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Buddhism and Cultural Translation

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Buddhism and Cultural Translation Matthew 2/20/20 10:58 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Chris Marti 2/20/20 10:57 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Matthew 2/20/20 11:13 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Chris Marti 2/20/20 11:19 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Matthew 2/20/20 12:18 PM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation terry 2/20/20 12:39 PM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Chris Marti 2/20/20 4:30 PM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation terry 2/21/20 12:23 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Siavash 2/21/20 2:42 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation terry 2/21/20 11:32 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Siavash 2/21/20 12:31 PM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Chris Marti 2/21/20 6:27 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation terry 2/21/20 11:37 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation terry 2/20/20 12:35 PM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation terry 2/24/20 11:53 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation terry 2/20/20 12:29 PM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Nicky 2/22/20 4:59 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation shargrol 2/21/20 8:48 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Chris Marti 2/21/20 8:59 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Matthew 2/22/20 10:42 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Nicky 2/22/20 5:24 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Anna L 2/22/20 5:48 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Matthew 2/22/20 10:50 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Anna L 2/22/20 10:47 PM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Kim Katami 2/24/20 3:27 PM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Stirling Campbell 2/26/20 2:27 PM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation terry 3/3/20 7:27 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation terry 3/2/20 4:22 PM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Chris Marti 3/3/20 7:28 AM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Stirling Campbell 3/3/20 5:33 PM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation shargrol 3/3/20 8:08 PM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation terry 3/8/20 2:36 PM
RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation Tim Farrington 4/12/20 4:42 AM
Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/20/20 10:58 AM
One of the striking features of Buddhism as a religion which has spread worldwide is how varied its manifestations are. Having a spirit of exploration and direct perception, it tends to withstand being adapted to different cultural contexts. In India, Buddhism emerged as something Indian. When it made its way to China, it became Chinese. In Thailand, it became Thai. And so on.

This feature of adaptability to local culture is present from the beginning with the historical Buddha, and continues throughout history. For example:The standout feature of all of these variations is that they introduce Buddhism by taking something that already exists in the culture, that people are already familiar with and primed for, and flipping it around. This is the use of upaya on a society-wide level.

It makes me wonder, are we developing a distinctively "Western" form of Buddhism? Is that something to be desired? Without that, it seems people may have to overcome two levels of foreignness before they can understand a given Buddhist idea - first the foreignness of the concept as something new, but then also the foreignness of the cultural presentation that the explanation is embedded in. If someone is learning Theravada, it seems like they need to at least partly grok the Southeast Asian and Indian flavor to fully digest the concepts in their proper context. If Zen, same for China and Japan. If Tibetan Buddhism, same for Tibet. This seems to create obstacles to easy understanding and explanation, since one needs to learn a new context before they can fully understand the actual text.

Once someone overcomes this culturally-conditioned barrier, the ideas themselves are pretty universally applicable, which is what makes Buddhism appealing to so many in the first place. But the cultures that produced those presentations did so by framing it on their own terms, finding efficient entryways that already existed.

Doing this takes time, of course, often several generations, and Buddhism simply has not been a force in "the West" for such a long time yet. But are there good examples of this type of cultural adaptability starting to happen? Could we consider MCTB one such example? Is this something we should want, or will it happen naturally? Interested in hearing your thoughts.

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/20/20 10:57 AM as a reply to Matthew.
Isn't what goes on here on DhO a manifestation of western Buddhism? If it's not then I don't know what is.

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/20/20 11:13 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Isn't what goes on here on DhO a manifestation of western Buddhism? If it's not then I don't know what is.
Right, that was kind of the first answer that came to mind for me too. At first it seemed like it wasn't quite the same type of transformation since the innovation here is more about the medium (an internet forum loosely based around a book) rather than the concepts or how they're taught. But now that I rethink it DhO definitely does have its own cultural quirks in the way things are expressed and taught, like the way people use the POI map.

