Author Topic: Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?  (Read 13109 times)

Namdrol

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Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?
« on: May 20, 2012, 05:19:36 PM »
"I don't doubt that the Dalai Lama is a good man, a profound thinker and a skilled statesman. He deserves his prizes. But a huge part of his popularity in the west stems from the deracination of his doctrines. They appear far more secular and far less supernaturalist over here than they actually are when lived out among Tibetans."


As the Dalai Lama is feted at St Paul's, a more low-key Buddhist will debate with a secular Christian the appeal of truth over myth

Andrew Brown

Thursday 17 May 2012 15.14

This week has been bookended with two notable Buddhist events. On Monday the Dalai Lama was presented with his Templeton prize at a ceremony in St Paul's. On Sunday, in a rather more low-key event, Stephen Batchelor and Don Cupitt will be debating with Madeleine Bunting the possibility of religion without supernaturalism at Friends House on Euston Road in London.

Cupitt is a Christian, of sorts: at least, he's an ordained Anglican priest. But he believes almost nothing of traditional Christianity. "The whole system of Christian doctrine is a somewhat haphazard human construct with an all-too-human history, and … the Bible, when read closely, does not actually teach – nor even support – orthodox doctrine."

Batchelor, similarly, trained for 10 years as a Buddhist monk in Dharamsala, the headquarters of the exiled Dalai Lama, but believes few of the central doctrines of traditional Buddhism. "The kind of secular Buddhism I am interested in … entails a rethinking of Buddhism from the ground up. And what emerges from this reconfiguration of core values and ideas might not look anything like the Buddhism we are familiar with today."

Both men believe in the finality of death. They suppose that this life is the only one we have or can have, and that it is absurd to suppose that personality, in any form, survives the collapse of the body. The doctrine of karma is here reduced to a simple statement of faith that the world is made of braided causal chains: every effect has a cause, and is itself a cause of other effects. There's nothing there about reincarnation.

For both men, the appeal of Buddhism is that it is concerned with truth, rather than myth structures. Follow certain practices and you will come to understand more deeply certain essential truths about the world. It's a method in some ways like the scientific method, but with the inestimable and essential advantage that Buddhism has morality built in. It is an explanation of the moral facts of the world. It makes no sense for them to claim that religions could ever be morally neutral, in the way that people think of technology. They can be, and often are, morally appalling. But they can't be simply neutral. Prayer and contemplation change people irrevocably.

A surprising amount of this is compatible with perfectly orthodox Christianity and, for all I know, Buddhism. The emphasis on truth, rather than faith, is certainly a mark of all the interesting Christian thinkers that I know. But I wonder whether the project of secularising religion like this will ever be more than a minority pursuit.

Watching the ceremony in St Paul's, and listening to the Dalai Lama earlier, I felt the faint proddings of my inner Rupert Murdoch. When he described the Dalai Lama as "a very political old monk shuffling around in Gucci shoes", he was of course defending his imperialist allies in the Chinese government. But he had a point. At the press conference in the crypt of St Paul's we listened to the Dalai Lama explaining that he was perfectly ordinary, just one of 7 billion human beings, yet almost everyone in the room – even Arianna Huffington – addressed him as "Your Holiness". Who, here, was fooling whom?

I don't doubt that the Dalai Lama is a good man, a profound thinker and a skilled statesman. He deserves his prizes. But a huge part of his popularity in the west stems from the deracination of his doctrines. They appear far more secular and far less supernaturalist over here than they actually are when lived out among Tibetans.

More seriously, traditional Buddhist language is full of false friends when translated into English: words that sound the same but mean something very different. When the Buddhist says that the root of happiness is "self-confidence", he sounds like the worst sort of business guru. He answered one question about how he could bear all the suffering in the world by saying that "self-confidence is the key factor. The basis of self-confidence is honest truth. These things I myself learned to be the case. Living as a Buddhist monk, as a practitioner, [I have been] always honest, truthful."

