Can there be a such thing as Pantheistic Christianity?

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jeeprs
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 05:43 pm
@dharma bum,
I was not denying the validity of the Buddha's teaching and I accept the testimony of sages from many traditions. I do indeed believe that these experiences may indeed be 'veridical' to use the technical term. What I am getting at is the implications of the word 'experience', because the experience in question is definitely not within the ambit of what all would agree as 'ordinary experience'. If you get into the realm of 'extraordinary experience' of course there are many possibilities but I don't think there is a cultural consensus as to what might these might be in the West.

As regards 'supernatural', certainly it is a word that sets off alarm bells and perhaps I should have refrained from using it. However, speaking as a Buddhist, I can assure you that right from the outset the Buddha's realisation of Nirvana is understood as 'lokuttara' - meaning 'supramundane, exceeding ordinary perception, beyond mere logic and reason, perceptible only by the enlightened', and many other such descriptors. While it is perfectly true that Buddhism is pragmatic and non-authoritarian, the transcendental dimension is an implicit factor from the outset. Certainly the Buddha is not a deity but he is also not an ordinary human being and while, as I have said elsewhere, 'dharma' is not the same as 'religion', it is essentially religious in some respects.

As regards Batchelor, I have read several of his books and seen him lecture. In my view, his attitude is more typical of an academic than a practitioner. I acknowledge that he is a learned scholar and has wide experience. However he sacrifices a great deal of what is essential to the teaching so that it might be easier to assimilate into the secular worldview. This is why his book was judged very harshly by many Buddhists, with one reviewer saying:

Quote:
There is an urgent need to interpret and present these teachings to the modern west. This "Buddhism Without Beliefs" has sorely failed to do. The prescription of this book amounts to an abandonment of the traditional Dharma and the transformation of Buddhism into a psychotherapy, which like all psychotherapies, has no goal higher than "ordinary misery." This is a Buddhism without fruition, without a Third Noble Truth. Ven Punnadhamma Bikkhu


Basically, the idea that Buddhism is a form of rational humanism is a myth. Certainly its principles can be much more easily adapted to a humanistic framework than can Christian dogma, but the 'world-transcending' nature of the Buddha is essential to its meaning.

although I do now note that this discussion has veered wildly away from its original topic.:bigsmile:
 
Didymos Thomas
 
Reply Sun 26 Jul, 2009 06:54 pm
@jeeprs,
jeeprs;79674 wrote:
I was not denying the validity of the Buddha's teaching and I accept the testimony of sages from many traditions. I do indeed believe that these experiences may indeed be 'veridical' to use the technical term. What I am getting at is the implications of the word 'experience', because the experience in question is definitely not within the ambit of what all would agree as 'ordinary experience'. If you get into the realm of 'extraordinary experience' of course there are many possibilities but I don't think there is a cultural consensus as to what might these might be in the West.


I am not arguing that there is a consensus about what these experience are, only that when we look at Western spiritual traditions, we find the very same experience of Nirvana, only presented in a different sort of language - which should be no surprise. My point being that this experience is not unique to Buddhism, but an experience common to most Axial Age and post-Axial spiritual traditions, and common to many pre-Axial Age traditions as well. So, I think we agree - these experiences are quite real. As you say, veridical. I had to look that one up Smile

jeeprs;79674 wrote:
As regards 'supernatural', certainly it is a word that sets off alarm bells and perhaps I should have refrained from using it. However, speaking as a Buddhist, I can assure you that right from the outset the Buddha's realisation of Nirvana is understood as 'lokuttara' - meaning 'supramundane, exceeding ordinary perception, beyond mere logic and reason, perceptible only by the enlightened', and many other such descriptors. While it is perfectly true that Buddhism is pragmatic and non-authoritarian, the transcendental dimension is an implicit factor from the outset. Certainly the Buddha is not a deity but he is also not an ordinary human being and while, as I have said elsewhere, 'dharma' is not the same as 'religion', it is essentially religious in some respects.


Sure, supramundane in that it is beyond our transitory world, but this is not the same as supernatural. But here we are struggling with western language being used to describe eastern concepts, which have their own technical vocabulary in the original languages. I think the trouble with supernatural is the western connotation - the Dalai Lama has said that if ever science contradicts Buddhism go with science, which is smart as, it seems to me, that the underlying idea is that Buddhism and science should not contradict at all. The supernatural, if it does not contradict science outright, certainly ignores scientific explanation.

jeeprs;79674 wrote:
Basically, the idea that Buddhism is a form of rational humanism is a myth. Certainly its principles can be much more easily adapted to a humanistic framework than can Christian dogma, but the 'world-transcending' nature of the Buddha is essential to its meaning.