The reason I wanna talk about these cultural things explicitly is cause they color how people express dharma, so looking at one's own biases or the biases of one's own upbringing can help bridge some of those gaps. 

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/20/20 11:19 AM as a reply to Matthew.
What do you think about the ongoing use of Pali terminology? Is that, a common practice even on DhO, a help or a hindrance to those westerners who want to take up Buddhism? Is Pali required for understanding Buddhism or are there western alternatives to Pali terms that could serve the same purpose and eliminate the second tier of translation?

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/20/20 12:18 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
It's a complex topic. On the one hand, learning the Pali words adds extra layers of translation. It would be more accessible to the average non-scholar person be able to express the concepts in English.

On the other hand, though, sometimes there aren't any English words to fully express these ideas. In cases like this, it's common with religions and philosophies to use the borrowed foreign word, for example "dasein" when talking about Heidegger. This avoids the danger of using bad translations and lets you know the word in question is special.

The way I see it there are three possible ways trying to use English/local language rather than Pali could go.

Best case scenario, it eliminates that second tier of translation and uses natural-enough language. This is happening for the most part with meditation instructions, where simplicity is more important than semantic correctness.

Just-ok scenario, it eliminates or reduces the need to learn Pali, but creates a new type of English-language jargon. This is happening with some big foundational terms like "suffering," "emptiness" and "self," where there is a natural language use and a Buddhist use.

Worst-case scenario, it creates more confusion. Sometimes things from the above jargony scenario can fall into this level when someone lacks the right context. This tends to happen, for instance, when not-self is presented out of context and can lead to the exact type of "confused attempt at Vedanta self-inquiry" that the Buddha was trying to discourage.

As it stands now, the English-language-jargon outcome seems to be the most common one. Although ideally the special Buddhist uses of words would be as close as possible to their natural language use, it's probably inevitable that some sort of particular set of uses will coalesce over time.

One thing that can potentially help is that English has a lot of synonyms for things. I think it's important to be open to using those for nuance. So, for example, we could maybe gloss "dukkha" as something like "unease" or "discontent" in addition to the usual "suffering." We could maybe gloss "emptiness" as something like "open-endedness" or "inconceivability," if the situation is right.

Ultimately from my POV the best-case-scenario would be to have such a natural and robust English/[insert local language here] vocabulary that learning the Pali words would be just optional. We'd have to be very, very careful to do that without butchering it, though. In the meantime using the Pali or Sanskrit words at least sometimes is probably inevitable.

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/20/20 12:29 PM as a reply to Matthew.
Matthew:
One of the striking features of Buddhism as a religion which has spread worldwide is how varied its manifestations are. Having a spirit of exploration and direct perception, it tends to withstand being adapted to different cultural contexts. In India, Buddhism emerged as something Indian. When it made its way to China, it became Chinese. In Thailand, it became Thai. And so on.

This feature of adaptability to local culture is present from the beginning with the historical Buddha, and continues throughout history. For example:The standout feature of all of these variations is that they introduce Buddhism by taking something that already exists in the culture, that people are already familiar with and primed for, and flipping it around. This is the use of upaya on a society-wide level.

It makes me wonder, are we developing a distinctively "Western" form of Buddhism? Is that something to be desired? Without that, it seems people may have to overcome two levels of foreignness before they can understand a given Buddhist idea - first the foreignness of the concept as something new, but then also the foreignness of the cultural presentation that the explanation is embedded in. If someone is learning Theravada, it seems like they need to at least partly grok the Southeast Asian and Indian flavor to fully digest the concepts in their proper context. If Zen, same for China and Japan. If Tibetan Buddhism, same for Tibet. This seems to create obstacles to easy understanding and explanation, since one needs to learn a new context before they can fully understand the actual text.

