Post 1: Introduction on Buddhism as The Sacred and The Profane
Introducing Buddhism, Blasphemy, and Blackmail
Born and raised in New York City, Nick studies philosophy at Trinity College Dublin, specializing in Mathematical Logic and in the crossroads of free will, determinism, and personhood. His particular interests are: Logic, Philosophy, Motorsports, Kurt Vonnegut, Bertrand Russell, 20th Century American Literature, The Automotive Industry, and Debate.
Disillusioned words like bullets bark,
As human gods aim for their marks,
Made everything from toy guns that sparks,
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark,
It's easy to see without looking too far,
That not much, Is really sacred.
-Bob Dylan, from "It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)
Last week both Burma and Sri Lanka, in a hysterical and dictatorial move, banned issues of Time Magazine's July 1st issue, which has as its cover story "The Face of Buddhist Terror" by Hannah Beech. The article highlighted the recent rise U Wirathu, a horrifying, sneering Buddhist monk who's uses his leader status to instill and galvanize violent hatred of Muslims.
Simultaneously, while spending time together over the 4th of July weekend, my extended family got into a discussion of reincarnation. It turns out that a few out of the bunch are sympathetic to the ideas of an ancient or Eastern solution to some of life's so-called "big questions." And so it came up that the doctrine of reincarnation, particularly the Buddhist conception of such, seemed more than credible to a few of us.
Further, the superiority of Buddhists in terms of mental and spiritual "enlightenment" and the fundamental goodness of the faith were a foregone conclusion.
When I spoke up to challenge the reincarnation doctrine, on philosophical grounds (which grounds will be discussed below) I was reproached as if I had just simultaneously kicked a puppy and blasphemed against a true religion.
This terrified me, but it didn't surprise me. I have grown accustomed to a familiar script playing out if I try to have a discussion that is even lightly critical of Buddhism. This sinister verbal Jiu-Jitsu clouds the issues and obscures the truth.
So, I can't bring myself to swallow the bitter pill of twisted words when I hear Buddhists claiming that their beliefs are wholly scientific, or that their Buddhist philosophy is simply a methodology or a metaphor.
Out of this, I feel strongly that I must fight against the claims that I have often heard from my Western Buddhist and non-Buddhist compatriots, who, through insisting on a series of vagaries and leveraging a sort of ethical catch-22, elevate Buddhism to a level above criticism and reproach.
To carry out this fight, I have prepared a ten part series listing the fallacies and the uncomfortably familiar moral blackmail regarding Buddhism which I think are particularly pernicious in "The West." Over the course of the series, I will address the what I believe to be the particular problematic examples in the cultural discussion about Buddhism.
I will break this analysis into sections based around the themes of: Buddhist history, current events, linguistics, the words and actions of The Dalai Lama, the superstitious belief in reincarnation, philosophy, and the relative status of Buddhism to other religions.
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
How a cataclysm worse than what killed the dinosaurs destroyed 90 percent of all life on Earth.
While the demise of the dinosaurs gets more attention as far as mass extinctions go, an even more disastrous event called "the Great Dying” or the “End-Permian Extinction” happened on Earth prior to that. Now scientists discovered how this cataclysm, which took place about 250 million years ago, managed to kill off more than 90 percent of all life on the planet.
A new study discovers the “liking gap” — the difference between how we view others we’re meeting for the first time, and the way we think they’re seeing us.
We tend to be defensive socially. When we meet new people, we’re often concerned with how we’re coming off. Our anxiety causes us to be so concerned with the impression we’re creating that we fail to notice that the same is true of the other person as well. A new study led by Erica J. Boothby, published on September 5 in Psychological Science, reveals how people tend to like us more in first encounters than we’d ever suspect.
Using advanced laser technology, scientists at NASA will track global changes in ice with greater accuracy.
Leaving from Vandenberg Air Force base in California this coming Saturday, at 8:46 a.m. ET, the Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 — or, the "ICESat-2" — is perched atop a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket, and when it assumes its orbit, it will study ice layers at Earth's poles, using its only payload, the Advance Topographic Laser Altimeter System (ATLAS).
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.