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Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"

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Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" CJMacie 11/25/15 8:14 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" fschuhi 11/25/15 1:23 PM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Daniel M. Ingram 12/13/15 11:18 PM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Small Steps 11/25/15 6:55 PM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Mark 11/27/15 10:38 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Chris Marti 11/27/15 11:08 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Ostaron 11/27/15 12:11 PM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Mark 11/27/15 1:43 PM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Chris Marti 11/28/15 9:02 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Ostaron 11/28/15 10:47 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Mark 11/29/15 10:00 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" CJMacie 11/30/15 6:46 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Mark 11/30/15 8:19 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" svmonk 11/30/15 10:56 PM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Mark 12/1/15 1:58 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" CJMacie 11/30/15 6:24 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Ostaron 11/28/15 10:46 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Mark 11/29/15 10:13 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" CJMacie 11/30/15 6:31 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Eva Nie 12/25/15 10:22 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" CJMacie 11/28/15 8:49 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Mark 11/30/15 6:13 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" CJMacie 11/30/15 6:21 AM
Correction CJMacie 11/30/15 6:49 AM
High-lights CJMacie 11/30/15 6:57 AM
RE: High-lights Nicky 6/13/16 2:57 PM
RE: High-lights David S 6/13/16 9:37 PM
RE: High-lights Nicky 6/14/16 12:18 AM
RE: High-lights Nicky 6/14/16 12:35 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Pål 12/1/15 8:37 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" CJMacie 12/1/15 10:16 PM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Noah 12/2/15 4:08 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" fschuhi 12/2/15 8:28 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Causes & Conditions 12/2/15 12:20 PM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" CJMacie 12/4/15 2:49 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Causes & Conditions 12/27/15 2:01 PM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" CJMacie 12/7/15 7:04 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Chuck Kasmire 12/10/15 12:26 PM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" CJMacie 12/25/15 3:35 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" CJMacie 5/29/16 7:54 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Nicky 5/29/16 1:16 PM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" CJMacie 6/13/16 9:32 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Nicky 6/13/16 2:55 PM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Nicky 5/29/16 1:32 PM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" CJMacie 5/30/16 5:06 AM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Nicky 5/30/16 2:14 PM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Chuck Kasmire 5/30/16 1:17 PM
RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism" Nicky 5/30/16 2:12 PM
Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/25/15 8:14 AM
A brand-new book from Thanissaro Bhikkhu -- Buddhist Romanticism.

It's, as always, freely distributed. Currently copies are circulating around in the SF Bay Area (I just got one today), but, as far as Google can tell, it's not yet up on the internet as a PDF file, which, however, will likely happen soon.

He's spoken and written on this theme over the last 15 years or so – that Western Buddhism, in all it's forms, is adaptation to the European zeitgeist of the last 200 years -- and here has put it all together, in a book which probably could qualify as a PhD dissertation in religious cultural history, 370 pages, with 4 pages of endnotes, 6 pages of bibliography, and 15 pages of index.

One can get the general idea by perusing any of the earlier sketches (talks and essays) already available on the internet, but this version is monumental in scope, surveying the progression of our modern Weltanschauung (world-view) from the origins with Novalis, Schlegel, Schleiermacher, Hoelderlin, and Schellling; through the philosophies of Kant, Fichte, Schiller, Herder and Plato; further with psychology of James, Jung, Maslow; religious history with Hegel; "Perennial philosophy" with Huxley etc.

Then he sums it all up with a distillation of the key characteristics of this world-view that "romances" the Buddha (the title of one of his talks). And ends with a chapter on "Unromantic Dhamma", culminating with a section "The survival of the true Dhamma". Big surprise.

As is usual in his culture-critique writtings, talks, he does not name or quote anyone in the modern tradition-forming movements – seems like a sort of "Right Speech".

Perhaps a quintessential, if overwhelming, rendition of the roots and nature of the mushroom-effect neo-Buddhist culture. Definitely not for everyone. My head starts to spin just scanning it, even with my background in cultural history and familiarity with some of the sources he treats.

Just throwing it out here – a sort of "FYI" gesture.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/25/15 1:23 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
Chris J Macie:
A brand-new book from Thanissaro Bhikkhu -- Buddhist Romanticism.

It's, as always, freely distributed. Currently copies are circulating around in the SF Bay Area (I just got one today), but, as far as Google can tell, it's not yet up on the internet as a PDF file, which, however, will likely happen soon.


Thanks for the pointer!

It's up now, PDF and other formats can be downloaded from http://www.dhammatalks.org/ebook_index.html

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/25/15 6:55 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
Downloaded the ebook not too long ago, but haven't had time to delve into it yet. Also listened to his talks on the matter given in 2014. Available here.

If the book is based on the talks, it should provide valuable context for our Western modes of understanding the Buddhadharma.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/27/15 10:38 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Hi Chris,

If you don't mind maybe you could save me some time. This is a topic I'm interested in but I'm not familiar with Thanissaro Bhikkhu.

It reminds me of issues that come up in non-Buddhist discussions. They tend to use the term x-Buddhism rather than western buddhism but I think their experience is largely western buddhism although the critique may be valid to many Buddhist lineages.

Non-buddhism tries to take a somewhat post-modern view of buddhism as well as the western 
zeitgeist. I wonder if Thanissaro Bhikkhu is applying the same rigor of critique (and critical tools) to the "Unromantic Dhamma" ?

It seems to me that a deconstruction of the European 
zeitgeist should also lead to a questioning of the historical zeitgeist. 

If the idea is "rediscovering the true dhamma" then I'm less likely to pick up the book. On the other hand if there is an atttempt to reinterpret the dhamma for our times that might be well worthy of investigation!


RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/27/15 11:08 AM as a reply to Mark.
What Mark said -- is there a way to post at least a brief summary of what Than. Bikkhu's thesis is? Is it that western Buddhism is just re-hashed western theology? Is it that western Buddhism is a unique and useful fusion of western theology and eastern theology? Otherwise, like Mark, I find it hard to evaluate the potential usefulness of investing in the book.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/27/15 12:11 PM as a reply to Chris Marti.
I'm only three chapters into Than-Geof's book, so I can't give a super insightful summary, but I'll give it a shot.

Basically, his thesis is that Buddhism as it is often taught in the West is deeply influenced by German Romantic thoughts on religion and the religious experience, and, for the most part, we're totally ignorant of that influence. It's that ignorance that he is targeting. He says several times in the introduction that the classic Therevadan Dhamma should be evaluated on its own terms. To quote from the intro (pp 12-13):
One of the principles of the Dhamma that has been adopted by Buddhist Romanticism is that the Dhamma should not simply be accepted on faith. Instead, it should be put to the test, in practice, to see if it really works. But if the Dhamma is filtered through Buddhist 12 Romanticism, it won’t get a fair hearing, for its message will be garbled. And if it doesn’t get a fair hearing, there’s no way to subject it to a fair test. At the same time, if Buddhist Romanticism is not recognized as something different from the Dhamma, there is no way that it can be tested in a way that allows for a fair comparison as to which body of teachings gives better results. (emphasis mine)
From what I've read so far, it seems that the biggest difference between the romantic expression of religion and the Dhamma is that, for the romantics: "(1)  religion dealt with feelings and direct experiences, rather than reason; and (2) that it was an art."

This is starkly different from what he says the Dhamma says, where religion "is a matter of skill - the skill of finding a lasting and blaming happiness," free from dukkha. (both quotes pg 54) This understanding of the purpose of "religion" should be recognisable to most folks on this forum. 

Than-Geoff is a Thai Forest Monk, and isn't interested in reinterpreting the dhamma for modern times, so his mission definitely differs from the non-buddhists, but I think his critical analysis here is a useful counterpoint to their project. 

In particular, I think it matches nicely with David Chapman's series on The Making of Modern Buddhism . At least, they're both asking the same questions. "Where did modern Buddhism come from? Why? What is it good for? Is it legitimate? What are the implications of its differences from tradition?" (Quote from Capman's post that i've linked to) 

While reading both of these, the question that is always in the back of my mind is, "How does this affect me as a practitioner?" Meaning, does it really matter to what I am trying to do with vipassana, or is it just interesting cultural context? 

I don't have an answer to that yet, but all the same, exploring these issues is super fascinating to me. 




RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/27/15 1:43 PM as a reply to Ostaron.
Thanks Benjie. It amazes me that western buddhism gets that treatment but the Dhamma does not. Like western buddhism the thai forest tradition has been influenced by a cultural/social context. In fact it has been influenced for a considerably longer time. It seems obvious that this type of analysis should bring into question the historical buddhism or "Dhamma" as much as the recent reinterpretations. 

I can understand someone having little understanding of the cultural impacts to doctrine buying into a particualr "historially true" doctrine. But how does someone learn to deconstruct a 200 year period and somehow imagine that does not apply to the foundational texts etc.

Not aiming these questions particularly at you Benjie. I'd like to hear how that approach is justifiable assuming the validity of the critique on western buddhism.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/28/15 8:49 AM as a reply to Mark.
re: Mark (11/27/15 10:38 AM as a reply to Chris J Macie)

"This is a topic I'm interested in…"

Hi Mark,

If you're interest is in the"Romanticism" notion as cultural history, Thanissaro B. (Than-Geof) explores it as a way of understanding what he thinks are central aspects of Western Western culture that have shaped it's adaptations of Buddhism. Chapters 1 through 6 (240 pages of the total 340 or so pages) pretty much just deals with maping-out the cultural history stuff – an excellent overview. Than-Geof studied cultural history in college before becoming a monk; he has a sharp mind and is an entertaining writer.

"If the idea is "rediscovering the true dhamma" then I'm less likely to pick up the book. On the other hand if there is an atttempt to reinterpret the dhamma for our times that might be well worthy of investigation!"

Chapter 7 summarizes and introduces a critique, from the point of view of his form of Theravadan Buddhism (Thai Wilderness tradition). In the Appendix, "Unromantic Dhamma", he maps-outs his interpretation of what "true"(Theravadan) Buddhism is all about. Possibly interesting as a cogent rendering of that, but these parts of the book may not be up your alley; or perhaps as food for your own critique. (The Appendix does end with "The Survival of the True Dhamma".)

You may be more interested in investigating authors like Stephen Batchelor, who's a leading champion of reinterpreting dharma for our times, in case you're not already familiar with his ideas. Stephen also just published a new book, summarization, a review, and lengthly discussion of which is all over the Secular Buddhist Association website. I've read a lot of it, and it's also quite interesting. as also a phenomenon of cultural history.

http://secularbuddhism.org/2015/10/01/stephen-batchelors-after-buddism-a-review/
http://secularbuddhism.org/2015/11/23/batchelors-ten-theses-of-secular-dharma/
http://www.thenakedmonk.com/2015/10/01/after-buddhism/

"It seems obvious that this type of analysis should bring into question the historical buddhism or "Dhamma" as much as the recent reinterpretations. "

That's the kind of stuff Stephen Batchelor has done. Chapman too, but I haven't read that much of his stuff.

"But how does someone learn to deconstruct a 200 year period and somehow imagine that does not apply to the foundational texts etc."

Than-Geof is stronger at cultural history than the academic approach to investigating the cultural and textual Pali traditions. Ven. Analayo, Ajahn Sujato, Gombrich, Alexander Wynne, Joanna Jurewicz (and Linda Blanchard) and many others have published (books, blogs, etc.) a lot in this area you refer to, if I understand you.

Edit: added another link -- 2nd book review of Batchelor's After Buddhism.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/28/15 9:02 AM as a reply to Mark.
Mark --

I can understand someone having little understanding of the cultural impacts to doctrine buying into a particualr "historially true" doctrine. But how does someone learn to deconstruct a 200 year period and somehow imagine that does not apply to the foundational texts etc.

Yes, it seems we all assume the historical Buddha (and all his ancient predecessors in Asia) said what he said and did what he did and taught what he taught and we just go with that, unquestioningly. Always wondered about this, too. It's like only they could be right, or correct, or whatever, and we must be in the process of messing it up somehow.


RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/28/15 10:47 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
Chris Marti:

Yes, it seems we all assume the historical Buddha (and all his ancient predecessors in Asia) said what he said and did what he did and taught what he taught and we just go with that, unquestioningly. Always wondered about this, too. It's like only they could be right, or correct, or whatever, and we must be in the process of messing it up somehow.


It's questions like this that attracted me to the pragmatic "dharma" in the first place. If we accept that, 1) The suttas weren't written down until hundreds of years after the time of Siddhartha Gautama, which means, 2) We have no real way of knowing what he ACTUALLY SAID, then, for me, the question becomes: Why should I care about any of this? What does it DO? What good is it? 

To bring it back to the book for a moment, the more I read of it the more I like what Than-Geof is doing. He argues that Buddhist Romanticsm isn't simply a re-interpretation of buddhism for modern times: rather, it's a completely different thing. Rather than Buddhism seen through a romantic lens, it's romanticism trumped up in buddhist drag. It's concerned with entirely different questions and aims than buddhism: Union with the One-ness of the universe, our relationship to that one-ness, and the expression of subjective asthetics as the aim of spiritual practice; rather than digging deep to see the roots of dukkha and ripping them out. So, people are getting fed something that is being called "buddhism" that fundamentally is something different. 

An ideal reinterpretation of buddhism for modern times would start with looking at what the tradition actually says, and THEN weighing its merits on their own terms. If found, after that honest examination, to not fit with what we know about the world from science, or if it really is just extraneous, unnecessary cultural fluff, then it should be dropped, letting the useful core remains. 

I don't feel like this is an idea foreign to most of the people on this forum. Again, I haven't finished reading the book, and it's probable that he will later argue for an all-or-nothing approach to buddhism. He's coming from within a tradition, so of course he'd argue that a full fledged adoption of that tradition is the only way. That's fine. If, in trying things out, dropping what doesn't work and sticking with what does, I come out the other side with something that he wouldn't call Buddhism... then great! I don't need Buddhism in order for these things to help me. 

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/28/15 10:46 AM as a reply to Mark.
Mark:
I can understand someone having little understanding of the cultural impacts to doctrine buying into a particualr "historially true" doctrine. But how does someone learn to deconstruct a 200 year period and somehow imagine that does not apply to the foundational texts etc.

This is a really good head scratcher here. 

It's much like a Christian being perfectly honest about the cultural and political conditions that influenced and shaped the protestant reformation, and how those factors impacted the expression of theology that has been handed down to us today, but refused to turn that same process of critical thinking to the early evolution of the church, and instead accepts what eventually ended up in the Bible after that tulmutuous time as the divinely inspired word of God, perfect and total and indisputable in every way. 

I think you'll probably really enjoy this essay by Jayarava... he applies these ideals of critical thinking to buddhist doctrine, and comes up with fascinating results. He categorically denies the possibility of karma and rebirth, and even argues that these doctrines are logically inconsistent with so much else of buddhist thought. http://jayarava.blogspot.ca/2014/04/thinking-like-buddhist-about-karma.html

His whole blog is worth taking a look at. He's really good at tackling buddhism's sacred cows... he calls it "Pulling wings off fairies." 

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/29/15 10:00 AM as a reply to Ostaron.
Benjie O K:
Chris Marti:

Yes, it seems we all assume the historical Buddha (and all his ancient predecessors in Asia) said what he said and did what he did and taught what he taught and we just go with that, unquestioningly. Always wondered about this, too. It's like only they could be right, or correct, or whatever, and we must be in the process of messing it up somehow.


It's questions like this that attracted me to the pragmatic "dharma" in the first place. If we accept that, 1) The suttas weren't written down until hundreds of years after the time of Siddhartha Gautama, which means, 2) We have no real way of knowing what he ACTUALLY SAID, then, for me, the question becomes: Why should I care about any of this? What does it DO? What good is it? 

To bring it back to the book for a moment, the more I read of it the more I like what Than-Geof is doing. He argues that Buddhist Romanticsm isn't simply a re-interpretation of buddhism for modern times: rather, it's a completely different thing. Rather than Buddhism seen through a romantic lens, it's romanticism trumped up in buddhist drag. It's concerned with entirely different questions and aims than buddhism: Union with the One-ness of the universe, our relationship to that one-ness, and the expression of subjective asthetics as the aim of spiritual practice; rather than digging deep to see the roots of dukkha and ripping them out. So, people are getting fed something that is being called "buddhism" that fundamentally is something different. 

An ideal reinterpretation of buddhism for modern times would start with looking at what the tradition actually says, and THEN weighing its merits on their own terms. If found, after that honest examination, to not fit with what we know about the world from science, or if it really is just extraneous, unnecessary cultural fluff, then it should be dropped, letting the useful core remains. 