Once someone overcomes this culturally-conditioned barrier, the ideas themselves are pretty universally applicable, which is what makes Buddhism appealing to so many in the first place. But the cultures that produced those presentations did so by framing it on their own terms, finding efficient entryways that already existed.

Doing this takes time, of course, often several generations, and Buddhism simply has not been a force in "the West" for such a long time yet. But are there good examples of this type of cultural adaptability starting to happen? Could we consider MCTB one such example? Is this something we should want, or will it happen naturally? Interested in hearing your thoughts.


aloha natthew,

   2 points:

   Cultures adapt to the dharma, rather than the reverse.

   We live in a global village now. There is only one culture.

terry

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/20/20 12:35 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
Isn't what goes on here on DhO a manifestation of western Buddhism? If it's not then I don't know what is.

    When we all "leave home" I would call us buddhists. Even lay buddhists are expected to be "devoted" to a monastic culture. I would question if there is any buddhism outside the precepts.

   What is buddhism? A commitment to the dharma.

   I am reminded every hour (at least) how far short this child falls.

t

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/20/20 12:39 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
What do you think about the ongoing use of Pali terminology? Is that, a common practice even on DhO, a help or a hindrance to those westerners who want to take up Buddhism? Is Pali required for understanding Buddhism or are there western alternatives to Pali terms that could serve the same purpose and eliminate the second tier of translation?


   Words like dharma, nirvana and even anicca, anatta and dukkha have entered the english language. They have their english meanings, which may be different from what they meant in pali.

   Our karma has run over our dogma.

t

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/20/20 4:30 PM as a reply to terry.
I've come to accept Pali into my personal lexicon, but that has taken time and effort. If the Pali wasn't in use I'd be using different terminology, maybe more than a few words in English, to refer to things like "dharma" or "jhana."

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/21/20 12:23 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
I've come to accept Pali into my personal lexicon, but that has taken time and effort. If the Pali wasn't in use I'd be using different terminology, maybe more than a few words in English, to refer to things like "dharma" or "jhana."

    If you talk to a person who speaks a european language other than english, they know what nirvana means instantly, while "enlightenment" needs to be explained. These words have entered all languages in the global village. Who does not know the word buddha?

t

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/21/20 2:42 AM as a reply to terry.
terry:
Chris Marti:
I've come to accept Pali into my personal lexicon, but that has taken time and effort. If the Pali wasn't in use I'd be using different terminology, maybe more than a few words in English, to refer to things like "dharma" or "jhana."

    If you talk to a person who speaks a european language other than english, they know what nirvana means instantly, while "enlightenment" needs to be explained. These words have entered all languages in the global village. Who does not know the word buddha?

t



You mean none of them think of nirvana as a heaven better than other religion's heaven?

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/21/20 6:27 AM as a reply to terry.
 If you talk to a person who speaks a european language other than english, they know what nirvana means instantly, while "enlightenment" needs to be explained. These words have entered all languages in the global village. Who does not know the word buddha?

terry, yes, that's true for commonly used nouns from Pali, like nirvana and buddha. I don't think it's true for many of the other Pali words people adopt and use in meditation circles. 

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/21/20 8:48 AM as a reply to Matthew.
Matthew:
One of the striking features of Buddhism as a religion which has spread worldwide is how varied its manifestations are. Having a spirit of exploration and direct perception, it tends to withstand being adapted to different cultural contexts. In India, Buddhism emerged as something Indian. When it made its way to China, it became Chinese. In Thailand, it became Thai. And so on.

This feature of adaptability to local culture is present from the beginning with the historical Buddha, and continues throughout history. For example:The standout feature of all of these variations is that they introduce Buddhism by taking something that already exists in the culture, that people are already familiar with and primed for, and flipping it around. This is the use of upaya on a society-wide level.

