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I have just finished reading an article entitled Killing the Buddha done by Sam Harris (link below). As you all may know Harris is best known for his books The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation. In his opinion piece Harris expresses an appreciation for Buddhism but states that it is because it is viewed and practiced as a religion that that is why it may not spread or become more popular than the Abrahamic faiths.

Harris uses an ancient Buddhist saying to make his point in which one 9th century Buddhist monk named Li Chi is quoted as saying If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him. The monk used this analogy or statement to make the point that if you make Buddhism into a religion, you will rob it of the essence of what the Buddha taught. Harris's main point of his op-ed is that despite practitioners of Buddhism claiming it is a philosophy most followers treat it as if it is a religion.

Then there is Objectivism.

Unfortunately, there are many subscribers to Objectivism who have decided to make it a religion and follow through as such. Yet it is because of religious Objectivists that may have robbed the philosophy of its essence since they want to be mini-Rands (like Leonard Peikoff) going around their social circles or the world itself preaching from soapboxes in order to lecture people in an attempt to convince them to follow the philosophy. But if a person openly questions or disagrees with their points about certain subjects they risk (and often times are) kicked out or declared persona-non-grata.

I must admit that since becoming more familiar with the philosophy it has filled a void in my life and have followed up with starting an Objectivist club that has met for a little over 5 years. However, I have always been of the mindset that the philosophy is my road map and tried to keep myself from making it my entire life. Yet there are people who will always deride Objectivism as being a cult because it is a coherent, integrated, and unified system of thought that is very clear and consistent.

However, I think Li Chi's advice is relevant not in a literal sense and just in terms of Buddhism but in terms of Objectivism as well. Thanks to people, like Leonard Peikoff, who have made Objectivism into a religion, they are the philosophy's worst enemy.

http://www.samharris...ing-the-buddha/

Edited by Mike Renzulli

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Great post, Mike. I thoroughly agree. I would say more, but I’m having a powerful compulsion to search through Leonard’s podcasts to see if he ever stated whether I’m immoral for not tipping the barista at Starbucks this morning.

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Thanks, Dennis. As it turns out I am good friends with a guy who is an Objectivist and simultaneously (believe it or not) a Zen Master. He learned about Zen while serving in Vietnam and was long before he had ever heard of Ayn Rand.

He is very knowledgeable about Buddhism itself, respectfully, and told me something very profound. He said that when Buddha was going around teaching people his philosophy, there was a group of his followers who wanted to make him superhuman (i.e. a god). Buddha shunned any such idea saying specifically that he was not a god and did not want to be made into one even after he died. He said if you want to be a good person or lead a good life, follow his philosophy. Well soon after passing away, the group of mystic Buddhists (now known as the Mahayana sect) went ahead and made Buddha into a god anyway. The other Buddhist sect (Theravada) is the orthodox school and as near as I can tell eschews any kind of mysticism including making Buddha out to be superhuman.

A similar struggle or debate is present in the Objectivist movement. Up until recently ARI tried to make the case in an attempt to deify Ayn Rand by making her out to be a perfect individual who created a philosophy and was taken advantage of some deceitful people (i.e. Nathaniel and Barbara Branden). You have the other sect (TAS) who studies her philosophy but believes that Rand (while a wonderful person who founded an excellent philosophy) had faults like anyone else.

It is interesting that the debate about whether Ayn Rand was perfect is going on in the Objectivist movement and that a similar debate is going on in Buddhism about whether Buddha was superhuman.

Edited by Mike Renzulli

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A similar struggle or debate is present in the Objectivist movement. Up until recently ARI tried to make the case in an attempt to deify Ayn Rand by making her out to be a perfect individual who created a philosophy and was taken advantage of some deceitful people (i.e. Nathaniel and Barbara Branden). You have the other sect (TAS) who studies her philosophy but believes that Rand (while a wonderful person who founded an excellent philosophy) had faults like anyone else. It is interesting that the debate about whether Ayn Rand was perfect is going on in the Objectivist movement and that a similar debate is going on in Buddhism about whether Buddha was superhuman.

One day we might be able to separate the founder and the philosophy, but not yet.

