Monday, June 10, 2013

How Reality is "Understood"

     "Many times I have heard a Westerner ask a Tibetan Rinpoche, 'are the deities real or are they archetypes?' Every time the master has answered that the yidams, the protectors and the deities are as real as we are. Just as we exist so too do they exist. (Lama Palden Drolma 2002, pp2-3)
     And as Westerners begin to explore Buddhist teachings concerning emptiness (Shunyata) ... these ontological questions concerning ‘what’ or ‘who’ exists, become ever more complex and ambiguous, opening up to any number of interpretations.
     In John Snelling’s bestselling introduction to Buddhist teachings *** ... one encounters a classic example of the psychologisation of the various heavens and hells of Buddhist cosmology as encountered in the depictions of the wheel of life (the six realms of existence). There is little doubt that almost all ancient and most modern (Sri Lankan, Burmese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese and Tibetan) Buddhists accepted, and would continue to accept and believe in the actual existence of hell realms, populated by those who didn’t appreciate the Karmic consequences of their actions and intentions in former lives. Yet Snelling, like many Westerners, finds the ‘reality’ of hell realms difficult to accept, according to either faith or reason, and so begins a hermeneutic process of metaphorisation, individualisation and psychologisation ..." 

       *** Snelling J. The Buddhist Handbook: A Complete Guide to Buddhist Teaching and Practice. Rider Books, London, 1993.

       Cohen E. From the Bodhi tree, to the analyst’s couch, then into the MRI scanner: the psychologisation of Buddhism. Annual Review of Critical Psychology
2010; 8: 97–119.


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