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Barbara O'Brien

Murderous Mahayana?

By October 10, 2010

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Shunyata, "emptiness," a foundational teaching of Mahayana Buddhism, may be one of the most difficult teachings in all of religion, never mind Buddhism. As I've been going on about in the past three posts, some things have to be realized, not conceptualized, and shunyata is one of those things.

It's to be expected that people who have not practiced in one of the Mahayana traditions will misunderstand it. For that matter, plenty of people who have practiced in the Mahayana traditions misunderstand it (see "You Are Not Nothing" for an example and further discussion of shunyata).

As Buddhism becomes more visible in the West, shunyata and other of the more difficult doctrines will be misjudged and mischaracterized by people who have read about these doctrines but don't "get" them. I've recently become aware that one such misunderstanding is making the rounds that casts all of Mahayana in a very ugly light.

For example, Vladimir Tikhonov wrote for Current Intelligence:

As Demiéville makes clear, Buddhism tends to reject the existence of any essential existence of things (svabhāva) as such, and Mahāyāna philosophy accordingly privileges "mind"/"consciousness," the questions of the "relative" existence of matter being hotly debated by a variety of theoretical traditions. Thus, in the matter of killing, it is the intention and not the act in itself that is focused upon. As some of the most influential Mahāyāna sūtras (Ratnakūta Sūtra, Yogācārabhūmi, etc.) suggest, "killing" is simply a meaningless misconception from an "enlightened" viewpoint (since neither the killer nor the killed have any independent existence) and may be undertaken if intended to prevent a worse misfortune, and done with the best objectives in mind.

I've seen Tikhonov's article linked to and cited on several major religion sites as a frank revelation of ugly things about Buddhism those airhead Buddhists refuse to acknowledge. And I can understand how someone might have come to this conclusion from an intellectual assessment of the teachings. But from the perspective of the Two Truths (discussed in the Heart Sutra article) it's an error to say that "'killing' is simply a meaningless misconception from an 'enlightened' viewpoint." A genuinely enlightened viewpoint takes killing very seriously, indeed.

The Ratnakūta, or Jewel Heap, is said to be one of the oldest sutras of Mahayana. I understand it presents some of the foundations of Madhyamika philosophy. And the Yogācārabhūmi is an important text of the Yogacara school. These are extremely difficult philosophies that often take years of a monastic's life to learn. Read literally and superficially, especially outside the context of the whole of Mahayana teaching, I can understand how a great deal of the old scriptures could be misinterpreted. And folks, is it ever being misinterpreted.

In the the Sunday Times Book Review, Katherine Wharton describes a scene from the Ratnakūta that "presents the disciple Manjushri threatening the Buddha with a sword." In utter ignorance of the mystical meaning of Manjusri's sword, Wharton interprets this scene as a teaching that murder is no big deal.

In another passage, she describes a 9th-century Chinese monk raving "Kill everything you encounter, internally as well as externally! Kill the Buddha! Kill your father and mother! Kill your closest friends!" One suspects this "kill" was in the usual sense of "killing the Buddha," meaning to kill ideas, conceptualizations, and even designations, not homicide.

(Good thing Wharton wasn't at the zendo with me today. In her dharma talk my teacher employed the metaphor of jumping off a cliff to describe the direct experience of the dropping away of delusions and whatever we're clinging to. If she'd heard this, no doubt Wharton right now would be writing a blistering warning that Buddhism encourages suicide.)

Wharton continues,

Buddhism argues that identification with the principle "no-self" is the highest wisdom. Buddhism, therefore, is usually centred on the refusal of any kind of self-assertion, particularly the assertion of the assailant or the assertion of predator over prey. In Mahayana Buddhism, the refusal of assertion is called the "wisdom of emptiness".

Many Zen masters have warned that if your understanding is off by a hair, it's off by miles, or is "mountains and rivers away." Wharton is not even in the same galaxy. Frankly, I'm at a loss to understand what Wharton is thinking here. But in another part of the review, she writes,

Emptiness, therefore, is not emotionally neutral - we will experience it as desolation, even horror. How can identification with "the void", with that which we most fear, make us more peaceful?

