On a recent denunciation against Buddhism
Lately I came across a blog post criticizing Buddhism by fat_tuna . The author claims to have read some Buddhist texts and participated...
Lately I came across a blog post criticizing Buddhism by fat_tuna. The author claims to have read some Buddhist texts and participated in a number of Buddhist sermons. And from his/her empirical evidence, fat_tuna draws a conclusion that the current preaching practices of all Vietnamese monks are wordy, discursive, full of self-flattery, and driven by the interests of an elitist community; and that all the Buddhist texts are vague, ambiguous, without the parables that facilitate the reading [is it?], and do not offer specific guidance so that people can apply in their real-life situations. Fat_tuna then goes one step further by accusing this whole social institution as inherently bad, albeit having admitted the presence of a variety of branches in Buddhism.
We can obviously see that one salient fallacy of this writing is faulty generalization. Just because some preachers interpret the Buddhist texts incorrectly, doesn’t mean all preaching practices are wrong. And provided that the texts are indeed vague and ambiguous, does it make them worthless and deserve abolishment? If so, should we simply abandon all the texts that are seemingly incomprehensible, such as the works by Lacan or Deleuze?
All in all, it’s the poor interpretation and preaching practices of some priests that the author’s critique is actually targeted at, which is of course valid. Yet the author's pitfall is that he/she labels everything ‘Buddhism’, and denounces Buddhism in general. This is rather an irresponsible and brutal act since it does not take into account the need of religious belief in human lives and provokes an irrational hatred against Buddhism. If the author were to be interrogated on what sort of public policy he/she is proposing to solve the problem laid out, chances are he/she would feel perplexed and step back, then in a more serious and thoughtful manner, he/she will come up with a less overarching solution like ‘each follower must be skeptical of all preaching’ and suchlike, other than destroying the whole religion, burning all the manuscripts, and forcefully converting all the monks into Christians.
In fat_tuna's critique lies an inconsistent view on the value of Buddhism itself. On the one hand, the author says that the current practices of preachers are misleading, and thus the Buddhist teachings seem to serve this deception. On the other hand, he/she praises Chinese wuxia films on interpreting the Buddhist teachings in a more assertive manner, and thus being able to convey the good qualities of Buddhist philosophy. In other words, the author is criticizing the preachers’ interpretation and praising the movie makers’ interpretation without stating explicitly what’s wrong with Buddhist philosophy itself.
Fat_tuna in fact elaborated on at least one aspect of Buddhist teachings that makes him/her think it is bad: By putting forward the idea of karma and reincarnation, Buddhism seems to encourage people to live a decent life so that they may have a prosperous afterlife. And accordingly, in practice people do good things mainly for the sake of their selfish well-being, rather than consider it as a must-do, as something that results from true empathy, and indeed makes the world a better place. This is a good point, and it, however, forces us to go back to the question of since when the original teachings of the Buddha were interpreted that way. Were there any cultural forces that transformed the original teachings and trivialized them throughout the course of its emigration from India to China and Vietnam?
The blog post written by peanut, which initially triggered this aggressive post, opens up a discussion on whether the Buddha taught us to live in accordance with morality so as to have a better afterlife or he did ask of us to cease our desires, even the desire to enter Nirvana, so that we no longer feel the pain of disillusionment. And yes, peanut says that it’s the latter that the Buddha taught us, not the former. So the right question to ask is: what did Buddha actually teach? To thoroughly answer it, we may need to trace back to the early manuscripts like the Mahāsāṃghika and the Mūlasarvāstivāda, which I doubt that fat_tuna himself/herself has read.
Maybe fat_tuna doesn’t know that the very act of accusing someone of virtue signalling is also an act of virtue signalling in itself.
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