Elements of wrong views common to Secular Buddhism

Of the 62 wrong views in DN 1, it seems that Secular Buddhists hold in common elements from them that fall into both of the below categories.

Speculations about the past > doctrines of fortuitious origination > view 18 (bolded):

  1. Doctrines of Fortuitous Origination (Adhiccasamuppannavāda): Views 17–18

“There are, bhikkhus, some recluses and brahmins, who are fortuitous originationists, and who on two grounds proclaim the self and the world to originate fortuitously. And owing to what, with reference to what, do these honourable recluses and brahmins proclaim their views?

“There are, bhikkhus, certain gods called ‘non-percipient beings.’ When perception arises in them, those gods pass away from that plane. Now, bhikkhus, this comes to pass, that a certain being, after passing away from that plane, takes rebirth in this world. Having come to this world, he goes forth from home to homelessness. When he has gone forth, by means of ardour, endeavour, application, diligence, and right reflection, he attains to such a degree of mental concentration that with his mind thus concentrated he recollects the arising of perception, but nothing previous to that. He speaks thus: ‘The self and the world originate fortuitously. What is the reason? Because previously I did not exist, but now I am. Not having been, I sprang into being.’

“This, bhikkhus, is the first case.

“In the second case, owing to what, with reference to what, are some honourable recluses and brahmins fortuitous originationists, proclaiming the self and the world to originate fortuitously?

“Herein, bhikkhus, a certain recluse or a brahmin is a rationalist, an investigator. He declares his view—hammered out by reason, deduced from his investigations, following his own flight of thought—thus: ‘The self and the world originate fortuitously.’

“This, bhikkhus, is the second case.

“It is on these two grounds, bhikkhus, that those recluses and brahmins who are fortuitous originationists proclaim the self and the world to originate fortuitously. Whatever recluses or brahmins there may be who proclaim the self and the world to originate fortuitously, all of them do so on these two grounds or on a certain one of them. Outside of these there is none.

“This, bhikkhus, the Tathāgata understands. And he understands: ‘These standpoints, thus assumed and thus misapprehended, lead to such a future destination, to such a state in the world beyond.’ He understands as well what transcends this, yet even that understanding he does not misapprehend. And because he is free from misapprehension, he has realized within himself the state of perfect peace. Having understood as they really are the origin and the passing away of feelings, their satisfaction, their unsatisfactoriness, and the escape from them, the Tathāgata, bhikkhus, is emancipated through non-clinging.

“These are those dhammas, bhikkhus, that are deep, difficult to see, difficult to understand, peaceful and sublime, beyond the sphere of reasoning, subtle, comprehensible only to the wise, which the Tathāgata, having realized for himself with direct knowledge, propounds to others; and it is concerning these that those who would rightly praise the Tathāgata in accordance with reality would speak.

Speculations about the future > annihilationism > view 51 (bolded)

  1. Annihilationism (Ucchedavādā): Views 51–57

“There are, bhikkhus, some recluses and brahmins who are annihilationists and who on seven grounds proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being. And owing to what, with reference to what, do these honourable recluses and brahmins proclaim their views?

“Herein, bhikkhus, a certain recluse or a brahmin asserts the following doctrine and view: ‘The self, good sir, has material form; it is composed of the four primary elements and originates from father and mother. Since this self, good sir, is annihilated and destroyed with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death, at this point the self is completely annihilated.’ In this way some proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being.

“To him another says: ‘There is, good sir, such a self as you assert. That I do not deny. But it is not at that point that the self is completely annihilated. For there is, good sir, another self—divine, having material form, pertaining to the sense sphere, feeding on edible nutriment. That you neither know nor see, but I know it and see it. Since this self, good sir, is annihilated and destroyed with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death, at this point the self is completely annihilated.’ In this way others proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being.

“To him another says: ‘There is, good sir, such a self as you assert. That I do not deny. But it is not at that point that the self is completely annihilated. For there is, good sir, another self—divine, having material form, mind-made, complete in all its limbs and organs, not destitute of any faculties. That you neither know nor see, but I know it and see it. Since this self, good sir, is annihilated and destroyed with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death, at this point the self is completely annihilated.’ In this way others proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being.