All emotions are "empty," so calling emptiness "emotionally neutral," or not, kind of misses what emptiness is. Wharton is making emptiness into an object with attributes, and that's no way to understand it. I'm not sure where she's getting desolation and horror; possibly from a connection she's drawn between emptiness and Freud.

Mahayana teaching is that a true realization of shunyata cannot exist without compassion, and vice versa. That said, it's certainly true that Buddhist history is peopled with those whose understanding fell short and whose view was one-sided. But I take it that from now on Buddhism is to be held responsible for the actions of its most deluded members, in a way that Christianity and other more "familiar" religions are not. This is a point I'd like to address in more detail in another post, however.

Wharton's review is of two books, Buddhist Warfare, edited by academics Michael K. Jerry son and Mark Juergensmeyer, which  I discussed in an earlier post.; and The Six Perfections by Dale S. Wright. The Six Perfections, or paramitas, in Mahayana Buddhism are six aspects of character or understanding to be perfected through practice -- generosity, morality, patience, energy, concentration, and wisdom. And, of course, in Mahayana Buddhism, wisdom (prajna) is the realization of shunyata.

Having been persuaded by Jerryson and Juergensmeyer that shunyata is as likely to inspire homicide than not, and erroneously believing that "emptiness" in Buddhism is a nihilistic void, or else something like Freud's idea of the unconscious, Wharton chides Wright for not coming clean with his readers about the Dark Side of the Dharma.

To compare this to a better understood religion, this is a bit like thinking the Last Supper of Christ was a literal consumption of Jesus' flesh and blood, and then scolding a Christian writer for not warning people that Holy Communion might lead to cannibalism.

Wharton also seems to think Wright "abandons" karma, which she assumes to be a cosmic justice system that rewards good and punishes evil. Wright responds to Wharton's review at the Tricycle blog, and he is a great deal more gracious to Wharton than I would have been. I suppose I should work harder on my paramitas.

Both Wharton and Tikhonov draw a great deal of their "knowledge" from the Jerryson and Juergensmeyer book, and here Wharton cites the afterword to that book by Bernard Faure --

In the afterword, Bernard Faure states that the aim of the collection was to press Buddhists and scholars of Buddhism to face up to the worst aberrations and silences within the tradition. Faure accuses many contemporary Buddhist apologists of taking the "high metaphysical or moral ground" rather than recognizing that in Buddhism, as in all the faiths, there is a constant struggle between light and darkness, between the promise of release and "the violence that lies at the heart of reality (and of each individual)".

The most basic of Buddhist teachings, for both Mahayana and Theravada, is that it is ignorance of reality that is the root cause of suffering and the "evil" of the world. In Mahayana teaching, the heart of reality, the ground of being, is not violence but Buddha-nature. Faure basically is saying that all Buddhism is a pile of crap and would be so much better if it gave up on that silly enlightenment thing and just adopted the same views as all the other, more sensible, religions.

The goal of pressing "Buddhists and scholars of Buddhism to face up to the worst aberrations and silences within the tradition" is a fine one, but it needs to be done by someone who actually knows Buddhism, or at least can sort it from carpet lint.

Comments
October 10, 2010 at 7:15 pm
(1) NellaLou says:

“I can understand how someone might have come to this conclusion from an intellectual assessment of the teachings.”

Your point is exactly on the mark Barbara.

In these intellectual situations reliance is upon validating conclusions within a rather closed intellectual framework. And that framework is based on traditional European modes of thought and intellectual history. Desire for positive peer review and therefore publication further influences the narrow view. Scholars who profess Buddhist practice have been labeled as biased [unless they also slag Buddhism-quite a case of cognitive dissonance to live with] yet those with distinctive [particularly] Christian, Marxist or other acceptable philosophical biases are deemed “objective”.

What is it with scholars of Buddhism who so strongly dislike their subject matter?

In reading Faure’s book “Unmasking Buddhism” for example it’s as if he’s writing with a little vomit in his mouth at several points. I understand these folks may not experientially understand the subject but often even intellectually it seems beyond them. Faure might consider sticking with art history which he’s much better at.