It's occuring to me increasingly that those who sanctify Ayn Rand, and those who demonize her are different sides of the same coin. They both do her a great disservice. All they both manage to do is to rob her of her human-ness, which downplays her unique achievements.

To continue your allegory, in time to come she could finish up like Buddha - part human, and part floating abstraction.

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Mike:

Great post.

I have always been fascinated by the philosophy of individualism, setting your own rational values and having the integrity to stand for those values, which is what convinced me to be a life long practitioner of Rand's ideas, could even remotely develop a closed, dogmatic and rigidly religiouslike wing.

My reading, and folks that are friends, who are aware, open and practice Buddhism in the manner of your friend, also are stunned by the deification of the Buddha.

Fortunately, the rush to inject Ayn's ideas with the big "O" rigidity into everyone will fail. However, it will also provide many of us with the opportunity to change folks one person at a time. It will take a lot longer, but it will also last a lot longer and maintain our integrity to her ideas.

That integrity carries with it the obligation to improve them.

Adam

Post Script:

Excellent points Tony - can you just see those beautifully perceptive wide eyes as a floating abstraction! lol

Edited by Selene

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Thanks, Dennis. As it turns out I am good friends with a guy who is an Objectivist and simultaneously (believe it or not) a Zen Master. He learned about Zen while serving in Vietnam and was long before he had ever heard of Ayn Rand.

He is very knowledgeable about Buddhism itself, respectfully, and told me something very profound. He said that when Buddha was going around teaching people his philosophy, there was a group of his followers who wanted to make him superhuman (i.e. a god). Buddha shunned any such idea saying specifically that he was not a god and did not wanted to be made into one even after he died. He said if you want to be a good person or lead a good life, follow his philosophy. Well soon after passing away, the group of mystic Buddhists (now known as the Mahayana sect) went ahead and made Buddha into a god anyway. The other Buddhist sect (Theravada) is the orthodox school and as near as I can tell eschews any kind of mysticism including making Buddha out to be superhuman.

A similar struggle or debate is present in the Objectivist movement. Up until recently ARI tried to make the case in an attempt to deify Ayn Rand by making her out to be a perfect individual who created a philosophy and was taken advantage of some deceitful people (i.e. Nathaniel and Barbara Branden). You have the other sect (TAS) who studies her philosophy but believes that Rand (while a wonderful person who founded an excellent philosophy) had faults like anyone else.

It is interesting that the debate about whether Ayn Rand was perfect is going on in the Objectivist movement and that a similar debate is going on in Buddhism about whether Buddha was superhuman.

Mike,

I think the analogy you are making is very instructive.

The unfortunate consequence of deifying a human being is that blind worship of that individual becomes more important than independent understanding. In fact, independent understanding becomes a liability because it can potentially lead to discovering things that may not be so favorable about the deity.

That’s fine, of course, if what you are after is a bunch of sycophantic groupies hanging on your every word. If Peikoff had any grasp at all of the importance of encouraging independent thought and self-esteem, he would refuse to answer half the questions he gets.

Sometimes he may actually impart useful knowledge on his podcasts. But at least half the time, especially when it comes to matters of whether this or that petty behavior is “immoral,” his answer should consist of something like: “Who am I? Your mother?” or “Figure it out for yourself.”

Peikoff’s obvious glee when he is asked such questions says some highly unflattering things about his own self-esteem.

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I want to make a distinction. This post should not be taken that there should not be standards to determine what is or is not compatible or an elaboration of Objectivism and if someone becomes belligerent to you because you study Objectivism I say it is appropriate to stand your ground.

Case in point is last month we had an anarchist libertarian visit our group who tried to use the occasion to argue his points on intellectual property and foreign policy. Including ethics when it comes to war. Myself and the other group members made it clear to him in no uncertain terms what the correct position was in terms of Objectivism's stand/position on each of the topics he brought up and presented evidence that clearly contradicted his assertions which he clearly did not like.

Instead the individual in question used the occasion not only to drive his point(s) home but also wanted us to accept his point of view in an attempt to argue with us since he wanted to communicate with us that he felt we were wrong. Naturally we didn't let him get away with it and I had to remind him numerous times to behave or he would be told to leave. At no time was he told that he was wrong. We presented the evidence that was relevant to his point(s) and told him the facts from an Objectivist perspective. He chose not to believe us which was his choice and we did not belittle him or insult him.

