Western world and buddhist life

Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?

Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby dude » Sat Dec 07, 2013 2:03 am

Thank you for sharing your impressions, smcj.
While I shouldn't comment on any one particular monastery, you describe is all too familiar to me.
I've seen and heard of a lot of instances where practice lapses into formality and hierarchical privilege becomes ingrained.
We should bear in mind that the Buddha said that when the Law is about to perish, those who would destroy it would be not those who oppose the Buddha's teachings, but monks who claim to be his disciples.
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby smcj » Sat Dec 07, 2013 2:15 am

Eek! I wrote a whole rant, but then I regained sanity and I edited it down to just two sentences. Looks like you got an eyeful of the rant. Sorry you had to get a full dose of my negativity.
A human being has his limits. And thus, in every conceivable way, with every possible means, he tries to make the teaching enter into his own limits. ChNN
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby Lindama » Sat Dec 07, 2013 4:02 am

KonchokZoepa wrote:How can you live both lives?

im 21 year old soon 22, i have no education and it would take many years to get a proper education and then off to work long days.

How do people who want to dedicate theyre life to buddhism and peaceful life go on about going into this messed up world to get a piece of paper that is worth of nothing except many hundreds of hours and years of hard work that will never pay off in terms of causes of happiness?

I am struggling with this, i feel like going on a pilgrimage, go to long meditation retreats and ngondro retreats at least for the next spring and next year. but at the same time i start to feel like i am running away from my responsibilities and i will after that come back to square one with no foundation in this world, as a total wanderer and have to start working with a foundation, again one and half years older than before. it is really important to get the practice done but on the contrary it will cause immense suffering when landing back to the normal day to day life after the one and half years of hard spiritual work.

i find it hard to live in the cities because in the past i have experienced great mental issues, such as very very intense anxiety living in the city. and this is what i have to go back to i guess if i want to go to school and get an education and a foundation in our modern society. :jedi:

Is it worth it? do you feel that for some of us the life of a westerner is just not meant for us. i am basically at square one. havent started building a life in the western world. and i dont want to. but i feel like its my responsibility..

should i strive to become a monk and forget this western world for like 5-10 years and think about it again then or what ?

it seems to me that in my situation it is impossible to live two lives, i cant see the way. its like choose hell or heaven. stay as wanderer which is in a sense quite easy and enjoyable or build a house on a sea which is not very comfortable place to build a foundation for a house.

some thoughts. all thoughts from you what this brings up in your mind are greatly appreciated. any thoughts, answers, anything please comment....

thanks :anjali:


KZ,
people have shared a variety of experiences, perhaps they can bring insight to you. But, it seems you may have provided a clue to what is right for you.... you talked about going on pilgrimage AND then returning. I hear you asking how you can live two lives, spiritual and secular. Many of us have this question also. I don't hear you saying you are called to a monastic life. I hear you asking how you can live a meaningful life and how you can support it. All I can say is that when you have a calling to live a spiritual life in the world, there are ways to do it. Many of us do. It calls for deep questioning into how that can happen and what you really want and holding your integrity about what you want and need. There are many choices to be made along the way, but you won't know ahead how it will work out.... someone said something to that effect. Just live your life in every moment with your deepest intention, the form will take care of itself.

Practically speaking, if you plan to live a secular life, you need to be smart about it. I'm in the US and what we do will follow us into our retirement years. I had a corporate job for the first 20, and I'm glad that I did. Else, I would have nothing now. I have seen folks over here who have not committed to a career or a full time spiritual path who have nothing going into retirement. I stopped in midlife for a more spiritually oriented path, but have the first 20 years behind me. Keep in mind, that many people can negotiate work and spiritual life if they keep their intention fully focused.

Suggest that you go easy and lift the idea that you have a polarity... that it is an either/or situation. Eventually, after a long hiatus, I went back to a serious job and found that my presence and open heartedness made all the difference for me as well as the people that I worked with. This projection that the secular world is unsuitable for us needs some delicate clarification.... and perhaps the world needs people like you who care.
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby smcj » Sat Dec 07, 2013 4:11 am

I think the model for a Dharma person in the world will be something like what an amateur athlete or musician faces. You're not going to be able to support yourself on Dharma, but you've got to have many spare hours to invest in your avocation. So ask a marathon runner, or somebody that plays in a band on weekends how they organize their life. They have to invest hours upon hours in order to get to the point where they become proficient at what they do, and they have to support themselves too. In order to have time to do what they love they usually don't watch a lot of tv or play on the internet.(!) But ultimately it is up to you.

