Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

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Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby Lolita » Wed Apr 24, 2013 12:48 am

Hello!

Let me introduce myself. I am Lolita and I have made the decision to follow Mahayana Buddhism. I am raised Catholic and have never felt spiritually strengthened by it. For all these years I just prayed and accepted what I was taught, but could never understand why I just didn't feel it in my heart. The teachings of Buddhism have always intrigued me and I almost immediately felt like I belonged to it, like I was seeking guidance but I did not know who to turn to.

Naturally I am facing some conflicts. What will my family think, how will I unlearn the teachings of Catholicism and how can I transition into it. I did read the article about the Dalai Lama's opposition to conversion http://www.persecution.org/2013/02/08/d ... hristians/ and it has caused some confusion within me. Nevertheless, I have been taking small steps to learn the practices but I am having difficulty doing it on my own.

What do you all suggest I do as I am self teaching?

I am thinking of purchasing some books "Principle and Practice of Mahayana Buddhism" by Dwight Goddard and "Buddhism" by Edward Conze. I have prepared a home altar but it is still minimal. So far I have only used online sources to help me, such as chanting audio, meditation, and prayers. I would like to develop a routine, but I feel lost.

Thank you for your time!
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby Wayfarer » Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:05 am

Hi Lolita, and welcome to the Forum.

It might interest you to know there is quite an active culture of 'Buddhist Catholic Dialogue'. This has happened mainly in the Zen world, as a result of dialogue between meditators and contemplatives. But both find, somewhat to their surprise, that they actually get along quite well.

I have been to some talks by Zen teachers who are also Jesuits. One is Ama Samy, another is Ruben F. Habito. There is also a Fr Robert Kennedy S.J. whose site is here. And I should mention Thomas Merton, the Catholic monk who was famous for dialogue with Buddhism.

I know this can seem a bit challenging from the Christian perspective. But I don't think Buddhism tries to 'convert' in the way that some Christians do. That is why they can co-exist.

So I would suggest that before you make a dramatic declaration of conversion, look into these resources and dialogues, and see what common ground can be found there. You might be surprised!

:namaste:
Last edited by Wayfarer on Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:07 am

I don't know, you need to figure out which tradition attracts you, and then go try it out basically. The book that made me decide on Buddhism was "A Buddhist Bible" by Goddard - which i've been told has plenty of issues, but it did the trick for me I guess..I still own my beaten up old copy from when I was 17.

Is there any kind of center in your area?

Part of the thing is, being less established in the West, the "Buddhist Community" runs a really wide range..i'd say to do some reading, figure out which tradition really resonates, then go check out some Sanghas, Mahayana Buddhism is a huge umbrella of stuff. There really isn't a substitute for learning from others, of course teachers, but also just fellow practitioners in person. If not, I would look into one of the online study programs that are out there, you will reach a point where you need the help of others, and some kind of teacher, at least in my experience.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby Hickersonia » Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:57 am

Lolita wrote:Naturally I am facing some conflicts. What will my family think, how will I unlearn the teachings of Catholicism and how can I transition into it.

I went through a little of this too, particularly in the "What will my family think?" category. I was absolutely terrified that my wife would suddenly leave me and my kids would grow up thinking I was some sort of devil-worshipper, but that hasn't happened... and I've realized that, at least in my experience, what I think is going to happen is almost always worse than what will really happen.

Lolita wrote: I did read the article about the Dalai Lama's opposition to conversion http://www.persecution.org/2013/02/08/d ... hristians/ and it has caused some confusion within me. Nevertheless, I have been taking small steps to learn the practices but I am having difficulty doing it on my own.

I wouldn't worry too much about that article, quite frankly.

That said, I agree with the everything I've seen/heard from the Dalai Lama on conversion and think that it isn't a bad idea to explore your own tradition more fully before jumping over to something new -- sort of the "grass is greener on the other side of the fence" thing. Or that is how I take it, anyway.

Lolita wrote:What do you all suggest I do as I am self teaching?

My practice is mostly grounded in the Theravada tradition, but I would suggest reading Dharma texts from people who, like you, had to move out of their comfort zone in order to get involved with Buddhist practice. I would also seriously look at reading Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh (or others of his works). His writing style is very simple, but the content is still very deep and thought-provoking.

