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Criticisms of Buddhism

edited December 2010 in Buddhism Today
I was watching Richard Dawkin's documentary Root of all Evil. For those who don't know about the program (it's available freely on youtube) it is essentially a piece that heavily criticises the world's major religions (except Buddhism) because they are based on blind faith rather than logical reason. This in turn due to each religions strong adherence to their 'law' or doctrine leads to many problems in the world such as Israel-Palestine wars and the implementation of creationism in schools curiculum.

I found myself agreeing and nodding heavily with every single minute of the program (I am atheist, Buddhist, and a scientist - the triple threat!). However, being of a sceptical and curious nature, I had wondered what are some of the legitimate criticisms one can come up with Buddhism?

I am definitely biased to Buddha's teachings but as a scientist and one who bases my decisions on logic, I find the concept of recincarnation as fundamentally flawed. The reasoning behind my conclusion on reincarnation is simply because I have not seen it in my own eyes and the concept itself has a fairytale concept behind it. It has a supernatural element to it in my opinion.

PLease share your thoughts on this topic if you wish, I am very curious and interested in what some people think about this.
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Comments

  • StaticToyboxStaticToybox Veteran
    edited September 2010
    I'm not sure that there are any legitimate criticisms one can come up with Buddhism, only with Buddhists.
  • edited September 2010
    Takeahnase wrote: »
    I'm not sure that there are any legitimate criticisms one can come up with Buddhism, only with Buddhists.

    Only those they label themselves as Buddhist but do not actually live the 'Buddhist' way.
  • 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 2010
    NamNam wrote: »
    I am definitely biased to Buddha's teachings but as a scientist and one who bases my decisions on logic, I find the concept of recincarnation as fundamentally flawed.
    Even though it's a highly logical concept? one far more so that, for example, having a soul that goes to heaven/hell?
    And do you mean reincarnation, or rebirth, exactly?
    As a scientist, wouldn't it be better to to be more precise, succinct and unambiguous?

    The reasoning behind my conclusion on reincarnation is simply because I have not seen it in my own eyes
    How do you know you yourself are not living proof it actually happens?
    and the concept itself has a fairytale concept behind it. It has a supernatural element to it in my opinion.
    Again, you need to be specific. What do you know of reincarnation that makes you label it 'supernatural'? What of it are you referring to?
    PLease share your thoughts on this topic if you wish, I am very curious and interested in what some people think about this.
    I'd share my thought if I thought you yourself were clear on yours.....
    Or correct even.

    Please tell us what you know of Reincarnation, how it applies to Buddhism, what you know of rebirth, and how it applies to Buddhism, and what exactly, in either case, you take issue with.
  • edited September 2010
    federica wrote: »
    Even though it's a highly logical concept? one far more so that, for example, having a soul that goes to heaven/hell?
    And do you mean reincarnation, or rebirth, exactly?
    As a scientist, wouldn't it be better to to be more precise, succinct and unambiguous?

    Haha, effective communication is most definitely an important skill irrespective of one's occupation. Ummm, I make it transparent that reincarnation and rebirth are two concepts I am definitely ignorant of and have limited or next to knowledge about.

    How do you know you yourself are not living proof it actually happens?

    I guess I don't is the honest answer. What is rebirth? Looks like I need to do some readings.

    Again, you need to be specific. What do you know of reincarnation that makes you label it 'supernatural'? What of it are you referring to?

    My interpretation of reincarnation is when one dies, their 'soul' is reincarnated in another form (either animal or human) depending on one's deeds in their previous life. Now clearly as I type this and re-read this comment, it sounds very absurd. However, I must reiterate that the relationship of reincarnation and/or rebirth to Buddhism is ignorant. So please kindly correct me where I am wrong.

    I'd share my thought if I thought you yourself were clear on yours.....
    Or correct even.

    Please tell us what you know of Reincarnation, how it applies to Buddhism, what you know of rebirth, and how it applies to Buddhism, and what exactly, in either case, you take issue with.

    Hello Federica, I have addressed your points above. Hopefully your my view can be understood a bit more clearly. Thanks for responding :)!
  • andyrobynandyrobyn Veteran
    edited September 2010
    NamNam wrote: »
    I found myself agreeing and nodding heavily with every single minute of the program (I am atheist, Buddhist, and a scientist - the triple threat!). .


    To whom do you perceive you threat NamNam?
  • andyrobynandyrobyn Veteran
    edited September 2010
    From my experience the path helps me deal with what has been come to be understood as the inevitable losses and changes in this human life/existance and to see that the only time we have, as we are is now ... warmest wishes to all
  • TandaTanda Explorer
    edited September 2010
    I also have trouble with the concept of rebirth.

    If rebirth is caused by Kamma/ aversion-attachment etc,. Why at all my first birth happened when there was zero kamma and zero sankara?

    Before any one would challange me let me confess my knowledge of Buddhist Philosophy is same as what I might have had on the first day of my first birth. Getting a quick lead is one reason why I am in this forum.
  • ChrysalidChrysalid Veteran
    edited September 2010
    NamNam wrote: »
    PLease share your thoughts on this topic if you wish, I am very curious and interested in what some people think about this.
    Criticising Buddhism in general is difficult as the basic teachings - the four noble truths, eight-fold path, dependant arising, not-self and "suchness" - are sound and largely self-evidently true. However, if you pick on a particular school it is as easy to find things to be critical of as it is with any other religious tradition.

    Speaking for myself, I am highly critical of the Pure Land School, I believe it is the Buddhist version of "opiate for the masses". In Pure Land Buddhism you don't need to practice the dharma, you don't need to understand the 4 noble truths or follow the 8-fold path, you don't need to meditate or live compassionately. All you need to do is pray devoutly to Amitabha and you'll be reborn in his Pure Land where you'll achieve Nirvana with no effort.
    Dawkins would, no doubt, find this form of Buddhism as superstitious and incredible as Islam or Christianity. And if he were to analyse all the other schools he would find superstition operating on some level in each. I suspect the only reason he didn't focus on Buddhism in his documentary or his book is that he doesn't know enough about it.
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited September 2010
    One criticism I would have against Buddhism. It sometimes gives people the false belief that "truth" can be known via logic and reason. But then again, maybe that is not Buddhisms fault.
  • edited September 2010
    I think the thing about the beliefs within Buddhism that can't be proven with logic and reason is that some hold them as doctrines to be accepted on what amounts to blind faith.

