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Buddhadharma : Summer 2018
82 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY The second is a claim that the modernized form actually repre- sents the original teachings of the founder, Shakyamuni Buddha. This approach claims the authority of select texts from the Pali canon, often texts selected because they accord with a modern interpreter’s own preexisting views. Even in instances where there is careful scholarship employed to identify the earliest strata of textual sources, there arises a second problem of interpretation. Texts do not exist in some realm of timeless truth. They are always located, both in their creation and in their contemporary interpreta- tion. Treating a text as if it can simply be abstracted out of its social and cultural context is, in fact, to strip it of its full original mean- ing; treating it as if we can simply locate it in relation to our own contemporary concerns imposes our own meanings onto it. While fundamentalists—whether Biblical or Buddhist—assert that a naive, uninformed reading of a religious text is the best means of reveal- ing its meaning, such a reading only unreflectively locates our own meanings into the text. the thought–aCtion diChotomy The distinction between meditation and ritual also plays on the dis- tinction between internal and experiential contrasted with external and physical, what has been called the thought–action dichotomy. In Western society, the dichotomy between thought and action gives primacy to thought over action, making thought determinative of action. The celebration of self-directed choice as responsible action, and the emphasis in much of popular Buddhism on using meditation to improve self-control, illustrate this conception of the primacy of the mental. Jonathan Z. Smith, noted scholar of religious studies, has pointed out the ways in which pairs of opposites used to describe religion come to be matched with one another. For the relationship between The predominant view of ritual and meditation as mutually exclusive is not grounded in reality; it is an historical construction that grew out of a specific time and place.