Viewpoint diversity within engaged Buddhism

A discussion on all aspects of Engaged Buddhism
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Leeuwenhoek
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Viewpoint diversity within engaged Buddhism

Post by Leeuwenhoek » Sat Oct 27, 2018 10:34 pm

[Split from viewtopic.php?f=21&t=272&start=20#p3373, Letting Go ... ]
Kim O'Hara wrote:
Sat Oct 20, 2018 5:22 am
Leeuwenhoek wrote:
Sat Oct 20, 2018 3:18 am
I hope we can agree that compared to the general population that among western Buddhists, especially "convert Buddhists", there is a significant tilt to one end of the political spectrum. ...
I agree - there is.
The difference between us is that I see it as a feature (a natural outcome of engagement with the dharma), you see it as a bug, a fault, a mistake.
I think the difference between us is different than you describe. My focus has not been on the particular direction of the tilt but rather what we do next. In the same paragraph you quoted above I wrote "In context of our western mindfulness about diversity and the Buddha's evident appreciation of diversity it seems remarkable that engaged Buddhist's aren't more concerned about viewpoint diversity." These comments are relevant regardless of the ideological distribution of political ideologies. Furthermore, some tendencies toward bias, illusion and attachment become more acute in the face of a political monoculture.

Ideological frameworks, including political orientation, powerfully inform the assumptions engaged Buddhists make, the questions they ask, the outcomes they value, and the way they interpret their data and their world. When dialogs and communities/sangha's don’t include ideologically diverse voices and don’t engage seriously with dissenting ideas, everyone misses the opportunity for their thinking to be challenged. They don’t get the chance to figure out which ideas hold up within the crucible of open inquiry. Biases go unchecked. Critical thinking tends to be lost.

Without intentional viewpoint diversity communities, organizational dialogs, learning spaces and reflection tend to be become self-affirming echo chambers in which ideological validation displaces critical inquiry. These ideas are not new to citizens in the west but they rarely implement themselves without specific intention and awareness. I list some ideas below about how this perspective might manifest in a engaged Buddhist community.

The thread "Which political ideology is more aligned with practice of Dhamma?" raises a import, perhaps one the most important, questions in engaged Buddhism. I have proposed my views on what might be called "right engagement". In the spirit of the dharma I suggest some ideas (modern precepts for engaged Buddhism if you will) that should tend to lead practitioners away from illusion and toward liberation. I assert that no matter how one answers the question of which political ideology is more aligned with practice of Dhamma roughly the same set of values and practices are needed to support us on the path.
In particular I recommend:
  • the precepts of a Buddhist view on diversity
  • The value of a Transpartisan understanding
  • Support of honest brokers of information and policy option within the community
  • Appreciation of the differences between honest brokers and issue advocacy.
I assert that the political tilt among western Buddhists is the result of cultural and social factors, causes and conditions, engagement with the dharma, as well as personality traits. A lesson I take from Buddhist history is the influence of local culture on how Buddhism is adopted, (and adapted) and interpreted in each society. Culture frames understanding. One's cultural background almost certainly frames the lens through which interpret, understand, and "engage" with the dharma. Engagement with the dharma also brings with it an engagement with one's culture and personal biases. Thus there are other factors which tend toward's illusion and taints in our engaged Buddhist views. What I call a transpartisan understanding is a practice that challenges our views in a manner that parallels the teaching on the Four Noble Truths.

What's particularly odd is that most western Buddhists (and most of western culture) would recoil from the idea that a racist belief is a feature, a natural outcome of engagement with a religion teaching or science. Buddhism valorizes right view and right action so it seems that Buddhists from a western culture would naturally valorize a awareness and appreciation of how cultural influences might similarly taint our understanding of the political implications of the dharma.


"right engagement" - viewtopic.php?p=3345#p3254
Last edited by Leeuwenhoek on Sat Oct 27, 2018 11:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Leeuwenhoek
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Re: Letting Go vs Engaged Buddhism, please explain it to me

Post by Leeuwenhoek » Sat Oct 27, 2018 11:00 pm

To continue with some ideas from my last post let me share some psychology-based views designed to foster intellectual humility, empathy, and mutual understanding across a variety of differences.