“To him another says: ‘There is, good sir, such a self as you assert. That I do not deny. But it is not at that point that the self is completely annihilated. For there is, good sir, another self belonging to the base of infinite space, (reached by) the complete surmounting of perceptions of material form, by the disappearance of perceptions of resistance, by non-attention to perceptions of diversity, (by contemplating) “Space is infinite.” That you neither know nor see, but I know it and see it. Since this self, good sir, is annihilated and destroyed with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death, at this point the self is completely annihilated.’ In this way others proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being.

“To him another says: ‘There is, good sir, such a self as you assert. That I do not deny. But it is not at that point that the self is completely annihilated. For there is, good sir, another self belonging to the base of infinite consciousness, (reached by) completely surmounting the base of infinite space (by contemplating): “Consciousness is infinite.” That you neither know nor see. But I know it and see it. Since this self, good sir, is annihilated and destroyed with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death—at this point the self is completely annihilated.’ In this way some proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being.

“To him another says: ‘There is, good sir, such a self as you assert. That I do not deny. But it is not at that point that the self is completely annihilated. For there is, good sir, another self belonging to the base of nothingness, (reached by) completely surmounting the base of infinite consciousness (by contemplating): “There is nothing.” That you neither know nor see. But I know it and see it. Since this self, good sir, is annihilated and destroyed with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death—at this point the self is completely annihilated.’ In this way some proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being.

“To him another says: ‘There is, good sir, such a self as you assert. That I do not deny. But it is not at that point that the self is completely annihilated. For there is, good sir, another self belonging to the base of neither perception nor non-perception, (reached by) completely surmounting the base of nothingness (by contemplating): “This is the peaceful, this is the sublime.” That you neither know nor see. But I know it and see it. Since this self, good sir, is annihilated and destroyed with the breakup of the body and does not exist after death—at this point the self is completely annihilated.’ In this way some proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being.

“It is on these seven grounds, bhikkhus, that those recluses and brahmins who are annihilationists proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being. Whatever recluses or brahmins proclaim the annihilation, destruction, and extermination of an existent being, all of them do so on these seven grounds or on a certain one of them. Outside of these there is none.

“This, bhikkhus, the Tathāgata understands … and it is concerning these that those who would rightly praise the Tathāgata in accordance with reality would speak.

Is there anything else from DN 1?

~

MN 60 gives 5 views, with the first 3 being the wrong views of the Buddha’s contemporaries: nihilism (Ajita Kesakambali), non-doing (Purana Kassapa), and non-causilty (Makkhali Gosala). Secular Buddhist views also hold in common elements from these 3 categories.

Nihilism:

“Householders, there are some recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this: ‘There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed; no fruit or result of good and bad actions; no this world, no other world; no mother, no father; no beings who are reborn spontaneously; no good and virtuous recluses and brahmins in the world who have themselves realised by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world.’

Non-doing:

“Householders, there are some recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this: ‘When one acts or makes others act, when one mutilates or makes others mutilate, when one tortures or makes others inflict torture, when one inflicts sorrow or makes others inflict sorrow, when one oppresses or makes others inflict oppression, when one intimidates or makes others inflict intimidation, when one kills living beings, takes what is not given, breaks into houses, plunders wealth, commits burglary, ambushes highways, seduces another’s wife, utters falsehood—no evil is done by the doer. If, with a razor-rimmed wheel, one were to make the living beings on this earth into one mass of flesh, into one heap of flesh, because of this there would be no evil and no outcome of evil. If one were to go along the south bank of the Ganges killing and slaughtering, mutilating and making others mutilate, torturing and making others inflict torture, because of this there would be no evil and no outcome of evil. If one were to go along the north bank of the Ganges giving gifts and making others give gifts, making offerings and making others make offerings, because of this there would be no merit and no outcome of merit. By giving, by taming oneself, by restraint, by speaking truth, there is no merit and no outcome of merit.’

Non-causality:

“Householders, there are some recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this: ‘There is no cause or condition for the defilement of beings; beings are defiled without cause or condition. There is no cause or condition for the purification of beings; beings are purified without cause or condition. There is no power, no energy, no manly strength, no manly endurance. All beings, all living things, all creatures, all souls are without mastery, power, and energy; moulded by destiny, circumstance, and nature, they experience pleasure and pain in the six classes.’

~

From the EBTs, can anyone think of other wrong views or elements from them that are common in the views of Secular Buddhists? Or further explanations from the commentaries?

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Better send this alert to the Buddhist Inquisition.

…fighting for the definition of Buddhism, perhaps? :grin:

Please keep this thread on-topic: see the questions in the OP.

