Episode 82 :: Dan Bammes :: Early Web Skeptical Buddhism

| September 16, 2011 | 8 Comments

Dan Bammes

Dan Bammes talks with us about one of the first, if not the first, skeptical Buddhist web presence.

When I started this podcast, it was a pretty clear and open field for secular and skeptical Buddhist websites. There was and still is a fairly limited but active set of people, promoting the ideas of reason and naturalism as it applies to our practice of Buddhism. And it’s a wonderful experience, as I hear from listeners to the podcast about how this has helped validate that they are not the only person who has a skeptical view of assertions not in evidence.

Recently, I was alerted to a site on the web that’s perhaps the very first skeptical Buddhist web presence, called Sasana.org. And it was my great joy to speak with its founder about how the original listserv started, and the experiences he’s had with the members over the past fifteen years.

Dan Bammes grew up in Utah County and has worked in radio since 1974, and is the Morning Edition Host and Producer at KUER at the University of Utah. He has a degree in broadcasting from BYU and extensive experience as a reporter, newscaster, news director and wire service bureau chief. Dan is also a cancer survivor who spends much of his free time connecting with and supporting other patients with multiple myeloma.

So, sit back, relax, and have a nice Oolong.

:: Discuss this episode ::

 

Web Links

  • The Sasana: A Refuge for the Skeptical Buddhist

 

Music for This Episode

Shakuhachi Meditations

Shakuhachi Meditations

The music heard in the middle of the podcast is from Rodrigo Rodriguez’s CD, Shakuhachi Meditations. The tracks used in this episode are:

  • Chaniwa

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Category: The Secular Buddhist Podcast

Ted Meissner

About the Author ()

Ted Meissner is the host of the podcast Present Moment: Mindfulness Practice and Science. He has been a meditator since the early 90’s, has been interviewed for Books and Ideas, Mindful Lives, and The Whole Leader podcasts, spoken about mindfulness with various groups including Harvard Humanist Hub, and has written for Elephant Journal and The International Journal of Whole Person Care. He is the Executive Director of the Secular Buddhist Association, host of the SBA’s official podcast The Secular Buddhist, and is on the Advisory Board for the Spiritual Naturalist Society. Ted’s background is in the Zen and Theravada traditions, he is a regular speaker on interfaith panel discussions, and is interested in examining the evolution of contemplative practice in contemporary culture. Ted teaches Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care & Society, where he is the Manager of Online Programming and Community Development.

Comments (8)

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  1. NaturalEntrust says:

    Thanks for telling us about this one. I’ve joined their email list
    because I find it interesting to find other Jodo Shinshu Buddhists
    that are active on such Skeptical Buddhist lists.

    the sad thing is that I find it now some 4 years too late.
    Hahah they have already talked about all the interesting
    topics that I would want to talk about so for them it would
    be a tiring repetition of something they are fed up about
    talking. Beating a Dead Horse or something.

    So not sure if I ever dare to get active on that list.
    I most likely make a big fool of myself and that would
    be too devastating for my survival, I need to keep
    some sense of self worth.

    All this talk about letting go. Are you folks aware of
    that if one let go of clinging to life then the result is
    that one kill oneself. So clinging can be a good survival
    strategy. What one should not cling to is to have too
    high expectations about what life should bring forth.

    Just my rambling words not important at all.

  2. Ted Meissner Ted Meissner says:

    Though I will be writing an article at a later date around this erroneous concept that suicide is the natural conclusion of letting go, let me refer you to this for the time being:

    http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma/suicide.html

  3. NaturalEntrust says:

    Ted thanks for the link but that text is way beyond my grasp.
    As I get it that text is for those that are deep into Buddhism.

    What I wrote above is more like the lay persons take on
    what letting go of desire means.

    As a subjective personal experience I find it likely to say
    that I do cling to life as such and to my personal life even
    more and for to be able to keep me alive I need at least
    a minimum of feeling of self worth.

    I trust you need to be very well versed in reading Buddhist
    texts to know that it would be erroneous to interpret
    the words like cling and desire and let go to mean something
    else.

    I don’t mind that you know the right way to interpret the words
    but is it not fair to say that there is slim chance that I can know
    what you know. I am a nobody that now and then read some
    book or text or on internet and drown in all the details of Buddhist
    ideas. Too technical to take in unless one are very gifted or already
    know what or how to read it.

    So your coming text hopefully are on a less abstract and technical level???

    • Ted Meissner Ted Meissner says:

      Let’s take it out of Buddhist context for a moment, then. We often confuse non-attachment with DEtachment, which means we mix up not getting so very tightly coupled with the things in our lives, with having an aversion to them.

      This applies to life, too. Not being particularly hung up on outcomes we want to see, moment by moment, doesn’t mean we don’t care. We still love life, without that love smothering us, or leading us into bad behaviors. Aversion is the other end, which would lead to that notion of suicide. It completely disregards that we still have biological imperatives to live, that good things do happen, and it’s our intention about those things that we get to decide — including having the positive experience for what it is, impermanent.

  4. NaturalEntrust says:

    Thanks Ted, sorry late answer.
    I read your words but I am not
    well versed getting these things.

