Monday, March 16, 2015


103. S. Raju:

‘Cultural Buddhism’ can be viewed as a phrase, caption, concept, usage, category etc. In this sense it goes beyond religious Buddhism in terms of capturing ‘Buddhism(s) as it is now’.  Moreover, it is inclusive of religious Buddhism as well. Therefore you will have to pay attention to religion and religious institution as well. ‘Culture’ includes religion as well. Yet let me say that it is one thing to talk about religion and it is yet another thing to talk about religious institution. This implies that at the same time I can be a Christian/Sikh/ Muslim and yet be a Buddhist too. If we omit the institution of Buddhism or if we omit Buddhist religion, then what is remaining will be your focus. But then, the questions and answers, if any, will be tantamount to partial recognition.   
Is it possible to talk about culture of Buddhism? Shift in the prefix matters a lot. Culture of Buddhism is more inclusive than Cultural Buddhism; I think. Buddhism is not a Monolith; as you will agree. There can be strands of several other cultural traits within the Culture of Buddhism.  
What about Buddhist Culture? In this case what qualifies Culture is Buddhism. Since No culture is homogenous/singular/monolith, Buddhism will be one among others influencing Culture. 

104. Aargo Spier:

Raju S says in subject Raju makes a lot of sense. Cultural Buddhism can be viewed as belonging to different and many categories having the same (but also not the same) semantic categorical values. And too - it comes out of culture and it creates culture. The question worth asking here may be the following one - what is the motor driving it? Is it Buddhism (and/or Religious Buddhism) or is the force behind it merely the thought that it can be treated as a category? What does one actually deal with when one deals with Cultural Buddhism? With something that exhibits the qualities needed for categorization or just the thought that one deals with something that can be categorized?   


105. C. P. Vijayan:

Very much true.
There are strands of thought in ourselves, passed on from generations
to generations.
Some of these resound in ourselves when we come across a certain
place, person or an experience ! There are experiences which make us
feel as if 'we have already been through' These thought processes made
every thinker wonder as to how and why these happen or how precisely
these get transferred from generations.
Some called it a stream of consciousness / wave length / atma / atman
or whatever term they deemed suitable.
Might be, 'the software' we carry in ourselves somehow got 'corrupt'
somewhere on the line and we still grope in the dark for answers and
don't know for how long more!
Migratory birds could still navigate thousands of miles over vast
stretches of oceans to reach their destinations with pin point
precision and the whales navigate deep oceans using their own sonars,
almost all of the other plant and animal species appear capable of
fending themselves admirably.
Wouldn't it be foolish to presume that similar faculties are
altogether missing in the human beings.
Herein comes the thoughts of Buddhist/Confucian/Tao and myriad other
schools which tried to learn from the surroundings the art of
migration, search for food, hunting skills , child rearing ,
medication, art craft or whatever.
It is perhaps a wishful thinking that all  these 'learning through
generations' do remain 'hidden' in ourselves but we are incapable of
using it for our well being.
Ahimsa assumes colossal importance in all the others such as
/meditation /yoga / celibacy/dharma/ etc..etc.
It would again be a wishful thinking that there existed a landlocked
'paradise' where everyone were equals and some Maveli used to be the
King who would relinquish the kingdom at old age to lead a saintly
life of recluse etc.
Why not us try to reinvent ourselves?


106. P. Madhu:

Identifying religious denominations by its assumed founder & tracing a monolith of religion culture specific to that founder is ahistorical, anachronistic & unfounded. That tendency comes from ego-logical questions such as: ‘who’ created the universe? ‘Who’ created islam? Who is the founder of Jainism? Who found Buddhism & why? Who opposed Buddhism & why? Who are atheist? Who are true theists… etc. … that habit has later degenerated into ‘intellectual property right’ of the founder- a backdoor mechanism for corporates own & manipulate ‘knowledge’. These questions are absurd & hence answers, consequences & cultures flowing from them are absurd. Not just the claim of ‘buddhism’ ascribed to Buddha as author is wrong- it is equally wrong to make Jesus as the author of Christianity or Mohammed as the author of Islam. Such ascriptions limit argumentative movements and freeze them into structures & patterns- From them we have ill-informed evangelists & terror of fanaticism and identification of heroes and choosing villains. Thus it becomes a cool ground for modern identity politics to anachronistically interpret the past taking it out of context. Let’s not do it. I welcome challenging any such claims rather than precipitating or freezing them into well defined ideals & identities presumably extracted in their ‘pure’ form from the quagmires of complexities of its ethological conditioning. Such an exercise is simplistic, wrong, methodologically flawed- I agree it has a big demand in academic & political market. Should academics of philosophy & social science play for the gallery of politics? Should academics be treated as something cooked for other’s consumption- a kind of customer satisfaction? Instead really really serious people- damn serious about method, methodology, philosophy and tend to be maximum true to the ethological contexts-with ability to deal the complexities – if join together and do an enquiry- that will be different. I would suggest such a serious enquiry of serious learning- I am sure I am not qualified or ready to take such a huge challenge. I won’t take this challenge either. I just caution that this issue needs more seriousness and methodological astuteness than what I witness in responses. 


