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I have a sneaking suspicion that many of my friends are secretly Buddhist Fundamentalists; are you?
Bill Schwartz's profile photoJ. Hancock's profile photoJ. Brian “The Old Man” Waddington's profile photoJason Barton's profile photo
I really don't know if I am. I do know that because of my ignorance I will never read the earliest texts as they were written. Nor will I truly understand the world that Buddha lived in that shaped his understandings and teachings.

I do know that I have tried to keep it simple cause I am stupid.
My thanks to you too +Jason Barton. I've listened to and enjoy John Peacock's lectures several times. I think a bit of what he's doing is reshaping the Buddha in his own image, as Batchelor does as well. But I far prefer that to many other approaches to early Buddhism :)  +Bill Schwartz, perhaps you could elaborate on that? (keeping in mind that we all may have different definitions of 'Buddhism' to begin with...)
Thanks for that, +Bill Schwartz. Pretty impressive for a cell-phone post. I can barely do a 3-word text on mine... But anyhow. The key points here are our understandings of 'hermeneutics' and 'Buddhism'. The first I would define as simply the process of finding/making meaning. So a bunch of people sat around talking about a teacher's earlier talk can be hermeneutics; if they're trying to determine the meaning of the teacher and his talk. If they do this via text messages or blogs or books, it's still the same process, just on a different medium. You seem to suggest that once the message goes into writing, it's no longer 'Buddhism' - which I find extremely confusing. Tibetans (your tradition) love their books - the read them, write them, and teach from them, and all of this is, by my definition, part of 'Buddhism'. Your specific lineage prides itself on being the 'oral' one, but even kagyupa lamas write books (and I don't imagine any of them writing at the front of the book, "this is just hermeneutics, it's not Buddhism").
+Justin Whitaker The history of Buddhist texts in Tibetan Buddhism is a function of royal patronage. They legitimized the status quo. The ability to translate Indian texts into Tibetan and print them validated not only the means of a text's production, monks and their monasteries, but the families whom underwrote them.

Texts are important to us. Like the finger pointing to the moon though they are a mere convenience at best. There is no substitute for the awareness that after the sun goes down and there is still light that the light has to come from somewhere.

Hermenuetucs is a scholarly pursuit and has nothing to do with what Buddhists do in practice. A Buddhist does not contemplate the meaning of words, whether printed or put in their ear by another Buddhist. What we contemplate is their truth, for ourselves. To do so is what we call practice. This is Buddhism. What you have written about is not,
not a Fundamentalist here.  eclectic fits.

my take on buddhism is that it's wisdom that I distill in order to be a better person.   non-philosophical readings/ learnings/ experiences contribute to that as well. 

I have no flair for, or interest in, rituals.

I often say I lean towards buddhism, but not enough to lose my balance.  =]
Your definition of Buddhism, +Bill Schwartz , is valid but one-sided.
Many people focus on precepts or on rules, they focus on a Practice of Virtue and, for them, rules and words are important: they're a way to get out of the ego (as in "I don't like this interpretation, let's interpret differently").

Not everybody who is on the Path is at the `Perfection of Wisdom' stage (be it `not yet,' `not anymore,' or `temporarily not').
+Denis Wallez Do the precepts as reduced to writing predate what was written?

Obviously, they do.

Ours is an oral transmission.

When one receives the precepts from a preceptor how are they received?

The spoken word.

There is no substitute for the flesh and blood experirnce of having the spoken word put in your ear by another Buddhist.

This is how it is.

This is how it always will be for Buddhists.
Clinging to "oral transmission" is like any other clinging… I believe most traditions acknowledge the possibility of Pratyekabuddha, which would show that most traditions do not limit Awakening to oral transmission (or even any transmission!).

Impermanence applies to Buddhists too: there is nothing to justify that "it always will be" a particular way. 

