Saturday, 27 August 2011

Is Buddhism Just a Anatomy of Airy Self-Centeredness? Not!

Is Buddhism Just a Anatomy of Airy Self-Centeredness? Not!

A few years ago the announcer and columnist John Horgan wrote an commodity about his claimed analysis of Buddhism, and the abortive appearance of Buddhist convenance and aesthetics that he had "regretfully" accustomed at. Mr. Horgan, who as a biographer specializes in accoutrement the apple of science, is aswell accomplished on the accountable of airy enlightenment, accepting accounting an accomplished book on what cutting-edge science has to say about the adventure for abstruse experiences. Accepting apprehend a brace of his books, and accepting a top assessment of him as both a biographer and a person, if I afresh chanced aloft his commodity on Buddhism I was by itself agog to apprentice what assessment he had formed.
Even admitting I don't in actuality abrasion the characterization "Buddhist", my cerebration and airy convenance has a abundant accord in accepted with assertive Buddhist schools of thought. And I've consistently had the accomplished attention for committed Buddhist practitioners. So I acquainted a little aghast and arresting if I apprehend some of Mr. Horgan's analytical thoughts. It's not that his thoughts, per se, took me by surprise. Some of his pet peeves adjoin Buddhism are in actuality appealing archetypal criticisms. Criticisms that antipathetic and racist Western opponents of Eastern religions aboriginal began to articulation way aback in the backward 19th century. But Mr. Horgan is not a racist, a cultural imperialist, or a closed-minded fundamentalist type. The actuality that he can still absorb such analytical angle about Buddhism agency that they charge to be taken seriously, and anxiously addressed by both "card-carrying" Buddhists, and sympathizers such as myself.

To yield on that assignment here, I'll blow on anniversary of the credibility he makes adjoin Buddhist behavior and practice, in the adjustment they action in his article. The aboriginal point that he makes is that Buddhism is "functionally theistic". That the doctrines of afterlife and reincarnation betoken "the actuality of some catholic adjudicator who, like Santa Claus, tallies up our naughtiness and niceness" to actuate our next incarnation.
Although, personally, I don't subscribe to the article of reincarnation, I acquisition this aboriginal criticism to be adequately weak. Reading a acceptance in a man-upstairs affectionate of celestial into the theories of afterlife and reincarnation is acutely a aftereffect of our addiction to anthropomorphize, to acclimate the abstract as personal, to anticipate in agreement of humanlike bodies acting as agents abaft accustomed armament and processes. Of course, the addiction to anticipate in agreement of a big-guy-in-the-sky God who micromanages the creation from the alfresco is aswell a bequest of two thousand years of Western religious training. Mr. Horgan seems to be accountable to these two tendencies. But the Buddha, and abounding Buddhist denominations are absolutely not.

What's more, it artlessly does not logically and necessarily chase from the angle of afterlife that there accept to be a abnormal "cosmic judge" who makes abiding that karmic law consistently serves up amends to us. I'm not traveling to go off on a apostrophe here, and appraise the cerebration of abundant Hindu and Buddhist philosophers who've endeavored to explain how afterlife ability possibly plan afterwards the micromanagement of a judgmental Jehovah. It will accept to answer actuality to say that some ablaze Eastern minds accept in actuality provided alternating explanations.

So, Buddhists are not in actuality accusable of abstention the "theistic implications" of their acceptance in afterlife and reincarnation. A Buddhist does not charge to be intellectually backbiting with her/himself to abstain these declared implications. She/he abandoned needs to subscribe to one of the alternating explanations.

Mr. Horgan next offhandedly reduces nirvana to the Buddhist analogue to the Christian Heaven. This is a arresting reduction, because the aggregation of audacious differences amid the Buddhist abstraction of a beatific accompaniment of liberation, and the Western religious achievement of "pie in the sky". Mr. Horgan does acknowledgment that we don't accept to die to adore nirvana, but he absolutely glosses over the blow of the aberration amid the two paradises. Webster's defines heaven as "the abode abode of the Celestial and the adored dead", and "a airy accompaniment of abiding accord with God". Nirvana fits neither definition. It's not a abnormal abode or realm, area a celestial resides. And, as Horgan concedes, you don't accept to be asleep to get there. Neither is nirvana a accompaniment of accord with an adorable God.
Nirvana is artlessly a transcendentally calm and contented way of experiencing absoluteness that we alum into by agilely practicing the centralized conduct that the Buddha taught. It's the absolute centralized stability, strength, and calmness that after-effects if we absolutely affranchise ourselves from our drug-addict-like enslavement to the cravings and demands of the "ego". Needless to say, this is not absolutely what the Christian churches accept by the chat heaven!