107. Ajay Sekher:

Centering and foregrounding Culture with a Capital "C" could be a conservative and regressive act in contemporary times. Rather than focusing on and hegemonizing an upper case "Culture" it would be more realistic, democratic and egalitarian to talk about various little cultures enlivened by little buddhisms of various sorts in their local manifestations and myriad hues in diverse varieties and polyphony. Such a mosaic and hybrid scramble of little buddhisms and little cultures of buddhisms exist and survive in contemporary popular and folk cultures in disguised and repressed ways as well.  It would be academically interesting and illuminating to unravel these little traditions and covert manifestations of small buddhisms or little cultures of buddhisms in our regions, everyday life and immediate contexts as in family names and place names, as in the most intimate addresses and words that we use, as in the utterances of initiation, as in art, architecture and visual cultures. There is no escape from the materiality, history and lived realities of cultures that form a whole way of life in real social and historical junctures and geographies. The critical and theoretical perspectives of cultural studies and cultural materialism could also be useful in this pursuance of little cultures of local buddhisms in its diversity.

108. P. K. Sasidharan:

We have already come to discuss an important problem related to the viability or methodological status of the idea of ‘cultural Buddhism’. Sometimes, it has been criticized for making to be a new form of Buddhism, undermining the relevance of Religious Buddhism. Though that much is not intended for the time being, it seems to be a matter worthy of exploring in detail. As of now, it has been brought in as an analytic tool for looking at all sort of expressions related to Buddhist ideas, in history and present.


109. Argo Spier:

.“It (Cultural Buddhism) has been brought in as an analytic tool for looking at all sort of expressions related to Buddhist ideas, in history and present”.

The expression ‘cultural Buddhism’ itself relates to Buddhism. So does the statement quoted above. This poses the following question- Is it feasible to use something that relates to Buddhist ideas to analyze Buddhist ideas? In a previous post I played with the idea of ‘the method is the message’ and therefore also the ‘meaning’, suggesting that being busy with Cultural Buddhism merely is Cultural Buddhism. It still seems viable to me, yet… the whole of a ‘tool’, is this right way to approach to Cultural Buddhism? The very idea to use Cultural Buddhism as a tool (say, we take the idea of a tool for instance) that relates to Buddhism, seems to be curling into itself. We will then be using the ideas of a tool to analyze the idea of a tool!

110. T. N. Ganapathy:


In this paper, an attempt is made to find out and study the parallel view points of both the Tamil Siddha tradition and the Buddhist tradition. By using the term “parallelism”, it is suggested that there has been no known intraction between the two traditions and neither has influenced the other. This parallel study is an unexplored field hitherto and the author of this paper is conscious of the fact that he is treading on a slippery ground.
While Buddhism is a systematic exposition of its tenets, there is an absence of system in the thoughts of the Tamil Siddhas. The Tamil Siddhas are not system builders. Their philosophy cannot be made to fit into any “ism” or “ology”, for it lacks a constant doctrinal referent. One can discern certain common characteristics among the Tamil Siddhas which make them distinct from any school of philosophy. To them sectarian affiliation is irrelevant; they have no sacred city, no monastic organization, no religious instruments. They are indifferent to formal religion. Teir philosophy is enlightenment as distinct from doctrine; their technique is to jolt people out of their intellectual ruts and their conventional, barren morality. They are the untethered, non-conformist, spiritual aspirants, yearning for a direct and natural approach to, and a more intense experience of the truth. They rely on the individual’s efforts for the attainment of liberation. Their characterstic attitude is: come and find out for yourself. As Siva Vakkiyar, a Tamil Siddha says, their experience is a case of attaining wisdom not through teaching or preaching. …

……What the philosophy of the Tamil Siddhas will be suggested by comparing it with the Buddhist tradition. By “philosophy” I mean the thought-content of the Siddhas and not their philosophical system. While Buddhism is a philosophical system, the thought-content of the Tamil Siddhas is not a system. Even as the Dhammapadaa speaks of the arhat, we can also say of the Tamil Siddhas that their track is as difficult to know as that of the birds in the sky. …. It is said that when a Baul of Bengal was asked why the Bauls had not left any philosophical system for the use of posterity, he rep0lied: Do the boats that sail on the river leave any mark? The same would have been a reply by a Tamil Siddha. It is worth to remember Kabir’s ver4se in this connection:
Rubies do not fill store-rooms
Hamsa birds do not fly in lines
Linons are not found in flocks
And saints do not walk in troops.

