Zorro Dantes

Buddhism as a science...

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I was watching Sadhguru and I think he was kind of implying that Buddhist methods are highly scientific. and it really got me thinking on how the original buddha went out and interacted and convinced tribes that suffering exists.... but can be to a certain extent avoided.  would it be appropriate or even accurate to surmise that Buddhism or dharma teaching can be used as a means to understand the intricacies and holistic value of a shamanistic existence or way of life?

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36 minutes ago, Zorro Dantes said:

I was watching Sadhguru and I think he was kind of implying that Buddhist methods are highly scientific. and it really got me thinking on how the original buddha went out and interacted and convinced tribes that suffering exists.... but can be to a certain extent avoided.  would it be appropriate or even accurate to surmise that Buddhism or dharma teaching can be used as a means to understand the intricacies and holistic value of a shamanistic existence or way of life?

 

Yes, I would agree that the Buddha's approach was very scientific, but I don't understand how that translates into it being a guide to understand shamanism. The closest thing that I can think of that would kind of sort of be related is that from time to time the Brahmins would approach the Buddha to ask advice about certain aspects of their own religion which to me is highly suspect. I assume that these so-called examples of the Brahmins asking what they would consider a lower caste non-Brahmin Samana are later additions by monks after the time of the Buddha to give the Buddha dharma more prestige because in the context of the time it just does not make sense.  

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1 hour ago, Zorro Dantes said:

I was watching Sadhguru and I think he was kind of implying that Buddhist methods are highly scientific. and it really got me thinking on how the original buddha went out and interacted and convinced tribes that suffering exists.... but can be to a certain extent avoided.  would it be appropriate or even accurate to surmise that Buddhism or dharma teaching can be used as a means to understand the intricacies and holistic value of a shamanistic existence or way of life?

 

https://www.amazon.com/CIVILIZED-SHAMANS-Societies-Smithsonian-Ethnographic/dp/1560986204

 

Quote

Civilized Shamans examines the nature and evolution of religion in Tibetan societies from the ninth century up to the Chinese occupation in 1950. Geoffrey Samuel argues that religion in these societies developed as a dynamic amalgam of strands of Indian Buddhism and the indigenous spirit-cults of Tibet.
Samuel stresses the diversity of Tibetan societies, demonstrating that central Tibet, the Dalai Lama's government at Lhasa, and the great monastic institutions around Lhasa formed only a part of the context within which Tibetan Buddhism matured. Employing anthropological research, historical inquiry, rich interview material, and a deep understanding of religious texts, the author explores the relationship between Tibet's social and political institutions and the emergence of new modes of consciousness that characterize Tibetan Buddhist spirituality. Samuel identifies the two main orientations of this religion as clerical (primarily monastic) and shamanic (associated with Tantric yoga). The specific form that Buddhism has taken in Tibet is rooted in the pursuit of enlightenment by a minority of the people - lamas, monks, and yogins - and the desire for shamanic services (in quest of health, long life, and prosperity) by the majority. Shamanic traditions of achieving altered states of consciousness have been incorporated into Tantric Buddhism, which aims to communicate with Tantric deities through yoga. The author contends that this incorporation forms the basis for much of the Tibetan lamas' role in their society and that their subtle scholarship reflects the many ways in which they have reconciled the shamanic and clerical orientations.
This book, the first full account of Tibetan Buddhism in two decades, ranges as no other study has over several disciplines and languages, incorporating historical and anthropological discussion. Viewing Tibetan Buddhism as one of the great spiritual and psychological achievements of humanity, Samuel analyzes a complex society that combines the literacy and rationality associated with centralized states with the shamanic processes more familiar among tribal peoples.

 

The book is a bit hard to get hold of - I got an ex-library copy in the end.  I don't know if it can answer your questions and its academic in its approach although its author is a Dzongcheni.

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The Buddhist (or Buddha's) scientific philosophy deals mainly with the science of working the mind, in the main, towards fulfilling the (human) potential for liberation from rebirth. The most notable among all of the great Buddhist sages who detailed the complete philosophical framework _of said mind science_ of Buddha's teachings is Nagarjuna. 

