virus: <Buddhism>

Eric Boyd (
Wed, 12 Nov 1997 00:47:01 -0500

Hi James;

Sorry about how long I've taken to reply -- my internet
access has been down, and I've been lazy. Not that
either are really much of an excuse! Here is my reply
at last:

quotes from
Date: Mon, 03 Nov 97 16:34:00 EST
From: "Wright, James 7929" <>
Subject: virus: RE: virus-digest V2 #290

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 refuge."

I think you missed my point (or perhaps I didn't make it
very well) -- this also relates to what you say later about
how people come to ascribe to Buddhism.

The "faith" I was talking about is BEHAVING AS IF THE
CONTENT OF BUDDHISM is true -- how one achieves that
"faith" is really immaterial from the point of view
of the propagation engine -- for once you ascribe --
which in Buddhism is "taking refuge" -- then the
virus has you. Do you see? It matters not how you
get there -- i.e. the faith we debate here is not the faith
I was talking about -- the faith that is important for
the propagation engine is simply holding Buddhism to be
true and valuable.

Which you seem to concur with completely.

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? <Snip!>

I didn't really deal all that much with the modern forms
of Buddhism -- I mainly concentrated on the Historical
forms, having to do with the Sangha. I thought I mentioned
that modern Buddhism does not depend on the Sangha anymore,
but you are right that I did not draw the logically
conclusion -- namely that state support is no longer needed.

I'll fix that -- thanks.

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.

Again, what matters for the propagation engine in not
HOW one came to believe, but rather that one DOES.

I'll have to clarify my essay on this point,

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?

For some forms of Buddhism, what you have said is true
-- but for many others, there is a heaven, and you can
get in by worshipping a Buddhivista (sp?). The point is that
even if "original" Buddhism did not contain those elements,
the Buddhist meme complex evolved to contain them.

And besides, you can hardly deny that COMPASSION is not
at the very core of Buddhism -- and this is what I said
causes propagation -- not HOPE for the future, as you
seem to imply above.

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.

I think you are seriously confusing "Buddhism" as an
ideology with what Buddhism actually became in the
world -- tradition was VERY IMPORTANT IN THE SANGHA.
-- so important, in fact, that schisms usually occurred
as a result of changes in tradition, rather than
changes in ideology.

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?

Yes -- this again shows the memetic power of AUTHORITY
AND TRADITION. If Buddhism had truly been as you said,
where all the ideas can be found by everyone -- then
this kind of process WOULD HAVE BEEN UNNECESSARY! Do you
see how you have PROVED my point here?

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.

Ahhh... but this is not what we see historically! What
we see historically is that ideas with the Buddha's name
survived better than the others -- because people
associated the name of the Buddha with TRUTH!

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.

BUDDHIST? What is Buddhism then? No -- it makes no
sense to define it this way. Beyond a certain point,
a group of ideas will cease to BE Buddhist anymore
-- they will become something else.

Only ideas which are basically similar to what the
Buddha said -- the four noble truths -- can "really"
be considered Buddhist. This is why so many other
schools had to ascribe their works TO THE BUDDHA in
order to keep calling themselves Buddhists.

Now whether they ARE REAL Buddhists or not
depends on how you wish to define "Buddhism"
-- same as the question about "Who are the
REAL Christians"

Who considers the words of the Buddha infallible?

Well, Tibetan Buddhists are well known for their
"mantras" -- they believe that simply reciting
certain portions of Buddhist texts HAS VALUE IN
AND OF ITSELF. If this isn't treating the words
of the Buddha as sacred and infallible, I'm really
not sure what would qualify.

(even fundamentalist Christians don't go THAT far!)

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

Perhaps -- but deceived or no, they call themselves
Buddhist, and generally do as the Buddha did --
makes them Buddhist to my way of thinking.

>>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?

And why not? If "Piedmont Chasism" (I have no
idea what this is) is supported by a group
of people, it is using the memetic advantage
of community to enhance it's memetic propagation

As a general rule, ideologies WITHOUT a community
die REALLY quickly.

And again, this "community" had a lot more sway in the
earlier years (I thought I said this!) -- it has become
much less important in the Age of Information.

Never the less, it's certainly clear that having
some people to talk with about your Buddhist
ideas makes it much easier to BE a Buddhist
-- and thus propagates Buddhism better.

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?

Ahhh... but without "acceptance", YOU ARE NOT
A BUDDHIST. Do you see? Faith is holding something
to be true -- regardless of HOW one gets there,
belief in something is still belief in something.

Now the split I proposed was along memetic lines
-- I realized that PURE FAITH -- ala Christian
concept -- has memetic advantages, and I proposed
a form of Buddhism which USES THAT ADVANTAGE.

If you choose not to CALL that Buddhism, that's
your opinion -- but I think you'd be kidding

The other way it could go -- and it will most
probably go BOTH ways -- is more towards
compassion. This too has memetic advantages,
in that compassion is directly linked to the
propagation of <Buddhism>. Perhaps this is
the "better" of the two mutations, but that's
a value judgment, and I'm not really concerned
with that in my analysis.

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:

Zen I ruled out right from the start -- my religion course
categorizes it in a different part of the course, under
a Taoist, Shinto and Zen heading.

(in fact, I could have done an essay showing how
taoist ideas are central to the zen world view -- that
was one of the other four possibilities)

As to the others -- they support the evolution
of the Buddhist meme complex into more viable
propagation forms.

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.

The first two I've dealt with extensively, but the last --
perhaps so. I think that viewing any idea complex as the
intentional entity seems to imply that the humans involved
no longer are -- in reality, of course, both views are
"right", just different. It would be interesting
to try and come up with a way to avoid this inherent
"mindless" reading.

Let me say all that again -- I wasn't clear above,
and I think this is a critical point.

In ascribing intent to <Buddhism>, I AM NOT TAKING INTENT *AWAY* from the individuals who "take refuge" in Buddhism -- I'm just viewing from another angle.

Unfortunately, it does seem very easy to read the memetical intentional stance as saying that the intent of the meme-complex is more important than the intent of the individual -- which is a judgment call, of course -- and what I would like to see is some way to avoid this interpretation.

I could just come out and deny it -- i.e. better explain the intentional stance -- but that doesn't look like it would be all that effective.

What I want is some way to change the "tone" or what have you so as to avoid this.

Any ideas from the Virians?


quote: 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

Again, I think what you have is an IDEALIZED picture of what Buddhism is -- I fully admit that Buddhism is not as "bad" as Christianity on the mind virus scale, but I think you're deluding yourself if you don't think Buddhism has the same *type* of flaws.

Everything has these flaws, in my opinion -- for memetics is just as powerful as genetics, and we all know how vulnerable we are to genetic "flaws".

quote: 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 whatsoever.

Again, "faith" can be "holds to the truth of" -- in which case you CLEARLY have "faith" in at least the VALUE of Buddhism, if not Buddhism itself.

quote: 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.

There's the catch, eh -- right at the end: "what Buddhism REALLY is" How do you know? How can anyone know? What defines Buddhism?

I say Buddhism can be viewed as a memetic complex which replicates itself.

You say I've had to distort Buddhism to get it to fit my (probably wrong) view.

I say your critique is misguided -- mostly hinging on your view that "faith" is wrong wrong wrong and not part of Buddhism. Religions aren't called "faiths" for nothing, you know. -- they are called faith because their hosts believe in the truth/usefulness/x of the religious tradition.

Hopefully this has clarified your view of my essay -- it's helped me to see that a couple of things need to be spelled out better, at the very least, in my essay.