But the kind of self-confidence – indeed, the kind of self – produced by life in a monastery is not going to have much in common with the kinds produced by life in a western economy. One of the central religious yearnings is for platitudes to be true: wouldn't it be wonderful if we could all get along. And since, for the most part, the aspirations of religion towards charity are not realised in the world around us, they need to be cast in terms of another world. That is what supernaturalism does, and it is what the exoticism of Buddhism in the west accomplishes, too. I wish Batchelor, Cupitt, and Madeleine Bunting well. But I doubt their teachings will ever fill St Paul's.

source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/belief/2012/may/17/buddhism-supernatural

yontenjamyang

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Re: Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?
« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2012, 09:56:12 AM »
For the general public and "scientific" minded ie people who always needs proofs and non buddhist, then I would say no. Minus the supernatural stuff, the Buddhism can still be very applicable to these group of people.
Ultimately, if one wants to practice seriously to gain Buddhahood, I am not the expert; I think the supernatural stuff is necessary.
The deracination of Buddhism by the Dalai Lama is to cater for the broader public to accept the the common values of universal compassion and understanding among humanity rather then differentiating the religions of the world which run contradict to the the value of universality.
In the end, this is the formula that the Dalai Lama is trying to impart for the benefit of the most number of people without really discounting the supernaturality of Buddhism.

KhedrubGyatso

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Re: Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?
« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2012, 03:41:00 AM »
I really like what Yongtenjamyang shared here.
Buddhism does not need anything to validate itself  as its about Truth.  The supernatural  is only one of the countless phenomena which Buddhism can provide explainations  and appropriate  solutions for us to deal with them. For those who have no such experiences or have no problems with such phenomenon , Buddhism can provide for all their other needs. Buddhist principles and methods function just as well and as effective whether one believes in the supernatural or not. The term supernatural can also mean many things and needs to be defined properly. If its about external beings or phenomena then Buddhism will place them as one mode of existence sentient beings . If it connotates something which is beyond the norm or  normal comprehension , extraordinary , then we are talking about enlightened knowledge and the truth that is beyond normal conception. In the latter case, the reality or Truth  Buddha saw is the supernatural stuff .

vajrastorm

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Re: Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?
« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2012, 07:36:01 AM »
Supernatural is defined as what is beyond the natural and the sphere of natural law. As has been said in the post above, the appeal of Buddhism is that it is concerned with the truth. Scientifically speaking,for instance, what has been said as contained in the Abhidharma concerning Matter has not been invalidated by science. The Buddha always stressed verification of what he taught by logical inference. Only in Buddhism the truth is about Moral Truth.

Buddhism, by not having a Creator God as central to its belief, has already removed a main source of the supernatural. What Buddhism believes in are core values and principles for lasting peace and happiness, chief of which is universal love and compassion.This is not founded on the supernatural.

Having said that, we then ask what about the belief in reincarnation? For that, extensive studies must be conducted on the power of the mind to engage in retrogressive meditation. There have been instances of people's past lives being revealed via retrogressive meditation and retrogression therapy. The power of the mind has been relatively untapped. Whatever it can yield, as past Great Masters have shown and manifested, does not belong to the realm of the supernatural.     

vajratruth

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Re: Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?
« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2012, 06:51:30 PM »
Yes, I does seem like there is a contradiction. On the one hand, Buddhism is about analyzing hard facts based on logic. On the other hand, we read accounts of flying, clairvoyance, past life experiences and other magical stuff.
But actually this is the very point where the practice comes into play, i.e. using logic to analyze the unknown and unseen and along the way [hopefully] arrive at an alternative basis of thinking i.e. “Things are not what they seem, nor are they otherwise” (Lankavatara Sutra).
The presence of supernatural accounts in Buddhism immediately challenges our perception of what is real and what isn’t and it is only when we are forced to have an opinion about something, and only when our beliefs about what is reality is challenged that the subtle prison bars of our perception is revealed and we see how our mind has trapped us into our present state. Samsara.
So, how are we to think? Perhaps a strong hint comes from the Buddha himself in the Heap Of Jewels Sutra when he said: “Whatever is asserted to exists, I will also assert to exist. Whatever is asserted not to exist, I will also assert not to exists”. In other words, if it suits you to learn from a straight laced logical perspective then fine. And if you prefer to learn from the more fantastic and magical perspective, that is fine as well. The Buddha never argued for any specific view of reality.
Personally, I like the supernatural stuff. Milarepa said that miracles are performed for specific reasons, perhaps to reverse someone’s lack of faith (see Virupa’s story of turning people back to Buddhism with his magic). And so, perhaps a Guru’s subtle display of clairvoyance is needed for a student to open his mind. Perhaps that is real supernatural power or perhaps that clairvoyance is due to the Guru having dealt with countless students in the past with similar situations. It doesn’t matter.
For me it is pointless at this stage to embrace or reject the supernatural stuff. Seeing a yogi flying does not mean I can see the truth behind my reality. Seeing the yogi not flying, too, does not mean I can see the truth behind my reality.
Whether Nagajurna actually lived for 600 years and actually visited the realm of the nagas to retrieve the Prajnaparamita Sutra or not does not for a minute dilute the validity of his treatise.
Perhaps Nagajurna should have the last say in this “ To whomever emptiness is possible, all things are possible”