Or the upset experienced when their own delusions are shattered is so overwhelming that this gets played up to the point of dominating the discourse, as in the case of Jerryson and Juergensmeyer.

The incredulity with which they present things that have happened in history and are quite well known in Asia, including in academia, reveals far more about their naivety than about the history or Buddhism itself. And the lack of dealing with the socio-political factors is also appallingly reductionist.

Such is academic orthodoxy. Recapitulated in Wharton’s and Tikhonov’s pieces.

October 10, 2010 at 8:53 pm
(2) Barbara O'Brien says:

What is it with scholars of Buddhism who so strongly dislike their subject matter?

My suspicion is that, deep down, they can’t deal with the fact that an “Asian” religion is being taken seriously and even practiced by non-Asians in the West.

October 11, 2010 at 2:10 am
(3) Petteri Sulonen says:

It could also be that they’re scholars of Buddhism because they so strongly dislike it.

Richard Pipes is a first-degree scholar of Soviet Russia, and he hates Bolshevism like poison. Bernard Lewis is pretty sharp with the history of Islam, and he hates that with a passion. The lady who shot the commander of the Israeli client army in South Lebanon now speaks Hebrew like a native.

Hatred can be a very powerful motive for study. It’s a shame it still never stops coloring what you discover.

Sun Tzu: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” It’s interesting that he didn’t even bother mentioning the missing combination—knowing your enemy but not yourself. Perhaps he thought that would be just absurd.

October 11, 2010 at 9:46 am
(4) Kyle says:

Thank you Barbara for such a greeat rebuttal. I had to write about this as well, given the sheer ignorance that Wharton and Tikhonov show in their reviews.

October 11, 2010 at 10:29 am
(5) Pete says:

Killing, Killer, and Killed really are all emptiness. Roasting in Hell for three aeons is also emptiness. But try telling a Hell-Being that the molten copper is of the nature of emptiness! They may hear the words, but not likely to experience shunyata at that point. Western scholars always seem to get confused by the Two Truths. Manjusri coming at the Buddha with a sword demonstrated Ultimate Truth, realised by the Buddhas, but not by sentient beings.

October 11, 2010 at 1:30 pm
(6) Scott says:

Wow. I never realized that there was such entrenched academic ignorance and antipathy toward Buddhism of all things. I kinda half expect to see this on one of Glen Beck’s talking points in the near future!

I thought it was an uphill climb convincing other Buddhists you could be in the military and still practice your beliefs. Now I’m concerned this type of screed will be used against my brothers and sisters in uniform from a completely opposite point of view.

I’m just grateful there are learned people such as yourself Barbara, who are intellectually equipped to refute this profound ignorance.

May I please link your post on my blog for the benefit of any military Buddhists out there?

With Metta

October 11, 2010 at 2:01 pm
(7) Barbara O'Brien says:

Scott — certainly, link away, and thank you. What branch of the service are you in?

October 11, 2010 at 5:12 pm
(8) Scott says:

Thank you Barbara :) I’m prior service Army, from a long line of military peeps.

I appreciate your scholarship on this article, since I’m kind of a knuckle-dragger. I’m the guy that gets enlightenment only after a thousand trips up and down the mountain =D Right now, I’m at about trip 250, and losing count.

October 11, 2010 at 8:33 pm
(9) Kenneth Elder says:

