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TOPIC: Shinzen bridges Catholicism and Vajrayana

Shinzen bridges Catholicism and Vajrayana 29 Aug 2013 23:55 #14391

-- and blows my tiny mind...

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Shinzen bridges Catholicism and Vajrayana 30 Aug 2013 02:09 #14393

Thanks for the link! I found this really interesting, enlightening and frustrating at the same time. I don't gel at all with Shinzen's 'Buddhist modernism' take and I found it sad that deity practice is seen as positive or useful only when it can be 'reduced' to something that Westerners can understand as 'really' being about doing 'something else' than what it appears to be (which doesn't align with that scientific modernist viewpoint). It's the 'disenchantment of the world.' But at the same time, being a Westerner, I was like, of course, now I see, that is what (some types of) deity practice addresses and how it operates, I'd never thought of it that way... I'm ashamed to confess that in my hardcore Mahasi days I had a friend who was very very into the traditional Tibetan visualisation/devotion practices and I used to talk to her about it but secretly be very scornful in my head (thus it was probably inevitable that I'd end up doing deity practice myself).
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Shinzen bridges Catholicism and Vajrayana 30 Aug 2013 06:10 #14395

Cute. Give him credit for being a modern rather atheistic "buddhist" with a reputation to uphold and actually admitting he has prayed the rosary. That took balls. ;)
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Shinzen bridges Catholicism and Vajrayana 30 Aug 2013 15:08 #14407

Ona Kiser wrote:
Cute. Give him credit for being a modern rather atheistic "buddhist" with a reputation to uphold and actually admitting he has prayed the rosary. That took balls. ;)

Especially for a Jewish guy!
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Shinzen bridges Catholicism and Vajrayana 01 Sep 2013 11:46 #14457

I understand where Shinzen is coming from, I guess I am in the reductionist camp that E3T mentions. Not trying to be a pain, but I figured I'd share my POV.

I think there is a subtle danger in this type of thing (that could well be decreasing over time as more people both wise up and wake up), of encouraging in the masses a certain lack of whatever you want to call it, critical thinking, reasonableness, rationality. For those of us that can separate out the myth and metaphor, great, but a lot of people (in the US, the majority) clearly aren't up to that task. To the extent that these things bleed over into the rest of their lives, one type of delusion breeds more delusion, and my take is that creates more suffering. Not saying there can't be exceptions. But personally I see it in one specific fundamentalist Christian friend of mine, for example.

Some people can compartmentalize it, sure, it can clearly be done skillfully, but I feel like there is a certain aspect of playing with fire. My personal take is, why not just drop the metaphor and get right to it? And if not, how do we communicate to people that we view these things as metaphor?

The title track of the Brian Eno album, "Here Come the Warm Jets", came to mind in thinking about responses :) The lyrics which come late in the song are unclear but something like:

Father, we make claims on our knees
Dawn enter here for we've nowhere to be
Nowhere to be
Nowhere to be

Father, stains they're all on our knees
Down on our words and we've nothing to be
Nothing to be
Nothing to be

Father, down we're all on our saints
Paid to appease though we've nothing these days
Nothing these days
Nothing these days

Father, here they're sprawled in a daze
We're down on our knees and we've nothing to say
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Shinzen bridges Catholicism and Vajrayana 01 Sep 2013 14:00 #14461

He's appealing to an audience, and in that sense it's perfectly skillful of him to use that language to reach them. (ETA: even if I tend to agree with Rowan that it comes across as patronizing towards those poor backward folk who actually believe in gods and monsters. But like I said, it seemed challenging enough for him (the body language when he talked about the rosary) and is what his audience can identify with....)

But I am wary of the belief that use of one set of concepts over another somehow makes "the masses" nicer, more compassionate, more thoughtful, less afraid, etc. Those who aren't channeling their fears through Christian metaphors do so through various other metaphors. Watch the endless parade of "the world is scary and xyz will destroy us watch out" stories on Facebook or the evening news, which can have as their subject all sorts of misunderstood science, dietary fads, imaginary crime waves, and other perceived dangers. Having a relationship of tribalism and fear towards the world is not dependent on religious views.

