Saturday, February 27, 2010

What do I think about homosexuality?

More than a month ago on 23rd January 2010 I asked a friend, who is a mother of three, this penetrative question, "How would you react if you found out that your own children are homosexuals?" This is the same question that I have asked myself and others when I want myself and others to imagine a bit of of being in the emotional excesses facing families or individuals who are going through this issue.

Three years ago, in April 2007, I have participated in a very long discussion on homosexuality through an e-group. I have argued that if the legalization of sexual norm is based solely on mutual consent, then bestiality and pedophilia should be legalized together with homosexuality. I was NOT saying that homosexuality is equivalent to bestiality and pedophilia. What I mean was that, if sexual norm in the eye of a country's law is being considered based solely on mutual consent regardless of moral value and socio-political implications, then bestiality as well as pedophilia, heterosexual's anal sex, and homosexuality should also be legalized. So I was not making a moral statement on sexuality, but on a certain jurisprudence or a philosophy of law. And by implication, my statement wonders if jurisprudence can be done without reference to the issue on morality or what is "good".

While on whether what did Christianity in its early stage said about homosexuality, I wrote that the fact that Jesus didn't say anything about homosexuality doesn't make it okay for us to assume that Jesus is fine with it.

If the precedent Jews before Jesus rejected homosexuality and if the early church rejected it too, very likely Jesus shared the same presumption as them. This is known as the 'double similarities' criteria. If there was a precedence and a sequence that is similar, very likely the historical milieu in between these stages does not differ much, if differ at all. If Jesus was positive on homosexuality, it is improbably that the early church would have reacted in negative manner on this issue. St. Paul, Jude, the Didache, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, Tertulian, Novatian, Cyprian of Carthage, Eusebius of Caesara, Basil the Great, and Augustine denounced homosexuality. Add to that Jesus was a TORAH-observant Jew, then it is unlikely that Leviticus 18 and 20 did not shape Jesus' perception. I'm not saying that our ethical discourse is confined by historical knowledge, but merely pointing out the difficulty of domesticating Jesus to simply endorse this or that view.

What do I think about homosexual relationship? Whenever I asked myself this question, my first thought is always the awareness that I am not a homosexual. This first thought keeps me in a sexually, emotionally, and psychologically biased position. Therefore before even attempting to answer that question, I was being charged with the crisis whether can I really answer? (Not to mention being aware of Rowan Williams' 1989 provocative essay The Body's Grace).

Given my sexual orientation, I have to reflect over Martin Rochlin's questionnaire before any hasty response (HT: Jack Rogers):

The Heterosexual Questionnaire was created back in 1972 to put heterosexual people in the shoes of a gay person for just a moment.

1. What do you think caused your heterosexuality?

2. When and where did you decide you were a heterosexual?

3. Is it possible this is just a phase and you will out grow it?

4. Is it possible that your sexual orientation has stemmed from a neurotic fear of others of the same sex?

5. Do your parents know you are straight? Do your friends know- how did they react?

6. If you have never slept with a person of the same sex, is it just possible that all you need is a good gay lover?

7. Why do you insist on flaunting your heterosexuality... can’t you just be who you are and keep it quiet?

8. Why do heterosexuals place so much emphasis on sex?

9. Why do heterosexuals try to recruit others into this lifestyle?

10. A disproportionate majority of child molesters are heterosexual... Do you consider it safe to expose children to heterosexual teachers?

11. Just what do men and women do in bed together? How can they truly know how to please each other, being so anatomically different?

12. With all the societal support marriage receives, the divorce rate is spiraling. Why are there so few stable relationships among heterosexuals?

13. How can you become a whole person if you limit yourself to compulsive, exclusive heterosexuality?

14. Considering the menace of overpopulation how could the human race survive if everyone were heterosexual?

15. Could you trust a heterosexual therapist to be objective? Don't you feel that he or she might be inclined to influence you in the direction of his orher leanings?

16. There seem to very few happy heterosexuals. Techniques have been developed that might enable you to change if you really want to.

17. Have you considered trying aversion therapy?

So after all these reflections, what do I think about homosexual relationship? I think we cannot undermine any genuine and loving relationship between two single individuals. Nonetheless, whether homosexual or heterosexual, faithfulness to the other partner in the relationship is essential and non-negotiable on moral ground.

On homosexual marriage. First, I think heterosexual monogamous marriage is an inheritance received from Christianity. That means marriage is religious in origin. Therefore if a country has acknowledged this religious ceremony and legally institutionalized it, then the country must not attempt to fiddle with it. That said, nonetheless, the country has the liberty to stop institutionalizing such ceremony and leave it back to the religious community's own purview. Civil partnership regardless of sexual orientation can be the country's replacement for marriage. Yet this also has its socio-political implication depending on each country's different context. So there should not be a one-for-all global approach to this sort of social arrangement.

On church's response to homosexuality, I'll just point to what Tan Kim Huat has wisely said. He does not agree with the idea of setting up a homosexual church just as he does not agree with the setting up of a heterosexual church. Although churches should continue to have dialog on this issue, yet any Christian churches should go beyond this issue instead of getting stuck at sexuality. Add to that, I'll just repost this story I extracted from Joe Dallas's How Should We Respond?':

"Soon, gay people started showing up at [a pastor's] church...sometimes in pairs... The congregation got nervous. They said, "Pastor, the homosexuals are coming! They're coming down the aisles by twos! What are we going to do?"

[The pastor] said, "Well I guess they can take a seat next to the idolaters and the gossips and the fornicators and the whoremongers. Make room.""

Finally I want to say that I can be very wrong in my perception in this post as a heterosexual person and someone who struggles much with the broad theological and philosophical issues surrounding this matter. Do contribute on aspects which you think I lack.

89 comments:

reasonable said...

Thinking aloud to share to all readers here:

My proposal is that homosexual sex should not be made illegal in a secular and pluralistic country like Singapore, where certain religious groups and worldviews do not find any moral problem with homosexual sex. (e.g. homosexuality being morally and spiritually being equal to heterosexuality is an orthodox position in Buddhism; many atheists and secular humanists do not find homosexuality to be immoral).

Mutual informed consent and causing no obvious harm should be the principles to test whether or not an act should be criminalised.

Terence said...

The nub of the issue, I think, is whether you believe the Bible is the inerrant word of God. If you believe that scripture isn't inerrant, then there isn't really a lot of good reasons to condemn homosexuality.

But if you believe the Bible is inerrant, then you would have to look at how the respective scriptures should be interpreted, and take into account their social-cultural context.

I am personally undecided in this area. I find it a struggle to accept the inerrancy of scripture, given that I don't quite see a strong rationale for it. You might disagree with me.

Would I say outright that homosexuality should be condemned? Unfortunately, I can't, at this point of time.

On another issue, it strikes me that I have never seen an openly gay/lesbian couple in my church before. If we proclaim to be an accepting people, why is it that we don't have more of such people in our church? Have we become hypocrites?

Or do our teachings on homosexuality ultimately drive certain people way from church?

clement said...

reasonable,

(1) Buddhism has an ambivalent attitude toward homosexuality. It is a myth that Buddhism endorses homosexuality as part of its orthodox creed. In fact, out of the four major Buddhist groups, only Theravada Buddhism is positive on homosexuality. Chinese Buddhism is mainly negative. Until 2002, the stance of Tibetan Buddhism was also negative, until the LGBT lobby tried to expel the Dalai Lama from the UK on the basis of "homophobia" (as usual).

(2) Mere decriminalisation is okay; going beyond that is somewhat problematic.

miaksiew said...

i am very disturbed once again with the rhetoric used linking homosexuality and paedophilia. it is subscribing to the dominant discourse. one can argue against decriminalization without using the same rhetoric.

one thing i would point out that you have failed to realize that in bestiality and paedophilia, animals and children are not able to give legal consent. if they are not able to consent, "mutual consent" is not possible

xinwei said...

hello, we briefly met on a comments thread when GLS linked your post on karma.

while your perspective on homosexuality is certainly well informed, and invokes "broad theological and philosophical issues", i get a sense that you don't have any friends who are homosexual, nor really to talked and listened to one person-to-person.

in other words: you seem to be largely concerned with thinking about homosexuals in larger abstract frameworks, but never as them as people.

Or, as Ajahn Brahm has said, the best way to get over your fears and hangups about gay people is:

"by meeting with gay people and to get to know them and be friends with them"

http://heartlandsg.org/2006/12/30/homosexuality-and-other-forms-of-queerness-excerpt-from-ajahn-brahm/


as a kind of related example: for myself, i went to a Christian mission school for 10 years, which left me with a negative impression of Christianity. but remembering my friends (who are Christian) and how some of them approach their faith softens my views on the religion, and helps me to keep Christian ideals seperate from its Christian institutions.

Kenneth said...

@Terence: Whether you believe the Bible to be the inerrant word of God or not should have ZERO bearing on the legality of homosexuality in a diverse, plural, secular, cosmopolitan place like Singapore.

@SzeZeng: Heterosexual monogamous marriage is NOT an inheritance from Christianity. Polygamy was not practised in the Greek/Roman societies of Jesus' day. Conversely it was practised somewhat in the Jewish society of that day:

http://www.christian-thinktank.com/polygame.html

Kenneth said...

I must add I found your reference to heterosexual anal sex interesting. Hasn't that already been legalised?

blogpastor said...

I like Martin Rochlin's questionnaire. It's a creative turning of the table and sensitizes us to what gay people may have gone through.

clement said...

miaksiew,

(1) There is no "link" between homosexuality and paedophilia, at least not in this article. And in fact, not in many "conservative" articles either.

The argument is that is homosexuals have the right to question a society's norms on relationships, then there is nothing binding to prevent paedophiles and bestials from arguing the same thing. The language of oppression can be used very easily to argue ad Misericordiam.

There is nothing here about equating homosexuality with paedophilia or bestiality. Rather, the issue here is that when they force society's norms to open up to them, it is undemocratic for them to turn around and deny the same opening up to paedophiles and bestials, or preventing these groups from re-naming themselves to people with a different "age orientation" and "species orientation".

(2) In the case of children, paedophiles can assert that the problem is the law, not them. And Bestials can pick up the animal rights bandwagon or something similar.

After all, both are still possible under the widest definition of "sexual orientation", isn't it?


xinwei,

Meeting with gay people might help you get used to them as persons, but it does not necessarily improve your opinion of homosexual behaviour.


Kenneth,

(1)The Christian's opinion of Bible innerrancy determines the opinion the Christian holds of homosexuality. And - given that the Christian is a citizen in a democracy - rightfully speaking, the Christian's opinion on homosexuality and its legality ought to be represented in some way in the legal mechanism.

Rhetoric about "secular, diverse, cosmopolitan" etc masks the entire issue of the democratic representation of opinion in law i.e. something called "rule of law".

clement said...

blogpastor,

every stereotype - even the most prejudiced one - has some vague element of truth grounded in real experience.

On the surface, Rochlin's questionnairre is creative; if you probe deeper it is downright stupid. Just to show, here are my responses to the questionairre:-

(1) Ermm ... please define what you mean by "heterosexuality". I have never heard of such a concept before. I know what is "sexuality", but that involves a whole set of complicated relations that simply cannot be classified into "homo" or "hetero".

(2) I don't know - I never decided. And I never needed to "come out" either.

(3) I admit - I like guys too, just not for sex.

(4) Again, I really have no idea what you mean by "sexual orientation", at least not an innate one, since I believe that you can't choose your family, but you can choose your lover, right down to sex. And reason tells me that the lover should be a member of the opposite sex.

(5) My parents don't know that I am "straight", nor do I think they can since they have no real idea what "straight" means.

(6) I guess I can't answer this question, because I haven't slept with anybody before.

(7) Hmm ... as far as I know, I don't see an un-Gay Pride Parade anywhere in the world. So I take great offence to your suggestion that I am flaunting my "heterosexuality".

And also, I can't flaunt something that I don't have.

(8) Two reaons: (1) Because the LGBT activists are obsessed about it; (2) Because the Capitalist media is obsessed about it. Ban Durex and Stonewall, and there will be less obsession by heterosexuals over sex.

(9) Now again, I do not see an Un-Gay Liberation Front or a People Like Un-Gays, so I don't really know where you got your question from.

(10)Well, I think that any real danger should be averted, but I wonder where your statistics come from.

And I do not oppose homosexual teachers per se. I oppose homosexual teachers who try to normalise homosexuality. I similarly oppose teachers who try to normalise smoking or gambling or taking drugs.

(11) Well ermm ... keys and keyholes are different, but they still fit together, right?

(12)Now that is a loaded question. Societal support for heterosexual marriage is not on the increase; it is dwindling. Capitalist society is more interested in promoting individual appetites than social ties.

(13) Because it isn't limiting. It helps me distinguish between different ways of approaching a member of the same sex and approaching a member of the opposite sex. And also because well I don't need to be so obsessed about finding the right sexual partner. Ever heard of something called celibacy?

(14) LOL, Malthus was disproved along ago. Any qualified economist will tell you that the problem is the manner in which resources are distributed, not the amount of resources itself.

(15) I would expect any therapist to give me a proper diagnosis of my condition(s), based on purely medical data. This diagnosis should be free of any political-correctness or political ideology. I find it abhorrent that the 1973 decision by the APA was made under duress from the LGBT lobby.

Because I want my therapist to be honest, I don't want the therapist to be influenced by any restrictions on his/her opinion.

(16) Honestly, my "heterosexuality" - whatever that is - does not bar me from randomly spooning my same-sex flatmate if I so wanted to. There is no requirement for any special technique. Besides, have you heard of the American group called "Queers By Choice"?

(17) Hmm, yes I have. I have locked myself up in my room for the entire day on Valentine's Day. And I daresay it has worked. I am not obsessed over sex anymore.

P.S.: I am a guy.

SHWong said...

I stand with miaksiew.

Joshua's statement is this: "I have argued that if the legalization of sexual norm is based solely on mutual consent, then bestiality and pedophilia should be legalized together with homosexuality."

But the issue is not just mutual consent but mutual LEGAL consent.

Children cannot give consent because they are underage, and it is problematic to verify animal consent.

Xtrocious said...

Sorry but I find your argument grouping homosexuality, bestiality and pedophilia just plain ridiculous...

Can a one-year old child give consent?

Similarly, how do you ascertain consent from a goat?

Last but not least, I don't think that marriage is not a religious arrangement - I believe they had marriages in China long before the Christians stepped into the mainland...

Kenneth said...

And while we're on the subject. The sin of Sodom wasn't 'sodomy'. The prophet Ezekiel said so: http://kennethism.com/2010/02/28/the-sin-of-sodom-wasnt-sodomy/

Chrisloup said...

[quote]
. First, I think heterosexual monogamous marriage is an inheritance received from Christianity. That means marriage is religious in origin.[/quote]

it seems you need to do more history.

marriage was not religious in origin.(and most certainly not christian)

it certainly was more about ownership/paternity/legitimacy

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marriage

while wikipedia isn't authorative as others, its a good starting point to question your assumptions

clement said...

SHWong,

(1) What gives laws binding force is their perceived morality. After all, parliament can (be pressured to) amend laws at any time.

(2) Well, there is nothing morally that prevents them from doing so, just an extremely biased archaic, barbaric, Victorian that discriminates against children's capacities for sexual expression. And no, don't argue against me, because that is only you imposing your opinion on others, and that is highly undemocratic.

I believe you could consult animal rights activists on the sorts of consent animals can give. And who are you to call them wonky anw?

Xtrocious,

(3) They had religion in China long before the Western Enlightenment, the Christian Missionaries and even the advent of Buddhism. There is something called Chinese Folk Religion, friend. Have you ever read the Classics?

la nausée said...

"if sexual norm in the eye of a country's law is being considered based solely on mutual consent regardless of moral value and socio-political implications, then bestiality as well as pedophilia, heterosexual's anal sex, and homosexuality should also be legalized. ... my statement wonders if jurisprudence can be done without reference to the issue on morality or what is "good"."

On the contrary, I would argue that the doctrine of consent is rooted in morality -- specifically, in the value of liberty or autonomy. This value is even more foundational than other moral values. So a person who is coerced into a certain religion would not be living a worthwhile life at all, even if he seems to others to be better off. Similarly, a gay man who marries a woman simply to conform to societal mores would not be realizing the good of marriage if he does not personally endorse his choice as valuable.

A liberal State abides by the first-order value of autonomy. Because of this, it remains (as far as possible) neutral among the competing conceptions of second-order values like marriage and religion, except where necessary to protect autonomy. Thus, it permits sex between consenting adults; but it forbids sex with minors in order to safeguard the latter's future range of options (including a life of freely-chosen sexual relationships).

Bestiality is criminalized for the same reason as animal abuse is criminalized, and this has (I think) little to do with the animal's inability to consent. After all, we freely kill and eat animals without their consent. Rather, the concern is with gratuitous violence and its side-effects. A person who enjoys smashing defenceless cats against the wall might sooner or later want to do the same to defenceless children. Bestiality and pedophilia might be linked in a similar sort of way. And of course, this puts these kinds of sex far, far away from the ordinary kind of heterosexual and homosexual sex between consenting adults.

clement said...

la nausee,

(1) Autonomy is not independent, as paradoxical as that might sound. When you have autonomy/freedom, you either have autonomy to (do something) or autonomy from (something). That something is what makes autonomy valuable.

Also, foundational elements are second-order or third-order, not first-order. First-order elements are implements of second-order elements.

(2) This part is puzzling ... in your world of absolute autonomy, how does the state protect the autonomy of the minor by restricting it? Since present choices do not affect future choices. Theoretically, the minor can "divorce" or "dump" the adult partner if the minor so wishes to do so.

(3) I accept your point on animal abuse, but I don't see how bestiality amounts to "gratuitious violence". Bestiality isn't analogous with "smashing defenceless cats against the wall" in any way. (Being "bestial" in this context does not mean "acting like a beast".)

la nausée said...

@clement,

(1) I think where a 'liberal' like me and a 'conservative' like you (pardon the pigeon-holing) part ways is over whether autonomy is valuable in itself, or only for the sake of something else. If autonomy had only instrumental value w.r.t. some other Good X, why can't we shortcut the process and force people to live their lives according to Good X regardless of whether they have chosen it or not? We don't do that not only because such attempts are likely to be self-defeating, but more importantly because we think each person ought to be the author of her own life.

(This is also where consent enters the picture -- it enables us to freely enter into relations with others, without the law's intervention.)

(2) In the case of sex with minors, I think present choices, made on youthful impulse during the formative years, do narrow future options. Actually, there are three overlapping rationales for criminalizing pedophilia:

(a) the minor's choice to have sex is, given his or her immaturity, often not a true exercise of autonomy;

(b) the strong likelihood that adult-minor relationships will adversely affect the minor's emotional development, thus restricting his or her future autonomy;

(c) the strong risk of non-consensual sex in such relationships, given the adult's physical and mental superiority.

There are exceptional cases, but the law works through standard cases and general rules.

(3) Perhaps the phrase "gratuitous violence" obscured what I was trying to say. Bestiality and violence against animals are similar because of the asymmetry that is often involved: the animal is largely passive whereas the human makes choices aimed at gratifying himself.

This asymmetry does not, IMO, make bestiality wrong per se, because the animal may well derive pleasure from the interaction -- unlike with animal abuse, where pain is caused.

The worry, though, is that a person who has sex with animals (and who doesn't have to bother with getting a "Yes" or "No" whenever he wants to get off) is far more likely to then engage in non-consensual sex with other human beings. (Thus, I don't think 'animal rights' really exist; rather, the acts we do to animals may encourage us to do acts which violate human rights.)

But I recognize that this argument (bestiality -> pedophilia) has a weak causal link. And other arguments (e.g., hygiene, the link between bestiality and violence against animals) are not entirely persuasive. So I'm prepared to accept that bestiality may be decriminalized.

Sze Zeng said...

Hi all,

I have been caught up with works in the past few days. Thank you for participating in this conversation. I'll just reply all in this one comment :-)

@reasonable, I'll keep the mutual informed consent jurisprudence in view. Not conclusive about it yet since I see the problem with it lies in its over-emphasis on utilitarian's identity and individual liberty at the cost of communitarian's identity and the community's wellness.

@Terence, I'm not sure what do you mean by "inerrant". You may want to elaborate on what do you mean by the word? You are not seeing homosexual people in your church perhaps could be the fact that they are hiding themselves to avoid social scorn. That does not necessarily lead to us being hypocrites. Most of the time we are just clueless over other people's orientation, a very personal issue.

@clement, you raised up good point about Buddhism's ambivalent response on this issue. Would you share with us some of the sources about this? We should wait for Terence's definition of 'inerrancy' first before make any link. May be he has a point with his definition. Please drop an email to joshuawoo@gmail.com. Want to find out more about you, if you don't mind. As I prefer to have conversation with tangible identity. :-)

@miaksiew, it is not a rhetoric to link homosexuality with pedophilia. As clement has pointed out to you, it is about certain argument used in favor of homosexuality can also be used in favor of pedophilia. See below on my reply on 'consent'. :-)

@xinwei, nice to meet you over here from GSL's link. I have a cousin sister who is a lesbian, hang out often with homosexuals at clubs when I was 20-21, was picked up and had a long chat with a homosexual guy at a local club about 3 years ago, and a friend whom I know more than ten years ago revealed to me about two years ago that she has changed her orientation to a lesbian. And after sharing all these information with you, I am not sure how would that give additional credibility to what I wrote here. Perhaps it only works with you.

@Kenneth, your point on heterosexual monogamous marriage as an inheritance from Christianity is taken. When I used 'Christianity', I always have in mind a 'Judeo-Christianity'. I have been in theological discourse long enough to become insensitive to how others might have different connotation on the word 'Christianity'. Thank you for pointing out this as a reminder. On heterosexual anal sex, there are two reasons why I included that in the post. The post was a recap of a long discussion I had 3 years ago, so at that time, heterosexual anal sex was still a crime. Secondly, the decriminalization of this act is a good example of how jurisprudence is being done. That means we get to witness how sexual norm is being legally re-evaluated through historical process. The parliament used to see it as a crime due to its historical inheritance, but as time moved on, and given certain jurisprudence, the act is decriminalized. And what I tried to allude to with this phenomena is to point out that perhaps (a big perhaps) bestiality and pedophilia are also going through the same historical process. Thank you for sharing the link on Ezekiel. I read that from your blog before you share it here. :-)

@blogpastor, I like the questionaire too. Like you said, we help us to step out of our intellectual commitment to just imagine the emotional and psychological motion our homosexual fellow humans are going through. Of course, as clement has pointed out, we don't need to agree with their premises.

(continue..)

Sze Zeng said...

(continue..)

@SHWong, see my reply below on consent. :-)

@Xtrocious, see my reply below on consent. Marriages in China allows concubines and many wives. That is not monogamous. :-)

@Chrisloup, I was referring to specific marriage as legally recognized today in Singapore. Other ancient civilizations legalize marriages that allow for the keeping of concubines or having many wives or allow the husband to have extramarital sexual relation with his slaves, be it male or female slave.

@la nausee, you share sort of similar view with the first commentor 'reasonable' that see identity and hence liberty in individual autonomy. I have to keep that in view. Good point on animal's consent. We don't ask for their consent when we kill and eat them. So, as you are open to it, it may be said that bestiality should be decriminalized under this similar jurisprudence. Do you mind dropping me an email joshuawoo@gmail.com? :-)

On "consent", some who have commented assume that we know what it is and how we recognize it. My question is that how do we recognize such often invisible thing? How do we recognize when a person gives a "consent"? Through their words, contract, or body language?

Again, thank you all for commenting. I'm learning from you all and in the hope that each one is learning from one another too. :-)

clement said...

la nausee,

(1) Mere classification for the sake of clarification is fine. What I object to is people randomly calling me a Christian Fundamentalist, as you have done a number of times at TOC. But so far, it is okay.

Wrt to the topic, I see it as because Good is an objectively-grounded subjective experience. That is to say that the feeling of the Good is the same as the feeling of happiness or sadness or dissappointment. It is "subjective" in that it is something we feel, rather than something we touch, or see, or smell, or hear. It is "objective" in that the Feeling is common across the whole of mankind.

But in another sense, you are "pigeon-Holing", because I counter-argue that the Good is mapped to a specific set of actions in a function E(A,C) where E is the ethical result, A is the action and C are material circumstances. For each tuple (a,c), there is exactly one type of e.

(2a) "immaturity" is actually quite a wishy-washy term too.

(2b) Again, what is "adversely"? And also, just what is "adult", while we are at it?

aft) And the moment you say bestiality ought to be decriminalized, you shoot yourself in the foot because the validity of your counter against Sze Heng implies that de-criminalizing LGBT will have no other side-effects.

Sze Heng,

As a preliminary, you can check wikipedia: "LGBT Topics and Buddhism".
I would side with the more conservative side though, because it seems more likely historically that Buddha would have imbibed the Hindu attitude, since he was brought up as a Hindu prince, so in the absence of anything glaringly to the contrary, pandaka for Buddha should have meant the same as for the Hindu establishment around him.

I have my own definition of inerrancy, and since I am a Catholic, of papal infallibility as well. Would be glad to share with you.

God Bless!
(don't worry la nausee, that last greeting is not to you, in case you feel offended.)

la nausée said...

@clement,

I'm surprised you think I called you, or anybody else, a 'fundamentalist'. I think you misremember, because I steadfastly avoid using that term whether on the Net or in daily life. I do use terms like "conservative" or "ultraconservative", if only to locate people on a convenient political spectrum. That's hardly pejorative, I think.

(And no, I wouldn't be offended by a religious greeting... it's slightly more offensive that you think I would be.)

Anyway, for a moral realist, which you seem to be (given your references to the Good), you take a skeptical line very often (e.g., on children's capacities for sexual expression, on adulthood etc.). Isn't that skepticism a little inconsistent, like trying to argue both sides at once? Surely concepts like 'immaturity' are not that indeterminate; they are at least as capable of definition as the idea of the Good and its particulars.

clement said...

la nausee,

(1) I apologize if I mistook you for someone else. There were a number of posters hurling vitriol at me on TOC's discussion threads on the AWARE incident, and I thought that you were one of them.

(2) Well, some people do feel offended. Christians have been sued in the UK for religious discrimination for saying "God Bless" to atheists.

(3) I am a Moral Realist, but a Property Quasi-Nominalist. I don't believe that properties exist as independent objects, but rather that they exist as objective relations between sense organs, matter and energy. The Good is this form of property.

I reject the idea of particulars because although I accept the idea of the Good, I also encompass the idea of perfection as one of the angles to approach the Good, rather than an intrinsic property of the Good.

I do not oppose the ideas of immaturity or sexual expression capability, but I oppose to using age as a gauge, because I think that the most accurate gauge is experience, and that is not quite easy to ascertain. I don't question immaturity; I question linking it with age.

Adam said...

Great conversation here. I'd like to point out one thing:

The Bible has nothing to say against pedophilia.

As far as the Bible authors were concerned, it was perfectly OK to have sex with 12-year-olds -- as long as you were married to them. In fact, that's how marriage was done for thousands of years, well into the Middle Ages. The moment a girl enters puberty, she's marriageable. That's *still* how it's done in many non-Western countries.

Today in the industrialized West, sex with a 12-year-old is pedophilia. But it's not because the Bible tells us so.

And if you go even younger -- well, the Bible has nothing to say either about how *old* someone has to be before you can get married. It's not against the Bible to marry your 5-year-old to an older man.

So I find it disingenuous to assert that going against the Bible leads to gay marriage and pedophilia. The Bible is pedophilia-neutral. To assert otherwise is to misrepresent its content, and I think it's done as a scare tactic.

(For the record, I am 100% against pedophilia, and I think it's wonderful that we recognize that it's evil, even though the Bible is neutral on the topic.)

clement said...

Adam,

I take your point on paedophilia. However, what makes paedophilia paedophilia is not the action itself, but the (alleged) attitude behind the action.

Paedophilia is not explicitly condemned by the Bible, but lust certainly is. So as long as Paedophilia contains lust, it is also condemned by the Bible.

So the Bible is not necessarily paedophilia-neutral.

However, it cannot be denied that homosexual behaviour is condemned by the Bible explicitly. Even liberal Christians cannot sidestep that fact in their eisogesis. Their arguments have to centre around the context in which the sex was carried out. Although their approach has a big problem:

Are the scriptural passages condemning homosexual behaviour condemning he behaviour because of the context it stems from, or condemning the context because of the type of behaviour it leads to?

So even if the Bible is neutral on the issue of Paedophilia, it certainly is not with respect to gay/lesbian sex.

reasonable said...

"So even if the Bible is neutral on the issue of Paedophilia, it certainly is not with respect to gay/lesbian sex."

The bible is a collection of documents written by fallible human beings and the written text includes their fallible opinions. Hence what is inside a biblical text need not represent the mind of God.

clement said...

Reasonable,

this is a bit abstract, but the Bible is infallible in two senses:

(1) For those parts which are meant to be historical chronicles - including Jesus' miracles and the Passion Narrative - it is historically infallible.

(2) For the entire text, it is infallible in the sense it intends to portray about the relation between God and Man.

It is of course fallible in terms of what it portrays about the sense of relation between man and man, or man and the universe, including scientific principles. It goes without saying that the Bible is written as a spiritual testimony, not a scientific textbook.

So the Bible is the "mind of God" in the sense it wishes to portray, but not necessarily the "mind of God" in the detail.

Sze Heng, you might have a better theological analysis than what I have. If you do, please share.

reasonable said...

Contrary to what Clement mentioned, Gautama Buddha during his time would probably not find gay sex a problem in the same way he would not find heterosexual sex a problem.

Gautama was aware of homosexual sex, and Gautama was not shy to teach against various sexual misconducts for lay Buddhists (he did so), yet he was silent on homosexuality. Such silence in such a situation would mean that he probably does not see it as a sexual misconduct. I quote what was said in Singapore's 1st Global Buddhist Conference on this topic: "the studies of Buddhist meaning of the term sexual misconduct certainly does not include homosexual activities. And its fascinating that the Buddha was certainly aware about homosexuality in his time. There were many cases mentioned in old scriptures, especially the Vinaya (the code of ethics for monks and nuns) of homosexual acts and those who were that way inclined and he certainly never included it under the 5 precepts.When we talk about the 3rd precept, of sexual misconduct, it literally concerns adultery or illicit sex, especially between a man or a woman who were not married and that concern sexual relations that were considered inappropriate at that time, but it certainly does not include homosexual and lesbian activities."

It is true that Theravada Buddhism tends to accept homosexuality for lay Buddhists, while the issue is more divided in Mahayana Buddhism.

But note this important Mahayana monk's acceptance of homosexuality: the head and founder of the world's largest Chinese Mahayana Buddhist organisation, Master Hsing Yun, said this about homosexuality (translated from his Chinese book "Buddhsim Pure & Simple"):

"People often ask me what I think about homosexuality. They wonder, is it right, is it wrong? The answer is, it is neither right nor wrong. It is just something that people do. If people are not harming each other, their private lives are their own business; we should be tolerant of them and not reject them...However, it will still take some time for the world to fully accept homosexuality."

My important point is this: there are significant religious and non-religious worldviews in our pluralistic Singapore that do not find any problem with gay sex. Hence, if gay sex does not cause any obvious harm, it should not be criminalised.

reasonable said...

