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(wiki: transcription checking) How to avoid falling into Early Buddhist fundamentalism / a very short transcript of a part of a Venerable Sujato’s Workshop

earlybuddhism
quote
sujato
Tags: #<Tag:0x00007f788e9e9ef0> #<Tag:0x00007f788e9e9c98> #<Tag:0x00007f788e9e9a90>

#1

Hello. This Post is just intended for obtaining the exact transcript, to get a suitable title for it based solely on the transcript within the context of the workshop, and to capture the intact intention of the venerable.


(a very short transcript of a part of a Ven. Sujato’s Workshop)

________________________________
________________________________

Possible Main Titles (for Editing) [Variations]

This red title is vetoable only by the venerable himself.    :grin:

`  How Not to fall into Early Buddhist Fundamentalism  `

IMO (as of now): This transcript can be and should be “title-less” because it is just a tiny (albeit a very important) part which has always been title-less in the first place, unless the passage is christened by the venerable himself, of course :laughing:. That said, after reading the discussions, I think it would be interesting to see different titles depending upon differences in interpretations of the talk/transcript with / or without factoring in the intention of the actual speaker [the venerable], as long as those “personalized” titles represent and cover the whole meaning of the exact transcript. Let me list them in the table.

Title Variations
Title variations main reason given by contributors Suggested by
(???) How to avoid falling into Early Pali Buddhist fundamentalism

(or)

(???) How to avoid falling into Pali Buddhist fundamentalism
Pali Buddhist fundamentalism @thomaslaw
(???) How to avoid falling into Early Buddhist Dogmatism Definition of Dogmatism is more appropriate @SeriousFun136
How to avoid falling into Early Buddhist fundamentalism

(the first-produced title)
first interpretation of the passage SDA
How to be careful against falling into Early Buddhist fundamentalism ‘avoid’ seems ‘too strong’

“careful” is inherent word in the passage
SDA
How to be careful from falling into Early Buddhist fundamentalism

(I don’t know whether ‘careful from’ is correct usage or not, but I think it resonates more with the venerable’s “tone”.)
‘against’ still seems ‘rather strong’ SDA
How Not to fall into Early Buddhist fundamentalism this one conveys a more equanimous tone, while being true to the passage, imo SDA
(???) = not approved by the contributor yet (just inferred from discussions made).








Verbatim transcription (for Editing)

Another thing we need to be, … ahh … careful of … ahh … is to … is that we don’t fall into a … Early Buddhist fundamentalism. Ok. So, this is something which is quite easy to do. So we can say … Oh, yes … the … this is … this is right, because this is something is in Early Buddhism, and that’s wrong because that is something in later Buddhism. Ok? Early dosen’t mean right. Late doesn’t mean wrong. Ok? Well … this is … and this is not aslo a sectarian argument; it is not about saying that some … schools of Buddhisms are right because they are early and other schools of Buddhism are wrong because they’re late. Thats’s not the point. The point is simply to try to understand what it is that the buddha taught and try to put that in a context of the time and place, so that we can … ahh … appreciate what he’s saying better. Once we understand that we can then … put into context all the developments in the schools, we can understand why … ahh … certain ideas were emphasized, why somethings were changed, why somethings were added, why somethings were left out. And, we can look at the history; we can understand … how each of the Buddhist traditions has adapted the dhamma to their own time and place, and … what’s even more important: … we can understand how we are doing that here and now. Because, one thing is for sure that the Buddhism that you and I are practicing here and now … is not Early Buddhism; it is infact the very latest Buddhism that there is. Right? (asked while laughing) It is the Buddhism that’s happening right now. So, it’s not about trying to recreate some imagined pristine past, Ok, that’s what fundamentalism is. It’s about trying to learn … from what the buddha said, so that we can integrate that and apply that in the most effective way that we can in the present. So, it’s very important to remember this.



