2.6.09

GETTING LOST IN THE WEEDS

This is an e-mail post so sorry if the format is jacked up again.

I haven't gotten up on my soap box in a while. Not that I am really in the
mood to either. Just an inward observation that I thought I would share.

And like the title suggests its about getting lost in the weeds. I do this
a lot and I figure someone else might too. There is a tendency to get all
down into the fine print of the details, not that this is always a bad
thing, and begin to totally loose sight of the big picture.

This comes to mind particularly when I start to see the this dead guy said
this and that debates. Man I think this is problematic. I guess it has
kind of got on a nerve I didn't even know I had left. But when it comes
down to it Buddhism is about enlightenment. So when you are getting into a
debate over what your favorite dead guy meant by what he said or how popular
one particular dead guy was in his time etc, etc, etc. take a step back and
look at the big picture. Is this course of action going to lead to
enlightenment? Seriously? So just try not to get so wrapped around the
words and what that person meant but rather how they help you personally
along the way.

Lost my train of thought, guess I'll wait for the next one.

12 comments:

Barry said...

Is there a dining car on this train? 'Cause I'm so with you!

Jordan said...

I hope so I'm getting lunchy.

Harry said...

"Is this course of action going to lead to
enlightenment?"

Hi Jordan,

What exactly is enlightenment, where is it, and what leads to it?

Regards,

Harry.

Jordan said...

Hi Harry,
Good questions. Deserves a good answer.
But I'll only give a provisional one.

The noble eightfold path.
The noble eightfold path.
The noble eightfold path.

That should cover it.

Ted Biringer said...

Hi Jordan,

There was a recent discussion on this at Zen International. Here is an edited version of something I posted: from Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations

From the Introduction:

There is a Tibetan saying that just as every valley has its own language so every teacher has his own doctrine. This is an exaggeration on both counts, but it does indicate the diversity to be found within Buddhism and the important role of a teacher in mediating a received tradition and adapting it to the needs, the personal transformation, of the pupil. This diversity prevents, or strongly hinders, generalization about Buddhism as a whole...
It is important to emphasize this lack of unanimity at the outset. We are dealing with a religion with some 2,500 years of doctrinal development in an environment where scholastic precision and subtlety was at a premium. There are no Buddhist popes, no creeds, and, although there were councils in the early years, no attempts to impose uniformity of doctrine over the entire monastic, let alone lay, establishment. Buddhism spread widely across Central, South, South-East, and East Asia... it also encountered peoples already very culturally and spiritually developed, most notably those of China, where it interacted with the indigenous civilization, modifying its doctrine and behaviour in the process... From earliest times in Buddhism there was a strong tendency to portray the Doctrine not as a series of tenets to be accepted or rejected, but rather as a medicine for curing quite specific spiritual ills...
There is a fallacy which I shall call the 'essentialist fallacy'. It occurs when we take a single name or naming expression and assume that it must refer to one unified phenomenon... it is a peculiarly pervasive and deep-rooted fallacy...
Buddhist philosophy itself, from its inception, embodied a sustained criticism of this essentialist fallacy. As far back as we can trace the teaching of the Buddha we find a penetrating analysis by which unities are dissolved into their constituent parts and true diversity is revealed...
It would be a good idea, I think, if we too could learn from the Buddhists… to look behind linguistic unities and see them as simply constructions imposed by the use of a single naming expression. Mahayana is not, and never was, an overall single unitary phenomenon.

Paul Williams, Professor of Indian and Tibetan Philosophy, University of Bristol.

I have to say, "Right on paul!" Each of us must finally die with whatever certainties (or doubts) that we have been able to personally resolve (or not). Since nobody can grant us certainty by "giving us" their experience (if they could, the enlightened ones of all the great traditions would have done so long ago)they should not try to. The best option I can see is to sincerely share our own experience, strength, and hope with others---and to sincerely allow them to share theirs own with us.
That is impossible for me when I divide the world up into "right views" (mine) and "wrong views" (everyone else's).
According to (at least one) tradition, when the Buddha was about to die he advised his disciples not to take even his own teachings on blind faith alone. "Be a lamp unto yourselves..."
This, for me, has been a treasured teaching. How could any of us know what is right for someone else? I will listen to someones view, test it in practice, and either affirm its effectiveness for me, or not. If it does not work for me, fine; that does not mean it won't work for someone else.

Peace,
Ted

Jordan said...

Ted, the original post was 246 words; your response was 593 words. Now I appreciate your massive wealth of knowledge borne of research and years of reading and am constantly impressed by the vast storage of information you have up there in your brain housing unit. But you have to understand that when you write a thesis paper for a response, while a college professor might appreciate it, I usually just skim through it and wonder what exactly you’re getting at. I think in this case you were just agreeing with the original post but with a lot more words. But I really don’t know.

Here is the thing, I know you’re really smart, and you know you’re really smart. But if you want to be understood you have to understand how to break things down in to more manageable knowledge nuggets. Remember it is saving all sentient beings, not just those at the doctoral reading level.

Jordan said...

Oh, and another thing: I am really enjoying some of the analogies in your book. I can tell that stuff is coming from the heart.

Uku said...

Have you ever seen a cartoon for little kids called "Chuggington"? It's really cool. Choo choo!

Take care, Dharmabro!

Jordan said...

Uku,
Not familiar with Chuggington.

Thanks for the well wishes though.
Happy returns!

Ted Biringer said...

Hello Jordan,

The noble eightfold path.
The noble eightfold path.
The noble eightfold path.

Whose words are these? Living I won't say, dead I won't say.

Why won't you say?

I won't say, I won't say!

Peace,
Ted

Ted Biringer said...

Oh, and sorry about the long post.

Most of it is just an excerpt from the Introduction of Williams's book--he IS a professor...

That is probably how reached the wrong conclusion about my intelligence!

Peace,
Ted

Jordan said...

Ted, those words belong to you and me.

And you are smart, smart ass.

Thanks for looking!