dondrup

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Re: Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?
« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2012, 05:36:26 PM »
Buddhism is based on the nature of things as they really are.  Buddhism explains all phenomena including what people believes as supernatural.

What we perceive as supernatural may not be so in the eyes of those who are highly attained in their mind.  For example, to the ordinary people, it is supernatural if someone has the clairvoyance and can read other people’s minds.  For a practitioner who has meditated and developed their mind, they will have the clairvoyance and other powers. It is not supernatural!

Buddha had taught Buddhism at many levels to suit all the different state of minds of sentient beings. Buddha had also taught not to accept everything at face value but to accept only upon investigation and understanding of His teachings.

It is perfectly fine to not accept the supernatural like Batchelor.  But it is not correct to reject the supernatural just because it is not scientific or it cannot be proven with science.

Batchelor believes in the finality of death.  We may not be able to prove scientifically life after death.  But it does not mean that life comes to an end after death. If we really believe in Buddha who taught that there are future lives, then we should accept totally about life after death.  This is not superstitious. This is about what the fully enlightened Buddha had experienced.  Buddha had fully developed their mind to understand the supernatural.  Sentient beings like us have not yet developed our minds and hence can’t comprehend the supernatural.

Buddhism encompasses the supernatural stuff even if you don’t need them.


Midakpa

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Re: Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?
« Reply #6 on: May 26, 2012, 03:56:54 PM »
Buddhism can be practised without the supernatural stuff. In fact, the Buddha taught the Dharma to people according to their levels and propensities. In the West, where every aspect of life is affected by science, it is necessary to adopt a more scientific approach. What is appealing to the West is that the Buddha's method is very similar to that of the scientist. He did not claim to base His teachings on faith, belief, or divine revelations, but allowed great flexibility and freedom of thought. Albert Einstein said that "If there is a religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism".


ratanasutra

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Re: Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2012, 04:11:29 AM »
Buddhism doesn't need supernatural as the teaching is base on Logic. We can find cause n reason for everything and can think through that but due to this degenerate time that people don't have faith in buddhism or the teaching but just want to see fast result and something that miracle. People are impatience and lack of knowledge to understand the teaching and seem to use supernatural thing for their own benefit instate increse faith in Dharma.

In the past Sometime supetnatural has been used in buddhism in order to help people to have faith in buddhism.

sonamdhargey

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Re: Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2012, 07:26:17 AM »
Buddhism does rely on the blessings Buddha (higher being). Are they considered supernatural? The attainments of Lamas and Gurus seems supernatural to me. However I believe this is how I perceive it as supernatural as that is what I can comprehend at the moment. Buddha's teachings are based on logic and the nature of truth. In the past many masters displayed supernatural powers to gain the faith of people who needs to see it before having faith and embracing the dharma. I guess especially in this era of the degenerate time, we need both logic and supernatural experiences to develop strong faith in Buddhism.

valeriecheung

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Re: Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?
« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2012, 11:40:32 AM »
Why not Buddhism need supernatural? All this necessary is not for enlighten beings to show off their attainment is for us. Many people don't understand the true practice of Buddhism and will not connect via video, social media, book, audience, public talk and etc.  Some people need direct result of their problem, without hard work to gain benefit. All this because of individual karma. After all this, get to understand more and gain knowledge one day will become pure buddhist to benefit others.

Klein

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Re: Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2012, 11:58:16 AM »
Supernatural is defined as what is beyond the natural and the sphere of natural law. As has been said in the post above, the appeal of Buddhism is that it is concerned with the truth. Scientifically speaking,for instance, what has been said as contained in the Abhidharma concerning Matter has not been invalidated by science. The Buddha always stressed verification of what he taught by logical inference. Only in Buddhism the truth is about Moral Truth.