Some editions in Verbatim transcript

Symbol Explanation Suggested by
none yet - -








Condensed form “Final” version (for Editing)

Another thing we need to be careful of is that we don’t fall into       a[n]       [an]*       Early Buddhist fundamentalism. Ok. So, this is something which is quite easy to do. So we can say,       “[Oh,]**       yes, this is right, because this is something       [is]***       in Early Buddhism, and that’s wrong because that is something in later Buddhism”. Ok? Early dosen’t mean right. Late doesn’t mean wrong. Ok? Well this is not aslo a sectarian argument; it is not about saying that some schools of Buddhisms are right because they are early and other schools of Buddhism are wrong because they’re late. Thats’s not the point. The point is simply to try to understand what it is that the buddha taught and try to put that in a context of the time and place, so that we can appreciate what he’s saying better. Once we understand that, we can then put into context all the developments in the schools, we can understand why certain ideas were emphasized, why somethings were changed, why somethings were added, why somethings were left out. And, we can look at the history. We can understand how each of the Buddhist traditions has adapted the dhamma to their own time and place, and what’s even more important: we can understand how we are doing that here and now. Because, one thing is for sure that the Buddhism that you and I are practicing here and now is not Early Buddhism, it is infact the very latest Buddhism that there is. Right? It is the Buddhism that’s happening right now. So, it’s not about trying to recreate some imagined pristine past. Ok, that’s what fundamentalism is. It’s about trying to learn from what the buddha said, so that we can integrate that and apply that in the most effective way that we can in the present. So, it’s very important to remember this.



Some editions in “Final” version

Symbol Explanation Suggested by
* [an] is changed to a[n] in …
//   don’t fall into    a[n]    [an]    Early Buddhist   //
–> reason <–
SDA
** I missed the word "Oh" which is added as …
//   So we can say, "[Oh,] yes, this is right,   //
SDA
*** second "is" is deleted from …
“because this is something [is] in early buddhism”
SDA







________________________________
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Followings are Some Notes and References:

Not for editing (unless necessary)

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________________________________

Why this wiki?
  • At least this short clip (about 1 minute 48 seconds) of the venerable’s talk, I think, must be present in text form (if it isn’t already), for easy and undistorted quotations.
  • Transcribed from: Early Buddhism Course - Workshop 1 - Session 1 - 23 February 2013 / Timestamp around: 7 min 12 sec to 9 min

On searching for the teachings of some other venerable today, I stumbled upon a Ven. Sujato’s talk, a part of which I like very much, where he warned how one can [inadvertdently] become an Early Buddhism fundamentalist, explained how to avoid it by setting the right attitude on the buddha’s teachings one may have encoundtered, and how to integrate and apply them in most effective way. The timestamp is from 7:12 to 9:00 min.

I have transcribed it as much as I can, English is not my first language, so listening errors may very well be present, that is why I put this post in wiki for any one to kindly edit the transcript, as well as the title if necessary (and if possible for the topic title) or any other part.

The link to youtube video is provided, starting from 7:12. For easy reference for checking, I’ve also uploaded that part of the audio the link to which is set to private. Again, please feel free to delete if it is not appropriate to upload it [the trimmed audio] here.



Youtube Video: starts from 7:12

https://youtu.be/JEndmSICHQY?t=432s



Audio Clip: the same one as in the top

Audio Clip (Private) - for reference by SDA | Free Listening on SoundCloud



Main Title (Un-edited / for reference)
  • How to avoid falling into Early Buddhist fundamentalism (a very short transcript of a part of a Ven. Sujato’s Workshop)


Verbatim transcription (Un-edited / for reference)

Another thing we need to be, … ahh … careful of … ahh … is to … is that we don’t fall into a … Early Buddhist fundamentalism. Ok. So, this is something which is quite easy to do. So we can say … Oh, yes … the … this is … this is right, because this is something is in Early Buddhism, and that’s wrong because that is something in later Buddhism. Ok? Early dosen’t mean right. Late doesn’t mean wrong. Ok? Well … this is … and this is not aslo a sectarian argument; it is not about saying that some … schools of Buddhisms are right because they are early and other schools of Buddhism are wrong because they’re late. Thats’s not the point. The point is simply to try to understand what it is that the buddha taught and try to put that in a context of the time and place, so that we can … ahh … appreciate what he’s saying better. Once we understand that we can then … put into context all the developments in the schools, we can understand why … ahh … certain ideas were emphasized, why somethings were changed, why somethings were added, why somethings were left out. And, we can look at the history; we can understand … how each of the Buddhist traditions has adapted the dhamma to their own time and place, and … what’s even more important: … we can understand how we are doing that here and now. Because, one thing is for sure that the Buddhism that you and I are practicing here and now … is not Early Buddhism; it is infact the very latest Buddhism that there is. Right? (asked while laughing) It is the Buddhism that’s happening right now. So, it’s not about trying to recreate some imagined pristine past, Ok, that’s what fundamentalism is. It’s about trying to learn … from what the buddha said, so that we can integrate that and apply that in the most effective way that we can in the present. So, it’s very important to remember this.



