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Buddhists...what have they ever done for us?

 
 
Eorl
 
Reply Tue 17 Apr, 2007 09:28 pm
OK, I'm being facetious (ala Monty Python) but what I'm trying to ask is....is the philosophy one that limits human endeavour, especially long-term, group-centric goals. Could Buddhists have had a "space-race"? If one is not desperately trying to achieve something, and one is busy just being happy meditating a lot, how much external productivity can one expect of the culture?

I imagine the answer to this is on page 1 of the Dalai Lama's FAQ, but I wanted to know what you guys think.
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rosborne979
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Apr, 2007 10:13 pm
Re: Buddhists...what have they ever done for us?
Eorl wrote:
OK, I'm being facetious (ala Monty Python) but what I'm trying to ask is....is the philosophy one that limits human endeavour, especially long-term, group-centric goals. Could Buddhists have had a "space-race"? If one is not desperately trying to achieve something, and one is busy just being happy meditating a lot, how much external productivity can one expect of the culture?


I think it's an interesting question. And I think there's some truth to it.

Similarly, I've often wondered what Earth would be like right now if North American Indian culture had been the only one around.

"Inward facing" philosophies like Buddhism are relatively stable until they are put under survival pressure.

The people who prefer a peaceful world aren't going to like this, but I suspect that the need to eat and keep warm and in general maximize your ability to survive is a greater motivator than inward contentment, at least for some people. And all it takes is a few people who are motivated to take things by force in order to disrupt the peace, and force the peaceful into conflict (for survival).

Even Buddhist monks learned to fight, and I think they recognized the need for a duality of peacefulness and force, but they were only stable as long as they maintained this duality. They might tell us that if their own philosophy were extended to the whole planet, that there would inevitibly be a 'duality' of populations, some Inward facing, and some outward facing (driven), just as their own belief structure maintained a balance of forces.

I'm guessing that a Buddhist might recogize that they alone would never survive, but that there will always be a need for different populations to carry different motivations; forces in balance.
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NickFun
 
  1  
Reply Tue 17 Apr, 2007 10:26 pm
The Buddhism I practice suggests that each human being strive to attain their greatest potential. Also, human beings are not separate from each other. Indeed, with humans all working together in perfect unity we ould explore the stars and beyond working in true international cooperation. I am a Nichiren Buddhist.
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Ashers
 
  1  
Reply Wed 18 Apr, 2007 03:54 am
I think it's an interesting question too, with my own question being, strive for something or "be with what is", you know, that balance. Of the buddhists I've personally met, I'd have never really guessed they were buddhists until they told me. I'd say it's interesting to compare the difference between monastery bound monks and the kind of Buddhism which has grown to encompass family men/women, more western oriented men/women etc. I was talking a few weeks back with someone about the buddhist perspective on goals and achievement, to loosely paraphrase I think an overall point would be that Buddhism isn't about the suppression of desire, it's more of a perspective through which you see desire.

The setting was a university, so a very goal oriented atmosphere, you look at "every-day" Buddhists and you see regular joes with jobs, money, goals, achievements etc, the point some wanted to get across was this idea of balance mentioned above in some way. It was also mentioned in respect of achieving a greatest potential, they were recognising the individuality of people and not wanting to dampen that energy, they wouldn't want to change the individual's perceptions or feelings as such, just the glasses through which we see life. I don't know about a space race but Buddhists, as I imagine, wouldn't all be sitting round meditating, that presumably wouldn't suit them. I've talked to people who have experimented with the monastic setting and it "wasn't for them".

It seems natural for people to strive, even the monastic buddhists are in a continual state of striving in some sense, their perspective keeps them rooted in the present though, just like a buddhist who wants to get something, identifies such a goal but places less emphasis on the grasping to such a far off idea and instead concentrates on the little steps to get there, one at a time. I guess maybe Buddhists see an "ordinary" life filled with labels, goals and achievements and an "ultimate" perspective when these things are simply "seen" for what they are. I also don't think it's natural for humans to stagnate too much, I think we'll keep striving or self destruct.

If the sum of past experiences imply a certain present moment, it's no surprise that a very many would have long term, group-centric goals. Even if the setting through which a population was brought up didn't emphasise this kind of thinking, I still say you'd see divergences with the buddhist perspective taking on a subtly different guise that encompasses for such needs / wants.
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aperson
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Apr, 2007 05:34 pm
Um well let's go over what they haven't done for us:

They haven't accused us of being witches and burned us at the stake.

They haven't killed us in the name of their religion.

They haven't forced their religion on us in any degree of forcefullness.

I like Buddhism. It teaches tolerance, and not only that, acceptance of other religions. Have you ever heard a Buddhist clearly trying to convert you (apart from NickFun or any other the other nutters on this forum Very Happy )?