I texted him the next day telling him that, while the exchange we had was very spirited he would not be allowed to act like he did again or he would be told to leave. I flatly told him if he acted like he did again it would not be tolerated. I went on to tell him instead of coming to learn he decided to use the occasion to argue. He replied that he was not interested in my religious echo chamber, pseudo-philosophy group and went on to accuse us of being a cult.

I replied stating that his argumentation showed he refused to accept facts despite being shown evidence contrary to his assertions. There was another first timer who was present that evening who was polite and thoughtful with his points as well as used a lot of tact during the discussions that we on. I went on to tell him he was welcome to return. The policy of my group is that all friendly people with an interest in learning about Objectivism are welcome to attend. In this instance the argumentative individual was anything but friendly and, consequently, he was told to behave next time or he would be kicked out. Simultaneously, the philosophy and groups that sprout up to support it and people who subscribe to it should not be all things to all people.

Edited by Mike Renzulli

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George:

I forget which one of the founders was too ill to speak at a certain point of our Constitutional convention. He wrote out his speech and another delegate delivered it for him.

His message was that if we wanted to live in tyranny, we would live in tyranny. All we can do is provide a structure where the individual could flourish in freedom, property and pursuing happiness. However, if we were going to chose slavery, no Constitution could prevent it.

His speech dealt with the nature of man, his knowledge, character and virtues which would support a free society.

Many have spoken about it, but the temptations of tyranny, it seems, will always pull on the masses of men.

Your pithy Python selection screams the same sermon!

Adam

Happy Birthday to the Constitution tomorrow!

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A similar struggle or debate is present in the Objectivist movement. Up until recently ARI tried to make the case in an attempt to deify Ayn Rand by making her out to be a perfect individual who created a philosophy and was taken advantage of some deceitful people (i.e. Nathaniel and Barbara Branden). You have the other sect (TAS) who studies her philosophy but believes that Rand (while a wonderful person who founded an excellent philosophy) had faults like anyone else. It is interesting that the debate about whether Ayn Rand was perfect is going on in the Objectivist movement and that a similar debate is going on in Buddhism about whether Buddha was superhuman.

One day we might be able to separate the founder and the philosophy, but not yet.

It's occuring to me increasingly that those who sanctify Ayn Rand, and those who demonize her are different sides of the same coin. They both do her a great disservice. All they both manage to do is to rob her of her human-ness, which downplays her unique achievements.

To be more precise, there are sanctifiers and non-sanctifiers. Demonizers are a sub-category of the latter. Stated this way, I would accept the proposition.

--Brant

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A similar struggle or debate is present in the Objectivist movement. Up until recently ARI tried to make the case in an attempt to deify Ayn Rand by making her out to be a perfect individual who created a philosophy and was taken advantage of some deceitful people (i.e. Nathaniel and Barbara Branden). You have the other sect (TAS) who studies her philosophy but believes that Rand (while a wonderful person who founded an excellent philosophy) had faults like anyone else. It is interesting that the debate about whether Ayn Rand was perfect is going on in the Objectivist movement and that a similar debate is going on in Buddhism about whether Buddha was superhuman.

One day we might be able to separate the founder and the philosophy, but not yet.

It's occuring to me increasingly that those who sanctify Ayn Rand, and those who demonize her are different sides of the same coin. They both do her a great disservice. All they both manage to do is to rob her of her human-ness, which downplays her unique achievements.

To be more precise, there are sanctifiers and non-sanctifiers. Demonizers are a sub-category of the latter. Stated this way, I would accept the proposition.

--Brant

That is a good modifier of Tony's statement. Agreed.

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One day we might be able to separate the founder and the philosophy, but not yet.

It's occuring to me increasingly that those who sanctify Ayn Rand, and those who demonize her are different sides of the same coin. They both do her a great disservice. All they both manage to do is to rob her of her human-ness, which downplays her unique achievements.

To continue your allegory, in time to come she could finish up like Buddha - part human, and part floating abstraction.