"Condensed form" (Un-edited / for reference)

Another thing we need to be careful of is that we don’t fall into [an] Early Buddhist fundamentalism. Ok. So, this is something which is quite easy to do. So we can say, “Yes, this is right, because this is something is in Early Buddhism, and that’s wrong because that is something in later Buddhism”. Ok? Early dosen’t mean right. Late doesn’t mean wrong. Ok? Well this is not aslo a sectarian argument; it is not about saying that some schools of Buddhisms are right because they are early and other schools of Buddhism are wrong because they’re late. Thats’s not the point. The point is simply to try to understand what it is that the buddha taught and try to put that in a context of the time and place, so that we can appreciate what he’s saying better. Once we understand that, we can then put into context all the developments in the schools, we can understand why certain ideas were emphasized, why somethings were changed, why somethings were added, why somethings were left out. And, we can look at the history. We can understand how each of the Buddhist traditions has adapted the dhamma to their own time and place, and what’s even more important: we can understand how we are doing that here and now. Because, one thing is for sure that the Buddhism that you and I are practicing here and now is not Early Buddhism, it is infact the very latest Buddhism that there is. Right? It is the Buddhism that’s happening right now. So, it’s not about trying to recreate some imagined pristine past. Ok, that’s what fundamentalism is. It’s about trying to learn from what the buddha said, so that we can integrate that and apply that in the most effective way that we can in the present. So, it’s very important to remember this.



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to get:
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________________________________

Thanks,
:heart:


Ode to Truth: A Testimony of Innocence on "Truth, the Whole Truth, And ... Something! with the Truth"
#2

Many thanks for the transcription.

The ideas of “How to avoid falling into Early Buddhist fundamentalism” are very good indeed.

But I think in reality, it seems this is about the issue of “Pali fundamentalism”.

Pali Buddhism is not Early Buddhism, though it is one of the early Buddhist (sectarian) schools.

Early Buddhism is based on the comparative study of different early Buddhist sectarian texts (such as Agamas/Nikayas) to seek an understanding of early Buddhist teachings. E.g. mindfulness meditations found in SN/SA, which are not entirely the same found in MN/MA, DN/DA. But they are all belonging to early Buddhist texts.


#3

fun·da·men·tal·ism
/ˌfəndəˈmen(t)lˌizəm/
noun

  1. a form of a religion, especially Islam or Protestant Christianity, that upholds belief in the strict, literal interpretation of scripture.

  2. strict adherence to the basic principles of any subject or discipline.

“free-market fundamentalism”

Taking into consideration the second definition, sometimes I question whether fundamentalism is inherently or necessarily bad or harmful.

For example, fundamentalism can mean “sticking to the fundamentals.” In this particular case, it seems to depend on whether the fundamental principles adhered to or skills developed are harmful or beneficial.


A more suitable word choice might be “dogmatism”:

dog·ma·tism

/ˈdôɡməˌtizəm/

noun

  1. the tendency to lay down principles as incontrovertibly true, without consideration of evidence or the opinions of others.

“a culture of dogmatism and fanaticism”


#4

The word fundamentalism is pretty negative now, mainly because of its modern usage regarding certain Christian and Muslim groups, and this is the way Ven. Sujato is using it here and its a pretty standard usage.

I definitely agree with Sujato’s sentiment here too. I guess a follow up question would be, what are the criteria by which we determine what are the “fundamental” or perhaps a better word would be essential principles, of the Buddha’s teaching? These would be principles that are universal, and non-negotiable. They would not really vary depending on time and place and so on.

I can think of some basic things here, for example, they should be said to be spoken by the Buddha. They should be traceable to various EBTs, in various traditions. If something only appears once or twice in the texts of one textual tradition, then it’s probably not that essential. And then we could add a principle of non contradiction, as in, it should not contradict other well established principles. For example, if one texts says the Buddha taught five noble truths , this contradicts a basic principle.

I guess the deeper question here is: Now that we have so many EBTs, we shouldn’t be fundamentalists with them. But now, as moderns, how do we read them? In other words, what is to be our hermeneutic?

Some like Batchelor propose a secular hermeneutic, but this clearly does violence to the texts, the Buddha clearly taught karma and rebirth, you can’t just brush that key element away. So this is just not satisfactory.


#5

Hello,

Thanks a lot, for discussions.

However, OP is just intended for obtaining the exact transcript, to get a suitable title for it based solely on the transcript within the context of the workshop, and to capture the intact intention of the venerable while delivering this talk.