Besides they are so damn nice it's not funny. For them, unfailing kindness is a requirement. Less so for Christians.
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aperson
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Apr, 2007 05:38 pm
Re: Buddhists...what have they ever done for us?
rosborne979 wrote:

Even Buddhist monks learned to fight, and I think they recognized the need for a duality of peacefulness and force, but they were only stable as long as they maintained this duality. They might tell us that if their own philosophy were extended to the whole planet, that there would inevitibly be a 'duality' of populations, some Inward facing, and some outward facing (driven), just as their own belief structure maintained a balance of forces.


Bloody hell, seriously? I thought that was only in movies (such as Bulletproof Monk which I watched yesterday. I also watched Minority Report - damn good film, I highly recommend you see it).
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Eorl
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Apr, 2007 05:41 pm
aperson, I agree in every way, yet it doesn't answer the question. Will kindness get us to Mars?

Ashers answers this is well as I've seen so far, yet I still feel that Buddhist culture is mostly anti-competitive, and as such, works against (or perhaps sideways to) what I see as our most basic human nature. Must one deny aspects of Buddhism to truly commit oneself to other pursuits.....?
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aperson
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Apr, 2007 05:46 pm
Well no, but NASA will...

I don't see what the problem is. Not everyone is Buddhist, and we never will be. Even if we were, I assume cooperation rather competetiveness would take us to Mars. And cooperation is far more effecient.
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flushd
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Apr, 2007 05:57 pm
Well, it sounds to me like you are asking "If people aren't trying to achieve, will they still work towards long term group goals?"

The answer, to me, seems obvious. Of course they will! The direction may be a bit different, the priorities shifted, and "progress" as we have been taught to measure it may be "slower", but Buddhists - at least any I have known - put a hell of a lot of effort into what they have chosen as worthy pursuits. And it is focused effort, weighed with certain considerations that I see a huge lacking of where I am at in the world.

The problem isn't with the Buddhist philosophy, so much as the problem of collective action .
One guy starts building to excess, which puts others at risk. He's doing it, why? (Different sorts of justifications, or reasons, or weighing going on there).

Common response? As an act of protection or offense, the other guy builds the same or even Bigger, Crazier, Stronger, More destructive.

So everyone gets locked in an arms race, or space race, all hoping they will be the one who won't get screwed the worst (or that all of humanity is not screwed or destroyed in the process).
Yet really everybody is just scared little ones in a situation like that.

I honestly can't see any conflict with Buddhism - especially now that it has reached the West and is melting with some of the good old individualist values here. It's a different breed of Buddhism, and will produce different possibilities.

More importantly, Buddhism gives people a real way to focus those energies that have gotten so out of hand to "I win, you lose" type of thought.

Ok, I wrote this quickly, basically I think Buddhism isn't the problem here.
It's practicalities that are the problem, and always will be. Collective action problems.
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Apr, 2007 06:31 pm
One thing that Buddhism tries to do is avoid false problems.
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NickFun
 
  1  
Reply Wed 25 Apr, 2007 08:47 pm
That is correct JL. I do consider myself a competetive person. However, I compete against myself. Buddhism suggests we should challenge our own limitations and bring out the best in ourselves while helping others to do the same.
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Ashers
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Apr, 2007 07:58 pm
Eorl, what are you thinking of when you say Buddhist culture though?

I re-read some of the posts and the word "enlightenment" popped into my mind. What is it and what characterises it? How might we recognise an enlightened person? I say this because if you see enlightenment as the pinnacle of Buddhism then you have to question what "it" is. I'm wondering whether it's fair to say most might consider it to be the cessation of emotions like greed, envy and anger even the most subtle forms. I've also heard people talk about "destroying the ego" too. All of this links in with the striving of goals, the need/want of achievement and consistent progress etc. Of the bit I've read and in the little time I've spent considering some of these ideas, the idea of enlightenment in these terms never clicked with me. The idea of striving to become this type of person who is beyond the emotions and troubles listed above doesn't sound quite right. I see more merit in acting for the action itself as well as placing less emphasis on objective goals/states that people strive for, rather, we could embrace a more subjective outlook.