    A person who grows up in a culture that accepts rebirth will likely have no difficulty with the rebirth teachings and be puzzled that anyone would. In the same way those within a culture that takes the existence of a creator deity for granted sometimes find it hard to believe anyone could not believe in God.

    What I like about Buddhism (so this isn't a criticism, but a praise) is that nobody is required to believe what they can't. It also teaches that there is logic/reason as a means of knowing, but that it is limited in terms of what it can know. It further teaches that there is an intuitive knowing that is possible and to the extent this sort of knowing presents itself it is often experienced as a 'flash of insight' and is something that becomes known to meditators.

    In other words, perhaps things like rebirth are true and one day some will know it's true as a result of this latter form of knowing. The irony is the person who knows the truth of rebirth via intuitive knowing would never be able to prove it to anyone else ;)
  • LesCLesC Bermuda Veteran
    edited September 2010
    I agree rebirth is a difficult concept, as much so as an eternal soul living in a place called "Heaven". However, there appears to be some empirical evidence that points towards the concept of rebirth, whereas none exists for Heaven.

    There have been multiple cases of Tulkas recognizing items belonging to them from a prior life, chosen from an array of identical items, there have been cases where children have remembered past past lives in distant towns and villages, and when taken there have identified people never before met by name.

    True, this is not conclusive proof, but is interesting none the less, and tends to suggest there's something there we still don't understand. There is no such similar cases for Heaven. No one has as yet suggested they've been to Heaven, and come back to tell us about it.

    (reporting from Bermuda in the midst of Hurricane Igor)
  • ChrysalidChrysalid Veteran
    edited September 2010
    LesC wrote: »
    True, this is not conclusive proof, but is interesting none the less, and tends to suggest there's something there we still don't understand. There is no such similar cases for Heaven. No one has as yet suggested they've been to Heaven, and come back to tell us about it.
    Actually quite a few people who have had near-death experiences report seeing angels, dead loved ones, even Jesus if they're Christian, or Muhammad if they're Muslim, or Krishna if they're Hindu etc etc.
    It seems when it comes to the afterlife, people see what they want to see.
  • LesCLesC Bermuda Veteran
    edited September 2010
    Yes, I'm aware of the NDEs (Near Death Experiences) and I expressly didn't go there, for the simple reason that doesn't meet my criteria of having died, gone to Heaven, and come back to report. A similar example would not satisfy my criteria for rebirth either. Some 'vision' or other, that lasts but a moment, is no more than a dream, and just as unsubstantiated.
  • ShutokuShutoku Veteran
    edited September 2010
    I'm not sure there is any scientific evidence to support Nirvana or Buddha nature.

    Further, in many Suttas and Sutras, supernatural beings are present when the Buddha speaks, and supernatural things occur. Then we have the realm of miraculous things reported in mystical forms of Buddhism, and of course all of Pure Land Buddhism the most widely practiced form of Buddhism in the world, would likely not be deemed "rational".

    I suspect if you could not find rational flaws, you were only familiar with the western "rational" form of Buddhism where all the hard to believe stuff is conveniently omitted.

    Rebirth is not so hard...this whole universe is a big recycle factory. Science says that energy doesn't die, but merely changes form. Consciousness is energy...therefore it doesn't die but changes form. The same of course with our bodies. There is little debate that the energy that makes us as individuals will be "born" in many other forms once we are "gone".

    For me the other side of the coin is looking for the flaws in purely rational thought.
    Love, joy, enlightenment....none of them are rational yet they are the best things in life!
    I think Rationalism is becoming the western religion (though far far behind the biggest western religion, consumerism) and while rational thought has many wonderful things, it is only part of the picture, and people too enamoured with it alone, could miss out on other things.
  • robotrobot Veteran
    edited September 2010
    Hello, this is my first post. To begin, I have to say that my insight into emptiness is weak and fleeting. I am unqualified to speak about it. For me the notion of rebirth is fraught with potential problems of falling into extreme thinking about existence and non existence. The belief that there is someone or something that is reborn. The logic of Nagarjuna provides me with something to defend against the minds tendency to go there (sometimes). Insight into emptiness give a kind of certainty that allows me the wrestle with the notion of rebirth without becoming too confused. Cheers, P
  • edited September 2010
    Shutoku wrote: »

    Rebirth is not so hard...this whole universe is a big recycle factory. Science says that energy doesn't die, but merely changes form. Consciousness is energy...therefore it doesn't die but changes form. The same of course with our bodies. There is little debate that the energy that makes us as individuals will be "born" in many other forms once we are "gone".

    I agree with this 100% however I am not able to 'rationally' go from this matter-energy idea that is 100% based in scientific reason to having a belief that there is any sort of intelligence behind what matter-energy become after a person's body dies. It is my understanding that the Buddha taught that the way karma works and affects rebirth is simply too complex to understand rationally and considered it an imponderable. In other words, much of the matter that is my body would end up as a tree if my body were put into the ground and a tree planted atop it. A tree isn't a sentient being as far as I can tell.

    Likewise the idea that the stream of consciousness goes somewhere where there is a stream of consciousness seems to go against my understanding of neuroscience. People with brain damage for example may be in a persistent vegetative state which means they have no consciousness. Sophisticated brain equipment registers no function when a person in such a state is poked or pinched. They simply are not conscious. In some cases people in such states have recovered their consciousness as damaged areas of the brain heal or are 'rewired'. This would seem to indicate consciousness is purely physical in nature and the matter-energy behind it may end up in the form of something that has no consciousness.
    For me the other side of the coin is looking for the flaws in purely rational thought.
    Love, joy, enlightenment....none of them are rational yet they are the best things in life!
    I think Rationalism is becoming the western religion (though far far behind the biggest western religion, consumerism) and while rational thought has many wonderful things, it is only part of the picture, and people too enamoured with it alone, could miss out on other things.
    I would agree with this too. Having had a few 'flashes of insight' I would consider it a very reliable and complete means of knowing that rationalism can't compete with.