Also very wary of the idea of "the masses" as if people with certain kinds of education or world view are superior to others, as I think it undermines compassion. Inclusivity, compassion, and a sense of being of "one body, one spirit" is not dependent on all of us sharing the same beliefs, views, education, social class, priorities, (or even species, for me).
Last Edit: 01 Sep 2013 15:15 by Ona Kiser.
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Shinzen bridges Catholicism and Vajrayana 01 Sep 2013 16:56 #14464

@Eric, I love Brian Eno, and particularly the early solo albums before he went ambient (though the ambient stuff is amazing too).

But what I would say is, the faith in scientific materialism doesn't necessarily breed rationality, critical thinking or reasonableness - look at Richard Dawkins! And the thing in the West is, we think that by holding this belief we are doing that critical thinking (and again, this may be different in the US to other Western countries as religion is so much stronger there) but actually it's a very basic Enlightenment paradigm that now forms the substrata of the world we grow up in.

So we also have our own 'myths' but one of the things that this particular myth tells us, like all myths, is that it's not a myth - this gets described as 'the view from nowhere,' the idea that we're capable of standing in some neutral place to survey and judge other belief systems. And 'critical thinking' would recognize this, from my POV.

It wasn't 'true' in the pre-Enlightenment days, and it won't be 'true' in the future with whatever paradigm shift will occur then (if humans are still around) - and most if not all of what we now believe that the empirical method has demonstrated is 'true' will be as 'true' as phrenology or miasma theory is now.

And these are the assumptions that I think are operating in the idea of 'getting right to it.' What 'right to it' is, and what 'metaphor' is, aren't absolute or universal truths, they're culturally and individually determined. The rationalist stuff is of course 'our' language, and so it works in that sense, as Ona points out!
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Shinzen bridges Catholicism and Vajrayana 05 Sep 2013 09:14 #14611

I lost track of this thread.

I watched the video again and found Shinzen to be very reasonable, and he said the word myth, many, many times.

I appreciate the opportunity to engage in a topic with deeply entrenched beliefs. Apologies. Thanks.

@Ona: I think Shinzen was fairly skillful in his appealing. I have literally often wondered whether Jesus was appealing to his audience with vast amounts of judgement and self righteous indignation. My thoughts were that it's plausible that's exactly what they needed, that kind of exortation, yet it is hard to imagine that was really the best play for the long run. Along the same lines I extended that thought to wondering if Buddha could be thought of as being divisive, this is good, this is bad. Anyway.

There is a lot of misunderstanding in the world, and news organizations and countries preying on our innate fears, agreed. But we do learn, we learned that thunder is not the sound of gods bowling. We can learn about our hardwired bias to make quick assumptions and what constitutes good evidence and we can make adjustments. We are doing that, very slowly. Just because there are a lot of bad assumptions out there doesn't mean that we should give up on trying to steer people towards more realistic views.

If I threw "the masses" under the bus, I apologize. Perhaps I should have referred to them as "those poor backward folk" (ouch!) ;) . I was referring to the close to 50% in my country that believe the earth is <=10,000 years old and categorically, dogmatically reject vast tracts of reasonable knowledge. In my state, 70% are creationists, including one dear old friend of mine. They have an anti-scientific bias (an unfortunate side effect of defending their belief), they don't believe in climate change, for one. They vote. It has consequences.

@Rowan?: Dawkins seemed very reasonable when I heard him. But I could imagine him "throwing the Baba out with the bathwater", though. Is that it, did he get into too much dogmatic scientism? Some do go too far, sure. But that's not science. It does get tricky, though. Science strives towards an agnostic viewpoint, but at the same time we look at probabilities. It's physically possible for small monkeys to fly out of my butt, but I'd bet against it. Who knows, might be fun.

Classifying much of early science with modern science seems a bit cherry picked to me. Again, we've learned so much, we double blind, we use large random samples, we require validation by independent parties. We're (mostly) beyond the age of being fooled by spurious correlations, though that was present to some degree even when I was a child. We are slowly seeing things more clearly. We can point to a certain mystery about existence, but within that we can see what's going on and measure it relatively even if not by some absolute standard.