 

This article neatly sums up the brilliance of Nagarjuna's astute & systematic presentation of the Madhayamaka (see The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way) -- https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/nagarjuna/

 

Whether Buddhist practices can be used as a "means to understand the intricacies and holistic value of a shamanistic existence or way of life" largely depends on the individual. The ngakpas of Tibet are generally Buddhist or Bon yogis who ascribe to such a path. 

 
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Hi Zorro

 

If you wish to look at Shamanism from a scientific perspective, above all, I would recommend the books by Roger Walsh, such as The Spirit of Shamanism and The World of Shamanism.

 

Cheers

Michael

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Highly interesting and intriguing points of view,  persuasive readings, and something elusive to add to the reading list as well as well... thanks you guys!

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On 12/31/2020 at 11:05 AM, Zorro Dantes said:

I was watching Sadhguru and I think he was kind of implying that Buddhist methods are highly scientific. and it really got me thinking on how the original buddha went out and interacted and convinced tribes that suffering exists.... but can be to a certain extent avoided.  would it be appropriate or even accurate to surmise that Buddhism or dharma teaching can be used as a means to understand the intricacies and holistic value of a shamanistic existence or way of life?

 

I think there are fundamental and important differences between the world view of Buddhism and the world view of shamanism.

Each can be used to understand the other, IMO. 

Each are valid from their own perspective. 

The two are merged in the Tibetan Bön tradition, one of the reasons I feel so strongly drawn to it. 

For me, the scientific aspect of Buddhism is related to how we apply it to our own experience.

We start with a hypothesis, the methods of Buddhism can ease our experience of suffering and lead to personal growth and liberation.

We test that hypothesis by engaging in study and practice and observing the effects they have on our lives. 

 

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On 17/01/2021 at 7:12 PM, steve said:

 

I think there are fundamental and important differences between the world view of Buddhism and the world view of shamanism.

 

Care to elaborate on this?

 

On 17/01/2021 at 7:12 PM, steve said:

Each can be used to understand the other, IMO. 

Each are valid from their own perspective. 

The two are merged in the Tibetan Bön tradition, one of the reasons I feel so strongly drawn to it. 

For me, the scientific aspect of Buddhism is related to how we apply it to our own experience.

We start with a hypothesis, the methods of Buddhism can ease our experience of suffering and lead to personal growth and liberation.

We test that hypothesis by engaging in study and practice and observing the effects they have on our lives. 

 

 

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I loved "Magic and Mystery in Tibet"!

I would agree that Buddhism is a science, and that the lab portion of the course is on the meditation cushion.

Gautama did talk about 6 miracles, things like stroking the sun and moon with the hand, diving into solid earth as though it was water, walking through walls, floating on air.  Walking through walls, I have a friend who described meeting three men when he was on datura, and when they left, they walked out through the wall.  But, I digress!

The notion of reincarnation (or not) is definitely there in the teachings, but the practice was about the cessation of volitive action (IMHO).  I just finished a short overview of the teachings in general, and of the rupa jhanas in particular--it's here, if you're interested:

The Early Record

What could be more Shamanistic than trance, and who understood how that was connected with well-being more than the Gautamid!

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2 hours ago, Michael Sternbach said:

 

Care to elaborate on this?

 

 

 

From a Bön perspective (quite consistent with Buddhism and with which I'm most familiar), there are several ways or paths each of which has a unique perspective and paradigm - causal paths (shamanism would fit here best but overlaps with others), sutric, tantric, and dzogchen paths. Each has a unique view, practice, conduct, and fruition with unique characteristics. 

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2 hours ago, Mark Foote said:

What could be more Shamanistic than trance, and who understood how that was connected with well-being more than the Gautamid!

 

What is the relationship between trance and meditation in your opinion?

For me they are not equivalent.

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5 hours ago, steve said:

 

From a Bön perspective (quite consistent with Buddhism and with which I'm most familiar), there are several ways or paths each of which has a unique perspective and paradigm - causal paths (shamanism would fit here best but overlaps with others), sutric, tantric, and dzogchen paths. Each has a unique view, practice, conduct, and fruition with unique characteristics. 

 

Yes, but what are the differences between the Buddhist perspective and the Shamanistic perspective in your opinion?

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8 hours ago, Michael Sternbach said:

 

Yes, but what are the differences between the Buddhist perspective and the Shamanistic perspective in your opinion?

