Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact lincoln@newbuddhist.com if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

Aligning one’s views

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

It strikes me that in a lot of traditions you are expected to take a body of teachings “on faith”. You are supposed to commit without knowing exactly what these teachings are, usually you find out about them afterwards from some kind of book. Even in buddhism I remember from my early days at the Gelug Tibetan Buddhist temple that we got a “basics course” and were told that a lot of the topics covered were elaborated in these little booklets written mostly by the Dagpo Rinpoche, which we were assured we could borrow.

Now the Buddha said to “test the teachings”, which seems to me a more sensible approach, but how can you test them if you do not know them? If you come across a tradition with a large amount of teachings and you think it may be for you, are you going to need to study for years before you can definitely call yourself a member with views aligning to theirs?

Or are you going to admit that there is no such thing as aligned views, only the absorption of limited amounts of teaching which you can make your own, that you can never call yourself a member of any tradition? You can only keep learning, but to say you are a Theravadan or even just a Buddhist may be going too far.

person

Comments

  • 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

    Go with what you know.
    Go with what is True for you.
    The rest is like the number of simsapa leaves. You cannot count every one. So admire the tree for its foliage, but just keep the leaves you can hold.

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

    I think there does need to be a certain amount of blind trust at the beginning. Most people seem to come to Buddhism looking for some sort of spiritual help in their life and they see something in the people who practice it that tells them there may be something here worth checking out.

    Then I think we learn about the tradition and take things on board. I've pretty much always been told if there was something I didn't understand or agree with it was alright to set it aside.

    Early on I took refuge vows and considered myself a Buddhist, I more readily looked for reasons to believe the teachings were true. As I aged and learned more outside of the tradition I saw that what is true isn't so simple. That many things fall into the blind men and the elephant analogy and others likely post hoc arguments explaining why something they already believe to be true is.

    At any rate, learning is a life long process and things we once thought true we later think otherwise and vis versa. And the more you know the more you realize you don't know. So I agree with most of your last paragraph, but would say its fine to have some reasonable conviction in a set of knowledge such that one is willing to make a commitment to it, at least on the provision that it isn't later shown to be mistaken.

    JeroenSuraShine
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited May 1

    As usual I see a lot of sense in your standpoint @person, gassho

    I think blind trust will be difficult to come by for westerners who have not been brought up in a buddhist tradition. Certainly for me there is a lot of resistance to concepts like karma and reincarnation.

    But I see what you mean — that people see the inner beauty of the Buddhists, and feel that is possible for them as well, and are willing to set some of these more difficult-to-accept aspects of the tradition to one side. I remember making that compromise too. Its also true that the more you come across things that are true, the more you will be inclined to also believe the things you have set aside, or at least to let them be.

    And while I agree it would be a beautiful thing to have confidence in a body of knowledge, I’m not convinced Buddhist knowledge is coherent enough to be considered as one body. Different books, different authors, different times, different levels of advancement. The best buddhist books I have read have been like mines with here and there the odd gem of a statement.

    The thing is, my sense of progress in buddhism really levelled off, and I came across some things which made me seriously doubt the end goal. Thats what kicked off my second stage of seeking, casting the net wider for some different approaches.

    FleaMarket
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited May 1

    Some noodling from a zafu

    Human nature, which has us rate a spiritual path in terms of whether we feel we are continuing to progress upon it or not, is just another dream about the dreamer.

    If an awakening from this dream is what we'd prefer then consider instead how one relates to any incoming phenomena rather than deliberately attempting to align one's views to anything.
    Emulating some part of the Dharma functions like an aircraft controller trying to keep a pilot, who is too nervous to land his plane, within sight of a landing strip so when the plane finally runs out of fuel, that pilot has the best chance of surviving that forced landing. This is what many teachers of the Dharma often think that they are doing. For many students, depending on their present karma, this is the best teaching of the moment for where they are.

    I think though that it's usually safest to only recommend that folks hold teachings as possibilities best left to their best attempt at an unbiased observation. A thousand more mirages of water appear to the thirsty than to anyone whose thirst has been quenched. Would you rate the many sights a dehydrated observer reports of water over the observation of one adequately hydrated observer? Who is more likely to know what is a mirage of water and what is actually drinkable.

    All Dharmas are simply what's revealed when we get ourselves out of their way. They are not so much the manufacturing of truth as they are what is left when we learn how to stop leaving our responses to all passing phenomena in the hands of our dreamer's storyline.

