Saturday, 15 August 2015

THE STRUCTURE OF BUDDHISM




Aspects, components and interfaces


Buddhism - a religion, a philosophy or a psychology? Or all three?

Most religions have no foundation apart from the ‘truths’ revealed long ago by the voices of the gods to a collection of prophets. 

When different voices of different gods say different things to different prophets, then the only way to determine which version is correct is by war,  persecution and terrorism, as the Islamic State so effectively demonstrates.

Thankfully, Buddhism is different.   The Buddhist religion is based on two rational and verifiable foundations - a philosophy and a psychology.    And the psychology is itself founded upon philosophy, as shown in the diagram. 

So whereas other religions can only support their tenets by reference to ‘truths’ revealed to an exclusive group of long dead people who heard voices in their heads, Buddhism can appeal to rationality and shareable, reproducible experience.


Components and interfaces

The diagram illustrates how these three major domains of Buddhism - Philosophy (blue), Psychology (green) and Religion (orange) - fit together, with their components and interfaces.

LOGIC
The foundation of Buddhist philosophy is a logical analysis of phenomena, which radically deconstructs how things exist, and also how we think things exist. 

Deconstructing how things exist reveals that all phenomena are ultimately processes, and no thing or substance is capable of permanent existence, or existence 'from its own side'. This is the basis of Buddhist METAPHYSICS.

This conclusion immediately raises psychological implications. If everything is impermanent, then why are our minds so biased in favor of viewing the world as things and substances, rather than processes?    This is the main topic of Buddhist EPISTEMOLOGY, which interfaces philosophy with psychology.  An important concept in this epistemological analysis is the theory of the two truths - the contrast between the ‘working approximations’ we use to find our way around the everyday world, and how phenomena truly exist when we analyze them in depth.

The conclusion reached from the study of epistemology is that our distorted view of the world gives rise to DELUSIONS, especially the three mental poisons of aversion, attachment and ignorance.   Eradication of these three biologically based poisons, and prevention of their resultant actions, is one of the principle aspects of Buddhist ETHICS.   One of the main ways of reducing and eventually eradicating delusions is by the practice of MEDITATION, especially meditation on emptiness.

ETHICS and DELUSIONS are thus at a triple interface between philosophy, psychology and those aspects of Buddhism that people from Judeo-Christian cultural traditions would more readily recognise as religious.

Interfaces between psychology and religious practises are provided by RITUALS (such as sadhanas, pujas, mantras, mudras etc), ART (including numinous symbolism) and TANTRA.  


Unlike other religions, rather than aiming to placate or appease jealous gods, ritual practices are intended to produce changes in the minds of the practitioners, resulting in the ability to step outside the system of the Samsaric world (TRANSCENDENCE).  

Thus Buddhist art and ritual practices are intended to facilitate mental realisations, mystical experiences and ultimately the recognition of ones own Buddha-nature. Hence they are each shown as interfaces, with one end in religion, and the other in psychology.

Components which are primarily religious are the SANGHA, which is the community of Buddhist practitioners in its widest sense, including both ordained and lay persons organised as traditional congregations in dharma centers, or increasingly nowadays as online communities of people who may not have easy access to a center.  These geographically scattered Sangha often meet up for FESTIVALS.

 
Another major component of Buddhism is the large collection of NARRATIVES, ranging from historical accounts of the lives of major Buddhist teachers, including the Buddha himself, to the various parables such as the Jataka tales and Zen stories.

For a detailed discussion of the rational foundations of Buddhism see Buddhist Philosophy.



- Sean Robsville


 

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