Wednesday, September 2, 2015




This collective aims for the following
*Studies on Buddhist cultures

Buddhist Cultures.

Buddhism is not a monolith of any kind. Though Buddhism has come to be treated widely as religion, it was originated mainly as a spirituo-ethical (ethico-spiritual) movement. Buddhism as religion has a wide ranging expression, similarly the case with its socio ethical thoughts and movements. All of them had revolutionary contributions in different areas of common people's life in India and elsewhere. But their revolutionary nature seems to have cost the very existence of them. Now Buddhism is said to have disappeared from India; its birth land. It is to contest such assertions that the present collective wants to undertake the extensive study of Buddhist cultural expressions. Our basic hypothesis is that India is not a graveyard of Buddhism but it continues to be a prolific (robust) playground of Buddhisms. That is to say that, Buddhism is not a gone thing of the past. It continues to prevail in society in the form of different cultural practices. Of course there may have occurred many defigurations. Sometimes they may not be even identified or known to be Buddhist.

*Reconstruction of Buddhism as cultural Buddhism.

The concept cultural Buddhism is yet to be defined adequately, this idea is proposed here basically as a methodological perspective for understanding the varieties of Buddhist cultures. This approach implies that different Buddhist cultures and movements do not follow strictly any set of institutional doctrine or authoritative power structure. Hence every Buddhist cultural expression has to be accounted for its unique specificity. Because Buddhist cultures have been independent adaptations of some/various of the Buddhist ideas conforming to the requirements of regional cultural and ideological interests (needs). Therefore the cultural Buddhism would look for learning or adapting from various Buddhist cultural expressions as required for the contemporary engagements with the reality of sufferings. This is to propose a sense to cultural Buddhism as an ideological tool for exploring the liberative concerns of every day life.

*explore possibilities of applying the analytical tool of cultural Buddhism

Unlike a religious collective, cultural Buddhism collective does not aim to preach Buddhism and engage in proselytizing, in order to form a community of believers (faith) rather it wants to apply Buddhist ideas and values as tools for analysis and cultural engagements.

*Providing common forum for the interaction of different Buddhist persuasions.

This collective does not want to promote any particular sect or school of Buddhism instead it aims to bring together different sections to a common platform and create a space for interaction and sharing. Hence it may also explore possibilities of common engagements; allowing the differences to exist.

*To serve as an open forum for interaction of different cultural/reform movements.
It also aims to serve as an open forum for interaction with non Buddhist ideologues and organizations.

Asoke Chattopadhyay:

This is a very good idea. In fact there is a crying need for such a platform. Most of us are prisoners of our backgrounds and beliefs we learn while growing up. Gautama Buddha had to unlearn a lot before he "learnt" about the true path. Or maybe he saw things differently. Can we "learn" that technique? 
Vipassana is big business today. Where it is encountered in Shantideva's Bodhicharyavatara, it is associated with "shamatha" meaning samadhi. Hardly anybody is interested in that kind of enlightenment today. Yoga is just hathayoga, no emphasis on controlling one's mind. So when we talk about Cultural Buddhism, do we discuss the evolution of "commercial" Buddhism (e.g. Vipassana as an industry), or influence of world finance capital on Buddhism (e.g. no. of Hollywood stars attending Dalai Lama's events). Again, the venerable Lama cannot be equated with Buddhism, but he certainly is very much a public face of it. So, what can the stand of Cultural Buddhism be on such an issue, or on the more contentious issue of Tibet, for example? Should we discuss it at all?
Anyway, I welcome this venture and will support it......A very necessary step. Should be encouraged from all sides. Will write later when some definite suggestion comes up.