I agree completely. Humanism focuses on mankind, while, as you say, Buddhism transcends such things. It is the pragmatism of Buddhism that seems to lead to this confusion.

jeeprs;79674 wrote:
although I do now note that this discussion has veered wildly away from its original topic.:bigsmile:


Eh, who cares. I've learned something, that's for sure. And that's the whole point. Smile
 
prothero
 
Reply Mon 27 Jul, 2009 12:24 am
@dharma bum,
It is my understanding that the Buddha did not concern himself much with questions of god. His main concern was suffering caused by attachment or desire. There is that cute story about the man shot with the arrow who inquires about where the arrow was made, etc instead of being concerned about having the arrow removed.
Buddhism and any concept of God that goes with it is far different from any Western conception of God although mystics from both traditions have some common ground.

The pantheistic conception of a completely immanent god with no transcendent moral or aesthetic dimensions is pretty far from any traditional form of Christianity.

The panentheistic conception of god as both immanent and transcendent is much closer to Chrisitain tradition and to the protrayal of Jesus in the gospels.
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Mon 27 Jul, 2009 12:29 am
@dharma bum,
Quote:
There is that cute story

ahem, 'that cute story' is actually what is from what is known as a 'sutta' (or sutra), a recorded teaching of the Buddha. The context was concerning the questions from a wandering mendicant, Vachagotta, who insisted on asking questions about such topics as 'does the universe have a beginning', 'is the soul different to or the same as the body', 'does the Buddha live on after death'. All of these questions were met with 'a noble silence'. When Vachagotta gave up and wandered off, the monks asked the Buddha why he wouldn't answer any of these questions. The parable of the poison arrow was given in response. The point of the 'noble silence' and the specific questions which were met with it, is an important characteristic of the Buddhist outlook and is traditionally understood as an attitude that is dismissive of speculative metaphysics.

And you're also right in saying that the Buddhist and Western religious outlook are radically different.
 
Jay phil
 
Reply Mon 27 Jul, 2009 09:25 am
@jeeprs,

"


This is an important point. Can spirituality or the way of the Buddha be contained or fully expressed by "science"? It is a popular view. I was just wondering what others thought of this. I may be missing something.

Thanks
 
jeeprs
 
Reply Mon 27 Jul, 2009 03:10 pm
@dharma bum,
Science as is practised and understood in the modern world is exclusively concerned with analysis of objective phenomena via hypotheses that are empirically testable. Buddhist practise is concerned with self-knowledge and conversion of greed, hatred and delusion into their opposites (renunciation, compassion and wisdom). So they are different realms of understanding. That said, Buddhism teaches an 'inner science' insofar as, if you accept the normative framework of the teaching, you can observe the way it works in the same manner as other practitioners have throughout history. Buddhism is quite different to western religion, or religion generally, in the insistence on 'experiential wisdom'.

It is true that the Dalai Lama has very strong interest in science, and that he has always stated that pre-modern or traditionalist Buddhist practises that do not accord with the facts discovered by science ought to be abandoned. He explains this in a book called Universe in a Single Atom. He has also chaired a bi-annual conference called Mind and Life wherein he and other Buddhist practitioners dialog with neuro and other scientists about mind, meditation, and related topics.

That said, science in the West is to many people 'a way of life' or 'an ideology' which very much dictates what they will consider to true or not, even before they thoroughly investigate it. In other words 'the scientific attitude' can be construed as a certain outlook or mindset which rules certain types of understanding of the universe in or out before even looking into it. There is a lot of that attitude around due to the 'history of thought' in the Western world. It certainly complicates the whole picture pretty severely.
 
prothero
 
Reply Mon 27 Jul, 2009 06:19 pm
@dharma bum,
Jay;79787 wrote:

"


This is an important point. Can spirituality or the way of the Buddha be contained or fully expressed by "science"? It is a popular view. I was just wondering what others thought of this. I may be missing something.

Thanks


I do not think Spirituality can be contained in or expressed by science. Many are currently using science to define what is "real" and what is "true" (scientism). Science deals only with the external observable properties of our world. As such science (IMHO) gives us only a partial and incomplete picture of reality as we live and experience it. Science rules in the material realm. Hence materialism, scientism, and mechanistic determinism are the most common worldviews of those with an atheistic view of the world.

It is the demonstrable power of science in giving us predictability and mastery over the material aspects of reality that inspire an almost religious devotion to its methods. The fact is that science deals poorly with human behavior, mind, subjective experience and aesthetic and moral intuitions and thus with spiritual notions.

The major project of the world's religious traditions in the modern age is to construct worldviews which do not conflict with our scientific understanding of the world but still retain their spiritual essence. Religious worldviews thus should contain (avoid conflict with) "science" but go beyond science. The religious worldview includes both subjective experience and objective reality.

Now my particular worldview is that mind and matter are two aspects of the same ultimate reality (neutral monism): that subjective experience (interiority) is much more prevalent in nature than is commonly appreciated (panpsychism), and that everything (subjective experience and material reality) is in some sense a manifestation of the divine, an emanation of spirit.

I do not find these views to be "scientific", objectively verifiable, or logically derivable. The problem with logical positivism, linguistic analysis and analytic philosophy is that they exclude virtually all problems of human concern (primarily values and aesthetics) from the realm of "meaningful discourse". They deny the central task of philosophy (to seek an understanding of our experience of the world) and to provide a guide to living well.
 
 

 
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