    Buddhism have very particular views.
    Non-attachment being different from
    detachment makes my mind dizzy.

    I guess you would say what you know
    is based on your personal experience
    and not on teaching alone?

    My temporal take has to be that one
    maybe have to experience Non-attachment
    to know what you refer to.

    To me this is the problem with Buddhism,
    It is almost impossible to know what the words
    really mean.

    And my personal experience is that I although
    vaguely do know what shinjin and tariki means
    from a personal experience perspective but
    when I try to explain them here among you SBA
    then none of you up to now show any indication
    you get what they refers to or even find words
    from within your own Buddhist schools to show
    that your version of Buddhism have the same
    terms only using other language words for them.

    Example. Jef Wilson make use of the term

    “Inner Togetherness” but if one look at the refs
    he give then most likely that is “dependent arising”
    only using a translation from one Japanese author
    and his translator to English doing a creative word combination.

    Not sure why he did not make use of “dependent arising”
    or some variation of that one. Just an example that same
    personal experience can have many different ways of explaining it.

    Maybe I have never felt non-attachment? No wonder I just am confused?

    Suppose I make a visit to your home and meet you and wife and kids.

    What in your behavior show that you are non-attached to them?
    I where most likely too attached to my former wife. Maybe that is
    why she left me.

    On the other hand if we have interconnectedness and
    dependent arising show that we are dependent on each other
    how does that relate to being non-attached. a paradox?

    • Linda Linda says:

      On the other hand, if Jef Wilson uses “Inner Togetherness” for “dependent arising” it is quite likely that he is interpreting dependent arising in an *entirely* different way than I would. So the words translators use to interpret the old Pali terms can be quite important.

      That dependent arising is about “interdependence” is a mistake perpetuated by not really understanding what it is about. The only *interdependent* links are vinnana (consciousness) and namarupa (name-and-form) and they depend on each other for a specific reason that has no bearing on the interdependence of one person with another. The concept of interdependence is part of Buddhism because, of course, what we do affects others — and the way we affect others affects us. But dependent origination isn’t actually talking about how we affect others. It talks a little about how others affect us in terms of self-concepts, but that doesn’t seem to be its primary focus at all.

      I would answer your question (to Ted) about visiting his family this way: Does he get edgy if you seem to be flirting with his wife? Does he brag about how Teddy Jr. is getting into football just like he did when he was in high school? Does it seem like his family is an extension of himself to an unhealthy degree? Is he forcing them into shapes that suit him but maybe don’t suit them? Those are all behaviors that would come out of attachment.

      How might detachment look? Does he not give a damn about his wife and kids? That’s detachment.

      How would non-attachment look? Is he relaxed and confident in his relationship with his wife so that if you and she enjoy flirty banter it doesn’t bother him? Is it clear he supports her in what she wants to achieve even if it might not be what he would most like her to do? Same with the kids — is he proud of them for being who they are, rather than disappointed that they don’t fit his mental image of who they should be?

      The idea of non-attachment is that you care for people because you do, not because they are a reflection of yourself, or your status in the world.

  5. NaturalEntrust says:

    Linda thanks!

    You wrote ” if Jeff Wilson uses “Inner Togetherness” for “dependent arising” it is quite likely that he is interpreting dependent arising in an *entirely* different way than I would. So the words translators use to interpret the old Pali terms can be quite important.”

    I have not read that book “Buddhism of the Heart”
    so I can not know. But my understanding where
    that it where the translator from Japanese
    that did chose that term Inner Togetherness
    for Dependent Arising.

    Why Jeff accepted it I don’t know. I have to ask him.
    I guess he tell me to read the book 🙂

    I understand your take on the non-attachment
    but then that do support that Buddhists use
    words in very particular ways.

    Which you seems to agree with.

    ” So the words translators use to interpret
    the old Pali terms can be quite important”

    Mark if I get him seems to interpret dependent
    arising to mean that the feeling of being separate
    as an individual locked into their own body is a kind
    of illusion. I don’t have any quote now but it is a well
    known way of talking Buddhese. Almost every Buddhist
    makes that claim and also Pantheist makes it.

    I can be wrong but my subjective personal experience
    find it more likely that Buddhist talk about something else
    again.

    I find it most likely that those words are a prescription and
    not a true description of how things really are.

    prescription
    1.
    a. The act of establishing official rules, laws, or directions.
    b. Something prescribed as a rule.
    2.
    a. A written order, especially by a physician, for the preparation and administration of a medicine or other treatment.
    b. A prescribed medicine or other treatment.

    Now prescription is a too strong word or too formal.
    More likely one would need to see those words as
    a teachers recommendation to his or her pupils.

    Or it can be a Buddhist variety of what William Irons
    talk about. “Hard to fake sign of commitment”

    “Religion as a Hard-to-Fake Sign of Commitment.”
    in Evolution and the Capacity for Commitment.
    R. M. Nesse (ed.), pp. 292 – 309.

    Many religions make use of Hard-to-Fake Sign of Commitment
    and Buddhism seems to do it too.

  6. Ted Meissner Ted Meissner says:

    Hi, all. Linda, you articulate the distinguishing characteristics around detachment and non-attachment very well, thank you for joining in!

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