingly compatible, at for those who make the effort.

    I don't think they're compatible at all, and I reckon if you made a comment like this on Hindu and Muslim forums, you'd get very short shrift. And on most Buddhist forums too actually.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 29

    @Kerome said:

    @DairyLama said:
    Anyway, I'm not critisizing your personal choices, I'm critisizing the perennialist attitude, and the assumptions behind it.
    I'm not really a Sam Harris fan, but I think his assessment is basically correct on this question.

    I think as soon as we limit the perennialist statement to just the mystical traditions, it is a lot more defensible.

    Possibly, but the "mystical" types are generally on the fringes of the main traditions, and tend to be esoteric.
    And I'd suggest that people often find what they expect to find, based on the beliefs of their religious tradition.
    As with my earlier Quaker example, it would be easy to make incorrect assumptions about contemplative practices, particularly without first-hand experience within a tradition.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited July 29

    @DairyLama said:

    @Jason said:

    @Kerome said:

    @DairyLama said:
    Anyway, I'm not critisizing your personal choices, I'm critisizing the perennialist attitude, and the assumptions behind it.
    I'm not really a Sam Harris fan, but I think his assessment is basically correct on this question.

    I think as soon as we limit the perennialist statement to just the mystical traditions, it is a lot more defensible. Certainly many of the main religions appear different enough that they don’t seem to be going in the same direction: Buddhism vs Islam vs Hinduism don’t seem very compatible at all.

    They are surprisingly compatible, at for those who make the effort.

    I don't think they're compatible at all, and I reckon if you made a comment like this on Hindu and Muslim forums, you'd get very short shrift. And on most Buddhist forums too actually.

    Good thing I ignore those kind of people, keep an open mind, and trust my experiences.

    lobster
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 29

    @Jason said:

    @DairyLama said:

    @Jason said:

    @Kerome said:

    @DairyLama said:
    Anyway, I'm not critisizing your personal choices, I'm critisizing the perennialist attitude, and the assumptions behind it.
    I'm not really a Sam Harris fan, but I think his assessment is basically correct on this question.

    I think as soon as we limit the perennialist statement to just the mystical traditions, it is a lot more defensible. Certainly many of the main religions appear different enough that they don’t seem to be going in the same direction: Buddhism vs Islam vs Hinduism don’t seem very compatible at all.

    They are surprisingly compatible, at for those who make the effort.

    I don't think they're compatible at all, and I reckon if you made a comment like this on Hindu and Muslim forums, you'd get very short shrift. And on most Buddhist forums too actually.

    Good thing I ignore those kind of people, keep an open mind, and trust my experiences.

    But why would you ignore the views of the people actually practising in these traditions? If it's basically because they don't agree with your perennialist beliefs, that doesn't seem open-minded at all. More like sticking your head in the sand.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    As I said, I used to be one of those people who was adamant that they're too different and not compatible, and that it was a bad idea to try to combined them or practice in multiple traditions. But I entertained the arguments of those who said otherwise and looked into it. And I now admit that I was wrong about a lot of things, including my religious sectarianism. I don't think that people have to agree with those of us who have found that to be the case, but I hope others try to listen to those who have and at least entertain the possibility.

    lobster
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @DairyLama said:

    @Jason said:

    @DairyLama said:

    @Jason said:

    @Kerome said:

    @DairyLama said:
    Anyway, I'm not critisizing your personal choices, I'm critisizing the perennialist attitude, and the assumptions behind it.
    I'm not really a Sam Harris fan, but I think his assessment is basically correct on this question.

    I think as soon as we limit the perennialist statement to just the mystical traditions, it is a lot more defensible. Certainly many of the main religions appear different enough that they don’t seem to be going in the same direction: Buddhism vs Islam vs Hinduism don’t seem very compatible at all.

    They are surprisingly compatible, at for those who make the effort.

    I don't think they're compatible at all, and I reckon if you made a comment like this on Hindu and Muslim forums, you'd get very short shrift. And on most Buddhist forums too actually.

