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Buddhadharma : Fall 2014
FALL 2014 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 67 like Tao, the state of nirvana, a deity, or some ethical principle or ritual practice. He distinguishes between views and atti- tudes, such that, for example, a Christian may take an exclusivist stance toward the ideas and practices of Buddhists while still remaining in friendly and informative dia- logue with them. More importantly, Vélez de Cea adds a fourth category to the usual three: plural- istic-inclusivism. This category acknowl- edges that some religions may express the same fundamental concepts and values as one’s own religion but in different terms. Therefore, this view does not ultimately subordinate other religions. Instead, it says, “I’m okay and you are too—if, despite our surface differences, we agree on the essentials.” The possibility of pluralistic-inclusiv- ism is crucial to Vélez de Cea’s analysis of the Buddha’s view of religious diversity. There is, he suggests, an important distinc- tion between the views of many Buddhists, both past and present, and that of the Bud- dha himself. Historically, most Buddhists have been either exclusivists—claiming that Buddhism alone is the key to the high- est attainment while other traditions are dead ends—or inclusivists, acknowledging that other religions are conducive to the highest attainment but only if, in the end, they are subsumed under Buddhism. He categorizes two important contemporary Buddhist thinkers, Bhikkhu Bodhi and the Fourteenth Dalai Lama, as “inclusivistic- exclusivists” who combine an exclusivist view of other religions—in which full lib- eration is properly attained only through one or another version of Buddhism— “with a genuine inclusivistic attitude that accepts and respects elements of truth and goodness found in other traditions.” Whatever the views and attitudes of most Buddhists, Vélez de Cea argues, the Buddha himself was not an exclusiv- ist, inclusivist, or a pluralist but rather a pluralistic-inclusivist who had a firm sense of the elements of the dharma that were nonnegotiable—for instance, the four noble truths, the eightfold path, dependent origination, the four types of accomplished ascetics (streamwinner, once-returner, non-returner, arahant), and nirvana— but remained open to the possibility that those elements might be found in tradi- tions other than his own, either during his lifetime or afterward. In other words, the Buddha was willing to acknowledge the validity of other traditions, so long as they incorporated in some way the ideas and practices that have come to be associated with buddhadharma. Vélez de Cea builds his case on the basis of selected passages from the sut- tas of the Pali canon (the Mahayana is beyond his purview). Drawing on his expertise in Pali and his familiarity with both classic and modern Theravada com- mentaries, he painstakingly explores the interreligious implications of a number of key texts, including the Satipatthana Sutta (Discourse on the Foundations of Mindfulness), Kalama Sutta (Discourse to the Kalamas), and Mahaparinibbana Sutta (Discourse on the Great Decease). It is impossible to trace the details of his complex and nuanced argument in a brief review. Instead, I will simply outline three of his most important claims. First, he says, despite criticizing other teachers and doctrines, the Buddha never explicitly states that liberation is to be found solely through him and his dharma. He remarks on a number of occasions that he approves only of that “teaching-and- discipline” in which, for example, the eightfold noble path and the four types of accomplished ascetics are found. But in Vélez de Cea’s reading—very different from that of orthodox Theravadins—these statements do not preclude such a path or such ascetics being found outside the Bud- dha’s dispensation. Indeed, because the Buddha states elsewhere that the truth is the truth regardless of whether buddhas teach it or not, it is possible that those outside the sangha might discover it on their own and articulate it in their own non-Buddhist way. REVIEWS The Perfect Retreat Nestled at 1500’ in the Green Mountains of Vermont lies a 5000 sq ft architecturally designed passive solar estate, with living roof, great room, yoga/meditation room, extensive perennial fower gardens, slate patio and stone walkways. Surrounded by 100 acres with swimming ponds waterfalls, hiking trails and incredible mountain views. A perfect retreat setting for groups or organizations. ofered at $1,200,000 http://bit.ly/mtn1234 For a video tour and contact info visit Supporting your spiritual practice The Monastery Store tm If you think pain in meditation is plain unnecessary, we have just the cushion for you. Different cushions. Different needs. *Made in the US exclusively for the Monastery Store THE MOUNTAIN SEAT* Memory foam Buckwheat hulls Donate your old meditation cushions dharma.net/monstore • 845.688.7993