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redhen

Whose Buddhism is Truest?

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I've had this article bookmarked for a while now but I've never shared it. Another thread here reminded me I had this tucked away. Just a reminder that all revealed religions are subject to historicity.

A few years ago the earliest Buddhist texts were discovered in what was once called Gandhara, in Central Asia.

"It is said that after the Buddha’s death, his disciples gathered at what we now call the First Council, and these memorizers recited what they had heard. Then all the monks repeated it, and the single and definitive record of the “words of the Buddha” [buddhavacana] was established. Thus was the Buddhist canon born.

Or was it?"

"The Buddhist canons as they exist today are the products of historical contingencies. They resound with the many voices that have shaped them through time. But orthodoxy requires the opposite, a wall you can’t put your fist through: singular, unchanging, findable truth. Buddhism’s textual root wasn’t singular, and it wasn’t unchanging. As it turns out, it wasn’t so findable, either."

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Posted (edited)

Good article. I don't think we will ever know the original teachings of the Buddha, as we will never know the original teachings of Jesus. To my mind, Zen is closest to what we may consider original Buddhism. But then again, Zen is a Japanese version of Chinese Ch'an, which is mostly Taoism with a Buddhist nomenclature.

I think the Buddha taught a completely practical, down to earth method to clarify the mind of extraneous learned concepts. Life is not a concept, it is a slap in the face, what is nakedly happening now, without us adding anything extra to it. This is not stripping life of its magic, it is realizing and being alert to life's intrinsic wonder.

Just my thoughts.

Edited by StarMountainKid
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It doesn't matter. This sort of inquiry is only of interest historically, not religiously. There is a set of common teachings the vast majority of Buddhists hold, but the movement is tolerant and accepts heterodoxy and question. "Truth" is not an issue in Buddhism. The Buddhist canons are scripture only in the sense that they are seen as the writings of good and wise men and receive respect but are not worshiped the way Muslims worship the Q'uran or Christians the Bible.

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To my mind, Zen is closest to what we may consider original Buddhism. But then again, Zen is a Japanese version of Chinese Ch'an, which is mostly Taoism with a Buddhist nomenclature.

It sounds like you are reducing it to Taoist philosophy, but again you have to somehow ignore all the cultural rituals and beliefs whether Taoist or Buddhist. Then again, Taoism is not a revealed religion and we don't expect to find the original Taoist texts since it is shrouded in a shamanistic prehistory.

It doesn't matter. This sort of inquiry is only of interest historically, not religiously.

Right, but there is a solid and growing academic field of inquiry, a lot of it done by non-Buddhists, outsiders if you will.

There is a set of common teachings the vast majority of Buddhists hold, but the movement is tolerant and accepts heterodoxy and question.

Would they be tolerant of the discovery of an alleged fifth noble truth?

"Truth" is not an issue in Buddhism.

Soon after the Buddha's death his school was split in two over doctrinal differences. Later it further devolved into 22 distinct schools of thought. Nowadays we have hundreds of different interpretations.

The Buddhist canons are scripture only in the sense that they are seen as the writings of good and wise men and receive respect but are not worshiped the way Muslims worship the Q'uran or Christians the Bible.

I'll grant you that.

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The multiplication of "sects" in Buddhism, which you rather irritatingly call "devolution" is only to be expected; all the sects get along with each other and no one tries to assert superiority (although no doubt, being less than enlightened, many probably think it).

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The development of an additional "Noble Truth" is speculation contrary to fact. I dare say if such a thing came along it would generate smiles and nods.

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Buddhism and Taoism have many things in common, not in detail but in approach, so that they tend to merge to a certain extent is not surprising.

Your approach seems entirely too Christian-influenced with attitudes about "truth" and doctrinal differences and so on, and I doubt you will ever understand where Buddhism is coming from. Of course it doesn't really matter if you do or don't. The world will continue to orbit the sun.

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Your approach seems entirely too Christian-influenced with attitudes about "truth" and doctrinal differences and so on, and I doubt you will ever understand where Buddhism is coming from.

My approach is not influenced by any religion, my approach is academic, applying the rules of historicity as I would to any revealed religion. I offer this thread as a comparison to the many threads on Christian textual criticism. Textual criticism is a valid field of study, but it seems that many people only associate it with Christianity. That's a shame.

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It seems to me that true "Buddhism" exists only in the mind of Buddha. From my interpretation of what Buddha was trying to convey, there is no greater truth for me than that which comes from within myself therefore if I believe what Buddha taught I would not call myself a Buddhist.

I have only studied Buddhism briefly and only by reading what was supposed to be the Buddha's sayings so I certainly don't consider myself adept but I just wanted to share my impression.