But if you do have a chance to sneak away and do a quick retreat where there is a lama to guide your practice before you get serious about your ability to support yourself, well, there is an advantage to doing NgonDro when you're young!
A human being has his limits. And thus, in every conceivable way, with every possible means, he tries to make the teaching enter into his own limits. ChNN
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby invisiblediamond » Sat Dec 07, 2013 1:17 pm

KonchokZoepa wrote:before starting to read and look into the links. my level of education at the moment is the normal finnish school level that is mandatory for all citizens. that is in total 9 grades, although not directly comparable to high school system, according to wikipedia i dont have the last one or two years of high school finished. In the Finnish education system i would have to do a two year school program which maybe likened to the last two years of high school but is especially made to prepare you for university.

Do you think this two year prep school needs to be completed before being able to apply to any of those links you provided?


Critical thinking is especially helpful for dharma practice. Viewing the world from varying modalities is especially helpful for critical thinking. All this can only be done at university. While at the same time, the three yanas are varying modalities of an especially challenging sort. If you could find a truly great master, you can accomplish all of the above as long as your self study was rigorous.
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby Alfredo » Sat Dec 07, 2013 3:45 pm

Why you shouldn't teach English in Korea:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=chvKPwbZsj0

On the other hand, if you honestly have nowhere else to go--if you are a non-recovering alcoholic, child molester, etc.--then Korea may be the only place that will still take you. The reason for this is that most of the decent English teachers are pushed away for reasons mentioned in the video. Think of Korea as hitting bottom. Between the hassle of dealing with hogwans, the lack of a social network to cushion and restrain you, and the bad influence of other foreigners, the Korean ESL industry is no place for someone on the edge of a breakdown.
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby Indrajala » Sat Dec 07, 2013 4:26 pm

Alfredo wrote:Why you shouldn't teach English in Korea:


ESL in Asia is generally unsatisfying. The vast majority of people I know who have done it (myself included to a limited extent) in places like Korea, China, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and so on walk away unsatisfied and bitter about the whole experience.

There are constantly cultural conflicts and misunderstandings (like expected overtime without pay, being a "team player", etc.), but besides that the work just generally sucks. You normally teach kids who don't want to be there and who are already exhausted from their regular school schedules. Parents are insistent that their child learn English, so they place them into ESL programs, meanwhile the kids after years of it still can barely introduce themselves (I contrast that to the waiters in Kathmandu here who have next to no education and yet speak English quite well, and understand and use regional UK/US slang).

There's no quality control either. This leads to problems between teachers and employers, which makes the employers rather jaded and spite filled towards foreigners, too. It leads to an ugly environment where both parties really hate each other but carry on because there is money to be made.

I kid you not when I was in Taiwan I was walking down the street and this lady came up to me and offered me a job. It was like, "Hey, you're white, I'll pay you to teach English during summer vacation!" I had similar experiences in Japan.

There's better ways to live in Asia. Do a degree or something.
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby KonchokZoepa » Sat Dec 07, 2013 5:11 pm

like what kind of degree ?
If the thought of demons
Never rises in your mind,
You need not fear the demon hosts around you.
It is most important to tame your mind within....

In so far as the Ultimate, or the true nature of being is concerned,
there are neither buddhas or demons.
He who frees himself from fear and hope, evil and virtue,
will realize the insubstantial and groundless nature of confusion.
Samsara will then appear as the mahamudra itself….

-Milarepa

OMMANIPADMEHUNG

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls6P9tOYmdo
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby Qing Tian » Sat Dec 07, 2013 7:26 pm

As a counterpoint to Ven. Indrajala's last post may I take this opportunity to say that the vast majority of people I know who have taught English in Asia have found it entertaining, educational, frustrating and challenging in equal measure. However, they nearly all thoroughly enjoyed the experience and recommended it to others. I guess you just have to be the right sort of person for the job. I also suspect that a large portion of those who are disgruntled by the experience are likely not good candidates for doing it in the first place - i.e. unrealistic expectations. There are problems in these countries it is true, though how one deals with them speaks more to the individual than the culture as a whole.