In the end, do not be afraid to look at texts written or translated by monks and nuns from other traditions than the one that is your "home base." It can often be very rewarding.

Lolita wrote:I have prepared a home altar but it is still minimal.

Just my two-cents -- keep it that way. Minimal is not bad.

Perhaps I'll post a picture sometime [when I'm not at work] of my home shrine.

Lolita wrote:So far I have only used online sources to help me, such as chanting audio, meditation, and prayers. I would like to develop a routine, but I feel lost.

I modeled my morning and evening puja readings after the chanting from Wat Metta in California, a Theravada "Forest" tradition. Depending on what specific Mahayana tradition you are most focused on, it could be compatible for you.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1p2Q ... YwUNc/edit

May your practice be fruitful! Be well!
Hickersonia
http://hickersonia.wordpress.com/


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throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned."

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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 2:04 am

Lolita wrote:I am raised Catholic and have never felt spiritually strengthened by it. For all these years I just prayed and accepted what I was taught, but could never understand why I just didn't feel it in my heart. The teachings of Buddhism have always intrigued me and I almost immediately felt like I belonged to it, like I was seeking guidance but I did not know who to turn to.
You practiced Buddhism in a past life.

Lolita wrote:Naturally I am facing some conflicts. What will my family think, how will I unlearn the teachings of Catholicism and how can I transition into it. I did read the article about the Dalai Lama's opposition to conversion http://www.persecution.org/2013/02/08/d ... hristians/ and it has caused some confusion within me. Nevertheless, I have been taking small steps to learn the practices but I am having difficulty doing it on my own.
Change yourself through practice and impress them.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby greentara » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:07 am

Why would you have to officially convert? Just carry the teaching in your heart and try to still the mind. No need to carry a placard, the teaching is subtle and can transform.
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby Konchog1 » Wed Apr 24, 2013 4:50 am

greentara wrote:No need to carry a placard
The just in name conversion

greentara wrote:Just carry the teaching in your heart
The real conversion
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby randomseb » Wed Apr 24, 2013 5:02 am

You might find Thich Nhat Hanh's book "Old Path White Clouds, walking in the footsteps of the Buddha" to be an easy (but longish) read with a gentle introduction to various basic teachings through Siddhartha's life story and how he dealt with various events.. It's pretty non-denominational and non-metaphysical, just a straight up biography.

Lots of forums like this place can give you decent advice, but be forewarned that having the label "buddhist" doesn't necessarily mean the person posting is posting anything more than a personal opinion or contrived mental construct, with the hindrance of the having a view sickness..

Best of course would be to find a reputable Sangha and teacher(s) that can see the level of understanding and realization you have and help you advance from there, directly.. But sometimes that might not be possible, so you may have to do lots of reading and contemplation to begin to understand just what the goal is supposed to be and then to get an inkling of a hint as to just how you are supposed to get there, so to speak! It's not that it's secret or anything, it's just not something that can be expressed in words or concepts, ya?

:reading: :quoteunquote: :rolling:
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:04 am

Seeing Randomseb's post made me remember that I would also recommend Thich Nhat Hanh's book The Heart of The Buddha's Teaching. It covers a bunch of the important philosophical bits of Mahayana Buddhism, he takes some positions that might be mildy controversial in places, but it's really well written and he has a knack for putting things elegantly and simply.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby Simon E. » Wed Apr 24, 2013 9:30 am

I would recommend reading some Thomas Merton, including his ' Asian Journal '.
You might find that H.H. Dalai Lama is correct when he says that you may need not to convert at all.
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Apr 24, 2013 10:27 am

"Conversion to Buddhism" or taking refuge has a number of levels.

There is the actual refuge ceremony with all the prayers and finger snapping and name giving and hair cutting.

Then there is the real taking of refuge.

Example: I, initially, had a lot of resistance to taking refuge. It seemed just like a rehash of the whole baptism deal. So I put it off for a considerable period of time. During that time I practiced, read books, listened to teachings, seeked advice from teachers, etc...