The causal paths which include the shamanic practices have a view rooted in cause and effect.

The sutric path has a view of emptiness.

The tantric view is that of the divine.

The dzogchen view is generally referred to as the open view.

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I think people use the word "science" to try to make it more acceptable to skeptics. But Buddhism is not really a science in my mind. We don't develop hypotheses on our own and design experiments to test them, controlling variables, relying on peer review and so forth. Rather, we are presented with a series of truths and a method to realize those truths (taking precepts, practicing meditation, etc.), but the ultimate goal is to be free and free from suffering. In this way, it is more like an art that is handed down from person. 

 

Also, unlike science, Buddhism has a moral component that is essential. Science creates medicine and nuclear bombs. Buddhism is designed to create Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. 

 

Finally, much of science relies on the idea of objectivity, whereas spiritual practice is necessarily subjective. 

 

When you get to the Tibetan side, it get very magical. 

 

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15 hours ago, forestofemptiness said:

I think people use the word "science" to try to make it more acceptable to skeptics. But Buddhism is not really a science in my mind. We don't develop hypotheses on our own and design experiments to test them, controlling variables, relying on peer review and so forth. Rather, we are presented with a series of truths and a method to realize those truths (taking precepts, practicing meditation, etc.), but the ultimate goal is to be free and free from suffering. In this way, it is more like an art that is handed down from person. 

 

Also, unlike science, Buddhism has a moral component that is essential. Science creates medicine and nuclear bombs. Buddhism is designed to create Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. 

 

Finally, much of science relies on the idea of objectivity, whereas spiritual practice is necessarily subjective. 

 

When you get to the Tibetan side, it get very magical. 

 

 

I think it depends on your definition of what qualifies as 'science'. It is true that the term generally refers to a positivist approach to things ever since the so-called scientific revolution. On another forum, I once pissed off a university professor by telling her that I don't accept this modern definition. :lol:

 

That being said, it applies rigorously only to natural science anyway. Humanities are quite a different animal.

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On 1/18/2021 at 2:39 PM, steve said:

 

What is the relationship between trance and meditation in your opinion?

For me they are not equivalent.

 

 

There are a lot of different prescriptions for meditation.  I personally would say that the real record of civilization is in the meditation manuals.  Those have been written by Buddhist and Daoist practitioners for millenia, and probably Bon practitioners too (though I'm not so familiar with the Tibetan heritage).  The crossroads between mind and body that these manuals address is still a difficult topic, today. 

In "The Early Record", I make the case (based on the Pali sermons) that the whole of Gautama's teaching centers around the cessation of "determinate thought" in action.  He left a detailed description of how that cessation comes about, through successive states of concentration.  At the same time, he advised a lack of desire for the states of concentration, stating that "whatever a person thinks (a state of concentration) is, it is otherwise."

Are these states of concentration "meditations", or "trances"?   I think if we consider the trances that are used by native healers around the world, Gautama's concentrations would have to be considered tame by comparison.  He did leave instructions for the attainment of pyschic powers such as the six miracles, but the only miracle he claimed for himself was the ability to teach the dharma.  I know some of the Pomo medicine people in my area saw and did amazing things, and they practiced purifications and prayers to put themselves in the state of mind to do these things.  That seems more like trance to me.  

How do you see it?




 

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17 hours ago, Mark Foote said:

 

There are a lot of different prescriptions for meditation.  I personally would say that the real record of civilization is in the meditation manuals.  Those have been written by Buddhist and Daoist practitioners for millenia, and probably Bon practitioners too (though I'm not so familiar with the Tibetan heritage).  The crossroads between mind and body that these manuals address is still a difficult topic, today. 

In "The Early Record", I make the case (based on the Pali sermons) that the whole of Gautama's teaching centers around the cessation of "determinate thought" in action.  He left a detailed description of how that cessation comes about, through successive states of concentration.  At the same time, he advised a lack of desire for the states of concentration, stating that "whatever a person thinks (a state of concentration) is, it is otherwise."

Are these states of concentration "meditations", or "trances"?   I think if we consider the trances that are used by native healers around the world, Gautama's concentrations would have to be considered tame by comparison.  He did leave instructions for the attainment of pyschic powers such as the six miracles, but the only miracle he claimed for himself was the ability to teach the dharma.  I know some of the Pomo medicine people in my area saw and did amazing things, and they practiced purifications and prayers to put themselves in the state of mind to do these things.  That seems more like trance to me.  

