[Buddha-l] leaving home - culturally speaking

Piya Tan dharmafarer at gmail.com
Tue Dec 11 20:10:11 MST 2007

I have at least two of Williams' books on Buddhist philosophy, and as far as
it goes,
his scholarship is very good, to say the least, but his sections on early
buddhism is
evidently weak.

Perhaps I may be right is saying that Mahayana philosophy as philosophy,
would have to
face the same problems as western philosophy.

Over a decade ago, I knew a philosophy lecturer in the National University
of Singapore who
told me that after 18 years of teaching it, he found no answer in life, and
in fact it made
him more depressed. Unlike Wittgenstein, he chose a happier path. The last I
heard is that he
is happily married to a Thai woman in Thailand.

Mahayana philosophy is great to discuss and make a profession of, but I do
not think it can
really bring meaning in one's daily living. We have a standing joke here:
local buddhists attend
a talk by a renowned master. Local Buddhists say: wow this master is really
great, I cannot
understand a word he says!

I can best speak for myself: I find a combination of insight meditation (as
taught by Mahasi,
U Ba Khin, Pa-Auk Sayadaw and similar teachers) and the forest method as
taught by Ajahn
Chah and his pupils a very potent combination. With this kind of spiritual
support (and an
interest in the early Vedas and Upanisads, and some Pali) the early Suttas
reveal a human
Buddha who can be emulated.

Having said that, I must add that labels do not always do justice to their
contents. Perhaps in
the generations to come labels would matter less but spirituality matters
more, so that those
with a deep and joyful experience of their own faiths can find common links
transcending the
worldly human. It is interesting to note that a group of contemplative
Catholic monks in Australia
and Ajahn Brahm would meet about once a year simply to speak about their
experiences. Isn't this this the spirit of such suttas as the Udumbarika
Sihanada Sutta (D 25)?
(Yes, I know, we hear John Lennon and "no religion" here.)

OK I'm ready to be knocked down for being so self-assured. Is it wrong to be
simply happy?


On Dec 12, 2007 10:38 AM, Richard Hayes <rhayes at unm.edu> wrote:

> On Tuesday 11 December 2007 19:27, Richard Hayes wrote:
> > On Tuesday 11 December 2007 18:06, Piya Tan wrote:
> > > Some years back (early 2000s), Paul Williams (family pressure?)
> announced
> > > he has "reverted" to Roman Catholic. Wonder what is status is now?
> >
> > I wonder what difference it makes.
> I should add that buddha-l was founded to provide a forum for the
> discussion
> of Buddhism (and the moral and intellectual deficiencies of
> neo-conservatives), not the private lives of scholars of Buddhism.
> While discussing the personal beliefs of scholars of Buddhism is normally
> of
> little value here, Williams is arguably someone whose beliefs are worthy
> of
> discussing, since he has written a book and a couple of articles about why
> he
> chose to return to Roman Catholicism and what he found deficient in
> Buddhism.
> (It had nothing to do with family pressure; it had everything to do with
> his
> feeling that Buddhism was lacking what he was seeking. In some respects
> his
> views on the matter are not too different from those of Paul Griffith.)
> If anyone has read Williams' book and actually knows what it says, it
> might be
> worth discussing. Speculating about what he might have said would be less
> interesting (though it is surely what many of the amateur psychologists on
> buddha-l will be tempted to do).
> I vote for leaving this particular dead horse unbeaten.
> --
> Richard Hayes
> Department of Philosophy
> University of New Mexico
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