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Old 04-27-2001, 08:11 AM   #11
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Originally posted by Bill:
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Another part of it is that we truly do not understand Eastern ways of thought. This became obvious to me the more I personally tried to understand Buddhism during my deconversion from Christianity.
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Speak for yourself. If you actually have the arrogance to decree so smugly that we westerners can't understand so called eastern thought, and the arrogance to utter this as an empirical truth about all westerners (presumably including those of us who actually put the hard work in, both at a philosophical level, a linguistic level and a practical level) then how can you expect me to take your introductory welcomingstatement seriously?

Where the hell do you get off claiming that no westerner can understand so called eastern thought and by extension Hwa Yen, Madhyamika, Yogacarya, Vedantic etc philosophies just because you yourself were either inadequate to the task or too bloody lazy?

You can't understand something therefore nobody else in the west can and if they can, they can't because you're not having it and they're just pretending?

Seriously, that is the most disgustingly smug, arrogant thing I have read in all my life. I think you should re-adopt christianity, you'd make a great fundamentalist! Try Van Til!

[This message has been edited by Waning Moon Conrad (edited April 27, 2001).]
 
Old 04-27-2001, 09:15 AM   #12
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Any chance we could remove 'Western' from the subtitle? My worldview is Western.

Having read a number of your posts, thinker, I agree that your worldview is indeed Western. As far as I'm concerned, Western mysticism is a valid topic for discussion, along with philosophical implications of spoon-bending, horoscopes, tarot cards and ESP dream analysis. It is precisely this reason that the title of the forum is Non-Abrahamic Religion/Philosophy and not 'Eastern Religion and Philosophy'.

Sub-titles, as a rule, are marketing material, not content.
 
Old 04-27-2001, 02:50 PM   #13
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Originally posted by Bill:
I came away from my toying with Buddhism with the clear impression that most of those who are possessed of a logical and rational Western mind can never begin to grasp the fundamentals of Eastern thought, and that most of the Westerners who thought that they could do so were mostly deluding themselves. To make a serious stab at it, you have to learn at least one of the key languages in which the basic books are written, and you have to immerse yourself in that language until you gain at least some ability to think in that language. Then, you just might begin to understand what it is that is being said by those ancient texts. English translations of said texts are simply incapable of conveying the fundamental truth of their meaning. The English language and Western-trained minds are not good tools for gaining a deep understanding of Eastern religious teachings.

And while others on this Board have disagreed with me when I've said something like the above before, I still have to wonder upon what they base their disagreement. Its always possible that they are deluding themselves into believing that they understand that which they are incapable of understanding.

I could say a lot more about this, but it would be wandering too far off-topic, so I will save it for another thread. Bill


1. Speaking as a long-time translator, though not of Buddhist texts, translations are fine for studying. The only thing that can't be translated is poetry, simply because that is dependent on sight-and-sound systems unique to particular languages. If the translation does not convey what the original text said, that is the translator's fault, not the text's.

2. Westerners and Easterners are the same species. What one can do, the other can learn. Quantum mechanics and molecular biology are a hell of a lot more difficult than any Buddhist writing, and easterners have no trouble mastering them. I suspect with several years and good teachers, any reasonably intelligent person could master buddhist thought and logic. "Most people" can learn these philosophies. After all, ordinary Tibetans do it every day. Do you think they are born with some special brain device not available to westerners?

3. Eastern thinking is eminently comprehensible. All you have to do is understand its historical and cultural roots, which takes some investment of time and energy. For example, if you read an essay written in Chinese style, and translate it to English, it will read like gibberish (a problem I face all the time). The inexperienced will think: "I'll never understand them. How can they think like this?" I happen to know, however, that the proper organization of a Chinese essay is circular rather than nested, like an english essay, so when I see my students writing garbage, I assume that they are writing with chinese rather than english organization, and teach accordingly. Learning eastern thinking consists of study of eastern behavior and history, not muttering darkly that those of us who think we have a handle on things are just deluding ourselves (I have made no study of Buddhism, for personal reasons, but my study of other eastern thought systems has convinced me that nothing out of the ordinary is going on). Logic and rationality, whether in their western or eastern manifestations, are always an aid to understanding and never an impediment to it.

4. You might also read their own attacks on their modes of thinking -- Confucian assaults on Buddhism and Daoism, Daoistic vitriol against the other two, smug Buddhist writing on its opponents. Or general cultural criticism like Bo Yang's hilarious The Ugly Chinaman. Confucians do not consider Buddhism difficult and unreachable, they consider it vapid, antisocial and absurd. Etc. Etc. Obviously the easterners themselves have complex takes on their own philosophies.

5. Finally, your claim amounts to saying that Needham, Fairbanks, Maspero, Norman, and other great scholars of the east are mostly poseurs and frauds, relying on our ignorance to convince us that they actually know something. In fact, the whole academic project, insofar as eastern philosophies are concerned, is probably a waste of time and energy. That position is not really defensible, Bill. "Most people," with proper application of time and effort, can learn these things.

I could have been a lot nastier (I don't like being called "deluded"), but we are all friends here. I have spent the last 12 years of life studying Taiwan and have come to a very good understanding of it, thank you. If you don't believe me, you can check out my extensive website on living and teaching there:
http://users2.ev1.net/~turton/teach_index.html

Ultimately, I am married to an easterner and I do not consider her thinking to be illogical and irrational, or inaccessible, or possessed of an especial depth mine doesn't have, except when she disagrees with me, of course .

Michael

 
Old 04-28-2001, 12:27 PM   #14
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Eastern religion is great. If the atheist/agnostic has any desire to look into religion, Buddhism is the way to go.
 
Old 04-29-2001, 01:35 PM   #15
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This reminds me of William Jennings Bryan's demonstration of his depth of knowledge of Buddhism:

He was told by some convert that "the nice thing about it is that you don't have to believe anything to be a Buddhist".

Thus, one can believe that the miraculous conception of the Buddha was pure fiction and still be a good Buddhist. At least I'm under that impression.

 
 

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