I disagree that we cannot separate the philosophy and its founder. We simply recognize that she was a human being with her share of flaws, and then proceed to analyze and examine the tenets of her philosophy first-hand.

Nathaniel Branden made that task much easier than it would have been otherwise. Many Objectivists feel that his break with Ayn Rand set the movement back. I think a good case can be made for the view that he helped the movement become much healthier by forcing Objectivists to think for themselves.

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Thanks, Dennis. As it turns out I am good friends with a guy who is an Objectivist and simultaneously (believe it or not) a Zen Master.

How does he reconcile Buddhist ideas like "all life is suffering" with Ayn Rand's contrary position?

The same goes for the idea of reincarnation.

Wouldn't this be the classic case of a contradiction?

Per Ayn Rand (expressing it via D'Anconia's word's in AS), contradictions do not exist:

AS, p. 199: "Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong."

Where is the wrong premise here?

Edited by Xray

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One day we might be able to separate the founder and the philosophy, but not yet. It's occuring to me increasingly that those who sanctify Ayn Rand, and those who demonize her are different sides of the same coin. They both do her a great disservice. All they both manage to do is to rob her of her human-ness, which downplays her unique achievements. To continue your allegory, in time to come she could finish up like Buddha - part human, and part floating abstraction.
I disagree that we cannot separate the philosophy and its founder. We simply recognize that she was a human being with her share of flaws, and then proceed to analyze and examine the tenets of her philosophy first-hand. Nathaniel Branden made that task much easier than it would have been otherwise. Many Objectivists feel that his break with Ayn Rand set the movement back. I think a good case can be made for the view that he helped the movement become much healthier by forcing Objectivists to think for themselves.

That's an interesting point, and certainly puts a positive spin on things.

Nathaniel B. has said as much:- that "Philosophical principles are no substitute for thinking, yet many Objectivists act as if they were."

In my case, I was so far 'outside the loop' that I knew nothing about 'breaks' and 'splits' until 3 years ago. I went completely untouched by all that drama for decades.

Initially, right into my 30's, I went through a period of adulation for Rand. Also, she and Objectivism were inextricably one, in my mind.

(If you achieved 'separation' in your younger days, then I'd guess you were an uncommonly mature thinker.)

So yes, I acknowledge your disagreement, but the majority of Objectivists on the forums - whom I was thinking about when I made that rather general statement - are still youngish; why should they not be as prone to adulation, until they grow in independence ( and certainly, most will) as 'we' were?

Tony

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While I am not a practicioner I believe that Buddhists recognize people suffer and think that if people follow their philosophy it will/can help them end it and live a happier life. In terms of reincarnation and other forms of mysticism, my understanding is that the Buddhists who believe in that are the Mahayanas. As near as I can tell the Theravadins believe that one is reborn (i.e. reincarnated) when a practicioner has achieved enlightenment (a.k.a. Nirvana) which is a state of mind and do not believe in supernatural rebirth or other forms of mysticism. If a Theravadin does it is a choice they have made on their own and not due to official policy.

My reasons for bringing up Buddhism wasn't necessarily to make a statement that Rand's philosophy and Buddhism as philosophies are similar (they are not). But the debate in the 2 factions of the East's philosophy and what is going on in Objectivism to determine if Rand was a perfect individual (i.e. deify her) or not are.

If Buddhism and Objectivism are similar it is only on the surface and not when one goes deeper into the details. For example, Buddhism tends to subscribe to some semblances of self sacrifice, whereas Objectivism does not. However, a Buddhist does not sacrifice his or her freedom of thought by becoming a follower of Buddha anymore than an Objectivist sacrifices their individuality by following Rand. Yet both seek refuge in either philosophy with the goal of becoming enlightened or living a good life.

No need to wait for death, experience Heaven while you are still alive.

Heaven right here and now, is the taste of Nibbana (i.e. Nirvana) in this very life. - Buddhist saying

Thanks, Dennis. As it turns out I am good friends with a guy who is an Objectivist and simultaneously (believe it or not) a Zen Master.

How does he reconcile Buddhist ideas like "all life is suffering" with Ayn Rand's contrary position?

The same goes for the idea of reincarnation.

