I’m not a true Scotsman/Buddhist

I enjoy The Zennist for his commentary on the Pali cannon. He certainly knows his stuff, and I’m starting to learn a bit from his blog as well. However, his latest post “On Being a real Buddhist” really kind of pissed me off. I appreciate opinion, and I expect it when reading a personal blog. But to say something like “Less than this is not real Buddhism nor are its practitioners, I dare say, real Buddhists.” and you’ve really crossed a line.

First, please dont’ try to tell others how authentic or ‘real’ their practice is. It’s insulting, and it is divisive (wrong speech). You’re sounding more and more like a Church-of Christ/christian apologetics “I’m holier than thou” types.

Second, you’ve commited a logical fallacy. It is commonly referred to the “not a true Scotsman” fallacy and it works like this:

If Adam, a Buddhist, does not believe in the “immortal-element”, is proposed as a counter-example to the claim “No Buddhist denies the immortal-element”, the ‘No true Scotsman’ fallacy would run as follows:

(1) Adam doesn’t believe in the immortal-element.
(2) No (true) Buddhist denies the existence of the immortal-element.
(3) Adam is not a (true) Buddhist.
(4) Adam is not a counter-example to the claim that no Buddhist denies the existence of the immortal-element.

This fallacy is a form of circular argument, with an existing belief being assumed to be true in order to dismiss any apparent counter-examples to it. The existing belief thus becomes unfalsifiable. Also, by what guidelines do you define a “true” or “authentic” Buddhist? And, who the hell are you to judge?

We don’t need anymore Dharma Police on the block Zennist. Your insight into the Pali Cannon could be put to better use than to belittle others, create divisions, and prattle on about how we in the West will never be Real Buddhists™. Keep the information coming, but keep the snarkyness in check will ya? There is very little metta in your posts.




Filed under Buddhism

6 responses to “I’m not a true Scotsman/Buddhist

  1. Excellent post man!

  2. Holy crap. 2 of the “possibly related posts” are by 12 year old girls. Weird.

  3. Hrafn

    It is a matter of definition, I guess. I personally define a Buddhist as someone who accepts the word of the Buddha as true and lives accordingly. Therefore, someone who does not accept the word of the Buddha on the immortal-element would not be considered a Buddhist according to my definition. That is not to say that my definition is necessarily true. How would you define the term “Buddhist”? Is anyone who calls himself a Buddhist a real Buddhist, no matter where he takes his authority from?


    • “Is anyone who calls himself a Buddhist a real Buddhist, no matter where he takes his authority from?”

      Call yourself what you want. I consider myself a Buddhist because I believe that the Buddha was correct when he laid down the 4 noble truths, and I’m trying to live accordingly. Of course, I fail at this daily (hence no enlightenment) and as such I suppose I’m not a true Buddhist in your eyes. Whatever. Right now Buddhism is my boat to the other side of the shore, but to say that because I do believe or don’t believe in one specific teaching decides whether or not I’m a true Buddhist, well, I’d ask where you recieve your authority from to question my devotion to the Buddhist path.

      Further more I’d wonder what there is to gain by labeling people true Buddhists and un-true Buddhists. Is this helping to end your suffering?

      Does one belief or non-belief make the difference in acheiving nirvana? Did the Buddha believe his way there?

      Must we be mirror images of the Buddha in order to end our suffering? Should we merely be a bunch of pod-people Buddhas? Or is there room for personal discovery on this path? I think there is a saying about a finger and a moon that comes to mind here.

      By all means, continue practicing the way that works for you, but don’t use your practice as a means to denegrate others.

  4. Hrafn,

    Could you expand on ‘accept’ please? By accept do you mean blindy accept or do you mean acceptance by trial?


  5. Jack Daw

    Labels for personal growth are useful. When they are used to classify what “others” believe they lose that usefulness.

    I classify myself as Buddhist. However, I don’t question when someone else classifies themselves as Buddhist even if it is different or counter to my definition. For me, it is bad practice.

    I accept that many are in flux and thus may have beliefs that tie themselves to different beliefs. This is growth. I was Christian and moved to Atheism and then to Buddhism. While those three label describe specific points in time, they do not describe the growth and change that was a part of it.

    That growth is the path.