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Thread: in whom do we trust?

  1. #1

    in whom do we trust?

    Hello everyone. I'm new here and this will be my first topic on this forum aside from introductions. It is also one that has weighed on me heavily. My first encounter with dharma was Buddhadharma about 10 years ago. In that time I've familiarized myself with many of its major schools, traditions and cultural manifestations. But I've also found myself drawn to Hindu dharma or Vedanta for philosophical and experiential reasons. I've found much in Buddhist philosophy that is questionable, especially in early and Theravada Buddhism, whether it be the teachings on no-self, dependent arising, nominalism, or momentariness, including the atomism to be found in Abhidhammic literature.

    Yet I also have respect for the fact that Buddhism makes extensive use of meditation and deeper states of consciousness. Of all the religions of the world, Buddhism seems to stick out like a sore thumb, because it makes no affirmation of God, the soul, transcendental reality, etc. I'm aware that 'transcendent, unchanging reality' is tricky in that many Buddhist schools affirm this, whether in terms of tathatagarba or buddhanature of what have you. But Theravada will have no talk of such things. Buddhism, especially early Buddhism, staked its identity in opposition to Vedic principles, and even today all schools insist that what they are teaching is not Vedanta.

    I've often felt torn over this issue, because both traditions use very similar methods and have teachers that have meditated and accessed very deep levels of awareness and yet seem to have directly the opposite to say on the nature of mind, self, and reality. One says that there is an unchanging ground which is God/universal consciousness/true self, the other say that there is no unchanging ground and everything is dependently arisen and there exists no self. Since I have not even got close to mastering one tradition let alone both, how does one make a decision ultimately?

    I'm not sure if this is the correct area of the forum to post this question. Please feel free to move it if necessary.

    Thanks for reading. Peace.

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    Re: in whom do we trust?

    Hi, Mike.

    I've taken a journey that is very similar to your own, although I've passed the point of decision-making. I spent much of my life searching for the right Buddhist tradition for me before realizing just last year that I'm a Hindu at heart. (I still respect many Buddhist teachings and teachers, however, and I benefitted considerably from my exposure to Buddhism.) This kind of decision is both personal and complex. Each of us confronted with a choice between Buddhadharma and Sanātana Dharma will gradually decide on the basis of a unique set of concerns. If we've made a serious study of both families of traditions, then we will have to weigh many factors.

    For me the choice involved dozens of issues. Here are a few of them: Can I continue to regard the Buddha as the supreme spiritual teacher and refrain from seeking refuge from saṃsāra in "worldly" gods or non-Buddhist philosophers and their teachings? (If I can't, then this is "breach of refuge" or violation of "refuge precepts," depending upon one's Buddhist tradition and I can't be a lay follower of the Buddha, according to the texts.) How can the Buddhist doctrine of karma be necessary for preserving morality in the world, as the scriptures teach, if it makes no sense in the context of the more advanced teachings? (In brief: Buddhism initially stresses that our karma belongs to us, that we are responsible for it, and that it is a necessary basis for moral action. If we want positive results, we must take positive actions. Then Buddhism proceeds to undermine these ideas, teaching that the "person," conventionally speaking, who is reborn is not the same as the person who died. In fact we are not even the same "person" from moment to moment. Thus the motivation for right action must be compassion for the conventional experience of suffering wherever it may "be." The doctrine of karma is not necessary to keep "people" moral after all.) What do I make of the fact that the scriptures that place the greatest emphasis on compassion for other creatures and our responsibility to help them, the Tathāgatagarbha Sūtras, appear to have been influenced by Hindu texts? Does it matter to me if the traditions that most speak to me within Buddhism, the Mahāyāna traditions, providing a sophisticated and sensible ethics, numerous justifications for abstaining from eating flesh, and the teaching of nondualism are a relatively late development, portraying a Śākyamuni Buddha who likely bears little resemblance to the historical Buddha? Does it matter to me if an ancient shift in the pronunciation of Chinese characters led to the common mispronunciation of Buddhist mantras in Chinese Buddhism? Does it matter to me if the practice of reciting mantras makes more sense in a Hindu context? And so on...

    I still respect many things about many traditions of Buddhadharma and I always will. They played a large part in shaping who I am. I still find much of Buddhism inspiring and admire many of its great teachers. I just can't be a Buddhist.

    Best regards.
    Last edited by anucarh; 18 January 2015 at 05:07 PM. Reason: grammatical corrections
    śrīmate nārāyaṇāya namaḥ

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    Re: in whom do we trust?

    Vannakkam Mike, Welcome to this forum.

    I hope you enjoy your stay here, and learn some stuff while you're at it.

    I know absolutely nothing about Buddhism, so I can't say anything about that.