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On second thought, some kind of Buddhist Inquisition might not be a bad idea at all considering how fubar 21st Buddhism’s become. About the OP, the Blind Elephant simile below describes it all:

A group of blind elephants were discussing what humans were like.
Failing to agree in any way, they decided to determine what humans were like by their scientific empirical data capturing methodology combined with direct experience.
So, the elephants went out and found a human, tending to his crops on the outskirts of a village.
The first wise, blind elephant felt the human, and declared, "Humans are flat."
The other wise, blind elephants, after similarly feeling the human, agreed.

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Is that one found in the EBTs? I’m familiar with the blind people simile, which also happens to be relevant here if we replace “brahmans” with “scientists and philosophers”

“So then, Bharadvaja, it seems that there isn’t among the brahmans even one brahman who says, ‘This I know; this I see; only this is true; anything else is worthless.’ And there hasn’t been among the brahmans even one teacher or teacher’s teacher back through seven generations who said, ‘This I know; this I see; only this is true; anything else is worthless.’ And there hasn’t been among the brahman seers of the past, the creators of the hymns, the composers of the hymns… even one who said, ‘This we know; this we see; only this is true; anything else is worthless.’ Suppose there were a row of blind men, each holding on to the one in front of him: the first one doesn’t see, the middle one doesn’t see, the last one doesn’t see. In the same way, the statement of the brahmans turns out to be a row of blind men, as it were: the first one doesn’t see, the middle one doesn’t see, the last one doesn’t see. So what do you think, Bharadvaja: this being the case, doesn’t the conviction of the brahmans turn out to be groundless?”

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There’s no need to be snide because you don’t like the OP, you can always start your own topic. And there’s certainly no need to engage in trolling behaviour because you can’t see the basis for someone else’s views.

Mkoll’s OP was quite specific and he has asked us to stay on topic. You don’t have to like the thread, but you can allow it to be peaceful and pleasant for those who want to engage in it. If you are feeling secure in your views, you won’t mind them being challenged.

Mkoll has kept things pretty cool and hasn’t denigrated anyone, let’s keep it that way everybody.

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I don’t think so.

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Elements of wrong view are…

"what is wrong view?
‘There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed [no karmic effect of giving dana]
There is no fruit or result of good or bad actions. [ditto]
There is no this world, no next world, [no rebirth or no other planes of existence]
no mother, no father, [mother and father are karmically potent…]
no spontaneously reborn beings; [no devas]
no contemplatives or brahmans who, faring rightly & practicing rightly, proclaim this world & the next after having directly known & realized it for themselves.’ [no enlightenment aside the routine, no Nibbana]
This is wrong view…
MN117

with metta

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It occurs to me that a secular Buddhist might say that:

-Giving is good! There are a lot of people in need, and we feel good when we are generous. The results are apparent here and now.

-There are natural consequences for our actions, but it doesn’t happen according to kamma. There are societal structures that reward and punish certain kinds of behavior. But all in all, it is a pretty unjust world and we do not experience the results of our actions at all after death.

-Of course there are mother and father! It is a natural fact, who would even deny it? These are the people that brought us into the world, and so we owe them a debt of gratitude for that. There is an obvious biological connection between us and our parents, but there is nothing “supernatural” about our relationship.

-There are no devas, no heavens, no hells - this one is flatly rejected, as there is no evidence for it. However, there might be some metaphorical interpretation that would be acceptable?

-There are good and noble people who have practiced sincerely and experienced a great peace of mind, bliss, and freedom from defilements. We honor such beings, and aspire to become like them.


The problem with such responses is that they still constitute denials of what seems to be the most fundamental component of right view - belief in kamma (which entails rebirth).

Again, a secular Buddhist response might be something like:

-We do not believe in fortuitous origination of the world. The world comes into being according to natural laws which can in principle be understood through scientific inquiry. It is not chance, but it may seem that way to the uneducated person.

-We don’t believe in a “self.” The human being is just a mass of physical processes giving rise to mental-like processes - at the breakup of the body, it is only the aggregates that cease forever and not the “being,” which was only an illusion all along.

How might you counter-respond?

Well yes. That’s the point, in a way.

Science isn’t static- secular Buddhists can’t assert Truth when it is based on an ever evolving field of science. True scientists would agree that they for a fact, haven’t figured everything out.

Then that leaves leaving things to the possibility that they may be true, ie an ‘open and inquiring mind’.