Buddhism, by not having a Creator God as central to its belief, has already removed a main source of the supernatural. What Buddhism believes in are core values and principles for lasting peace and happiness, chief of which is universal love and compassion.This is not founded on the supernatural.

Having said that, we then ask what about the belief in reincarnation? For that, extensive studies must be conducted on the power of the mind to engage in retrogressive meditation. There have been instances of people's past lives being revealed via retrogressive meditation and retrogression therapy. The power of the mind has been relatively untapped. Whatever it can yield, as past Great Masters have shown and manifested, does not belong to the realm of the supernatural.     

I agree with vajrastorm. What we're discussing here is very subjective. The word "supernatural" means something out of the norm. What's normal to me may not be normal to another. So where do we draw the line of what's supernatural?

Buddhism addresses all forms of existence and phenomena. Science is an attempt to understand that as well. However, science in itself is also a "belief" because it is based on theories that may be contradictory to our perceived "logic".

My take on this subject is, whatever the truth may be, it is important to have an open mind to learn and practise love, compassion and kindness. Without these, we already know that we are unhappy and self annihilating. So based on current results, we know that our attitudes must change. If religion helps us to change for the better, then that's the way for us. Otherwise, choose another method that will help us change for the better. Continuing to be in denial and live in a destructive manner is not a solution for the welfare of our future generations. This, transcends all religions, whether you call it supernatural or natural. 

shugdenpromoter

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Re: Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2012, 03:22:18 PM »
Personally, I like the supernatural stuff. Milarepa said that miracles are performed for specific reasons, perhaps to reverse someone’s lack of faith (see Virupa’s story of turning people back to Buddhism with his magic). And so, perhaps a Guru’s subtle display of clairvoyance is needed for a student to open his mind. Perhaps that is real supernatural power or perhaps that clairvoyance is due to the Guru having dealt with countless students in the past with similar situations. It doesn’t matter.
For me it is pointless at this stage to embrace or reject the supernatural stuff. Seeing a yogi flying does not mean I can see the truth behind my reality. Seeing the yogi not flying, too, does not mean I can see the truth behind my reality.

I have my own Guru and I agree with Vajratruth. I have seen not only my Guru but other high lamas displaying some form of supernatural power and most of the time will debate with their students for a better understanding of dharma.

I have also known some lamas who will introduce the Shugden practice to their students because their faith is not strong and from there Shugden clears some of their obstacles miraculously. Some are pretty instant but the long term result is their faith in Shugden grows.

I myself believe in faith by understanding. Blind faith is unstable. Faith from understanding/realisation is stronger and unshakable.

DS Star

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Re: Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?
« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2012, 03:01:15 AM »
Buddhism is based on the nature of things as they really are.  Buddhism explains all phenomena including what people believes as supernatural.

What we perceive as supernatural may not be so in the eyes of those who are highly attained in their mind.  For example, to the ordinary people, it is supernatural if someone has the clairvoyance and can read other people’s minds.  For a practitioner who has meditated and developed their mind, they will have the clairvoyance and other powers. It is not supernatural!

Buddha had taught Buddhism at many levels to suit all the different state of minds of sentient beings. Buddha had also taught not to accept everything at face value but to accept only upon investigation and understanding of His teachings.

It is perfectly fine to not accept the supernatural like Batchelor.  But it is not correct to reject the supernatural just because it is not scientific or it cannot be proven with science.

Batchelor believes in the finality of death.  We may not be able to prove scientifically life after death.  But it does not mean that life comes to an end after death. If we really believe in Buddha who taught that there are future lives, then we should accept totally about life after death.  This is not superstitious. This is about what the fully enlightened Buddha had experienced.  Buddha had fully developed their mind to understand the supernatural.  Sentient beings like us have not yet developed our minds and hence can’t comprehend the supernatural.

Buddhism encompasses the supernatural stuff even if you don’t need them.

Well-said dondrup, whether we need it or not, Buddhism encompasses the supernatural stuff.

Supernatural stuff - we called certain phenomenon super-natural because we can't explain it with our common knowledge - the so-called natural knowledge.

What about science? How many people can fully understand and really explain what Albert Einstein or Stephen Hawking talked about in their 'scientific' findings?

How about aerospace science? How many human beings can really understand it?

