23rd Precept. Receiving Precepts Independently

After my passing, if a disciple should, with a wholesome mind, wish to receive the Bodhisattva precepts, he may make a vow to do so before the images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and practice repentance before these images for seven days. If he then experiences a vision, he has received the precepts. If he does not, he should continue doing so for fourteen days, twenty-one days, or even a whole year, seeking to witness an auspicious sign. After witnessing such a sign, he could, in front of images of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, formally receive the precepts. If he has not witnessed such a sign, although he may have accepted the precepts before the Buddha images, he has not actually received the precepts.

However, the witnessing of auspicious signs is not necessary if the disciple receives the precepts directly from a Dharma Master who has himself received the precepts. …

If, within a radius of some three hundred fifty miles, a disciple cannot find a Master capable of conferring the Bodhisattva precepts, he may seek to receive them in front of Buddha or Bodhisattva images. However, he must witness an auspicious sign.

Steps to independently take the precepts
1- Determine if there is a Master within 150 miles.
2- Be before an image of the Buddha.
3- Make vows.
4- Repent.
5- Observe a sign.

What if there is a Precepts Master, but you don’t qualify? What if there is, but some other problem gets in the way?

What sort of image?

What sort of vows? Is this just referring to the BNS vows?

What sort of repentance?

Has anyone ever seen a sign and what did it look like? Is this pure magic or is there a naturalistic or symbolic interpretation and if there is, is it interesting?

Demythologizing Buddhism- Options

So is there a better way to remove the myth? What are the options?

1) Stick to history. Demythologizing is about keeping it real. History is pretty real. The history, though, has been tampered with. And limiting yourself to just the pali cannon is a type of fundamentalism that you wouldn’t expect to see among the sort of people who would reject myth.

2) Re-map existing models. For example, we could take something missing in Buddhism, like a progressive view on economics. As far as a I could tell, the Buddha didn’t think much about economics, not in Adam Smith style nor Marx style. So if the myth is missing economics, we could map concepts from Marx or Adam Smith onto ancient myths. But this is all rather cumbersome. The historical Buddha didn’t think much about economics other than he realized that there was a way for the sangha to exist if part of the economic became a gift economy (dana for merit). He didn’t *really* have anything to say about free markets or alienation or exploitation or capital. Maybe it would make more sense to just have a copy of your favorite economists works next to your sutras.

3) Make new myths. I think this is the best option of all, but who wants to be the first to consciously put new words into the mouth of the Buddha? I saw a lecture where a scholar said some of the Mahayana writers said they got their material from meditative visions. A demythologizing author, would probably have to just fess up to writing fiction.

4) Salvage. Keep the myths more or less the same, but remove the junk. Like removing the sexist vow from the Medicine Buddha’s 10 vows or replacing it with one that isn’t so misogynistic.

Sine qua non and Fundamental Questions

Why Buddhism at all?
As far as things without an essence go, what is the essence and sine qua non of Buddhism?

These are related– if not Buddhism, what else? Maybe Hegel or romance novels or pints of ice cream? And what are the parts of Buddhism that Hegel, romance novels and pints of ice cream can’t deliver?

0) It’s a club. A party of just me isn’t much fun for me.
1) Critical mass. A religion of 1 isn’t especially impactful on the world.
2) It isn’t an Abrahamic Religion or the progeny of medieval scholastics. While maybe has more god, gods, and soul than I’d like, it is relatively devoid of Abrahamic religious doctrine and polar reactions against it. Instead, it has it’s own peculiar admixtures: Zoroastrianism and Hinduism, which both are far less likely to be a problem for a convert like myself, since Zoroastrianism and Hinduism never were a substantial influence on me in the first place.
3) Of the religions with critical mass, it’s the only one that can be followed non-devotionally in a practice oriented way and has within it the mechanisms for independence–from institutions. Pratekyabuddha’s for the win!

0,1 can’t be delivered by ice cream or Hegel.

Buddhism’s sine qua nons- are a bit of non yet supported conclusions and premises with unworked-out consequences. The Mahayana Buddhists have a mean ahimsa & vegetarian & animal rights streak– the right conclusions. The pali texts have the right premise– the naive self isn’t what we think it is, it’s this eddy in a stream, a collective conscious, a thing that is hard to summarize… and harder to figure out what the consequences are.

And that is the starting point we have to practice with. We practice until we are dead. And then the project is carried on by the living. Until we are all at peace with being alive.

Anyhow, heterodox relative to institutional Buddhism, but still recognizable Buddhism.