However if people are sticking to ‘science’ they learnt 40 years ago and being very ‘Newtonian’ in the face of quantum mechanics, etc they need to really get to grips with science.

Please guys, start a new thread or use the existing “Why Secular Buddhism is Not True” thread if you’d like to discuss theoretical responses a Secular Buddhist may have to aspects of the Buddha’s teachings. This thread is for the questions in the OP. I’m interested in the connections you can draw from the EBTs with regard to them, e.g. relevant quotes and excerpts.

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Once the OP includes MN 117, I think there are only going to be iterations on those themes instead of an altogether new tack.


P.S.

Maybe examine whether you’d put agnosticism under the ‘equivocation’ heading from DN 1. Also, while these are all wrong views, AN 10.29 demonstrates that there are degrees of wrongness, such that some wrong views are still getting a lot right, offering useful supports and good beginnings to the Path. This sort of thing may give this thread a more skillful nuance…

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Try not to draw the longbow! The elephant imperialists would have heard the villager scream and stopped in their tracks. Its in the professional code of ethics of the (BERA) ‘Blind Elephants Research Association’: clause 1b; do not stomp on screaming animals. They could have been deaf and blind which would explain the breach of protocol? I think ‘selective hearing’ may be involved in Secular Buddhism but deafness hmm… There is a tendency to run with the bits that fit the ideology and play-deaf when it suits!

Actually the Blind Elephants simile was only a gentle intro. Prof. Sagan’s “flatlanders’ mentality” was even more direct, given the limitation of their awareness being strictly 2-dimensional, even using their full 6 sense faculties would not help them to fully understanding the world of a 3-dimensional being. (ref: YouTube ) We’re all flatlanders to some degree and not much we could do about it until we’ve penetrated the higher dimensions like the Buddha, but we do have control whether to have flatlander’s mentality or not.

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Mkoll has asked us twice to stay on topic.

I think the specificity of this thread does demand that more. It would be nice to keep it peaceful and on track for other readers.

It’s not that hard.

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Yes, it is important to clarify the range of positions a Secular Buddhist can adopt. To be fair, it is important to point out that the wrong views that are elucidated by the Buddha in the opening piece are not held by all secular Buddhists. A secular Buddhist could keep an open-mind and be undecided with regard to these wrong-views. By being ‘undecided’ they would not have these wrong-views as part of their belief-system.

The wrong-view teachings apply to Secular Buddhists who are also ‘believers’ of Scientism - as found in the first definition below.

  1. Scientism is the view that only scientific claims are meaningful.

  2. Scientism can also be used to refer to the methods and attitudes typical of or attributed to the natural scientist.

A believer of Scientism would be willing to entertain those aspects of the Buddha’s teachings that have been demonstrated through empirical techniques and procedures. They would never accept the truth of any statement found in Buddhist teachings on the basis of the Buddha’s methods of inquiry as for them ‘empiricism’ is the only valid means to arrive at compelling and persuasive evidence and results. The possibility of a ‘contemplative science’ that did not meet empirical requirements would be labelled as: pseudo-science or complete nonsense!

It just so happens that there are many people in society at large - with a secular orientation - that express an interest in Secular Buddhism. It is likely, that many of these ‘converts’ are not aware of the underlying assumptions in Scientism. They may have views and opinions that are scientistic in nature and they view the Buddha’s teachings through a scientistic prism. It takes time and research to sort out the confusion. Not everyone has the time or interest to bring all the pieces together. Without this interest and effort misunderstandings proliferate!

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To answer @Mkoll question in a apophatic mode, the right view of DN 1 appears to be this:

“When … a bhikkhu understands as they really are the origin and passing away of the six bases of contact, their satisfaction, unsatisfactoriness, and the escape from them, then he understands what transcends all these views.

This is the view of secular Buddhists!

Or rather the view of some who call themselves secular Buddhists because I believe there is no all encompassing net “of views common to Secular Buddhism” that is comparable to the one described in DN 1:

“Whatever recluses or brahmins, bhikkhus, are speculators about the past, speculators about the future, speculators about the past and the future together, hold settled views about the past and the future and assert various conceptual theorems referring to the past and the future—all are trapped in this net with its sixty-two divisions. Whenever they emerge, they emerge caught within this net, trapped and contained within this very net.


The body of the Tathāgata … stands with the leash that bound it to existence cut. As long as his body stands, gods and men shall see him. But with the breakup of the body and the exhaustion of the life-faculty, gods and men shall see him no more.