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I can't get buddhism

JarsJars Registered User regular
edited March 2010 in Help / Advice Forum
I wanted to learn more about it, but it's a much more complicated religion it seems. In the abrahamic religions it's really simple: read this book(bible/koran/torah) and do what it says. In buddhism there is no universal text, and there are like 8 different sects. Where is a good place to start?

Jars on

Posts

  • matisyahumatisyahu Registered User
    edited March 2010
    You'll probably want to read an account of the life of the Buddha.

    See if you can find a copy of this book:
    http://www.amazon.com/Buddha-Very-Short-Introduction-Introductions/dp/0192854534/

    It does a good job putting the Buddha in context and, while the book is indeed very short, the author doesn't oversimplify, and you'll learn how various schools of Buddhism branched off. You'll also get to know a bit about Buddhist scriptures if you want to read them at some point, but they can be very long.

    This list is actually really helpful and gives all the advice I would give:
    http://www.amazon.com/Buddhism-Essentials-for-the-Beginner/lm/R9E731SMGLP4J/

    i dont even like matisyahu and i dont know why i picked this username
  • soxboxsoxbox Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    You're looking at it the wrong way. "Buddhism" is a pretty broad thing. Imagine looking around and going "right, got to figure out this monotheism thing, but where do I start? There's the bible, the koran, the torah, the book of mormon".

    I also in no way think that judaism, christianity or islam are as simple as 'following the instructions in the book', and buddhism is no different, but in terms of rough equivalents to the texts you mentioned:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_Buddhist_canon
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pali_Canon
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tibetan_Buddhist_canon

  • DodgeBlanDodgeBlan Gaderen PSN: GaderenRegistered User regular
    edited March 2010
    the four pillars of Buddhism are about the only universal aspect

    OooOOOoOoOOOooOOOoOOOoOoOOoOOoOOOOOOOOoooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOooooooooooooooo
  • obpancakeobpancake Registered User
    edited March 2010
    I just graduated with a degree in Religious Studies, with an emphasis in Buddhism and Hinduism (now there's something you'll NEVER fully understand) and having trouble approaching Buddhism is more common than you might think, probably because most of us grew up around and/or in a monotheistic tradition. Buddhism is tough to 'get' at first because understanding it involves really thinking differently than what we're used to. It's really not any more complicated than the many sects of say, Christianity, its just much more... foreign. It doesn't help that there's so much (imo) crap put out under the guise of Buddhism that clutters bookshelves, at least here in the States.

    Books are a great start. I'll second matisyahu's suggestion of A Very Short Introduction and back it up with the one on Buddhism itself, though I'd start with the Buddha myself.

    If you feel comfortable with a pretty straightforward textbook, and have the cash for it, Strong's Experience of Buddhism is a good start as well, its on the list matisyahu posted.

    Beyond reading, there are some good documentaries, albeit hard to track down, that are helpful. You'd also be surprised at how many Dharma Centers there are around the world, even in the West. Like any church, these groups may be hit or miss and will probably represent a specific sect or outlook on Buddhism, but they're still a great place to get started.

  • The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    We had a rather fantastic discussion on Buddhism, complete with a lot of Q&A a few months back.

    Here's a link!

    Otherwise, it really depends on what kind of Buddhism you're interested in learning more about. Wikipedia, actually, has a decent portal and I would recommend it with only a little embarrassment.

    Otherwise, the Dhammapada is the "core text" for Theravada ("orthodox", traditional Buddhism), and is probably the best place to begin. I would, at least at the beginning, avoid the Dali Lama and/or most Tibetan work as it tends to skew the importance of what is in actuality a rather minor and unimportant collection of sects.

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  • GothicLargoGothicLargo Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    1. Life as we know it ultimately is or leads to suffering/uneasiness (dukkha) in one way or another.
    2. Suffering is caused by craving. This is often expressed as a deluded clinging to a certain sense of existence, to selfhood, or to the things or phenomena that we consider the cause of happiness or unhappiness. Craving also has its negative aspect, i.e. one craves that a certain state of affairs not exist.
    3. Suffering ends when craving ends. This is achieved by eliminating delusion, thereby reaching a liberated state of Enlightenment (bodhi);
    4. Reaching this liberated state is achieved by following the path laid out by the Buddha.

    Those are the four noble truths. The simple crib notes version of Buddhism is to ask yourself what Yoda would do.