The difference between being positively or negatively related to something seems big, the difference between those and having a neutral relation seems infinite. You earlier said in brackets when considering Buddhism's relation to a competitive world that it was, "perhaps sideways", I'd say that's it. To me Buddhism isn't about the active suppression of desire, that'd be a desire itself. Desires and impulses seem very natural to me and the idea that Buddhism runs against natural impulses seems a little off, given the "be your own guide" and the resting in the moment style to it. I know that in meditation there's a passive observation of what is, feelings, thoughts, senses etc. Transferring a meditative stance into a busy, hectic progressive world would be more like passively limiting the reactions rather than actively acting against initial actions themselves if this makes any sense. So desires are natural, Buddhism seeks to be with what is, as it is, reacting less (getting caught in an endless cycle) and being with actions (desires, targets, wants, needs, hopes) themselves more often (stepping outside the cycle). I only say this because if someone appreciates the place their desires have, rests easy with them instead of fighting against everything all the time, they free themselves of their chains and, even just based on my own observation, become more expressive members of society.

These are just my interpretations of what I've seen/read though, I really can't talk too much at all about the specifics, especially given the various strands of Buddhism itself and the adaptions it has undergone. I could be thinking more of Zen Buddhism more than others but Zen can't/shouldn't be ignored here given the amount of westerners who practice Buddhism while undertaking competitive pursuits regularly. What is the difference between them? Is their practice wholly different?
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Thu 26 Apr, 2007 10:49 pm
Very nice, Ashers. You do very well without the notion of enlightenment. Everything is fine just as it is. It's our attachment that creates problems.
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Eorl
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Apr, 2007 02:31 am
Thank you Ashers, I appreciate it a lot. I think of myself as an optimistic skeptic, who accepts very little of anything at face value, yet appreciates the beauty of it all. (I was raised to believe none of what I hear and half of what I see.... and I think even that much is too generous)

I'm very impressed by Buddhism, so naturally I need to dig pretty hard to find some flaws!!

So I can still practice aspects of Buddhism while indulging in enough greed, resentment, jealousy and aggression to actually get something done? Is that what you are saying? That I can wallow in those emotions, yet be more self-aware, and perhaps control the outcome better?
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JLNobody
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Apr, 2007 09:43 am
Eorl, you are joking, of course. As I understand Buddhism when you have the insights (or, better, general perspective) it refers to, you will continue to have the full range of human drives (we are, you know, instinct-driven animals with most of our mental activitiy occurring unconsciously and culturally shaped), but if by "wallowing" in them you mean "attaching to them", the answer is in the negative. The problem with attachment is that it gives rise and sustenance to the GRAND ILLUSION of the ego-self*. That ego-self is the sense of alienation from what you really are...meditation is the easiest way to find that True Self--it is the difference between little mind (alienated ego) and Big Mind (what various disciplines refer to as Atman, Buddha Mind, Original Mind, etc.).

* One does not fight off, resist or deny that allienated sense of ego-self; one comes to see it (not just think it) for what it is.
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Ashers
 
  1  
Reply Fri 27 Apr, 2007 08:39 pm
Yeah I hear you both. For me the word "wallow" does have negative connotations regarding self-pity but I know it can be used more positively. Even here though, like JL is saying with the re-affirming of the ego, you are placing an unnecessary space between your "self" and everything else, a classic eastern train of thought I guess. In terms of the negative connotations, there is no need for self pity, that's my point, it creates a cycle, me, me, me, everything is happening to me, thoughts of unfairness and hardship creep in then etc. I wouldn't think in terms of needing anger or greed to get something done, I'd recognise that these emotions are perfectly natural and will arise irrespective of my doing anything. Actions and emotions go hand in hand, it's this repetitive fixation on past actions that I sense causes confusion.

I think resting with what is just involves recognising the emotions and thoughts that arise in you and being OK with them. I like the idea of passive dissipation, at this level of thought, you don't recognise a problem, formulate a strategy for "fixing" it and "try" to solve the problem, this re-affirms a sense of alienation like is mentioned above which is a good word because this creates division. I think of a lot of this in terms of cycles and snow ball effects, the example that always springs to my mind is when you're in a heated argument / debate with someone. You'll notice that when a conversation is open and relaxed there is a natural flow of ideas and opinions or even better, possibilities. When people touch a nerve, everything becomes so personal. In the very formulation of words there is a constant re-affirmation of the "me" in the argument. I'm right, this is unfair on me, I don't deserve this, why am I being spoken to like this, I want revenge, I want to make myself feel better, I, I, I. It's mindless. I don't tend to get into arguments with people very often these days but I remember in the past I'm as guilty as any of this kind of constant flow of words without genuine, constructive thought being present.