It makes me wonder, are we developing a distinctively "Western" form of Buddhism? Is that something to be desired? Without that, it seems people may have to overcome two levels of foreignness before they can understand a given Buddhist idea - first the foreignness of the concept as something new, but then also the foreignness of the cultural presentation that the explanation is embedded in. If someone is learning Theravada, it seems like they need to at least partly grok the Southeast Asian and Indian flavor to fully digest the concepts in their proper context. If Zen, same for China and Japan. If Tibetan Buddhism, same for Tibet. This seems to create obstacles to easy understanding and explanation, since one needs to learn a new context before they can fully understand the actual text.

Once someone overcomes this culturally-conditioned barrier, the ideas themselves are pretty universally applicable, which is what makes Buddhism appealing to so many in the first place. But the cultures that produced those presentations did so by framing it on their own terms, finding efficient entryways that already existed.

Doing this takes time, of course, often several generations, and Buddhism simply has not been a force in "the West" for such a long time yet. But are there good examples of this type of cultural adaptability starting to happen? Could we consider MCTB one such example? Is this something we should want, or will it happen naturally? Interested in hearing your thoughts.

Matthew, if you haven't listened to this lecture yet, I think you would _love_ it. All about how the buddha was using a lot of puns and subversions of proto-hindu ideas in his teachings. 

For what it's worth!



https://www.audiodharma.org/series/207/talk/2602/

Buddhism Before the Theravada 
 

The Buddha did not teach in a vacuum. His teachings were directed to those who shared the social world in which he lived. John Peacock, a British scholar who studies and translates in more than a dozen languages and is familiar with the philosophical environment of the Buddha’s day, maintains that by framing the Buddha’s teachings in their original context, it is possible to recover the original meaning of teachings that have been ignored and lost by later Buddhist schools—including the Theravada. This weekend class will examine many of the ways in which Buddhist practice was radically different from the Brahmanical and Upanishadic thinking of the time and, indeed, how it differs in substantive ways from much present day understanding of the Dharma. The exploration will detail the Buddha’s shift away from metaphysical thinking to a focus on internal experience and ethical activity. In the process there will be consideration of how the Buddha’s earliest teachings diverge from much of the western philosophical tradition, and often from what has become the traditional view of the Dharma today as well.



RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/21/20 8:59 AM as a reply to shargrol.
John Peacock is magnificent!

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/21/20 11:32 AM as a reply to Siavash.
Siavash Mahmoudpour:
terry:
Chris Marti:
I've come to accept Pali into my personal lexicon, but that has taken time and effort. If the Pali wasn't in use I'd be using different terminology, maybe more than a few words in English, to refer to things like "dharma" or "jhana."

    If you talk to a person who speaks a european language other than english, they know what nirvana means instantly, while "enlightenment" needs to be explained. These words have entered all languages in the global village. Who does not know the word buddha?

t



You mean none of them think of nirvana as a heaven better than other religion's heaven?


   Probably most of them. They're language speakers after all. But what do they know? Or, what do they know? What do you know?

   I'm not sure what speakers of non-european languages think of nirvana, karma, or buddha. Perhaps you do.

t

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/21/20 11:37 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:
 If you talk to a person who speaks a european language other than english, they know what nirvana means instantly, while "enlightenment" needs to be explained. These words have entered all languages in the global village. Who does not know the word buddha?

terry, yes, that's true for commonly used nouns from Pali, like nirvana and buddha. I don't think it's true for many of the other Pali words people adopt and use in meditation circles. 

no argument

I avoid the less common words myself, as uncommunicative (get yer nanas out)

ever read a book and the author sails off into a quotation in french or german and provides no translation, because any educated person reading the book ought to know these languages?

t

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/21/20 12:31 PM as a reply to terry.
I'm not sure what speakers of non-european languages think of nirvana, karma, or buddha. Perhaps you do.


As far as I know, here in middle east (I live in Iran), buddhism is much less known to general public compared to west, I think a main reason for that is the type of governments that are in these countries, because in the past buddhism had clear traces in literature. People mostly get to know these terms and concepts from western media (or the ones that are more serious, often with direct encounter with India).