    Now, here is a bit of utter heresy I will toss out there just to stir things up. I will assert this positively, but understand I am doing so purely for effect, not because I actually have any confidence in what I am asserting:

    The Buddha understood that there was no rebirth or reincarnation. He understood that we each get 1 life and that is it. The reason he taught that karma was too complex to understand as it relates to rebirth was to get his audience which universally believed in reincarnation to stop thinking that the reason good/bad happens in life is due to actions in a prior life direct enough to pass judgment upon anyone suffering misfortune. The Buddha realized that if he told his audience the truth of there being only 1 life they would not have been capable of believing this so he did the best he could and cleverly undermined the entire idea by teaching a form of rebirth that could never be understood thus making karma/rebirth a moot point. He tolerated the idea of rebirth as he understood that some seekers needed the carrot/stick motivation to behave more ethically and that the ethical behavior would promote more rapid spiritual advancement. In other words the Buddha taught what his audience needed to hear instead of absolute truth which his audience would have been incapable of accepting.

    Again, I don't believe in what I just asserted, I just toss it out there as a thought challenge for those interested in such things.
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited September 2010
    NamNam wrote: »
    I was watching Richard Dawkin's documentary Root of all Evil. For those who don't know about the program (it's available freely on youtube) it is essentially a piece that heavily criticises the world's major religions (except Buddhism) because they are based on blind faith rather than logical reason. This in turn due to each religions strong adherence to their 'law' or doctrine leads to many problems in the world such as Israel-Palestine wars and the implementation of creationism in schools curiculum.

    I found myself agreeing and nodding heavily with every single minute of the program (I am atheist, Buddhist, and a scientist - the triple threat!). However, being of a sceptical and curious nature, I had wondered what are some of the legitimate criticisms one can come up with Buddhism?

    I am definitely biased to Buddha's teachings but as a scientist and one who bases my decisions on logic, I find the concept of recincarnation as fundamentally flawed. The reasoning behind my conclusion on reincarnation is simply because I have not seen it in my own eyes and the concept itself has a fairytale concept behind it. It has a supernatural element to it in my opinion.

    PLease share your thoughts on this topic if you wish, I am very curious and interested in what some people think about this.

    I think people can be critical of just about anything, and being critical is healthy up to a point. There's nothing wrong with using reason as long as one doesn't cling to reason as an infallible source of knowledge.

    Reason alone isn't perfect (since we're not perfect), and one can use reason to come to all kinds of conclusions that aren't necessarily true. Take Plato, for example. Utilizing rationalism to the exclusion of empiricism in developing his theory of forms, all he was really doing was taking a more or less linguistical dilemma (that of universals) and turning it into a metaphysical one. I don't think his arguments were great, especially the one at the end of Book 5 of the Republic, but they were certainly rational.

    Moreover, reason isn't the same thing as experience, and sometimes it isn't enough on its own. That's why the Buddha warns not to just accept spiritual teachings on reason alone, but to test them out and see if they really do lead to welfare and happiness. I think Thanissro Bhikkhu sums up well the reasons well in his introduction to AN 3.65:
    Although this discourse is often cited as the Buddha's carte blanche for following one's own sense of right and wrong, it actually says something much more rigorous than that. Traditions are not to be followed simply because they are traditions. Reports (such as historical accounts or news) are not to be followed simply because the source seems reliable. One's own preferences are not to be followed simply because they seem logical or resonate with one's feelings. Instead, any view or belief must be tested by the results it yields when put into practice; and — to guard against the possibility of any bias or limitations in one's understanding of those results — they must further be checked against the experience of people who are wise. The ability to question and test one's beliefs in an appropriate way is called appropriate attention. The ability to recognize and choose wise people as mentors is called having admirable friends. According to Iti 16-17, these are, respectively, the most important internal and external factors for attaining the goal of the practice. For further thoughts on how to test a belief in practice, see MN 61, MN 95, AN 7.80, and AN 8.53. For thoughts on how to judge whether another person is wise, see MN 110, AN 4.192, and AN 8.54.

    As for concepts such as postmortem rebirth, whether or not they're true, they're not illogical; they simply rely on premises that strict materialists reject. In addition, concepts such as rebirth are really more means to an end (or tools to be used) than dogmas, i.e., they're only useful if they're being used appropriately, leading one towards the experience of happiness and peace of mind that's said to lie at the end of the path. One thing people seem to have trouble understanding is that the Buddha's teachings are pragmatic in nature. This is made clear in MN 22, where the Buddha likens his teachings to a raft:
    "Monks, I will teach you the Dhamma compared to a raft, for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of holding onto. Listen & pay close attention. I will speak."

    "As you say, lord," the monks responded to the Blessed One.

    The Blessed One said: "Suppose a man were traveling along a path. He would see a great expanse of water, with the near shore dubious & risky, the further shore secure & free from risk, but with neither a ferryboat nor a bridge going from this shore to the other. The thought would occur to him, 'Here is this great expanse of water, with the near shore dubious & risky, the further shore secure & free from risk, but with neither a ferryboat nor a bridge going from this shore to the other. What if I were to gather grass, twigs, branches, & leaves and, having bound them together to make a raft, were to cross over to safety on the other shore in dependence on the raft, making an effort with my hands & feet?' Then the man, having gathered grass, twigs, branches, & leaves, having bound them together to make a raft, would cross over to safety on the other shore in dependence on the raft, making an effort with his hands & feet. Having crossed over to the further shore, he might think, 'How useful this raft has been to me! For it was in dependence on this raft that, making an effort with my hands & feet, I have crossed over to safety on the further shore. Why don't I, having hoisted it on my head or carrying on my back, go wherever I like?' What do you think, monks: Would the man, in doing that, be doing what should be done with the raft?"

    "No, lord."

    "And what should the man do in order to be doing what should be done with the raft? There is the case where the man, having crossed over, would think, 'How useful this raft has been to me! For it was in dependence on this raft that, making an effort with my hands & feet, I have crossed over to safety on the further shore. Why don't I, having dragged it on dry land or sinking it in the water, go wherever I like?' In doing this, he would be doing what should be done with the raft. In the same way, monks, I have taught the Dhamma compared to a raft, for the purpose of crossing over, not for the purpose of holding onto. Understanding the Dhamma as taught compared to a raft, you should let go even of Dhammas, to say nothing of non-Dhammas."

