virus: RE: virus-digest V2 #290

Wright, James 7929 (
Mon, 03 Nov 97 16:34:00 EST

I have numerous objections to several parts of this essay, but I will
confine myself to.....
Date: Sat, 01 Nov 1997 23:05:10 -0500
From: Eric Boyd <>
Subject: virus: Buddhism

"Although Buddhism eventually declined within India itself, it made a
lasting impact on other areas of Asia and has now become a world
philosophy on a global scale. Access what you see to be the major
reasons for Buddhism's world-wide appeal and for the continuing of its

Buddhism - a fit meme complex

>>Buddhism has succeed as a world religion because it is a fit meme
>>complex. That is to say, Buddhism has succeeded because its framework
>>contains elements such as evangelical faith, tradition, authority,
>>community, and variation. In addition, Buddhism received quite a bit
>>State Support, and the Four Noble Truths were simple and effective.
>>These elements lead to its world-wide "popularity", and continue to
>>ensure its propagation today.
In my view, Buddhism succeeds because it "enables" its "adherents" - it
allows them to explain (to themselves, if no one else) the acts they
experience in their lives, without resorting to authority or dogma. Your
use of the word "faith" weakens your argument considerably - faith is not
a central component of all schools of Buddhism. "Behold, there is nothing
hidden in the closed hand of the teacher". "make of yourselves your own
Your emphasis on State Support is also misleading; since the US is not a
"Buddhist" country, and as far as I am aware does not receive state
support (due to the mythical separation of Church and State, supposedly
guaranteed in the Constitution), where do you develop that idea?
>>Now back to <Buddhism> as a fit meme complex. First, I will deal with
>>the "natural selection" of <Buddhism>. Many memetic traits enhance the
>>propagation of a meme complex. First and foremost among them is the
>>propagation engine: <faith> "your message here" <evangelize>. In
>>theory, any set of ideas can be propagated successfully with this
>>combination. First, <faith> causes the memetic hosts (you and me) to
>>accept "your message here" -- which could be anything.
Since all the texts I can find state that Buddha was trying to get you to
UNDERSTAND what he was proposing, and not take anything he said on FAITH,
how can you suggest this? <faith> is not known among us, and is not a
principle of Buddhism.
>> Then,
>><evangelize> causes the host to propagate "your message here" by
>>repeating it to others. As all advertisers know, repetition is the
>>most important thing in getting your ideas accepted - say anything
>>enough times and some people will be influenced. Once the message is
>>successfully propagated, the cycle begins again - but this time with
>>hosts. They yield four, and four yields eight: what we have is
>>exponential growth. This is how pyramid marketing schemes work.
>>rightly calls self propagation the most powerful force in the universe.
>>With <Buddhism>, faith is ensured by taking refuge in the Three Jewels:
>>"I take refuge in the Buddha, I take refuge in the Doctrine, I take
>>refuge in the Order (Sangha)". The "message", of course, is primarily
>>the Four Noble Truths. For the engine, this content actually doesn't
Again, I feel you have missed the truth here. The Three Jewels are taken
as refuge AFTER YOU UNDERSTAND THEM, NOT ON FAITH. Taking someone else's
word for them, even the Buddha's, is not encouraged or to be admired;
after all, to use FAITH as a substitute for UNDERSTANDING is to demote
the power and influence of your own mind beneath someone else's.
>>Finally, <evangelism> is ensured by the Cardinal Virtue of
>>Compassion. <Buddhism>, like most major religions, ensures its
>>propagation by making its hosts feel that others need "the message"
>>too. The Bodhisattva, having escaped from suffering8, has compassion
>>those around him/her who are also suffering, and so spreads the Four
>>Noble Truths to them. Indeed, it is obvious that if the Buddha had not
>>spread his message (supposedly at the urging of the Great God Brahma)
>>Buddhism would have died even before it was born! It was emulating the
>>Buddha - his compassion for the suffering of those around him - that
>>harnessed the most powerful force in the universe - self propagation -
>>to <Buddhism>'s advantage.
What a weak force for self-propagation! There is no heaven for adherents,
no hell for blasphemers, no rewards on this earth and no afterlife to
look forward to for Buddhists, unless you count rebirth, which they are
striving to avoid! If Buddhism was striving for self-propagation,
wouldn't you think they could have chosen stronger memes than this?
>.Since the perceived truth of a meme complex is very
>>important to its continued survival, tradition enhances memetic
But the perceived truth of Buddhist teachings is intended to be perceived
by the hearer WITHOUT RESORT TO TRADITION. Just because the Buddha
behaved virtuously, I won't; only because I understand the rewards of
behaving virtuously will I imitate him, and only then because I agree
with them.
>>Tradition has a close relation to authority, which is one of the most
>>powerful memetic selection factors. We all know from advertising how
>>much weight we put on the name or person behind an idea. Who says it
>>often just as important as what is said. In this light, it becomes
>>obvious why so many of the Buddhist texts have been ascribed to the
>>Buddha. Putting the Buddha's name on a document is like giving it a
>>Holy Stamp of Truth. Created documents which did not ascribe their