Emptiness in Theravada Buddhism is an aspect of seeing the no-Self or egoless nature of all things. Because a conditioned thing has no self existence does not mean that it is absolutely non-existent. The Theravada says Buddha taught that the four primary elements of earth, water, air and fire have a conditioned existence. The solidity of an object can only exist in association with the principles of fluidity, gaseousness, ionization and the principle of emptiness. Emptiness is also a conditioned thing, it only exists in relations to the four primaries and they with it. But the Theravada teaches that the four primaries are not merely a projection of mind or consciousness. That is a Hindu Tantric teaching not Buddha’s original teaching according to the Theravada. Mind and body are neither absolutely dependent nor absolutely independent. Except for Nirvana all is process. The Mind Only teaching of Tantric Mahayana does pose some ethical philosophical dilemmas. No such ethical philosophical dilemma exists with the Theravada teaching. The Theravada says that the material four primaries, mental qualities, consciousness and Nibbana (Nirvana) are absolute realities but that the first 3 are conditioned realities and only Nibbana is an Unconditioned reality beyond the process of karma. Those who have attained the tranquil samadhi of the formless levels of concentration meditation without attaining realization of insight meditation often have the illusion that they have attained some Timeless Unconditioned state and sometimes wrongly think that they are beyond karma and can do some act that violate the ethical precepts. One who by the use of vipassana insight meditation attains just the First Path and First Fruit of Nirvana called Stream-entry would never intentionally kill a human or animal, never break any of the five precepts.

October 11, 2010 at 8:58 pm
(10) Barbara O'Brien says:

Except for Nirvana all is process.

Mahayana does not disagree with that.

The Mind Only teaching of Tantric Mahayana does pose some ethical philosophical dilemmas.

No more than Theravada, if you understand it, but take care; yogacara is a very difficult teaching. I haven’t written about it much here because, frankly, I don’t think I’m ready. But yogacara is an important influence in both Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, and isn’t necessarily tethered to tantra, I don’t believe. Making judgments about teachings you don’t understand, as you are doing, is precisely the issue discussed in the post.

October 11, 2010 at 10:32 pm
(11) Kyle says:

Barbara,

I’m not sure why, but one of the co-publishers, Michael Jerryson left a comment on my blog for you. Not sure if you wanted to respond to him there or not.

Kyle

October 11, 2010 at 11:12 pm
(12) Barbara O'Brien says:

Not sure if you wanted to respond to him there or not.

I’ve been caring for my my cat housemate, who has cancer, and I believe she’s very close to the end now. So if your see Mr. Jerryson tell him I’ll read his comment in a couple of days, maybe, and get back to him then, maybe. I really don’t want to deal with him right now. If you or anyone else wants to respond to him, be my guest.

October 11, 2010 at 10:45 pm
(13) NellaLou says:

What an odd comment it is too. He addresses Barbara on someone else’s blog. And with the provision:

“To address this in the most simplest of ways…”

Maybe he should have written it in crayon.

October 12, 2010 at 4:46 am
(14) Petteri Sulonen says:

Thinking good thoughts in the general direction of you and your cat friend. Metta and all that.

Re Yogacara, I’ve probably totally misunderstood it, but I don’t think it’s that hard. I got the impression that it’s, basically, a series of elegant and powerful conceptual models of the mind, where the successive one deconstructs the previous one, and terms and definitions are renegotiated for each of them. None of them represent the truth; instead, they’re all relative and provisional truths useful for some particular purpose. It does keep you off-balance, but if you’re somewhat familiar with, say, Karl Popper or Edmund Husserl, this type of thinking (in provisional, relative, and negotiated truths and terms) shouldn’t be too confusing.

It is very hard to say anything about it without piling on a lot of qualifiers, though, because context is everything.

(And no, I don’t think the ethical dilemma Kenneth refers to is without a solution, although there does appear to be one at first glance.)

October 12, 2010 at 6:44 am
(15) Kyle says:

Barbara,

Sorry to hear about your cat, that is a difficult thing to go through. I replied to him, but I doubt he’ll respond. Maybe Nella can repsond to him as well and coax him into commenting back. Like she says, he seems a bit demeaning. But don’t worry about him, I wish the best for you and your cat.

Kyle

October 12, 2010 at 2:50 pm
(16) Barbara O'Brien says:

Kyle — Eventually I suppose I will have to read Jerryson’s and Juergensmeyer’s book, if I can get my hands on a copy without having to buy it. Even the used copies at Amazon are pricey.

October 12, 2010 at 5:14 pm
(17) NellaLou says:

I’d add my 2.5¢ but I haven’t access to the book right now and will be offline soon for a few days Kyle. When that’s resolved then perhaps.

