Practicing Buddhists, help me out here! - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 22 Old 07-04-2005, 01:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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OK... I was raised in a cult... albeit a fairly benign one, and I absolute HATE HATE HATE (can't stand to walk into) organized religions for lots of reasons (like most people who claim to be so freaking "holy" don't follow 80% of the tenets, etc. that kind of hypocrisy really pisses me off) so, I've been doing a LOT of reading, thinking, soul searching, etc. and I'm thinking that Buddhism is the best place for me to get my "spiritual food" without having to make moral sacrifices.

Now, tell me if the following is correct or if I'm just reading into the idea of Buddhism:

I think what appeals to me most about Buddhism is that it's about the INDIVIDUAL... there is no proseletyzing, no "we're better than you" crap... it's all about how can I make ME a better person (and through me, and my actions, make the world a better place). It's not about a "deity"... Buddha himself said that you shouldn't worship a deity, right? that it's the ideas that you incorporate into your life, how you LIVE, not how you "worship"...

I like that I don't have to "go to church every XYZ day" and perform a bunch of meaningless rituals (unless I find the ritual meaningful to me... like meditation etc.) in order to "buy my way" into "heaven". In Buddhism, it's all about becoming "Buddhalike" right? It's about increasing your own awareness in this lifetime so that future lifetimes are "easier" meaning, you get to complete understanding "sooner" rather than "later"...

If you all tell me that I've totally read this wrong, I'm going to go start my own religion! LOLOL!! I've been studying Buddhism (albeit through art history) for about twenty years and it just calls to me... it just seems so pure and simple... let go of the outcome.... welcome change. So easy, yet so hard.

So, am I totally off base here or am I reading this religion correctly?

Thank you in advance

Lo
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#2 of 22 Old 07-05-2005, 05:34 PM
 
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Originally Posted by lolov
I think what appeals to me most about Buddhism is that it's about the INDIVIDUAL... there is no proseletyzing, no "we're better than you" crap... it's all about how can I make ME a better person (and through me, and my actions, make the world a better place). It's not about a "deity"... Buddha himself said that you shouldn't worship a deity, right? that it's the ideas that you incorporate into your life, how you LIVE, not how you "worship"...

I like that I don't have to "go to church every XYZ day" and perform a bunch of meaningless rituals (unless I find the ritual meaningful to me... like meditation etc.) in order to "buy my way" into "heaven". In Buddhism, it's all about becoming "Buddhalike" right? It's about increasing your own awareness in this lifetime so that future lifetimes are "easier" meaning, you get to complete understanding "sooner" rather than "later"...

Lo
First of all, I would just say that within Buddhism, I'm sure you can find teachers who will manipulate you and take advantage of you, Buddhists who are judgemental and petty, and communities that are very dysfunctional, as well as beautiful, healthy and thriving ones. i think it's important to be discerning within any faith tradition, which I'm sure you will be, given your background!

I would actually say that Buddhism is not at all about the individual. It's about NOT reinforcing our self and creating an ever stronger and stronger ego. Rather, it's all about interdependence and interbeing.

In my experience, in general, Buddhists do not proseletize (sp?) (with some exceptions) and the Buddha, while not rejecting the concept or belief in "God" didn't really focus on it either. Most Buddhists do not view the Buddha as a deity in the sense that many Christians believe in Jesus.

Perhaps some of the other Buddhist mamas could chime in here as well.

I have found the Buddhist focus on practice rather than belief to be quite helpful. I would really encourage you to check out sanghas (communities) and teachers nearby to you, and try to find one that feels like it could support you in your path. Since the basic teachings of Buddhism are counter to just about everything in mainstream, Western society, I find that I really need a lot of support to continue on this path!

Best wishes to you.
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#3 of 22 Old 07-22-2005, 03:20 AM
 