    As for the search, I've observed just how individualised it is. People take on what makes sense to them, in the end, unless they're prone to sticking with what their parents taught them, or are very open to suggestions. So I'd encourage meditative reflection on just about everything during this exploration. There are many varieties of Hindus on this forum, and in life, so there is lots to explore.

    Aum Namasivaya

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    Re: in whom do we trust?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike View Post
    One says that there is an unchanging ground which is God/universal consciousness/true self, the other say that there is no unchanging ground and everything is dependently arisen and there exists no self.
    Hello Mike, Namaste

    The 'self' of Buddhism is not the same as the 'Self' of SanAtan Dharma, Hinduism.

    For Buddhism, 'self' is your current personality. Obviously it is transient, changing. From moment to moment, year to year, birth to birth. It is this 'self' that one should not be attached to, and this is the momentariness of Buddhism. Sort out everything that changes, as that is not shAswat (eternal), and hence not the ultimate to worry about.

    This is what vedAnta says as well. The difference? vedAnta focuses on "then what is it that is unchanging, THAT, which remains when you sift out everything that is changing?"

    Buddha taught nothing but vedAnta, except he focused on the transient, what to sift out, what NOT to do, it is the same neti-neti. The difference? He stayed silent about BhagavAn, Brahman, THAT, He, Self, and its Glories,
    THAT which remains after SiddhArtha Gautam Buddha's original instructions are followed. He did not mention WHAT REMAINS. He just said -- "Sift this and this out, and that and this"

    According to me, Buddha's teachings were distorted when Buddhism left India OR people started focusing on the "tarka", the conclusion, rather than the process. Buddha wanted people to focus on the process. Because He did not think the people in his fold in those times were ready for the conclusion. Thus He engaged the atheists in spirituality and goodness, pious living.

    In Hinduism or SanAtan Dharma, Buddha is considered an avatAr of BhagvAn VishNu.

    om namo bhagavate vAsudevAya
    Last edited by smaranam; 18 January 2015 at 10:40 PM.
    || Shri KRshNArpaNamastu ||

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    Re: in whom do we trust?

    Namaste Mike,

    Quote Originally Posted by Mike View Post
    I've often felt torn over this issue, because both traditions use very similar methods and have teachers that have meditated and accessed very deep levels of awareness and yet seem to have directly the opposite to say on the nature of mind, self, and reality. One says that there is an unchanging ground which is God/universal consciousness/true self, the other say that there is no unchanging ground and everything is dependently arisen and there exists no self. Since I have not even got close to mastering one tradition let alone both, how does one make a decision ultimately?
    I have studied Buddhism but have not practised it. I find Advaita VedAnta much richer than what Buddhism has to offer. At the highest level, I find that except some terms, both the paths speak similar things. I would like to point out these in this context :

    a) Buddhism talks on "no-self". In my opinion, this has been misunderstood by Buddhists in their bid to show that they are completely different from VedAnta. When you say, "no-self" this should mean that there is nothing which continues after this birth. If that were so, then what is the use of Nibbaana (called Nirvan in Hindu dharma) and for whom ? If "no-self" means "the body-mind-individuality" i.e. a peculiar personality in this birth then Hindus and Buddhists are saying the same thing. The same personality doesn't take birth again. However, it has to be accepted that for validity of Karma theory, re-births, NirvAna etc. there must be something (and that must be essence of the being) which must be responsible for the continuity of the previous birth to next birth.

    b) Buddhism doesn't say anything about "SELF" too or denies it also outrightly. However, Buddhahood is there ... enlightenment is there. VedAnta says that "It is"/Existence from which everything originates. It is not a thing which can be perceived by mind (Ref: MAndukya Upanishad, the Turiya state of Brahman) but there must be some essence from which everything comes out or at least appear to come out. Existence cannot come out of non-existence.

    c) Buddhists deny any God but believe in their teachers who are not in physical bodies. They seek their blessings. When "self" and "Self" and "God" are denied, how can there be any teacher (who has left his body) to help and what is the use of prayers ? Question is how a teacher/Guru exists and maintains its personality after death if there is no-self ?

    God or no-God, the system of this universe is certainly very intelligent and therefore, there must be some intelligence working behind the scene. Anything can be converted into any other thing only when both the things are essentially the same. If intelligence comes out from non-intelligent things then non-intelligent things and intelligence cannot be different from each other. That is what VedAnta says. VedAnta talks of Consciousness which is the substratum of everything that we perceive in this universe and even that we can't perceive. There is nothing but Consciousness and that is God and from Him comes every being , everything and even those things which are beyond mental concepts.

    Per VedAnta, at the highest level i.e. in Turiya state, there is no God which is separate from the seeker-of-God as there is no differentiation left ... it is likened with the phenomenon of water mixing with water (Individual Self dissolves in Brahman). Per VedAnta, God, this gross world and the subtle world apparently arise from that unconceivable Truth i.e. the fourth state of Brahman under the influence of MAyA i.e. power of Brahman.

