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TOPIC: Buddhism as Western Romaticism

Buddhism as Western Romaticism 26 Apr 2013 21:23 #11345

I'll take a t-shirt with an Aro symbol on it:

arogar.org

arogar.org/tiger.htm
Last Edit: 26 Apr 2013 21:23 by Chris Marti.
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 26 Apr 2013 21:24 #11347

But seriously, I get that. Christianity has its own wide array of appalling variants.
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 27 Apr 2013 07:36 #11356

Ona Kiser wrote:
Aro would be more popular if it had special pants and tank tops, like yoga. :evil:

Ironically, one of the reasons I never got into Aro when I first came across it (early days of internet, whenever that was) was the costumes. At the time it seemed (I may be wrong) they were fairly insistent that practioners identify themselves by wearing the garb. Aro has the top knot, earrings, white skirt, belt, and shawl shirt --- so definitely has special pants at least!

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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 27 Apr 2013 08:09 #11357

oh my!!!!!!!!
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 27 Apr 2013 08:15 #11359

I've read a lot of Aro books and the online literature and I have come to appreciate Aro very much. The podcasts that feature Ngak'chang Rinpoche are really good to listen to and they do focus very much on engagement with life:

itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/aro-buddhism-podcasts/id346459024

Ngak'chang Rinpoche seems to be very well grounded and settled. And wise.
Last Edit: 27 Apr 2013 11:29 by Chris Marti.
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 27 Apr 2013 08:16 #11360

I wonder if, like Mormons, they have special underwear?
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 27 Apr 2013 09:59 #11363

The only "dictum" on underwear is that one person was instructed to get rid of ratty old skivvies and purchase some that (s)he would actively appreciate every time they were viewed and/or worn. Aro is HUGE on the active sensuous appreciation of one's life. Another instance of basic sanity, IMHO.
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 30 Apr 2013 11:38 #11435

I've browsed a bit through these websites. The thing I find bothers me about it is the feeling that my commitment to waking up is just a cultural phenomenon. Here I am trying to live in awareness of the Absolute and I'm just a white middle-class boomer gal doing what boomer gals do. <grumble> :angry: L

p.s. This is the story of my life: every time my life takes a special turn or I have some kind of breakthrough, I find out that my whole silly, overblown generation is doing the same thing!
Last Edit: 30 Apr 2013 11:39 by Laurel Carrington. Reason: Tought of new stuff
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 30 Apr 2013 11:53 #11436

Embrace your boring middle class white girl boomer nature. Big waste of time wanting to become something else. ;)
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 02 May 2013 08:42 #11479

I read Ven. Thanissaro's views on this before. He makes some good points, and I think his essay will do good and get a few people to look at the hole they dug themselves into, and climb out.

I just have to quote Kant, though:

"Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity."

(read the whole essay here: philosophy.eserver.org/kant/what-is-enlightenment.txt )

That's a pretty good definition of the kind of undertaking that can take the form of a spiritual quest, which is the form it's usually discussed here and in related circles. Of course, the Age of Enlightenment kind of enlightenment is usually framed in intellectual, social, and political terms. But you know, I don't see the difference any more. Growing up, emancipation, getting to the bottom of things, stopping to fool oneself, Awakening, Enlightenment - same taste, the taste of the Dhamma, at least in my mouth.

In the big bag'o'teachings that is Buddhism, there's these things called "dharma gates" - Ven Thanissaro even mentions them. I don't think they lead to orthodox religion, but I am convinced that orthodox religion can be used as a form to express where they lead.

Cheers,
Florian
Last Edit: 02 May 2013 08:43 by Florian Weps.
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 02 May 2013 14:23 #11480

I ran across this interview the other day, and it seems to be on point here. I'm curious about what influence drive Christian author Peter Rollins.

From the interview:
For Peter Rollins, Belfast native and leading writer and thinker in the Emergent Christian movement, “God” has fallen prey to our grasping, market-driven existence—just another shiny thing we acquire to make ourselves feel okay.

Alfred Hitchcock called this (in another context entirely) the “MacGuffin,” or as Rollins explains it: “that X for which some or all of the main characters are willing to sacrifice everything, something that people want in some excessive way—the object that seems to promise fulfillment, satisfaction, and lasting pleasure.”

And yet when we get our hands on the longed-for MacGuffin, it doesn’t do away with our feelings of emptiness or brokenness, and may well deepen them. Instead, Rollins argues, there is no cure for our brokenness, other than the full and complete acceptance of it.

Rollins talked with RD’s Candace Chellew-Hodge about his new book and his radical ideas of what church looks like when Christians give up Christianity.