    Buddhism arose from a long, drawn out evaluation of the human condition by an enlightened person who had the free time to give it a bit of thought. All the Abrahamic religions are basically repetitions of the same basic theme that the Zoroastrians thought up... that there's one superior God, he created everything, and he told me to tell you what his rules are. The only things that really change are the rules and who is reading them off.

    I disagree with Buddhism for the reason that Buddha was himself high-born and his position reflects that. His religion makes sense when applied to people who have everything but what matters. He never experienced a craving to live in the face of death not by your own hands, as was the case for all the Abrahamic faiths. Facing annihilation has a certain way of putting life in perspective, something Buddha never endured.

    Basically, Buddha did not realize that at the core of our being, at the cellular level, all organisms fight every day to exist, and have done so for well more then a billion years.

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  • The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    EDIT: Ninjas!
    I disagree with Buddhism for the reason that Buddha was himself high-born and his position reflects that. His religion makes sense when applied to people who have everything but what matters. He never experienced a craving to live in the face of death not by your own hands, as was the case for all the Abrahamic faiths. Facing annihilation has a certain way of putting life in perspective, something Buddha never endured.

    Shakyamuni was born high, and descended in the midst of the night at the age of 29 to escape the palace and willingly abandon his life of privilege. He had seen the poor, sick and dying in his father's lands, and the suffering had a profound effect upon him. What followed were years upon years of aestheticism in which Shakyamuni lived simply and without comfort. When, finally, he confronted the truths of the universe (those four noble ones' truths) the deamon Mara tested the young Buddha extensively.

    So, no, Shakyamuni wasn't some spoiled palace dweller. In fact, he explicitly abandoned the comforts of that life when faced with the suffering of the world.
    Basically, Buddha did not realize that at the core of our being, at the cellular level, all organisms fight every day to exist, and have done so for well more then a billion years.

    All life is suffering, eh?

    You're simply incorrect, the entirety of the Buddhist path is based around the concept that all life is a struggle, be it purely emotional, physical or spiritual. That action in our world necessarily leads, in every case, to suffering. It is breaking that cycle of suffering and terror of action that Shakyamuni was concerned with.

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  • FantasmaFantasma Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    GothicLargo

    Are you basically saying that buddhism is useless religion?

    Hear my warnings, unbelievers. We have raised altars in this land so that we may sacrifice you to our gods. There is no hope in opposing the inevitable. Put down your arms, unbelievers, and bow before the forces of Chaos!
  • GothicLargoGothicLargo Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    So, no, Shakyamuni wasn't some spoiled palace dweller. In fact, he explicitly abandoned the comforts of that life when faced with the suffering of the world.

    I was speaking more about arbitrary hatred. "I will kill you because of what your parents raised you to believe."

    He chose his path. Psychologically that matters a lot (consider the mentality of Vietnam volunteers vs draftees). Everything he endured he could rationalize by having chosen it, it was never forced on him, it was never all he ever knew.

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  • The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Largo, we could get into an entire discussion on the finer points of karma and causation.

    Suffice to say that if you dislike the entirety of Buddhism because "everything could be rationalized", you're taking a rather narrow view of the last 2000 years. That's like me not liking the President because he didn't grow up in a gang in Detroit.

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  • GothicLargoGothicLargo Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    *Shrug*

    Yes we could, but I'm as disinclined to get into a bickering match about it as I think you are.

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  • KiTAKiTA Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Start with this book and go from there:

    http://www.amazon.com/dp/086171380X?tag=hardzen-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=086171380X&adid=1J0ZERGECCK934ANRACG&

    A lot of people don't like Brad Warner (he's a Zen Buddhist with a very pragmatic approach -- he used to be a drummer in a punk rock band, not exactly your typical bald old monk), but I happened to get a lot out of his books.

    time to crash, the dawn is up, the sun gleems out glorious ps4 sunbeams and i can trade those sunbeams and do whatever i want with them.
  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Jars wrote: »
    I wanted to learn more about it, but it's a much more complicated religion it seems. In the abrahamic religions it's really simple: read this book(bible/koran/torah) and do what it says. In buddhism there is no universal text, and there are like 8 different sects. Where is a good place to start?

    Oh, it is really not that simple even for the Abrahamic religions. The Bible is in no way a straightforward text for living, and if you try to use it that way, you'll end up trying to do about 700 contradictory things. Even the fundamentalists need a guide (a minister) to help them understand which things are important.

