I don't know if I'll cross paths with anyone who has interests compatible to my own through this forum (the odds are low, but it seems worthwhile to make the effort anyway).

• Is there anyone in the group who has studied one or more Asian languages?

• Is there anyone here who has worked on Buddhist primary sources?

To be blunt, a great many of the "white Buddhists" whom I speak to consider themselves to be skeptical, but, in fact, they're uncritically taking on board a lot of fiction, pseudo-history, pseudo-science and outright lies that are now circulating in/as westernized Buddhism (partly just because they rely on dubious secondary sources).

I don't take a harsh or castigating attitude toward these people (I'm aware of how extremely difficult it is to find secondary sources that don't distort and misrepresent the primary sources) …however, they often take a very harsh and castigating attitude toward me.

To use a comparison to Christianity, I am very often put in the position of being the only person in the room who has read the bible --and yet, of course, everyone in the same room has strongly-held convictions about that same bible (whatever the source of those convictions may have been).

Although I realize that I'm effectively introducing myself to the group by alienating 99% of the people whom I could potentially meet here, the trouble is that debate about the historical reality of Buddhism takes place on a very unequal footing (and self-identified Skeptics should be sensitive to this) simply because very few people have access to the primary source texts --and very few people have an education that allows them to really distinguish between the different categories of texts that are employed as evidence (and, yes, differences between "categories" involve differences between continents --and differences of many centuries, sometimes exceeding 1000 years).

There are many reflections on this in both the informal articles on my blog, and in my more formal peer-reviewed articles, lectures, etc., that are floating around the internet.

I suppose I'll provide links to two examples that are somewhat off-topic just as I'm introducing myself to the group.

In this first article, dealing primarily with vegetarianism, but, in fact, largely devoted to the question of how we (presume we) know anything about doctrinal Buddhism, I would encourage lazy readers to just take a glance at the illustrations, as these are evocative of the problem as a whole, and can be read in seconds rather than hours (one of them presents a schematic overview of how the texts do and don't "fit together" even within the Theravāda canon):


A second example (that will be shocking to some) debunks many widespread assumptions about the doctrine of "interdependence" in Buddhist philosophy (that is not so mysterious as modern, western authors pretend it to be):


It is really not possible to be a skeptic, if the source of your knowledge about something is the inferential comparison of something unknown to something else unknown.


Tags: Buddhism, Skepticism

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