I don't feel like this is an idea foreign to most of the people on this forum. Again, I haven't finished reading the book, and it's probable that he will later argue for an all-or-nothing approach to buddhism. He's coming from within a tradition, so of course he'd argue that a full fledged adoption of that tradition is the only way. That's fine. If, in trying things out, dropping what doesn't work and sticking with what does, I come out the other side with something that he wouldn't call Buddhism... then great! I don't need Buddhism in order for these things to help me. 


From the little I've undrstood it seems the Therevadan lineages had a lot less impact in the US. I'm guessing the Buddhist Romanticism being critiqued is related more closely to the Tibetan and Zen traditions. I'd be suprised if there is not a subtle (maybe not intentional) critique of those Buddhist lineages in the book.

For our times I'm not convinced that we should be "weighing its merits on their own terms" because there have been evolutions in the last 2500 years and I would not assume that western philosophy is of no value. I think you are assuming there is a "perfect core" and we just need to strip things away to get to it.

Trying to critique a system like Buddhism in it's own terms is somewhat of a contradiction. It seem that in confronting Buddhism with perspectives that are outside of Buddhism the critque can offer more insight.

I'm also very wary of this idea "trying things out, dropping what doesn't work and sticking with what does" for a few reasons:

*) some things can take a very long time to try
*) being poorly trained might be a problem
*) the actions taken distort how results are preceived
*) the individual is usually not well placed to make judgements on themselves
*) some things may do a lot of damage 
*) things may need to evolve over time so sticking with something that worked can be problematic
*) probably many more things...

For me the question is not so much what did the Buddha say but what would the Buddha say. Things like global climate change, weapons of mass destruction, universal health care would be central issues I guess.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/29/15 10:13 AM as a reply to Ostaron.
Benjie O K:
Mark:
I can understand someone having little understanding of the cultural impacts to doctrine buying into a particualr "historially true" doctrine. But how does someone learn to deconstruct a 200 year period and somehow imagine that does not apply to the foundational texts etc.

This is a really good head scratcher here. 

It's much like a Christian being perfectly honest about the cultural and political conditions that influenced and shaped the protestant reformation, and how those factors impacted the expression of theology that has been handed down to us today, but refused to turn that same process of critical thinking to the early evolution of the church, and instead accepts what eventually ended up in the Bible after that tulmutuous time as the divinely inspired word of God, perfect and total and indisputable in every way. 

I think you'll probably really enjoy this essay by Jayarava... he applies these ideals of critical thinking to buddhist doctrine, and comes up with fascinating results. He categorically denies the possibility of karma and rebirth, and even argues that these doctrines are logically inconsistent with so much else of buddhist thought. http://jayarava.blogspot.ca/2014/04/thinking-like-buddhist-about-karma.html

His whole blog is worth taking a look at. He's really good at tackling buddhism's sacred cows... he calls it "Pulling wings off fairies." 

Thanks for the link!

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/30/15 6:13 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Hi Chris,

Thanks very much for the links and references! Much appreciated.


Chris J Macie:
re: Mark (11/27/15 10:38 AM as a reply to Chris J Macie)

"This is a topic I'm interested in…"

Hi Mark,

If you're interest is in the"Romanticism" notion as cultural history, Thanissaro B. (Than-Geof) explores it as a way of understanding what he thinks are central aspects of Western Western culture that have shaped it's adaptations of Buddhism. Chapters 1 through 6 (240 pages of the total 340 or so pages) pretty much just deals with maping-out the cultural history stuff – an excellent overview. Than-Geof studied cultural history in college before becoming a monk; he has a sharp mind and is an entertaining writer.

"If the idea is "rediscovering the true dhamma" then I'm less likely to pick up the book. On the other hand if there is an atttempt to reinterpret the dhamma for our times that might be well worthy of investigation!"

Chapter 7 summarizes and introduces a critique, from the point of view of his form of Theravadan Buddhism (Thai Wilderness tradition). In the Appendix, "Unromantic Dhamma", he maps-outs his interpretation of what "true"(Theravadan) Buddhism is all about. Possibly interesting as a cogent rendering of that, but these parts of the book may not be up your alley; or perhaps as food for your own critique. (The Appendix does end with "The Survival of the True Dhamma".)

You may be more interested in investigating authors like Stephen Batchelor, who's a leading champion of reinterpreting dharma for our times, in case you're not already familiar with his ideas. Stephen also just published a new book, summarization, a review, and lengthly discussion of which is all over the Secular Buddhist Association website. I've read a lot of it, and it's also quite interesting. as also a phenomenon of cultural history.

http://secularbuddhism.org/2015/10/01/stephen-batchelors-after-buddism-a-review/
http://secularbuddhism.org/2015/11/23/batchelors-ten-theses-of-secular-dharma/
http://www.thenakedmonk.com/2015/10/01/after-buddhism/

"It seems obvious that this type of analysis should bring into question the historical buddhism or "Dhamma" as much as the recent reinterpretations. "

That's the kind of stuff Stephen Batchelor has done. Chapman too, but I haven't read that much of his stuff.

"But how does someone learn to deconstruct a 200 year period and somehow imagine that does not apply to the foundational texts etc."

Than-Geof is stronger at cultural history than the academic approach to investigating the cultural and textual Pali traditions. Ven. Analayo, Ajahn Sujato, Gombrich, Alexander Wynne, Joanna Jurewicz (and Linda Blanchard) and many others have published (books, blogs, etc.) a lot in this area you refer to, if I understand you.

Edit: added another link -- 2nd book review of Batchelor's After Buddhism.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/30/15 6:21 AM as a reply to Mark.
re: Benjie O K (11/27/15 12:11 PM as a reply to Chris Marti)

"While reading both of these [Than-Geof and David Chapman], the question that is always in the back of my mind is, "How does this affect me as a practitioner?" Meaning, does it really matter to what I am trying to do with vipassana, or is it just interesting cultural context? "


Than-Geof's juxtaposition of cultural conditioning in modern Western interpretation against a traditional interpretation provides for me a sort of mirror of the multiple trends of conditioning in the history of my own "practices", as in the "doing of life" -- born and initially raised in traditional Western religion (both Lutheran and then Catholic); then seemingly dropping all that and delving into intellectual life, cultural history, mixed with the 'new age' influences of the 1960's and 1970's; then after an enthusiastic career in technology (computer software), watching the comings and goings of what turned-out rather impermanent phases; finally, more recently leaning back to deeper historical layers of understanding (Taoism, Buddhism, and...) in search of something more durable and fulfilling.

So the two – vipassana and cultural context – actually come together. Insight into the life-time(s) of conditioning that form(s) this quest for insight. To quote one of the great teachers I happened across in the computer science: "To iterate is human," – i.e. to repetitively gothrough phase after phase – "to recurs is divine!" –i.e. to understand and transcend (find freedom from, or in) the process itself.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/30/15 6:24 AM as a reply to Chris Marti.
re: Chris Marti (11/28/15 9:02 AM as a reply to Mark.)

"Yes, it seems we all assume the historical Buddha (and all his ancient predecessors in Asia) said what he said and did what he did and taught what he taught and we just go with that, unquestioningly. Always wondered about this, too. It's like only they could be right, or correct, or whatever, and we must be in the process of messing it
up somehow."


Another way of looking at it: They, in their time, faced and tried to resolve the issue of how human life tends toward being "messed up". We likewise face that issue, including whether their way can be useful for us, or we're better-off trying to figure it out in a new way -- or whether we end-up messing it up again taking either road.

AsBenjie O K nicely put it: "I don't have an answer to that yet, but all the same, exploring these issues is super fascinating to me."

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/30/15 6:31 AM as a reply to Ostaron.
re: Benjie O K (11/28/15 10:46 AM as a reply to Mark.)

"… Jayarava... he applies these ideals of critical thinking to buddhist doctrine, and comes up with fascinating results. He categorically denies the possibility of karma and rebirth, and even argues that these doctrines are logically inconsistent with so much else of buddhist thought. http://jayarava.blogspot.ca/2014/04/thinking-like-buddhist-about-karma.html"


I read that essay (thanx for the reference), but coming away with a different impression. There he doesn't seem to focus on "categorically denial" of such "beliefs", but appears to rather acurately depict the irrevalence of proving, disproving, etc., these, or anything beyond the basic task of getting to see and understanding the workings of the mind – i.e. Buddha's teachings. The analysis of "belief" is useful. He uses abhidhamma ideas rather loosely, but not wildly inaccurately.