The basic philosophy of Buddhism is written in a systematic, classical language, either in Pali or Prakrit or Sanskrit, based on the rules of grammar and syntax. But the philosophy of Tamil Sidddhas is a poet’s philosophy and not a philosop0her’s philosophy. It does not have the flora and the fauna of the philosophical categories and an epistemology. ….
…in Tamil nadu the Siddhas and the Buddhists were identified with the alchemist. In describing the spiritual techniques both freely use metaphors taken from old alchemical writings. For both of them, alchemy is a code of or outer cover for something more profound and it is a sort of protection against unwary intruders in their spiritual sadhana. In Tamil language since the alchemist truns brass into gold, he is called a pithalai adagakkaran. The term also means-trcikster in
Tamil. As the Siddha and the Buddhist are compared to spiritual alchemists (because they turn the physical body into a divine body), both got the unsavoury epitht that they are tricksters not to be depended upon, i.e. a pitthalattakkaran.


111. C. P. Vijayan

Let us find out how much of Buddha is hidden in us despite all the
other bulldozing we have had over a few generations.We do know what is
right and wrong, what is good and bad but accustomed ways and crated
greed and unshod ego make us do things to the contrary

112. P. Madhu:
Let’s not be taken for a ride by any ‘cultures’ or ‘civilizational’ tendencies. That is by objection to ‘Buddhist culture’ or “hindu… whatsoever… cultures”—or claims like contributions of Christianity, islam… etc.
All cultures are later stereotyping- a kind of hegemonizing (homogenizing)- a kind of counter event of regularizing & regulating.  Let’s not assume a top down flow of knowledge… from Buddha, jesus, nanak, mohemmed or even from God.
Let us be sensitive to counter-cultural sprouts ordinarily come up and later appropriated by this or that ism. For instance- aadinath of nath tradition is a hill wanderer- siddhas are mostly forest nomads, wisdom of Krishna is pastoral, wisdom of Matsyendranath is from fishing life,  wisdom of Ramakrishna is from unorthodox Kali worship- atypical of brahmanical cultures, Jesus’s learning is from ordinary life & Mohammed’s from isolated trekking and  being in the state of rejection from the cultural… beggars, vagabonds, street nomads are greatest contributors of most pristine claims of the late colonial construct – “Hinduism”.  Most of the misdom comes from unusual quarters that hardly matters to the later emergent hierarchies… then wisdom is attributed to twilight beings.. snake man (patanjali) parrot humanoid (sukar), monkey-humanoid (hanuman), prince given up kingdom (Buddha, mahavir)… it comes from unusual ways of life- there are gurus from prostitution,… great wisdoms from martial art…
The bottom up events of sprouts of wisdom--- coming from liminal twilight existence is hegemonized  , pattered and later made top down… it is later monotheosized and imposed as ‘normal’ order--- there comes culture… Let’s be less obsessed with cultures, masters… etc… culture stereotypes everyday life and makes learning impossible from it.
We are mostly colonized. Colonized means colonized by some sort of monotheism that Freud exposes in Moses & Monotheism… all that we are glorifying as ‘Buddhist’ culture or criticizing as ‘hindu’ culture are flowing from the archetype of civilizing process that is exposed by Freud. However, there are deeper archetypes counter-cultures silenced beneath… I’m more interested in counter-cultures- plenty of them… not in cultures and grand sources of those cultures… the  ethology  consisting humans still can teach us away from the normality of cultures & their hegemonic violence. 


113. C. P. Vijayan:

 To my mind, the method of treatment suggested by Mr.Pouran is short
term only and after a while the system once would recoil once again
and go back to the earlier position.
What has invaded once culture can not be shed off that easily.
We are not what we are, as we appear outwardly.
Even our own thoughts are not just our own.The more we delve deep into
Bio Chemistry and Bio Technology, what we come to slowly realize is
that we are just a link in a chain and changes can not happen in the
mindsets of a society that rapidly.
If what Mr.Pouran says is true, then, capitalism ought to have
vanished from the Soviet nations, Eastern Europe and perhaps China by
now . Sadly, we know the opposite has happened.
Democratic governance, the system of Sangha (collective thinking and
decision making) does work wonders in the psyche of a person as it it
is synonymous with the  inherent tendency of an individual to remain
within the group and not to be isolated.
Strands of thoughts can be had from folklore, customs and traditions a well.
Rather than miniaturizing the ethos in to a particular religion, it
would do a sea of good if we search for our lost ideals - be it of a
Buddhist origin, Jainist or simply tribal.

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