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t seems to me that true "Buddhism" exists only in the mind of Buddha. From my interpretation of what Buddha was trying to convey, there is no greater truth for me than that which comes from within myself therefore if I believe what Buddha taught I would not call myself a Buddhist.

I think your statement is well said. Buddhism is a state of mind, and to be a Buddhist means to discover a similar state of mind from within. Just believing in something called Buddhism is not the same.

Actually, the term "Buddhism" is a term invented by European scholars in the 19th century. The Dharma is the a more correct term, or the Dharma of the Buddha, the teachings of the Buddha.

. Dharma 11px-Loudspeaker.svg.png listen (help·info) (Sanskrit: धर्म dharma, Pali: धम्म dhamma) is the Law that "upholds, supports or maintains the regulatory order of the universe". Dharma has the Sanskrit root -dhri, which means "that without which nothing can stand"[1] or "that which maintains the stability and harmony of the universe."[1] The word "dharma" was already in use in the Vedic times, where it was conceived as an aspect of Rta

Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism all have the concept of dharma at their core. In Buddhism and Hinduism it points to the purification and moral transformation of human beings. Though differing in some particulars, they concur that the goal of human life is liberation whether this salvation be in the form moksha or nirvana

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharma#Buddha.27s_teachings

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My approach is not influenced by any religion, my approach is academic, applying the rules of historicity as I would to any revealed religion. I offer this thread as a comparison to the many threads on Christian textual criticism. Textual criticism is a valid field of study, but it seems that many people only associate it with Christianity. That's a shame.

That is fine. I don't know that finding out what the "original" Buddha taught or did not teach tells us much -- it kinda feels to me like inquiring as to the nature of the wood on the poison arrow we all have stuck in our necks.

Everything always changes and there are many Buddhas, and many other enlightened teachers teaching various things that can be interpreted as contradictory if one is so inclined but which Buddhists generally see as just different perspectives.

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I have only studied Buddhism briefly and only by reading what was supposed to be the Buddha's sayings so I certainly don't consider myself adept but I just wanted to share my impression.

Your impressions are appreciated. The problem is though like Jesus, we don't have the original teachings of the Buddha, all we have are copies of copies that were written down after several centuries of oral tradition.

I am not trying to denigrate Buddhism, far from from it, I think there are many important teachings found in the sutras and shastras. I am just not certain about their authenticity. I'm not alone either, there has long been debates about the origins of Buddhist scripture. My point of this thread to make others aware that the same textual difficulties/variances that exist in Christianity, also exist in Buddhism, perhaps more so because of the centuries of oral transmission.

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That is fine. I don't know that finding out what the "original" Buddha taught or did not teach tells us much -- it kinda feels to me like inquiring as to the nature of the wood on the poison arrow we all have stuck in our necks.

Thanks for referencing that analogy, I am quite fond of that one. But from what I remember it was in the context of someone asking the Buddha about non-doctrinal teachings; is the universe infinite? how did the cosmos begin? etc. But I think it's valid to question the authenticity of scripture that purports to describe the most profound teachings.

Everything always changes and there are many Buddhas, and many other enlightened teachers teaching various things that can be interpreted as contradictory if one is so inclined but which Buddhists generally see as just different perspectives.

Indeed, in the Heart Sutra we read that even the dharmas are subject to emptiness. Shariputra, who is addressed in this sutra, was a member of the early Sthaviravāda sect who held that dharmas were not subject to change.

I confess I have the Heart Sutra and commentary by my bedside. It's only two pages long and has been called Buddhism in a nutshell for its conciseness. The ending of it calls us to go beyond intellectualization, which sometimes is refreshing. gate gate pāragate pārasaṃgate bodhi svāhā

From the commentary I have (Bill Porter/aka Red Pine)

"The question of authorship (of the Heart sutra) was an important one for early Buddhists concerned with authenticity. But over the centuries it has become less so. Nowadays Buddhists resolve this issue by considering the teaching contained in the texts on its own merit. Accordingly, the principle of the Four Reliances (catuh-pratisarana) has developed to deal with this issue: We are urged to rely on the teaching and not the author, the meaning and not the letter, the truth and not the convention, the knowledge and not the information. Thus, if a teaching accords with the Dharma, then the teacher must have been a Buddha or someone empowered by a Buddha to speak on his or her behalf. For our part, all we can safely claim is that the author of this sutra was someone with an understanding of the major Buddhist traditions of two thousand years ago, the ability to summarize there salient points in the briefest fashion possible, and the knowledge of where buddhas come from."

Sounds good to me. I guess I just have a nagging problem with certitude.

