virus: RE: virus-digest V2 #300

Wright, James 7929 (
Wed, 12 Nov 97 12:52:00 EST

Date: Wed, 12 Nov 1997 00:47:01 -0500
From: Eric Boyd <>
>>Subject: virus: <Buddhism>

>>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:

Hi, Eric!

To begin with, my thanks for a pleasant and civil reply to a rather
short-tempered address; no excuses are necessary, if you haven't replied
earlier it's because you had other more pressing needs than ranting back
over Email at an obviously deranged and fanatical Buddhist! But I
begin ERIC:***
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.***
Not exactly. The difference is the same in the <faith> threads;

whether one BELIEVES (I do not and cannot rationally justify or explain
[this], [someone] simply told me [this], and because I trust/accept the
judgement of/rely upon that [someone] I have chosen not to question

or one Believes (I consider and can rationally justify or explain some of
[this], but not all of it: since I cannot spend the time to minutely and
to precise detail rationally justify and explain every aspect of the
Universe, I must decide to accept the judgement of [authorities] on many
matters such as gravity, physics, medicine, and so forth);

or one believes (I have considered and can rationally justify or explain
each and every aspect of [this], to my own satisfaction and possibly the
satisfaction of a disinterested rational observer of the same phenomena);

and probably several other varieties as well. I maintain that I believe
Buddhism, not BELIEVE or Believe in it. Your definition of <faith> seems
to depend on BELIEF; I maintain that it is not only possible but
demonstrable to believe in Buddhism. Thought experiment: replace
"Buddhism" with "science" in your paragraph above (it will also be
necessary to replace "taking refuge" with "accepting validity", or
something similar).
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.
Actually, in modern Buddhism, the dependence is of the State (existing
government) on the Sangha (political contributions from the L.A. temples
to the Clinton/Gore re-election campaigns)! Just a joke, folks -
I concentrate on modern Buddhism, since that's the only kind I have
direct experience with, and Zen in particular, since that's what I've
read most - which leads directly to one of our later disagreements.
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,
A more subtle point, perhaps -
How does one distinguish <faith> from <understanding>? The outward
symptoms - firmness of conviction, reliance on experimental evidence,
reliance on precedent / authority / tradition are quite similar.
There's a man who claims to have direct, experimental evidence that the
speed of light in vacuum is not a constant - is in fact c+v, using the
velocity of the object reflecting the light, instead of just c. The
response of the scientific community has not been open, cheerful
examination of the facts he claims to present, but rather harassment,
censorship / publication denial in journals and magazines through the
"peer-review" process, and so forth. He advises that many members of the
"scientific" community react to denial of Einstein's theories in ways
similar to the fundamentalist religionists, when one questions the
authority of the Bible/Koran/whatever. I downloaded his presentation, and
without recourse to the data, have no verification of my own to offer of
his story. I'll try to find the URL for any who might be interested.
The question I propose, however, is how do you distinguish between BELIEF
and belief, as I used them above, from an outside / disinterested
perspective (which I am attributing to Eric, here)?
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.
I am also questioning the existence of the "Buddhist meme complex" in the
singular - it would seem there must at least two, since the Buddhism I am
familiar with does not include FAITH as you apparently consider it to be.
Or, more simply, the existence of "forms of Buddhism" negates the
existence of a "Buddhist meme complex"; the existence of disparate
characteristics among schools prevents attributing FAITH or even <faith>
to all of them, which I thought you were proposing.
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.
Am I not in the world? Is not Robin? Are we not, by our own consideration
and declaration, Buddhist? Whether or not the rest of the world would
agree is indeed questionable, but I think we qualify as "stream-entrants"
at least. Again, since you have now said you are concentrating on history
of Buddhism rather than modern Buddhism, this may also be part of the
Ideology is another loaded word. I need a definition from you on this
one, because I associate ideology with leftist and Marxist organizations,
which Buddhism does not resemble.
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?
No. It took thousands of years to develop the first Buddha - why would we
wish to repeatedly lose the value of his experiences and truth, and
wander about trying to rediscover it again and again?
"Common sense" isn't all that common - witness the plethora of lawsuits
by idiots seeking protection from the consequences of their actions. One
person ate birth-control material because it had the word "jelly" on the
outside of the container, which was apparently the only word that person
read - and then they went to sue the manufacturer! Buddha learned certain
truths and generated certain ideas, which were then preserved for
humanity, in exactly the same way medical textbooks, science textbooks
and psychology textbooks preserve knowledge.
In those ancient days, lacking modern presses and papers, the ancients
adopted a method to prevent "transcription errors" and "false
authorship". Nonetheless, in order to believe rather than BELIEVE, the
truth has to be tested and understood by the believer - otherwise, one
would be only a BELIEVER, to one's own detriment, and against the
warnings, instructions and teachings of the Buddha.
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!
Any ideas which are not personally understood and verified as truth
result in BELIEF - which the Buddha warned about.
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"
In order:
No, not every useful idea in the entire world is Buddhist - the Buddha
said nothing about electric power, deep-sea exploration or space. Nor is
this my point - my point is that any idea that is attributed to the
Buddha should be thoroughly understood and personally tested for truth.
If an idea attributed to the Buddha is tested and found true, it MAY be
one of his - or one of his followers - or totally independent. If it is
tested and found false, it MAY still be his - or one of his followers -
or totally independent. If it is tested, found true and attributed to the