Just for a minute though, I’d like to note some bigger issues, of which this is only a symptom. Here’s an example.

http://www.thezensite.com/ZenEssays/HistoricalZen/McRaeIntroduction.pdf

Which is an introduction to a scholarly book by Heinrich Demoulin, a well known and highly respected academic who has given a lot to the field of Buddhist Studies.

What McRae provides is a very adequate critique of Demoulin’s work (which is valuable for what it is and certainly not the last word) which also applies to many of the other scholarly works produced since then. It enumerates many of the difficulties scholars have had historically as well as provides an analysis of what happens when “Western” and particularly Christian-indoctrinated scholars have at Buddhist studies without reflecting on their own backgrounds and biases.

As McRae states regarding Zen Studies:

“We have of course not “arrived” anywhere yet in Zen studies, but Dumoulin’s History is an appropriate tool for our self-reflection as participants in the study of Zen, and even more broadly as inheritors of the East-West cultural traditions of the twentieth century. To proceed without that self-reflection would be a variation on the “intellectual pathology” which academic students of Zen (but by definition not practitioners) may contract….

[The History..] can no longer be considered a piece of secondary scholarship. It is now a primary text, a source for us to examine so that we might better understand ourselves. That is, by reading this book we may be able to learn how the field of Zen studies developed over the course of the twentieth century. Rather than swatting ourselves in the head with this rather sizeable tome, we should use it as a treasure trove for the examination of our own intellectual origins. “

October 12, 2010 at 5:15 pm
(18) NellaLou says:

(continued)

Much of Buddhist scholarship could be examined and taken under a similar light. There are many fine scholars in the field of Buddhist studies and related areas (Lopez, Prebish, the Wallaces-Alan and Vesna, Lewis Lancaster and many others) so it’s not like there is no value in the field. And it’s not like the implementation of Buddhism in various cultures hasn’t been without, sometimes significant, problems, misinterpretations and deliberate misconstruals in order to bolster currently held and usually unexamined viewpoints.

Both Buddhism and Buddhist Studies are not immune from corruption (delusion). This should be fairly evident to both practicing Buddhists and scholars who study the subject. It’s the foundation of the entire subject matter!

So it doesn’t hurt once in a while to examine the “why” of a thing. Is it a reaction to one’s own cognitive situation or to enhance one’s own reputation or to demonstrate some sense of superiority? There are a lot of reasons scholars and others do what they do other than intellectual curiosity, advancing knowledge or attempting to ascertain some relative or even universal truth.

In this case to document the coexistence of Buddhist based or influenced culture with violent socio-political instances is not the problem. The problem arises when one attempts to assign causality to one of many existing ideological streams in a particular society. For example would the Burmese generals have taken over if they were not Buddhist. Probably. It certainly seems to be something military culture might foster. (Pakistan, Panama etc. where military dictators have staged coups) Or in other cases, as Kyle so well explained in his post about Japan, Shinto and the various nationalistic movements where there was a definite confluence of factors that needed to be considered.

October 12, 2010 at 5:16 pm
(19) Kyle says:

Barbara – Id be more than happy to send you mine. It was weird, while I usually get inundated with requests to review books, I actually asked for a review copy and was turned down. It seems that they perhaps only sent them to non-Buddhist sites, not sure.

This might get ya started.

http://books.google.com/books?id=cXORqV4AZjcC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Buddhist+Warfare&hl=en&ei=4na0TP27FIS0lQeY5-2VCg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=book-preview-link&resnum=1&ved=0CCwQuwUwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

October 12, 2010 at 5:16 pm
(20) NellaLou says:

(continued-again)

In this particular instance inductive reasoning, that is trying to make a general statement about a few specific instances, seems to be the sticking point. If one starts with a premise that all religions are inherently violent then it’s not too hard to find instances that seem to prove that. Prof. Jerryson’s biography begins with the statement:

“Professor Jerryson’s primary area of research is on identity formation and the intersections of religion and violence.”

So if that’s what one is looking for, specifically, then via confirmation bias, that’s what one will find.

I do agree with the professor that religions can be co-opted for other purposes. Interestingly it is these exceptions that we tend to most take note of. And it is mainly when they intersect with politics that such instances happen. If religions were inherently violent the world would be a much worse place than it is.