In recent decades, some people here use nirvana as a feminie name, and it seems that they think of it as a kind of a heaven, a pardis (paradise). Internet has started to change things, and more people do meditation and yoga, and as a result get to know the underlying culture and concepts.

When I was in high school, I was interested in works of a writer and speaker, and  he would write about The Buddha in a poetic way, and often use nirvana and extinguished fire (In Farsi of course) in his poems, but without explanation, and until recent years I didn't know these are related, since the common perception about nirvana is something like a heavenly realm.

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/22/20 5:24 AM as a reply to Matthew.
Matthew:

The terms "diṭṭhaṃ sutaṃ mutaṃ viññātaṃ" (seen, heard, sensed & cognised) are found in at least 45 Pali suttas. Also, contrary to common beliefs about a pre-Buddhist Atman, there is actually little, if no, debate with Brahmins in the Pali suttas about an "Eternal Atman". When the Buddha used the term "atta" ("self"), he used it to refer to "ego", "identity" or "possessiveness". Wiki says: "
The chronology of Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, like other Upanishads, is uncertain and contested". It appears more logical to me the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad took the terms "diṭṭhaṃ sutaṃ mutaṃ viññātaṃ" (in Sanskrit draṣṭā, śrotā, mantā & vijñātā) from Buddhism and used these term to create a doctrine of god or Atman to debunk/attack Buddhism. It appears illogical to move from psychology to theology, i.e., that the Upanishad writers would cognise the human senses but then create a theory of god or Atman from the human senses. Generally, the history of religion is one of theology. Therefore, as said, it appears logical the Brahmins believed in a tribal self-affirming god (Brahma), as they did in the Pali suttas (similar to the Hebrews in the Bible) but, when atheist Buddha arose with his psychology, the Brahmins took that Buddhist psychology and transformed it into a theology, as the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad appears to doI think it will be found the history of the later Hinduism is one of attacking and subverting Buddhism rather than the Buddha subverted Brahminism. The Pali suttas literally say (possibly MN 95) the Buddha intended no harm to the lineage of Brahmins. 

The standout feature of all of these variations is that they introduce Buddhism by taking something that already exists in the culture, that people are already familiar with and primed for, and flipping it around. This is the use of upaya on a society-wide level.

I doubt there is any evidence for the above. The two examples from India provided appear spurious. 


It makes me wonder, are we developing a distinctively "Western" form of Buddhism? Is that something to be desired? 

The core teachings of the Pali suttas cannot be articulated any better. The terminology in the Pali suttas is far more advanced and precise than anything in the West. Also the personality of the Buddha (namely, the manner in which he spoke & interacted with people) is thoroughly modern. emoticon

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/22/20 4:59 AM as a reply to terry.
terry:
Cultures adapt to the dharma, rather than the reverse.
   
I agree. 

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/22/20 5:48 AM as a reply to Matthew.
These two books will answer your question:

The Making of Buddhist Modernism
American Dharma


The Making of Buddhist Modernism in particular is brilliant. 

Cheers
A

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/22/20 10:42 AM as a reply to shargrol.
Thank you Shargrol, that sounds like exactly the type of thing that inspired this question and I will definitely be giving it a listen!

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/22/20 10:50 AM as a reply to Anna L.
Anna L:
These two books will answer your question:

The Making of Buddhist Modernism
American Dharma


The Making of Buddhist Modernism in particular is brilliant. 

Cheers
A
Thanks Anna, these certainly look in-depth and relevant. I’ll see if I can get a copy of omen or both. 

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/22/20 10:47 PM as a reply to Matthew.
Also if you search for the authors there are some podcast interviews and videos available on YouTube.

David McMahan's academia page also has some open access papers: https://fandm.academia.edu/DMcMahan

emoticon

A


RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/24/20 11:53 AM as a reply to terry.
terry:
Chris Marti:
Isn't what goes on here on DhO a manifestation of western Buddhism? If it's not then I don't know what is.

