Information Superhighway I

Sometimes you have be careful… be very careful.

This site is an example of how the internet can be misused for whatever purpose.

A blogger I know had confidently given this site as authoritative. Albeit he might have been a victim. The sutra references were completely fabricated. And the books he referenced in his post on Buddhism came directly from the site’s page, which also gave PDF files of extended passages from the books. I seem to vaguely recall this breaks certain copyright laws in most countries around the world (plus they have probably altered the text to suit their purpose).

While I do not know the exact reason why the creators of this site wanted to deceive, all I need to know is that it is there, and to be always weary of the possibility of deception. The Buddha said:

“Don’t go by reports, by legends, by traditions, by scripture, by logical conjecture, by inference, by analogies, by agreement through pondering views, by probability, or by the thought, ‘This contemplative is our teacher.’ When you know for yourselves that, ‘These qualities are skillful; these qualities are blameless; these qualities are praised by the wise; these qualities, when adopted and carried out, lead to welfare and to happiness’ – then you should enter and remain in them.” Kalama Sutta, Anguttara Nikaya III.65

I can assure you this quote is there. But do not take my word for it. Look it up. Recall these words and remember scrutiny and rigour are of utmost importance in an information-rich world. Because in this age of the information superhighway ease in obtaining information also means ease in distributing disinformation.

7 thoughts on “Information Superhighway I

  1. meleephd

    While information on the site you discuss is presented very unskillfully, not all the information there is incorrect. There are a number of Indo-European linguists who agree that ‘anatta’ (Pali) and ‘anatman’ (Sanskrit) have been mistranslated for a number of years. As ‘dead languages’, it is difficult to be certain.

    But there do seem to be a large number who agree on the point that the ‘a’ prefix should be tranlslated as ‘not’ (just as it is in Greek and Latin, which are in the same Indo-European language group as Pali and Sanskrit). Even among Buddhist practioners and teachers, there is growing emphasis on Buddha as meaning ‘not-self’ as opposed to ‘no-self’. In other words, Buddha did not affirm that there is ‘no such thing as a self’, just that everywhere you look you can ‘not’ find a ‘self’, i.e., this is ‘not self’, that is ‘not self’, etc. As to whether the original meaning of the root term is ‘self’ or ‘soul’, there is still a lot of disagreement among linguistic scholars on that point.

    Just as well that Buddha also taught about the futility of ‘ultimate’ or ‘absolute’ views…

    Of course, the ‘swastika’ is a symbol originating in India and was used before WWII quite often as a ‘spritual’ symbol associated with Buddhism (and other Indian religions).

    I can’t speak to the 4,000 books and possible copywrite infringements. I didn’t look that closely. The presentation ‘undertone’ of the site is a bit spooky. Difficult to tell whether ‘right intention’ is there or not.

    I’ve fed this blog entry to YDN, but not made comments there…

    Reply
  2. signature103 Post author

    Interesting.

    Assuming the ‘a’ to mean ‘not’ rather than ‘no’ for argument’s sake, how does it hold up to the rest of the teaching? I might be chasing ghosts here, but looking at the other two of the trilakshana (the three marks of existance) impermanance and suffering, does it make sense?

    To me, at first glance it does not. But that does not mean I did not miss something.

    I feel it is a good topic to scrutinize rigourously since has implications to (my) personal belief.

    Also following the reference numbers given (I am basing this on just looking at Majjhma Nikaya references) they led to not existent numbers or completely unrelated quotes. So I am guessing the other references will probably lead the same way.

    I have no problem with the swastika symbol as I understand it had been misapporpiated by certain infamous groups.

    Finally, I hesitated to click on the PDF links in case of computer virus traps.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  3. meleephd

    “Assuming the ‘a’ to mean ‘not’ rather than ‘no’ for argument’s sake, how does it hold up to the rest of the teaching? I might be chasing ghosts here, but looking at the other two of the trilakshana (the three marks of existance) impermanance and suffering, does it make sense?”

    Does it make more sense that there ‘is’ or ‘is no’ self? To be a bit ‘zen’ about it: Who is there to be ‘no self’ of?