Why do we believe as factual and NATURAL, what the scientists said about Solar System and its gravitational orbit (for example)? We can't see IT with our eyes, right? We can't explain why there is a Sun, why there are planets, etc but we totally believe solar systems exist and we live in one of them.

Every phenomena, everything that existed, occurred and experienced by us is actually natural, only our minds not developed enough to understand some of them. In Buddhism we recognised it as 'dharma' (dharmas - for plural term in English), the True Nature of Things.

Only Buddha, the fully enlightened ones, will have the fully developed minds to understand everything as it is, thus, called it 'Suchness'.

Supernatural is just a label, Buddhism is also a label.

The real question here is not whether Buddhism needs the supernatural stuff but by following Buddha's teachings and practices, are we happier?

Have we found the answers to our unhappiness?
Have we found our purpose to live?

bambi

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Re: Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?
« Reply #13 on: June 01, 2012, 05:11:55 AM »
I believe that Buddhism do not need supernatural stuff to entice people into believing that Buddhism is greater. The teachings itself by Buddha is already SUPERNATURAL! Buddha's teachings made sense with logical explanations and for me to contemplate and change just by reading and believing is supernatural in my term. Even High Lamas don't show and tell you that they have supernatural powers because of their humility and by their actions, we can tell that they themselves are supernatural!

http://www.abuddhistlibrary.com/Buddhism/D%20-%20Chinese%20Mahayana%20Buddhism/Authors/Hsing%20Yun/On%20Magic%20and%20the%20Supernatural/The%20Buddhist%20Perspective%20on%20Magic%20and%20Supernatural.htm

Beginning students in Buddhism are most attracted to magic. When they learn about someone who has had a supernatural experience, they flock to see this person. They usually overlook the cultivation of virtue in daily living. Wisdom is only developed through deep mental concentration from meditation, and meditation success relies on upholding precepts in daily living. If all of us here are serious students of Buddhism, we must start from the foundation of morality, not magic.

Do you really think magic will make your life happier? As long as we cannot read minds, even though people may hate us and curse us, we do not know it and everything is okay. If we could read minds, then we would know that this person is totally immoral, that one is hateful, and the other one is full of devious ideas. We would feel uncomfortable among these people. Even when we wished to be spared, we would still have the information anyway. Every day would be a long day. Suppose that we were about to die tomorrow but we did not know that, then today still would be a joyful day. If we had the power of knowing the future and we found out that death awaited us in twenty years, from this day on we would live our lives anxiously under the shadow of death. If we had celestial vision and found our loved ones having an affair, we would be consumed by jealousy and life would be miserable. If we do not know, we may live happily as ever. If we had celestial hearing, we might find our most trusted friends reviling us behind our backs, and we would certainly be enraged. Without celestial hearing, we may enjoy more peace and quietness.

Magic would not necessarily make life better. Morality and virtue are the true inexhaustible treasures. Before we are accomplished in high virtue and morality, we should not have magical powers. A life of virtue is superior to that of magic.

negra orquida

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Re: Does Buddhism need the supernatural stuff?
« Reply #14 on: June 01, 2012, 05:29:09 PM »
Interesting topic and interesting article!  This is something I wondered about... I heard some of the Jataka Tales and learned about the 3 or 4 miracles Buddha did to shut some people up... and wondered why does it seem like "miracles" seemed more prevalent in the past compared to now? I thought about it and I guess it has got to do with the audience and trend at the time... science wasn't what it was back then and the people at the time didn't believe so much in science, so seeing supernatural stuff probably increased their faith rather than scepticism.

For those born in the age of science, supernatural stuff in Buddhism probably won't impress us so much if we don't have much faith in Buddhism.  We might even find it a turn off, or a very big distraction from learning the essence of Dharma. 

For those who are more into Buddhism, they are probably more open minded to the idea, and may get blessings and increase our faith from seeing supernatural stuff performed by Buddhas/ highly attained lamas.  In this case, I think supernatural stuff is necessary as it is like some sort of proof to show that our perception on what is reality is not the same as a Buddha's, since the supernatural stuff can only be done by one who has realised the true nature of all phenomena. And that reality is not made up since it has been shown to us in the form of supernatural stuff which we can see directly.  Like what KhedrubGyatso said, the supernatural stuff is the manifestation of enlightened knowledge.