Seems overall – at least this piece – a fairly level-headed approach. I agree with your recommendation that it constructively adds to this discussion.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/30/15 6:46 AM as a reply to Mark.
re: Mark (11/29/15 10:00 AM as a reply to Benjie O K.)

"From the little I've understood it seems the Therevadan lineages had a lot less impact in the US. I'm guessing the Buddhist Romanticism being critiqued is related more closely to the Tibetan and Zen traditions."

I do think Than-Geof has in mind the supposed Therevadan allegience of the Vipassana / Insight Meditation (VM/IM) movement. True, the "impact in the US" is an issue here, as it's teachers regularly exude the kind of Romanticism hed escribes, at the same time as claiming (not all, but most many of the prominent ones) roots in Theravada. Than-Geof was once formally affiliated with Spirit Rock Meditation Center (SRMC), and speaks regularly at IMC (Redwood City), which is closely affiliated with SRMC; so he knows that scene up-close. Less so Tibetan or Zen, as, to my knowledge, he doesn't pretend to know or speak to those, BUT his whole life is dedicated to (Thai) Theravada practice and teaching, so has a stake in confronting a perceived mis-representation of that tradition. (VM/IM leaders have some exposure to Burmese (Mahasi) tradition, but more prominently to Thai, via the Ajahn Chah lineage.)

"Trying to critique a system like Buddhism in it's own terms is somewhat of a contradiction. It seem that in confronting Buddhism with perspectives that are outside of Buddhism the critque can offer more insight."

As in the section "Romanticism in Modern Scholarship" (in Chapter Six, pp 234-238 hardcopy), Than-Geof believes such application of external (and modern) standards undermines "insight", in the sense the Buddha taught. It becomes a game of concepts and views (like DhO discussions that veer away from issues of direct practice); another meaning of "insight". Critique as evalutation in his sense means experiencing what the Buddha taught in vivo. At another extreme a prominent scholar (Paul Griffiths) has stated emphatically that one cannot be a "Buddhologist" and at the same time be a "Buddhist"; he gives precedence to extracting and critiquing a conceptual system (philosophy is his genre), taking the pragmatic experience of the teaching as irrelevant.

"I'm also very wary of this idea "trying things out, dropping what doesn't work and sticking with what does" for a few reasons:"

Your viewpoint is quite justifiable; the reasons you list are reasonable, in lieu of close guidance by someone like Than-Geof, coming from a lineage of long, intense guided training, and seeking to continue that lineage. For instance, your 4th point ("the individual is usually not well placed to make judgements on themselves")is the topic of one of his better essays:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/power_of_judgment.html
That's just his perspective, pragmatic in it's own terms. Outside of that perspective – the situation of many, for instance, in this forum – other means are more pragmatic.

"For me the question is not so much what did the Buddha say but what would the Buddha say. Things like global climate change, weapons of mass destruction, universal health care would be central issues I guess."

Than-Geof just doesn't lean in that direction. Bhikkhu Bodhi and others do.

Correction
Answer
11/30/15 6:49 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Now reading through the book page by page, it turns out the summary I offered above isn't that accurate; TG does intersperse dhamma discussion more with the cultural historical rendition – reading just chapters 1-6 doesn't bypass the dhamma angle.

On the other and, Chapter 2 – "An Ancient Path" – is about the most cogent summary of (TG's understanding of) the Buddha's teaching that I've run across (in just 14 pages). It's in the style he often uses in day-long talks: commentary interspersed with sutta quotations. (Though the methodology I didn't catch at first: in the text of Chapter 2 are references in the form "(§<number>)",which, it turns out, point to the sutta passages that are found in the Appendix.

Some here won't feel a need to read this Chapter, and / or might differ with the overall sense (i.e. with his "dhamma"). I would be interested if anyone here, who is conversant with Theravada dhamma, and has read this, can point-out any part of his take that appears questionable, or perhaps more 'sectarian' within Theravada? I.e. thoughts along the lines of critique.

High-lights
Answer
11/30/15 6:57 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
A couple of choice passages in Chapter 2:

1. One curious passage (near the bottom of page 63 hardcopy, 69-70 in the PDF) suggest to me that TG might be familiar with the vantage point of "awakening":

(In an exposition of kamma, under Right View)
"From the aspiring student's point of view, freedom of choice has to be accepted as a working principle….Only with the attainment of awakening, and the total freedom that results, does on confirm that relative freedom of choise within the realm of causality is real."

He doesn't give a sutta quotation for that, so I assume it's commentary; and it seems to be stated authoritatively. (Actually, TG's style most always presents "authoritatively". emoticon)

2. Another passage that caught my eye (vis-à-vis frequent DhO discussions of vipassan vs jhana): (p. 66 in hardcopy; 72-73 in the PDF)
"
Right concentration is a type of becoming, on a non-sensual level of form or formlessness, but because of its stillness and clarity it allows  right view to ferret out ever more subtle levels of clinging and craving until all that remains is the act of clinging to the path itself. That is when the ultimate level of right view can do its work in abandoning all forms of fabrication, leading to release."

It looks like he's depicting the close intertwining of samadhi (Right Concentration) and vipassana (the application of Right View). The passage resembles that one a couple of us have noted previously, about Stream Entry (in the talk on Panpanca, 2012, at audiodharma.org).

3. (page 67 harcopy, 73 in the PDF):

"
In this way, his approach can be called radically phenomenological, which means that it deals with your experience as you experience it directly — the part of your experience that no one else can look in to see, and that you can't share with anyone else."

Caught my eye as I have a thing about phenomenology (e.g. the very first thread I opened here in DhO), and I'd not heard TG mention that concept before. And he uses the term acouple of times further on in this Chapter.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/30/15 8:19 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
Chris J Macie:
re: Mark (11/29/15 10:00 AM as a reply to Benjie O K.)


"Trying to critique a system like Buddhism in it's own terms is somewhat of a contradiction. It seem that in confronting Buddhism with perspectives that are outside of Buddhism the critque can offer more insight."

As in the section "Romanticism in Modern Scholarship" (in Chapter Six, pp 234-238 hardcopy), Than-Geof believes such application of external (and modern) standards undermines "insight", in the sense the Buddha taught. It becomes a game of concepts and views (like DhO discussions that veer away from issues of direct practice); another meaning of "insight". Critique as evalutation in his sense means experiencing what the Buddha taught in vivo. At another extreme a prominent scholar (Paul Griffiths) has stated emphatically that one cannot be a "Buddhologist" and at the same time be a "Buddhist"; he gives precedence to extracting and critiquing a conceptual system (philosophy is his genre), taking the pragmatic experience of the teaching as irrelevant.


I've been bouncing back and forth a bit around this issue. What follows is a gneralization. On DhO there can be a lack of critique of buddhism, non-buddhist writings were a welcome relief in that sense. Non-buddhism seems to have attracted people who either don't do Vippassana or did not make progress with those techniques. A number of the non-buddhist writers are in a game of concepts and views. They seem to go around in circles, each lap only the metaphors change.

TG seems to claim that taking on a doctrine influences what one experiences in vivo (romantic vs tradition buddhism). It seems reasonable that the doctrine should be critiqued to avoid false views in the doctrine influencing that experience (both romatic and traditional). 

Would the historical buddha really claim that buddhism should not be subject to modern critique ? I imagine him relishing the task.

If buddhism is to have a radical impact (which seems to be the historical Buddha's intention) in the west then it needs to be able to make a radical critique of the west. I think that dialog can only take place if buddhism also listens to the modern critique otherwise it seems closer to the blind leading the deaf.

The pragmatic dharma movement seems to often take on buddhism as a self help therapy. Traditional insight seems to miss how fundamental the social construction of the mind is. So far I think the modern critique should be allied with practises from pragmatic dharma.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
11/30/15 10:56 PM as a reply to Mark.
Hi Mark,
The pragmatic dharma movement seems to often take on buddhism as a self help therapy. Traditional insight seems to miss how fundamental the social construction of the mind is. So far I think the modern critique should be allied with practises from pragmatic dharma.