To make it easily visible, let me put that “What OP is for” at the top of the post.

Thanks, again
:anjal::anjal:


#6

I think I heard an “s” or “is” here [bold and italic]:

So we can say … Oh, yes … the … this is … this is right, because this is something [is] in Early Buddhism, and that’s wrong because that is something in later Buddhism.

:heart:


Edit: that seemingly ‘extra’ "is" is deleted, in “Final” version.

So we can say, “Oh, yes, this is right, because this is something [is] in Early Buddhism, and that’s wrong because that is something in later Buddhism”.


#7

Let us study and in that study, just study.

We are already drowning in interpretations. So few of us have actually taken the time to experience the EBTs as they are.


#8

But nobody can just “study” without interpreting. The very act of reading and studying a text requires interpretation. Whether or not you have an explicit hermeneutic is a different question, but everyone has one.


#9

Hmmm…

SN35.95:10.1: “In that case, when it comes to things that are to be seen, heard, thought, and known: in the seen will be merely the seen; in the heard will be merely the heard; in the thought will be merely the thought; in the known will be merely the known.


#10

Ok but this mainly applies to aryas, but I was referring to normal worldlings trying to read the suttas…


#11

You are indeed kind and gracious in the face of my admitted mischief. :pray:

… yet I now realize that there was some serious consideration here…

:thinking:

It was once common practice to memorize discussions and suttas even before studying them in depth.

AN4.180:8.6: Instead, you should carefully memorize those words and phrases, then check if they’re included in the discourses and found in the texts on monastic discipline.

Because of this, my own first hermeneutic is simply that of recall. Recall itself has actually proven surprisingly fruitful beyond all expectation. Recall is also a completely shareable hermeneutic not subject to fundamentalism. Shared recall is stable and self-correcting in discussions with others.

I know that hermeneutics are about interpretation. I would say that recall is not so simple. We are not audio recorders. Our memories are seen through the lens of interpretation. I would argue that the simplest sharable hermeneutic is therefore recall itself. Human recall also requires the barest interpretation, a transformation from sound to words. I’ll give an example.

Recently I consistently heard the phrase “The ascetic Gotama has given up on chastity”. There was a mis-interpretation there that took me days to notice and correct. It lead to a daily sense of jarring dissatisfaction as I heard this phrase. How could the Buddha give up on chastity?

After a vexing week I checked with the words of another. And those words were:

DN1:1.8.5: ‘The ascetic Gotama has given up unchastity. He is celibate, set apart, avoiding the common practice of sex.’

Because of these experiences, I really do believe that there is a sharable hermeneutic. And that is recall itself. Let us recite in concert. For and from recall.


#12

Memorizing is definitely an aid to a hermeneutic project for sure, but as you note, it is not itself a hermeneutic. I definitely agree that this is important though! As one saying goes : One book, printed in the hearts own wax, is worth a thousand in the stacks.


#13

A super lovely saying! :slight_smile: I’ll take it to heart immediately.


#14

The term “fundamentalism” was not originally intended to be a pejorative, and indeed was coined by supporters themselves.

So, it’s not about trying to recreate some imagined pristine past. Ok, that’s what fundamentalism is. It’s about trying to learn from what the buddha said, so that we can integrate that and apply that in the most effective way that we can in the present. So, it’s very important to remember this.

I think this is well-said!


#15

I agree.
Nowadays, it seems fashionable, especially in academia, to encourage students: “don’t just memorize, understand” or “rote memorization is useless” - with a subtle insinuation to devalue memorization.
But I have also found the development of memory to be useful, particularly in terms to attempting to memorize the entire the Dhamma-Vinaya as a preliminary step - which happens to be encouraged by the Buddha, as you pointed out.

Touche.
I think it’s unfortunate though.
I like the phrase “learn/stick to the fundamentals” - and by extension of this, “fundamentalism.”
I do not like dogma, which is based on blind faith and not evidence-based.

It seems like there could be:
harmful fundamentalism: learning/sticking to fundamentals which are harmful
beneficial fundamentalism: learning/sticking to fundamentals which are beneficial

Even in the case of Christian and Muslim fundamentalism, many of the fundamentalist stick rigidly to beneficial principles such as not drinking or generosity, etc., which may fly in the face of modern secular western cultural values and emphasis such as drinking and “white” lies.

Thus, it seems to me that fundamentalism should be taken on a case-by-case basis to evaluate whether is actually harmful or merely appears that way by those who wish to have the freedom to do socially acceptable forms of harmfulness (drinking, white lies, etc.).

