Quote Of The Day: Lively Debate

Quote Of The Day # 58

“…Recite a text and then the young monks have the job of memorizing them. Simply absorb the teaching while memorizing in the classic Indian sense associated with the oral tradition of teaching throughout the Indian world. And then they have to go out to debate it. That’s where the philosophy enters in the sense that they have to engage in arguments to try to explore some of the ambiguous points of the teaching that have just been presented to them, and learn how to make their position effective in relation to others. If you ever get a chance to visit in a Tibetan community, this is probably one of the most lively and interesting moments in the whole day. Often times there’s a row of young monks lining up in the shady side of the temple with their back against the wall, and then there’s another line of young monks…they are the questioners….These guys are standing up…eyeing their opponents and starting to ask questions. …They ask questions, and then the answers come back, which in turns are translated into other questions. So philosophy becomes this tremendous game, stamping your feet, giving peals of laughter. It’s as active a form of intellectual discipline as I’ve ever seen anywhere in the religious traditions of the world.”

I think this is the best quote I’ve ever had from this book. I’ve had this book for years, but only recently when I decided to clean up my selves and clean up my Kindle Fire, I started to read it. It is titled “Buddhism” by Malcolm David Eckel. The beginning chapters are slow and uneventful, but the later chapters, when it starts to talk about the history of Buddhism, it is very interesting.

I just can’t help being fascinated by the debate tradition of Buddhism and I’m glad that the Tibetan monks are still keeping that ancient tradition. I really don’t know such things existed in Buddhism at all since when the religion spread to a wider part of Asia, many of the enlightened traditions that Buddha exercised and entertained were lost. And a lot of superstitious stuff were added into the simple and profound stories Buddha originally told.

I have no idea how people really debate the religious script. Can people bring their own life experiences into it for argument and counterargument? Can people point out the controversial aspects that exist in … well if not everything, at least in more things than we tend to feel comfortable with? Are people forced to do self criticism or can they excuse themselves from it?

Living in the Asian community in Central Jersey, I feel that we women here really need to engage in a debate of argument and counterargument about our own lives. That will be beneficial to all of us. Women chat a lot but most of the chatting are about daily issues and small practical concerns. Actually I do feel that a woman’s life is overwhelmed by all these routine issues and repetitive mess of chores that she doesn’t even have time for anything else. However this cannot be helped. Until we have a robot that can take care of all the daily needs for service at home, I don’t see a way out.

There are several Buddhist groups in the area, but the activities are dull, the conversations usually flag. Now I can’t even remember what we actually did and said at the time. People flock to Christian church here and the Rutgers Asian community church off the river road has expanded so many times that it runs out of room to expand. So people do have the need to have beliefs and I sincerely wish this yearning for something to believe in can be transformed into debating or bouncing ideas or comprehending a complex social problem or…

Actually I went for a gathering of a religious group once. And I remember there was a woman tearfully recounted selling her house after her husband lost his job. There was no debate, only the venting of frustrations. Two or three women started to cry with her. I tried to cry too but couldn’t. This is me–whenever I tell myself to put up a performance, I just can’t.

16 thoughts on “Quote Of The Day: Lively Debate

    1. I always want to have such an educational experience, but I’ve never been in one like that. All the schools I went through are boring lectures, memorization, drills. Or people just say what they have to say or forced to say, which is not really a debate. LOL.

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    1. Well, you are right. Life is a stage anyway, but I have displayed very poor acting skills in the theater of life so far. I just can’t do it and when forced to do it, do it very poorly.

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  1. A lot of “Westerners” (like myself) just take what they want to hear from Buddhism. We assume that 99% of Buddhism is just cultural overlay (just as 99% of Christianity is). We are looking for the 1% nugget that is universal.

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    1. I don’t know much about religion and this is why I try to read a little about it. I don’t know how much of the tradition of Christianity holds up. There’s a widespread voice of modernization Buddhism since a lot of it is so outdated since the beautiful stories of Buddha lost their psychological and philosophical insights and added a lot of superstitions when the religion spread to East Asia. There really should be a modernization of it.

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