And Barbara your point about Asian religions being studied, taken seriously and followed is a good one but I don’t think it goes far enough. For many secular dogmatists, if *any* religion is taken seriously or followed that seems tantamount to heresy.

October 13, 2010 at 1:02 am
(21) V says:

I wonder what Buddha would think of all this?

Religions and religious books can have different interpretations, but the meaning of good, moral and compassion are pretty clear…that is what matters in all religions.

October 13, 2010 at 2:26 am
(22) Petteri Sulonen says:

Humans like to construct tribes. Almost anything can serve as a focal point for one—a religion or some of its practices or beliefs, a language, a set of physical characteristics, a flag, a football team, a style of music, a political philosophy, a style of clothing. Tribalism can easily spin off into violence, regardless of the focal points at the core.

I’ve long found it curious how the Gnu Atheists like to focus exclusively on religion and ignore the rest.

October 13, 2010 at 4:23 am
(23) Glen says:

Seems like people forget that ”emptiness is also form…” I guess it is not easy for book worms to get their heads around this.

Glen.

October 14, 2010 at 4:42 pm
(24) Andrew says:

These people are treasure hunters. They get excited when they think they have found where X marks the spot. But the refutation of their position is as simple as pointing out that history shows not a hint that Buddhists are a rampant mob of cheerful psychopaths carving up their enemies without the slightest moral qualm … which is what their position implies. Ludicrous.

October 14, 2010 at 5:26 pm
(25) Jim Jackson says:

Killing is one thing, murder is another. Intentionality plays the central role in both actions … and regardless of the presence or absence of a spiritual or religious belief. There is no need for the community to defend the experiential and realized teaching of shunyata. To do so is the same as defending the rain for causing the wetness of water.

October 14, 2010 at 6:07 pm
(26) carl says:

First of all there is no cure for stupid or bad motivation even if one has a PhD. Anyone can tear down anything and they do. I do however wish the Buddhist of which I count myself, would get off what seems like an obsession with “emptiness” and “no self”. The recent book I am reading by Harsh Narain, in The Madhyamika Mind, suggests that those two terms have been abused thus leading to the belief that Buddhism in the extreme interpretations of Madhyamika is nihilistic. The recent book which your have taken to task– “Confession of a Buddhist Atheist”is an example of what can happen. The Buddha was, I think, one of those people, perhaps like U.G. Krishnamurti who preferred to be ambiguous about that was difficult to describe perhaps because he was trying to provide an inductive method–find out for yourself- rather than an deductive method. Anyway thanks for your intelligence about the matter.

October 14, 2010 at 11:50 pm
(27) Kenneth Elder says:

No-self is usually misunderstood. It means no unchanging individuality. We do not have the same mind we had as a child. Because mind is always changing and there is no absolute boundary between our mind and other peoples minds (as shown by telepathy) does not mean that there is no continuity of the karmic mental process. One wave of consciousness conditions the next wave of consciousness. There is a mental process that is reborn from body to body until Nirvana is realized. Those who take the Bodhisattva vow and have not attained even the Path of Stream-entry are only speculating when they say there is process in Nirvana since it is something they have never experienced. Those who have attained Nirvana describe it as being beyond all process; being unconditioned, unformed, unmanifest, uncaused, immortal means that Nirvana is beyond all causal process otherwise it would not be possible to transcend karma. If Nirvana were process then it could never become a final peace and there would be no final release from suffering.

October 15, 2010 at 1:48 am
(28) Ned Wilson says:

Forgive my pompousness! If you defend Buddhism do it with compassion for the critic. Avoid bad language and the belittling of the critic otherwise you and the critic are one.

October 15, 2010 at 6:18 am
(29) Barbara O'Brien says:

Forgive my pompousness! If you defend Buddhism do it with compassion for the critic. Avoid bad language and the belittling of the critic otherwise you and the critic are one.