    As for myself, I'm agnostic when it comes to the idea of postmortem rebirth. I'm open to the possibility, but I don't consider it a fact. That said, I do think that the teachings on rebirth can be useful. If you're interested, you can read more of my thoughts about rebirth and it's place in the path here.
  • StaticToyboxStaticToybox Veteran
    edited September 2010
    NamNam wrote: »
    Only those they label themselves as Buddhist but do not actually live the 'Buddhist' way.

    No, with Buddhists. All of us, even someone as pure as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, are flawed and have things about us that could legitimately be criticized.
  • edited September 2010
    Takeahnase wrote: »
    No, with Buddhists. All of us, even someone as pure as His Holiness the Dalai Lama, are flawed and have things about us that could legitimately be criticized.

    This was true even of the post Awakened Buddha himself. Just last night I was reading "The Buddha and His Teachings" and it has a section on Buddhist history. The book said that initially the Buddha only permitted men to join his order, not women. His own surrogate mother after walking to see him and developing bleeding feet was left standing outside being refused her request to become a monastic. Hundreds of women left alone after their male relatives had joined the Buddha's order requested they be allowed to join and he refused. Ananda perceived allowing them to become monastics was proper and he attempted to persuade the Buddha to no avail. Ananda then came up with a new way to reason the case with the Buddha and then the Buddha relented and allowed women to become monastics.

    That the Buddha took convincing and changed his mind in response to numerous arguments shows that even a fully awakened being is not going to have perfect judgment in all matters.
  • andyrobynandyrobyn Veteran
    edited September 2010
    username_5 wrote: »
    Buddha relented and allowed women to become monastics.

    That the Buddha took convincing and changed his mind in response to numerous arguments shows that even a fully awakened being is not going to have perfect judgment in all matters.


    Not sure it means that his judgement wasn't perfect ... not saying it was either !! rather that his concern was for the women due to the nature of society at that time and perhaps over time he came to see that there would be adequate support for women to follow this path - maybe !!??
  • 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 2010
    Please stick to topic and the OP's questions. Thanks!
  • shanyinshanyin Novice Yogin Sault Ontario Veteran
    edited September 2010
    seeker242 wrote: »
    One criticism I would have against Buddhism. It sometimes gives people the false belief that "truth" can be known via logic and reason. But then again, maybe that is not Buddhisms fault.

    Is it weird that people sometimes talk about religion like it's a person?
  • andyrobynandyrobyn Veteran
    edited September 2010
    NamNam wrote: »
    I had wondered what are some of the legitimate criticisms one can come up with Buddhism?

    PLease share your thoughts on this topic if you wish, I am very curious and interested in what some people think about this.

    As individual people are the reflection of the teachings, unless one has a good grasp on the teachings onself it is very easy to find cause to criticise the teachings ... and as in the previous example on the historical Buddha's position on women entering a monastic life it is easy to see inconsistencies if one is looking for them.
  • zombiegirlzombiegirl beating the drum of the lifeless in a dry wasteland Veteran
    edited September 2010
    kind of side-stepping the discussion here, but it was my understanding that dawkins doesn't include buddhism because he doesn't view it as a religion. at least, that's what he said in his book, "the god delusion". i have to agree with Chrysalid here though, apparently he is unaware of some of the different forms of buddhism.

    and back on topic, i suppose as others have suggested, reincarnation would be the main criticism. but since the show is called "the root of all evil" and reincarnation itself teaches that all of us are infinitely connected and have been eachothers' mothers/brothers/fathers/grandparents/etc. many times over... i would be more impressed if someone was able to prove how reincarnation could fall under "the root of all evil" haha. unscientific it may be, but it seems that it at least unites us instead of causing strife. perhaps this is another reason that buddhism is excluded.
  • Invincible_summerInvincible_summer Heavy Metal Dhamma We(s)t coast, Canada Veteran
    edited September 2010
    I do have a problem with some Buddhist texts being overtly sexist. IIRC, the Buddha decided to wander the wilderness because he was disgusted at the sight of the harem in his palace. And that whole thing with Mara's daughters...
  • edited September 2010
    ok nam nam here is something for you to think about. Reincarnation means to keep on living after we have left these bodies behind right? Some believe we are reborn as people ect ect ect. well think of it this way if scientifically we are derived from matter and energy and you slap a table your energy has left your body and passed through the table and so forth. Who's to say were not just energy passing through these bodies and once we die our energy will pass through something else? to us time is slow because we are use to these perceptions of time but what if there is something out there that is not as affected the same way by time as we are and really were just a flash of light to them? reincarnation can have a very scientific view.

    just something i thought about reading your post. its completely off the top of my head so there may be some things that did not make sense
  • upekkaupekka Veteran
    edited September 2010
    NamNam wrote: »

    I am definitely biased to Buddha's teachings but as a scientist and one who bases my decisions on logic, I find the concept of recincarnation as fundamentally flawed. The reasoning behind my conclusion on reincarnation is simply because I have not seen it in my own eyes and the concept itself has a fairytale concept behind it. It has a supernatural element to it in my opinion.
    have you read Buddha's Teaching on 'Dependent arising'

    if not

    read it, think over it and try to understand it
  • edited September 2010
    Shutoku wrote: »
    I'm not sure there is any scientific evidence to support Nirvana or Buddha nature.

    I have a hard time with this one, too. It seems to be of the age when people of all cultures conceived of two worlds, a flawed one here, a perfect one there. Some Zen teachers seem to compress these two worlds into one, with the realization of the ultimate being the realization that all we have is the mundane.
  • StaticToyboxStaticToybox Veteran
    edited September 2010
    I do have a problem with some Buddhist texts being overtly sexist. IIRC, the Buddha decided to wander the wilderness because he was disgusted at the sight of the harem in his palace. And that whole thing with Mara's daughters...

    He left his palace and princely life because he realized that none of it brought happiness.
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited September 2010
    zombiegirl wrote: »
    kind of side-stepping the discussion here, but it was my understanding that dawkins doesn't include buddhism because he doesn't view it as a religion. at least, that's what he said in his book, "the god delusion". i have to agree with Chrysalid here though, apparently he is unaware of some of the different forms of buddhism.

    ...................