If by "traditional insight" you mean the Kornfield/Golstein/Salzberg (KGS) vipassana thread, I think it is rather the opposite. In America, there is a long tradition of self-help books running from Andrew Carnagie through to Kelly McGonigal, about how to succeed in business, how to improve your character in this and that way, and especially recently, how to lose weight by observing the right diet (vegan, paleo, Ornish, etc.). In a way, the KGS thread has absorbed into this history of self-improvement, and the American self-improvement thread has responded by taking up mindfuless as its next big trend. Same is true for yoga. The pragmatic dharma movement, in contrast, sees meditation and altered states (jhana, path/fruit consciousnesses) as worthwhile achievements in and of themselves (some pragmatic dharma practitioners also practice to eliminate defilements, but that's different from practicing to get enough willpower to resist a chocolate dessert). The KGS thread mostly tries to downplay, if not ignore, altered states.

So I disagree somewhat with Than Geoff's thesis that modern Western Buddhism is built on the tradition of religous romanticism (Rilke, etc.) from 19th century Europe. There is very little of the overly emotional reaction of romanticism in Western, and particularly, American, Buddhism. Most folks meditating think that they are going to somehow improve themselves, since that is what their teachers are promising, if not explicitly then implicitly, and that isn't romantic it's very practical. I think instead that Western Buddhism is built on the secular American self-help religion.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
12/1/15 1:58 AM as a reply to svmonk.
svmonk:
Hi Mark,
The pragmatic dharma movement seems to often take on buddhism as a self help therapy. Traditional insight seems to miss how fundamental the social construction of the mind is. So far I think the modern critique should be allied with practises from pragmatic dharma.

If by "traditional insight" you mean the Kornfield/Golstein/Salzberg (KGS) vipassana thread,



By traditional I was taking a broad brush to the various eastern lineages. In the earliest Buddhist references (not that I know many) I don't see references to the social construction of mind. There is clearly the concept of social conditioning. The socially constructed mind is closer to the idea that subjective experience itself is socially constructed not just the content of that experience. I think it would lead to a different kind of action than what we typically see buddhists undertaking. 

That is not to say that mind is only socially constucted but I focus on that because the socially constructed points to actions. I can't do much about my genetic inheritance for example (but no doubt humans will be able to do a lot one day!)



I think it is rather the opposite. In America, there is a long tradition of self-help books running from Andrew Carnagie through to Kelly McGonigal, about how to succeed in business, how to improve your character in this and that way, and especially recently, how to lose weight by observing the right diet (vegan, paleo, Ornish, etc.). In a way, the KGS thread has absorbed into this history of self-improvement, and the American self-improvement thread has responded by taking up mindfuless as its next big trend. Same is true for yoga. The pragmatic dharma movement, in contrast, sees meditation and altered states (jhana, path/fruit consciousnesses) as worthwhile achievements in and of themselves (some pragmatic dharma practitioners also practice to eliminate defilements, but that's different from practicing to get enough willpower to resist a chocolate dessert). The KGS thread mostly tries to downplay, if not ignore, altered states.



The above makes sense to me. I'm not saying that pragmatic dharma is as self obsessed as the KGS thread. I see a big part of that related to KGS selling a product - which is logical in a consumer driven society. Pragamtic dharma is also being productized it seems.

The critique of pragmatic dharma is that it is still focused on the self e.g "my altered states" and most people seem to be coming to it looking for personal relief. It is not a radical challenge to social norms, I imagine most practitioners are playing their social roles even if the experience is somewhat different. Big assumption there!

Another pointer to the issue for me is the lack of coherent action in pragmatic dharma circles, there are many personalities and rifts etc which highlights to me how egos are still largely in the driving seat.


So I disagree somewhat with Than Geoff's thesis that modern Western Buddhism is built on the tradition of religous romanticism (Rilke, etc.) from 19th century Europe. There is very little of the overly emotional reaction of romanticism in Western, and particularly, American, Buddhism. Most folks meditating think that they are going to somehow improve themselves, since that is what their teachers are promising, if not explicitly then implicitly, and that isn't romantic it's very practical. I think instead that Western Buddhism is built on the secular American self-help religion.
I think there are plenty of influences, the influence of religous romanticism must be a part of it. But obviously there were earlier and more recent influences too, TG understands one period well so he is perhaps showing a bias. Clearly for example there is a line from Greek philosophy (particualrly Stoicism) through Christianity into mindfulness. I see secular American self-help as being strongly influenced by Christianity. It seems arbitrary regarding the date when one claims the foundation was layed. This is another argument for unrolling the same analysis all the way back prior to the buddha rather than stopping at western romanticism.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
12/1/15 8:37 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
What does he say about/against perrenialism? 

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
12/1/15 10:16 PM as a reply to Pål.
Pål:
What does he say about/against perrenialism? 


Check it out for yourself, Pål, in the section in Chapter Six, "Perennial Philosophy" (pp 248-265 in the on-line PDF version*, pp. 238-254 in the hardcopy version).

If you do take a look at it, let us know here what you think. I, for one, have been puzzled at your bringing up this idea off and on.

It would also be worthwhile to have more contribution here on the basis of actually looking at the contents of this book, rather than elaborating on reasons why it might not be worth reading.

* as pointed-out in the 2nd post of this thread, at http://www.dhammatalks.org/ebook_index.html

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
12/2/15 4:08 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
@OP/ the topic of TG, in general:

I have noticed that Than-Geoff is good at isolating concepts from the later yanas, such as in his article on buddha nature, but I sometimes wonder if he fails to completely respond to the complexity of the vajrayana.  I guess I think this because Tibetan yogi's get trained in lots of shit from the Theravada and then build on that, rather than just creating new concepts out of the blue.  For Than-Geoff to completely win me over he would have to refute every step in the logical process of building towards later concepts rather than cherry picking isolated peices.

I will say as a disclaimer that he is extremely sophisticated but when I read things like this article by the Dalai Lama or Mahamudra textbooks which cover lots of Theravadan concepts but then progress forward, I can't help but think that Than-Geoff is not honoring the complexity of the reasonings they use to get to concepts like buddha nature

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
12/2/15 8:28 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
I am reading TG's book, currently in the chapter 4 where he paints the background of the forces and people which shaped the thought world of the early Romantics.

So it's too early to tell if and how it might be relevant to my practice.

Being a German, it is relevant to *me*, though: High school was 30+ years ago, but I still remember Romanticism to be a big thing, in literature, in music, in philosophy, in political education. The mysterious, the passionate, the irrational, it has pulled many heartstring since the 18th century. Because it had such a broadly pervading appeal, touching so deeply, Romanticism was one of the drivers towards Nationalism, rising to power in the 20th century, with so much death and destruction in its wake.

In the introduction to the book, TG names the chapters essential to his argument (2, 5-7). The history chapters (3+4) are not among them, but so far I is really a great read. For one because TG tries to condense the work of prolific 18th and 19th century philosophers and writers into compact, concise chapters. This is so well written that I really get the feeling of a dense tapestry of interesting ideas circulating among great minds of that time. In addition, I use those chapters as a refresher, to hone the skills in seeing how old ideas have evolved but are still quite visible in today's landscape of how people think in political terms (drifting again towards Nationalism, here in Europe and Russia).
So where I come from, I am educated to accept as working hypothesis that Romanticism is timeless and pervading. I am looking forward to seeing how TG applies it to Buddhism in the West. Case in point: When I first learned about the Thai Forrest Tradition, the Romantic in me thought of Walden emoticon

Still, Noah makes a good point in his post above. TG is thoroughly orthodox. I don't mean this as a pejorative, quite the opposite: I feel grateful to know someone showing how Theravada is done, with all the heart and brain you can get. Just look at Chapter 2 "An Ancient Path", that's an *awesome* summary of what suffering is, about its cause, its cessation, about the Path and how the Buddha taught it. On the other hand, TG authoritatively scoffs at "Buddhist Romanticism". For him, Right View entails "dispassion", and this is a challenging point of departure if one wants to discuss the "passion" of other Buddhist traditions (maybe even "Romantic Buddhism" - a possibility?)

TL;DR: Chapter 2 is great even if treated as a standalone paper. Chapters 3+4 are truly insightful, a (secular) history lesson. Criticism of Untrue Dharma (hopefully not too scathing) will come in the remaining chapters, I am looking forward to it.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
12/2/15 12:20 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
I'm sure Than Geoff's book is well researched and thought out but I think there are some really fundimental problems with his world view.