Wouldn't this be the classic case of a contradiction?

Per Ayn Rand (expressing it via D'Anconia's word's in AS), contradictions do not exist:

AS, p. 199: "Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong."

Where is the wrong premise here?

Edited by Mike Renzulli

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I apologize I overlooked your question regarding my friend's reconciling Objectivism and Buddhism. I asked him if Zen involved mysticism in which he replied that some practitioners or variants of the philosophy subscribe to mysticism but the variant he learned does not. The school of Zen he learned when he was in Vietnam involves breathing and relaxation techniques which involve meditation in order to be able to think better. I believe this also includes being able to retrieve memories from or better utilize your subconscious mind.

What happens to us after this life depends on how we conduct ourselves in this present life.

The path to Heaven is not by faith or worship, but by doing good and avoiding evil.

- Buddhist saying

Thanks, Dennis. As it turns out I am good friends with a guy who is an Objectivist and simultaneously (believe it or not) a Zen Master.

How does he reconcile Buddhist ideas like "all life is suffering" with Ayn Rand's contrary position?

The same goes for the idea of reincarnation.

Wouldn't this be the classic case of a contradiction?

Per Ayn Rand (expressing it via D'Anconia's word's in AS), contradictions do not exist:

AS, p. 199: "Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong."

Where is the wrong premise here?

Edited by Mike Renzulli

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One day we might be able to separate the founder and the philosophy, but not yet. .

I disagree that we cannot separate the philosophy and its founder. We simply recognize that she was a human being with her share of flaws, and then proceed to analyze and examine the tenets of her philosophy first-hand.

Nathaniel Branden made that task much easier than it would have been otherwise. Many Objectivists feel that his break with Ayn Rand set the movement back. I think a good case can be made for the view that he helped the movement become much healthier by forcing Objectivists to think for themselves.

That's an interesting point, and certainly puts a positive spin on things.

Nathaniel B. has said as much:- that "Philosophical principles are no substitute for thinking, yet many Objectivists act as if they were."

In my case, I was so far 'outside the loop' that I knew nothing about 'breaks' and 'splits' until 3 years ago. I went completely untouched by all that drama for decades.

Initially, right into my 30's, I went through a period of adulation for Rand. Also, she and Objectivism were inextricably one, in my mind.

(If you achieved 'separation' in your younger days, then I'd guess you were an uncommonly mature thinker.)

So yes, I acknowledge your disagreement, but the majority of Objectivists on the forums - whom I was thinking about when I made that rather general statement - are still youngish; why should they not be as prone to adulation, until they grow in independence ( and certainly, most will) as 'we' were?

Tony

Tony,

I was 16 when I discovered Objectivism, and I certainly went through my devout stage. Four years later, the break occurred, and I had to struggle with judging the arguments made by each side. I could not deny the obvious fact (to me) that Rand’s article, To Whom It May Concern, did not really explain how someone could suddenly go from being her philosophical equal to being “irrevocably condemned.” Her explanation was woefully inadequate. Then, when Nathaniel and Barbara’s response—In Answer to Ayn Rand—appeared in the mail, I gradually had to accept the fact that they had made a much better case than Ayn Rand. From that point on, I read Ayn Rand’s articles with a much more objective point of view.

George H. Smith also helped me acquire some perspective. I first met him around 1971, shortly after I moved to California, when he gave a brilliant talk in West LA on Objectivism As A Religion. (Now available in Atheism, Ayn Rand and other Heresies.) If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it.

I’m not as optimistic as you that today’s true believers will grow into independence. Branden conveyed a strong sense that Objectivism truly was a philosophy for living on earth. He was an inspiration, before and after the break. You could understand people wanting to believe what he said. There’s nothing about Peikoff that could possibly inspire anyone to anything but despair. I keep trying to figure out why so many Objectivists give a damn about anything he says. If they can’t question his ridiculous sermonizing, how can they question anything?

I hope I'm wrong.

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> There’s nothing about Peikoff that could possibly inspire anyone to anything but despair. I keep trying to figure out why so many Objectivists give a damn about anything he says.

Dennis, the series of courses he gave, especially the first decade of them.

