All those different types of Buddhism!

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All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby Rain » Sun Oct 30, 2011 7:39 pm

I'm a newbie, and feeling pretty confused by all the different "kinds" of Buddhism... and whether or not the type really matters.

I have started looking into Buddhism mainly because the concept of compassion for all living things really appeals to me.

I am fortunate to live in a city with *two* Buddhist centers -- one Tibetan, one Zen.

The Tibetan Buddhist center seemed very oriented towards compassion, which I really liked, but there was also talk of reincarnation and a meditation session focused on the goddess Tara -- these "supernatural sounding" things are kinda freaking me out (I've been an atheist my entire adult life, and I'm not about to start believing in reincarnation and gods and goddesses without some *really* convincing evidence).

The Zen Temple seems to be more oriented towards wisdom and understanding... there's probably still an element of "compassion for all living things" there, but more subtle, where a newbie like me doesn't see it as easily. On the other hand, there was no weird supernatural-sounding stuff.

I don't know which one to keep going to. I suspect a "Buddhist answer" would be something along the lines of "both paths lead to the same destination"... but even if there is no "right/wrong" choice, I do still need to choose one or the other... don't I? Is it arrogant for an inexperienced newbie to "pick and choose" beliefs when some of the beliefs I may reject are taught by people have a lifetime of study and practice behind their beliefs?

I guess my big hangup is that I don't totally understand what's meant by saying we should have respect for our teachers... does that mean accepting everything they say? Would it be "disrespectful" to keep going to the Tibetan Buddhist center, but to focus on the teachings on compassion and meditation but not believe them when it comes to stuff about reincarnation or Tara?
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:43 pm

After more than 25 years myself, practicing Vajrayana (Tibetan) Buddhism, I still think it's weird. Probably because I too am coming from an atheist position. All I can say about that is that there is an area of understanding that goes beyond the limits of our usual way of thinking about believing and not believing in, what you say, "supernatural sounding" things. This understanding is common to both Tibetan and Zen. They are both paths that teach direct pointing to the mind, but in different ways (I have also studied Zen and might just as easily have gone that route).

One's respect for one's teachers means respect for the teaching of the dharma. That's the essence of it, anyway. But true respect, I think, begins with respecting yourself, being honest about your approach, about what you feel comfortable with, and about the things you can and cannot accept.
A person simply cannot truly believe something if they truly don't believe it, and that's okay.

If you bring this self-honesty with you, then you really can know your own mind, which is what Zen & Vajrayana are about.

You are very fortunate to be close to two sources of dharma teachings.
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby Kyosan » Sun Oct 30, 2011 8:54 pm

It's OK to make that decision. It's your life and it's you who needs to decide which form of Buddhism is most suitable for you. That is a common thing in Buddhism, people make that decision.

Maybe they don't express it as much as in some other forms of Buddhism, but in Zen the practice of compassion is very important. Do they take the bodhisattva vows during the Zen meditation session?

You can do compassionate practices on your own, like taking the Bodhisattva vows daily and practicing compassion in your everyday life. You can be helpful to others and donate the merits obtained from your practice to all sentient beings. You can try not to have ill thoughts of others and try to be an understanding person. How one lives ones life is an important part of Buddhist practice.
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby edearl » Sun Oct 30, 2011 11:44 pm

I am also a newbie, but agnostic. Both theism and atheism are unknowable positions; though, I tilt towards atheism. I recommend studying the basics, which are more philosophical than religious, for example the links listed below, but you probably have already done so. As you learn more and more, you will be more able to select the right school and teacher. But, such decisions are not necessarily cast in concrete. I have not made either decision yet; though, tend towards Zen. When the fog of ignorance clears a bit, perhaps I will be able to find a school and teacher.

http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/intro_bud.htm
http://www.dhammawiki.com/index.php?tit ... ightenment
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhipakkh ... hamm%C4%81
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_Faculties
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby KeithBC » Mon Oct 31, 2011 1:17 am

Rain wrote:I'm not about to start believing in reincarnation and gods and goddesses without some *really* convincing evidence

Is it arrogant for an inexperienced newbie to "pick and choose" beliefs when some of the beliefs I may reject are taught by people have a lifetime of study and practice behind their beliefs?