He seems so desperate to possess the "true, original, blameless dhamma" that he:

1. Treats his interpretation of texts as the only perspective -

2. Often has such a literal interpretation of things that he backs himself into the kinds of corners right wing convservative christians live in and that i personal hoope die out from the dhamma -- 

3. At the same time teaches a version of meditation that has more to do with his teache Ajhan Lee than anything in the texts (which in normal cases I am fine with and believe is the case with all buddhist meditation to some degree). But what's obnoxious is that he's totally willing to add things that suit him.

a quick example for point 2: i spent 10 days at his monastary practicing. during that time Than Geoff got into an internet flame war with Bhikku Bodhi over the concept of just war. Bodhi was arguing (and i agree) that there are circumstances were violence is justified(ie saving an infant) and Than Geoff was arguing that the precepts must be followed hyper literally.

He told us in a dhamma talk at the monastary that if a you had a jewish person in your home and Nazi came your home and asked you if you were hiding them that you shouldn't lie to the nazi and that you could say, "There is nothing of shame here." Because the principle issue in the parable was protecting your own virtue rather saving a life."  

If you are interested in their flame war, check it out here -- http://www.inquiringmind.com/Articles/BhikkhuLetters.html

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
12/4/15 2:49 AM as a reply to Causes & Conditions.
Jeff Nieves:
I'm sure Than Geoff's book is well researched and thought out but I think there are some really fundimental problems with his world view.
...
If you are interested in their flame war, check it out here -- http://www.inquiringmind.com/Articles/BhikkhuLetters.html


Good for a separate discussion thread, but not pertinent to this thread's topic.

You might also bring in there the exchange between the B. Bodhi and Thanissaro B. pertaining to the bhikkhuni-ordination back in 2009.

(btw: the characterization as "flame war" doesn't appear justified; it's a reasoned discussion.)


Th.03.Dec spelling edit

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
12/27/15 2:01 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
You're prob right. I should start a thread. I've being meaning to on the topic.

Lol, but I do think the right word is flame war. Maybe nerd war? Having been at Thanissaro's monastery when it was happening, that was the emotional tone of the thing on his end. It was TABOO to talk about Bhikku Bodhi or like him at the monastery. And Thanissaro was talking about Bodhi's idea like they were the plague. Dude was pissed.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
12/7/15 7:04 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
One more aspect – a precedent for Than-Geoff's basic idea here. The notion that in various historical periods there prevails a sort of template as to what a human being is, a self-image, and way of experienced self.

To distinguish this age of Romanticism, look at:

1) how people dress. Prior to ca. 1790 (French Revolution, as symbolic pivot point), Men wore peri-wigs, long coats in bright colors, pants to the knees, long stockings, fancy shoes. Think Mozart, Haydn, J.S. Bach,  etc. (from my back groundin music history); or George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, etc. Contrast that with pictures of Lugwig Beethoven, or the pictures of the German Romantic founders shown in Than-Geoff's book. No wigs (natural hair); coats still long, but subdued colors; long pants, etc. – basically the same kind of dress that's currently used, evolved to the modern business suit.

2) aesthetic tastes. Music, for "educated" people, remains "classical" music, i.e. some of late Mozart and Haydn (with revolutionary notes), but then distinctively Beethoven up through Brahms, Wagner and Mahler. Also Debussy – in ways a French antithesis to Wagner, though also introducing aspects of the then incipient breakdown of "classical"style. High-brow music then took a radical turn, with Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, through to the electronic music of the 1950's, with Stockhausen, Berio, Boulez (though less electronic), etc.

In the visual arts: highly refined representative painting throughout the 19th-century; likewise including Impressionism, though with the seeds of a breakdown there; then Expressionism, Cubism, etc. following as a radical shift (post-Romantic, or Modernist).

In literature, the novel (in French and German called the "Roman"), the short story – the forms that are still dominant today.

In the Age of Romanticism there was formed a distinctive sense of how people dressed and experienced themselves, emotionally and idealistically. The art forms that expressed this (e.g. music and painting) have been supplanted since the early 20th-century by more radical forms, BUT this point of evolution was accompanied by a break between the arts and popular taste. The taste of the general population still dwells in the aura of classical music, of representational art, as seen, for instance, in the media (movie music).

Another, somewhat paradoxical point: cultural, comparative history (as in the genre Than-Geoff is using in writing his book) is another distinctive product of that (this) Age of Romanticism.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
12/10/15 12:26 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
Chris J Macie:
One more aspect – a precedent for Than-Geoff's basic idea here. The notion that in various historical periods there prevails a sort of template as to what a human being is, a self-image, and way of experienced self.

To distinguish this age of Romanticism, look at:

1) how people dress....

Also architecture - the change really stands out.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
12/13/15 11:18 PM as a reply to fschuhi.
Thanks very much for the link to that text and the discussion of it: looks fascinating. Will check it out shortly.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
12/25/15 3:35 AM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Chuck Kasmire:
Also
architecture - the change really stands out.
Yes, thanks -- example of a norm symbolizing how people identify in terms of social / political /economic institutions.

Than-Geoff mentions the French Revolution, because it so profoundly affected Europeans, especially the German-speaking, as there was no German "nation" or such national identity at that time, the impetus towards which so decisively shaped European history over the next 150 years (German nationalism and the two World Wars). He doesn't, at all, mention the American Revolution; not that this didn't figure heavily in influencing the French, but rather that the effects of cultural "Romanticism" filtered into American culture secondarily from the German / European movement; he does explicitely elaborate on the influence on modern American culture through such figures as Emerson, James, Maslow,…

I had written above:
"The notion that in various historical periods there prevails a sort of template as to what a human being is, a self-image, and way of experienced self."
I would extent that notion here to include how people experience each other, how it shapes social institutions too. For instance, if one of us were time-machine transported to the beginning of the 19th century in Europe, we would probably be able to communicate well with people there; but going back, say, 50 years earlier (mid-18th century), how people lived and communicated might seem much stranger, more distinctly antiquated.

Another historical landmark (familiar from my former involvement in ballroom & nightclub dance), was the invention of the Viennese Waltz, pegged to 1782. The waltz can be seen as growing out of the German "Laendler" folk dance, similar ¾ tempo and musical character, but differed distinctly in centering on the man-woman pair dancing together without the regimen of earlier group-patterned forms, as, for instance, survive today in square-dancing, English, Scottish, Greek, Herbrew, etc. folk dancing, where individuals and pairs are subservient to group organizing patterns.

Viennese waltz is considered the origin of all modern ballroom (& nightclub) dancing, and was a popular social (and musical) form throughout the 19th century in European culture. At the beginning it was actually considered s/w scandalous, like tobacco smoking and coffee drinking back in th 18th century. No self-respecting parent would tolerate their daughters to engage in such an activity – boy and girl twirling around together in delerium. One of Josef Stauss's waltzes was titled "Delerium" (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0bizDnLEwRI). That fits nicely too with the then new-fangled notion of "Romantic love", which Than-Geoff demonstrates as a central feature in the new cultural norm; and this clearly has become the Western cultural norm, as seen, for instance, today in the midst of "globalization" and confrontation with "arranged marriage" as a norm in other world cultures.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
12/25/15 10:22 AM as a reply to Ostaron.
Benjie O K:

I think you'll probably really enjoy this essay by Jayarava... he applies these ideals of critical thinking to buddhist doctrine, and comes up with fascinating results. He categorically denies the possibility of karma and rebirth, and even argues that these doctrines are logically inconsistent with so much else of buddhist thought. http://jayarava.blogspot.ca/2014/04/thinking-like-buddhist-about-karma.html

His whole blog is worth taking a look at. He's really good at tackling buddhism's sacred cows... he calls it "Pulling wings off fairies." 
Although I am fine with taking sacred cows ff pedestals, it might be a mistake to assume that the real reaity has to conform to what we think is logical.   Not much of what I've experienced on the  path has conformed to any obvious logic I can come up with.  Neither does quantum physics  conform to logic.  if we try to force our view of reality to fit neatly into the very limited assumptoins we already have, that may yield many wrong assumptoins. 

For instance, imagine 2 ants standing in front of a skyscraper.  They look at it logically and start to argue about where the queen is hidden and why there are no guards in front of the entrance.  A third ant comes and says he's  seen for  himself there is no queen inside and the other two kick his butt for being obviously wrong, stupid, and illogical.  It's because the ants can only base their logic on what they know and what they know is so  very little and even the questions they are asking are so very loaded with wrong assumptions that all answers will be wrong.  Yet they will continue to bicker over them anyway.