    When we all "leave home" I would call us buddhists. Even lay buddhists are expected to be "devoted" to a monastic culture. I would question if there is any buddhism outside the precepts.

   What is buddhism? A commitment to the dharma.

   I am reminded every hour (at least) how far short this child falls.

t


   Thinking of dho and related "entities" as a manifestation of western buddhism, the analogy occurred to me of a cloud of luminous gas in the process of coalescing into a star.

   This group is more committed to the dharma than any other I have stumbled across recently, fwiw. Insight is cheap and experienced meditators are dear, however you slice it.

RRRRROOOOOOAAAAAARRRRR

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/24/20 3:27 PM as a reply to Matthew.
Matthew:

Doing this takes time, of course, often several generations, and Buddhism simply has not been a force in "the West" for such a long time yet. But are there good examples of this type of cultural adaptability starting to happen? Could we consider MCTB one such example? Is this something we should want, or will it happen naturally? Interested in hearing your thoughts.

Bringing dharma from East to West is different this time because there isn't even nearly as much financial and political support for buddhism in the West, like there has been in (new) Asian countries in the past. It has taken 3-500 years for the dharma to adapt in the history but looking that much far into the future from now... doesn't look very likely. I doubt buddhism will ever become a mainstream thing in the West, like it has become in every single culture in Asia. But how will it go, who knows...

I think this theravadan pragmatic dharma is an excellent example of cultural adaptation. It doesn't represent but one or at tops few lineages of a single vehicle of buddhism, though. Zen in both US and Europe are well established an there are loads of Western zen teachers. It is not a scene of open discussion, though, and I don't think there is much depth. Tibetan buddhists are translating texts, building centers, organising retreats etc. Because of their elaborate ways and forms it seems to take them longer than zen buddhists or theravadins to get it transmitted, not to mention culturally adapted, which I don't see happening much apart from translated texts.

I certainly wish buddhism to be made one's or our own. Buddhisms with distinct features of other cultures no longer interest me enough to practice them.

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
2/26/20 2:27 PM as a reply to Matthew.
Buddhism ITSELF begins as a Northern Indian cultural translation (circa 2500 years ago) of something that is not distinctly Buddhism. Siddhartha Gautama was obviously not a Buddhist, and I think it could be argued not the first enlightened being.

In relative terms, what "enlightenment" is has (probably/maybe?) always been an available way of seeing in some sense, and I'd argue actually instantly obviates the need for any special practices or procedures once it can be seen from. 

How does enlightenment conceptually and experientially get represented in this moment, in Western culture? What is worth repurposing from other conceptual cultural expressions, and what criteria would be most useful in determining them? Are intensely ritualized, or dogmatized practices still important, and in which contexts? Is it even possible to get lost in pointless practices, or are they all (Mahayana) paths? I have my own ideas, but no answers.  

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
3/3/20 7:27 AM as a reply to Stirling Campbell.
Stirling Campbell:


How does enlightenment conceptually and experientially get represented in this moment, in Western culture? What is worth repurposing from other conceptual cultural expressions, and what criteria would be most useful in determining them? Are intensely ritualized, or dogmatized practices still important, and in which contexts? Is it even possible to get lost in pointless practices, or are they all (Mahayana) paths? I have my own ideas, but no answers.  





aloha stirling,

   Ideas may be worthwhile.

Q   "How does enlightenment conceptually and experientially get represented in this moment, in Western culture?"

A    Like this.


Q   "What is worth repurposing from other conceptual cultural expressions, and what criteria would be most useful in determining them?'

A    There aren't any cultures; only history. The streams of culture have merged into one great river. One uses whatever comes to hand. Form follows function. Effects are produced by causes, and made manifest by conditions. "Culture" is conditional. The tao, the dharma, the absolute, is unconditional.