I mentioned above the example of someone who is OK with his feeling angry or sad and by doing so, by passively observing his state of mind, the anger often dissipates without any purposeful action. The argument example is relevant because someone who is able to take a second to withdraw themselves from a heated situation and take a moment to step outside the very confined box they currently find themselves in, often finds that the anger which flows through their blood lightens, there may even be a sense of amusement about how mindless they were being just seconds earlier. This kind of thing surely makes someone better able to deal with the daily ordeals of a competitive world, it just seems practical, sensible and very intuitive to me. There is a certain amount of applicability to it of course, there's a danger that this can be taken to mean that if you are in a dangerous or problematic situation that you should just sit there and do nothing, there needs to be a sense of subjective judgement used to differentiate between things. Again, I speak just in terms of my own experiences, observations and interpretations. There is also the problem of expressing this using words which betray you sometimes, apologies if I ever do confuse.
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RexRed
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Apr, 2007 03:06 pm
The problem I find with Buddhism is because it s based upon a caste system. Those with the enlightened knowledge are "better" than those who are not enlightened. How is one enlightened? By studying... So those who study are better than those who don't, plain and simple.

Where with Christianity, studying only grants approval of God but not the sanctity of God for the Christian God is "not a respecter of persons". God does not like one over another because they meditate longer or burn the incense with more servitude. He looks to the spirit which is a product of "his own" likeness not our own.

So the Christian spirit liberates one from the caste system and levels the playing field that ALL are judged by "the spirit" and not by the world or whose considered by men/women to be "illustrious".

Buddhism is simply a lesser system overall than Christianity. Though Buddhism posses much truth it is only a partial and often erroneous view of the whole picture.
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Asherman
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Apr, 2007 06:21 pm
Rex,

You haven't a clue about Buddhism. It is not based on any sort of caste system, nor are laymen in any way less than priest or monks. There are no esoteric "secret teachings". Buddhism is not faith based, but adherents are urged to test its doctrines for themselves. In Buddhism there are no gods, and we don't believe in souls that require salvation. Buddhists face no "judgments" by a "higher power" during, or after their deaths.

The Abrahamic faiths believe in a finite universe created, watched over and occasionally tampered with by a single God who plays favorites. In Buddhism there are no "favorites", and our view is that the universe is infinite, without time or spacial boundaries. This view is far closer to the universe envisioned by modern physics and mathematics than the Abrahamic conception.

You Abrahamic folks use your religion as the basis for missionary aggression against other religions, while other religions and Buddhism are tolerant of other religions. The history of Abrahamic religions is overflowing with bloody religious wars, while most other religions have an almost bloodless history. I regard Christianity and Islam in particular as particularly dangerous to the world, even though they both might serve some small positive service to mankind.
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Bi-Polar Bear
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Apr, 2007 06:27 pm
RexRed wrote:
The problem I find with Buddhism is because it s based upon a caste system. Those with the enlightened knowledge are "better" than those who are not enlightened. How is one enlightened? By studying... So those who study are better than those who don't, plain and simple.

Where with Christianity, studying only grants approval of God but not the sanctity of God for the Christian God is "not a respecter of persons". God does not like one over another because they meditate longer or burn the incense with more servitude. He looks to the spirit which is a product of "his own" likeness not our own.

So the Christian spirit liberates one from the caste system and levels the playing field that ALL are judged by "the spirit" and not by the world or whose considered by men/women to be "illustrious".

Buddhism is simply a lesser system overall than Christianity. Though Buddhism posses much truth it is only a partial and often erroneous view of the whole picture.


In my experience nothing or no one is more convinced they are better than other people than "Christians". Caste system indeed.
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RexRed
 
  1  
Reply Mon 30 Apr, 2007 07:05 pm
Asherman wrote:
Rex,

You haven't a clue about Buddhism. It is not based on any sort of caste system, nor are laymen in any way less than priest or monks. There are no esoteric "secret teachings". Buddhism is not faith based, but adherents are urged to test its doctrines for themselves. In Buddhism there are no gods, and we don't believe in souls that require salvation. Buddhists face no "judgments" by a "higher power" during, or after their deaths.

The Abrahamic faiths believe in a finite universe created, watched over and occasionally tampered with by a single God who plays favorites. In Buddhism there are no "favorites", and our view is that the universe is infinite, without time or spacial boundaries. This view is far closer to the universe envisioned by modern physics and mathematics than the Abrahamic conception.

You Abrahamic folks use your religion as the basis for missionary aggression against other religions, while other religions and Buddhism are tolerant of other religions. The history of Abrahamic religions is overflowing with bloody religious wars, while most other religions have an almost bloodless history. I regard Christianity and Islam in particular as particularly dangerous to the world, even though they both might serve some small positive service to mankind.


Why was Buddha called the illustrious "one" and followed around like a god, if there is no respect of certain persons given in the system?

Maybe you are just not familiar with a system without this cast system that you don't even recognize a caste system when you see it.

RESPECTER OF PERSONS... give that some careful thought before you point a finger at Abraham (who was humbled to God)...

What was Buddha's journey to enlightenment then, it was something that gave him special "status"... Like a pope...
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