    Dawkins is nothing if not inconsistent. He brackets Buddhism and Hinduism and states that he has no problem with either religion. This is only one more indication that his beef is not with religion or, indeed, a belief in gods, despite what he avers: he is simply anti-Christian:

    http://richarddawkins.net/articles/2014-hinduism-and-buddhism-offer-much-more-sophisticated-worldviews-or-philosophies-and-i-see-nothing-wrong-with-these-religions
  • Invincible_summerInvincible_summer Heavy Metal Dhamma We(s)t coast, Canada Veteran
    edited September 2010
    Takeahnase wrote: »
    He left his palace and princely life because he realized that none of it brought happiness.

    Yes, but the image of the harem of women laying around half naked and slovenly is what prompted him to realize (at least partially realize) this unhappiness, IIRC.


    Plus, there's that whole thing about one of the hell realms (or a punishment within hell) of boiling women in their menstrual blood simply for menstruating or something ridiculous
  • pineblossompineblossom Veteran
    edited September 2010
    Dawkins is nothing if not inconsistent. He brackets Buddhism and Hinduism and states that he has no problem with either religion. This is only one more indication that his beef is not with religion or, indeed, a belief in gods, despite what he avers: he is simply anti-Christian

    Indeed - I gained the same impression.
  • Floating_AbuFloating_Abu Veteran
    edited September 2010
    NamNam wrote: »
    I was watching Richard Dawkin's documentary Root of all Evil. For those who don't know about the program (it's available freely on youtube) it is essentially a piece that heavily criticises the world's major religions (except Buddhism) because they are based on blind faith rather than logical reason. This in turn due to each religions strong adherence to their 'law' or doctrine leads to many problems in the world such as Israel-Palestine wars and the implementation of creationism in schools curiculum.

    I found myself agreeing and nodding heavily with every single minute of the program (I am atheist, Buddhist, and a scientist - the triple threat!). However, being of a sceptical and curious nature, I had wondered what are some of the legitimate criticisms one can come up with Buddhism?

    I am definitely biased to Buddha's teachings but as a scientist and one who bases my decisions on logic, I find the concept of recincarnation as fundamentally flawed. The reasoning behind my conclusion on reincarnation is simply because I have not seen it in my own eyes and the concept itself has a fairytale concept behind it. It has a supernatural element to it in my opinion.

    PLease share your thoughts on this topic if you wish, I am very curious and interested in what some people think about this.

    The problem with people who give up on Buddhism because they do not believe in reincarnation is that often, they don't yet conceive of what reincarnation actually means (besides the Hollywoods version maybe)
    NamNam wrote: »
    (I am atheist, Buddhist, and a scientist - the triple threat!).

    I like that.

    There is nothing wrong with science or logic or intellectual analysis per se, it is just that it will never solve the heart's deepest longings, desires or dukkha, if they do apply.

    Best wishes,
    Abu-bu
  • thickpaperthickpaper Veteran
    edited October 2010
    Hi

    I think this is one of those questions where a distinction between Buddhism and Dharma is essential.

    Dharma - the universal and indubitable truths discovered in Asia thousands of years ago.
    <O:p</O:p<O:p</O:p
    Buddhism - The religion, culture, philosophy, history and doctrines that started in India thousands of years ago and have split into scores f views and doctrines and orthodoxies over the years and miles.

    I think Dharma cannot be criticised, though Buddha seems to encourage us to try hard to criticise it.

    Buddhism is a huge edifice of doctrine and indoctrination that I believe is pretty much as open to real and meaningful criticism as any other of the world religions.


    namaste
  • edited October 2010
    I think Buddhist supernatural thing is just a science that is yet to be discovered, similar to quantum physics in 17th century. Imagine explaining relativity theory and string theory to Christopher Columbus. It's real science but yet to be discovered.

    There are scientists who are very interested in Buddhist supernatural phenomena that might benefit human kind such as Tummo and rainbow body.

    (I wonder if I'm posting on the right thread)

    _/\_
  • NirvanaNirvana aka BUBBA   `     `   South Carolina, USA Veteran
    edited November 2010
    username_5 wrote: »
    Note:This is not meant dogmatically by its author, but is only offered as a theoretical possibility.

    The Buddha understood that there was no rebirth or reincarnation. He understood that we each get 1 life and that is it. The reason he taught that karma was too complex to understand as it relates to rebirth was to get his audience which universally believed in reincarnation to stop thinking that the reason good/bad happens in life is due to actions in a prior life direct enough to pass judgment upon anyone suffering misfortune. The Buddha realized that if he told his audience the truth of there being only 1 life they would not have been capable of believing this so he did the best he could and cleverly undermined the entire idea by teaching a form of rebirth that could never be understood thus making karma/rebirth a moot point. He tolerated the idea of rebirth as he understood that some seekers needed the carrot/stick motivation to behave more ethically and that the ethical behavior would promote more rapid spiritual advancement. In other words the Buddha taught what his audience needed to hear instead of absolute truth which his audience would have been incapable of accepting.

    Again, I don't believe in what I just asserted, I just toss it out there as a thought challenge for those interested in such things.


    WOW! This whole SAMSARA thing I find really confusing. It's really the basis of this Indian cosmology on which rebirth or reincarnation is based. To my understanding, the Indian did not wish to be reborn and saw rebirth as a curse of continual suffering by constantly having one's being enchained in a particular body, susceptible to all sorts of assaults by outside forces.

    I've often wondered exactly how much the Lord Buddha was held in bonds by this mindbent.

    For myself, I just cannot believe in Samsara, having grown up Christian and remaining essentially thus, albeit a Vedantist. I believe in Providence, for all my life I have seen a providing (parens) force guiding and sustaining my life in love and with a grace and beauty that I simply cannot deny.

    Perhaps it's a great delusion I have, but then we're all deluded to one degree or other.
  • JoshuaJoshua Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Tanda wrote: »
    I also have trouble with the concept of rebirth.

    If rebirth is caused by Kamma/ aversion-attachment etc,. Why at all my first birth happened when there was zero kamma and zero sankara?

    Before any one would challange me let me confess my knowledge of Buddhist Philosophy is same as what I might have had on the first day of my first birth. Getting a quick lead is one reason why I am in this forum.

    Rationalising things are futile as mere humans.

    Sometimes philosophising hypotheticals is a good alternative to develop faith that there's a logical system beyond our comprehension to support the cosmology.