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
5/29/16 7:54 AM as a reply to CJMacie.
(a bunch of loosely intertwined topics)

1. Recent, possibly relevant, news item


Found on the internet today: "Why Google's artificial intelligence is devouring romance novels"
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/google-artificial-intelligence-romance-novels/

"Google engineers have been feeding text from steamy romance novels to an artificial intelligence (AI) engine in order to give Google's technology -- like its mobile app -- the ability to produce more human, conversational text,…"

Training the AI engine to emulate expression (communication with humans) in the style of the Romantic worldview (in Than-Geoff's sense) in order to better suck in users, exploiting the largely unconscious dimensions of the still current romantic worldview?

"Of course, a chatty AI system doesn't always perform quite as expected. Just think back to "Tay," the artificial intelligence chatbot designed by Microsoft to interact with humans on Twitter. The bot was designed to learn and respond in a conversational way, but was easily tripped up by malicious humans and began tweeting out racist and lewd comments it "learned" online.

Google's AI system aims to be more polite -- and yes, romantic. When asked by BuzzFeed if a human could eventually fall in love with a cognitive system schooled in the language of love, Dai said it was a possibility down the line.


"It could happen eventually. There's an ancient Greek story about a guy who builds a statue of the most beautiful woman. The statue is more beautiful than any other woman, and he falls in love with the statue," he said. "If you can fall in love with a statue, I don't see why you couldn't fall in love with a neural network trained on romance novels.""

2. The origins of such stuff…


Anybody here remember 'ELIZA' and 'DOCTOR'? – A pioneering interactive software system by Joseph Weizenbaum (MIT, mid 1960's) doing primitive natural language processing – answering users' responses via scripts and simple pattern-matching techniques. A script 'DOCTOR' became s/w notorious. (See wikipedia article for full info, and shows a sample DOCTOR session -- https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ELIZA).

"ELIZA was implemented using simple pattern matching techniques, but was taken seriously by several of its users, even after Weizenbaum explained to them how it worked.It was one of the first chatterbots ."

"It was sometimes so convincing that there are many anecdotes about people becoming very emotionally caught up in dealing with DOCTOR for several minutes until the machine's true lack of understanding became apparent. Weizenbaum's own secretary reportedly asked him to leave the room so that she and ELIZA could have a private, intimate conversation."

"Lay responses to ELIZA were disturbing to Weizenbaum and motivated him to write his book Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment to Calculation, in which
he explains the limits of computers, as he wants to make clear in people's minds his opinion that the anthropomorphic views of computers are just a reduction of the human being and any life form for that matter."

"There are many programs based on ELIZA in different programming languages. For example, in 1980, a company called "Don't Ask Software", founded by Randy Simon, created
a version called "Abuse" for the Apple II, Atari, and Commodore 64 computers, which verbally abused the user based on the user's input.[12] Other versions adapted ELIZA around a religious theme, such as ones featuring Jesus (both serious and comedic) and another Apple II variant called I Am Buddha."

"ELIZA has been referenced in popular culture and continues to be a source of inspiration for programmers and developers focused on Artificial Intelligence. For example, when Siri (Apple's voice activated service) was asked "
Who would you vote for – Mitt Romney or Barack Obama?", Siri replies "I can't vote. But if I did, I would vote for ELIZA. She knows all.""

One can probably easily find and run aversion of DOCTOR today.

(Maybe the sort of analysis applied in concocting ELIZA scripts could be used to analyse DhO interactions? emoticon  Lets see… I'll cook up some such version and secretly use it to generate DhO posts… See if anyone catches on…)

3. The human / machine boundary?

The "Turing test" (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Turing_test), which is used in a annual international computer science contest ("The Loebner Prize") – who can produce the best program such that a user can't tell whether he/she is interacting with a machine or a human.

"The test does not check the ability to give correct answers to questions, only how closely answers resemble those a human would give."
...
"In 1966, Joseph Weizenbaum created a program which appeared to pass the Turing test. The program, known as ELIZA,…"

Meta-reflection: The way things are leaning in cognitive science, and in line with ideas of conditioning (as in "12-links of codependent arising"), maybe that supposed difference – between a machine and a human – has become more questionable than in Turing's time?

4. A pragmatic observation
:

A while ago I had an interesting experience, noting in a jhana session how mental fabrications that would arise at the fringes of the absorption (i.e. not breaking the central stillness), when examined closely, actually appeared to resemble machine-like structures – quasi-algorithmic responses to subtle stimuli that gathered associated memories (perceptions) into little episodes of activity ("phenomena") similar to 'lucid dream' or 'hypnogogic vision' – at least how I understand those terms.

This was a vivid demonstration, to my mind, of the intimate interaction, mutual supporting behavior of samadhi (concentration) and vipassana (insight) – the clarity of mental stillness potentiating gnosis (aka "noting"as Mahasi uses it) of whatever arises. In Buddhaghosa's terms (paraphrasing the Visudhimagga), "..the knife of insight honed sharp on the stone of concentration… cutting through / disentangling this tangle [of day-to-day dukkha] ...".

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
5/29/16 1:16 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
CJMacie:
A brand-new book from Thanissaro Bhikkhu -- Buddhist Romanticism.


Romanticism is one extreme. Superstition & wrong view is another extreme. 

However, becoming does not occur only on the internal, psychological level, because what starts as a psychological process can lead to rebirth on any of the many external worlds found in the cosmos.

Thanissaro page 60

The Pali scriptures define 'birth' as the psychological process of generating  the idea, thought or view of a 'being' ('satta'). SN 5.10 states to believe there are 'beings' apart from a psychological view is the view of Mara. 'Becoming' only occurs on the internal psychological level. To hold that becoming is anything else is the view of Mara. 

emoticon

The craving that makes for new becoming — accompanied by lust & delight, relishing now here & now there — i.e., craving for sensual pleasure, craving to be, craving not-to-be: This, friend Visakha, is the origination of self-identification described by the Blessed One.  

MN 44 



And what is becoming? There are three kinds of becoming: sensual becoming, fine-material [rupa jhana] becoming & immaterial [arupa jhana] becoming. This is called becoming.

SN 12.2




Ananda, if there were no kamma ripening in the sensuality-property...in the form-property...in the immaterial property...would becoming be discerned?

No, lord.

AN 3.76 



He discerns that 'Whatever disturbances that would exist based on the effluent of sensuality... the effluent (asava) of becoming... the effluent of ignorance, are not present. And there is only this modicum of disturbance: that connected with the six sensory spheres, dependent on this very body with life as its condition.'

MN 121


RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
5/29/16 1:32 PM as a reply to CJMacie.

Most Buddhists know that they will not gain full awakening in this lifetime, which means that they face the prospect of returning to the Earth that they have shaped during this lifetime through their actions. This belief in karma and rebirth, in fact, is one of Buddhism’s most potent arguments for the stewardship of the planet.

Similarly, the path entails celibacy, which is certainly not responsible for the over-population of the earth. And, unlike bodhisattvas, who are committed to returning to the feeding chain of the Earth again and again, arahants remove themselves from the chain entirely, at the same time inspiring others to do likewise, so that that many mouths and that many fish will be removed from the dwindling pool.

Thanissaro Page 273

Oh dear. What a load of crap. How many arahants are there among the seven billion population of this earth to make a difference to world population? As for those that associate with the wrong teachers & wrong teachings, they will not gain awakening. 

emoticon

One who looks upon the world as a bubble and a mirage, him the King of Death sees not. Come! Behold this world, which is like a decorated royal chariot. Here fools flounder, but the wise have no attachment to it.

Dhammapada


Hence, when association with unworthy people prevails, it will make prevail the listening to wrong teachings. When listening to wrong teaching prevails, it will make prevail lack of faith. When lack of faith prevails, it will make prevail unwise attention. When unwise attention prevails, it will make prevail lack of mindfulness and clear comprehension. When lack of mindfulness and clear comprehension prevails, it will make prevail lack of sense-control. When lack of sense-control prevails, it will make prevail the threefold wrong conduct. When the threefold wrong conduct prevails, it will make prevail the five hindrances. When the five hindrances prevail, they will make ignorance prevail. (AN 10.62 adds: When ignorance prevails, it will make prevail the craving for existence.) Such is the nutriment of that ignorance (AN 10.62: of that craving for existence), and so it prevails.