Then one day it struck me that essentially I has already gone for refuge to the Three Jewels (Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) by engaging myself with practices, teachings and teachers in order to deal with my current reality (Samsara). I was already seeking protection from my suffering through the Three Jewels. After that, the decision to take part in the ceremony was real easy. My behaviour was changing anyway, as a consequence of my practice and study, and people around me could clearly see that, so there was no reason to cause them confusion or fear by making grand announcements. I just told people that I knew could handle it (to an extent) and left it at that.
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby LastLegend » Wed Apr 24, 2013 1:04 pm

1)Take refuge in Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. This means practice the way of the Buddha to my understanding.

2)Keep 5 precepts
NAMO AMITABHA
NAM MO A DI DA PHAT (VIETNAMESE)
NAMO AMITUOFO (CHINESE)
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby alpha » Wed Apr 24, 2013 2:48 pm

Don't convert.
Because if you convert you will become a buddhist.

Better to work at discovering your own nature.
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby Sherab Dorje » Wed Apr 24, 2013 3:47 pm

Yes, and you wouldn't want to become a Buddhist now, would you? I mean, then you would have no chance of discovering your "own nature" (whatever that may be). :shrug:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby alpha » Thu Apr 25, 2013 10:11 am

gregkavarnos wrote:Yes, and you wouldn't want to become a Buddhist now, would you? I mean, then you would have no chance of discovering your "own nature" (whatever that may be). :shrug:


You don't have to become anything.
You only have to understand why you practice whatever you practice.

If you want a new identity better apply for a deed poll to the Royal Courts of Justice.
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby lobster » Thu Apr 25, 2013 12:32 pm

There will come a time when Catholicism may be regarded as a deeply mystical path for you . . .
However, you are asking about self teaching in the Mahayana . . .

The aro on line course will get you involved in a meditation practice . . . from five minutes, to posture, to various techniques and overcoming various arisings.
http://aromeditation.org/

maybe others know of similar courses . . .

Books
http://blpusa.com/category/buddhism-in- ... tep/page/5

Slow but sure, one day you may offer advice to ex-Catholics . . . :thumbsup:

Good luck.
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby Sherab Dorje » Thu Apr 25, 2013 6:34 pm

alpha wrote:You don't have to become anything.
You only have to understand why you practice whatever you practice.

If you want a new identity better apply for a deed poll to the Royal Courts of Justice.
So you have not taken refuge?
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby dakini_boi » Thu Apr 25, 2013 6:40 pm

alpha wrote:Don't convert.
Because if you convert you will become a buddhist.

Better to work at discovering your own nature.

alpha wrote:You don't have to become anything.
You only have to understand why you practice whatever you practice.

If you want a new identity better apply for a deed poll to the Royal Courts of Justice.


Of course, the main point is discovering your own nature. And some practitioners also find it meaningful to formally take refuge, and become a Buddhist, and it can be a support to their practice. I don't think it's helpful to try to impose limits on them.
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby Ramon1920 » Thu Apr 25, 2013 11:15 pm

Study, study, study, your whole life. Sutra, Tantra, and Valid Commentaries only are reliable. There's a lot of people that make up their own teachings then try to pawn them off as the Buddha's, so make sure it's reliable before investing time.

Be very skeptical of teachers: if they criticize ethics, meditation, wisdom(including study), or the Buddha, Dharma, and Arya Sangha, it's a clear indication that they have no respect for the training and are getting something else out of "playing guru".

Only take vows and empowerments from lineage heads like His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
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Re: Converting to Buddhism from Christianity

Postby randomseb » Fri Apr 26, 2013 3:55 am

I've taken the refuges and gotten myself a shiny new tibetan name, last week.. Does it mean much? Not really, except to the one doing it, a kind of declaration of intent. It doesn't change how I feel about how others see may or may not see me, as I do not define myself based on their views. And since I am working towards not defining myself based on any of my own views, ultimately it has no significance at all!

:rolling:

Does one need to be tied to some big name head of a buddhist tradition to be considered a buddhist? Not really. Mostly that is to make other people happy, you know? So they can say "oh yea, you know what you are doing, you are under so and so's lineage, good good!".. But clinging to that sort of thing is bad karma. What's important is practicing the teachings for oneself, in order to discover one's own buddha-nature and work towards this, while, under the Maha and Vajra yanas, also working towards helping every other being to elevate themselves as well, sort of thing.

There's a lot of that bad karma of clinging and grasping at things, in buddhism, just as in any other religion.. It's all politics! Let all that go and work on your own mind!
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