    Let's say we live in reality. How did that result from non-reality? Perhaps counsciousness always was simply to experience itself because otherwise pure reality and non-reality are non-distinguishable hence the middle-way--in other words there's no such discernment. Thus consciousness always existed, and the consciousness might need to limit it's perception of reality in order to experience things, but let's not think of this as a need, it simply happens because it can and must in order to exist. Thus it has always existed and now at least one nidana of dependent origination has taken place and thus the entire system now and has always existed. Now the universe exists as a quantum field of consciousness. In fact it always has with this logic. This consciousness has since time partitioned itself ad-infinitum into sub-consciouses because that's simply a result of the ignorance of dependent origination. We all play our role in this samsaric chaos of quantum ingenuity, from the phenomenological human mind to electrons, from quarks to things not yet discernible. They all have a consciousness, even if that only lasts for a nano-second. Maybe there never was zero karma, maybe we're all part of the collective consciousness who maintains sub-par karma in order to experience itself, the karma being its own ignorance of its existence which is the fuel that feeds the fire of the illusion of life.


    Astrology - Today's Scorpio Horoscope
    Here is your Today's Scorpio HoroscopeYour picture is fully integrated. For a brief moment, you understand the very nature of the universe. Maybe you'll never be able to explain it, but the proof makes all the difference to your internal life.

    hehe
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Tanda wrote: »
    I also have trouble with the concept of rebirth.

    If rebirth is caused by Kamma/ aversion-attachment etc,. Why at all my first birth happened when there was zero kamma and zero sankara?

    Before any one would challange me let me confess my knowledge of Buddhist Philosophy is same as what I might have had on the first day of my first birth. Getting a quick lead is one reason why I am in this forum.


    You are assuming that there was a 'beginning', an uncaused cause. This is the point that believers in a Divine Creator reach. In Buddhist thought, there can be no uncaused effect in samsara. A problem, I agree.
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited November 2010
    You don't have to look far to find criticisms of Buddhism. The question is: are you looking to criticize the theory/teachings, or the way it's practiced in real life? Ask some female dharma students or former students. Ask former monks. There's a surprising amount of sexual violence in Buddhism. Few monks/lamas take their vows seriously, it turns out. For a report on sexual abuse of boy novices, see:
    www.lamashree.org/dalailama_08_childabuse_tibetanbuddhistmonasteries.htm This problem is not peculiar to Tibetan Buddhism; in Taiwan a few years ago, 24 novices took their abbott to court on sexual molestation charges. Sri Lanka passed a law prohibiting anyone under 15 from entering the monasteries, for this reason. But in Sri Lanka monks for generations have gotten away with raping women in public and in shrines, due to the monks' high status in the community. This, too, is beginning to change; a young woman filed a lawsuit against her monk-rapist a few years ago; the first legal case of its kind in that country.

    Plenty of Western women dharma students have been coerced (often via threats) into sex with their teachers, ostensibly to "advance their practice" via tantric techniques. But these women report that there was nothing tantric about the "practice"; these are plain old affairs or worse; gratuitious "quickies". Lawsuits against Tibetan lamas have been filed in the US, Sogyal "Rinpoche" (turns out he's not a geshe, or even ordained) being the most infamous. I, myself, have never spoken to a lama who didn't come on to me in some way. I don't understand this problem--these people are supposed to be celibate. But they're not. SURPRISE! Canadian Broadcasting is preparing a documentary on sexual abuse in Tibetan Buddhism as we "speak".

    The secret esoteric sexual initiations in the tantric traditions--the Hevajra Tantra, Cakrasamvara Tantra, Kalachakra Tantra, and others, require the use of 8-, 10-, 12-, 15- and 19-year-old girls. The girls are told they will receive a blessing from the lama, but they end up being raped all night by the lama and the initiate. (That's why these rituals are top-secret.) The instructions to the ceremonies say that if the "partners" are unwilling, to administer alcohol. And if that doesn't work, to take the girls by force. They use low-caste girls, so there are never any legal repercussions. The Dalai Lama has never performed (presided over) this aspect of the Kalachakra, but the Dorje Shugden sect of the Gelupas still does, according to researchers in Germany. And the other 3 main sects still practice these rituals, according to these researchers. See:
    www.shadowoftheDalaiLama.com, chapters on "Female Sacrifice", and on the tantric rituals.

    Here's some food for thought from Dzongsar Khentse Rinpoche, the Butanese filmmaker:
    "Abuse phenomena exist only if you accept transitory phenomena as permanent and real. If you don't, there's nothing to abuse." ("abuse"?! Isn't this supposed to be a "religion of kindness"??) And this:
    "Western husbands are naive to allow their wives to travel to Asia and study with lamas alone." At least he's honest.

    RE: reincarnation--the Buddha did say to question everything and not to believe anything until your own investigations have satisfied your doubt (or words to that effect). I considered myself a practicing Buddhist from a very early age, but didn't believe in reincarnation until past life memories suddenly started bubbling up. I think one can be a Buddhist and still harbor doubts about some things. But I bet there's disagreement on that point if you talk to lamas and other teachers.
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Correction: for detailed info on the secret tantric rituals, you can either Google: "The Shadow of the Dalai Lama", or click on:
    www.iivs.de/-iivs01311/SDLE/contents.htm
  • edited November 2010
    Takeahnase wrote: »
    I'm not sure that there are any legitimate criticisms one can come up with Buddhism, only with Buddhists.

    I think this sums it up pretty well. The Buddhist teachings, whether Hinayana, Mahayana, or Vajrayana, are brilliant. But somewhere I saw a comment that the Buddha never intended for huge monastic structures to develop. The Hinayana tradition of monks living in the forest seems closer to his vision. It's when huge institutional power structures develop that problems crop up. But that wasn't the original path. Some of the lamas seem to have lost their way (Chogyam Trungpa being the prime example, but there have been others). I've also read that Hinayana and Mahayana practitioners look at some of the wild-and-wooly practices in Vajrayana, and say "That isn't Buddhism". The Buddha, after all, didn't teach tantric sex, or any kind of tantra, as far as I know.
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited November 2010
    Now we are at the heart of the problem:
    Can we separte the man and the message?

    I find it entirely unsurprising that Buddhist teachers should be involved in scandals than that Christian leaders are. Power and authority are profoundly corrupting. Hierarchies distort the finest 'souls'.