   One time hui-neng was walking by two monks who were arguing. They were watdching a flag blowing in the wind, and one monk said the flag was moving, while the other said the wind was moving. Hui-neng told them "Neither wind nor flag is moving; mind is moving."


Q   "Are intensely ritualized, or dogmatized practices still important, and in which contexts?"

A    Chanting, sutta reading, group meditation and such practices generate enthusiasm. Like singing the national anthem before a ballgame.


Q  " Is it even possible to get lost in pointless practices, or are they all (Mahayana) paths?"

A    They are both pointless and mahayana practices.  What is the point to practice? As soon as you open your mouth you are lost?


terry





from "the compass of zen" by seung sahn:


All things appear in this realm of sentient beings because of some primary cause acting under certain conditions to produce a result. We often call this karma. Karma is just our habit-mind. If you think or do something many, many times, you create a mental habit, which means that there is a very good possibility you will do that same thing again, and again, and again, given the same conditions. So our thinking and our actions make our karma. Through our thinking, through the choices we have made over and over again, we have made ourselves the way we are: this is Buddhism’s basic teaching.




The Chain of Dependent Origination shows that I make my world. It all happens in an extremely short span of time. If ignorance appears in my mind, then life and death appear. I make my suffering. But where does ignorance come from? How do you not make ignorance? So, a long time ago a very famous Sri Lankan monk came to the Providence Zen Center to give a big lecture on Hinayana Buddhism. He spoke for two days about many subjects, and talked at length about the Twelve Links in the Chain of Dependent Origination. After he finished speaking, one student asked him, “You have just said that ignorance causes everything, including birth, old age, sickness, and death. My question to you is, when did ignorance appear? And why does it appear?”

The monk replied, “The Buddha taught that ignorance appears by itself.”

But this did not satisfy the student, so he asked again, “But how does it appear ‘by itself,’ and why does it just appear by itself? If everything causes everything else, what causes ignorance?” Then the monk was stuck. He was thinking, thinking, thinking, but could not remember what the sutras said about this. He was completely stuck and could not answer. Ha ha ha ha ha! So that’s a very important point: When does ignorance appear, and why? If you practice meditation with great determination, you will eventually understand that point.

So, when does ignorance appear? Do you understand? [No response] Don’t know? Ha ha ha ha! The answer is very, very clear. I’ll give you a hint: if you open your mouth, ignorance appears. If you ask, “Why does ignorance appear?” it also appears. You have a question, so ignorance appears. If you have no question, it never appears and never disappears. So you must understand this question. More practicing is necessary! Ha ha ha ha!”

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
3/2/20 4:22 PM as a reply to terry.
that last post came out formatted weirdly and I can't seem to either correct it or delete it...

t

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
3/3/20 7:28 AM as a reply to terry.
terry -- I fixed it for you, or I think I did. Take a look at your post now and let me know.

Chris Marti
DhO Moderator

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
3/3/20 5:33 PM as a reply to terry.
terry:


aloha stirling,

   Ideas may be worthwhile.



Thank you for your post Terry. Since we are considering ideas:

The Great Way is not difficult,
for those who have no preferences.
Let go of longing and aversion,
and it reveals itself.

Make the smallest distinction, however,
and you are as far from it as heaven is from earth.
If you want to realize the truth,
then hold no opinions for or against anything.

Like and dislike
is the disease of the mind.
When the deep meaning (of the Way) is not understood
the intrinsic peace of mind is disturbed.

As vast as infinite space,
it is perfect and lacks nothing.
Indeed, it is due to your grasping and repelling
That you do not see things as they are. - Seung Tsan


...can you have too much Seung Tsan? emoticon

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
3/3/20 8:08 PM as a reply to Stirling Campbell.
The great way is a fantasy
because we all have preferences
especially those who prefer no preferences
and delight in empty rituals of letting go,
like those that sacrifice children to make it rain.