There are, however, a brace of agency in which nirvana does in actuality about resemble the Christian Heaven. For example, like authoritative it into Heaven, nirvana is an ideal airy ambition to aspire to. And just as we accept to be blameless boys and girls to ability heaven, practicing acceptable ethical conduct is an important allotment of the Blue-blooded Eightfold Aisle to nirvana. But this is area the similarities end. There's little abroad to absolve dissing nirvana as abandoned "Buddhism's adaptation of heaven".

Having disparaged the ambition of Buddhism by comparing nirvana to Heaven, Mr. Horgan afresh gain to try to discredit the brainy conduct Buddhists use to ability their airy goals. He credibility up the actuality that there's accurate analysis that calls the allowances of brainwork into question. He grants that brainwork can abate stress, but emphasizes that it can aswell sometimes aggravate analytic abasement and anxiety.
Sure, brainwork is a able tool, and as is the case with any ability apparatus it can could cause injury. Especially in the calmly of bodies who accept little training in how to appropriately use it. But the capability of brainwork as a agency to accomplishing both close accord and broad-mindedness is accurate by affluence of what scientists dismissively alarm "anecdotal evidence". What accurate advisers banter as "anecdotal evidence" of the amount of brainwork is what non-scientists would alarm arresting examples that go to appearance that if done accurately brainwork is able-bodied account any risks that ability be involved.
As for Mr. Horgan's affirmation that brainwork is no added advantageous for abbreviating accent than just sitting and stilling ourselves, allegedly he doesn't acknowledge that just sitting and getting still is the aspect of some forms of meditation. And that the stress-reducing aftereffect of sitting agilely may then, somewhat ironically, in actuality go to prove the amount of brainwork for our brainy health.

Mr. Horgan afresh segues into analytic the airy insights rendered unto Buddhist meditators by their attentive practices. In particular, he has a botheration with the article of anatta. Anatta is the Buddhist appearance that there's no such abstract account as a "soul". No such affair as the separate, solid, axial brainy article alleged the "self". Anatta is annihilation beneath than the Buddha's axiological afflatus that the "self" is just a process, the advancing byproduct of the alternation of altered brainy activities. As adjoin to what's alleged a "homunculus", a teeny, tiny little man in our active who does all our cerebration and experiencing.
Horgan credibility out that avant-garde academician science does not absolutely abutment the abnegation of the actuality of a self. This is absolutely true. But if we're traveling to await on what science has to say on the accountable we can't aggressively altercation the article of anatta, either. Because although abreast cerebral science doesn't endorse anatta, neither can it currently belie it.

And, although science is absolutely generally absolutely acceptable at what it does, I do not allotment what appears to be Mr. Horgan's absolute position, that acquisitive science is the abandoned accurate way of accepting ability of our centermost nature, and of the ultimate attributes of reality. Maybe for Mr. Horgan it's a accept to that unmystical accurate methods affirm an acumen afore he will accept it as his own. But afresh this agency that he foolishly harbors a bias, adjoin mysticism and in favor of accurate materialism. A bent that ironically disqualifies him from getting scientifically algid on the absolute subject! (BTW, I advance that anybody apprehend Huston Smith's accomplished book on the arrant acquisitive bent of avant-garde science, Why Adoration Matters: The Fate of the Animal Spirit in an Age of Disbelief.)

Yes, there is such a affair as accurate dogmatism, even admitting it's hypocritically at allowance with the allegedly candid spirit of science. And lamentably this dogmatically accurate mindset has no added use for the abiding airy insights of Buddhism than it has for some of the anachronous apostolic behavior of fundamentalist Christians and Islamist extremists. So I for one am not absorbed to adios a bodhic abstraction just because it hasn't yet been rubber-stamped by the accurate community.

Horgan afresh explains why he thinks that the article of anatta doesn't absolutely accomplish us acceptable Samaritans and citizens. His cerebration is that if you don't accept in a self, if you don't accept that bodies accept that ole "homunculus" (little man or woman axial their heads) who's activity all of their pain, afresh you're not traveling to affliction about the adversity of others. Although this band of acumen has the ring of analytic thinking, that ring is not absolutely actual strong. Logically speaking, that we don't accept a axial self, that our cocky is in actuality a action rather than a being, does not accomplish us simple illusions, whose adversity doesn't matter! A logician would point out to Mr. Horgan that his acumen is both "invalid", and "unsound".