    But what about the message? Sogyal Rinpoche's book is still as wonderful. Wagner's music is still (in places) superb. Guenter Grass still wrote the seminal post-war German novel.

    Can you separate the man from the message?

    Are Four Quartets any less because Eliot held antisemitic views?
  • JoshuaJoshua Veteran
    edited November 2010
    I find the Shadow of the Dalai Lama really "interesting", I'm slowly reading chunks of it.

    On an optimistic note Simon has a point.

    On a pessimistic note I'd like to know more about this, I was even thinking about posting a thread quoting Dakini to gather opinions. I'd like to have an unbiased perspective on Vajrayana practises. I'd like to know how accurate it is and how deeply (and this is very important) those ideas have either infiltrated mainstream Buddhism or to what extent they've originated from proto-ideas of early Buddhism.
  • edited November 2010
    Now we are at the heart of the problem:
    Can we separte the man and the message?

    This is a very good question, a "crux" sort of question, especially for Buddhists discussing the behavior of Buddhist spiritual leaders. M.L. King was quite a womanizer, yet he revolutionized life in the US for African-Americans. But African-American feminists have a problem with "separating the man from the message", and giving King a free pass. I think we need to look more deeply, rather than sit back and blithely enjoy someone's writing, music, etc., especially when the problem is in our own back yard, so to speak. Shouldn't we expect our leaders to walk their talk, especially our spiritual leaders? I think some cleaning up and reforms are called for. Thank you for your comment, BTW; I think this is just the sort of thing Buddhists should be discussing.

    RE: Sogyal and his book: it's said that he didn't write the book, it was ghost-written by someone else. I saw one comment to a blog on the subject of Sogyal, posted by a Buddhism scholar in Taiwan, that said his book in some ways goes against Buddhist teachings. I read the book, and enjoyed it, but...I'm not an expert. And they say he's not a Rinpoche; he's never been ordained. He has been quoted as saying, upon visiting Chogyam Trungpa in the US, that he wanted what Trungpa had, and planned to set about getting it. (The adulation, the women.)

    On the subject of Vajrayana, I think there's a need to evaluate it more closely. It seems it's been damaging, especially to women. I had a girlfriend once who said she was harassed by a number of lamas. It sounds a bit sleazy, like there's a hidden agenda; on the surface, they're about teaching Buddhist values and meditation, but they have something else on their minds entirely. How can they teach compassion when they're taking advantage of women and assaulting girls, if the bit about the secret ceremonies is true?

    One last note: Lama Shree's article on the abuse of boys in the monasteries was outrageous. I saw a PBS series on Tibet about 10 years ago that presented the same information, but I had no idea the problem was so widespread. Is there anything we can do about this? A letter-writing campaign to the DL, perhaps? I'm about taking on human rights issues whenever possible, this is my view of compassion. This sounds like something the Dharma community might be able to address. Right now those boys' suffering is hidden and known only to a very few.
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited November 2010
    This has turned into a really interesting thread. Where to start with some of the most recent comments?

    Vajrayana: I came across some interesting info recently, from Shamar Rinpoche, 2nd in authority to the Karmapa among the Kagyupas. He says in the 70's the lamas got the idea, based on people visiting the 16th Karmapa and, I assume, reports from Chogyam Trungpa, that Westerners were hot for tantric sex, so lots of lamas, including "His Eminence" Kalu Rinpoche, made a bee-line for the West, to teach tantric sex to as many western women (and men) as possible. Shamar says it was "very popular". Does anyone know any women who expected sex as part of dharma study? I don't. From the info I've been gathering from books and the internet the last few months, my impression is that a lot of women were traumatized by unexpected demands for sex from their teachers. So now Shamar says that after reconsidering the last 30 years of the tantric sex "movement" in the West, he's concluded that it's not appropriate. He seems to've changed his mind, or realized this approach was a mistake. He says now that it "wasn't helpful". So he's opened a network of "Bodhi Path Centers" in the US. where he instructs the teachers NOT to teach Vajarayana. He calls his approach "Bodhisattvayana", or getting back to the core values of Buddhism: compassion and meditation, along with the occasional Chenrezig empowerment (Buddha of Compassion). see www.shamarpa.org (This material is in his letter regarding lama Ole Nydahl of Denmark, who has been exposed as a sexual obssessive.)

    So at any rate, he answers the question: Is Vajrayana appropriate? with a resounding "NO". Too bad he didn't figure it out 30 years ago. But just because he's decided to clean up at least his corner of the Kagyu act doesn't mean the other sects agree, or want to give up the goodies they're still enjoying in the West. Dzongsar Khentse Rinpoche (Nyingma sect) says, in a rant on women's complaints about sex with lamas, that a colleague of his is teaching in the US, has several "consorts" and "no complaints". Maybe one possible way to go would be to advocate for more nuns to be ordained and get their Geshe degrees. If there are Western women who want to study tantric techniques, they could learn from the nuns. That would eliminate abuse complaints.

    No, this is not mainstream Buddhism. Miranda Shaw wrote a book investigating the origins of tantrism. It originated in India around the 8th and 9th centuries, and in the beginning was controlled by women, it was about worshipping women as goddesses, and bestowing enlightenment on male practitioners via tantric sex at the women's discretion. It wasn't unusual for male seekers to be rejected for improper attitude and other reasons. The Tibetans have taken this tradition (which had nothing to do with Buddhism, if I'm not mistaken) and turned it into something controlled by men. It looks to me that ancient Indian traditions of virgin worship got mixed in, thus the use of pre-pubescent and teen girls. (The women who wrote some of the tantric texts of course only spoke about adult women participating.) Shaw, unfortunately, hasn't investigated contemporary practices to see how far they've strayed from the original.

    About the boy-novices: thank you, Compassionate Warrior, for your concern. You're the first person on any discussion board to care. A letter-writing campaign isn't a bad idea. The problem is, the DL doesn't have the power to institute changes throughout the Tibetan system, he only controls the Gelug monasteries. And Lama Shree tells me that the Gelugs are the worst; they sodomize the boys (anal penetration, strictly forbidden), whereas the others just use them as sex toys for masturbation. I'm surprised the Gelugs are the worst, but he says he has inside contacts. (He's Kagyu himself, so he has an ax to gring with the Gelugs, so I'm still a little suspicious of that particular comment.) At any rate, letter-writing is one way to go. But how to bring change to the other sects? Unless the DL can succeed in influencing the others, (assuming he'd want to try, or would even be interested in the issue at all), the only way would be if the Indian gov't passed a law requiring a minimum age to enter the monastery, like Sri Lanka has.