So worried about a feather of sense contact from the smallest distinction
that they entangle themselves in their own thornbush of hell
and put an garden slug on the teacher's cushion
because it holds no opinions for or against anything.

Fighting like and dislike
is the disease of the mind.
When awakening is not awake
the vivid mind seems like disturbance.

Mind is trivial,
imperfect and incomplete,.
Indeed, it is due to your grasping and repelling
That you do not see things as they are.
- not Seung Tsan


...you can have too much Seung Tsan! emoticon

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
3/8/20 2:36 PM as a reply to shargrol.
shargrol:
The great way is a fantasy
because we all have preferences
especially those who prefer no preferences
and delight in empty rituals of letting go,
like those that sacrifice children to make it rain.

So worried about a feather of sense contact from the smallest distinction
that they entangle themselves in their own thornbush of hell
and put an garden slug on the teacher's cushion
because it holds no opinions for or against anything.

Fighting like and dislike
is the disease of the mind.
When awakening is not awake
the vivid mind seems like disturbance.

Mind is trivial,
imperfect and incomplete,.
Indeed, it is due to your grasping and repelling
That you do not see things as they are.
- not Seung Tsan


...you can have too much Seung Tsan! emoticon
my dear shargrol,


   I'm really not taking your point here. Why would you say such things? I suppose you see it as an antidote to "holiness." The devil has his uses.

   The name "lucifer" means light-bringer. Mara challenged the buddha, "I am the enlightened one! Me!" The buddha tapped the ground and the whole earth was his witness. All the demons of the sky could not withstand it.

   Mind is inherntly pure, like a newborn each moment. Even if that newborn is smeared with blood, shit and meconium. And wails.

   So, smear away. "That's just how it is and that is OK too."


terry




"The great way is a fantasy."

~shargrol

RE: Buddhism and Cultural Translation
Answer
4/12/20 4:42 AM as a reply to Stirling Campbell.
Stirling Campbell:
Buddhism ITSELF begins as a Northern Indian cultural translation (circa 2500 years ago) of something that is not distinctly Buddhism. Siddhartha Gautama was obviously not a Buddhist, and I think it could be argued not the first enlightened being.

In relative terms, what "enlightenment" is has (probably/maybe?) always been an available way of seeing in some sense, and I'd argue actually instantly obviates the need for any special practices or procedures once it can be seen from. 

How does enlightenment conceptually and experientially get represented in this moment, in Western culture? What is worth repurposing from other conceptual cultural expressions, and what criteria would be most useful in determining them? Are intensely ritualized, or dogmatized practices still important, and in which contexts? Is it even possible to get lost in pointless practices, or are they all (Mahayana) paths? I have my own ideas, but no answers.  

The evolutionary history of Buddhism--- of any religion or practice--- is a fascinating cycle of (often seemingly heretical) renewals of the tradition coming out of a desire for deepened practice at any given moment. So any new twist is always going to be in dialogue with the vocabulary of the older version; in a certain light, it is the new twists that the older version exists to generate. A striking aspect of this is that a lot of the deep renewal movements involve a radical return to scripture, someone or a few people determined to go beyond any settled conventional readings of the current moment to figure out what all those past masters were actually getting to, and getting at, through the blurry lens of an archaic sacred vocabulary. Many of the current forms of "western buddhism", and many of the more prominent practitioners and teachers of this revived and fresh-faced form(s) of Buddhist practice, can be traced back along a line of developments in vipassana to a few all-in, forest-practicing, radical-return-to-scripture maniacs in southeast asia in the late 1800s, all of whom in their way picked a particular scripture and went all the way down to the bottom, looking for the fire through the centuries of smoke. There's an interesting take on this, allowing for this guy's own agendas and rhetorical commitments, here: https://vividness.live/2011/07/07/theravada-reinvents-meditation/
 (the vividness thread is David Chapman, who's listed in the DhO links)