    OM
    Last edited by devotee; 20 January 2015 at 03:24 AM. Reason: spelling mistakes - "on-intelligent" changed to "non-intelligent"
    "Om Namo Bhagvate Vaasudevaye"

  6. #6

    Re: in whom do we trust?

    Namasate Mike,

    Firstly all of the above the answers are very good, and little much that I can add.

    I First came in contact with Buddhism before my journey in Sanatana Dharma, and I had some very important insights within the Buddhist traditions, so I never really threw the whole of Buddhism out and have been studying practicing both side by side as complimentary to each other, so it does not always mean that everything has to get thrown out. Since practicing Vaishnavism, I have done many retreats, especially in Vipassana and I have been in audience with H.H Dalia Lama and attended his teachings on Lam Rim, the benefits of Buddhism especially in the field of spiritual psychology are without doubt very profound. I still listen to Ajahn Chah and selective Buddhist studies, and find them very beneficial within my core study which is Bhagavad Gita.

    The context of Vedanta and Buddhism is slightly different as smaranam Ji pointed out when it comes to the topic of self or Self as is expressed in Vedanta. seemingly we have two opposing notions, sat ( eternal) Chit ( consciousness/awareness) ananda ( Bliss or complete satisfaction) which is the core philosophical concept of Vedanta as the goal. Then in Buddhism they have Annicha ( impermanence ) Annata ( no self ) and Dukkha ( Unsatisfactory-ness ), so we could by philosophical comparisons say that we have polar opposites and conflicting views. But Vedanta is describing which is beyond the phenomenal range and Buddhism is describing the phenomenal range. So there is no use really to make this type of comparison, but strangely enough teachers do and they tend to build up dogmas and belief systems which then cause the problems, Sri Buddha Muni was not constructing a belief system, he was teaching sadhanas and practices. And from my understanding while there is the teaching and expression of the Ultimate reality in Vedanta it to is not exactly a belief system in the way that Abrahammic religions will have a belief and faith, Shradha ( Saddha-Pali) or as the title of your " in whom do we trust" is a faith but both Vedanta and Buddhism both apply faith according to sadhana or practice. So faith really is the applied practice and it can be measured through conscious awareness.

    In the highest states of realization most traditions will say the ultimate experience is beyond our intellectual notion and conceptualizing feild of expression, Sri Buddha Muni refereed to Nirvana or Nibbana in this way, and in fact forbid or at least said it was a waste of time to speculate or reflect on what is Nibbanna and considered it a waste of time. Vedanta and other Hindu traditions may have a different view on this, so we will just see Sri Buddha Muni as adopting a certain type of teaching which in fact is fully included within the Vedic Models of approach.

    Perhaps the most unique aspect of Buddhism is that anyone can practice it, one can be an hardcore Atheists and still benefit from Buddhism meditation, Buddhism only really deals with the conditions of this world, if it includes a higher metaphysical reality then its not exactly Buddhism its then more closer to Vedanta.

    Ys

    Md

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    Re: in whom do we trust?

    Namaskar Mike,

    Welcome to the forums. I guarantee that if you stick around you will learn a lot here; I know I have.

    I have studied both Buddhadharma and Sanatana Dharma extensively for about five years and my studies in both traditions continue even unto this day. Honestly, I don't see much of a difference between the two paths except for what has already been mentioned here by others (great responses by the way!). To most, it seems like you've got one side that essentially says there is "nothing" and then another side that says there is "something". In reality, I think it is both. Let me share some insight:

    "The yogi knows the unknowable, knows It as everything, yet knows that in essence It is the No Thing."

    It is not that there is "nothing"; it's just that the "something" is beyond "things". It is No Thing. Our labels of It, our words for It can never describe It. Why? Because It is beyond the intellectual mind. It is found within the heart, within the core of the being.

    Just as the Tao Te Ching states,

    "The Tao that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Tao. The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name."

    "That is why It is called the Form of the Formless, The Image of Nothingness. That is why It is called the Elusive: Meet It and you do not see Its face; Follow It and you do not see Its back."

    The Absolute Reality can be looked at but not seen, listened to, but not heard, and touched, but not felt. Only those who have seen, heard, and touched It know that It cannot be seen, heard, or touched.

    So yes, there is "something" but it is actually "nothing" because it is No Thing.

    Pranam.

    ॐ नमः शिवाय,
    LightofOm
    ॐ मृत्युंजयाय रुद्राय नीलकण्ठाय शम्भवे l
    अमृतेशाय शर्वाय महादेवाय ते नम: ll

    Sanātana Dharma Worldwide

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    Re: in whom do we trust?