    Further, the Tibetans say that they have to get the boys before the approach puberty, and have their first sexual experience. I say, better to get them when they're more mature, and can decide for themselves whether they want to devote their lives to the spiritual path or not, knowing they'd have to give up sex. That's how you get sincere and devoted monks. The number of monks would probably shrink by more than half, but those that chose the path would be of higher quality, as it were. And you wouldn't have so much attrition--monks giving up their robes in their 20's. (They're held against their will until they turn 21.)

    Lastly: "Shadow of the Dalai Lama". There's material there that I consider irrelevant. The Trimondis are German, and Germany is in an uproar about the DL's Nazi connections (H. Harrer et al) and material in the Kalachakra Tantra's Shambhala myth that is said to be about Buddhist supremacy and takeover of the world. (Tibetans say that's not supposed to be taken literally.) From this came the "Aryan supremacy" ideology of the Nazis, German scholars say. A couple of books denouncing the DL because of this have been published in German. I'm more concerned with the "female sacrifice" they describe, and the horrific details of the tantric ceremonies. That's a real human rights issue, if you ask me.

    OK, last-of-the-last: The Trimondis tell me that there are a lof of women in Germany who have been traumatized by "lama abuse". They say there's not only sexual abuse, but "psychological abuse", because the lamas cast magical spells on the women in order to intimidate them into keeping the "affairs" with the lamas, or their participation in tantric rituals, secret. According to the Trimondis, these women are not only traumatized but utterly terrified to speak to anyone, for fear that death or endless bad karma will result, as they've been told by the lamas.

    There's Vajrayana for you. I used to consider myself a practitioner, but I had no idea about all this. It's provoked a bit of a personal crisis. I'm not sure where to go from here in my own practice/study. Thank you for "listening", sorry about taking up so much space. Maybe a dedicated thread isn't a bad idea.
  • JoshuaJoshua Veteran
    edited November 2010
    What is Trimondis?

    Do all Vajrayana bigwigs know about this?

    I really idolise Matthieu Ricard and one of his masters was Dilgo, is that to say Matthieu is part of this as well?
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited November 2010
    valois wrote: »
    What is Trimondis?

    Do all Vajrayana bigwigs know about this?

    I really idolise Matthieu Ricard and one of his masters was Dilgo, is that to say Matthieu is part of this as well?

    Sorry I didn't make that clear; Victor and Victoria Trimondi are the authors of "The Shadow of the Dalai Lama".

    The Dalai Lama's office has acknowledged that they have received piles of mail over the years complaining about these abuses. Jack Kornfield (of Spirit Rock, a dharma center north of San Francisco) and other Western Buddhist leaders actually had a meeting with the DL about this issue, and he said that women should report abuses to the newspapers and "to the police, if necessary".

    "Bigwigs"--well, it sounds like Shamar Rinpoche knows about it. Sakya Trizin, head of the Sakyas, is one of the guilty parties. (The Sakyas in Washington State (based at Sakya Monastery, Seattle) run a clean show, as far as I was able to tell. The head of the lineage there keeps his distance from the sangha, doesn't teach students, and requires women to cover up with huge shawls. Younger lamas who have started their own sanghas are married, and seem to be ok.) Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche practiced tantric sex (I read a comment that he had "chosen the non-celibate path of the tantric practitioner"), but I haven't heard that he did so with Westerners, or in any non-legitimate way, not that I recall. (I'll try to check on that.) I agree--I always thought Dilgo Khentse Rinpoche was pretty cool. No news on Ricard, either. So far so good re: your two faves. I'm told that Dudjom Rinpoche, former head of the Nyingmas (now deceased) and his successor (or one of his successors), Gyatrul Rinpoche, kept to themselves. Dudjom Rinpoche was married and practiced with his wife. Dudjom R. knew about all kinds of abuses, including the exploitation of the boy novices, but didn't do anything about it, even though he disapproved, according to someone who knew him pretty well.

    I'd like to know what Tibetan women, former "consorts" of some of these masters, think, especially after they've been cast aside for the next pretty face. The line is that they think it's an honor to be chosen. And I can't help but wonder: don't these lamas have any concept of STD's?? That's scary.
  • edited November 2010
    I'm confused about some aspects of Tibetien Buddhism.
    How does chanting mantras or tantras lead one to enlightenment ?
    Because Lord Buddha didn't chant any special words to attain enlightenment.

    Sorry if this sounds rude but this is my question.
  • zidanguszidangus Veteran
    edited November 2010
    I am a scientist, and I really do not understand it when people say that the possibility of a life force continuing is illogical, fairy tale etc etc. Why ?
    Its especially surprising to hear this from another scientist, simply because a lot of our accepted theories of the universe are founded on pretty weak evidence that would most likely sound like some sort of illogical fairy tale to a scientist of another time in our history. The reason why you may think it is illogical or sounds like a fairy tale is because you do not fully understand it, which pretty much is the same for the majority of us and hence it requires a leap of faith to fully accept it. If you do not feel comfortable taking this leap of faith, then this is of course your choice, but as I have said just because we do not fully understand how something works does not mean it does not exist.


    Metta to all sentient beings
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited November 2010
    I am not qualified to comment on tantra but I do know enough to point out that Buddhist tantra is not the same as the Hindu. It is the latter which was taken up by Westerners as sexual practices. The confusion has been clarified a number of times, here, by Palzang and we may need to await his wise views before leaping to conclusions.

    The matter of abuse, sexual, physical and financial, by Buddhist teachers needs addressing, as does the denial. The same problems have been encountered within the Christian communities, particularly (but not exclusively) in the Catholic Church. Although the reality of these accounts has, finally, been admitted, it has taken far too long.

    Buddhists need to understand that, even if they themselves lead lives of blameless purity and devotion, to outsiders the whole edifice is tainted. As I asked a leading Catholic only the other day: "Having lost people's trust and respect, how do you go about regaining it?"
This discussion has been closed.