    FleaMarketlobster
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited May 2

    Everything in life besides nibbana that we can experience is relative, including what views we are exposed to and adopt. The Buddha tried to make his simple, focusing on how to end suffering and laying out a set of teachings and practices we are encouraged to adopt, on some amount of faith, and test. And if one particular tradition, teachings, or set of teachers appeals more to us, we can say we practice in that particular tradition as a linguistic and conceptual convenience for the sake of communication. Does it matter if the tradition fully accepts us as long as we accept and benefit from a tradition? Not much, in my opinion. I gain a lot from Theravda and the contemplative tradition of Catholicism, for example, and it doesn't matter much to me if everyone in those respective traditions accepts me. These things are ultimately a guide, not the goal themselves. What matters is if I'm benefiting and progressing along the path. Am I causing less suffering? Am I experiencing less suffering? If the answer is yes, the rest is moot. If the answer is no, then I might need to review my views and actions. One doesn't need to completely accept a tradition or vice versa. Worldly conversations and designations are useful, but not ultimately necessary.

    FleaMarketperson
  • FleaMarketFleaMarket Newbie, not Veteran
    edited May 1

    I can never quite say what I want to convey but I sure do like to voice my opinion and participate, so with kindness are my thoughts below.

    I think we all come from somewhere a little different than one another. I think we follow our experiences. A good message takes this into consideration and if it can still be heard through the noise of self, it is a message worth investigating. If we choose to investigate, I think we gain experience which leads us to the next message. I think if we all do this enough times, we meet up in our mutual understandings and similarity of experiences eventually.

    I view calling oneself a member of a tradition similar in nature to aligning with sports team for a game you love. If you actually love the game, the team doesn't matter as much as it is just fun to pick one that fits your current style or home town. The danger of course is team rivalry and infighting and all that brings. Easy to lose sight of the love of the game, why we're all participating, and that the game ends and we all go home after.

    There is that which is outside the game which we all experience once the game ends. So lets love the game and love each other, and not lose that as we play our role in scrimmage of team vs team.

  • FleaMarketFleaMarket Newbie, not Veteran

    @how said:
    If an awakening from this dream is what we'd prefer then consider instead how one relates to any incoming phenomena rather than deliberately attempting to align one's views to anything.

    How does one consider how one relates to incoming phenomena?

    I believe I observe the ways in which I interact with phenomena, I observe some of my attachment to particular phenomena for example which allows me to let go of the attachment for a moment. but I don't think that's what I'm supposed to be understanding.

  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    @FleaMarket said:

    How does one consider how one relates to incoming phenomena?

    I think understanding how some Zenists describe natural & deliberate thought as well as concentration & meditation...might help here.

    As the moment to moment information of phenomena arrives as all that we see, hear, smell, taste, feel & think, the degree to which we allow that info to arrive, live and depart without trying to encourage, discourage or ignore it, is the degree to which that could be considered to be natural thought.
    The degree to which we are unable to allow what we see, hear, smell, taste, feel & think to arrive, live, and depart without encouraging, discouraging, or ignoring it is the degree to which we are fostering deliberate thought.

    In formal meditation, when natural thought is occurring then there is nothing to be done.
    When deliberate thought is noticed then it's simply time to return directly to whatever the baseline starting point of the meditation is again. (eg, the following of the breath)
    Continue with this baseline just as long as it takes to notice that the phenomena passing through is no longer actively being molested by our habituated inclinations.

    Here you are sidestepping the mind's habituated attempts to assert the production and control over its storytelling and forcing the mind to start sharing more equal portions of life's stage with the other sense gates.

    It's also important not to fall into the trap of considering natural thought as good and deliberate thought as bad.

    Deliberate thought is a necessary preliminary concentration skill required to develop the baseline of one's meditation that one starts and returns to when needed.
    Meditation is just what's left when deliberate thought is not being needed.

    lobsterFleaMarket
  • FleaMarketFleaMarket Newbie, not Veteran

    Sorry @Jeroen, I might be taking your thread on a bit of a tangent. I hope you don't mind.

    @how
    Ok let me give understanding another try...

    I consider how I relate to incoming phenomena through sense gates by observing myself in both natural and deliberate states of being at those sense gates. The goal here being sustained observation on natural states. Then when I observe any sense gate overstepping their natural state, utilizing that same deliberateness which bothers my natural states, I bring myself back to the breath and back to natural states of being. I am always smelling, but it's only when someone's barbecuing do I deliberately smell.

    As the moment to moment information of phenomena arrives as all that we see, hear, smell, taste, feel & think, the degree to which we allow that info to arrive, live and depart without trying to encourage, discourage or ignore it, is the degree to which that could be considered to be natural thought.