    There is both a ‘self’ and a ‘not self’, superimposed.

    There is both ‘suffering’ and ‘not suffering’, superimposed.

    There is both ‘impermance’ and appearence of ‘permance’, superimposed.

    There is both ‘existent’ and ‘not existent’, superimposed.

    When I look at the ‘trisabhava’ (three ‘natures’ of being, which discusses whether or not there are ‘marks’ or laksana of existence), it even makes sense to say ‘this is not soul’. But it makes no sense to say ‘this is soul’. Just as with ‘self’, where would one look to find ‘soul’? Wherever one looks, one will not ‘find’ it. It is not a ‘part’ of ‘I’.

    The more I study how the ‘doctrines’ have ‘evolved’, the more I understand (I think) the ‘signifiers’ of ‘the way’. The middle way is not just about avoiding extremes, it is about the absurdity of ‘excluded middles’. I doubt if any expert could tell which of the three or four most influential personages involved in the ‘middle way’ doctrine originated the last idea. I tend to see it as latent in Buddha’s words and brought ‘forward’ by Nagarjuna, 3rd patriarch (T’ien T’ai sect), 6th patriarch, etc.

    “Also following the reference numbers given (I am basing this on just looking at Majjhma Nikaya references) they led to not existant numbers or completely unrelated quotes. So I am guessing the other references will probably lead the same way.”

    I do not know in which language you are looking at texts, so can only say that it would be difficult to ‘re-compose’ unless you are looking at Pali or Sanskrit texts. As with most languages, a lot is ‘contextual’. But then, what is so strange about “not existant numbers or completely unrelated quotes”? Ever heard of ‘mu’?

    I may end up adding these comments to the feed over at YDN. It does get interesting, I agree.

    Reply
  4. meleephd

    BTW, while I’m thinking about it, your blog entries are being fed to the YDN ‘commons’ or ‘science’ groups based on whether the entry is more about ‘Buddhism’ or ‘ecology’.

    If you subscribe to the ‘groups’, you could add any comments you want for yourself. There is no ‘commitment’ to subscribing, it just gives you the access to post to the ‘groups’. Let me know if it’s not clear or if it does not work for you.

    Reply
  5. signature103 Post author

    A lot to think about here.

    I think I will have to spend some time on looking at the anatman again.

    And yes, you’re right about the MN. I was look at an English tranlsation of the Pali Canon, which of course could mean the numbers do not correspond. This raises another problem which I have not talked about yet – the discrepancy between the canon in Sanskrit and Pali. Depending on which canon uses there are either more or less sutras. Plus I believe the order is different. This is suspicious (or useful) to say the least.

    Because then we can understand it as ‘Buddhism’, not as ‘the Buddha’, and how it develops later. Again the project to recover the original is near impossible, but one can only try (even though it may not be worthwhile).

    And I will try out the ‘group’ feature sometime soon.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  6. meleephd

    “A lot to think about here.”

    Personally, I find it useful to discriminate between ‘thinking of’ and ‘knowing of’. ‘Thinking of’ is conjecture, and is useful for integrating and understanding ‘views’. ‘Knowing of’, on the other hand, admits of no ‘views’.

    Sometimes I talk about this as the difference between ‘facts’ and ‘truths’. Facts are those things that can be perceived through ordinary ‘senses’, can be measured by mutually agreed upon methods’, and which we treat as ‘objective’. ‘Truths’ are individual, sometimes informed by sensory perception, but arrived at through personal methods of ‘knowing’. For me, ‘truths’ take precedence over ‘facts’.

    Hope that helps.

    Reply
  7. signature103 Post author

    A quick look at that site again, just by looking at the numbers for MN and DN they seem to be really dubious.

    All the MN quotes come from the first 10 sutras. And within the sutra itself they number either really early (under 10) or impossibly late (over 200) within the sutra. Since the early part of a sutra is always devoted to explaining the particular situation of the exposition I doubt that any substantial discussion of the (not-)soul will start there. And as middle length disourses, they will rarely number over 200.

    Reply

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