Regarding your argument "If the Buddha wanted to reduce what he taught to writing one would think he would have, given all his other abilities," +Bill Schwartz , one could argue he did:
Writing does not matter so much, what matters is reliable preservation and transmission (which writing is a good tool for, but not the only tool…). By organising a saṃgha a lot more than any other Śramaṇa, the Buddha did organise preservation and transmission. His agenda seemed quite clearly to have been about spreading and preserving the teachings. And if one relies on oral-based preservation, one needs a stable and large community [it takes a lot of time to learn sutras "by heart" if one cannot use a written version to memorise them, and so for transmission one needs regular meetings —rainy seasons,— over many years, and a large community so that each monk only has to memorise a small amount for posterity]. We know the saṃgha was divided in Sūtras-holders and Vinaya-holders, and that the Sūtras-holders each memorised only a few sūtras (not the whole collection: DN, MN, AN, etc.).
+Denis Wallez Did the Buddha reduce his instructions to his followers to written teachings?

No he did not.

Did Buddha have an agenda?

No he did not.

I rest my case,
Did the Buddha teach in English? Or in Tibetan? 

He did not.

Things change. So does 'Buddhism'. Right?
after weeks of G+'s posts being politically polarized, now we come to religious polarization.  oh, wait, no, that can't be right, because this is about Buddhism, right?  right.

in my experience this is exactly why Buddhism struggles to get accepted in North America.  as soon as one starts looking into Buddhism, one if directed/ pressured into choosing a 'sect'.  most of the seekers I have met, when we start delving into Buddhist thinking, are anticipating that Buddhism is about the exact opposite.  it's interesting to discover that Buddhism is just as rife with sects and denominations as any other religion.

which is why I adhere more to "Don't try to use what you learn from Buddhism to be a Buddhist; use it to be a better person."
+Justin Whitaker Was your last comment for me?

My argument is that instruction reduced to words is not sufficient.

What my root guru, His Holiness the 16th Karmapa, and my Vajra Master, Khenpo Karthar transmitted to me, their flesh and blood, is not reducible to words.


Thirty years from now the words that so preoccupy you today will be but a memory.

What will matter to you will be the flesh and blood that was transmitted to you.

+Bill Schwartz, yes it was for you. I don't think anyone is saying that the "instruction reduced to words is sufficient." So I'm not sure why you're arguing that it is not. And indeed, part of what Peacock discusses in the video is the importance of ethics - something too often lost by contemporary Westerners. Ethics, which is flesh and blood, if anything is, are at the core of those early teachings and yet lost in so much of what is found in Buddhism today.  
+Justin Whitaker Ethics is a matter of principle. Ethics is the study of how what we do is rarely what we should do. It is not Buddhism.
Oral and written are ways we actualize. Even no words at all we can actualize (Ananda and the Zen traditions) The Thagatha was grossly misunderstood and misquoted frequently even during his own time. While I don't believe he would've liked his teachings to be cannonized I can't disregard the fruits of the texts. Whether or not I take the Tipitaka with a grain of salt, I can't deny the transmission of Mahasi Sayadaw 
seems to me that this discussion is happening on more than one level. (1) can we trust the teachings, (2) what is necessary to be Buddhist, (3) how does one develop the needed skills without following one or another tradition?

Is not part of the reality that we are walking a path of constant contradiction?

Buddha taught that trust was earned not demanded and that we should question everything and yet if we do not trust we will never start

There is very little needed to actually be a Buddhist if you understand that means that a Buddhist is simply on the path. There is a great deal needed if you believe that it takes a solid grounding in his teachings that stretched over @ 40 years. 

To paraphrase an old monk it is great that there are multiple faiths and traditions in the world but to make spiritual progress it is usually best to stay on one path.
I believe that limiting yourself to one tradition rules out necessary investigation, the Buddha tried all sorts of ascetic practices until he carved his niche. 
You wouldn't limit yourself to only seeing the blades of grass, while the dirt and rocks are there too. 
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