    So does this work in a way of increasing subtlety as one potentially sees even some natural senses may be deliberate senses? Especially upon observation there appears to be a deliberate element added simply to observing. Like a scent in the air one did not notice until one decides to deliberately pay attention to the nose faculties, not necessarily awoken by someone barbecuing. Or is there a definitive separation between the two where there are clearly some natural thought?

    What would be an example of natural thought that could not be determined as deliberate thought?

  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    @FleaMarket said:
    What would be an example of natural thought that could not be determined as deliberate thought?

    I thought about this and then my head hurt.

    The last thing you want to end up as when watching your thoughts in formal meditation is what the Tibetans would liken to "a cat watching a mouse hole".
    I know, isn't that a great image.

    Our mind has had a lifetime of experience in creating and maintaining a storyline of its dominion over all other presentations of reality. Meditation is a means of weaning us off our habituated support for our minds maintenance program of that storyline. Any direct confrontation against our minds storyline will quickly introduce you to a master opponent so skilled in all the adversarial arts that you will have lost before you started.
    This mind state is not something that can be out-thought or convinced to participate in a makeover of any substance.
    The only passage I know to address the habituated conditioning of a ruling mind is to stop inadvertently conflicting with it on its home turf.
    Because anything you hope to acquire in this process can easily become an attachment and be weaponized against you, I think the less delusive approaches to meditation are more through processes of renunciation.

    The description of natural thought, as opposed to deliberate thought, was to present an alternative to the supposition of a need to align your views to someone else's.

    I think meditation serves us much better as an acceptance of fluidity or the wider state of chaos itself than as something that can be solidified or codified.

    FleaMarketlobster
  • FleaMarketFleaMarket Newbie, not Veteran

    @how said:
    The last thing you want to end up as when watching your thoughts in formal meditation is what the Tibetans would liken to "a cat watching a mouse hole".

    Less intense, watching without weapons drawn. Maybe even like one would carry and be attentive to an infant? I carry my sense gates in both arms and fend it from mosquitos. I might be distracting myself with visualizations.

    Our mind has had a lifetime of experience in creating and maintaining a storyline of its dominion

    Tell me about it..
    Is it alright to talk about Mara? I don't see it spoken of much if at all.

    how
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @David said:
    They may be the only physical branch of the Sangha around. I think if the 4NTs are at the core, then teachings that don't resonate can be sort of put on the back burner. I guess it would depend on how fundamentally different the group is doctrine wise but I've found that some teachers lessons are in their actions more than in their words. Do they move the story forward? Do their actions bear fruit?

    That is certainly true as far as finding a physical Sangha is concerned. And even when the 4NT are not at the core — like with Thich Nhat Hanh, who is definitely mindfulness first — it can work out ok. Dip your toe in the water, see what you can learn and where it takes you, but its best not to let it carry you away on a wash of enthusiasm so that you no longer examine the teachings you take on board.

    After all, membership of a physical sangha also implies that you stand behind its teachings. And there are some difficult teachings in Buddhism: for example, the Three Poisons view of anger is very different from the psychological view. And do we fully stand behind Cessation, which is not exactly a life-positive philosophy? The whole idea of enlightenment as represented in some traditions is to get off the Wheel of Samsara, to not be reborn, is that not a self-destructive approach? Finding what is the right answer for you specifically is not always easy.

    That's basically why I am non-sectarian though Buddhism to me is not a collection of teachings we take on faith but a process of progressive awareness. The 4NTs point out that suffering has a cause and so can be uprooted by addressing the cause. That can be tested and that's the progression.

    Which is an admirable way to proceed through buddhism. In practice though, you can come to a place where you don’t really have the feeling of having made progress in a while. Now the standard buddhist answer is, it’s not about progress as such. And that’s fine, the practice goes on forever. And as long as your suffering keeps decreasing, all is well, and when it doesn’t you can go study suttas.

    But its good to keep an eye on what is beneficial, and when you notice things are no longer moving in the right direction to have a good chat with yourself about where you really think you are going.

    We are all unique aspects of life in various stages so it would be odd to see complete alignment in views. A whole can be divided infinitely and an awareness of self that depends on how another sees is not an authentic expression. Just to use examples we all may know, look at Thich Nhat Hanh as compared to H.H. The Dalai Lama as compared to Ajahn Chah. They end up coming to the same conclusion but take different ways to get there. Sometimes they contradict each other but the teachings themselves are mere pointers to the truth they would represent all too well to an aspect of self in exact alignment.

    Indeed, and here too the different paths all go up the mountain. Just as one has to choose a tradition within buddhism to be taught in, it seems to me also sometimes one's alignment in views means one has to look outside buddhism. I wouldn’t want to abandon the lessons taught in buddhism, I think there is a lot of wisdom in learning to deeply look into one’s suffering.