    Religion is NOT simple. If you treat it as a simple list of instructions for a moral life, you will go wrong.

    I would not advise learning a religion from a book, or set of books. Religions are living communities. If you are interested in finding out about Buddhism as it is really lived, you need to talk to some Buddhists. In real life.

  • BeltaineBeltaine The End of TimeRegistered User regular
    edited March 2010
    When I wanted to learn about Buddhism, a Buddhist friend of mine recommended a book called The Miracle of Mindfullness by Thich Naht Hahn.

    I couldn't wrap my head around it, ("Wash the dishes to wash the dishes" lolwut!?) but if you want to give it a try, I'd be happy to mail it to you, no charge.

    Trepanning is the art of cutting the skull open to let the gods in.
    PSN: Beltaine-77
    Steam: beltane77
    Gamertag:Beltaine
  • KiTAKiTA Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Brad Warner has a blog as well:
    http://hardcorezen.blogspot.com/

    He has some interesting things to say about Mindfullness and the sort (hint: it's fluff that has no meaning).

    Zen is actually an interesting situation. It's not a religion per say, it's more like they took the philosophy from Buddhism and set that aside for Zen. It's mostly about being mindful about how your choices and how they affect yourself and everyone else, and using meditation to help yourself get more aware of the world around you.

    time to crash, the dawn is up, the sun gleems out glorious ps4 sunbeams and i can trade those sunbeams and do whatever i want with them.
  • LadyMLadyM Registered User regular
    edited March 2010

    Religion is NOT simple. If you treat it as a simple list of instructions for a moral life, you will go wrong.

    I would not advise learning a religion from a book, or set of books. Religions are living communities. If you are interested in finding out about Buddhism as it is really lived, you need to talk to some Buddhists. In real life.

    This so hard.

  • Caramel GenocideCaramel Genocide Registered User
    edited March 2010
    Beltaine wrote: »
    When I wanted to learn about Buddhism, a Buddhist friend of mine recommended a book called The Miracle of Mindfullness by Thich Naht Hahn.

    I couldn't wrap my head around it, ("Wash the dishes to wash the dishes" lolwut!?) but if you want to give it a try, I'd be happy to mail it to you, no charge.

    I have not read this book (nor am I a buddhist, I wouldn't describe myself as anything except curious about everything), however from what I understand of mindfulness, this is what your lolwut phrase means:

    Humans cannot multitask. You cannot perform two or more tasks at the same time with the diligence and attention that you could if you focused just on one task. So when you wash the dishes, don't do anything else. Put all your attention to washing the dishes. When you're done, put all your attention on your next task.

  • ConnorConnor Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Beltaine wrote: »
    When I wanted to learn about Buddhism, a Buddhist friend of mine recommended a book called The Miracle of Mindfullness by Thich Naht Hahn.

    I couldn't wrap my head around it, ("Wash the dishes to wash the dishes" lolwut!?) but if you want to give it a try, I'd be happy to mail it to you, no charge.

    I have not read this book (nor am I a buddhist, I wouldn't describe myself as anything except curious about everything), however from what I understand of mindfulness, this is what your lolwut phrase means:

    Humans cannot multitask. You cannot perform two or more tasks at the same time with the diligence and attention that you could if you focused just on one task. So when you wash the dishes, don't do anything else. Put all your attention to washing the dishes. When you're done, put all your attention on your next task.

    But I am eating an apple while reading this thread...am I not receiving its nourishment and absorbing this threads material at the same time?

    XBL/PSN/ORIGIN/STEAM: LowKeyedUp
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  • Caramel GenocideCaramel Genocide Registered User
    edited March 2010
    There's a lot more to eating an apple than receiving nourishment. If you're reading the forum while eating the apple, you're not actually experiencing eating the apple. The taste and texture and sensation of the skin of the fruit breaking when your teeth bite into it and the juices that burst into your mouth all falls by the wayside when you're reading - your attention is not on eating the apple, so these things are missed.

  • ConnorConnor Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    I did experience these things, however. How could you say that I did not? While I understand the sentiment (i.e. focus on the here and now, live in the moment) it is undermined by a clear lack of understanding of how the human brain works. Humans multitask constantly. It is true that one accomplishes more while focusing on one task at a time.