Buddha, it can be considered part of Buddhism.
You ascribe the Four Noble Truths to Buddha, as I would - but your
ascription is based on the same Pali Canon that you later accuse of
corruption with other persons' ideas, as it may well be. Are the Four
Noble Truths a corrupted, foreign idea? If so, how can one discuss
Buddhism at all? If not, how would you prove it?
The last question, "who decides what is REAL Buddhism", is what moved me
to write in the first place. It seemed that in ascribing certain
conditions of existence involving the Sangha, State support, the
existence of FAITH and the need for <faith> to propagate Buddhism, etc.
you were in fact presenting yourself as the authority who decides what
Buddhism really is. I suppose in the last resort, my post was to try to
convince you that there are large areas of Buddhism in the modern world
that your essay totally ignores, yet associates (unwantedly) with
<faith>,FAITH, State support and so forth.
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!)
Know any Tibetan Buddhists that don't recite mantras? Actually, mantras
are more generally used to generate certain states of mind, which is the
"value" that the possess. Zen is clear that reciting mantras and burning
incense have no benefit whatsoever in comparison with understand truth on
a personal basis.
What would qualify as treating the words of the Buddha as sacred and
infallible would be actions intolerant of defamation, such as:
Persecuting defamers (such as Scientology practices), killing and jailing
persons who believed otherwise (such as Communists and religious regimes
practice) and deciding civil laws / court cases on Buddhist text
principles (as above). None of these things happen, as far as I know.
By the way, is not the recitation of Bible verses from memory going as
far as mantras?
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.
You have very generous standards - was Idi Amin a good Islamicist,
Torquemada a good Catholic, and Stalin a good Communist as well?
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.
You seemed to be proposing in your essay that the existence of a
community was equivalent to creating a self-propagating meme complex -
and I was arguing that people form communities independent of meme
complexes, using my housing subdivision as an example. "Piedmont Chasism"
does not exist, as far as I am aware - the existence of a community does
not imply the existence of a meme complex, as far as I can tell, in
modern America.
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.
I'm not willing to agree that <Buddhism> exists! At least not in the
sense that it includes FAITH or BELIEF, requires <faith> to propagate,
and so forth.
/ Faith is holding something
to be true -- regardless of HOW one gets there,
belief in something is still belief in something./
So, do you then have Faith (or FAITH) in gravity? Actually, you might -
but I do not have Faith in Buddhism, by MY definition, I have faith -
which is one of the reasons we disagree.
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.
Zen may well be independent of Buddhism; many non-Buddhists accept Zen
practice. It is the form of
Buddhism I am most familiar with, however.
As to the others -- they support the evolution
of the Buddhist meme complex into more viable
propagation forms.
The existence of a singular "Buddhist meme complex" is something I
dispute. I consider there to be too many varieties and schools to speak
of it as a single entity, with common traits but not exclusive and common
memes to all schools.
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.
Zen in particular and Buddhism in general utilize the reasoning power of
humans as a way to reach spiritual or insightful truth - this is a
central difference between Buddhism and other organizations, with several
observers stating that Buddhism cannot be considered a "religion" for
exactly that consideration.
If it relies on individual reasoning power of humans, it cannot DEPEND on
tradition and authority - although it may use them as a starting point,
if it chooses, and to reduce waste of time to arrive at truth.
While reason may not be totally opposed to faith, especially when you
reach details, it does not coexist well with FAITH or BELIEF - just ask
David McF.!
I hope I have come up with an alternate reading to "mindless" - perhaps
"mindful", as in the "Setting-Up of Mindfulness" (a Buddhist text)!
***- ---
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?
***- ---
Memetics in general suggests that memes spread independent of their truth
value; no argument there. It also suggests that better-adapted memes use
"hooks", calls to sex, death, fear and so on to spread.
Buddhism is composed of memes, but is in general indifferent to
propagation; it has spread, but seems to lack "sex appeal", "fear" and so
forth, although many people study it beginning with a fear of death that
they wish to avoid.
Buddhism might be considered an "anti-meme complex" that spreads using
memetic techniques at their minimum level - "I learned it, and don't fear
death anymore. You can too!"
Anyone else?
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".
I have a real picture of what Buddhism is, and try to practice it. If no
one else did it as I do or even knew about it, that would not negate it
for me - and Western knowledge of Buddhism in general is so weak that
it's tough to say whether more people practice it as I might, or simply
sit in temples burning incense and chanting sutras without thinking about
it. Any organization is only as strong as its weakest link, but you can't
judge an effort by its flaws - or no work of art would ever be well
Your statement begs the question - are there any genetic flaws? If I am
born with a condition that ensures my death at age ten, am I flawed? Or
am I a perfect being, perfectly me, simply issued with a ten-year
warranty instead of a four-score-and-ten version?
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.
Hmm, "holds to the truth of" - how is this different from science, again?
Or is "faith" part of science?
I think this is a definition problem, again.
<Snip repeats!>
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.


Yes, I do understand your position better - and hopefully, so do you.
Please spell out for the ignorant the way you intend for "faith",
"<faith>,<evangelize> and so forth to be understood - since I mistook you
to intend FAITH (or BELIEF), PROSELYTIZE (instead of "proselytize") and
so forth.
I greatly appreciate your civil tone and thoughtful response - and I hope
I have matched you in this response. We do view Buddhism differently, but
that need not cause conflict - there are still several questions
regarding intent, faith, and so on to be resolved - if they can be!