Edited by redhen
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My view of early Buddhism is that it was a monastic movement that attached itself at some point to a "Buddha" group of myths. The wisdom of the tradition and the usefulness to me is where I come from. (As I have said several times, I am not what most might think of as a "good Buddhist).

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Who’s Buddhism is the truest? Those who properly practice Meditation and reach Buddhahood, because only through knowing the true self are we ‘Enlightened’ to our true nature. Meditation is the key. The texts are only ‘fingers pointing at the moon’ but people still believe they will get a great reward from reading texts. Perhaps in the initial stages of searching texts are good but sooner or later they must/will be left behind. One can see from the story of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha that he tried many different ways to find an answer and being Indian would also have been familiar with the Vedas and the Upanishads but in the end he had to Meditate and Meditate until he became Enlightened. There is no need for further reading although texts can inspire one to meditate more. All that is required is a thirst to know, to practice every day because meditation is not a hobby it is a way of living.

“The true Way is sublime. It can't be expressed in language. Of what use are scriptures? But someone who sees his own nature finds the Way, even if he can't read a word

“If you see your nature, you don't need to read sutras or invoke Buddha’s. Erudition and knowledge are not only useless but also cloud your awareness. Doctrines are only for pointing to the mind. Once you see your mind, why pay attention to doctrines?”

"But people of the deepest understanding look within, distracted by nothing. Since a clear mind is the Buddha, they attain the understanding of a Buddha without using the mind." Bodhidharma

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Thank you. Meditation is important and helpful; so also is right living, right thinking and compassion, as well as moderation, humility, mindfulness and openness and non-judgementalism.

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I agree Frank, all those really good human traits so sadly lacking in the modern world . I have found though that they all manifest in my every day, when I meditate, I don’t even have to think about being patient/kind/compassionate/open /humble that’s why meditation is so important, it frees us from the prison of the selfish mind and opens our hearts. To be able to submerge our selves in the Ocean of peace we all carry within us, what a gift, what a treasure, just waiting to be experienced. Peace is the missing piece.

The Buddha was asked,” What have you gained from meditation?” He replied, ”Nothing!”

However, Buddha said, “Let me tell you what I lost: Anger, Anxiety, Depression, Insecurity, Fear of Old Age and Death”

“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we WILL eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” Dalai Lama

“Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.” Thich Nhat Hanh

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I believe that we will have to reconstruct the Buddhism.

Most Buddhists have no idea that Buddha himself did not want to have his statues built. He certainly knew what he was saying and I have a feeling that Buddha was probably the only founder of an organized religion with actual benign motivation.

You know, when things comes Buddhism will be one of the few religions that will be spared, only if it's practiced properly.

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I rather like the statues of the Buddha; they bring calmness and happiness, and remind me of him and his teaching. It can of course be overdone -- for example I disapprove of putting such a statue in a place where it interferes with the beauty of nature. I must say the occasional statue of a worthy is better than the dogmatic insistence on no images of the Muslims and of the gory crucified Jesus or bleeding heart of Mary that other religions have.

I have a Thai Buddha in my central hallway, sitting composed in standard "Buddha" meditative sitting position. I rather prefer him over the fat Chinese Buddhas, but they have their positive aspect too -- being happy and uplifting, and maybe not so severe as the Thai Buddhas. I am maybe a touch superstitious but I keep a "fat Buddha" on my desk for "belly rubbing" when I'm stressed -- the act is so ridiculous that it relieves my stress. I think maybe you have to be Vietnamese or Chinese to understand this.

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As an individual I am not in pursuit of Enlightenment, mainly I suspect because I am agnostic as to its reality. As a consequence, like most Vietnamese lay people, I don't put that must stress on meditation itself, and in fact had to read book to learn how to do it, since the local monks tend to think this is something mainly for those seeking Enlightenment who have accordingly become monks.

To me what meditation is for and why I do it is because I enjoy doing it and think its effects beneficial to my mental state and external behavior (I am far more aware and sensitive of things and of course far more aware of right living).

I don't actually try to sell meditation itself on people; I just encourage them to occasionally sit quietly listening perhaps to early classical music (if they are Westerners) or something of that sort, and think about good things. We should be careful to avoid ascribing miraculous or magical powers to meditation.

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Yeah, one adjustment that Buddhism has to make is to teach people that Enlightenment is not really an absolute requirement.

I know of many visual depictions of Buddhist Hells, and those places of torment look like they were straight out of the head of Marquis De Sade on Crystal Meth. I think western Buddhist practitioners should be aware of this thing and be mindful about it.

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The difference between Buddhist Hells and the Western Hell is that in Buddhism it is a temporary state easily left once one realizes its illusionary nature. Of course most adults, both Buddhists and Christians, grew up about such thinking long ago. Only Muslims and a few unfortunates in other religions still harbor such ideas.