    Quote Originally Posted by smaranam View Post
    In Hinduism or SanAtan Dharma, Buddha is considered an avatAr of BhagvAn VishNu.
    Namaste smaranam ji,

    It is good to see you sharing your insights, as always.

    I just wanted to share that this is not accepted within all of the traditions of Sanātana Dharma. Some disagree with the idea.

    I have some manuals of Śrī Vaiṣṇava prayer and worship. One is a guide to the laghu bhagavad ārādhana kramaḥ (Short Worship System) prepared by Sunder Kidambi under the guidance of his ācārya (teacher). One section includes giving homage to ten avatāras* (incarnations) of Lord Viṣṇu, each by name. In this section these words (reproduced exactly as written) caught my eye:


    "27. Now arcanā (offering of flowers, petals, tulasi or aksata or kumkum with names of the Lord or Goddess) is performed with either tulasī or puṣpam while chanting the following for nārāyaṇa (12 main names followed by 10 avatars note NO BUDDHA as Sri Vasnavas do not accept BUDDHAVATARA. If there is more time 108 or 1008 names may be offered)"


    It seems that the Śrī Vaiṣṇava sampradāya (tradition) holds a different view.

    praṇām



    * Homage to the ten is given as follows:

    oṁ matsyāya namaḥ oṁ kūrmāya namaḥ oṁ varāhāya namaḥ oṁ narasiṁhāya namaḥ oṁ vāmanāya namaḥ oṁ bhārgava ramāya namaḥ oṁ daśaratha ramāya namaḥ oṁ balaramāya namaḥ oṁ kṛṣṇāya namaḥ oṁ kalkine namaḥ


    I should mention for those who do not know that bhārgava rāma is paraśurāma.
    Last edited by anucarh; 20 January 2015 at 01:16 AM. Reason: corrected "no" to "not"
    śrīmate nārāyaṇāya namaḥ

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    Re: in whom do we trust?

    Namaste Anucarhji

    You are right. I was aware there are traditions that skip Buddha and include BalarAm. Part of the reason could be -- if Buddha was acknowledged as an avatAr, then it would give license to atheism as his teachings were [mis]interpreted to be.

    One point to note however, is that dashAvtAr is not a scriptural list. Shrimad BhAgavat lists at least 24 major avatArs, and mentions both BalarAm and Buddha (by Buddha I mean SiddhArth Gautam Buddha -- who was predicted by VedavyAs as a future appearance).

    As long as one understands the intention of Buddha ( to herd the rebels & atheists as well as shelter/cater to the ones that did not fit into the vaidic social structure, towards their own good i.e. spirituality and goodness ) then it is no harm for a VaishNav to think Buddha was an avatAr -- be it a disguised one.
    It should not be hard to believe that Mother makes two drastically different meals for different children.

    om namo bhagavate vAsudevAya
    || Shri KRshNArpaNamastu ||

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    Re: in whom do we trust?

    Namaste Smaranam ji,

    > Part of the reason could be -- if Buddha was acknowledged as an avatAr,
    > then it would give license to atheism as his teachings were [mis]interpreted to be.

    This makes sense. It would explain a lot. You may be right. I don't know. All I know for certain is that the Śrī Vaiṣṇava tradition does "not accept" the founding teacher of the Buddhadharma as an incarnation of Śrīman-Nārāyaṇa or Śrī Viṣṇu and rarely mentions him in discussions of incarnations. Both the Agni Purāṇa and the Garuḍa Purāṇa, according to what I've read, list the Buddha as one of the ten major avatāras (incarnations) of Lord Viṣṇu, but this tradition does not accept this. It might have a different textual tradition for the purāṇas. I'm not sure. I'm reasonably certain that it does not recognize him as part of any list of incarnations (the 10, the 22, the 24, and certainly not the 39 in the Ahirbhudhnya Saṁhitā). I need to buy a copy of a Śrī Vaiṣṇava commentary on the Bhāgavata Purāṇa to further investigate this.

    Personally, I'm neutral with regard to this issue at the moment. I thought it was important to mention that traditions disagree about this, because I know that the idea of the Buddha as a divine incarnation can be a stumbling block for many individuals with a Buddhist background. (Sometimes this is related to a specific passage in an early Buddhist scripture.)

    > As long as one understands the intention of Buddha ( to herd the rebels & atheists
    > as well as shelter/cater to the ones that did not fit into the vaidic social structure,
    > towards their own good i.e. spirituality and goodness ) then it is no harm for a VaishNav
    > to think Buddha was an avatAr -- be it a disguised one. It should not be hard to believe
    > that Mother makes two drastically different meals for different children.

    I see your point. This makes sense.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective.

    praṇām
    śrīmate nārāyaṇāya namaḥ

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