    XBL/PSN/ORIGIN/STEAM: LowKeyedUp
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  • Caramel GenocideCaramel Genocide Registered User
    edited March 2010
    You haven't contradicted my statement of "You cannot perform two or more tasks at the same time with the diligence and attention that you could if you focused just on one task.", yet you seem to be attempting to take a contrary stance, so I am not really sure what you are trying to say.

  • ConnorConnor Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    I guess I am arguing with your "Humans can't multitask" statement. You are saying both things so that's the one I picked to argue.

    XBL/PSN/ORIGIN/STEAM: LowKeyedUp
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  • The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    You haven't contradicted my statement of "You cannot perform two or more tasks at the same time with the diligence and attention that you could if you focused just on one task.", yet you seem to be attempting to take a contrary stance, so I am not really sure what you are trying to say.
    Connor wrote: »
    I guess I am arguing with your "Humans can't multitask" statement. You are saying both things so that's the one I picked to argue.

    It isn't wholly incorrect to come to a position that "humans can't multitask", but it's a logical successor that has little effect on the purpose of mediation.

    Now, you have to always remember that there are many, many different schools and sects. Even more if you count the many defunct schools and sects. Overall, meditation is generally a rather constant across schools as long as you remember that the same basic techniques are used in strikingly different methods in different traditions.

    It seems like we're discussing Zen, which frankly has the most advanced philosophy arguably.

    The point is not that the monk washes dishes because he can't wash dishes and hum a tune at the same time. The point is getting to "washing dishes" as an example of mindfulness. Why does the monk wash the dishes? because you have to wash the dishes. Nothing more.

    "Enlightenment" has the danger of being externalized in Western concepts of Buddhism. It is no surprise that as the majority of us growing up were bombarded by images and concepts of eternal life in monotheism. The "end result" is something special and tangibly different from our life now. Heaven and Hell are wholly different experiences which are somehow more in line with our eternal souls.

    Within Buddhism, and specifically Soto Zen, the great religious "breakthrough" is the realization of "life as it is". One of my favorite phrases from Zen is that "First there were mountains, then there were no mountains, then there were mountains again". This means, roughly, that there are mountains. We can see them, climb them and admire their majesty. But those mountains are empty of any sort of eternalism. They do not have any sort of true permanence: they'll, over time, be broken and heaved and destroyed. So, we have to come back to the idea that "there were mountains again" because the student must understand that regardless of the impermanence, the mountains exist and we, as humans, have to deal with them. The mountains (and everything) having no permanent "soul" are not "real" as one would consider the transcendence of Jesus, but instead are practical facts of existence whose nature is impermanent and illusory.

    So you "wash the dishes" not because you're incapable of multitasking, but because you have to wash the dishes. Enlightenment isn't anything special, and being able to understand the nature of things as empty and impermanent doesn't do anything to chance the practical reality we exist in. A Zen student seeks to understand, not to change. A Zen Buddhist isn't readying the world for the second coming or preparing for the transition of "life after death" but is engaged in attempting to understand the "ultimate reality" (to use a religious term) which manifests itself in everyday life. You wash dishes, you sweep the floors you prepare meals you ring the wake-up bell you get out of bed and dress yourself. Mindfulness of the actions, all actions, is a meditative experience and practice. There is no "can" or "cannot", only "is"-- to paraphrase Yoda.

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  • RentRent I'm always right Fuckin' deal with itRegistered User regular
    edited March 2010
    I used to be Jodo Shinsu Buddhist, went to temple and everything, converted to Catholicism like whoa

    From my experience Jodo Shinsu is one of the "easier" sects to break into, Zen is very confined and strict as opposed to Jodo Shinsu, which is (in my experience) much more freeform and relatable to western religions

  • Inquisitor77Inquisitor77 a.k.a. Nubmonger/Antaeus#1352, 2 x Penny Arcade Fight Club Champion Oakland, CARegistered User regular
    edited March 2010
    It's really hard to break away from your preconceived notions of what "religion" should and should not be, based on your upbringing. Take this from someone who was raised an evangelical Protestant. For quite some time, I equated "religion" with "god(s)", and to a lesser extent, rules (i.e., a morality more or less based on god(s) decree(s)).

    This is why many from the Western perspective try to describe Buddhism more as a philosophy than a religion. It is such a different approach that you really have to get people to start from square one. To borrow a Taoist phrase, you must empty your cup in order to fill it once again.