I can say personally that open-minded "critical thinking" is what led me out of a lot of dark spots, and actually got me beyond a viewpoint of something approaching dogmatic scientism. Also got me out of some hard political beliefs. I would say that is valuable beyond measure. Dogmatism is the problem, but I'm not sure being dogmatically anti-dogmatic is the answer. A neutral kind of agnosticism maybe.

***
I went to some kind of new age thing a couple of decades ago, I wish I could remember the exact details, but we were supposed to be visualizing ourselves as trees (be the tree, etc.) or some such thing. Feeling into things. Back in those days I found this kind of thing oddly difficult, and after talking about it to the teacher it turned out I was actually taking several distinct steps to get to the simple visualization. And she coached me to just go right to it, you can do it. In a way I didn't think I could do it like that, and it was a little weird at first because I had to adjust. But after a little bit I learned to do it, and ultimately it was much better, easier, faster, more natural, direct. I appreciate what she did for me. YMMV.
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Shinzen bridges Catholicism and Vajrayana 05 Sep 2013 18:56 #14625

I like to think of science as a method, or a set of methods. It's not a belief or set of beliefs except that maybe it's a belief in some methods. The folks who hold dogmatic "scientific" beliefs are likely not to be practicing scientists, at least in my experience.

YMMV
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Shinzen bridges Catholicism and Vajrayana 05 Sep 2013 21:35 #14626

" I like to think of science as a method, or a set of methods."

I agree; and would add that Ngak'chang Rinpoche has always, and frequently, described Buddhism as a religion "of method, not of truth."
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Shinzen bridges Catholicism and Vajrayana 06 Sep 2013 05:08 #14631

Eric wrote:
@Ona: I think Shinzen was fairly skillful in his appealing. I have literally often wondered whether Jesus was appealing to his audience with vast amounts of judgement and self righteous indignation. My thoughts were that it's plausible that's exactly what they needed, that kind of exortation, yet it is hard to imagine that was really the best play for the long run. Along the same lines I extended that thought to wondering if Buddha could be thought of as being divisive, this is good, this is bad. Anyway.

There is a lot of misunderstanding in the world, and news organizations and countries preying on our innate fears, agreed. But we do learn, we learned that thunder is not the sound of gods bowling. We can learn about our hardwired bias to make quick assumptions and what constitutes good evidence and we can make adjustments. We are doing that, very slowly. Just because there are a lot of bad assumptions out there doesn't mean that we should give up on trying to steer people towards more realistic views.

If I threw "the masses" under the bus, I apologize. Perhaps I should have referred to them as "those poor backward folk" (ouch!) ;) . I was referring to the close to 50% in my country that believe the earth is <=10,000 years old and categorically, dogmatically reject vast tracts of reasonable knowledge. In my state, 70% are creationists, including one dear old friend of mine. They have an anti-scientific bias (an unfortunate side effect of defending their belief), they don't believe in climate change, for one. They vote. It has consequences....

My point was practice related, not political so much. That is, that the sense of radical inclusivity is worth exploring in these things. That when we draw boxes around others and disdain them, it's often personal, something in our own "karma" or "baggage" that we are defending against. So that includes the "bumbling masses" and the "annoying fundamentalists" and anyone else we don't like. And that the deeper practice goes, the more one feels a very intimate connection to others, even when others are making a bumbling mess of things, even a really awful mess. Which relates to having a great deal of compassion for ourselves, for all the bumbling we do and have done. I suppose YMMV but I don't know many (a very few, I'll admit) who are awake who don't have a great deal of compassion for self or others, for whatever reasons. Jesus spent a lot of time trying to explain the same thing (His rule #1, addressed in the context of a culture with a lot of very fussy taboos about dress, food, etc: love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. Just that. Everything else follows or interrelates. And those two are about applying a practice, about realization, about felt direct experience.) The whole concept of divine forgiveness points to this inner transformation to a radical inclusivity - nothing is *not* forgiven, once forgiveness is recognized (in a practice-related direct experience way, not intellectually). Similar practices in Hinduism, where a friend of mine was coached to spend daily time loving all the people who got on her nerves. Metta is similar as a practice.
Last Edit: 06 Sep 2013 05:09 by Ona Kiser.
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