How's that for a teaser?
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 02 May 2013 15:53 #11483

Interesting. There's plenty of Christianity out there that relates to traditional Christianity in the same way the Western Romanticist Buddhism relates to traditional Buddhism, I think. You can find bits of it on "spirituality" websites. Emphasis on the niceness, the peace and love, ethics, etc. In fact the Jesuit retreat I went to a few months ago fell pretty hard into that category - God loves you and it's important to feel relaxed and comfortable with him. To the extent that when I talked about some more difficult experiences, the counselors thought that was bad, because prayer should always make you feel relaxed and happy.

That said, this particular author you referenced I don't know, but looks interesting. Perhaps a Pragmatic Dharma version of things?
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 02 May 2013 19:41 #11491

"niceness" is strongly related to "new-age". I believe both are related to the places where post-modernism gets stuck: if it's all relative then we can't say you're more right than I am, or that you know more than I do, or that you're more attained than I am. Therefore none of these things can exist (truth, expertise, attainment, knowledge) or at least we have to pretend that they don't because otherwise we have to deal with things we dont like (hierarchy, success and failure, comparison, etc).

All that to say that it's not surprising you'll see it in many different traditions. By definition niceness doesn't discriminate. That wouldn't be nice!
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 03 May 2013 04:23 #11494

Eran wrote:
"niceness" is strongly related to "new-age". I believe both are related to the places where post-modernism gets stuck: if it's all relative then we can't say you're more right than I am, or that you know more than I do, or that you're more attained than I am.

Lazy postmodernism, yes.

But of course, since all points of view are equal before the postmodernist, he has to embrace them all, since he can't pick and choose based on any preferences (preferences implying an order). Thus, he has to embrace the notion of niceness and the notion of discrimination, in short, he has to be able to embrace the paradox.
All that to say that it's not surprising you'll see it in many different traditions. By definition niceness doesn't discriminate. That wouldn't be nice!

Nothing wrong with being nice.

It's nice to know why one is being nice, and finding out if one doesn't is nice, too.

It doesn't matter where one starts to dig away at the next obstacle.

Cheers,
Florian
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 03 May 2013 05:10 #11495

Florian Weps wrote:
Eran wrote:
"niceness" is strongly related to "new-age". I believe both are related to the places where post-modernism gets stuck: if it's all relative then we can't say you're more right than I am, or that you know more than I do, or that you're more attained than I am.

Lazy postmodernism, yes.

But of course, since all points of view are equal before the postmodernist, he has to embrace them all, since he can't pick and choose based on any preferences (preferences implying an order). Thus, he has to embrace the notion of niceness and the notion of discrimination, in short, he has to be able to embrace the paradox.

So we seeing a pattern here of challenging philosophies and teachings (full of self-investigation, paradox, shaking up our usual view of things) getting softened to be more about comfort?

I have thought fairly often in recent months that this dynamic actually has a purpose (by which I mean it's not a problem, not that it has an end). It's not that some really insightful thing got invented by really smart people , and then it got ruined by the lazy mob. It's that that dynamic of teachers teaching difficult, challenging things and people softening them down into something more comfortable and easy is part of a whole. Not forces at odds, not enemies of each other, but part of the dynamic which makes up the process.

Sort of like the world "needs" rebellious youth with revolutionary aspirations AND grumpy old codgers who gripe about kids these days. They aren't actually enemies, they are part of a whole. You can't actually get rid of "either side" and it's a constantly ongoing eternal process.
Last Edit: 03 May 2013 05:11 by Ona Kiser.
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 03 May 2013 05:58 #11496

Florian Weps wrote:
...I just have to quote Kant, though:

"Enlightenment is man's emergence from his self-incurred immaturity."

(read the whole essay here: philosophy.eserver.org/kant/what-is-enlightenment.txt )...

That was an interesting essay. The part I disagree with is the "evolutionary" aspect, which seems to be a common theme in the world in general. That being that when I as an individual see a process of maturity, enlightenment or personal development, I then imagine that not only should all others be able to experience the same process if they just saw things in the right light, but that the same process will likely therefore take place on a grand scale over time, leading to a general improvement and enlightenment and maturity of society in general, until we reach a lovely utopia where everyone is permanently mature and self-aware and free and so on. But it ignores the fact that there is a constant influx of new people into society over time each of whom will have to personally experience the same process from scratch (if they experience it at all).

It's like imagining that because your orchard is now mature and producing lovely apples, that one day all orchards will permanently be mature and productive. But not only are there always new trees being planted and old ones dying, but there are also droughts and insects and rain and such that impact fruitfulness, even in the best-tended orchard.

Thoughts?
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 03 May 2013 08:11 #11498

No kidding!

Evolution (Darwin) and relativity (Einstein) are scientific theories (well, facts, really) that get misinterpreted all the time, mainly by philosophers, writers, pundits and politicians trying to make their view appear to be inevitable. So yes, if Person A gets enlightened in the spiritual sense it only goes to prove that everyone else in the world not only can get enlightened, but should, and that at some undetermined future time everyone will be enlightened. So all of a sudden enlightenment is a new phase of human development. It's evolution!

Even though the assumptions behind that train of thought are childishly silly. (IMHO)

That way of thinking is, I think, uniquely western and also, I think, rooted in the cultural/political/scientific period of Enlightenment in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries - I believe they call it Optimism. Everything progresses - gets better - over time, and in a sort of inevitable way.
Last Edit: 03 May 2013 08:14 by Chris Marti.
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 03 May 2013 10:51 #11499

The other extreme being "my life is shit, therefore the world is going to hell in a handbasket" of course. :D
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 04 May 2013 08:49 #11511

The more I think about this the more I think that western optimism and the concern over being nice all the time corrupts Buddhism an a very fundamental way. David Chapman is on to something. It is going to be really hard for you to accept all this shit, just as it is, if you approach the examination of it from some false but rosy angle. I'm not saying life is shit, but what shit there is in it has to be faced up to, examined, pulled inside out, dealt with and we have to come to love it as much as we love the nice stuff. It's all the same but if you're hiding from the shitty stuff you're not going to get very far.
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 06 May 2013 04:23 #11531

As the Buddhists say, "it depends" :)

A person can very well be in a situation where they are acutely aware of the shitty stuff, but have lost all sight of the nice stuff. For such a person, experiencing niceness can be a lifeboat.

Another person could meanwhile be stagnating in the niceness, and for them, bringing it down to earth by honest examination of even the shitty stuff is the way to go.

IOW one person's next locked door is unlikely to be the other person's one.

I'm kind of grumpy some of the time in my interaction with spiritual people. A lot of it comes from my short patience and inability to listen to them with compassion. For most of these interactions, it would probably be better if I were more nice. For some few of them, a cranky reply from me could conceivably be helpful, in a wake-up-call sort of way, but that's doubtful, and it's not something that can be done deliberately anyway.

So, all in all, I think niceness - genuine niceness, not the kind of manipulative niceness which aims to force people into admitting that it is nice - wins over cranky and crabby every time.

Also, it's just as easy to stagnate in some shitty rut, maybe even easier: the sense of being a victim of the shittyness is so disempowering.

Hm... what I'm trying to say, it seems, is that it's not so much a matter of niceness or shittyness but rather a matter of not fooling oneself over either of the two extremes, but steering between them... Heh, sounds like my mind just wanted to regurgitate the "discourse on spinning your dhamma wheels" or whatever it's called :)

Cheers,
Florian
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 06 May 2013 06:32 #11533

Chris Marti wrote:
It is going to be really hard for you to accept all this shit, just as it is, if you approach the examination of it from some false but rosy angle.

It's almost as if one of the first things we need to admit to ourselves is "there is a gritty and incomplete aspect to our life" (reference to first noble truth of dukka) :)

Crap, I may be becoming a Buddhist...
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 06 May 2013 08:11 #11534

" it seems, is that it's not so much a matter of niceness or shittyness but rather a matter of not fooling oneself over either of the two extremes, but steering between them... "

Yep, that's it. That was my point - you cannot get away with just one (nice) or the other (not nice). You have to face up to ALL of you. Otherwise, no pop.
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 06 May 2013 14:10 #11548

Ona Kiser wrote:
That was an interesting essay. The part I disagree with is the "evolutionary" aspect, which seems to be a common theme in the world in general. That being that when I as an individual see a process of maturity, enlightenment or personal development, I then imagine that not only should all others be able to experience the same process if they just saw things in the right light, but that the same process will likely therefore take place on a grand scale over time, leading to a general improvement and enlightenment and maturity of society in general, until we reach a lovely utopia where everyone is permanently mature and self-aware and free and so on. But it ignores the fact that there is a constant influx of new people into society over time each of whom will have to personally experience the same process from scratch (if they experience it at all).
...

Thoughts?

Much of my thinking around this is based on Ken Wilber's work. For the most part it seems to jive with my experience so I like it. On the evolution at the societal level Wilber says something like this: Young people get pushed to the dominant level of development of the society they are raised in. Once the reach that level, they will encounter resistance to going beyond it. So for example, if you grow up at a very rational, scientific society you will be brought up through the traditional stage to the rational stage and given all the support you need to embrace rational values (science, democracy, capitalism, etc.). If you then start talking about subjective knowledge, how everything is contextual and science isn't really standing on the solid foundation we imagine it is, you'll doubt, antagonism and may eventually end up as an outcast because what you have to say shakes the foundations of everyone else's world.

So how does society eventually evolve? When there's a large enough core that has gone beyond the dominant level, they become an influential force in society and bring about (what I think of as) a paradigm shift. Suddenly new ideas spread out farther and farther and before you know it, they become the new normal. Now, children who grow up in this society will encounter post-modern ideas and values and will be encouraged to adopt those.

Now, imagine the same thing happening with awakening. Go ahead... I'll wait.

I find it interesting to relate this to places like the DhO and KFD where it seems there is a new normal showing up. Also, the growing (at it seems to be growing) interest in spiritual practice, etc.
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 06 May 2013 14:26 #11549

Florian Weps wrote:
A person can very well be in a situation where they are acutely aware of the shitty stuff, but have lost all sight of the nice stuff. For such a person, experiencing niceness can be a lifeboat.

Another person could meanwhile be stagnating in the niceness, and for them, bringing it down to earth by honest examination of even the shitty stuff is the way to go.

Hey Florian,

This is mostly to clear up some of my terminology so that I know we're on the same page.

When I say niceness I mean the compulsion to be nice, or rather the inability to be anything other than nice. It's a combination of "idiot compassion", political correctness and spiritual bypassing. It lacks discrimination. It lacks the ability to look at its own difficulties. It leaves us at a distance. Sure, there are times when just being nice is called for but niceness is just nice all the time.

On the other hand, here's how I see compassion: Compassion is able to feel the other's pain as one's own. It may lead to being nice. It may also lead to telling someone the hard truth they're unwilling to hear, but from a place of love not from a place of I-know-better-than-you. Compassion being us closer because I recognize that your pain is not different from mine and that given a slight change of circumstances that could be me in your shoes, it may actually have been me in your shoes at some point in the past. Compassion engages.

So with the two people you mention above, compassion recognizes that one needs to get some loving support and recognition, a "you're doing great!" kinda thing, maybe. Whereas the second person might need a bit of a wake-up call. Niceness, OTOH, is just nice to both of them. So the first one might benefit but the second one remains stuck... That's why I see niceness as a problem.
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Buddhism as Western Romaticism 06 May 2013 14:41 #11550

Eran wrote:
...

Much of my thinking around this is based on Ken Wilber's work. For the most part it seems to jive with my experience so I like it. On the evolution at the societal level Wilber says something like this: Young people get pushed to the dominant level of development of the society they are raised in. Once the reach that level, they will encounter resistance to going beyond it. So for example, if you grow up at a very rational, scientific society you will be brought up through the traditional stage to the rational stage and given all the support you need to embrace rational values (science, democracy, capitalism, etc.). If you then start talking about subjective knowledge, how everything is contextual and science isn't really standing on the solid foundation we imagine it is, you'll doubt, antagonism and may eventually end up as an outcast because what you have to say shakes the foundations of everyone else's world.

So how does society eventually evolve? When there's a large enough core that has gone beyond the dominant level, they become an influential force in society and bring about (what I think of as) a paradigm shift. Suddenly new ideas spread out farther and farther and before you know it, they become the new normal. Now, children who grow up in this society will encounter post-modern ideas and values and will be encouraged to adopt those.

Now, imagine the same thing happening with awakening. Go ahead... I'll wait.

I find it interesting to relate this to places like the DhO and KFD where it seems there is a new normal showing up. Also, the growing (at it seems to be growing) interest in spiritual practice, etc.

But doesn't this have at its root the idea that certain expressions of human culture are "evolved" (superior) rather than simply different. Now it may be that one feels this because one has had a university education, lives in a safe neighborhood, has access to a functioning court system, has a nifty iphone, has been taught that everyone is cool no matter what their race or economic status, etc. But the vast majority of people don't have these things. And there have been times and places around the world and through history where people had a great deal of safety, comfort, wealth and education - and then a few hundred years later they were staggering around trying to recover from whatever war, disease, natural disaster or famine had decimated their city. There tends to be a sense of "growing interest in spiritual things" if one was formerly not involved in such and then becomes involved, because suddenly one is networked into that community, and meets more and more people doing whatever it is that one has become interested in. There was a huge blossoming of Hinduism in the US in the 1960s, for instance. And many surges in spiritual outpouring throughout history in various nations (there's a whole lineage of French mysticism from the 1600s, and an earlier current of very interesting German mystics, for instance.) So I tend to think this stuff is a personal projection more than a reality.

Of course I may be wrong?
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