20 12 / 2013
I find it intriguing that Buddhism could be considered threatening by anyone. In one version of the Ratzinger story, the Cardinal seems to be a raving reactionary. In another, though he makes plain his convictions about a transcendent truth, he seems speculative and thoughtful. Huh.
In 1997 Ratzinger called Buddhism an “autoerotic spirituality” that offers “transcendence without imposing concrete religious obligations.” Hinduism, he said, offers “false hope,” in that it guarantees “purification” based on a “morally cruel” concept of reincarnation resembling “a continuous circle of hell.” At the time, Cardinal Ratzinger predicted that Buddhism would replace Marxism as the Catholic church’s main enemy.
A Christian cannot give up his knowledge of revealed truth, that Jesus Christ is the only son of God. If they are attracted to Buddhism, this is because it offers a possibility of happiness by touching the infinite, without having concrete religious obligations. It is, to some extent, a spiritual self-absorption. Somebody predicted in 1950, that the challenge to the Church in the 20th century would not be Marxism, but Buddhism.
I think his description of the initial attraction of Buddhism is a fair one without it having to be a fair description of Buddhism itself.
28 11 / 2013
I’m reluctant to make judgments about what other teachers are doing, but I will merely point to one important adaptation that has taken place in the contemporary teaching of vipassana meditation that can easily pass unnoticed. I get the impression that the purpose for which mindfulness meditation is being taught in the West has undergone a sea change from its traditional function, perhaps because many Western teachers are teaching outside the framework of classical Buddhist doctrine. Mindfulness meditation, it seems, is now taught mainly as a means to heighten our experience of the present moment. The aim of the practice is to enable us to accept everything that happens to us without discrimination. Through heightened mindfulness of the present moment, we learn to accept everything as intrinsically good, to see everything as instructive, to experience everything as inherently rewarding. We can thus simply abide in the present, heartily accepting whatever comes, open to the ever-fresh, ever-unpredictable flow of events.
Now at a certain level, such a style of teaching does impart valuable lessons to us. It is certainly much better to accept whatever comes than to live eagerly pursuing pleasure and anxiously fleeing pain. It is much wiser to see the positive lessons inherent in pain, loss and transience than to bemoan our miserable fate. However, to present this as the main point of the Buddha’s teaching would be, in my view, a misinterpretation of the Dhamma. The Buddha’s teaching, as given in the suttas, has quite a different logic behind it. The teaching isn’t designed to culminate in acceptance of the world, but to lead out beyond the confines of conditioned experience to that which transcends the world, to the ageless and deathless, which is also the cessation of suffering. Simply maintaining awareness of the present in order to arrive at a detached acceptance of the present could easily lead through the back door to a reconciliation with samsara, to a reaffirmation of samsara, not to release from samsara.
In the classical teaching, through mindful attention to the present, we zoom in on the arising and passing away of phenomena in order to gain insight into their impermanence. But we don’t affirm the impermanence of things; it is not in this way that we reach the end of suffering. The insight into impermanence, anicca, becomes, rather, the gateway to the insights into dukkha, the flawed nature of all conditioned things, and anatta, the selfless nature of all phenomena. And insight into these three characteristics brings disenchantment with all conditioned things. From disenchantment comes dispassion, and from dispassion liberation, the realization of nibbana here and now."
28 11 / 2013
27 11 / 2013
20 11 / 2013