Interesting. :thinking:


#16

Lol sometimes fundamentalists stick rigidly to teachings not even found in their respective religious texts (Christian fundamentalists who don’t drink would be a good case in point, actually, or Muslims who require women to veil their face).

Yeah, the term was originally coined by conservative American Protestants who wanted to defend the “fundamentals” of the faith against the liberalization of Christianity. “Five fundamentals” were emphasized as prerequisites for being a true Christian — See here.


#17




Agreed with the above all.

In that regard, I want to be, still need to be, and have to be a hardcore fundamentalist, in this meaning of the word.

That said, imo, fundamentals will naturally be solidified with the practice of Dhamma conducive to wisdom (or so and so) which inturn enables decent solutions without needing to embark on breaching of those fundamentals; for example, easily comes up with an acceptable solution without even needing to tell those “white lies”.

And, in that perspective, I think I can’t totally agree with the following, of course, as far as Dhamma is concerned.





:anjal:


#18

Regarding OP:

There is a clearly audible “a” [not “an”, I think], in:

we don’t fall into 'a' … Early 
Buddhist fundamentalism. 

which I had previously changed to … [an] in “Final” version.



What I would like to ask is:

  1. Is that “a” just a filler word?

(or)

  1. If it is not a filler word, should I change the “a” to “an”.

On repeated listening, I get a sense that it may not be a filler word, and that “a” was used as “an”.



Together with @Javier’s explanation of:

Let me edit (as of now):

from …

fall into ' [an] ' Early Buddhist

to …

fall into ' a[n] ' Early Buddhist



It serves two things, imo.

  1. preserving Bhante’s “a”
  2. and ‘legitimately’ making it into “an”

like those modifications make by cunning journalists :smile:


#19

According to the merriam-webster.

The word “fundamentalism” cannot be reduced to an abstract linguist form, implying a “doctrine [based on] the fundamentals”. This was, indeed, the meaning as used by the first “fundamentalists”. But in this they were, as in most things, wrong. In fact their “fundamentals” included such dogmas as the literal virgin birth of Christ, a belief of dubious soteriological relevance that was unknown to the majority of early Christian sources.

The current usage is determined by context and time, as is all language. Especially in the context of religion, fundamentalism refers to the tendency of many religious followers to insist on the letter over the spirit. It is common in Buddhism, despite the fact that the Buddha himself clearly opposed it.


Consider two mechanics, Jack and Jill. Someone brings a Toyota Camry in, complaining that it’s running rough. A quick look under the hood reveals the source: an oil pipe has gotten loose and has to be reconnected. As a certified Toyota franchise, they are careful to do the right thing, and check the genuine Toyota manual before starting work. The manual says to connect the pipe to the outlet, so Jack starts to do that.

“Umm, Jack,” says Jill, “the oil has to go in, so surely it must connect to the inlet.”

“No, the manual definitely says the outlet. Haven’t you read it?”

“Yeah nah, I’ve read it, I just think it’s a mistake.”

“What, so you think you know better about Toyotas than, ohh I don’t know, Toyota?”

“That’s not what I’m saying, it’s just that the oil has to go in. Maybe there’s a typo or something in the manual?”

“Yeah, right. Listen, just do what the manual says. No-one ever got fired following the manual!”

So they connect the oil pipe to the outlet, start it up; and oil explodes all over the engine.

They look at each other. “Hey I know,” says Jack, “let’s connect it to the inlet.”

“Great idea,” says Jill. :roll_eyes:


Now the thing is, in mechanics, it’s easy to tell if the answer is right. Well, relatively easy. The thing either works or it doesn’t.

In Dhamma, or spiritual progress generally, things are a lot more subtle, and progress is harder to measure. That’s why fundamentalism is so tempting. At least you can be sure that you have the letter right, or so fundamentalists believe, and often spend inordinate amounts of time invested in.

The problem is that fundamentalism is really bad at even this much. Fundamentalist readings of ancient scripture are invariably shallow and rigid; but they are very often just plain wrong as well. Why? Because fundamentalists resist learning. They have it right already, and are willing to build infinite rabbit warrens to defend their theses. The deeper they dig, the further they get from the light.


#20

Thanks a lot for the comprehensive explanation, Venerable. :pray:t2:




Still I cannot sure the letters are right, let alone punctuations :cry:; however, I think they are, at least, acceptable and quotable now :anjal: :anjal: :anjal: