The ramblings of an Eternal Student of Life
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Saturday, November 20, 2010
Personal Reflections ... Religion ...

I had an after-thought from my last blog about dancing styles and a recent British psychological study regarding same. As I said, I am a “bopper”, someone who responds to music by moving up and down. However, most of the world responds with side-to-side dancing. In my handful of ventures out onto the dance floor, I have had people explain that to me. In other words, my big-bopper dancing style did not receive a warm reception. So I stay off the dance floor now.

The study that I cited said that people who dance up and down generally have an open-minded temperament. So, that would imply that people who do NOT bop to the music are not so open-minded. And thus, it follows that they are not open-minded to dancing up and down. Thus it makes sense that I did not receive good reviews for my dancing. Given that the side-to-side shufflers are the majority, they own the world of dance. That is the social norm here in the suburban USA. No room for us boppers; no stars waiting to dance with us. Oh well, open-minded people like us can go find other things to do. So there!

I have been reading up lately on what the real Buddha actually said and taught, in the short but classic 1958 work by Walpola Rahula, “What the Buddha Taught” (this is one of those things that I do in lieu of dancing). And I’ve noticed a couple of interesting things. I will cite two points of interest. The first reflects the real wisdom that this Gautama guy probably had. In most religions, unquestioning belief and dogmatic faith are hailed and praised. But the Buddha said something like this: “Now look, do not be led by reports, or tradition or hearsay. Don’t be led by the authority of religious texts, nor by mere logic or inference, nor by considering appearances, nor by the delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming possibilities, nor by the idea: ‘this is our teacher’. But when you know for yourselves that certain things are unwholesome and wrong, and bad, then give them up… And when you know yourselves that certain things are wholesome and good, then accept them and follow them’.

Another interesting thing that Buddha said regarding truth — I will paraphrase here, as it’s a bit complex — is that when you consider yourself a protector and supporter of truth, that’s good. But if you also believe that you KNOW exactly what the truth is, that’s bad. Once you assert that you know the truth, then you neither know it, nor are you any longer a protector and supporter of truth. Now, you can have faith about what is true. “A man has a faith. If he says ‘this is my faith’, so far he maintains truth. But by that he cannot proceed to the absolute conclusions: ‘this alone is Truth, and everything else is false’. ‘To be attached to one viewpoint and to look down upon other viewpoints as inferior – this the wise men call a fetter.’

Pretty good, eh? This Buddha guy sounds like a true bopper. But wait — he isn’t completely open-minded after all. There is the story of an accidental meeting that the Buddha had while seeking overnight shelter in a potter’s shed, when he ran into a young guy who was inspired by him into becoming a recluse and wanderer, a seeker of ultimate truth. Mr. Buddha was impressed with the young guy and his wisdom; the kid obviously wasn’t just another dharma bum. The young fellow (Pukkusati was his name) at first didn’t know that his shed-mate for the night was his hero. But after some chatting and some teachings from the stranger, Pukkusati finally figured it out. After all kinds of bows and supplications, he finally cranked up the courage to ask the Buddha if he would give him the honor of swearing him in as an official member of the Buddha’s sangha (community).

Hey, you’d think the Buddha would be honored and would give the young guy a break, especially given how impressed he was with him. But no, Gautauma got hung up on procedural issues. He told the kid that other enlightened teachers (Tathagatas) would not ordain a person unless their alms-bowl and the robes were ready. Which Pukkusāti wasn’t carrying that night. So, the kid went out in search of an alms-bowl and robes, but was unfortunately savaged by a cow and died. Next day after finding out about this, the Buddha told others that “Pukkusāti was a wise man, who had already seen the Truth, and attained the penultimate stage in the realization of  Nirvāna; and that he was being re-born in a realm where he would become an Arahant” (i.e. an enlightened-one himself).

Yea, right Buddha. You got pompous with that kid and he died as a result, and then you try to make yourself feel better by saying that he’s gone to a better place. I bet that you could cut a rug too; you were probably really hot out on the dance floor. You don’t sound like a true bopper to me!

◊   posted by Jim G @ 7:31 pm      

  1. Jim, First a point about dancing. I’m not sure I can fully accept the whole “dancing” theory put forth by the British scientists. What bothers me about it is exactly that–the “scientific” part of it. How does one measure “scientifically” or even deal “scientifically” with something that is FELT in the body of an individual? Sure, attempts are made by hospitals to “measure” pain: “On a scale of 1 to 10, how does your pain feel?” Seems to me that what may be a 10 for me could be a 2 for someone else. And admittedly that is exactly what the hospitals are trying to measure. So from that standpoint, they are trying to measure the feeling of that particularly person.

    However, it also seems to me that attempts at measuring something like dancing scientifically is futile, because for the most part, the sentient part of us is intangible but so real. How does one measure the part of music that is “felt” in the body? I don’t think it can be done. Perhaps the problem with this scientific study is that it limited the dancing styles to two. Dancing by those who are professionals—ballet, contemporary, ballroom, hip-hop, etc.—all the various forms of dancing, when performed by real professionals never do only “up and down” dancing, nor do they do only “side-to-side” dancing. Dancing by real professionals combines in full measure both types of movement. And most particularly, the final aspect of dancing is the feeling of the music in the body and the body’s response to that feeling. Right there is where I have difficulty with the “scientific-ness” of this study. It seems to me to be an interesting metaphor, but I have trouble with the “science” aspect of it.

    As regards the Buddha: It occurs to me that the example you cite describes a similarity between the teachings of the Buddha and the Roman Catholics. Buddha’s point about “knowing for oneself” reminds me of the RC teaching that a person’s conscience is always to be followed if there is a conflict between a teaching and one’s conscience. Yet, as with the Buddha, when a real situation actually comes up and a real person actually, according to conscience, bypasses a “rule”, the “final authority” never seems to opt for the individual. Instead, in the end the artificial organization, the rules made by man always seem to win out in the end.

    So in the end, as with every other religious or philosophical organization, those who made the rules turn out to have clay feet. But that does not necessarily mean one should throw out the baby with the bath water. I say take what adds to one’s life in a useful, helpful, positive way and leave the rest. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — November 21, 2010 @ 12:17 pm

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