I refer to this statement of Clement: "It is a myth that Buddhism endorses homosexuality as part of its orthodox creed." which seem to be a response to my statement in my 1st comment carefully where I said "homosexuality being morally and spiritually being equal to heterosexuality is AN orthodox position in Buddhism" (note: I used "an", not "the")

The broad way to divide current Buddhism is Theravada (the conservative form of Buddhism in terms of it trying to adhere to what is more likely to be historically taught by Gautama Buddha) and Mahayana (Vajrayana is part of Mahayana though sometimes it is classified as a 3rd branch). Theravada is the oldest surviving tradition. Any teaching of Theravada would be AN (note, it is "an" not "the") orthodox position in Buddhism. As mentioned in my previous comment, Mahayana's important contemporary figure Master Hsing Yun also do not view homosexual sex as immoral.

(btw, for Christian readers who do not know, Theravada is the conservative form of Buddhism, as it recognises only the Tipitaka (3 Baskets) as the Buddhist scripture, whereas Mahayana accepts the 3 Baskets plus many later scriptures which, among many things, contains teachings not historically said by Gautama Buddha.)

reasonable said...

According to clement, "reason tells me that the lover should be a member of the opposite sex"

Can an elaboration be given regarding the reasons why it is not right (or why it is not morally right) for a person's lover to be of the same sex?

reasonable said...

I mentioned that the relevant factors to decide whether or not an act should be criminalised are informed consent and causing no obvious harm.

We need not wait till we have a very clear idea of what is informed consent to implement the principle. As it is, we are already applying that principle to determine whether or not an action is molest or rape. We do not need to wait till we know exactly what is informed consent in order to deal with cases of molest and rape.

So we apply similar standard of such informed consent to homosexual relationships: base on secular reasoning, as long as there is mutual informed consent between adults, their happy sex (gay sex) should not be a moral problem (when no obvious harm is caused to relevant parties).

Base on secular reasoning, in principle, if there is a non-human animal who can think in a way similar to human beings and can communicate with human animals called human beings in any of the human language, then in principle, there ought not be any moral problem regarding sex between such specific type of animal and human beings because this type of animal can give clear consent. As long as we can prevent any obvious harm caused (e.g. producing retarded offspring) to relevant parties in such a sexual relationship between this type of hypothetical animal and human being.

Adam said...

I don't disagree that the Bible speaks against homosexuality. But at the same time:

"Are the scriptural passages condemning homosexual behaviour condemning he behaviour because of the context it stems from, or condemning the context because of the type of behaviour it leads to?"

This is a great question. I just don't see how anyone can answer it with the confidence necessary to tell gay people they should orient their lives around that understanding. Our distance from the context throws so much uncertainty into the mix that we *have* to invoke our own moral reasoning to make the call.

And in that moral reasoning, I don't think we can condemn homosexuality on the basis of lust. Lust is a part of heterosexuality -- but it's not all of it. There's nonlustful heterosexuality. Similarly, lust is a part of homosexuality -- but it's not all of it. There's nonlustful homosexuality.

clement said...

Reasonable (Post #1),

(1) Well, Buddha was raised a Hindu Prince, if you do remember, and it doesn't appear that Hindus in general support homosexuality. It is just as important to put Buddha in his historical context.

(2) "Global" Buddhist Conferences in this aspect are not particularly useful, because Western Buddhism is influenced by New-Age beliefs. And New-Agers have a tendency toward lassiez-faire morality.

And besides, homosexuality is essentially a fixation on gender identity, which would be contrary to the attainment of Nirvana.

6)And how about the rest? What privileges the one view over the other?

reasonable (Post #2),

(2) "orthodox" requires the article "the", not "an". You can't have more than one right belief on a matter, if the two beliefs contradict each other.

reasonable (Post #3),

Think of the science of sexual attraction.


reasonable (Post #4),

(2) Well, in the case of rape and molest, the consent is merely mechanical; generally, the act (heterosexual version) and possible consequences are already known, and it is just a matter of applying these concepts.

On the other hand, there is really nothing known about homosexuality, and research efforts are stymied by LGBT activists who don't like research proceeding in either direction, because it seems that whichever way it goes, it would not be beneficial for them.

There needs to be more information available.

(2) I guess then that the "religious" and "secular" (most often anti-religious) viewpoint differ on what "informed" means.

As a Christian, I would say that under the rhetoric of equality, the "pro-"LGBT lobby and their atheist backers have mis-informed the LGBT community.

clement said...

Adam,

(1) Unfortunately, we have to find a practical way to lead our lives.

The "conservatives" and "fundamentalists" read it as the context is condemned because of the behaviour that results from it.

The "liberals" and "progressives" and "reformists" read it as the behaviour is condemned because of the context.

This is not a matter of using our own moral reasoning, but of textual criticism.

(2) The problem with science nowadays is that it uses terms in a manner detached from their original sense. Scientists conflate real lust and bodily attraction together as one concept of lust. (Fallacy of Equivocation.) Of course, perhaps it inherited that from the Puritans who made the same mistake.

So there is emotional attraction, physical/bodily attraction, and lust. Lust is characterized by indulgence or obsession.

reasonable said...

Not time to respond to the other things; just a quick remark on Clement's statement that "This is not a matter of using our own moral reasoning, but of textual criticism" regarding differences between scholars' understanding of biblical text.

The difference has nothing to do with textual criticism at all. Textual criticism is about trying to determine the original text given that we do not have the original written text by the biblical authors and the existence of thousands of manuscripts (with discrepancies among them).

The disagreement among Christian scholars/thinkers over homosexuality is due to differences at either or both levels: at the level of exegesis, and/or at the level of hermeneutics.

Sometimes it is disagreement at the level of exegesis (disagreement over understanding what a particular biblical author was saying). Sometimes it is agreement at the level of exegesis (e.g. agree that Paul was against homosexuality or against women not covering their hair during worship service or any other issue) but disagreement at the level of hermeneutics (e.g. whether or not Paul's opinion against homosexuality or against women not covering hair or any other issue should be applied in our time and situation).

reasonable said...

Clement said: "(2) "orthodox" requires the article "the", not "an". You can't have more than one right belief on a matter, if the two beliefs contradict each other."

Not true. There can be two opposite ideas and both ideas can be orthodox within Buddhism.

For example, Theravada Buddhism views Arahat as more superior to Boddhisattva, whereas Mahayana Buddhsim views Boddhisattva as superior to Arahat.

Each of these two opposite positions are orthodox positions within Buddhism. Now, if someone come along and say both Arahat and Boodhisattva are superior to Buddha, then that is not an orthodox position in Buddhism.

Another example of two opposing positions can be both orthodox in a religion:

Methodism teaches a true Christian is possible to "lose her/his salvation" whereas Calvinism teaches a true Christian is not possible to "lose his/her salvation". Each of these two positions are orthodox positions within Christianity.

reasonable said...

Clement said "(1) Well, Buddha was raised a Hindu Prince, if you do remember, and it doesn't appear that Hindus in general support homosexuality. It is just as important to put Buddha in his historical context."

Even if Gautama Buddha was brought up in a "Hindu" context, it does not mean he agree with Hindu teachings. For example, Hinduism teaches the existence of soul, while one of the most fundamental teaching of Gautama Buddha is to deny the existence of soul (anatta - not-self). Gautama Buddha also disagreed with reincarnation. Gautama Buddha also sees Brahma, so highly regarded by "Hindus", as a deluded being. So many things of Hinduism has been turned over by Gautama Buddha.

The more accurate way to access Gautama Buddha's likely attitude towards homosexuality for lay Buddhists would be to argue along the line what I have briefly mentioned in my earlier comment.

clement said...

reasonable (Post #1),

(1) No, "determining the original text" is the job of archaeologists. What Theologians do is interpret the "original text" as identified by the archaeologists/chroniclers.

(2) Yes, and these are elements of textual criticism. Textual criticism involves understanding and interpreting the texts, so hermeneutics is part of the textual criticism process.

You don't seem to know what textual criticism is, I feel obligated to say.

Exegesis is the version of hermeneutics, not something separate from hermeneutics.

(3) The question on how to apply Paul's particular teachings is not - technically speaking - part of interpreting the Bible. Although it is an important question in its own right.


reasonable (Post #2),

(2) Just because there are two types of beliefs present doesn't mean that both types are correct. That is a variant of the naturalistic fallacy.

Each of these are orthodox to their respective traditions, so both are orthodox relatively, but only one can be orthodox absolutely.

And since Buddha is one person (and not many people), logically speaking only one interpretation of what he said can be exactly what he meant to convey.


(3) I could equally say that both are heretical positions within Christianity. The Methodist position is heretical to the Calvinist and the Calviinist position is heretical to the Methodist.

And need I add, both positions are heretical to the Catholic and Orthodox Churches.

In both examples that you used, it is not that there are two contradictory beliefs which are orthodox at the same time, but that there are two contradictory beliefs competing for the status of Orthodoxy.


Reasonable (Post #3),

You need to be a little careful when wading into Theology. The Sutras are not easier to understand than the Bible.

(1) Buddha refutes the idea of a simple soul, that is a sort of casper-like entity that floats around between bodies between death and reincarnation. So, "anatta" is "no-self" in that sense.

But, Buddha taught - and Buddhism teaches - that humans have an Existence that flows from one life-segnment to the next, like a river. Technically speaking, that is a concept of a soul and a concept of reincarnation. Not in the crude Hindu style - as Buddha saw it - but in a more sophisticated form.

Buddha disagreed with the Hindu concepts of God (including Brahma), soul and reincarnation, but he did not reject all these concepts wholesale, and it is a mistake (heterodoxy) to think so.

Do not oversimplify Buddhism.

(2) And I strongly disagree thus far with your understanding of Buddhism. (In fact, if you do realize, my understanding of Buddhism is somewhat different from the common Christian understanding of Buddhism, which you echo.)

As a last comment, saying that homosexuality is wrong is an orthodox position in Buddhism by your logic, since there are at least 2 denominations - Theravada and Tibetan - of Buddhism that traditionally disapprove of homosexuality. The monk who brought Buddhism to Tibet taught that homosexuality was part of sexual misconduct.

reasonable said...

Clement said: "(1) For those parts [in the bible] which are meant to be historical chronicles - including Jesus' miracles and the Passion Narrative - it is historically infallible."

I suppose saying the bible's "history parts" is "historically infallible" is like what some claim the bible to be "inerrant".

This is an assumption (or perhaps a leap of faith without sufficient supporting evidence). The OT's story about Israelites' conquest of the Promised Land, though portrayed as if it is "history", has been shown by many scholars over all these years as very very unlikely to be historical. Two books in the bible could not agree as to who killed Goliath (the Sunday schools usually follow the David killed Goliath version and most Sunday teachers, including most theological students just started to attend their first year theolgical studies, may not be aware of the other version in the bible where Goliath was killed by someone else).

And regarding the Gospels, do not assume all the events you read are historical. For example, the Gospels do not agree on the day Jesus had the "Last Supper" (Wed or Thu?).

Critical evangelical scholars do not just accept something as historical merely because it is written in the bible. They have to look at the text critically (critical as a neutral word).

I speak not from an anti-faith attitude, but as a Christian who did formal biblical and theological studies (this is not to say my view is correct, but rather to point out that I am not shooting words out of my mouth without careful thought).


"(2) For the entire text, it is infallible in the sense it intends to portray about the relation between God and Man."

The problem is whether it is portraying the relationship correctly (and whether it is doing so in an infallible way). The Qur'an also portrays a relation between God and Man. Other religions' religious text also portrays to us what they consider as the true Ultimate Reality. If you give a public claim that it is an relatively objective truth that 'the bible is inerrant or the bible is historically infallible' is objectively true (instead of your mere private subjective taste/opinion)", you would need sufficient evidence to support it.


Clement: "It is of course fallible in terms of what it portrays about the sense of relation between man and man, or man and the universe, including scientific principles."

Great. It can be fallible when certain author(s) gave their own fallible understanding about homosexuality.


Clement: "It goes without saying that the Bible is written as a spiritual testimony, not a scientific textbook."

Imperfect fallible men/women giving their own imperfect and fallible understandings about spiritual matters means that they could make mistakes even in such spiritual matters. When the imperfect fallible authors wrote on "spiritual" topic, it does not mean that they suddenly became infallible.

[as an aside, the bible is more about "material" matters rather than abstract spiritual matters in the sense that it is more about how to get to a better earth than about going to heaven]


Clement said, "So the Bible is the "mind of God" in the sense it wishes to portray, but not necessarily the "mind of God" in the detail."

The Qur'an also wishes to portray the "mind of God" in the sense it wishes to portray. Some other religious text also wish to do that.

I like your "not necessarily the mind of God in the detail". Indeed homosexuality could indeed be one such example where certain biblical authors' views in this isue may not represent the mind of God (i.e. these authors may be mistaken despite their sincere beliefs).


Cheers!

:)

reasonable said...

"You don't seem to know what textual criticism is, I feel obligated to say."

When I first read on your use of "textual criticism" I already knew that you are ignorant of what textual criticism is, but I held back from saying "you are ignorant of what textual criticism" but simply went on to explain what textual critcism is about.

But now I have to say it: please read up before you accuse me of not knowing what textual criticism is. I say it as one who has learned about various types of biblical criticism and done formal work on exegesis (which requires me to use various criticism tools) many years ago when I was a student in a 3-year Master of Divinity programme.

Perhaps you can goggle to find out what textual criticism is about. Wikipedia should have a simple intro on textual criticism.

"(1) No, "determining the original text" is the job of archaeologists. What Theologians do is interpret the "original text" as identified by the archaeologists/chroniclers."

You are very very very wrong. Archaeologists discovered many many handcopied manuscripts (and these manuscripts, say example the manuscript on the Gospel According To Mark, contains disagreements so there is the problem of trying to determine what is likely the original text. Textual critics' job is to try to determine out of all these manuscripts containing conflicting text here and there, what is the likely original text written by the original author. Textual criticism is not interpretation.


Clement: "(2) Yes, and these [Clement referring to exegesis & hermenutics] are elements of textual criticism. Textual criticism involves understanding and interpreting the texts, so hermeneutics is part of the textual criticism process.

A very wrong understanding of what textual criticism is about, if one were to use "textual criticism" in the normal way biblical scholars use it.

reasonable said...

Hi Clement,

You speak as if you really have good knowledge of such matters; readers who are not well-read could be misled by what you said (even though you probably may not have intended to misled).

You said "Exegesis is the version of hermeneutics, not something separate from hermeneutics."

Exegesis is a narrow field, dealing with the determination of the meaning of a text (e.g. what was the intended meaning of an author of a text?), whereas hermeneutics deals with many things including things like, after we have done exegesis to ascertain what the Apostle Paul meant in a text, we apply our hermeneutic principles to decide whether or not we should be applied Paul's understanding in our culture and time.

I advise you to read up some introductory material on such subjects before speaking as if you have sufficient knowledge on such matters.

Your failure to understand even what textual criticism is shows that you need to do some introductory readings.


"(3) The question on how to apply Paul's particular teachings is not - technically speaking - part of interpreting the Bible."

For your information, the issue on whether or not Paul's understanding of an issue is applicable is part of hermeneutics though not part of exegesis.

reasonable said...

Clement: "Just because there are two types of beliefs present doesn't mean that both types are correct. That is a variant of the naturalistic fallacy. Each of these are orthodox to their respective traditions, so both are orthodox relatively, but only one can be orthodox absolutely...(3) I could equally say that both are heretical positions within Christianity. The Methodist position is heretical to the Calvinist and the Calviinist position is heretical to the Methodist."

Please read and pause to think/digest seriously for a while this first:

Even though Methodism disagree with Calvinism's idea that true Christians cannot lose their salvation, Methodism recognises that the Calvinist position is an orthodox position within Christianity. Calvinism also recognises the Methodism's positionas an orthodox position within Christianity. There is such mutual recognition of each other's position as orthodox positions of Christianity despite disagreement over it.

But both Methodism does not recognise Jehovah Witness' position about Jesus as a created being as an orthodox position within Christianity. In this case there is not only disagreement but also a rejection of Jehovah Witness's position as an orthodox position of Christianity.

I hope you can see that disagreement need not mean denial of orthodoxy.

And of course, orthodoxy need not mean true (true in terms of correspondence to the real reality)

I hope the above two paragraphs can help you grasp the meaning of "a Christian denomination can recognise another denomination's position on a doctrine to be an orthodox position within Christianity even if they do not agree with another denomination's position on that doctrine".

So there can be two opposing teachings in a religion and these two opposing teachings can be both recognised as orthodox positions in that religion.

Hence, "homosexual sex among lay Buddhists has the same spiritual and moral status as heterosexual sex among lay Buddhists" is an orthodox position in Buddhism, where out of its two main traditions, Theravada Buddhism (as u said) accepts homoexuality while at least some Mahayanists reject it while some other Mahayanists (such as the very well-respected monk among Mahayanists, Master Hsing Yun) accepts it.

And do not lose sight of the forest while u look at the trees. My original point was simply this:

There are important groups (such as Buddhists and atheists and agnostics etc) in our pluralistic society who do not find any moral problem with homosexual sex and we should respect the freedom for them to live out their convictions as long as homosexual sex per se cause no obvious harm.

reasonable said...

A proper way to discern Buddhist perspective of homosexuality is to look at
(1)the historical teachings of the historical Gautama Buddha on sexuality, and
(2) principles taught by Gautama Buddha that determine whether an action is "right action",
instead of importing principles not taught by Gautama Buddha such as argument from Natural Law.

The best historical documents to ascertain what Gautama taught would be the group of earliest Buddhist scriptures, the 3 Baskets, which incidentally are also the only group of Buddhist scripture recognised by all schools of Buddhism. (Mahayana Buddhism has many later scriptures not recognised by Theravada Buddhists, for example, but the 3 Baskets are recognised by both Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism - Tibetan/Vajrayana grouped under Mahayana).

From the relevant early and commonly accepted Buddhist scripture, we know that Gautama Buddha was much aware of homosexual sex; this claim is supported by the fact that in giving his rules regarding celibacy for monastic monks, he not only forbid male to female sex but also mentioned, and forbid, male to male sex. But when he taught non-monastic ethics to non-monastic listeners, he did not require them to be celibate (i.e. he let them have sex), but only told them the kind of sexual activities that are wrong. The wrongful sexual activities or sexual misconducts for lay people mentioned by Gautama Buddha included sex with (1) girls under the guardianship of their parents (maturakkhita, piturakkhita), i.e. under-aged; (2) those protected by Dhamma (dhammarakkhita), nuns or those who have taken a vow of celibacy; (3) those married (sassamika); (4) with those undergoing punishment, (saparidanda), i.e. prisoners; or those (5) those bedecked in garlands (malagunaparikkhitta), i.e. engaged to be married. While Gautama did not hesitate to point out the various sexual activities that are wrongful sexual conduct for the non-celibate lay people, he did not include homosexual sex even though Gautama Buddha was aware of homosexual sex (his awareness is evidenced in his rules for monastic living). It is thus reasonable to say that Gautama Buddha probably did not find homosexual sex to be a sexual misconduct. Since Gautama Buddha did not speak against homosexual sex for lay people, the next logical thing to do is to make use of those general principles ((i.e. intention, consequence/harm, golden rule, etc) used by Gautama Buddha to analyse whether or not an action is wrong action, by applying these general principles taught by Gautama Buddha to analyse homosexuality. After applying those principles, one would see that homosexual sex is not better and not worse than heterosexual sex.

The above approach is the rational basis for those Buddhist monks who wrote that homosexuality is of a same moral and spiritual status as heterosexuality.

These monks came to the conclusion not because of "New-Age beliefs" or "lassiez-faire morality"; rather, when we look at their reasonings, we find that they have a solid conservative academic basis rest upon the earliest Buddhist scripture commonly accepted by all schools of Buddhism. (conservative in the sense that they rely on the earliest documents which incidentally were recognised by all Buddhist Traditions, and conservative in the sense that they try to stay close to what Gautama Buddha probably said or believed, rather than opening to other later voices that entered into some branches of Buddhism).

Ironically, from my reading, some of those Buddhists who argued against homosexuality are the ones found to be arguing on the basis external influences by using non-Buddhist principles such as arguing along the line of Natural Law. Some Buddhists argued from late scripture not accepted by other schools of Buddhism (e.g. arguing from certain late Tibetan scripture not recognized by all Buddhist traditions, but note that there are other Tibetan clerics who argued for the acceptance of homosexuality).

clement said...

reasonable (Post #1),

(2) If you are referring to the "contradiction" I think you are referring to, then that has been resolved: it is a matter of command-chain. It is like when you say "Admiral Nelson defeated Napoleon at Waterloo", you don't actually mean that Nelson fired the last bullet in the Napoleonic Wars; rather, a soldier under him might have. Similarly, because of David's social status, his victory - under official records - would have been ascribed to whoever could be considered his commander.

(7) The Bible can be fallible for the scientific understanding it gives about homosexuality

(3) It is a contradiction only if you don't understand Jewish culture. In Jewish - and perhaps other Near-Eastern cultures - culture the day starts not at 12.00 am, but at 7.00 pm. Therefore, what is the end of "Wednesday" for us is the beginning of their "Thursday". (This, incidentally, is what my Jewish friend told me.)

The so-called "contradiction" between the Gospels is resolved by pointing out that one Gospel is addressed to Christians who were ex-Jews and so followed the Jewish clock, while the other Gospel is written to Christians who were ex-pagans, and who followed the Roman/pagan clock.

(4) They might be neutral in their use of the word "critical", but are you?

(5) As someone who did formal theology studies (and a M. Div. to boot), you ought to know the difference between "literalist" and "literal". And you should be understanding that the Bible is infallible and inerrant in the literal sense, not in the literalist sense.

(6) Yes, I could, but not here. A discussion thread does not provide sufficient space.

But in short, I don't find belief in biblical infallibility inconsistent with the belief in the infallibility of original religious texts, "original" referring a text that is written directly by a visionary or accreditted sacred writer after the instance of revelation. For instance, I would regard the Koran as infallible (a complex position, no doubt) but not the Hadith, since the Hadith is a commentary by the Prophet on the Koran which is antecedent to the Revelation. The Sutras would be infallible in the parts which can be identified to be "divinely-realized", but extrapolations of those, whether by Buddha or by any of his disciples, would not be considered as such.

(7) Wrong, the Bible can be fallible in the scientific understanding of homosexuality that it gives, but not in the moral understanding of homosexuality it gives. And unfortunately for you and your liberal cohorts, it does not provide any of the former.

Because sexuality has to do with how we were created, it has something to do with God, and the relationship between God and Man.

(8) I am interested to note that you write '"spiritual"'. Which does give me an idea of what you treat the word to mean.

Spirituality is an attitude, and if you have that attitude while you are writing something descriptive about that attitude, you are not going to be wrong in what you write.

"spiritual belief" does not refer to speculations about some form of ethereal being, but refers to a spiritual attitude taken toward the self and the Self.

(9) Ponder this:-

In one of the references to Hell, Jesus makes an allusion to "gehenna", the Jewish word for "rubbish dump". A rubbish dump is geographically part of a city, but for some reason, when people think of a city, the first thing you think about is not the rubbish dump.

What do you think this implies about the relationship between Heaven and Hell?

(10) You like my quote, but apparently because you don't understand it.

clement said...

Reasonable (Post #2),

I concede: I take textual criticism to be identical to literary criticism. As I mentioned above, I was talking about the literal sense of the Bible.

So for the purposes of this discussion, I will group "textual criticism" under "archaeology".

reasonable said...

Clement: “If you are referring to the "contradiction" I think you are referring to, then that has been resolved: it is a matter of command-chain. It is like when you say "Admiral Nelson defeated Napoleon at Waterloo", you don't actually mean that Nelson fired the last bullet in the Napoleonic Wars; rather, a soldier under him might have. Similarly, because of David's social status, his victory - under official records - would have been ascribed to whoever could be considered his commander.”

Your attempt to reconcile the contradiction to maintain your infallibility or inerrancy position is a failure. You failed to wrestle with the text. Firstly, you attempted to use an bad analogy to escape from the problem. You example is not a good analogy to the problematic passage in the bible. Your used of the word “defeated” and used to generals of two opposite army makes your analogy not closed enough to the biblical text.

A closer analogy would be like “Sgt Tan killed Peter who is a huge guy holding a spear with a red ribbon.” The natural reading of such a sentence would be just Sgt Tan killing Peter personally; the natural reading of such a sentence would not be about one army winning a war against another army.

Secondly, your assumption that David was the one that killed Goliath personally comes with another contradiction: it contradicts historical situation. In the story about David killing Goliath, it was also said that after killing Goliath, David brought Goliath’s head to Jerusalem. But at that time Jerusalem was not conquered by Saul yet; Jerusalem was still occupied and controlled by their enemy. This “history” of David killing Goliath contains such problems.

There are more problems about assuming David to be the one who killed Goliath but I shall mention only the above, at least for the time being.

reasonable said...

Clement“And you should be understanding that the Bible is infallible and inerrant in the literal sense, not in the literalist sense.”

Come, provide us some good reasonings to show that the bible is infallible and inerrant in the literal sense. Without good reasonings you are then making assumptions by faith without sufficient evidence.



"But in short, I don't find belief in biblical infallibility inconsistent with the belief in the infallibility of original religious texts, "original" referring a text that is written directly by a visionary or accreditted sacred writer after the instance of revelation. "

The above is an old attempt by Christian fundamentalist to defend biblical inerrancy. Many evangelical scholars do not use such a lousy attempt. It is making an assertion without any evidence of any such original inerrant writing, among other problems.


Clement: “For instance, I would regard the Koran as infallible”

In that case you should believe in the Qur’an which teaches that Jesus did not die on the cross. You should believe all the teachings in the Qur’an that disagreed with Christainity.


Clement:“ The Sutras would be infallible in the parts which can be identified to be "divinely-realized", but extrapolations of those, whether by Buddha or by any of his disciples, would not be considered as such.”

Why not? Another assertion? Why do you think that your David killed Goliath or your Israelites’ conquest of the Promised Land is infallible history while your deny the Suttas?



Clement: “The Bible can be fallible for the scientific understanding it gives about homosexuality”

To limit the fallibility of the bible to only the scientific aspect is too arbitrary. It can be fallible about anything. Show me some good relatively objective arguments why it CANNOT be fallible in other aspects including what you called “spiritual” aspects?

reasonable said...

Clement: “It is a contradiction only if you don't understand Jewish culture. In Jewish - and perhaps other Near-Eastern cultures - culture the day starts not at 12.00 am, but at 7.00 pm. Therefore, what is the end of "Wednesday" for us is the beginning of their "Thursday". (This, incidentally, is what my Jewish friend told me.)The so-called "contradiction" between the Gospels is resolved by pointing out that one Gospel is addressed to Christians who were ex-Jews and so followed the Jewish clock, while the other Gospel is written to Christians who were ex-pagans, and who followed the Roman/pagan clock.”

You need to look at the text. Your general statements above do not solve the problem.

John's Gospel: "Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover." [Jesus' last supper occurred before the Passover; Jesus was arrested before the Passover]

Mark's Gospel: "Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb [or NASB: when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed], his disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare, that you may eat the Passover?" And he sent out two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him. Wherever he goes in, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with my disciples?" Then he will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared; there make ready for us." So his disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as he had said to them; and they prepared the Passover. In the evening he came with the twelve. Now as they sat and ate,..." [Jesus eating the Passover before he was arrested; Jesus was arrested after eating the Passover]

So was Jesus arrested before or after the Passover? Was his last supper held before the Passover (John's Gospel) or was his last supper held during the Passover?

Was Jesus arrested before the Passover (John's Gospel) or after the Passover (Mark's Gospel)?


And do not forget the historical problem I mentioned about the biblical narrative about Israelites’ Conquest of the Promised Land.


Clement: “They might be neutral in their use of the word "critical", but are you?”

Of course I am  And so far my reasonings have been sound.


Clement“...the Bible can be fallible in the scientific understanding of homosexuality that it gives, but not in the moral understanding of homosexuality it gives.”

What reasons can you provide to support the above assertion? Why is your bible not fallible in its moral pronouncement? Why your biblical writers CANNOT make any mistake when they give any moral statements? What evidence do you have to show that the biblical writers CANNOT make any mistake in their teachings about morality? Hopefully not another assertion/assumption without sufficient evidence.


Clement: “I am interested to note that you write '"spiritual"'. Which does give me an idea of what you treat the word to mean.”

Are you sure you understood me properly? What do you understand by what I treat the word to mean?



Clement: “You like my quote, but apparently because you don't understand it.”

Your above response shows that you probably do not even understand how I have used your quote!

clement said...

reasonable (Post #1),

I don't think that arguing about David, Saul and Goliath (and Jonathan to boot) is useful, if we have nothing common which we are approaching.

So before we continue, I would like to know exactly what verses you are using to demonstrate the "contradiction". Then we can talk about it.

Sze Heng, I ask for your permission to allow reasonable and I to post verses from the Bible.


reasonable (post #2),

(1) I could do that, but first I need to make sure that you understand the word "literal" as used in the biblical exegesis sense. And you should, if you have indeed studied theology as you have claimed to have done so.

I could give you an entire essay, but first I need to ensure that you and I are on the same page as to what "literal" means in the bible-scholarship sense.

(2) I am a Catholic, not a Christian Fundamentalist or an Evangelical, so I take offence at you calling me a Fundamentalist.

But perhaps I was a little hasty in using the word "writings". In "original writings", I include writings which are the record of original sayings. For instance, the Koran is poetic because it was meant to be recited at tribal gatherings, not written and compiled into a book. The same applies for the Bible, which is a collection of testimonies, not a biographical account of Israel.

I said "in short" for a reason.

(3) I have read the English translation of the Koran, and I disagree with the traditional Muslim interpretation of it, as much as I disagree with your interpretation of the Sutras.

The idea of Jesus ascending straight from the cross is an interpretation of the Koran, not a direct statement in the text. The particular verse could also be construed as a summary of the Passion, in which the details are left out because God wants Muslims to learn the proper things taught by Jesus and the Jewish prophets (e.g. Moses).

Also, I believe that not enough attention has been paid to the possibility that the "Christianity" the Koran criticises is not the Christianity of Rome or Constantinople (Ephesus) but the versions of "Christianity" that those two churches denounced as heretical, such as Gnosticism, of which the idea of the Virgin Mary as a goddess in her own right seems to gel very well, since as the Mother of Jesus, it would be a logical Gnostic extrapolation to deduce that she could only be the mother of the perfect Jesus if she was the incarnation of Sophia herself.

Gnosticism was certainly prevalent in the Europe of Mohammhed's time.

(4) Buddha's original texts came to him from Divine Revelation, which at least connotes an instance of transcendent sentiment, or if you like, a "bird's eye view". Being transcendent, the descriptions derived from that view would necessarily be infallible, since they should incorporate the whole and the parts, and not be subject to either the Fallacy of Composition or the Fallacy of Division.

After leaving that state, however, any subsequent extrapolations would be done in an atmosphere where only part of the "bird's eye view" would be present in immediate circumstances, and thus liable to error.

And please, I did not deny the Sutras. I denied works that follow from the Sutras, that are as commentaries or extensions to the Sutras. For instance, I deny the validity of what Master Hsing-Yun commented.

My view on the Sutras is basically this: They are as badly misunderstood as the Bible is.

The history of early Israel is complex, not least because ancient history is complex. While we can have a certain degree of certainty about ancient culture, we need to bear in mind that their taxonomies might be different. The Hebrews might not show up as the Hebrews because the Egyptians or the Medes confused them with other ethnic groups of a common skin colour. Even recently, in the Iraq War, there is the running joke that every Iraqi is an Osama Bin Laden to the Westerners. What more in the past?

(to be con-d)

clement said...

Reasonable (Post #3),

I really wonder if I am talking to someone who has really studied theology before. Whether you agree or disagree with it, you should at least know what it is first. So far, despite your understanding of what the technical terms of "textual crticism" and "exegesis" mean, you are not quite demonstrating the theological understanding of the Bible. So, back on topic:

(2-5) The word "Passover" can be used to refer to two distinct things: the Festival Day which is called the Passover, and the seder meal, or the Passover meal, which is eaten on the first two nights of the Passover celebrations.

The "Passover" in the passages you quoted refer to the Passover meal, which Jesus celebrates as his last supper. That is where my "general background" comes in.

The Passover is a celebration of he famous tenth-plague in the Book of Exodus, where the Angel of Death was told to slay all the Egyptian first-born at night. There are two Passover meals, one on the first night and one on the second night. (see BBC-religions page on Judaism)

Thus, the Last Supper was celebrated as the first Seder Meal, whilst the Jews in the passage from John are worried about maintaining their ritual purity for the second Passover Meal. That does not detract in any way though from the observation that Jesus was arrested on the Day of Passover.

The Last Supper was hence the first Passover Meal held on the First Day of Passover, but was before the Second Passover Meal.

Since I am not entirely sure how the Jewish calendar worked in the 1st century, I am prepared to allow the possibility that Jesus was holding the Last Supper at the start of the Day of Passover because he knew that he would not make it for the end of that Day.

But either way, your "contradiction" is resolved.

6) As for the Israelites' "Conquest", it is more of raids-and-settlement rather than imperial expansion. Kitchen observes that the narrative in Numbers and Joshua mostly concerns raids held from the same base camp, raids without settlement.

7) Since you haven't examined both sides properly, I can't actually agree with you that your reasoning has been "sound".

For a person who claims to have studied theology, you are parading the same jaundiced view of the Bible that the New Atheists possess.

Honestly, I am tempted to ask what you learnt in your theology course.

8) The same reason I give for why I think that Buddha's original Sutras are infallible, which I have explained in a previous post.

I remember that biblical scholars have two words describing ways of approaching the Bible: "Exegesis" and "Eisogesis". "Exegesis" means understanding the meaning of the text from the text itself and the author; "Eisogesis" means inserting your own meaning into the text.

Each of these approaches implies a particular attitude.

Exegesis involves humility, giving up yourself to get into the Kosmos of the Bible, to see things and feel things the way that the Sacred Writers saw them and felt them.

Eisogesis involves arrogance, inserting your own meaning and forcing your own framework onto the Bible and its Writers.

Although you seem to know the technical meaning of "exegesis", you don't seem to be applying the exegetical attitude.

The same thing applies when looking at the Koran or the Sutras.

reasonable said...

"I am a Catholic, not a Christian Fundamentalist or an Evangelical, so I take offence at you calling me a Fundamentalist."

This is your wrong accusation of me. Please quote my words to point out where did I call you a Fundamentalist?

I take offence at you giving accusations without doing careful reading.

clement said...

reasonable (Post #2)(con-d),

(5) According to the way "scientific" is used in popular discourse nowadays, it can mean almost anything.

Anyway, I - and the Church - circumscribe the infallibility of the Bible to two specific areas: faith and morals. Infallibility in history is only warranted insofar as it is necessary to secure either faith or morals, or both. Not so otherwise.

Spirituality, whether of the Sutras, of Mohammed, or the Sacred Writers of the Bible, is based upon a transcendental attitude, and this attitude is what generates the infallibility. (I have explained how it does so in an earlier post.)

But again, the infallibility is only in what they seek to find, which is about God and morality. If the Sacred Writers had been looking for scientific truths or mathematical truths or literary truths, then the Bible would be infallible in these as well. But they were not.

And again, because of the nature of the subject, infallibility is in the SENSE that they are conveying (that is the "moral sense" of Scripture in biblical studies terms). So the Sacred Writers are right generically that homosexuality is wrong, but are fallible in how they think it to be wrong, because the latter is done as a reflection on the Inspired State.

(6) "The Spiritual world consists of Casper-like entities floating about in its universe."

reasonable said...

"...if you have indeed studied theology as you have claimed to have done so."

I sense your doubt; my advice is that you can email Sze Zeng to verify. He knows me personally.


"I could give you an entire essay"

Do not quote entire essay for that will not be discussion. It is pointless to produce others' essay - imagine you give me an entire essay and in return I quote you ten other scholarly articles. Explain in your own words the reasons you have that support your assertion that the bible inerrant and infallible.

If you do not possess good reasons, your assertion is merely an assumption without evidence or an assertion base on your leap of faith. (I am not saying it is bad to take it by faith; I respect those who say that believe by faith. But if you said you have good reasons to support your assertion, I would be interested to look at them).


Clement: "I don't think that arguing about David, Saul and Goliath (and Jonathan to boot) is useful, if we have nothing common which we are approaching."

Hope this is not your way of avoiding the problem which you cannot solve.

If you believe in reasoning, believe in good reasoning should not involve contradiction and incoherence, and usage of words should be in accordance to their common usage (e.g. using "textual criticism" in a way which is commonly use in the field of biblical criticism) then we have common starting points.

So it is useful to look at the issue whether that account of David killed Goliath is reliable.



The bible reported an event where a cock crowed after Peter's denial of Jesus. How many times did the cock crow after Peter's denial?

;)

clement said...

Reasonable,

And a note on Buddhism:

I find the distinction between "lay Buddhists" and "Buddhist monks" deceptive.

The Buddhist community is the sangha, which is a community of monks and nuns, without a lay component. This differs from the Christian Church or the Muslim Ummah, which has a distinct class of people called the laity.

This is because Buddha founded his faith as an ascetic religion. And this is one area with a link to Hinduism. Hinduism has four goals for a Hindu: Dharma, Artha, Karma and Moksha. Moksha is the highest goal, but can only be achieved after achieving Karma and Artha, whose achievement is part of Dharma. The Nirvana of Buddhism correlates with the Moksha of Hinduism.

Buddha isn't concerned about lay Buddhists, because his teaching is that everyone should attain Nirvana, and the best way of doing so is by embracing the ascetic life. Thus, you have an entire list of circumscriptions for "clergy", but none for "laity".

This follows the Hindu tradition, where "laity" and "ascetics" are regarded as stages in spiritual life, as opposed to classes in society, that is the caste system. The stage of Moksha should be attained by everyone, not just the Brahmins (priestly caste), and it is the job of the latter to help people and society achieve that.

Buddhism thus holds the monks as examples for the not-yet-monks to follow, not as a separate class with different instructions.

reasonable said...

"Buddha's original texts came to him from Divine Revelation"

You seem to be in a habit of either giving accusations without evidence or making assertions without evidence.

What is your evidence to say that Buddha's original texts came to him from Divine Revelation?

reasonable said...

"The idea of Jesus ascending straight from the cross is an interpretation of the Koran, not a direct statement in the text."

Hope u are not implying I said such a thing.

I only mentioned that the Qur'an taught that Jesus was not crucified to death. The Qur'anic verse was "they killed him not, neither did they crucify him" The crucifixion was merely an illusion or merely an appearance.

reasonable said...

Clement: "I find the distinction between "lay Buddhists" and "Buddhist monks" deceptive."

You talked so much about eisegesis (note the spelling) yet you have a number of times in your comments committed eisegesis. (hence making various false accusations, which I challenged you to quote my words, but you could not produce any quotes).

Examples of your eisegesis:

1. You acccused me of calling you a fundamentalists. Yet you could not quote my words to prove that I did that. You should apologize for such false accusation.

2. You accused me of making a distinction between "lay Buddhists" and "Buddhist monks".

Where did I mention "lay Buddhists"? Quote me please. You are reading your own ideas into my text.

There were two types of people Gautama Buddha taught. The first were those who fully followed his teachings and to these full-time practitioners Gautama Buddha gave the monastic rules which required celibacy. To others he did not require celibacy but just taught them not to commit those sexual misconducts (i.e. go ahead, have sex, but avoid those types of sex classified as sexual misconduct). This latter group can be called lay listeners to differentiate them from the fully committed group (monastic monks and nuns) who were given those monastic rules.


Your attempt to reconcile the problem of the Passover runs contrary to scholars' analysis of the issue. These scholars struggled in various ways to solve the problem. Perhaps you may be thinking that all these PhD holders are not as smart as you to think of your kind of "solution". I read various solutions to the problem but I have not come across scholars who claimed that the Jews were having two Passover meals eaten over two nights DURING Jesus' time. If there was such a thing the evangelical scholars would have quickly made use of such a solution to resolve the discrepancy. If you do have any scholarly authority regarding the Jews' eating two Passover meals over two consecutive nights DURING Jesus' time, please cite those scholars' names (and their books/articles). (A caution: later Judaism practice or modern Judaism practice should not be projected back into the Jewish practice during Jesus' time)

Again, please look closely at the biblical text:

"When Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, and in Hebrew Gabbatha. NOW IT WAS THE DAY OF PREPARATION OF THE PASSOVER; it was about the sixth hour." (John 19.13-14)

Jesus was arrested while it was still "the day of PREPARATION of the Passover". This indicates that in the Gospel of John the Passover meal was still in the future. It was only the day of PREPARATION so there was no Passover on the night before.

According to John's Gospel, Jesus was arrested only on the day of Preparation of the Passover.

So your attempt has once again failed. Your assertion that there were two Passover meals, such that Jesus and his disciples ate the first, while those Jews who delivered Jesus to Pilate ate the second meal, is an assertion without support from scholars' consensus (unless you can produce a few scholars' consensus the Jews during Jesus' time celebrated two Passover meals over two nights).

John's Gospel had Jesus arrested on the day of Preparation of the Passover, BEFORE the Passover Meal, while the Sypnotic Gospels had Jesus arrested only AFTER he had eaten the Passover meal.



There is still the problem of your implied claim that David killed Goliath, and the problem of how many times did the cock crow after Peter denied Jesus.


And most important of all, you still failed to tackle this:

You claimed that "the infallibility is only in what they seek to find, which is about God and morality"

What is your evidence for saying that those imperfect & fallible writers' text about God and morality is infallible?

clement said...

reasonable (Post #2),

(1) well, I wonder what sort of theology you studied then, that is what sort of Christian Theology. (Because I take Buddhism to be a religion, I consider its philosophy to be a form of Theology too.)

(2) I meant that I could write an entire essay to you defending my position. But the medium that we are using limits me thus. I don't mean giving you someone else's essay.

Notice that so far, I ahve been saying "in short".

(3) Well, I hold the fideist position, that faith and reason are compatible, not diametrically opposed. That is, a position connoting a faithful attitude can be arrived at using reason, since reason is God-given.

Have you read "Daddy Longlegs" or "The Screwtape Letters"? In each of these, each chapter forms an independent letter, which is self-contained. But at the same time, all the letters combiend together tell a story, and are united in one narrative/argument.

The same thing applies to the Bible. Each book - say Genesis, Leviticus, Psalms, one of the Gospels, one of the Epistles - is independent and self-contained, but when combined together they tell one story.

This story - taken as a whole - is a testimony for the Christian Faith. And what is infallible is the very core message of this story and key points, as well as the subsidiary points which are required to support the key points.

What makes this testimony infallible is that it is designed with the explicit aim of cohering with other testimonies, right up to the oldest testimonies. And that design is present not because of anything Constantine and the Nicaean Bishops decreed in 325 AD, but because each writer of each book, each Gospel, each Epistle, sought to put their texts in the context of the already existent and authoritative testimonies, so that each book in the Bible, by its nature, extends all books that came before it chronologically. Even the Book of Revelation is not exempt from this. (I will admit that visions are partially formed by the human brain, although the stimulus comes from God.)

Because the Hebrew culture stretches back for a very long time (Abraham is most undoubtedly Sumerian), Genesis should come from oral tradition, and perhaps from Adam and Eve themselves. And whatever physical form the Fall took, it no doubt was a significant event in human history, albeit one that scientists haven't quite managed to trace yet.

Even anthropology faces a problem. The problem of migration is this: the pre-migration group has some stories that would be brought over by the group that migrates, but those stories would change over time in the migrated group to reflect their new environmental and social conditions. The difficulty is in tracing the original versions of the stories. What is even more problematic is that the original migrant group might come back to conquer the group that didn't migrate, causing another mixture of stories.

Which is why Israel and China stand out. Israel, at least from 1200 BC onwards maintained an insular identity, one that became even more insular in the post-exilic period. China, because of its sheer size, was more or less impossible to conquer to any significant degree. Both China and Israel had scholars who put in maximal effort to preserve the correct history of the Chinese and the Jews respectively, sometimes because of compulsion.

The Chinese have a strong reverence for tradition; at least the older geenration. The Jews who are Jews in religion as well as ethnicity have a strong culture of maintaining purity that stems from very early in the foundation of the Jewish nation. It is manifest even in the Ten Commandments.

This is a focus on purity, not puritanism. And the writers of the Bible were all very concerned with purity. So it stands to reason that they would have tried to make their texts as pure as possible, especially in the message. This attitude would ensure infallibility.

(to be con-ed)

clement said...

reasonable (post #2)(con-ed),

(4-6) Quoting me out of context. I asked you to give me the verses you are using to prove your contradiction, so that I can examine them. The misquote that you made - I wrote that because I am wondering if we are looking at two different sets of verses, not because I want to evade the discussion.

And I will make the same plea for Peter's denial thing.

reasonable (post #3),

I like the concept of Nirvana, and I like it because it is one of those wonderful mystic concepts that most people - perhaps even monks and nuns - might get wrong.

Nirvana is release, but the question is: release into what? Many people seem to think that it is a release into absolute nothingness. Here is the catch: Absolute Void does not give you Enlightenment, because Enlightenment is something, not nothing.

Thus, in order to gain Englightenment, Buddha had to be encountering something, and the trascendent quality of that something he encountered fits the definition of the Divine. Perhaps, one might even say that he encountered the Face of God.

The other beautiful concept is anatta. "No-self" is not simply literally nothing, because that would go against the interesting teaching on Buddhist Reincarnation (or whatever you want to call it). Rather, the "self" refers to a Casper-like entity that travels from one body to another (Hindu Reincarnation). The impression I get from the river analogy is that the soul is not anything that is floating on the river, but is the river itself. If you chop up the river, each section (life) is unique and contains unique elements, but they are still part of the same river and share the same current.

clement said...

Reasonable,

To summarize all that I have said to you so far in this conversation:

(1) The attitude of the Bible towards all issues - including homosexuality - is seen in its literal meaning, not its literalist meaning. This is something that you ought to have picked up in your Christian Theology classes. (I read theology books, although I haven't attended any formal theological education.)

(2) The literal meaning is present not just in individual verses, or individual books, but in the way books link to each other, or verses link to each other across books. This is because all the books in the Bible are written with a common purpose that shines through their more specific topics.

(3) This common purpose involves a commitment to truth, and that is what provides the strongest grounding for the belief in the infallibility of the Bible. The other grounding is that the purpose involves a transcendental perspective.

(4) The same logic can be extended to other religious texts such as the Koran, the Vedas and the Sutras written by Buddha himself.

However, they do not apply to commentaries on these texts, even if the commentaries were written by the visionaries themselves. The Sutras are a little more complicated than any of the other three, because texts by people other than Buddha - perhaps his students and disciples - are inserted as extensions of the text. These extensions cannot be rightfully considered part of Buddha's Enlightenment.