My advice, such as it is, is that if someone is genuinely interested and motivated to give it a go then they should go and try it. For those thinking it is an easy out or an escape of some sort, well, better to do something else (unless you relish a baptism of fire!).
“Not till your thoughts cease all their branching here and there, not till you abandon all thoughts of seeking for something, not till your mind is motionless as wood or stone, will you be on the right road to the Gate.”
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby Alfredo » Sat Dec 07, 2013 11:28 pm

Yes, I agree with the above. However, living overseas, especially in such a different culture, with little social support, is likely to magnify any mental instability you may have. Also, not all countries are equal, and Korea has special problems that others don't. I believe even the U.S. embassy there warned Americans against teaching English, because of all the problems!

PS. What kind of degree? Well, what would you LIKE to study? Some Asian language? Business? Engineering?
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby KonchokZoepa » Sat Dec 07, 2013 11:59 pm

i dont know i have one degree in mind but i feel drawn to spend at least one year to try out living in a forest monastery to see if the monks life is beneficial for spiritual growth.
If the thought of demons
Never rises in your mind,
You need not fear the demon hosts around you.
It is most important to tame your mind within....

In so far as the Ultimate, or the true nature of being is concerned,
there are neither buddhas or demons.
He who frees himself from fear and hope, evil and virtue,
will realize the insubstantial and groundless nature of confusion.
Samsara will then appear as the mahamudra itself….

-Milarepa

OMMANIPADMEHUNG

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls6P9tOYmdo
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby Lindama » Sun Dec 08, 2013 12:30 am

KonchokZoepa wrote:
If you want to attend university, but not in a city, and in Finland all the universities are in cities, could you perhaps go to university in some other country? One preferably condusive to your continued sanity.


ive thought about it but the least expensive way to go to uni is in finland.


Be clear with yourself about what your difficulties and boundaries are with cities. A university can provide a certain protection and insulation from the city at large. You could try that out just as easily as a forest monastary. Going to a monastary to "try it out" is not a reason to go. All this discussion of logistics and pros and cons means nothing if you do not have a clear path in your heart. If not, then take small steps, begin university, keep up your practice and let life unfold. But, I'm repeating myself. I know people who arrange their working life with ample time for retreats and some who have steadfastly believed in themselves as artists and musicians and made it.... and others who gave up. It's a matter of how you set your intentions.
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby mañjughoṣamaṇi » Sun Dec 08, 2013 12:41 am

KonchokZoepa wrote:i dont know i have one degree in mind but i feel drawn to spend at least one year to try out living in a forest monastery to see if the monks life is beneficial for spiritual growth.


If you are at all interested in languages, Helsinki has a fantastic world renowned linguistics department. I also heard from someone attending there that funding for fieldwork is not so difficult to come by (a rarity nowadays) so if it interests you, you can conduct research in Buddhist cultural areas and learn the languages while documenting lesser known aspects of them.
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“In order to completely liberate the mind, cultivate loving kindness.” -- Maitribhāvana Sūtra
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby KonchokZoepa » Sun Dec 08, 2013 12:43 am

that sounds a great thing to do, but im not sure if im good material to collect unknown stuff of different stuff :rolling:
If the thought of demons
Never rises in your mind,
You need not fear the demon hosts around you.
It is most important to tame your mind within....

In so far as the Ultimate, or the true nature of being is concerned,
there are neither buddhas or demons.
He who frees himself from fear and hope, evil and virtue,
will realize the insubstantial and groundless nature of confusion.
Samsara will then appear as the mahamudra itself….