    Going through the history of the founding of the religion is a good way to start, but it still falls prey to what I like to think of as "Moses from the Mount" bias. You may be too inclined to think of Siddhartha Gautama as either a prophetic figure (i.e. someone with a connection to "the divine" or to god(s)) or as a god himself. This is an inaccurate portrayal in a very fundamental sense, although some aspects of that comparison might overlap with a "Jesus" or "Allah".

    It might be easier to just think of Siddhartha Gautama as just "some guy". He's just some guy. Some guy who did a lot of thought and meditation on life, suffering, human happiness, etc.. The results of those thoughts are Four Noble Truths, which essentially says that:

    1. Life is suffering (i.e., suffering is inevitable, everyone knows what suffering is, etc. etc. etc.)
    2. Suffering is caused by craving/attachment/desire, anger, and ignorance
    3. It is possible to end suffering and enter a state of peace (a.k.a. nirvana)
    4. The way to end suffering (i.e. ending craving/attachment/desire, eliminating anger, removing ignorance) is through the Noble Eightfold Path


    This may sound like just another set of rules. "Learn the Four Noble Truths". "Follow the Noble Eightfold Path". But there is actually some pretty heavy psychological and philosophical weight behind these generic rules. It isn't quite the same as "Honor thy father and thy mother". These are more like statements of fact. They are statements about life, and the reality through which we perceive life.

    In a way, a Buddhist believes the Four Noble Truths much in the way that a Christian believes there is a God. That is simply how their worldview operates. Existence is suffering. God created the heavens and the earth. Think about it. Would you feel hunger if you did not crave food? Would you feel envy for your neighbor if you did not desire his wife? Would you fear death if you were not attached to life? This is the most basic interpretation of that key understanding, and you'll be surprised how far down the rabbit hole really goes.

    There are tons of other materials out there, so I won't try to get into too much detail here. Just keep in mind that much as with other religions and philosophies, Buddhism has in many ways fallen under the weight of its own history. The longer something lasts, the more interpretations and evolutions exist. So you'll find some pretty heady translations of the Four Noble Truths that seem like really esoteric concepts, but in many cases they are phrased in such a way as to maintain philosophical consistency in the later stages of the religion. This is vaguely akin to how modern-day Protestants interpret the Trinity as three aspects of the same God, which is a different interpretation than Catholics or other, older sects of Christianity.

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA no.
  • RhinoRhino Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    [QUOTE=Inquisitor77;13881457Noble Eightfold Path[/QUOTE]

    What's a good book on this?

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  • AntithesisAntithesis Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    If you're looking for something very deep (I.E. you might want a second book just commenting on it), I'd recommend The Way of the Bodhisattva by Shantideva. It essentially explains the Buddhist view of the universe and offers a way of living in it.

    Otherwise, reading The Miracle of Mindfulness is a good way of getting your head around the idea of... well... mindfulness. Which is, at the very least, a pretty important part of Buddhism.

  • BeltaineBeltaine The End of TimeRegistered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Maybe my way of thinking was just too technical.

    When I read "wash the dishes to wash the dishes", I came away with it meaning that I shouldn't wash dishes because eventually I will want to eat a meal on those dishes and will want the dishes to be clean for that meal, but I should wash dishes simply for washing dishes without any sort of thoughts about what the dishes would be used for once clean.

    That seemed sort of backwards to me because almost everything I do on a day-to-day basis is a big IF/THEN statement and it seemed to be saying I should remove all the IFs and just get on with the THENs.

    Trepanning is the art of cutting the skull open to let the gods in.
    PSN: Beltaine-77
    Steam: beltane77
    Gamertag:Beltaine
  • The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Beltaine wrote: »
    Maybe my way of thinking was just too technical.

    When I read "wash the dishes to wash the dishes", I came away with it meaning that I shouldn't wash dishes because eventually I will want to eat a meal on those dishes and will want the dishes to be clean for that meal, but I should wash dishes simply for washing dishes without any sort of thoughts about what the dishes would be used for once clean.

    That seemed sort of backwards to me because almost everything I do on a day-to-day basis is a big IF/THEN statement and it seemed to be saying I should remove all the IFs and just get on with the THENs.

    You're correct, with a wrong emphasis I think.

    You have it correct, in that if Mahayana Buddhism places anything at the forefront, it is simply causality. You wash the dishes to wash the dishes; you wash the dishes because that's that's what you do when you wash dishes; you wash dishes because you have to eat on those dishes. If you were using paper plates and plastic silverware, you'd recycle or toss out the dishes, because that's what you do with disposable dishes and flatware.

