The Influence of Romanticism

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu

The Influence of Romanticism

Many Westerners, when new to Buddhism, are struck by the uncanny familiarity of what seems to be its central concepts: interconnectedness, wholeness, spontaneity, ego-transcendence, non-judgmentalism, and integration of the personality.

They tend not to realize that the concepts sound familiar because they are familiar. To a large extent, they come not from the Buddha’s teachings but from their hidden roots in Western culture: the thought of the early German Romantics.

If the influence of early Romanticism on modern Buddhism went no further than a few isolated concepts, it would not be much of a problem—simply a matter of mapping familiar Western terms onto unfamiliar Buddhist terms so that Buddhist concepts would make intuitive sense to people with a Western background.

The only issue would be determining whether the terms were properly applied, and tweaking any that were off the mark. And it might be argued that fitting Romantic concepts into a Buddhist framework automatically changes those concepts in a Buddhist direction.

But the situation is the other way around. The influence of Romanticism on modern Buddhism has penetrated through the surface and into the bone, shaping not only isolated concepts but also the underlying structures of thought from which those concepts take their meaning.

In other words, Romanticism has provided the framework into which Buddhist concepts have been placed, reshaping those concepts toward Romantic ends.

When we compare the Dhamma—the teachings of the Buddha—to the religious thought of the early Romantics, we see that they differ radically on a structural level in how they define all the important questions concerning the purpose of religion, the nature of the basic spiritual problem, the cure to that problem, how the cure can be effected, and the effect of that cure on the person cured.

This reflection by Ajaan Geoff is from the Treatises book, Buddhist Romanticism, “Questioning Buddhist Romanticism.”

To Begin Like Children

Ajahn Liem

To Begin Like Children

Since you have come to ask for forgiveness, I don’t want to speak about issues from the past, as these are things that lie behind us. Actually there isn’t much to settle between us in this ceremony of asking for forgiveness anyway. Still, a ceremony like this is useful on the level of your personal practice. It affects the attitudes that you maintain and carry along throughout the training of your…

Learn to Listen and Trust

Ajahn Sumedho

Learn to Listen and Trust

So awakeness, then, is learning to listen and trust in the most simple state of being. It’s not jhāna or absorption in anything. It’s pure attention. So if you trust in this purity, there is no fault in it. There are no faults in purity, are there? It’s perfect. There’s no impurity. This is where to trust, in this attentiveness to the present. Once you try to find it, then you start going into do…

Meditation Is a Skill

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu

Meditation Is a Skill

…Meditation is a skill, and mastering it should be enjoyable in the same way that mastering any other rewarding skill can be. The Buddha said as much to his son, Rāhula: “When you see that you’ve acted, spoken, or thought in a skillful way—conducive to happiness while causing no harm to yourself or others—take joy in that fact, and keep on training.” Of course, saying that meditation should be enj…

Balance: Proactive and Relaxation

Ajahn Sucitto

Balance: Proactive and Relaxation

In practice, there needs to be balance between proactive applications and relaxation. The proactive applications consist of creating something or placing the mind onto an object such as body or breathing. You can do that by lifting your attention with a thought: ‘Where is the body now? … Where is the breath now? … What is breathing out like now?’ You deliberately bring that thought up. That’s why…

Responsive, Adaptable, Peaceful

Ajahn Amaro

Responsive, Adaptable, Peaceful

So to be accepting of the way things are does not mean to be passive. It doesn’t mean being numb or uncaring, or to be violent just because such a feeling arises. Rather it is a total caring, but a caring not based on self-view. A caring that is not neurotic or idealistic. It is a caring based on attunement. The hand doesn’t have to decide about whether it cares about your ankle. If you’ve twisted…

Questions

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu

Questions

At the same time, I began noticing discussions on the topic of questions in non-Buddhist sources as well. Two passages in particular underlined its importance. One was a story told by a man born in New York whose parents had been immigrants from Eastern Europe. They had placed great importance on his education, and his mother would ask him every day after school, not what he had learned that day,…

Thinking, Itself, Is Not the Problem

Ajahn Amaro

Thinking, Itself, Is Not the Problem

In Buddhist meditation circles conceptual thought tends to get the same rap as the ego. It is perceived as something bad, something that we don’t want or that needs to be eliminated. And it’s no wonder. Thinking can feel like a great burden. In our efforts to meditate we see how unruly the mind can be. It charges off here and there and everywhere chattering away insanely – all day and night. And b…

Letting Go Happens in the Recognition

Ajahn Munindo

Letting Go Happens in the Recognition

When we don’t have enough clarity and calm, we easily fall prey to misperceiving that which is in front of us. We attempt to find security within that which is insecure. We try to find stability within that which is unstable. On one occasion early in my monastic training, when I was caught up even more than usual in doubt and despair, I went to see Ajahn Chah, hoping he might help relieve me of my…

Two Levels of Nibbāna

Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu

Two Levels of Nibbāna

Any discussion of the way the Buddha used the term nibbāna must begin with the distinction that there are two levels of nibbāna (or, to use the original terminology, two nibbāna properties). The first is the nibbāna experienced by a person who has attained the goal and is still alive. This is described metaphorically as the extinguishing of passion, aversion, & delusion. The second is the nibbāna…