In a politically polarized climate, it often seems easier to avoid "the other side" entirely. We're going to explore three reasons why engaging with diverse perspectives can be beneficial, even if it's doesn't always seem pleasant at first.
  • The first benefit of speaking to people you disagree with is that it helps you uncover things you can't see by yourself. We all have limitations (blindspots) to what we can see from our particular perspectives.
  • The second benefit is that it helps you make wiser decisions and new discoveries. The Bay of Pigs fiasco highlights why simply adding more people to a group doesn't necessarily lead to good decision-making.

    Groups run the risk of falling prey to groupthink. You need a diversity of perspectives among the members of the group, as well as the right conditions to lead to wise decision-making.
  • The third benefit is that engaging with diverse perspectives is the cornerstone of a democracy. Democracy relies upon us not only living together peacefully, but also engaging with one another.
Despite these benefits, at times engaging with diverse perspectives and having your views challenged can be frustrating and uncomfortable. The science of learning helps us understand why this is the case.
[*]There are two types of learning that complement one another:
Assimilation is when we encounter new information that we are able to fit it into our pre-existing mental structures.
Accommodation is when we encounter new information that doesn't fit.
It takes extra effort (and sometimes discomfort) to accommodate new information by changing our existing mental structures. The Buddha's insight was that suffering could be reduced or eliminated by changing our existing mental structures.
This process is an essential part of growth and learning[/list]

In order to prevent our certainty from blinding us to other ideas, we must develop intellectual humility. This helps us become wiser by allowing us to recognize the limits of our knowledge.
Those with a growth mindset believe that wisdom can develop, which makes it easier for them to learn and grow because they relish accepting new challenges.
There are three methods of injecting more growth into your mindset:
  • Acknowledge that your abilities are fluid
  • View each mistake as a learning opportunity
  • Challenge yourself to do things you haven't already mastered
We all live within a moral matrix (Like in the movie The Matrix). This is a consensual hallucination that we believe represents objective reality. Many different moral communities exist, each with its own set of shared values, and each convinced that its group alone sees truth as it really is.
The moral mind is like a tongue with different taste receptors. We all share these same foundations, but we build upon them in different ways to create our own moral matrices. Many disagreements can be attributed to the application of different moral foundations. There are also cases when different people apply the same moral foundation in different ways. This can lead persons motivated by compassion and wisdom to seek different ways of manifesting those intentions in society.

We can break free of our moral matrices by learning to identify the moral foundations that we and others use to reach our conclusions.

We can engage in constructive disagreement by seeking to learn, rather than to be right. The key to constructive disagreements is
mastering the language of automatic, intuitive thinking. Our minds have be described as a small human rider sitting on top of an elephant. The rider represents our slow, conscious reasoning. The elephant represents all of the automatic, intuitive processes that occur rapidly and often outside of our conscious awareness. These parts can sometimes conflict. In this analogy both the monkey mind and the buddha mind can arise from the elephant.

While we think that our rider (conscious reasoning) is in control, it's often actually our elephant that holds the power.
• This division often causes us to fall prey to post hoc reasoning, the process in which our elephant makes a snap judgment, and our rider works to justify it.
• A common form of post hoc reasoning is when we seek or interpret information in a way that confirms our preexisting beliefs, which is called confirmation bias.
• Our reasoning becomes even less reliable when we are motivated to reach a particular conclusion, especially when a moral issue is at stake. This can lead to motivated reasoning.
• As a result, it can be difficult to convince other people to change their minds, especially on moral issues—because their brains, just like ours, are wired in these ways.

Sometimes, our automatic thoughts (generated by our elephants) aren't accurate, and these cognitive distortions can cause negative
feelings. Our riders can rein in our elephants by examining our initial thoughts, and—over time—training them to be more accurate.

We can also hone our ability to communicate effectively with other people by focusing on their elephants. For instance, we can:
  • respect their elephants (don't criticize people or make them feel stupid)
  • understand their elephants (learn about what other people care about and why)
  • appeal to their elephants (convey your thoughts in a language that will resonate with them).

Adapted from:
https://openmindplatform.org/content-summary
https://openmindplatform.org/content/

Leeuwenhoek
Posts: 167
Joined: Wed Jun 06, 2018 4:18 am

Re: Letting Go vs Engaged Buddhism, please explain it to me

Post by Leeuwenhoek » Sun Oct 28, 2018 8:39 pm

fwiw wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 3:20 am
[Mod note: This post refers to the first two posts in Viewpoint diversity within engaged Buddhism, viewtopic.php?f=21&t=293]


I have not read all of the above but just enough to remain with the impression that the point our interlocutor wants to make is that there would a "political monoculture" in engaged Buddhism, so I assume on DWE too. This is far from being true.