Buddhism is a human creation and the Buddha was mortal and now is dead. The thing is there is wisdom in Buddhism that has great value -- moral wisdom, behavioral wisdom, and a sort-of cosmic wisdom (the picture of the nature of things is realistic without being mechanistic and denying the reality of our sentience and humanity).

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“If every 8 year old in the world is taught meditation, we WILL eliminate violence from the world within one generation.” Dalai Lama

Sorry but that's bull-sh!t. Things like aggression and bullying are part of us - our genes. It's part of being an animal that has predatory instincts (sadly, I might add). I wish it was different but it isnt. However, teaching every child this would dramatically decrease violence :)

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While I disagree with your calling the quote "bull-****," I tend to disagree with calling anything that. Such nostrums of course would not succeed: people will be what they are. I think you get the point of the quote though -- it might improve matters.

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The title is silly , It supposes a sense of sects with possessive beliefs arguing as to who is the real McCoy. I have also seen a lot of westerners bring their predetermined western neural pathways to try and interpret something that evolved many civilizations away in a completely different grammar and idiom . I can only admire their command of the english language and comical interpretations delivered in exquisite language, which would be laughed off in the lands Buddha lived in.

I have seen the Japanese, Korean and Chinese struggle with the concept that a Buddha who's words they had decided to follow was born in a land whose inhabitants they consider lowly . I read Japanese/Korean literature where they repeatedly ask in exasperation ,how come the light was born in their west? I have had discussions in Japan, where a monastery monk was trying to convince me , that their Buddhist beliefs are oriental beliefs , and my only retort was , oh I see , So perhaps you have invented a Path superior to what the Buddha had invented because you see he was not oriental., in fact why pretend to be Buddhist , just pick a wonderful name and start a new religion..............let me perhaps give a clue, He has curly hair , which is not oriental. He was born a Hindu to a Hindu father and mother .Just perhaps because someone carved Buddha with Almond eyes, please dont start believing he is oriental or Japanese or Korean or Chinese .

To the Zen amongst you, you will recognize what I am saying , Where Buddha was born is irrelevant, But when the contamination comes in your mind that the geographical antecedents of his philosophy assume importance , then dont waste your time pretending to be Buddhist , You are a true Buddhist no more

And if you are Buddhist, what is all this pseudo intellectual babble of which philosophy is right or wrong in Buddhism .

Please dont Kid your self.....................you are not Buddhist , It just silly personal ego aggrandizement and ego massage , where everyone/sect , is inventing their own Kingdom and nominating themselves to be its king. which itself is ludicrous as a concept in Buddhas teachings

There was one Buddha , He had one philosophy as truth has only one identity, and it was how to attain the crystal clear mind . He was not Chinese or korean or japanese or srilankan or vietanamese or Tibetan or any of the exotic schools that wear various colorful dresses like preened peacocks

If you are Buddhist , its very simple folks ....................you follow Buddhas words . Now you may have interpretations , but here is a simple brutal fact , an interpretation means you cant see the simple blinding white truth like the Buddha did . An interpretation means you have colored vision. The color of your ego or the color of your ignorance , and how many ever members of your club you have or money you have , you are still wrong .The moment you have an interpretation, My suggestion to you is, it means you have run into your minds contamination, Meditate more , and one day that interpretation will melt like the early morning mist as the sun rises . When the sun is at its zenith, there is no mist and ghosts and interpretations left , when you hit the final blinding truth , there is no more artificial philosophies or mists of falsetto arguments

The advice is simple. If you have a interpretation it means you cant see or have understood what the Buddha said . It would be better to go into silence once again . Meditate more till you become a buddha yourself instead of starting one more school, with a moto, emblem, uniform , buildings, branches , enrollment forms , anthem , badges , well the whole circus that goes with it.

Dont you get it ? If you are a Buddhist , the Buddha showed you a path to be like a buddha , not one of the sects or waste time interpreting what he said ..................................interpreting happens when you make use of your contaminated mind. ...................its YOUR surrender of YOUR MIND that gets you to be a buddha , when your primordial mind opens up.

So stop all this ridiculous psuedo , falsetto pathetic attempts of logic. You are just digging yourself deeper into maya like a 4 wheel drive struggling in mud digs itself deeper.

Read the words of the Buddha directly, sit in silence , you will have the answer ,because its already within you, stop chattering like silly ladies, dressing up in wonderful robes that look great in photo shoots , and mystical statements that sound like profound nonsense . Buddha never did any of this comical shows.

A true buddhist has no drama, he is devoid of anything , he sheds all identities

Hope you see the light soon

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