C. P. Vijayan:

Buddhism is a thought process rooted in careful observations of nature and its beings.
If a tree knows best how to stand erect when it loses a branch in a storm - either by thickening some of its branches on that side or growing more roots on another the other side why not human beings when he/she is at cross roads.
If a cat knows how to compliment its non veg meal with some grass, and a hen gulping pebbles to strengthen its gizzard and that way enhance digestion - Buddhism and many other faiths carry anecdotes, observations  and wonderful stories to enlighten human beings to fathom deeper in to themselves so that life is better.
Of course Jainism , Zoroastrianism and many other isms and other divergences did look into the lives of other beings to give better answers to human problems.
We now know that the African fig tree can not exist without the fig wasp nor the other way around as both are inter connected.
The fig fruits contain a row of inflorescence to harness the larvae of these wasps which in turn pollinates its flowers.
No other faith in the world carries such minute observations to harness a happy life of truth and well being as much as Buddhism has.
Sadly, with such a heritage behind us, we in southern India never realized the truth that we carry in our genes some such strings of thought which were practiced by forefathers for centuries on end.
If the migratory routes  of birds and fish gets passed on for generations, if eating habits , nest making habits, courtship and child rearing practices could pass on for generations in others, well we ourselves do carry elements of Buddhist thoughts which once held sway in our country side for centuries.
Let us pick up the tit bits from our own behaviour and body language.
The simple tilting of one's head in place of saying a 'hello' in northern Kerala, offering of a handful of rice to the Bhikshu (Saamy) who comes and asks for 'dharmam' for his pilgrimage to Pazhani, the clean shaven heads of male sadhus, the 'Koothu', 'Munda', 'palli', 'parappu', 'kaladi', 'thiru' tags on place names and an abundance of individual names as Siddharth ,Rahul , Goutam etc are but firm indicators of such a past.
There should be an all round excavation and unearthing for fact finding in places such as Ochira, Koodalmanikyam, Kodungallur, Mankada, Koodallur, Ponnani, Koottanad, Kuttanad, Karunagappalli,Thrikkakkara,
An all out effort by academicians, students and civil society at large need to come forward and unearth our past .We have all the right to know the real history of Kerala (not what is being dished out by the so called historians, most of whom are not worth their salt).


 P. A Uthaman:

Sensible and relevant...


Argo Spier:

Buddhism as a thought process.

One of the posters who gave feedback to the proposed discussion re the collective, made a remark that puts me to serious thought. His remark posed that Buddhism is a thought process based on observation. Now observation, what is that? An easy answer to this may be 'Observation is the looking at something (this something maybe a process too) and a becoming aware at the same time of that something (or process, if you are looking at a process) as a phenomenon and a thing in its own right with an own purpose'. When one observes one therefore looks at something that exists, that's 'there'. But observing such a 'thing' (or process) is NOT a 'from here to there' process. Observing isn't merely looking at the 'thing' (or process) from the 'outside', it is also a 'being busy' looking at it and therefore part and parcel of the process too. That thing (or process) you are looking at is very closely 'tied' to your observing it. In the case of Buddhism being a thought process, the observer is actually in an observing thought process that observes the thought process that Buddhism is supposed to be when he observes the thought process of Buddhism. Now this can go on, I know, but it is not the intention to analyse it here to its fullness. The question I want to pose with my post is a very simple one, and I think it may concern the debate – namely: where is Buddhism when one observes it? Where, when one observes the thought process it is supposed to be?

An easy answer may be - It just doesn't exist and/or it cannot be observed without a thought process that includes the observer. To conclude this - it may be that the thought process of the observer is the only vehicle that enables Buddhism to be a thought process. This has bearing on the search for an 'adequate definition' (as another poster mentioned) of Cultural Buddhism. 

C. P. Vijayan:

One can not express or reveal exactly a thought process in words or written texts as these have got their limitations.
The best one could do was to narrate stories filled with with incidents and happenings which appear similar to what they experienced.
Plenty of additions and deletions might have happened later on.Precise vocabulary to express some philosophical thought, at least to its near meaning came later.
We know that writing came in to being much much later and that does not mean there were no thinkers then.
In short, no point in debating as to what exactly transpired then and how much of the outcomes of thought processes of saints and thinkers got passed on etc.
The residue what is hidden in all of us is what we have for an analysis and body language with behavioral traits and comparisons for accompanying.
The crux of the issue is what we lost and how much have we lost already.

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