    Good thing I ignore those kind of people, keep an open mind, and trust my experiences.

    But why would you ignore the views of the people actually practising in these traditions? If it's basically because they don't agree with your perennialist beliefs, that doesn't seem open-minded at all. More like sticking your head in the sand.

    Who said I ignore everyone who practices in them? I certainly listen to people in those traditions, just not the ones who immediately tell me I'm wrong or a heretic or whatever are not open minded about my curiosity. And I am also a practitioner of those religious traditions. Perhaps you assume I'm simply talking from my arm chair, but I'm a member of multiple temples, meditation groups, churches, etc.

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @Jason said:
    As I said, I used to be one of those people who was adamant that they're too different and not compatible, and that it was a bad idea to try to combined them or practice in multiple traditions. But I entertained the arguments of those who said otherwise and looked into it. And I now admit that I was wrong about a lot of things, including my religious sectarianism. I don't think that people have to agree with those of us who have found that to be the case, but I hope others try to listen to those who have and at least entertain the possibility.

    As someone who has practised in multiple traditions, I don't think this is about religious sectarianism - quite the opposite actually. It's about really respecting differences, and respecting uniqueness. Respect also means not telling people in other traditions that they have missed your supposed "bigger picture".

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited July 29

    My sponsor into the Catholic Church was Greek Orthodox. And they all knew I was Buddhist. One of my meditation teachers was a Theravada monk also ordained in a Taiwanese Chan tradition. Another was Sakayan. And at the Trappist monastery I go to, I sit with the monks in their traditional Zen meditation room. I'm not the only one who embraces the similarities or accepts those who do.

    コチシカ
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited July 29

    @DairyLama said:

    @Jason said:
    As I said, I used to be one of those people who was adamant that they're too different and not compatible, and that it was a bad idea to try to combined them or practice in multiple traditions. But I entertained the arguments of those who said otherwise and looked into it. And I now admit that I was wrong about a lot of things, including my religious sectarianism. I don't think that people have to agree with those of us who have found that to be the case, but I hope others try to listen to those who have and at least entertain the possibility.

    As someone who has practised in multiple traditions, I don't think this is about religious sectarianism - quite the opposite actually. It's about really respecting differences, and respecting uniqueness. Respect also means not telling people in other traditions that they have missed your supposed "bigger picture".

    So you are assuming that I'm not respecting the differences and uniqueness as well as the similarities? If so, I refer back to my previous questions, "How exactly do you determine if someone is assuming or imagining these things vs. their experience and knowledge being an organic result of sincere study and practice? And how is that not a sign of an open mind?"

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    Gil Fronsdale brought up something in his teachings recently. I think its more pop psychology than anything official, but he mentions how some people are more "lumpers" and some people are more "splitters". That each have their place in the larger cultural picture and each will be attracted to and find more benefit with some aspect of the teachings than others.

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @person I am of the lump variety, sort of split into many …

    So unique differences are part of a mind split or Buddha cult. A more unified middle way between fanatical sundae splits and if it tastes good it must be vanilla.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    I've certainly take my fair share of lumps here and elsewhere. Guess that explains why I'm such a lumper. 🤷‍♀️

    Bunks
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    I seem to be a bit of both a lumper and a splitter. Actually reminds me of the two truths working as one.

    There are similarities and differences between the various religions as well as the branches of each. We don't have to focus too much on either but there will always be common ground I think.

    Bunks
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    @lobster said:
    @person I am of the lump variety, sort of split into many …

    So unique differences are part of a mind split or Buddha cult. A more unified middle way between fanatical sundae splits and if it tastes good it must be vanilla.

    I've heard the trick is to live as if we were split with one foot in the lump.

    lobster
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    @David said:
    "No tradition monopolizes the truth. We must glean the best values of all traditions and work together to remove the tensions between traditions in order to give peace a chance".

    THAY-Living Buddha, Living Christ- page 114

    I was going to post this in the quote thread but it felt at home here.