>>contents to the Buddha would be deselected naturally (since no monk
>>would pay much attention them) and thus it's not surprising today to
>>find that many Buddhist documents say the Buddha is the author, even if
>>it is now known such could not be the case.
Are you aware that the Buddha wrote no documents; that all his teachings
came down through several generations of oral tradition (Buddha told
listener1 who told listener2 and so on, and that this is why the Pali
Canon was created, to preserve / conserve what the Buddha actually taught
and reject the spurious?
Any failures in the process that can now be detected do not destroy the
truth within any such document, whether or not the Buddha is considered
the author or not; truth is independent of authorship.
>>Ascribing words to the
>>Buddha makes it much easier to get those words accepted. And memetics
>>tells us that only the ideas which get accepted - and thus replicated
>>will survive, in the long run.
Only ideas which can be understood and proven in the daily lives of each
individual adherent should be considered Buddhist, whether or not someone
"ascribes" them to the Buddha or not.
>>Similarly, it can be shown that viewing the Buddhist literature
>>(especially the Tripitaka) as a "Canon" (i.e. the infallible word of
>>Buddha; the Truth) is another appeal to authority, with similar
>>effects. This view, coupled with the above tendency to ascribe works
>>the Buddha, provide <Buddhism> with a large source of Absolute
>>Authority. This Authority is then used to convince non believers to
>>convert: It is a well known debating trick to be very confident of your
>>own rightness, for that often convinces the judges and audience far
>>easily than any weight of evidence ever could. Thus a Canonical
>>Buddhist text (the Tripitaka) aids greatly in memetic propagation.
Who considers the words of the Buddha infallible? There is Truth within
them, as much as you can convince yourself of.The lengthy (forty years or
so, after enlightenment and before death) teaching career of the Buddha
is also largely responsible for providing a "large source" of ideas to
draw from. However, if a non-believer converts because "I say so" or
"Buddha says so" or anybody else says so, they are only deceiving
>>Community is another powerful memetic button.
This is begging the question - people are social animals, and will
develop communities of like interests no matter what the interest is.
Nowadays, communities develop without common interests of detectable
nature - my housing subdivision has all sorts of religions, occupations,
backgrounds and so forth. Shall i propose that "Piedmont Chasism" is
successful because we have developed a community, which exerts forces and
influences on its adherents? If I move, have I renounced the True Way?
>>Continuing the development in the modern age, the Sangha has again lost
>>yet more of its control - in fact, the so called "Protestant Buddhism"
>>does not rely on the Sangha at all! As we move yet further into the
>>information age, I predict we will see a polarization of Buddhism into
>>something similar to the current split in Christianity - fundamentalist
>>Buddhists - who believe in the "inspired" word of the Buddha as the
>>Eternal Truth, thus emphasizing Authority; and liberal Buddhists who
>>the Buddha as a man of deep compassion, a man whose message is to be
>>taken into their hearts as the best way to live - and shared with
>>others, thus emphasizing Compassion. Each of these two sects - and
>>there may be more, as well - has quite fit memes -- the first has a
>>strengthened <faith> component, the second has a strengthened
>><evangelize> component - and so should propagate themselves quite well.
An interesting proposal; how shall they "Split", in this age of
telecommunications? Who will accept the Buddha as a "prophet" when his
instructions were to UNDERSTAND, not ACCEPT? And are not all Buddhists
called upon to be compassionate?
>>The diversity in the Sangha after it split is just a small part of the
>>overall variation in Buddhism and Buddhist ideas. Variation, of
>>is a key evolutionary trait. Without variation, there would be nothing
>>for natural selection to select from. For this reason, I think that
>>variation we see in Buddhist ideas - the differing traditions such as
>>Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantrayana; the splitting of the Sangha, the
>>incredibly numerous collection of manuscripts - all of these helped the
>>spread of Buddhism.
This is almost a valid idea - but why are you ignoring the Zen, Kegon,and
Hinayana schools? Is it possible that they (particularly Zen) don't fit
in with your thesis quite as well?
I have lots of objections to the rest of your essay as well, but they
mainly boil down to:
you have attributed faith to a way of life that does not embrace it;
you have attributed authority to a way of life that does not embrace it;
you have attributed mindless following to a way of life that does not
embrace it.
By taking a superficial (MY OPINION) view of Buddhism, you may get a
grade you wish, or not; but before you spread this kind of material
around, I wish you would learn some more about Buddhism - and about Zen
in particular. What you learn may well surprise you, and prevent you from
painting a one-hued picture of a rainbow of understandings. NOTE THAT I
DID NOT SAY "A rainbow of BELIEFS", because FAITH is NOT an integral part
of Buddhism - or I would not adhere to it, in any shape or form
Sorry to be so long-winded, but you seem to have several basic
misconceptions, and I would not want them to go unnoticed - lest someone
get a false view of what Buddhism really is.