(5) Buddhism is not started on a blank slate. While Buddha does not accept everything in Hinduism, he does not reject everything either. Perhaps, one could classify Buddhism as a "reformation" of Hinduism the same way Christianity is to "reform" Judaism, or Ba'Hai is to "reform" Islam.

Buddha takes Hindu concepts and stretches them beyond their crude level, but does not simply throw them away.

(6) An argument from silence is typically used to prove that Buddha supported homosexuality; some gay activists do the same with Jesus.

This is problematic, because it misses out the manner in which Buddhism is structured. Buddhism's communal unit is the Sangha, made up exclusively of monks and nuns, without any "lay" Buddhists around. The purpose of the Sangha is to help each member attain Nirvana individually. The strict rules in Buddhism for monks and nuns - which include prohibitions for homosexual behaviour - are meant to help attain this end.

Nirvana is the final goal for all Buddhists, so it reasons that Buddha reasoned that all Buddhists should become members of a Sangha, and hence be subject to the strict rules, in order to attain Nirvana.

So Buddha doesn't speak much about marriage and family and so on, because his focus is to get everybody - at least all of his disciples - into a Sangha, where all these are irrelevant. Buddha doesn't think in terms of "lay Buddhist" and "Buddhist cleric". He thinks in terms of "Member of Sangha directly working to attain Nirvana" and "Person outside Sangha who wants to be inside Sangha but is not ready yet" and "Person who wants to remain outside Sangha".

clement said...

reasonable (Post #3),

No, I was implying that that is how Muslims usually interpret that verse. But anyhow, I disagree with the interpretation that you have provided as well.

The second half of the verse could simply be a emphasis on a specific instance of the first half. In some of the heretic Christian sects, there was the belief that Jesus died on the way to Calvary; he was killed by the scourgings and the cross-carrying, not by the crucifixion itself.


Reasonable (Post #4),

(1) I already said, you said that I was using a Christian Fundamentalist argument.

(2) You didn't say that explicitly, but it is an implied presumption behind the arguments that you are making about homosexuality and Buddhism. Stuff like saying that not all Buddhists have to follow monastic codes and so on.

(4) But "lay listeners" is a term that you coin, not a term that Buddha used. So you are doing eisogesis on the Sutras here. My counter-point to you is that Buddha is attempting to orient his "listeners" towards the monastic life, so that everything in Buddhism converges towards the monastic sangha; Nirvana within the Sangha is the highest state of existence. Therefore, the Buddha makes concessions to "lay listeners" without actually condoning the actions conceded.

Your error is that you have partitioned Buddhism into two kinds of religious life: the monastic life and the "lay listener" life. Whereas, what I am arguing here is that Buddha saw the monastic life as an advanced stage of the "lay listener" life.

Do you get my argument now?

(5) Fine. Although I am not quite sure that Jews, being the purists that they are, would actually add to religious requirements, I will concede that perhaps referring to the current practice in the UK is an anachronism. So, let's now assume that Jews of that time only ate one Passover Meal.

But remember "Passover" refers to two things: the festival and the meal.

"Day of Preparation for the Passover" is "Day of Preparation for the Festival of the Passover", whereas "eat the Passover" meansd "eating the Passover meal".

Let's look at the "contradicting verses" again. Instead of using the NASB, the NIV or a "readable" version, let's use the Authorized Version (AV):

John 19:13-14 -

When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he brought Jesus forth, and sat down in the judgement seat, in a place that is called the Pavement, but in the Hebrew, Gabbatha.

And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour, and he saith unto the Jews: behold your King!


Mark 14:12

And the first day of unelavened bread, when they killed the passover, the disciples said unto him, where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?

I am using the AV because the AV is the scholarly version from which all other English (and foreign language) translations of the Bible are taken from, NASB, NIV, NRSV or otherwise. You should be familiar with it from your theology course.

For your reference, I am using the (Greek) Interlinear Bible on http://scripture4all.org.

From the AV, it is clear that John 19 is referring to the Festival of the Passover, that is "the Day of Preparation for the Feast of Passover". It is equally clear that Mark 14 is referring to the Passover meal, and in particular the Passover Lamb which is sacrificed on (ok) the First Night of Passover.

So, where is the contradiction, pray, tell me?

Your problem is taking "preparation" too literalistically. the "Day of Preparation" is part of the order of the religious festival, and is a proper name. The Day of Preparation for the Passover has the same relation to the Passover Meal as Ramadan does to Hari Raya.

(6) Okay, so give me the verses, and will talk about how your "contradictions" can be resolved.

(8) I am not going to repeat myself for a third time.

Rahula said...

Hi,
Reasonable asked me to have a look here. So, here I am.

It seems to be a long thread (already about 61 comments). It will take some time to go through all comments posted.

1. The Buddha was not raised as a Hindu Prince. Hinduism was non-existent before 1830. For a sensational reading, see “Myth of One Hindu Religion Exploded” by Hadwa Dom. For those academically-inclined, let me quote Klostermaier:

“The Muslims, who began invading India from the eighth century onward, used the term Hindu as a generic designation for non-Muslim Indians, identical with “idol-worshippers.” In the 1830s Englishmen, writing about the religions of India, added –ism to Hindu and coined the term Hinduism, making an abstract and generic entity out of the many diverse and specific traditions of the Hindus.” (A Survey of Hinduism by Klaus Klostermaier (2007) State University of New York,p.17)

2. Clement’s characterization of “lay Buddhist” and “Buddhist cleric” is not entirely accurate.

Soon after the Buddha’s enlightenment, he is reported to have said:

“I shall not come to my final passing away, Evil One, until my bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, laymen and laywomen, have come to be true disciples — wise, well disciplined, apt and learned, preservers of the Dhamma, living according to the Dhamma, abiding by appropriate conduct and, having learned the Master's word, are able to expound it, preach it, proclaim it, establish it, reveal it, explain it in detail, and make it clear; until, when adverse opinions arise, they shall be able to refute them thoroughly and well, and to preach this convincing and liberating Dhamma” (Mahaparinibbana Sutta, DN 16)

3. The Buddha did speak about marriage and family in the Sigalovada Sutta (DN 31). For example, a husband and wife should be faithful to each other. Also, the husband should give gifts to his wife. In the Dighajanu Sutta, the Buddha said one (i) should be skillful in one’s job, and(ii) having earn through righteous ways, one should protect it, (iii) having good friendship and (iv) having a balanced living. (Anguttara Nikaya, Atthakanipata, Gotamivaggo, Dighajanasuttam)

Rahula said...

4. Many rules in the Buddhist monasticism are not even moral rule. Some are purely etiquette, some are requested by kings, and some by laypersons.

The Buddha's own attitude towards discipline was not one of strict legalism. Take, for instance, this discourse:

“On one occasion the Blessed One was dwelling at Vesali in the Great Wood in the Hall with the Peaked Roof. Then a certain monk from the Vajjian clan approached him….and said to him:

“Lord, I am unable to train in the more than a hundred and fifty training rules that come up for recitation every fortnight.”

“Then, monk, there are these three trainings: the training in the higher virtue, the training in the higher mind, and the training in the higher wisdom…..

“Are you able, monk, train in these three trainings?”

“I am, Lord.”

“Well then, monk, train in these three trainings: the higher virtue, the higher mind and the higher wisdom. When you trained thus you will abandon lust, hatred and delusion. With their abandoning you will not do anything unwholesome or resort to anything evil.”

Then afterwards that monk trained in the training in the higher virtue, in the training in the higher mind and in the training in the higher wisdom. As he so trained, he abandon lust, hatred and delusion. With their abandoning he did not do anything unwholesome or resort to anything evil.......”

“.............Then, monks, a monk here is one fully accomplished in virtue, concentration and wisdom. He infringes some of the lessor and minor training rules and rehabilitates himself. Why is that? Because, monks, this is not said to be impossible for him. But as to those training rules that are fundamental to the holy life, in conformity with the holy life, in these his virtue is stable and steady, and he trains himself in the training rules he has undertaken. With the destruction of the taints, in this very life he enters and dwells in the taintless liberation of mind, liberation by wisdom, having realized it for himself by direct knowledge.” (Anguttara Nikaya III. 83, 88, 85; Numerical Discourses of the Buddha – An Anthology of Suttas from the Anguttara Nikaya, Translated and edited by Nyanaponika Thera & Bhikkhu Bodhi (2000) Vistaar Publications, New Delhi)

In the Mahaparinibbana Sutta, the Buddha said:

"If it is desired, Ananda, the Sangha may, when I am gone, abolish the lesser and minor rules.”

Rahula said...

5. Nibbana is not about release into what, but release from what.

6. The Buddha taught the anatta or not-self doctrine, not as a metaphysical assertion, but as a strategy for gaining release from suffering. (see “The Not-Self Strategy” and “No-self or Not-Self?” by Bhikkhu Thanissaro)

7. Global Buddhist Conferences speakers are consists of academics and members of the traditional clergy (Westerns, as well as Asians).

8. Clement is probably right when he said, “[H]omosexuality is essentially a fixation on gender identity, which would be contrary to the attainment of Nirvana.” Buddhism transcends both, heterosexuality and homosexuality. There are advantages / benefits, as well as disadvantages/dangers of celibacy. As mentioned in my discussion with Sze Zeng, the Buddha described Buddhism as a gradual path. Ideally, celibacy should come naturally, probably after one had experience bliss superior than sex.(These are my personal views)

clement said...

Rahula,

Thanks for your input.

On your post #1:

(2-3) The origin of the term "Hindu", no matter how interesting it is, is not quite so relevant to the discussion. I only use the term Hindu because of its utility, and because Buddha uses the term "Brahma" (according to reasonable). My simple point on Hinduism is that there is some kind of belief that existed in Buddha's time in his country, and he was a prince.

Plus, there actually is a native sanskrit term for the religion that the non-Muslim Indians practiced. So they did think themselves to have a uniform belief even before the British arrived.

The Muslims did not invade a patchwork of states; they invaded an empire with an intact caste system, including the Brahmin Caste.

(4) What is your claim here? Actually, my characterization of "Buddhist Cleric" and "lay Buddhist" is not my characterization; it is a characterization of reasonable's that I am refuting.

In fact, your quote proves the point that I have been trying to make to reasonable, namely that Buddha sees the monks and nuns as the advanced stage of the so-called lay disciples; he hopes that all the lay disciples can become like the monks and nuns.

(5) Thanks for that mention.

clement said...

Rahula (Post #2),

I actually like the dialogue that you quoted from the Buddha. And it is true - Buddhism is not legalistic. (And neither, I might add, is Christianity or Islam.)

But the one thing that your dialogue stresses lots of times is virtue.

What Buddha is telling his disciple is that the purpose of the "hundred-and-fifty laws" is to train the disciple in virtue; and what is important is that the disciple understand and appreciate what the laws are intended to inculcate.

Legalism refers to an attitude of following the laws for the sake of following the laws or for the sake of being able to profess a certain quality because one follows the laws.

So, it is true that Buddha is not legalistic. At the same time, it is wrong to jump to the opposite conclusion that he is willing to dismiss any one of those laws wholesale.

And it is to note that "rules" can mean "ritual rules". Perhaps (for example) Buddhists are required to chant 15 sutras 10 times a day, bow in a specific direction and so on and so forth. Monastic life of any religion tend to include these kind of ritual rules. Ritual rules are onerous to follow because they are repeated routines.

Conversely, a rule prohibiting homosexual behaviour applies to a specific sort of behaviour which might or might not be performed. As far as I know, Buddhism does not have mandatory ritual sexual actions. So the "150 rules" probably does not include moral prohibition on homosexuality. (It is not one of the "lesser and minor" rules.)

Nor could it, given Buddha's obvious concern for virtue.

clement said...

Rahula (Post #3),

(1) Agreed, that is the focus of the meaning. But release is always release from somewhere into somewhere else. Since Enlightenment does not come out of nothing, there is somewhere else which a Boddhisatva manages to reach. Nirvana is a means to reach that destination, not the destination itself.

(2) Exactly.

(3) Okay.

(4) The real issue I have is with whether Buddha actually recognized sexuality as a distinct, divisible entity; i.e. he recognized a sexual condition in addition to recognizing a sexual behaviour. I see as there being two possible options:

(1) Buddha recognizes that there is one indivisible entity of sexuality that can be manifest in homosexual and heterosexual behaviour, and in order to attain Nirvana, one must be free of the cosntraints imposed by sexuality.

(2) Buddha recognizes that there is one divisible entity of sexuality composing of two invidivisible entities of homosexuality and heterosexuality, each manifest in a particular sort of behaviour, and in order to attain Nirvana, one must be free of the constraints imposed by both entities.

The LGBT activists ("Gay Buddhists") insist on (2), but from my readings so far, I do not find any evidence that argues in favour of (2) over (1).

Could you or reasonable shed some light on why option (2) could be more accurate than option (1)?

For, of course, if Buddha did not believe in the existence of homosexuality, then the entire debate on whether he approved of homosexuality or not would be totally irrelevant.

reasonable said...

Clement: "The Sutras would be infallible in the parts which can be identified to be "divinely-realized", but extrapolations of those, whether by Buddha or by any of his disciples, would not be considered as such."

What do u mean by "divinely-realized"? Are you saying that Gautama Buddha have received revelation from God for some parts of the Buddha's teachings?

Rahula said...

Hi,

1. Hinduism, as we understand the term today, did not exist during the Buddha’s time. In the Pali Canon, we find mentioned were made about several religious following, eg. Puraana Kassapa (Amoralism), Makkhali Gosaala (Fatalism), Ajita Kesakambali (Materialism), Pakudha Kaccaayana (Etermalism), Sannjaya Belatthaputta (Agnotism) and Nigantha Naataputta (Jainism). Not to forget, Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta, who were Gotama’s teachers. Then, there is the six schools of philosophy, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Samkhya, Yoga, Mimamsa, Vedanta. Arab travellers to India mentioned that there were 42 [48] religions.

My point is that we don’t know exactly which religion Gotama was brought up in. Probably, none specifically.

What is the native Sanskrit term for the religion that the non-Muslim Indians practiced? Dharma?

2. My claim is what the Buddha claimed:

“I shall not come to my final passing away, Evil One, until my bhikkhus and bhikkhunis, LAYMEN and LAYWOMEN.........”

I never said you are wrong, but not entirely accurate.

You said that he (Buddha) hopes that all the lay disciples can become like the monks and nuns. I have difficulty envisioning the Buddha would commit “what if everyone became a surgeon” fallacy (I can’t remember the term, anyone here knows?). The Buddha also described the homeless and the householders as mutually dependent (Itivuttaka 107)

I don’t remember reading in the Patimokkha any of the “ritual rules” you described such as “required to chant 15 sutras 10 times a day or bow in a specific direction”. There are rules concerning etiquette which has nothing to do with morality or virtue.

Rahula said...

3. The way you described Nibbana appears to me that you understand it as a place. But nibbana is not a place. But if you insist, I would say release into peace.

Nibbana , literally means the extinguishing of a fire. Pali texts repeatedly uses the image of extinguished fire as a metaphor for freedom.

Bhikkhu Thanissaro wrote:

“When the Buddha used the image to explain nibbana to the Indian Brahmans of his day, he bypassed the question of whether an extinguished fire continues to exist or not, and focused instead on the impossibility of defining a fire that doesn't burn: thus his statement that the person who has gone totally "out" can't be described.” (Nibbana by Bhikkhu Thanissaro)

As mentioned in my discussion with Sze Zeng, the Buddha said he taught only stress and cessation of stress (or freedom from stress). On many occasion, having described nibbana as “a freedom from”, the Buddha commented, “This, just this, is the end of stress.” (Udana 80- 81)

Here is how the Buddha described nibbana:

“This said by the Blessed One, the Worthy One, was heard by me in this way: "Monks, there is freedom from birth (unborn), freedom from becoming (unbecome), freedom from making (unmade), freedom from conditioning(unfabricated/unconditioned). For, monks if there were not this freedom from birth, freedom from becoming, freedom from making, freedom from conditioning, then escape from that which is birth, becoming, making, conditioning, would not be known here. But, monks, because there is freedom from birth, freedom from becoming, freedom from making, freedom from conditioning, therefore the escape from that which is birth, becoming, making, conditioning is known." This meaning the Blessed One spoke, it is spoken here in this way: That which is born, become, arisen, made, conditioned, and thus unstable, put together of decay and death, the seat of disease, brittle, caused and craving food, that is not fit to find pleasure in. Being freed of this, calmed beyond conjecture, stable, freed from birth, freed from arising, freed from sorrow, freed from passions, the elements of suffering stopped, the conditioning [of greed, hatred and delusion] appeased, this is ease [bliss].”(Udana 80, Itivuttaka 37)

Rahula said...

4. If by “pandaka”, you mean “homosexual”, then I am afraid, you are not entirely accurate. The Buddha forbide “pandakas” to be ordained (Vinaya I.86) The story goes that a “pandaka” who was ordained and went around trying to seduce other monks and laypersons to have sex with him.

Different types of “pandakas” were described by Buddhaghosa, Asanga and Yosomitra, where only certain types of “pandakas” were forbidden to be ordained.

“Pandaka” have been usually translated as “eunuch”. But eunuch is just one type of “pandakas” described (Zwilling prefer the term, “castrate”, Zwilling, L (1992) Homosexuality As Seen in Indian Buddhist Texts in “Buddhism, Sexuality and Gender”, edited by Jose Ignacio Cabezon, State University of New York)

Perhaps, in the context here, transgender or transvestite would be a slightly better translation. Slightly better because, the term have to be understood in the sense that they are full of defiling passions (ussanakilesa); their lust unquenchable (avupasantaparilaha), dominated by their libido (parilahavegahibhuta) and prostitute-like (vesiya). Perhaps, someone here could suggest a better translation.

It is also interesting to note that monks and nuns are prohibited to sleep in the same bed. (Vinaya II,124; Vinaya IV,288) The Vinaya also refers to a sexual practice among females called talaghataka (Vinaya IV, 260), where two bhikkhunis were said to be involved in this act, carry the impression that it refer to lesbianism.

However, in agreement with Rhys Davids, Stede, Monier-Williams and Horner, Perera (1993) pointed out that talaghataka could imply a form of manual caress involving the use of the palm. Vinaya IV, 261 specifically mentioned that it’s a Pacittiya offence (rules entailing confession) to stroke the female sexual organ even with (as small a thing as) a petal of the blue lotus if it afforded the pleasant sensation, hence supporting this interpretation. For a detailed discussion on sexuality in ancient India, see “Sexuality in Ancient India – A Study Based on the Pali Vinayapitaka” by LPN Perera (1993).

clement said...

reasonable,

In short, yes. As I said in an earlier post, I believe that Buddha managed to encounter the Face of God after attaining Nirvana; God is outside all the constraints of earthly life.

Before you misinterpret me, I don't mean that Buddha saw an old man in the sky who smiled at him and recited to him the Sutras. That isn't the Face of God. I mean that Buddha encountered transcendence and the transcendent perspective in that moment under the Bodhi Tree. And this Transcendence is the "face" of God. (God is spirit, so God does not have a physical face.)

The difference between Buddha and the Jewish prophets is that the latter received revelation while not actively seeking it; the former actively sought it and found it.

I am familiar with the argument that Buddha refutes the existence of God. Actually, he doesn't; what he refutes are concepts of God, in particular the two dominant schools of Hindu (or whatever you want to call it) thought: Personalism and Impersonalism, both of which are rejected by classical Christian and Islamic Theology. The concept of the "Personal" God in Christianity and Islam is more abstract than the Hindu concept of the Personalist God and less detached than the Hindu Concept of the Impersonalist God (which is embraced by Deism).

Buddha's argument is that neither the Personalist God nor the Impersonalist God exists, but rather something that is neither exists as a Divine Presence.

Rahula said...

Hi Clement,

Your description of nirvana as divine presence is a little bit problematic.

1. The God that the Buddha refute is this: “ Great Brahma, the Conqueror, the Unconquered, the All-Seeing, All-Powerful, the Sovereign Lord, the Maker, Creator, Chief, Appointer and Ruler, Father of All That Have Been and Shall Be" (Brahmajala Sutta, DN 1). Are you saying this description does not fit the Christian concept of God?

2. Neither nirvana nor divine presence was reported to interfere in human affairs in the Buddhist literature, unlike God in the Bible.

3. This is how the Buddha described his enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree - knowledge of recollecting my past lives, knowledge of the passing away & reappearance of beings and finally, the defining moment, knowledge of the ending of the mental fermentations (intoxications) [Mahasaccaka Sutta, MN 36]. If this is how you understood as transcendence, that I would agree with you.

4. From your description, I sense that that you are equating nirvana with the “Hindu” concept of the transpersonal Brahman. Does the Christian concept of God share similarity with the Hindu concept of Brahman?

Anyway, the Buddha’s description of his enlightenment does not fit well with the Hindu concept of Brahman.
The concept of Brahman would probably find similarity with the concept of samadhi and jhanas in Buddhism, something that I was trying to point out to Sze Zeng in our discussion, where I said that we sometimes coloured our experience.

For example, the second jhana is described as “gaining inner tranquillity and unification of mind,.........is filled with rapture (bliss) and happiness..... He drenches, steeps, saturates, and suffuses his body with this rapture and happiness so that there is no part of his entire body not suffused with rapture and happiness.” In the fifth jhana, it is described as “infinite space”, the sixth, “infinite consciousness”. There are altogether eight jhanas. Gotama had already attained all jhanas under his two teachers.

clement said...

Rahula,

Your understanding of my opinion is a little problematic. Let's try a thought experiment:

Imagine that we have a person who is chained within a box. One day, he sits down and calmly works out a way to loose his chains. Then he breaks out of the chains and the box, and for the first time he sees everything around him, including the broken box and chains. He also sees a telling machine that prints out an advice sheet for him.

The state of being chained is analogous to Samsara. The breaking out of the chains and box is analogous to Nirvana. The telling machine is analogous to the Divine Presence or the real Brahman/God. The content of the advice sheet is the content of Buddha's Enlightenment.

Each jhana is analogous to the state of each chain being broken.

Buddha does not deny the telling machine; what he denies is what the Hindu Brahmins around him teach about the nature of the machine i.e. the Personalist and Impersonalist concepts.

But remember: In Buddha's time, there is no Christianity.

But also, reading the verse that you quoted again, Buddha didn't actually give a mere description of his enlightenment experience; he gave an interpretation. So he did not give a report on what transcendence is like; he gave a reflection of what it meant to him. At least in the verses you quoted.

I am curious - what do you understand of the Hindu concept of Brahman?

Rahula said...

Clement,

I must start by saying that if I give you an impression that I understood your opinion, I would like to apologise. I can’t say I understood your opinion, and I don’t pretend that I do.

Your thought experiment analogy is a bit problematic. If it was so, the Buddha would have mentioned it. But he didn’t. Then, there is the question of who create the telling machine (Divine Presence). Also, I have difficultly imagining the Divine Presence’s ability to speak to humans or to interfere in human affairs.

The jhanas are not analogous to the chain being broken. Bear in mind, there is a concept known as miccha-samadhi (wrong samadhi) in the Pali Canon.

Remember the dialogue I quoted which you said “stresses lots of times is virtue”. Well, in a way, it is true, as the Buddha said that morality (or virtue) is the foundation upon which the entire path is built (Kimattha Sutta, AN 1.11) and it’s a quality that distinguishes a true contemplative (Mada Assapura Sutta,MN 39). However, “stresses lots of times” is not entirely accurate, because “mind” and “wisdom” are mentioned together in the dialogue.

So, naturally in Buddhism, we would expect a person who has attained a higher jhana to be more virtuous, giving the impression that the jhanas are analogous to the chain being broken. This is also partly due to the fact the, if one follow the Buddhist path strictly, the jhanas are done with the “purification of mind” in mind.

In the Theravada tradition itself, there is a debate as to whether jhanas is a requirement for the attainment of nibbana. This is probably what Sze Zeng called, “internal debates”. Even for those who are of the view that it is required, it is only until the fourth jhanas which are required. The practice of jhanas, then, is akin to strengthening the mind.

So, there is actually no link between jhanas and the purification of the mind / chain being broken. A person who has attained jhanas could still be an “evil” or “bad” person.

Yes, I know that in Buddha’s time, there is no Christianity. But what is your point exactly?

By the way, could you point me to your source(s) which says the Buddhis denies the Impersonalist concept?

In the verse I quoted, it says that Gotama started to remember his past lives, then he was able to see others’ past lives, and finally, ending of his own mental intoxications (asavas). This sounds like a description to me, rather than an interpretation. If you said that the verses I quoted in Udana 80 or Itivuttaka 37 are Buddha’s description or reflection, I would agree with you. (Describe is defined as “to represent or give an account of in words”, while interpret is defined as “to explain or tell the meaning of; to conceive in the light of individual belief, judgement or circumstances. Report is defined as “a usually detailed account or statement”, while reflect is defined as “to express a thought or opinion resulting from reflection, consideration of some subject matter, idea or purpose, a thought, idea or opinion formed or a remark made as a result of thinking”)

Hindu concept of Brahman? Why not just read what it says in Wikipedia? I would have quoted from there or from some books. Anyway, it has been described as “satchitananda” (infinite existence, consciousness, bliss), which seems to resonates with the jhanas described in my previous post.

clement said...

Rahula,

(1) If you are not sure you understand what I am saying, just say so; I am not going to pound you down or something. I don't mind explaining any number of times to ensure that a productive conversation occurs.

Back on topic:

(2-7) I see Nirvana as the means to attaining virtue, not the cause of virtue itself. When you are in Nirvana, you are in a transcendent state, an avatar sate, so to speak. Whether you choose to incline towards virtue or incline towards evil is your choice. Attaining Nirvana (Nibbhana) doesn't necessarily imply attaining virtue.

Whereas, attaining a Jhana involves attaining partial Nirvana (Nibbhana) accompanied by an inclination towards virtue.

So Jhanas are not required to attain Nirvana, but are beneficial to the process of attaining Nirvana and what comes after.

(8) The point of mentioning Christianity was that Buddha would be criticising the cultural context that he was familar with, which was a Hindu context. (Note: there was no Islam in Buddha's time either.) So before considering any of Buddha's statements as a criticism of Christianity, one should first look at what those statements criticise within Hinduism, and then see if Christian Doctrine actually shares similar features.

(9) It was a Buddhist website which also talked about the Buddhist concept of reincarnation and soul and so on. I can't remember what is its URL though; Will look for it if you are really interested.

(10) The terms are abstract, not concrete. From those phrases alone, can you tell exactly what Buddha saw? What did him leaving mental intoxication look like? What do his past lives look like?

Abstractions are the hallmark of interpretation, not of description. This is because interpretation is concerned with describing patterns in experiences. Interpretations are "processed" observations.

(11) Wikipedia provides okay information, but because it is an encyclopaedia, not necessarily information in maximal detail. "Existence" and "Consciousness" refer to a sort of entity, not a state of being. I am not familiar with the "bliss" interpretation of the Brahman.

The Hindus believe in the Trimurthi of Brahma (Creator), Shiva (Destroyer) and Vishnu (Preserver). Personalist Hindus either believe that Brahma is the Brahman, or that the Brahman is the Trimurthi in corporate form. Impersonalist Hindus believe that the Brahman is the force that binds the Trimurthi (and all of creation) together.

(This was what a Hindu explained to me on TOC.)

Neither quite resonates with your description of jhanas.

Rahula said...

Hi Clement,

I would say I did try to understand what you were saying. I believe this is what discussion is about, one person trying to understand what another person is communicating. If there is a misunderstanding, perhaps a clarification can be further given. There would be no point for discussion if I kept saying I don’t understand whatever you are trying to communicate.

If you refer to my post 10.53pm, I did asked several question, showing my lack of understanding of what you are trying to describe. I find your phrase “I am not going to pound you down or something” distasteful. I certainly hope that ad hominem would not appear here.

(Sze Zeng, perhaps some moderation from you would be nice. Also, Sze Zeng, have you encountered instances where I used ad hominem arguments in our discussion, or that I accused you of NOT understanding me? I think the onus is on the person who is trying to convey an information in a discussion to ensure that the other person understand, especially so, if that the other person is trying to)

(2-7) I do not agree that Nirvana is seen as the means to attaining virtue, because as I have mentioned, it is the foundation of the path. Jhanas, to me, does seems like a transcendent state. I would say attaining jhanas doesn’t necessarily implying attaining virtue would be a more accurate understanding of Buddhism.

Attaining a jhana does not involves attaining partial Nibbana. However, in Buddhism, one does jhana with the inclination towards nirvana or purification of the mind (read: ending of mental intoxications). Note that there is an internal debate as to whether jhanas is a requirement. And even if it’s a requirement, it is only until the fourth (there are eight altogether). Training in jhana is what strengthens the mind in the Buddhist path (of course, there are other usages as well, but here we are discussing the purpose of jhana in the Buddhist path).With a strengthened mind, one seeks the purification of the mind.

Pali texts speaks about the four stages of nirvana or enlightenment, ie. stream-enterer (sotapanna), once-returner (sakadagami), non-returner (anagami) and arahant. One of the characteristic of a stream-enterer is that, "He is endowed with virtues that are appealing to the noble ones: untorn, unbroken, unspotted, unsplattered, liberating, praised by the wise, untarnished,......” (Gihi Sutta, AN 5.179; Vera Sutta, AN 10.92). A sotapanna is also unable to take rebirth in hell, as animal, or ghost (Vera Sutta), implying that he could no longer commit evil actions, deeds or words that would caused these lower rebirths in the Buddhist soteriology. So, actually, attaining nibbana does imply attaining virtue. Only in the state of Arahant does mental intoxications (asavas) ceased.

Rahula said...

(8) Nowhere did I say that the Buddha’s statements are criticism of Christianity. I merely point out what the Buddha denies, in his own words. How you would interpret it is up to you. Also, it is not fair to refer to the cultural context that he was familiar as a Hindu context, simply because Hinduism (as practiced today) was non-existence during his time. There are already many religions or philosophical thoughts during his time, and we do not know exactly what he is familiar with. From the Pali Texts (eg. Tevijja Sutta), we know that the Buddha spoke about the Three Vedas (Rig, Yajur and Sama). He probably lived at the time before the Atharvaveda is formulated as the fourth (Vedas). He also spoke about the various Vedic priesthood, Þthe Addhariya (Adhvaryu), the Tittiriya (Taittriya), the Chandoka (Chandoga), and the Bavharija (Bahvrica). Some manuscripts omits the last, the Bavharija (Bahvrica). The Upanisads are probably unknown to the Buddha. The Brhadaranyaka and Chandogya Upanishads probably predates the Buddha, or possibly its initial conception was contemporaneus with the Buddha. In the Brahmajala Sutta (DN 1), the Buddha mentioned about 62 wrong views.

Therefore, it would be more correct to say, “one should first look at what those statements criticise within the cultural context (which is not Hinduism), and then see if Christian Doctrine actually shares similar features.”

(9) I would appreciate it if you could. I would prefer if you could quote from the Pali Text. But I would accept any reference or source, whether it’s from the Commentaries , Mahayana & Tibetan literature, or modern-day commentaries, for discussion sake.

(10) The terms are abstract, not concrete. From those phrases alone, can you tell exactly what Buddha saw? What did him leaving mental intoxication look like? What do his past lives look like?