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Hi, Lolov!
I think you have some of the right ideas about Buddhism, but in Buddhism, ideas don't take you very far . I'll give my take on your questions ...hope it helps!
Buddhism is ... "about the individual" - Like Diane said, it's definitely not about strengthening the individual Self. But it is a path that asks you to be truly personally engaged as an individual (while simeltaneously asking you to realize that individual is an illusion).
"no proselytizing" - Right. For example, HH the Dalai Lama has asked Westerners to try returning to their own faiths before 'trying' Buddhism, since he thinks that may be a better fit, culturally. The Dharma is to be shared, but not to convert people - and honestly, it's a big part of my devotion to my path that Buddhism has never launched a holy war. That just feels so right.
"no 'we're better than you'"- Not ideally
"it's all about how I can make ME a better person" - I think so. Transform the world by transforming yourself. (And really, what else can we reliably hope to transform?)
"not about a deity" - Nope. Siddhartha Gautama the Buddha was not a god. Depending on the tradition you follow, you might find gods, or not. And if you find them and don't like them, ignore them.
"I don't have to perform a lot of meaningless rituals" - Well, this part is tricky. If you really follow the path, I believe you DO have to meditate. BUT - meditation is NOT a ritual. It's the way you purify your mind, the way out of illusion. Meditation is the heart and soul of Buddhism. Reading, or listening to dharma talks, even chanting ... ultimately these are entertainments, not practice: flirting, not committment.
"it's about making future lifetimes easier" - Yeah, though I think you can be a perfectly good Western Buddhist and not buy into future (or past) lives at all. You can treat rebirth as a metaphor and it will take you far.

You know what you've got to do, right? You've got to find a like-minded community and see what feels right! Get copies of Tricycle and Shambala Sun and read and feel out what tradition feels right. Figure out if Therevada or Mahayana feels better. It's all the same good stuff (the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path - that's really it!) You need to find the presentation that works with your psychology and needs. Buddhist practices range from hippieish to austere to extravagant, from the ritual-laden to the apparently aimless. I know there are a few nice groups in SoCal ... good luck! Please pm me anytime; if I can support you in any way, I will be so happy to do so! Much love!
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#4 of 22 Old 07-23-2005, 09:20 AM
 
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Originally Posted by crescentaluna
HH the Dalai Lama has asked Westerners to try returning to their own faiths before 'trying' Buddhism, since he thinks that may be a better fit, culturally.
This stood out to me. I find my "own faith," that of my parents? to be non-existant. I was rasied and baptized and confirmed (with my fingers crossed) in the Lutheran church, but found out right after I was confirmed that my parents were closet atheists and only forced me to go to church all those yrs to please my mom's parents.

So, what is "my own faith?" I have been exploring xianity for yrs now from an historical perspective and have found it morally bankrupt except for the oldest, most heretical, gnostic variety. Gnosticism being almost identical to Buddhism, my original focus, it seems I have come full circle, so what was the point?

I still have no desire to "practice" xianity, to go to church, to recieve communion or pray to YHWH or his "son."
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#5 of 22 Old 07-23-2005, 12:41 PM
 
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So where did you all start in your journey towards Buddhism?
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#6 of 22 Old 07-23-2005, 01:11 PM
 
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Hi, DaryLLL ... I know where you're coming from, and I think a lot of Americans are in the same boat. My back story as a Western Buddhist (i'm mexican-american) is a father who was abused within the Catholic church as a boy, turning him violently against both Catholicism and Xianity. My childhood was profoundly agnostic, though I had a children's Bible i read as a book of short stories and we 'did' Xmas. So what's "my" tradition? ??? I was powerfully drawn to Buddhism in my teens and followed D.T. Suzuki's instructions to sit zazen in my room in high school. I have been on the 8-fold path ever since ... about 20 years now.

When I read that advice of HH the DL, I first dismissed it as not relevant to me, then thought about it. I AM a Westerner - an individualist - is this path, the continual stress that the individual is an illusion, working toward the goal of dissolving the individual - is this path really a good psychological fit? I thought about the Noble Truths: 1) suffering exists for all living things, 2) suffering has causes, 3) there are true paths out of suffering, and 4) Buddhism is a true path. It's an integral part of my faith that there are other true paths. Buuut ...

I read about Xianity, I learned about the organization of different churches, I attended two Unitarian sevices. Not a big concerted effort, y'know, but poking around. And I found that my heart, my soul, just did not resonate with it. But i'm glad I looked. I'm satisfied I am in the right place, but i do have more idea of what is and isn't Xianity, and I can elucidate why I can't put faith in it. I keep learning about it, though, and try try try to avoid the tempting thought "My faith is better than your faith, nyaah." So for me, it was very good advice.
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#7 of 22 Old 07-23-2005, 01:18 PM
 
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Oh, and one quick clarification - the DL was not speaking to Western Buddhists, actually, but to the confused and unhappy who "try on" one tradition and practice after another. He wasn't trying to close the door of Buddhism, but to gently remind people that there are no spiritual magic bullets. And support is so very important - I think he was saying that if your community supports you in your faith, you will be more successful. This is from my memory, though. I can find the interview and type it out if anyone wants.
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#8 of 22 Old 07-23-2005, 05:28 PM
 
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crescentluna, thanks for your succinct informative posts.