AN X.61

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
5/30/16 5:06 AM as a reply to Nicky.
re: Nicky (5/29/16 11:16 AM as a reply to CJMacie)

The Pali Canon contains a wealth of tidbits from different angles and many historical strata of composition, including bits all over the place which can be interpreted as contradicting each other. Interpreters form views as to how those aspects fit together, or don't. The Buddha himself (as per record in the Canon) chose different interpretive viewpoints appropriate to different contexts – the level of understanding of the audience, of his partners in discourse, views from other sources, etc.

From where do you derive the authority to claim what you cherry-pick out of all that is so absolutely correct, and other accomplished interpreters (e.g., from your posts, Ven. Analayo, Bhikku Bodhi, now Thanissaro Bhikkhu,…) deliver "a load of crap" or similar?

It's getting quite old, this fixation of yours on "rebirth" and related issues; the insistentr epetition suggests some kind of attachment problem, and compulsion ("becoming") to assert such views so adamantly, with zero benefit-of-a-doubt towards viewpoints you apparently find threatening. Ever heard of the word "perspective", as in the metaphor of the blind-men interpreting what an elephant is like?

The selective literalist approach you demonstrate again and again looks a lot like the style of Christian fundamentalism. (c.f. Wikipedia description). Were you, perhaps, a "born-again" Christian fundamentalist in a previous life-time? emoticon

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
5/30/16 1:17 PM as a reply to Nicky.
Nicky:

Oh dear. What a load of crap. ...


Interesting. So what are your thoughts on the deeper meaning of AN 5.198?

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
5/30/16 2:12 PM as a reply to Chuck Kasmire.
Chuck Kasmire:
Nicky:

Oh dear. What a load of crap. ...


Interesting. So what are your thoughts on the deeper meaning of AN 5.198?

"What a load of crap".

Yes, it is spoken at the right time, spoken in truth, spoken affectionately, spoken beneficially & spoken with a mind of good-will.

Its like when a child swallows poison. You do everything within your good will for the child to vomit up the poison. 

emoticon

"Monks, these two slander the Tathagata. Which two? He who explains what was not said or spoken by the Tathagata as said or spoken by the Tathagata. And he who explains what was said or spoken by the Tathagata as not said or spoken by the Tathagata. These are two who slander the Tathagata."




RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
5/30/16 2:14 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
CJMacie:

From where do you derive the authority to claim what you cherry-pick out of all that is so absolutely correct, and other accomplished interpreters (e.g., from your posts, Ven. Analayo, Bhikku Bodhi, now Thanissaro Bhikkhu,…) deliver "a load of crap" or similar?



My post about 'becoming' was 100% correct, as referenced by the suttas. 

The Buddha never said his word are to be 'interpreted'. 

Monks, in this Teaching that is so well proclaimed by me and is plain, open, explicit and free of patchwork - MN 22

I have set forth the Dhamma without making any distinction of esoteric and exoteric doctrine; there is nothing, Ananda, with regard to the teachings that the Tathagata holds to the last with the closed fist of a teacher who keeps some things back. - DN 16

If Ven. Analayo, Bhikku Bodhi, now Thanissaro Bhikkhu disagree with me, they are wrong.  

For example, there is no 're-linking' consciousness & no dependant origination over 3 life-times. To believe otherwise is the 'blind elephant' & 'fundamentalism (superstition)' thing. 

emoticon

 ...in the course of the future there will be monks who won't listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata — deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness — are being recited. They won't lend ear, won't set their hearts on knowing them, won't regard these teachings as worth grasping or mastering.

But they will listen when discourses that are literary works — the works of poets, elegant in sound, elegant in rhetoric, the work of outsiders, words of disciples — are recited. They will lend ear and set their hearts on knowing them. They will regard these teachings as worth grasping & mastering."

In this way the disappearance of the discourses that are words of the Tathagata — deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness — will come about."

Thus you should train yourselves: 'We will listen when discourses that are words of the Tathagata — deep, deep in their meaning, transcendent, connected with emptiness — are being recited. We will lend ear, will set our hearts on knowing them, will regard these teachings as worth grasping & mastering.' That's how you should train yourselves."

Anything that falls outside the quote below is not Buddha-Dhamma. 



"Is it the case that you speak simply in line with what you have known, seen & understood for yourselves?"

"Yes, lord."

"Good, monks. You have been guided by me in this Dhamma which is to be seen here & now, timeless, inviting verification, pertinent, to be realized by the observant for themselves."

Mahatanhasankhaya Sutta

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
6/13/16 9:32 AM as a reply to Nicky.
re: Nicky (5/29/16 1:16 PM as a reply to CJMacie)

"Romanticism is one extreme. Superstition & wrong view is another extreme."
What is this intended to mean?
How much of Than-Geoff's book have you actually read?

RE: High-lights
Answer
6/13/16 2:57 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
CJMacie:
"Right concentration is a type of becoming, on a non-sensual level of form or formlessness, but because of its stillness and clarity it allows  right view to ferret out ever more subtle levels of clinging and craving until all that remains is the act of clinging to the path itself. That is when the ultimate level of right view can do its work in abandoning all forms of fabrication, leading to release."



Right concentration is defined as the four jhanas. When the Buddha was dying, he demonstrated his unchanged enlightenment & mental lucidity by entering & emerging from the various jhanas. Yet the quote above is asserting the fully enlightened Buddha was still caught up in becoming?

In reality, right concentration is unrelated to becoming. Becoming only occurs with ignorance & craving as its condition. For example, on this forum, there are posts stating: "I am practising jhana". The idea of "I am" rather than the jhana itself is the becoming.

The quote above, whch states the path is a form of 'clinging', apears to be based on reincarnation belief, that Nibbana is the end of reincarantions (rather than the here-&-now end of the mental defilements of greed, hatred & delusion). 


emoticon

Lord, this word, 'becoming, becoming' — to what extent is there becoming?

The consciousness & intention of living beings hindered by ignorance & fettered by craving is established in to a material property.
 

AN 3.76 & 77

RE: Than-Geof: "Buddhist Romanticism"
Answer
6/13/16 2:55 PM as a reply to CJMacie.
CJMacie:
re: Nicky (5/29/16 1:16 PM as a reply to CJMacie)

"Romanticism is one extreme. Superstition & wrong view is another extreme."
What is this intended to mean?
How much of Than-Geoff's book have you actually read?

Internet books have a word search or 'find' function. So I do a search for the word 'rebirth', to examine the superstition. 

As for your question, it is one thing to denounce 'romanticism' as it being incongruent with the language of the scriptures. However, it is another thing to quote the words of the scriptures but misinterpret those words. 

If there were only two possible choices available to me, I would choose 'romanticism' over 'misinterpretation'. 

"Romanticism' occurs from spiritual intuition as a rejection of mistranslations (that are not known to be such).

emoticon

RE: High-lights
Answer
6/13/16 9:37 PM as a reply to Nicky.
Nicky:
Right concentration is defined as the four jhanas.
... 
In reality, right concentration is unrelated to becoming.

And what is becoming? There are three kinds of becoming: sensual becoming, fine-material [rupa jhana] becoming & immaterial [arupa jhana] becoming. This is called becoming. 

SN 12.2

Nicky your quote of SN 12.2 in the thread above contradicts your statements. What do you make of the contradiction?

RE: High-lights
Answer
6/14/16 12:18 AM as a reply to David S.
There is no contradiction. The 'condiction' papanca arises from ignorance. Re-read my post. Thanks emoticon

Becoming only occurs with ignorance & craving as its condition.

RE: High-lights
Answer
6/14/16 12:35 AM as a reply to David S.
David S. Sounds like a lokiya dharma policeman I knew in a past life. emoticon

Are both of the quotes below examples of jhana becoming? 

If not, which one is & which one is not? emoticon

Passion for form, passion for what is formless. 

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/an/an10/an10.013.than.html

And the Blessed One entered the first jhana. Rising from the first jhana, he entered the second jhana. Rising from the second jhana, he entered the third jhana. Rising from the third jhana, he entered the fourth jhana. And rising out of the fourth jhana, he entered the sphere of infinite space. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite space, he entered the sphere of infinite consciousness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of infinite consciousness, he entered the sphere of nothingness. Rising from the attainment of the sphere of nothingness, he entered the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception. And rising out of the attainment of the sphere of neither-perception-nor-non-perception, he attained to the cessation of perception and feeling.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.16.1-6.vaji.html