-Milarepa

OMMANIPADMEHUNG

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls6P9tOYmdo
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby Alfredo » Sun Dec 08, 2013 2:03 pm

In the Thai tradition, it's considered okay to take robes temporarily. If you feel drawn to the forest tradition, then perhaps you should go. This would give you enough structure to keep you out of trouble, and time to think about what you want to do with your life. Who knows, you may be inspired with a choice of university major / thesis topic.
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby KonchokZoepa » Sun Dec 08, 2013 3:06 pm

yah, currently i feel drawn towards finishing the a levels / last two years of high school and then maybe taking a years break to think about wether i want a longer break or do i apply the following year to uni. although i might take a one year break between this and the last year of the a levels.
If the thought of demons
Never rises in your mind,
You need not fear the demon hosts around you.
It is most important to tame your mind within....

In so far as the Ultimate, or the true nature of being is concerned,
there are neither buddhas or demons.
He who frees himself from fear and hope, evil and virtue,
will realize the insubstantial and groundless nature of confusion.
Samsara will then appear as the mahamudra itself….

-Milarepa

OMMANIPADMEHUNG

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls6P9tOYmdo
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby Vasana » Mon Dec 09, 2013 3:36 pm



http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-loy ... 46616.html

Why Buddhism and the West 'need' each other.

"The mercy of the West has been social revolution. The mercy of the East has been individual insight into the basic self/void. We need both.
- Gary Snyder "

"Another way to put it: the highest ideal of the Western tradition has been to restructure our societies so that they are more socially just. The most important goal for Buddhism is to awaken and (to use the Zen phrase) realize one's true nature, which puts an end to dukkha "suffering" due to the delusion of a separate self. Today it has become more obvious that we need both: not just because these ideals complement each other, but because each project needs the other"
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby pensum » Mon Dec 09, 2013 11:16 pm

Q:To many laypeople in the dharma today, the purity and uncompromising nature of your views will seem like a luxury, even an indulgence.
A: Many people seem to be all but overwhelmed by their jobs and their lives. To support themselves and their families there seems to be no choice but to get up each day and go to work. There is a certain kind of circularity here. People want to engage with teachings that point out that craving and clinging are root causes of stress. Yet people don’t want to let go of patterns of being and consuming that fuel craving and clinging. We have to ask honestly whether the people you describe really want to be transformed or whether they are simply looking for ways to reduce their stress. What do they want?
From an interview with Mu Soeng http://www.tricycle.com/interview/dharma-sale
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby Malcolm » Mon Dec 09, 2013 11:19 pm

pensum wrote:Q:To many laypeople in the dharma today, the purity and uncompromising nature of your views will seem like a luxury, even an indulgence.
A: Many people seem to be all but overwhelmed by their jobs and their lives. To support themselves and their families there seems to be no choice but to get up each day and go to work. There is a certain kind of circularity here. People want to engage with teachings that point out that craving and clinging are root causes of stress. Yet people don’t want to let go of patterns of being and consuming that fuel craving and clinging. We have to ask honestly whether the people you describe really want to be transformed or whether they are simply looking for ways to reduce their stress. What do they want?
From an interview with Mu Soeng http://www.tricycle.com/interview/dharma-sale


Reduce stress first.

Starve craving and clinging second.

You cannot let go of patterns of craving and clinging if you are stressed out.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs apply here.

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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Western world and buddhist life

Postby pensum » Tue Dec 10, 2013 1:19 am

True. Though it appears i didn't choose my quote to represent the interview very wisely, so here i'll give it another try:

Q: You have said that Buddhists, especially Buddhist teachers, have no choice but to be outsiders, willing to speak the truth at all costs, and you have implied that Buddhist communities in America are in a state of decline.
A: What I have tried to say is that very few places or teachers seem to be interested in the teaching of liberation. In most places, Buddhism is in danger of becoming another consumer item.

Q: How so?
A: Teachers live in the marketplace, like the rest of us. They know how the game is played, and at a very unconscious level, at least, they want to play that game. Many of them have spent their lives in dharma communities and they seek the approval of their peers, yet they also want the success, the rewards, that our materialistic culture has to offer. In the end, many of them allow themselves to succumb to marketplace dynamics. They have to promote their books and attract students, so it becomes a celebrity game, because celebrity brings attention, it brings money, and it satisfies people. It’s human nature to want to say “my students” and to have a lot of students. Most people forget that they began practicing for the sake of liberation. Teachers may now be playing the student game, the numbers game, the celebrity game.
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