Ned:

1. Don’t confuse “compassionate” with “nice.”
2. The critic and I are not two.

October 15, 2010 at 10:11 am
(30) Pete says:

Barbara made a good point by saying that emptiness is not an objective “thing”. Emptiness is empty of that, too. And that type of view of emptiness also does lend itself to nihilism. Phenomona don’t just disappear upon enlightenment, there just known to be not-real.

October 15, 2010 at 8:13 pm
(31) Michele Carbery says:

In the struggle to use human vocabulary to describe the reality of the way things are – free from name, concepts and delusion – many different approaches have been attempted. Some of these attempted descriptions may appear misleading, or open to extreme interpretation, depending upon the state of mind of the recipient.

The truth that people are trying to describe in their own, sometimes colorful and dramatic ways, is supremely simple – and it is founded upon love and compassion.

If a person reads one description or teaching that leads them to experience a seemingly negative feeling or idea, I would recommend delving deeper and continuing to persue until they find a teaching that resonnates clearly in their heart.

A person can measure if their understanding is going in the right direction when peace, love and compassion in their mind and heart *increases*.

All these practices and understandings lead to profound inner peace and compassion – that is the measure. If you are not experiencing peace and compassion, you are not yet understanding correctly.

What I would say to Wharton and any others experiencing a negative feeling or confusion about emptiness is, don’t be discouraged, keep seeking to understand – it is within the scope of all human beings, without exception, to understand and experience the unobstructed peace, love, wisdom and compassion that Buddha and many others came to know.

October 21, 2010 at 4:50 pm
(32) AVP says:

I stopped caring what Western “scholars” think about Buddhism years ago. There’s so much ignorance and racism my mind goes numb. Good thing very few other people care either.

October 28, 2010 at 12:44 am
(33) Arhat Aryashakya says:

Shunyata is not for you who did not renounce the world to live the holy life in the Buddha Sangha.

October 28, 2010 at 8:36 am
(34) Barbara O'Brien says:

Arhat Aryashakya / Maria de Fatima Machado — yes, the Canadian IP address gives you away — I was just thinking the other day whether you’d given up trying to post your toxic comments here, and now you’ve popped up again. I will continue to delete the sickest of what you post, but you really should get psychiatric help.

October 31, 2010 at 10:53 am
(35) Andrew says:

“to which you have already sent abusive – non-solicited e-mail?”

No, she didn’t. How do I know? I have seen this type of posting so often on Buddhist forums, always from the same kind of person. I leave you to work out what kind.

P.S.: You are not an arhat.

November 8, 2010 at 1:13 am
(36) CHRIS D says:

ah, and wherever emptiness exists, people rush to fill it up again.

November 8, 2010 at 7:51 am
(37) Barbara O'Brien says:

ah, and wherever emptiness exists, people rush to fill it up again.

That’s a different kind of emptiness.

February 13, 2013 at 11:02 am
(38) Minh says:

I have read somewhere that Shunyata cannot be understood but can be experienced and I fully agree. MAYBE ( a big maybe) I did fall into it ( because I did not know what and how it happened?) without undersatanding anything, then few years afterwards when I read documents about shunyata I THINK maybe my exoerience was what people talk about because such experience was totally unknown and I could not put any label on it at the time it happened

February 13, 2013 at 4:25 pm
(39) Barbara O'Brien says:

Minh — Generally the experience of sunyata has the effect of changing one’s perspective. It’s not just an experience. But this is something you ought to talk to a teacher about, one-on-one.

July 7, 2013 at 11:50 am
(40) onebuddhist says:

After reading Tikhonov’s review, it’s obvious that these are Western-elite Marxists who believe that ALL religion is evil.

As the review concludes, ‘…a broader and stronger contextualization of Buddhist violence as part and parcel of a more general tendency of practically all religions to be violent. Religions are symbolic systems that organize the universe in such a way as to make themselves central and powerful–and closing the distance between “power” and “violence” is only a question of time, however “compassionate” the axiology of a given religion might originally have been. The present collection shows us very clearly the dangers inherent in privileging one religion–even a most “compassionate”-looking one–in relation to others.’

A debatable point, and so I wouldn’t say they’re attacking only Buddhism.

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