    FleaMarket
  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited May 3

    @Jeroen;

    The 4 Noble truths are indeed a huge part of Thays core teachings. I think you would be hard pressed to find a book of his that doesn't mention them at least once as a core teaching of the Buddha. Mindfulness is definitely a big part of the 4th NT though.

    The Heart of the Buddhas Teachings is probably the best book for Thays core teachings where the 4NTs are the first on the list.

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited May 3

    “I think that you must have a certain amount of definite belief before you have a right to call yourself a Christian. The word does not have quite such a full-blooded meaning now as it had in the times of St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas. In those days, if a man said that he was a Christian it was known what he meant. You accepted a whole collection of creeds which were set out with great precision, and every single syllable of those creeds you believed with the whole strength of your convictions.”
    — Bertrand Russell

    You see, Bertrand Russell also noted the way in which belief used to be drilled into people, and is these days much more vague and ill-defined. Of course, with Christianity people are moving away from strict beliefs, and the priests do not have much choice if they want to keep their flock.

    With Buddhism in the west it is very much more a matter of choice, it feels like the different organisations are still searching for a formula that will really catch on.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator

    The history of Christianity, along with Buddhism and every other ism, is the history of people arguing about what shit you can and can't believe, what is and isn't truth, etc.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited May 4

    Came across this earlier. Thought of this thread.

    KotishkaFleaMarket
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @Jason said:
    The history of Christianity, along with Buddhism and every other ism, is the history of people arguing about what shit you can and can't believe, what is and isn't truth, etc.

    Very true. The whole idea of a schism basically comes from disagreement over a point of doctrine, and when it comes down to the individual you can either make the decision political, or you can make it based on principle, but even then what you are doing is splitting hairs about a single point, where many other points are left undebated.

    You certainly have the freedom to call yourself whatever you wish, though. As long as other people don’t object, I guess.

  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited May 4

    @Jeroen said:

    @Jason said:
    The history of Christianity, along with Buddhism and every other ism, is the history of people arguing about what shit you can and can't believe, what is and isn't truth, etc.

    Very true. The whole idea of a schism basically comes from disagreement over a point of doctrine, and when it comes down to the individual you can either make the decision political, or you can make it based on principle, but even then what you are doing is splitting hairs about a single point, where many other points are left undebated.

    You certainly have the freedom to call yourself whatever you wish, though. As long as other people don’t object, I guess.

    Even if they object, I think. Others may disagree and try to label others by their own criteria, but that doesn't make someone inherently any less of something they believe they are. If I consider myself a follower of the Buddha and Jesus, do I stop becoming one if someone says that's not true because I don't believe x? Maybe in their minds, but I'll claim the labels nevertheless. Maybe that would be different if I were excommunicated, but probably not then either. Personally, I think the world would be better off if people were a little bit less sectarian.

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

    @Jason said:

    @Jeroen said:

    @Jason said:
    The history of Christianity, along with Buddhism and every other ism, is the history of people arguing about what shit you can and can't believe, what is and isn't truth, etc.

    Very true. The whole idea of a schism basically comes from disagreement over a point of doctrine, and when it comes down to the individual you can either make the decision political, or you can make it based on principle, but even then what you are doing is splitting hairs about a single point, where many other points are left undebated.

    You certainly have the freedom to call yourself whatever you wish, though. As long as other people don’t object, I guess.

    Even if they object, I think. Others may disagree and try to label others by their own criteria, but that doesn't make someone inherently any less of something they believe they are. If I consider myself a follower of the Buddha and Jesus, do I stop becoming one if someone says that's not true because I don't believe x? Maybe in their minds, but I'll claim the labels nevertheless. Maybe that would be different if I were excommunicated, but probably not then either. Personally, I think the world would be better off if people were a little bit less sectarian.

    I'm generally of the same attitude, march to the beat of your own drum and all. I've come to the conclusion though that while as much as I tend to balk at sectarianism and more fundamentalist interpretations, traditions that keep a tighter ship also tend to be able to maintain the important aspects of the teachings for longer periods. A Buddhism maintained largely of people like myself would quickly deteriorate and lose the core of what makes them valuable.

    FleaMarketJeroenlobster
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    march to the beat of your own drum and all

    I do see the point of that, I do. But in a way what the religious impulse is all about is measuring yourself against a common vision, by taking onboard the Noble Eightfold Path you are saying I am going to be less like my own natural vision and more like this other vision I have been told about. By saying, I am a Christian or I am a Buddhist you are only play acting, wearing a suit of clothes which you do not necessarily agree with in all details, only for the Real You to emerge in moments of reflection.