Abstractions are the hallmark of interpretation, not of description. This is because interpretation is concerned with describing patterns in experiences. Interpretations are "processed" observations.

(11) I am aware that quoting Wikipedia is a sin in many academic institutions. But since this is a discussion, I presume that it is okay, and also for ease. Because if Wikipedia provide any wrong or misleading information, I am sure knowledgeable readers would clarify.

By the way, have you check out the description of Brahman in Wikipedia?

Also, what is TOC?

I would add “transpersonal Brahman” to your friend’s description of Brahman. “Impersonalist” as in Deism sounds foreign in Hindu Thoughts. Perhaps, you could elaborate. Probably, cite some scriptural evidence.

However, I must cautioned that your friend’s description is an already conceptualized and formulated form of Hinduism, not applicable to the cultural context of the Buddha.

If you are not familiar with the “infinite” existence, consciousness and bliss interpretation of Brahman, I suggest you look up “Satcitananda” using a search engine. Of course, you are more than welcome to check with any academic books. Quoting from Wikipedia:

“.......is a compound of three Sanskrit words, Sat , Cit, and Ānanda, meaning existence, consciousness, and bliss respectively. The expression is used in yoga and other schools of Indian philosophy to describe the nature of Brahman as experienced by a fully liberated yogi.”

This resonates with the Buddha’s description of jhanas (it’s not my description). In fact, even the way to attain jhanas is similar to the way to attain Brahman. Here is what I was trying to point out to Sze Zeng. The Buddha merely described the jhanas. But others interpret it – Divine Presence, Ground of Being, Brahman, God, Face of God etc..

Rahula said...

Point 10 should have been:

(10) The Buddha, during the course of his teachings, mentioned his past lifes to illustrate certain point. In fact, there is a book called “Jataka”, which recorded some of Gotama’s past lives. He was also able to see the past lives of another being. These are concrete descriptions, not abstracts. The Buddha had already attain all the eight jhanas, so he must have known his own mind pretty well. His mental intoxications (taints) are probably well-suppressed, and he probably knows it. Under the Bo Tree, he finally know that his mental intoxications are destroyed (eliminated or ceased).

Sze Zeng said...

Hi Friends,

I am not reading all of your posts before posting them. I moderate clement, reasonable, and Rahula based on the truth that I have on you all that you can carry the conversation in friendly and constructive way.

So do give the benefit of doubt to your conversational partners and don't take this too personally.

At the end of the day, we have to know that each of us are situationally bound and hence limited in experience and exposure. And that's why we converse in the first place. :)

Be gracious to one another.

reasonable said...

Clement claimed: "I am using the AV because the AV is the scholarly version from which all other English (and foreign language) translations of the Bible are taken from, NASB, NIV, NRSV or otherwise."

In case I misunderstood you, I seek your clarification. What do you mean by "are taken from" in your above claim?

In addition, are you implying that the AV are more accurate or more reliable than other translations such as the NASB, NRSV etc? Or in what way is the AV better?

Rahula said...

Hi reasonable,

My expertise is not in Christianity, but I hope you would allow me to be a busy body.

See:
http://www.av-bible.com/why.htm

It is "claimed" to be a better translation.:)

Best wishes,
Rahula

clement said...

Rahula (Post #1),

(1) There would be no point if you kept saying that you didn't understand the sme point or set of points. But there would be a point if you indicated that you understood some points, but not all.

Or else the assumption that you understand me is a valid position to take, I think. Correct me if you think that I am wrong.

(2) I apologize for the offence.

(3) Well, nobody can perfectly understand anyone else.

(4) I have to understand: what is the difference between "foundation" and "means" in this context? I admit that I am puzzled, and this is because I agree with your conclusion, but I disagree with your premise.

(5-6) Implication should not be confused with equality. Saying that Nirvana implies virtue is not necessarily the same as saying that Nirvana is virtue.

I think we appear to be disagreeing over whether Nirvana is a positive concept or a negative concept. (Note: "positive" and "negative" do not mean "good" and "bad" in this usage.)

Think of a cup that contains some stuff called Constraints. We pour the stuff away and fill up the cup with something new called virtue. The pouring away of stuff (negation) is Nirvana. But as a result, we can now put virtue inside (positive). If we put it such that virtue and constraints are the only possible fillings, then an absence of constraints necessarily implies the presence of virtue.

At least, that is how I see it.

To you, the entire process of pouring out constraints and pouring in virtue is Nirvana, and the pouring out is a jhana.

Rahula (Post #2),

(1-2) If you prefer, we can call it "Vedic Religion" then. I have no idea why you are so resistant to calling it Hinduism, or its original Sanskrit name, but anyhow my point was simply that there was a cultural context Buddha was immersed in, and that cultural context is not Christian culture.

Case closed?

(3) Alright, I will search for it then.

(4-5) And your point here is ... ?

(6-7) I am trusting that you didn't misquote Wikipedia. I took my conception of the Brahman from reading Krishna's description of it in the Mahabharata and reading some of the Vedas.

(8) The Online Citizen. a blog on Singapore politics.

(9-10) Well, s/he claimed that the tensions between Personalism and Impersonalism date back to at least 1000 BC. That is long before the Buddha was born.

(11-13) You misunderstand Wikipedia, and commit a category error.

Satchinanda, according to the paragraph you quoted, is the nature of the experience of encountering the Brahman, not the nature of the Brahman itself.

To illustrate your error:-

Consider the claim that reasonable feels angry when talking to Clement. Is this the same thing as saying that Clement is the anger of reasonable?

What the wikipedia passage is saying is that when the yogi encounter the Brahman, they obtain the state of satchinanda; not that the Brahman is satchinanda.


Rahula (Post #3),

How did he know that these were "past lives"? And what is the detailed description of "mental intoxication"?

But I concede, we can't settle this point until I have read the Jataka. Could you provide me a link where I could find an online translation to read?

Regards,
Clement

clement said...

reasonable,

I meant that the other translations are transliterated from the AV.

But after reading the information at Rahula's link, I have decided to concede that my opinion was unfounded.

Rahula said...

Hi Clement,

(Post #1)

(1) If I understood you, I wouldn’t have asked questions. The fact that I asked questions shows that I need some clarification. Agree?

(2) Thank you.

(3) Hmmmm....Quite true, I guess.

(4) When I came to this blog-topic, I briefly read through all the messages, and I got an impression that both you and Reasonable are well-read regarding Buddhism. If you are familiar with Buddhism, I am sure you are familiar with the triangle diagram, where you would find “sila” (virtue/morality) at the bottom, signifying foundation. Then, above “sila”, you would have “samadhi”, and finally, above Samadhi, you would have panna (wisdom). As I have repeatedly stressed, the Buddhist path begins with virtue.

Now, this is what the Buddha says, quoting from the sutta I referred to:

“skillful virtues lead step-by-step to the consummation of arahantship”.

You wrote: “Attaining Nirvana (Nibbhana) doesn't necessarily imply attaining virtue.”

But as I have showed in my previous message, it does, as the Sotapanna is characterised so.

Earlier, in the same passage you wrote: “I see Nirvana as the means to attaining virtue, not the cause of virtue itself.”

i.I take “means” to mean “a method, a course of action, or an instrument by which an act can be accomplished or an end achieved”

ii. However, if one were to wait for nirvana to attain virtue, it might have been too late.

Then, you wrote: “Whether you choose to incline towards virtue or incline towards evil is your choice.”

In nirvana, you do not have a choice, because virtuosity is a characteristic of a sotapanna.

(5-6) I don’t remember saying nirvana is virtue. What I said was virtue is one of the characteristics of a person who has attained nirvana. A person who had attained nibbana is unable to “sin” (if i am allowed to borrow this term). He is virtuous, in this sense.

I guess you could put in anything in the cup, except mental intoxications (or, greed, hatred & delusion [this is the definition of nibbana]).It is not that after “Constraints” is emptied, that we fill in “virtue”. It is not that we can just purify the mind, straightway. We start by virtue, then develop loving-kindness, compassion etc. Without these, I doubt one would even have a chance to purify the mind. We wouldn’t have been able to “defeat” those baser, superficial mental intoxication, what more, those that are deeply rooted. We may not have a chance to face it, before falling prey to those that are superficial.

In Buddhist thought, by the time you become an arahant, you are left with compassion and loving kindness. All your actions, deeds and thoughts are motivated only by love and compassion.

Nibbana is described as the supreme bliss/happiness (Dhammapada 202), is the goal, nothing beyond it (Culavedalla Sutta, MN 144), is not itself a phenomenon, but is the final end of phenomena (Mula Sutta, AN 10.58).

In many places, nibbana is described thus: “Birth is exhausted, the holy life has been lived out, what can be done is done, of this there is no more beyond.'" (eg.Anattalakhana Sutta, SN 22.58).

So, I doubt you could have put in anything else in the cup (arahant).

Maybe, you could. But I do not know what could it be.

Rahula said...

(Post #2),

(1-2) I remember asking you what is the Sanskrit name, but you haven’t told me. I am resistant to called it Hinduism because it is not academically accurate, because it was non-existence during his time.

I don’t remember mentioning the Buddha lived in the cultural context of Christian culture. Yes, there is a cultural context the Buddha lived it. In fact, that is what I said. But it is not Hinduism. Even, Vedic Religion is inaccurate, because the term imply that non-Vedic religions during the Buddha’s time is not taken into account. His two teachers, for example, are not of Vedic Religions.
So, shall we close the case?

(3) Thank you.

(4-5) I did send an email to Sze Zeng to reject this message, approved the last one (edited one). I accidentally hit “send”, but I was disconnected. So, I thought it didn’t go through. There, ok. But because I suspect it went through, so I emailed Sze Zeng. He must have approved the earlier version, probably before he read my email. Does this make sense to you?

(6-7) I don’t remember quoting Wikipedia regarding Brahman. I did not say your conception was wrong. I was just asking you to take a look at the Wikipedia. But I thought that was what your friend in TOC told you. Even from your description, I only find two descriptions of Brahman, ie. personal and transpersonal. I failed to see any deistic implication. In fact, this is what I was trying to point out in my previous post.
The Buddha,as I said, is unaware of the Mahabharata (read: he only knows about the Three Vedas, and the existence of a few Vedic priesthood).

(8) I see.

(9-10) I hope you could substantiate the claim regarding Personalism and Impersonalim. I would rather not argue with a Hindu regarding dating issues. It’s a sensitive issue, and they are fond of hyperbolate dates. (of course, not all Hindus). They claimed the Buddha lived in the from 1887BC to 1807 BC or somewhere between 2621-1661 B.C. (see eg. Reestablishing the Date of Lord Buddha by Stephen Knapp, etc.)


(11-13) I don’t think I commit a category error. I never said “Satchiananda” is Brahman. Well, maybe your reading of my message may carry this implication. If so, I must apologise.

Nevertheless, I remember mentioning this in the context of our discussion on description and interpretation. And I remember saying that the Hindus’ (read: yogi) description of Brahman (as experienced by them) as satchitananda is similar to the Buddhist jhanas.

Having said this, whether I commit a category error is beside the point. The point is that they are similar. Agree to close the case?

Rahula said...

(Post #3),

You asked, “How did he know that these were "past lives"?” You questions seems weird to me. How did you know there is yesterday (based on your memory alone)? The Buddha said he remember his past lives. Because he said so. Period. I did not have the opportunity to ask him. Even if I had met him, I wouldn’t have asked him this question. It would have been an irrelevant question.

It’s either I believe him, or I don’t. In fact, I don’t have to choose either to believe or not to believe. Let me put it this way, if you asked me, whether I KNOW that there is a past live, I would have said I DON’T KNOW. Not knowing whether there is a past live or not, does not imply the existence or the non-existence of past lives.


However, if you want to doubt the Buddha, then it’s a different issue altogether.


"Mental intoxication"? Can you do me a favour, please? Can you use a search engine? The Pali word is “asava”. After that, you may also have a look at the subject index here:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/

Jataka? I find your question/request strange. In your studies on Buddhism, you didn’t know that Buddhist believe in past lives? About karma? And you never heard about the Jataka?

I don’t think you would find much information in the Jataka. They are merely the Buddha’s past lives. Perhaps, you may start with the Wikipedia.
After that, see:
http://www.sacred-texts.com/bud/j1/index.htm

But it is not only in the Jataka, in the suttas too, he mentioned about his previous lives. These can be cross-referenced.

Regards,
Rahula

Rahula said...

Hi Clement,

In “6.30 am” you wrote:

“Until 2002, the stance of Tibetan Buddhism was also negative, until the LGBT lobby tried to expel the Dalai Lama from the UK on the basis of "homophobia" (as usual).”

I checked out “LGBT topics and Buddhism” and “The Dalai Lama and Homosexuality” in Wikipedia. There is no indication that the Dalai Lama had changed his views. On the contrary, he mentioned that he can’t change what the text says.

The Dalai Lama said:

"From a Buddhist point of view, men-to-men and women-to-women is generally considered sexual misconduct. From society's point of view, mutually agreeable homosexual relations can be of mutual benefit, enjoyable and harmless."

A Newsweek article on the Dalai Lama entitled “Lama to the Globe” says it accurately: “Although he has affirmed the dignity and rights of gays and lesbians, he has condemned homosexual acts as contrary to Buddhist ethics.”

Hi Reasonable,

In “4.00pm”, you wrote:

“Ironically, from my reading, some of those Buddhists who argued against homosexuality are the ones found to be arguing on the basis external influences by using non-Buddhist principles such as arguing along the line of Natural Law

Some Buddhists argued from late scripture not accepted by other schools of Buddhism (e.g. arguing from certain late Tibetan scripture not recognized by all Buddhist traditions, but note that there are other Tibetan clerics who argued for the acceptance of homosexuality).”

I must say I agree with all your observations regarding Buddhism so far.

The Dalai Lama is quoted to have said: “If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change." I remember reading that homosexuality had also been observed in the animal kingdoms.
Based on Clement’s lead,I check out “LGBT topics and Buddhism” in Wikipedia. This is what I found:

“In contrast, later texts, particularly Tibetan Buddhist writings, occasionally value paṇḍaka positively for their "middleness" and balance. The paṇḍaka in these Tibetan works is translated with the term ma ning—"genderless" or "without genitals". The 13th century Tibetan monk Gyalwa Yang Gönpa, who was one of the significant figures in the early Drukpa Kagyu sect, writes about ma ning as a balanced state between maleness and femaleness. Yang Gönpa describes ma ning as "the abiding breath between male exhalation and female inhalation" and "the balanced yogic channel, as opposed to the too tight male channel, and the too loose female one.”

In “1.40pm”, you wrote:
“I have gone through both informal and formal studies into Buddhism, especially researching on the idea of anatta which I spend months over many scholarly books mostly written by Buddhist scholars.....”

Can you share with me your research? I have some books, reviews and articles written by Christians on this topic that may interest you. Perhaps, we should proceed to private email. My email is rahula_80@yahoo.com

clement said...

Rahula (Post #3),

I guess I wasn't clear enough. My point in quoting Wikipedia was to show that the Dalai Lama's opinion has not changed. However, many prominent LGBT groups - such as Stonewall and the Rainbow Alliance - carry that misinformed position.

Incidentally, the Vatican holds exactly the same position as that which is quoted as the Dalai Lama's in Newsweek.


Rahula (Post #2),

(1) Not really. I think he would welcome that question.

From the presentation, it seems that he had a vision. So, it is a valid question as to how he made a link between a vision and his memory.


(2) Pardon me, this sounds like Christian fundamentalist talk.


(5) I read up alot on Buddhism; I did not do any "studies" in Buddhism. I thought I had made it clear that I was not an academic.

But anyway, yes, I do know the concept, only not the name for it. Thanks for enlightening me. (no pun intended.)

Will check out the links you provided below.