I can really relate to how you interpreted his advice.

If you can find a link online to the speech where HH gave this advice, I'd appreciate it. I don't think we'd be allowed to type it out b/c of copyright concerns. : :LOL

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#9 of 22 Old 07-23-2005, 06:10 PM
 
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Originally Posted by zoe398
So where did you all start in your journey towards Buddhism?

It came to me slowly over the years, as did my walk on the Wiccan path. The practice means a great deal to me.

"The true measure of a man is how he treats a man who can do him absolutely no good."
peace.gif  Embrace the learning that is happening within the things that are actually happening!    
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#10 of 22 Old 07-23-2005, 06:12 PM
 
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holding sleeping babe so no caps ... dont think this speech is online but typing out >100 words giving attribution should be legal. its an interview in, i think, tricycle maybe 3-4 years ago. i remember it 'cause it really affected me! will look later today.
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#11 of 22 Old 07-23-2005, 06:29 PM
 
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Yeah, we're allowed 100 words.
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#12 of 22 Old 07-25-2005, 02:35 AM
 
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So - here is a bit from an interview with HH the Dalai Lama in Tricycle magazine. This was the 10th anniversary issue, Fall 2001.

Quote:
Generally speaking, it is better to keep one's own tradition. It is more suitable. But among some people -- in the West they are usually Christians, Jews, and to some extent Muslims -- there is an interest in Buddhism. Sometimes, because of their individual mental dispositions, they do not find much in their own tradition that is effective, but they still want a spiritual practice. They feel a strong pull toward Buddhism, and then, of course, it is their right to follow Buddhism. After all, all religions belong to humanity.
He adds that, one you've started on a new path,
Quote:
we must avoid criticizing our own previous tradition. We must show respect for it.
Aaaand I found this link - it fleshes out where he's coming from ...
DALAI LAMA ASKS WEST NOT TO TURN BUDDHISM INTO A FASHION

FWIW not all traditions are as anti-conversion as Tibetan Buddhism. Nichiren and Soka Gakkai seem to have an evangelical bent. And they don't focus on meditation as much as chanting; and, at least a few years ago, they had more Black and Latino practitioners than any other American sect. I sit ten-day Vipassana courses somewhat regularly at the S. N. Goenka centers, and Goenka-ji is absolutely bent on bringing the dhamma to all. Sooo ... that's HH speaking as one leader ... maybe a conservative approach.
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#13 of 22 Old 07-26-2005, 02:03 AM
 
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.
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#14 of 22 Old 07-26-2005, 05:11 AM
 
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Originally Posted by mama729

Vague as this may sound, the best way to learn about Buddhism is actually to be a Buddhist! Meaning, practice meditation as much as possible, as soon as possible, on- and off-the-cushion, so to speak. But then again, this is what has worked for me. It probably will work differently for you.
This (practicing) has been wonderful (and difficult sometimes but often great things are difficult or a challenge), for me as well. One of my fave books on Buddhism is "Budda in your Backpack" by Franz Metcalf. It's target audience is teens, but I really love it.

"The true measure of a man is how he treats a man who can do him absolutely no good."
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#15 of 22 Old 07-28-2005, 11:22 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hi everyone and THANK YOU for your contributions to this thread!! I was away for three weeks and just got back to all of this wonderful information!!

I have been reading Shambhala Sun and Tricycle Press stuff on and off for a long time, and will continue to do so. Unfortunately, I haven't found a sangha nearby to me, but I will keep looking... for the time being, I think I will simply have to forge a path on my own.

It was wonderful to read about your journeys and insights here!

Lo
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#16 of 22 Old 08-03-2005, 11:26 AM
 
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Originally Posted by lolov
Unfortunately, I haven't found a sangha nearby to me, but I will keep looking... for the time being, I think I will simply have to forge a path on my own.
Lo

Here's a few resources for you:

http://www.iamhome.org/usa_sangha.htm

These are sanghas in Thich Nhat Hanh's tradition, generally lay-led and rather informal. There are several in your area.

And here's a list of Buddhist resources in San Diego county:

http://www.sandiegobuddhism.homestead.com/

Please know that I have no interest in proseletizing or having you attend a particular group. I just think it's really hard to practice Buddhism without teachers and community support because it's so counter to the dominant culture.