It's okay to be a minority and think differently. Sometimes it's because you're right and they are all wrong, sometimes it's because you are wrong and they are all right.
The interlocutor in question (me) finds the first statement confusing. Did fwiw mean to write: "there IS a "political monoculture" in engaged Buddhism"?
The only prior use of the word "monoculture" in this website was in this context of what I see as the rightful place of diversity:
My focus has not been on the particular direction of the tilt but rather what we do next. ...
... These comments are relevant regardless of the ideological distribution of political ideologies. Furthermore, some tendencies toward bias, illusion and attachment become more acute in the face of a political monoculture.
Monoculture or diverse culture, each in it's way has a need for a constructive diversity. I think both the dharma and western civic culture has insights on how hearing a diversity of views can make us stronger, wiser and more compassionate. That idea may be heard as almost trite. But it rarely comes "naturally" or on it's own without wisdom and intentional action.



The available evidence does consistently indicate a political left-ward tilt among western "convert" Buddhists. In polls conducted in the west of self-identified Buddhists, relative the to general population Buddhist relatively rarely self-identify as right wing or conservative. There is a large group that self identify as moderate or centrist.
fwiw wrote:
Sun Oct 28, 2018 3:20 am
It's okay to be a minority and think differently. Sometimes it's because you're right and they are all wrong, sometimes it's because you are wrong and they are all right.
Which I hear as a argument for encouraging and seeking a multi-viewpoint, trans-partisan understanding.

***
"interlocutor" - useful word.

Leeuwenhoek
Posts: 167
Joined: Wed Jun 06, 2018 4:18 am

Discourse Cultures & Conversations for Wisdom

Post by Leeuwenhoek » Tue Oct 30, 2018 6:34 pm

I am particularly aware of issues of viewpoint diversity within engaged Buddhism circles because these issues also exist in the culture.
Thus a leading scholar writes:
Climate pragmatism also challenges the bunker mentality among climate advocates that is highly resistant to legitimate criticism or alternative ideas. As communication scholar Matt Nisbet has argued, “The result [of such a mentality] is a discourse culture that substantially reduces opportunities for developing effective policy and technology approaches on climate change that broker support among not only liberals, but also moderates and conservatives.”
-- https://mikehulme.org/against-climate-emergency/
I believe that modern precepts such as a seeking a politically transpartisan understanding and support for honest brokers supports a discourse culture that substantially increases opportunities for engaged Buddhists to develop effective policy and technology approaches. Indeed I believe such a discourse culture is very much in line with the Buddha-dharma.

Bio: Mike Hulme
Member of the Climatic Research Unit, University of East Anglia (1988-2000) and then the founding Director (2000-2007) of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.
Head of Department, Department of Geography at King’s College London (2013-2017).
Currently Professor of Human Geography in the Department of Geography at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Pembroke College.
Thomson Reuters reports Mike Hulme as the 10th most cited author in the world in the field of climate change, between 1999 and 2009.
My work explores the idea of climate change using historical, cultural and scientific analyses, seeking to illuminate the numerous ways in which climate change is deployed in public and political discourse. I believe it is important to understand and describe the varied ideological, political and ethical work that the idea of climate change is currently performing across different social worlds.

My research interests are therefore concerned with representations of climate change in history, culture and media; with the relationship between climate and society, including climate engineering and adaptation; with how knowledge of climate change is constructed (especially through the IPCC); and with the interactions between climate change knowledge and policy. I welcome approaches from graduate students seeking to study for a PhD in any of these areas in either the social sciences or the arts and humanities.
-- https://mikehulme.org/about-me/

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Viewpoint diversity within engaged Buddhism

Post by Kim O'Hara » Sat Nov 03, 2018 9:51 pm

Seems appropriate here ...
:namaste:
Kim
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fwiw
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Re: Viewpoint diversity within engaged Buddhism

Post by fwiw » Sun Nov 04, 2018 3:12 am

I am not sure a Buddhist would describe enlightenment as not knowing
... just my opinion, for what it's worth

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Viewpoint diversity within engaged Buddhism

Post by Kim O'Hara » Sun Nov 04, 2018 10:00 am

I'm reasonably sure most Buddhists would not describe enlightenment as 'not knowing'. The earlier part, about letting go of attachment to all paradigms, was what really caught my eye, and I think it's closer to a Buddhist view.

:coffee:
Kim

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