  • FleaMarketFleaMarket Newbie, not Veteran

    When you call a river by its name shouldn't you include all it empties into? What's a name anyway but a way to divide further?

    I shouted at the ocean. It just waved.

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

    @Jeroen said:

    @person said:
    march to the beat of your own drum and all

    I do see the point of that, I do. But in a way what the religious impulse is all about is measuring yourself against a common vision, by taking onboard the Noble Eightfold Path you are saying I am going to be less like my own natural vision and more like this other vision I have been told about. By saying, I am a Christian or I am a Buddhist you are only play acting, wearing a suit of clothes which you do not necessarily agree with in all details, only for the Real You to emerge in moments of reflection.

    Labels are just conventions. I don't think of them as having to fit 100% to be used, because really they never fit 100% anyway.

    Just be yourself and don't worry so much about whether you conform to a set of externally imposed ideals. Part of being yourself may be an attempt at adopting a different point of view or developing certain capacities.

    I think of myself as a Buddhist but I don't wear it on my sleeve or often tell other people. When I do it tends to form an idea of who I am according to their idea of what Buddhism is, and the reality is usually quite a bit different.

    JeroenFleaMarket
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    @person said:
    I think of myself as a Buddhist but I don't wear it on my sleeve or often tell other people. When I do it tends to form an idea of who I am according to their idea of what Buddhism is, and the reality is usually quite a bit different.

    Exactly, and that may well be the reason people tend to be a bit reticent about mentioning their religious beliefs. It often leads to an awkward conversation exploring what exactly those views are, and so leads to a) the possibility of being exposed to be of little knowledge, b) the possibility of being exposed as having thought very little about important topics.

    FleaMarket
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited May 5

    @Jeroen said:

    @person said:
    march to the beat of your own drum and all

    I do see the point of that, I do. But in a way what the religious impulse is all about is measuring yourself against a common vision, by taking onboard the Noble Eightfold Path you are saying I am going to be less like my own natural vision and more like this other vision I have been told about. By saying, I am a Christian or I am a Buddhist you are only play acting, wearing a suit of clothes which you do not necessarily agree with in all details, only for the Real You to emerge in moments of reflection.

    That's too much like a no true Scotsman view for my taste. Even within institutionalized religious structures, such as Catholicism, there's a wealth of opinions and views, many of them hotly debated. The person who termed the phrase double-belonging and wrote the book Without Buddha I Could not be Christian, for example, is himself a Catholic theologian. Would you then say that he's not really a Catholic or Christian? Why not just accept where someone is at and engage them from there rather than trying to define for them who and what they are? Just something to think about.

    FleaMarket
  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran
    edited May 5

    People are free to choose whatever tradition they want to belong to 🙏 . I’m merely pointing out the conflict between loyalty to a personal principle of sincerity and truth on the one hand, and the desire to belong to a tradition which holds unknown values on the other.

    Perhaps I shouldn’t have used the you-form in that previous quote you mentioned @Jason, it gells with my experience but it seems maybe not very kind. You’re quite right to point it out.

    By writing in this thread I am trying to sort out my own views as well, not always so easy. I’m seeking to figure out whether it is a reasonable point of view, or whether there are any objections that I hadn’t already spotted.

    FleaMarketperson
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran
    edited May 5

    @Jason said:
    Luckily for me, I have the right to call myself whatever I want and don't have to subject myself to the whims and strict criteria of others and what they deem to be necessary. Not only because I'm a rebellious free spirit, but because even strict doctrinal traditions have their rebels and outliers and even outright heretics. Nothing is ever as black and white as we try to make it.

    I like this and felt like coming back to it. There's the old Weezer song, In The Garage. In my own garage, where no one cares about my ways I feel free to follow my own path. When in community I eventually get the feeling that there are certain sacred beliefs that if I privately don't hold may be acceptable but if disagreed with, especially deliberately and with confidence will result in social stigma or functional excommunication. A lot of that may be amped up by my own projections and fear of rejection.

    I'd like to be so cavalier and duck like (so water will flow off) that I could stay true to my views AND be part of a Buddhist community.

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

    @Jeroen said:
    People are free to choose whatever tradition they want to belong to 🙏 . I’m merely pointing out the conflict between loyalty to a personal principle of sincerity and truth on the one hand, and the desire to belong to a tradition which holds unknown values on the other.

    This is another reason I like Thich Nhat Hanh and Plum Village. A big part of Right View is non-attachment to views.

Sign In or Register to comment.