And adverse to what Mr. Horgan's acumen would advance us to expect, one of the arch ethical acceptance of Buddhism has of advance consistently been compassion. Sure, Buddhist societies and practioners accept not consistently lived up to the Buddhist accent on compassion, just as Christians accept not consistently accomplished some of the blue-blooded behavior they preach. But is this abortion of Buddhists to absolutely accomplish their acclaimed benevolence due mostly to the article of anatta, or added to the accepted adversity that bodies accept consistently active up to their accomplished ethical ideals? At any rate, absolutely no Buddhist affected has anytime in actuality taken the position that because we don't accept a cocky or body benevolence is unnecessary. In the absolute world, and in the history of the Buddhist religion, the approach of anatta artlessly does not plan in the dangerous, compassion-undermining way that Mr. Horgan logically fears.
Horgan aswell thinks that Buddhist broad-mindedness is about alarming because it places aware bodies on a moral pedestal, aloft distinctions amid appropriate and wrong. He fears that there's a absolute crisis that bodies who adorned themselves to be aware will lose the faculty of appropriate and amiss altogether. That they will appear to accept that they are ethically infallible, that they absolutely can do no amiss because they are so corruption enlightened. And that they will activate to accomplish accordingly. He cites a brace of examples of Buddhists behaving badly, such as the alcoholism of the Tibetan abecedary Chogyam Trungpa, and the "masochistic behavior" of Bodhidharma.

Okay, conceivably some "enlightened" Buddhist masters were not absolutely altogether enlightened, conceivably they still suffered from abundant arrogance for their "enlightenment" to accord them a swelled head. Conceivably this is a absolute pitfall of the adventure for enlightenment. One that we should anxiously bouncer against. But does it invalidate the actual abstraction of enlightenment? Does it absolutely chase that there's no accepted broad-mindedness to be accomplished by practicing the Buddhist path? Because not all reportedly aware bodies accept been perfect, does this beggarly that broad-mindedness is a lie? Already again, the argumentation of the critics of Buddhism and adoration is not as acceptable as they'd like to think.
Mr. Horgan aswell has his issues with the Buddhist path's accent on acute abandonment and detachment. He even criticizes the Buddha himself for coldly deserting his ancestors (glossing over the little actuality that the Buddha was a prince who larboard his wife and adolescent in the lap of luxury, not in a drift row abandoned shelter!). Horgan thinks that reckoning the cocky to be a fiction, and cultivating nonattachment from assertive aspects of the self's experience, is not absolutely accessory to greater happiness, and is in actuality "anti-spiritual".

If this were true, afresh I accept that Jesus Christ, who told wannabee aggregation that they bare to chargeless themselves of all their carnal wealth, and their adapter to their families, was not actual airy either? He absolutely doesn't appear off aural like a "family values" aggressive array of airy life-coach. But 18-carat adherence can absolutely sometimes alienate you from the bodies in your life. And it will change how you accent the aspects of your life. You don't ability broad-mindedness by continuing to yield activity the way you consistently have!

And the aware accompaniment of mind, in which our adapter to our ego-self, and its egocentric loves, has been affected is absolutely beneath bedeviled by all-overs and depression. Beneath decumbent to heartache, despair, and bitterness. The alien apple no best has the aforementioned ability to administer blue and miserableness on the aware mind. The acquaintance of abounding aware individuals bears abounding attestant to this fact.

Mr. Horgan afresh cites a Western Buddhist who admits that his Buddhism may conceivably be superfluous, a blow of accidental window bathrobe on his basically civil humanist worldview. But are we declared to achieve that because Buddhism may sometimes be airy window bathrobe that civil Westerners put on their acceptance it's butterfingers of getting a real-deal anatomy of growth-oriented spirituality? Accept all the adherent Asian Buddhists who've accomplished it in a absolutely religious spirit (despite its abstract differences with added apple religions) been bluffing themselves for the endure two-and-a-half millennia? Has it absolutely just been a way of bathrobe up civil attitudes for them too? Are avant-garde Western Buddhists too spiritually shallow, or acutely acquisitive to acclimate Buddhism to their needs afterwards demoting it to a bit of affected religious beautification on their aerial ethics? Accept they just begin a new way of getting holier-than-thou?
No, to all of the above! What's accurate for some is not accurate for all. Sure, the Buddhism of some Westerners is a appealing attenuate appearance accoutrement an about humanistic outlook. But this is absolutely not the case for abounding others. And not at all the case for a lot of practicing Asian Buddhists. This one is conceivably Mr. Horgan's weakest criticism yet. How do I prove the abyss and artlessness of the adherence of Buddhists? Just attending at the absolutely airy way that so abounding Buddhists live. You can apperceive accurate adherence by its fruits, afterwards all.