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Many Objectivists feel that his [N: Branden's] break with Ayn Rand set the movement back. I think a good case can be made for the view that he helped the movement become much healthier by forcing Objectivists to think for themselves.

I would hesitate using the term 'forcing' here because of the NIOF principle. :wink:

Edited by Xray

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Harris uses an ancient Buddhist saying to make his point in which one 9th century Buddhist monk named Li Chi is quoted as saying If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him. The monk used this analogy or statement to make the point that if you make Buddhism into a religion, you will rob it of the essence of what the Buddha taught. Harris's main point of his op-ed is that despite practitioners of Buddhism claiming it is a philosophy most followers treat it as if it is a religion.

The word choice "kill him" is a very radical one. Its radicalness goes deeper than a mere admonition "Don't deify him".

The "kill him" means that it is necessary to really destroy something, and what is to be destroyed is the veil behind which lies true enlightenment. So in order to reach true enlightenment, it is necessary to tear up the veil.

Edited by Xray

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> There’s nothing about Peikoff that could possibly inspire anyone to anything but despair. I keep trying to figure out why so many Objectivists give a damn about anything he says.

Dennis, the series of courses he gave, especially the first decade of them.

Phil,

Peikoff showed flashes of brilliance, for sure. I've always thought his article on The Analytic-Synthetic Dichotomy was a lucid explanation of a very complicated philosophical problem. But when he became Branden's successor, it quickly became obvious that he was closer to being a "brain in a vat' than anything remotely resembling a heroic human being. He became a walking, talking, remote-controlled robot for Ayn Rand. She chose him as her "heir" (not her intellectual heir, except in his own mind) because his devotion to her was clearly intransigent. There was no danger that he would ever have the independence to truly challenge her on any fundamental level as Branden had.

His lectures showed that he had a lot of knowledge about Objectivism and philosophy in general, but it was knowledge disconnected from the speaker. His voice and manner exude nothing resembling self-confidence or self-esteem. He is the archetypical pointy-headed intellectual. There's nothing about him that would prompt anyone to think that his ideas are truly integrated into his personal identity. In fact, I doubt if there is much of a person there at all. He seems to have stifled his own growth and development in order to free his brain to channel Ayn Rand.

If his viewpoints and guidance were rational and effective, it wouldn't matter, of course. Not everyone can be Nathaniel Branden. But he says so many things that are obsessively moralistic, spiteful and just plain bizarre, that you can't believe an independent thinker wouldn't question the validity of his words. That's what makes me fear for the future of Objectivism.

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Many Objectivists feel that his [N: Branden's] break with Ayn Rand set the movement back. I think a good case can be made for the view that he helped the movement become much healthier by forcing Objectivists to think for themselves.

I would hesitate using the term 'forcing' here because of the NIOF principle. :wink:

Force is only fundamental for libertarians. For Objectivists, it's all about the context. :cool:

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Interesting! Are you a practitioner or someone knowledgeable about Buddhism?

Harris uses an ancient Buddhist saying to make his point in which one 9th century Buddhist monk named Li Chi is quoted as saying If you meet Buddha on the road, kill him. The monk used this analogy or statement to make the point that if you make Buddhism into a religion, you will rob it of the essence of what the Buddha taught. Harris's main point of his op-ed is that despite practitioners of Buddhism claiming it is a philosophy most followers treat it as if it is a religion.

The word choice "kill him" is a very radical one. Its radicalness goes deeper than a mere admonition "Don't deify him".

The "kill him" means that it is necessary to really destroy something, and what is to be destroyed is the veil behind which lies true enlightenment. So in order to reach true enlightenment, it is necessary to tear up the veil.

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Many Objectivists feel that his [N: Branden's] break with Ayn Rand set the movement back. I think a good case can be made for the view that he helped the movement become much healthier by forcing Objectivists to think for themselves.

I would hesitate using the term 'forcing' here because of the NIOF principle. :wink:

You simply need to study English some more.

--Brant

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Interesting! Are you a practitioner or someone knowledgeable about Buddhism?

My husband has been studying Buddhism (and several other religions) for many years, and since religion is a frequent topic in our conversations, I have acquired some knowledge about Buddhism that way.

Edited by Xray

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