    It's about cause and effect. That I eat and the dishes are dirty, so I clean so the dishes are clean. Every action is part of "dependent arising" and every action sets off known and unknown effects. Understanding cause and effect is the same in Buddhism as understanding Jesus is within a Protestant tradition.

    I mean, you're right but for misplaced reasons. You exist because you have to exist and you must breathe, which then stirs the air and someone else breathes your unused oxygen to breathe and breaths out! so on and so on and that wind from your windpipe stirs a touch of dust that sticks to the window that the super' hires someone to clean twice a month who then feeds his family and his daughter goes onward and onward to become our next president, after countless causes and effects and reactions and actions, etc.

    Buddhism is no more than the complex, religious, study of cause and effect. Which explains the attention it receives in our culture.

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  • BeltaineBeltaine The End of TimeRegistered User regular
    edited March 2010
    See, I can handle that explanation.

    Maybe the problem in my understanding was more to do with cultural differences between the author and myself. Which is totally understandable.

    Trepanning is the art of cutting the skull open to let the gods in.
    PSN: Beltaine-77
    Steam: beltane77
    Gamertag:Beltaine
  • The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Maybe I should write a book.

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  • Inquisitor77Inquisitor77 a.k.a. Nubmonger/Antaeus#1352, 2 x Penny Arcade Fight Club Champion Oakland, CARegistered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Rhino wrote: »
    Noble Eightfold Path

    What's a good book on this?


    Sorry, I learned in classes, built largely from source translations. Can't be of much help if you're looking for a good book to read on the subject. =(

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA no.
  • The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Rhino wrote: »
    Noble Eightfold Path

    What's a good book on this?

    Sorry, I learned in classes, built largely from source translations. Can't be of much help if you're looking for a good book to read on the subject. =(

    You won't find (I think) a good book on "The Eightfold Path". What you will find are good books on Buddhism. The Eightfold Path is such a simple (in presentation) concept that you'll see every book and text expanding on one of the eight "wisdoms".

    I'd highly suggest Donald Mitchell's Buddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience as a textbook. Anything that is "lighter" reading isn't too worth it without a well-educated, actual framework. The paperback for the Mitchell shows a starting price, used, of $5. I'm unaware if a new edition has been published.

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  • Matt_SMatt_S Registered User
    edited March 2010
    How good of a book is Awakening the Buddha Within? I've heard good things, but it seems there are quite a few people here further along in practice than I and who may have a better perspective.

  • The Crowing OneThe Crowing One Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    "Lama Surya Das doesn't spin platters for a living, but he does have a hip delivery that belies his years of sheltered training in Buddhist monasteries."

    I've never read it, but the review on amazon makes me chuckle.

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  • mysticjuicermysticjuicer Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Maybe I should write a book.

    With all sincerity, you really should. 90% of my experience with Buddhist pop books have been immensely frustrating, because the author seems more interested in playing Heideggerian word-games with Buddhist teachings than illuminating anything with them.

    narwhal wrote:
    Why am I Terran?
  • RhinoRhino Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    Maybe I should write a book.

    With all sincerity, you really should. 90% of my experience with Buddhist pop books have been immensely frustrating, because the author seems more interested in playing Heideggerian word-games with Buddhist teachings than illuminating anything with them.


    I agree. The other thing I find frustrating about some books, is the language/culture differences. I've read 2 or 3 books and they were all written by someone that grew up in Asian culture and language. One author kept making a bunch of cultural references that I (as an English speaking American) didn't/couldn't understand. Another author also kept using English in a way that, while technically correct, it didn't read or flow very nicely.

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  • DarkewolfeDarkewolfe Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    It's really hard to break away from your preconceived notions of what "religion" should and should not be, based on your upbringing. Take this from someone who was raised an evangelical Protestant. For quite some time, I equated "religion" with "god(s)", and to a lesser extent, rules (i.e., a morality more or less based on god(s) decree(s)).

    This is why many from the Western perspective try to describe Buddhism more as a philosophy than a religion. It is such a different approach that you really have to get people to start from square one. To borrow a Taoist phrase, you must empty your cup in order to fill it once again.