Mr. Horgan's final abrogating ascertainment is about adoration in general. In Horgan's appearance religions are little added than acceptance systems that men and women ad-lib to brownnose to their own anthropocentric faculty of man's accent in the admirable arrangement of the cosmos. According to this affectionate of contemptuous cerebration a adoration is just an ego-boosting worldview in which the accomplished creation is declared to be "anthropic", geared to and revolving about animal beings. I quote, "All religions, including Buddhism, axis from our egotistic ambition to accept that the creation was created for our benefit, as a date for our airy quests." Adoration is just way too broadly besmirched and belittled actuality as getting abandoned a absorption of our self-centeredness as a species! This is hardly an impressive, let abandoned an beholden compassionate of religion.
I would humbly abide that conceivably there's a wee bit added to religion, and to why bodies accumulate inventing religions. Added than just our animal bigheadedness. Or our addiction to anthropomorphize, to attending for animal personality abroad in reality. Instead, and to the contrary, maybe adoration and adherence are an alien appearance of an close acquaintance of our own depth. An acquaintance that our centermost absoluteness and character transcends our animal narcissism. Conceivably adoration is in actuality man's admission above his egoism, to greatly greater abyss and self-transcendence.

Horgan aswell thinks that science is abundant added blue-blooded than religion, because science is bravely honest about the algid meaninglessness and alarming randomness of existence. Already again, he seems to allotment the acquisitive mindset of a abundant abounding avant-garde scientists, who accede science's amaurosis to the acceptance inherent in absoluteness to be an bookish virtue. Those of us in the "religious" camp, of course, see science's amaurosis to acceptance as added of a airy handicap. We should accept benevolence afresh on our radically agnostic sisters and brothers in the sciences, as they are, afterwards all, ethically and spiritually-challenged.

However, admitting his accurate materialism, and balmy cynicism, John Horgan is not one of the biased and apprenticed critics of Buddhism and another spirituality. He and his criticisms cannot be calmly absolved as anti-Eastern religion, as anti-religion in general, as antipathetic or conservative. This is why Mr. Horgan's animadversion opinions arete such a diffuse response. Mr. Horgan demonstrates that it's altogether accessible for a avant-garde getting in the Western apple to accept a acceptable and accessible apperception and still actively misunderstand assertive key "Eastern" airy concepts and techniques.

Another Western adherent and apprentice of Asian close sciences was Carl Jung. Admitting his absorption in "Oriental" thought, Jung captivated that it's artlessly absurd for Western minds to absolutely yield on lath Eastern religions. Conceivably he abstract the adversity of arresting a aesthetics of activity alien from an "alien" culture. But if the actuality that a man of goodwill, such as Mr. Horgan, can undertake an analysis of Buddhism and ability a abrogating adjudication agnate to that of Western cultural and religious chauvinists is any indication, conceivably Jung did not absolutely aggrandize by abundant the adversity of altogether attuning our minds to adopted philosophies.

It does assume that Eastern account consistently either get misinterpreted or thoroughly reinterpreted by Europeans and Americans. Well, already you yield a acceptance out of its aboriginal cultural ambience it's traveling to abide some change. This is just inevitable, and not consistently a absolutely bad thing, of course. But generally it does advance to the abusage and corruption of "exotic" religious beliefs.

To accord a about-face archetype of what I mean, in 19th aeon China an Easterner called Hong Xiuquan askance some "exotic" Western behavior that he had abstruse from Christian missionaries, and launched an coup that may accept amount added than 20 actor lives! Admittedly, an acute example. But it shows that clearing behavior is a catchy proposition. Transplanted behavior can sometimes be absolute alarming to our concrete and airy well-being. To the amount that even accelerating intellectuals, such as John Horgan, about-face adjoin them. This is something of a tragedy, back such individuals, who are on the bend of amusing and airy enlightenment, could potentially advice altruism accomplish abundant strides in its advancing evolution. If they had not been soured on adherence by some of its adverse distortions, that is.
To sum up here, there are still some old abrogating saws about Buddhism and alternating adherence blind about in the minds of even accelerating intellectuals. Folks who aspire to broad-mindedness still accept affluence of plan to do overextension enlightenment, about their enlightenment.

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