Unbundling the Traditional "Stuff"

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Noah D, modified 10 Days ago.

Unbundling the Traditional "Stuff"

Posts: 1104 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
I love the term "unbundling", which I believe was first used in a dharma context by Vince Horn in 2017.  It refers to the ways in which certain aspects of dharma practice, such as the development of mindfulness or loving-kindess, can be taught outside of all the other elements they have traditionally relied upon.  The term is being used to identify a contemporary trend.

For the past 2 years or so, I have been heavily consuming traditional Buddhist books, lectures, retreats & articles, mostly within a Tibetan Buddhist context, after spending the previous 5 years before that primarily consuming more "pragmatic" or modernized Buddhist resources.  In Tibetan Buddhism, I have noticed the prominent "bundling" of several factors:
1 - faith (confidence that this stuff works)
2 - devotion (a sense of awe at the sheer numbers, skill, history of the tradition at large or specific propagators of it)
3 - pure perception (continuous mindfulness of the imminent potentiality of oneself, others & ones environment as pure Buddhas/Buddhafield) 
4 - secrecy (trust in causes & conditions to properly reveal information based individual momentums)

In my opinion these things all get "mushed" together into a conservative, overly reverant, overly cautious, unempowered approach to dharma practice.  When one attempts to step outside of this approach, traditional practitioners respond in one of several ways:
1 - accusation of disrespect 
2 - accusaton that this is dangerous
3 - you should just talk to a qualified lama
4 - accusation of cultural appropriation 

Some of these accusations are likely true in many cases.  That said, I think the aversion being expressed also has to do with a lack of precision about the bundled qualities above.  For instance, someone can be into openness about dharma "secrets" while also having a great sense of reverence & devotion for the tradition.  I think a more healthy approach to this situation is to unbundle these aspects & train them separately.  Meaning - one can spend time cultivating mindfulness of "awe" at the tradition, even while they have a sense of individual empowerment (that they can really attain things) & transparent information flow (being open about techniques).  

​​​​​​​That is all - just wanted to share.  Curious to hear others thoughts.
shargrol, modified 10 Days ago.

RE: Unbundling the Traditional "Stuff"

Posts: 1493 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Good stuff.

I'm not that aware of the universe of tibetian culture/teachers, but I've enjoyed reading about older Theravadian forest monks (Mun, Chah, Fuang, Ledi, Mahasi, Pandita, Boowa, Buddhadasa)... and I find it delightful how different each of them was. Unique personalities, practices, teaching emphases, interests... who each went through their own path of learning and development... 

I don't think there really is anything like "pure tradition" that exists separately from it's practioners. 

I think things get unbundled and rebundled by each practioner... and if we  fail to create our own bundle, we've failed our responsibility to bring forward the livng manifestation of the wisdom.

(Seems like I've heard a similar saying in american tribal traditions, "you must make your own medicine bundle" as a metaphor for your personal responsibilty for pursuing training, learning, development...)

Anyway, it's very easy to bring the unliving manifestation of the wisdom forward, you just need a xerox machine. emoticon
George S, modified 10 Days ago.

RE: Unbundling the Traditional "Stuff"

Posts: 1259 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Call me cynical, but any teachings with the word 'secret' in them make me think that someone is trying to monetize the dharma in one way or another.
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Noah D, modified 10 Days ago.

RE: Unbundling the Traditional "Stuff"

Posts: 1104 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
@George S

I think that can sometimes be a factor.  Not necessarily for direct monetary transfer but perhaps in the sense of protecting some of the societal power structures that have helped support the transmission of dharma through time (by supporting those doing the transmitting).  This can have varying degrees of pure intention to it of course.
George S, modified 9 Days ago.

RE: Unbundling the Traditional "Stuff"

Posts: 1259 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Right ... rebranding a product and restricting supply in order to raise the price! emoticon
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Noah D, modified 10 Days ago.

RE: Unbundling the Traditional "Stuff"

Posts: 1104 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
@shargrol

Well said, agreed on all counts.  One thing worth noting from a sort of sociological lens is that the Theravadan teachers you mention all come out of the rediscovery of vipassana that happned at the turn of the century.  I think that likely gave a bit of wiggle room, whereas the Tibetan Buddhist tradition is moreso characterized by a strict adherence to the letter of sutra, tantra & shastra for the purpose of protecting the lineage (even if it doesn't always benefit the individual).  
shargrol, modified 9 Days ago.

RE: Unbundling the Traditional "Stuff"

Posts: 1493 Join Date: 2/8/16 Recent Posts
Actually, some of those old guys were pre-vipassina revival... they had particularly interesting stories about walking through the forest/jungle and setting up small camps on the outside of villages, the villagers would slowly investigate the odd monks, and eventually they would build trust and start teaching the villagers... Or stories of meditating in the jungle and seeing creatures they never new existe walking past them.... Just a completely different world than ours.  

They also had more "magical" interpretations of things, like vision seen during meditation, etc.  You can kinda infer a pre-scientific paradigm behind some of their stories.
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Noah D, modified 9 Days ago.

RE: Unbundling the Traditional "Stuff"

Posts: 1104 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
Oh good call!  I didn't know.  Interesting how it was moreso prolonged exposure that built credibility vs known lineage/scriptural authority.
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Chris Marti, modified 9 Days ago.

RE: Unbundling the Traditional "Stuff"

Posts: 3776 Join Date: 1/26/13 Recent Posts
You guys are reminding me of my way-back-when Zen practice. 
Tim Farrington, modified 9 Days ago.

RE: Unbundling the Traditional "Stuff"

Posts: 2405 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
It is sort of at the heart of a lot of contemporary Buddhism, this whole re-examination of the traditional package deals, and attempting to unbundle the baby from the bathwater, so to speak in mixed metaphors. And to try through good old-fashioned hard practice in whatever forest we find ourselves to realize a rebundling of the babies we've found in an integrated synthesis. It's the best game in town, I think.

I like leaving out the jikijitsu and his stick from Zen, for instance, lol. Reality's whack generally seems to suffice. 
George S, modified 9 Days ago.

RE: Unbundling the Traditional "Stuff"

Posts: 1259 Join Date: 2/26/19 Recent Posts
Part of the rebundling seems to involve neuroimaging. emoticon
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Noah D, modified 9 Days ago.

RE: Unbundling the Traditional "Stuff"

Posts: 1104 Join Date: 9/1/16 Recent Posts
@tim-farrington

Yes it is.  And catching all the babies as the bathtubs get drained is the hardest part.  Especially in the forest, no good to leave babies in the forest.
Tim Farrington, modified 9 Days ago.

RE: Unbundling the Traditional "Stuff"

Posts: 2405 Join Date: 6/13/11 Recent Posts
lol, true noah. And yet those little babies are surprisingly durable, and tough as nails. A lot of them sit there quietly in the forest for thousands of years, bundled in scripture and lore, and then, unbundled, they catch US, and throw out OUR bathwater! It's such a funny business.

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