    Going through the history of the founding of the religion is a good way to start, but it still falls prey to what I like to think of as "Moses from the Mount" bias. You may be too inclined to think of Siddhartha Gautama as either a prophetic figure (i.e. someone with a connection to "the divine" or to god(s)) or as a god himself. This is an inaccurate portrayal in a very fundamental sense, although some aspects of that comparison might overlap with a "Jesus" or "Allah".

    It might be easier to just think of Siddhartha Gautama as just "some guy". He's just some guy. Some guy who did a lot of thought and meditation on life, suffering, human happiness, etc.. The results of those thoughts are Four Noble Truths, which essentially says that:

    1. Life is suffering (i.e., suffering is inevitable, everyone knows what suffering is, etc. etc. etc.)
    2. Suffering is caused by craving/attachment/desire, anger, and ignorance
    3. It is possible to end suffering and enter a state of peace (a.k.a. nirvana)
    4. The way to end suffering (i.e. ending craving/attachment/desire, eliminating anger, removing ignorance) is through the Noble Eightfold Path


    This may sound like just another set of rules. "Learn the Four Noble Truths". "Follow the Noble Eightfold Path". But there is actually some pretty heavy psychological and philosophical weight behind these generic rules. It isn't quite the same as "Honor thy father and thy mother". These are more like statements of fact. They are statements about life, and the reality through which we perceive life.

    In a way, a Buddhist believes the Four Noble Truths much in the way that a Christian believes there is a God. That is simply how their worldview operates. Existence is suffering. God created the heavens and the earth. Think about it. Would you feel hunger if you did not crave food? Would you feel envy for your neighbor if you did not desire his wife? Would you fear death if you were not attached to life? This is the most basic interpretation of that key understanding, and you'll be surprised how far down the rabbit hole really goes.

    There are tons of other materials out there, so I won't try to get into too much detail here. Just keep in mind that much as with other religions and philosophies, Buddhism has in many ways fallen under the weight of its own history. The longer something lasts, the more interpretations and evolutions exist. So you'll find some pretty heady translations of the Four Noble Truths that seem like really esoteric concepts, but in many cases they are phrased in such a way as to maintain philosophical consistency in the later stages of the religion. This is vaguely akin to how modern-day Protestants interpret the Trinity as three aspects of the same God, which is a different interpretation than Catholics or other, older sects of Christianity.

    Reading this, I can't help but take this to be an indicator that all cultures feel the need to deify their religious leaders. Even though Buddha was supposed to just be "some dude" who pointed out some truths, why have the words he spoke, and his identity as the speaker, been kept as a part of the entire religion? This isn't at all a criticism of the tenets of Buddhism, but what you describe seems to be an indicator that the average Buddhist holds the "dude" in a higher regard than his teaching say they should.

    "Well, look at this. Appears we got here just in the nick of time. What's that make us?"
    "Big Damn Heroes, Sir."
    "Ain't we just."
  • MugaazMugaaz Registered User regular
    edited March 2010
    1. Life as we know it ultimately is or leads to suffering/uneasiness (dukkha) in one way or another.
    2. Suffering is caused by craving. This is often expressed as a deluded clinging to a certain sense of existence, to selfhood, or to the things or phenomena that we consider the cause of happiness or unhappiness. Craving also has its negative aspect, i.e. one craves that a certain state of affairs not exist.
    3. Suffering ends when craving ends. This is achieved by eliminating delusion, thereby reaching a liberated state of Enlightenment (bodhi);
    4. Reaching this liberated state is achieved by following the path laid out by the Buddha.

    Those are the four noble truths. The simple crib notes version of Buddhism is to ask yourself what Yoda would do.

    Buddhism arose from a long, drawn out evaluation of the human condition by an enlightened person who had the free time to give it a bit of thought. All the Abrahamic religions are basically repetitions of the same basic theme that the Zoroastrians thought up... that there's one superior God, he created everything, and he told me to tell you what his rules are. The only things that really change are the rules and who is reading them off.

    I disagree with Buddhism for the reason that Buddha was himself high-born and his position reflects that. His religion makes sense when applied to people who have everything but what matters. He never experienced a craving to live in the face of death not by your own hands, as was the case for all the Abrahamic faiths. Facing annihilation has a certain way of putting life in perspective, something Buddha never endured.

    Basically, Buddha did not realize that at the core of our being, at the cellular level, all organisms fight every day to exist, and have done so for well more then a billion years.

    Wow, Buddhism is not for me. I completely disagree with 1,2, and 3.

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