    This thread had me thinking in a similar direction. I'm wondering if what TNH is talking about here is more syncretism than perennialism. Though I don't know enough to say if there is an actual difference I kind of think of syncretism as sort of a selective synthesis and perennialism as sort of saying they're all paths to the same peak.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    @David said:
    "No tradition monopolizes the truth. We must glean the best values of all traditions and work together to remove the tensions between traditions in order to give peace a chance".

    THAY-Living Buddha, Living Christ- page 114

    I was going to post this in the quote thread but it felt at home here.

    Definitely want to second this sentiment.

    Bunks
  • BunksBunks Australia Veteran

    @Jason said:

    @David said:
    "No tradition monopolizes the truth. We must glean the best values of all traditions and work together to remove the tensions between traditions in order to give peace a chance".

    THAY-Living Buddha, Living Christ- page 114

    I was going to post this in the quote thread but it felt at home here.

    Definitely want to second this sentiment.

    Agree. All too often I hear Buddhists in certain traditions state that their tradition is the "true dhamma but that we should respect all traditions" (through gritted teeth!)

    But in the extreme you get folks like our friend Omar who proclaims his tradition is the one and only and that everyone else is wrong. I always feel like people like this are trying to convince themselves more than others...

    lobsterJason
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited August 4

    @person said:

    @David said:
    "No tradition monopolizes the truth. We must glean the best values of all traditions and work together to remove the tensions between traditions in order to give peace a chance".

    THAY-Living Buddha, Living Christ- page 114

    I was going to post this in the quote thread but it felt at home here.

    This thread had me thinking in a similar direction. I'm wondering if what TNH is talking about here is more syncretism than perennialism. Though I don't know enough to say if there is an actual difference I kind of think of syncretism as sort of a selective synthesis and perennialism as sort of saying they're all paths to the same peak.

    You can certainly look at it that way if you want, and I would say that I'm definitely a syncretist of sorts myself in my appreciation of other religious tradition and my adoption of their best teachings and traits. I think syncretism and perennialism are similar, though, and the main difference is in levels of appreciation or perception.

    Basically, there is Truth, and I capitalize it in the sense of relating to ultimate reality, whatever that is (Truth, Dhamma, Logos, Moon). And we, as sentient beings, find ourselves drawn towards uncovering this Truth. That search can take many different paths that aren't necessarily contradictory, although our conclusions might be. So some explore the rational in an attempt to approach Truth. Some chose a more empirical route of exploration. Some are more contemplative, while others have an intuitive sense of Truthness. And all of that is influenced by the time and place and culture one is located, giving rise to multiplicity of traditions and the ways we talk about Truth.

    One level sees all the differences and says these are different and one must be true while all the others are false. This is the level that seems to dominate throughout much of history, and even small differences in opinion create chasms between those in ostensibly thebsame tradition. Another level sees the best aspects of each and says these things have value, which is akin to syncretism. Yet another level sees the similarities underlying these parts and begins to see various descriptions that point to something universal that we are all seeking and attempting to understand and explain, noting things like a general agreement about the connection between morals and actions, the power of certain emotions and intentions (e.g., love/metta), and the ability of human consciousness to touch something that transcends our normal sensory experience. This is what I'd call perennialism.

    In the end, our conclusions may differ, and where a Christian might see union with God, a Buddhist might see touching the deathless element, or a neuroscientist an experience of nondual consciousness, I see a universal experience being described from various points of view and the languages unique to them. The same with love/metta or the moral efficacy of actions and the intentions underlying them. And even if others don't, I hope they're at least able to "glean the best values of all traditions and work together to remove the tensions between traditions."

    That doesn't mean everything is the same, or that everything has equal value. But we tend to get so hung up on certain words or approaches that we often miss what these things are pointing at. And to me, being spiritually mature means seeing past the fingers and apprehending the moon they're so desperately trying to point towards.

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Thanks @Jason

    Very well expressed <3

    The spice must flow …

    Jason
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