How do you see it?

 

I think it is a large and interesting topic.

I see trance more as an alteration of mundane consciousness, often requiring stimulation through sound or psychotropics, used to connect to spirits, entities, or beings that are not readily accessible otherwise. 

Meditation is more related to the purification and clarification of mundane consciousness itself.

Of course there are many exceptions, variations, and overlap, and our definitions have quite a bit of flexibility.

 

 

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On 1/23/2021 at 8:52 AM, steve said:

 

I think it is a large and interesting topic.

I see trance more as an alteration of mundane consciousness, often requiring stimulation through sound or psychotropics, used to connect to spirits, entities, or beings that are not readily accessible otherwise. 

Meditation is more related to the purification and clarification of mundane consciousness itself.

Of course there are many exceptions, variations, and overlap, and our definitions have quite a bit of flexibility.

 

 


I would agree, it's a large and interesting topic.  I'd also agree with your analysis of what constitutes trance, versus what constitutes meditation.

Gautama's "cessation of (determinate thought) in perception and sensation" seems like a pretty subtle state.  I have enough trouble finding something like happiness when I sit, that I don't think about that cessation much, but maybe I should.  Seems like it's all of a piece, no matter how you cut it.

You could say that the science of Gautama's teaching is in the truths of suffering, and from the sound of his post the OP was hoping for a discussion more along those lines.  Ok,  here's my favorite rendition of the chain of causation (part of the four truths):

 

That which we will‚Ķ, and that which we intend to do and that wherewithal we are occupied:‚Äďthis becomes an object for the persistance of consciousness. The object being there, there comes to be a station of consciousness. Consciousness being stationed and growing, rebirth of renewed existance takes place in the future, and here from birth, decay, and death, grief, lamenting, suffering, sorrow, and despair come to pass. Such is the uprising of this mass of ill.
 

Even if we do not will, or intend to do, and yet are occupied with something, this too becomes an object for the persistance of consciousness… whence birth… takes place.
 

But if we neither will, nor intend to do, nor are occupied about something, there is no becoming of an object for the persistance of consciousness. The object being absent, there comes to be no station of consciousness. Consciousness not being stationed and growing, no rebirth of renewed existence takes place in the future, and herefrom birth, decay-and-death, grief, lamenting, suffering, sorrow and despair cease. Such is the ceasing of this entire mass of ill.
 

(SN II 65 ‚ÄúKindred Sayings on Cause‚ÄĚ XII, 4, chapter 38 ‚ÄúWill‚ÄĚ, Pali Text Society SN II¬†pg 45)

 

Gautama also said that "birth, decay-and-death, grief, lamenting, suffering, sorrow and despair" was "in short, the five groups of grasping" (grasping after self in form, feeling, mind, habitual tendency, or mental state)(AN I 176, Pali Text Society Vol I pg 160).

Determinate thought is precisely the will, the intention to do, or the preoccupation with something that leads to an object for the persistance of consciousness, and a stationing of consciousness, hence the importance of the cessation of determinate thought in action. 

Koun Franz talked about the mind moving away from the head (‚ÄúNo Struggle [Zazen Yojinki, Part 6]‚ÄĚ, by Koun Franz, from the ‚ÄúNyoho Zen‚ÄĚ site
https://nyoho.com/2018/09/15/no-struggle-zazen-yojinki-part-6/).  Maybe he was talking about how consciousness comes unstationed--I'd like to think so.  



 


 

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Yes indeed, you guys have covered some very good points of consideration...honestly, all this information was actually deeper than where I was initially going... I believe the point I was trying to make was that Buddhism both Tibetan and Indian variants look at religion from a scientific point of view... working and questioning the form and structure of said any religion and kind of how having non awakened understanding of any specific religious framework might be like diving face-first into the concrete, regardless of caste ...sort of speak... of course I just found out about Tonpa Shenrab too. So my understanding of all this bound to evolve once again; but yeah...I kind of felt it was a profound question, kudos on the vastness of the replies you guys... very much a question with many layers greatly appreciated I might add

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