Best wishes -
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#17 of 22 Old 08-04-2005, 07:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks, Diane! That was really thoughtful of you!

Unfortunately, there aren't any sanghas within a reasonable driving distance for me all of the San Diego resources are either in the North County or in the Downtown/Hillcrest areas, neither of which is close enough to me for me to visit regularly.

I plan to keep looking, though

Thanks again!

Lo
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#18 of 22 Old 08-05-2005, 12:59 PM
 
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Hmmm...maybe there are others affiliated with one of the farther away places who would like a practice group closer to home too. If you found a center that you felt comfortable and connected with, perhaps you could see about spinning off a small group in your area (or checking if they already have such as group.)

In my city, there's probably a Lutheran church within 2 miles of every resident, but Buddhism isn't quite as popular...
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#19 of 22 Old 08-05-2005, 02:03 PM
 
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I belonged to a Buddhist sangha for many years, but eventually returned to my Unitarian roots because, as the Dhali Llama says, it was a better cultural fit.

I find that Buddhism and Unitarianism are deeply similar in some ways and neither one is exactly a self-improvement method. Buddhists would say that Buddha nature is in all sentient beings, and it is expressed by the eightfoold path: right thought, right speech, right action, right livlihood, right effort, right midfulness, right concentration. Likewise, (most) Unitarians would say that a spiritual nature exists in all human beings and that one's spiritual nature is expressed by the way one behaves in the world. The Unitarian church I attend actually has a Buddhist study group.

In both practices, the emphasis is not on internal self evaluation, but on outward compassion-- That doesn't mean trying to convert others to one's own beliefs, rather it means trying to lead daily life according to one's own values and beliefs.

Unitarians have a reputation for being non-religeous, but my dh, who was brought up in a family that included Jews, Catholics and fundamentalist Christians, says the Unitarians are the most religious group of people he has ever met because they are constantly living their spritual lives, not just feeling the spirit during religious rituals.

--AmyB
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#20 of 22 Old 08-07-2005, 03:55 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AmyB
I belonged to a Buddhist sangha for many years, but eventually returned to my Unitarian roots because, as the Dhali Llama says, it was a better cultural fit. --AmyB
I love your post! I actually went the other direction - I was an active Unitarian first for many years, before I joined a Buddhist sangha. For me, I really wanted the ritual part of religion, as well as the deep silence of Zen Buddhist practice, and I felt those were missing for me in my Unitarian congregation. Also, my partner and I were looking for a spiritual community to share, and she never really "clicked" with the U-Us.

We have lots of active as well as former Unitarians in our sangha, and we used to meet at a Unitarian Society. There's lots of affinity between the two paths.
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#21 of 22 Old 08-13-2005, 01:28 AM
 
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I just want to chime in but couldn't read all the posts bc it is so late but will come back tomorrow and read them

I am a very serious Buddhist practitioner in the Shambhala Sangha in Boulder.
This is a Tibetian form of Buddhism, so if you don't want rituals don't go that way. There are going to be rituals in every sub group, bc ritual is soooo important in our lives and helps us to practice mindfulness. But some have more than others.... If you are looking for a very non culty non ritual school then I would go with Zen Buddhism. Very clear and easy to understand.

Start with some very basic books.
Charolette Joko Beck writes "Everyday ZXn" which is fabulous and Pema Chodron is also an awesome american female Buddhist teacher and has a ton of great, simple books like "start where you are".

It is really an intense, amazing journey that you are beginning...
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#22 of 22 Old 08-14-2005, 02:58 PM
 
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Don't know if anyonne else here has ever done a 10-day Vipassana retreat through the S. N. Goenka Dhamma Centers? These are fully equipped centers with accomodations for, usually, 100+ students, which do 10 day retreats for no charge. That's right, free. Check out their website; it links through to all their different centers (at least 7 in the U. S.) And they hold courses in private settings, too.

http://www.dhamma.org/

Pros: non-elitist, a very simple and "pure" presentation of the technique (Vipassana or Insight meditiation), affordable, anti-"guru", VERY POWERFUL.

Cons: you may feel the rules are too confining; the intensity of 10 solid days can be overwhelming, esp. if you are feeling fragile; dharma talks are on videotape, which can seem wierd and "culty".

I did my first ten-day more than 10 years ago and have returned probably 5 times since, in three different countries. It's almost aggressively non-hip, which I kinda like. Might be worth checking out!
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