Lots of westerners have trouble with rebirth. It is a part of all forms of Buddhism, but it is not central to any of them. You can get by without that belief. Be open minded about it though. Eventually, you might want to change your mind.

There is nothing arrogant about choosing your beliefs. You believe what you believe, and that's who you are. If you find a name for those beliefs, that is great. If you find a group that doesn't agree with you completely but that will accept you anyway, that is still good. Be cautious about rejecting beliefs, though. If you don't accept them, that's fine, but rejecting them might create artificial obstacles in your own mind that don't need to be there.

I had a problem accepting Tibetan deities at first, too. (They are not "gods and goddesses, by the way. Gods and goddesses are totally irrelevant beings in Buddhism.) It took me a long time to understand what the deities were about. Beings like Tara are are aspects of your own mind. Everyone has the potential for compassion, for example. Whether you call it "compassion" or "Chenrezi" really doesn't change what it is. All that Tibetan Buddhism does is anthropomorphize it for reasons that a good teacher might be able to explain.

So, I would suggest that you try out both groups and settle with whichever one appeals to you most, for whatever reason. As you suggested, both paths lead to the same destination. Changing your mind is allowed, too.

Om mani padme hum
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Oct 31, 2011 1:48 am

Rain wrote:I'm not about to start believing in reincarnation and gods and goddesses without some *really* convincing evidence).


I find it interesting (and this is not directed at you or to anyone in particular) about how much stuff, ways of looking at things, that we each bring with us to the path of dharma. We have so many words to define this way of thinking or that way of thinking, such as "gods" or "religion" or "belief" and it often takes a long time to let go of all these ready-mades, which we hold on to, I think, because they help us to identify who we are and thus give us some sense of security.

The quote above reminded me of a discussion I had many tears ago, with a friend, that from the Buddhist view, theist and atheist are essentially the same thing. Relatively, of course, they mean completely opposite things. One person believes in a god, another doesn't. But then, if you start to dissect the meaning of "believe" you end up discussing words such as "create" and "exist" and "being" and then if you keep dissecting the meanings of those words, it seems that at the end, these are all just mental constructs for basically the same experience.

We bring to the dharma lot of stuff, not just concepts, but entirely different ways of thinking. It reminds me of missionaries who wander into a village where the natives live their beliefs 24/7, and every house has some type of shrine, and there are gods everywhere you look, and the missionaries think, "oh these poor savages...we must teach them religion"

I am not knocking your post. You bring up a lot of important issues. We in the so-called "modern world" grow up with science, with a Greco-Roman logic structure, and then we are confronted with these crazy looking blue and green and red buddhas and their friends, and we wonder what the heck is that all about. So... your post just got me rambling on a bit.

But I think there is something more to be gained perhaps approaching dharma without a comparison chart, look at it as if you had just hatched fresh out of a duck's egg, and see if that gives you any different perspective. :mrgreen:
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby catmoon » Mon Oct 31, 2011 1:53 am

Rain wrote:I
Is it arrogant for an inexperienced newbie to "pick and choose" beliefs when some of the beliefs I may reject are taught by people have a lifetime of study and practice behind their beliefs?

I guess my big hangup is that I don't totally understand what's meant by saying we should have respect for our teachers... does that mean accepting everything they say? Would it be "disrespectful" to keep going to the Tibetan Buddhist center, but to focus on the teachings on compassion and meditation but not believe them when it comes to stuff about reincarnation or Tara?



No it's not arrogant, it's necessary. Consider how bad the alternative is. You would have to start pretending to believe things you do not believe. That kind of dishonesty does not make a good foundation.

Respect for the teacher is always a good idea, but that does not mean mindless obedience or unquestioning acceptance of all doctrines. There are a number of prominent teachers who suffer personal foibles, but we still respectfully acknowledge their accomplishments and wisdom. But if the teacher is an alcoholic, we don't take up drinking and might look elsewhere for a formal teacher-disciple relationship.

Find yourself a good teacher if you can, then hear him out. As you apply the teachings, you may find your confidence in the teacher increasing. You can always adopt beliefs provisionally, until a clear demonstration arrives. You never know when that might happen.
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby mint » Mon Oct 31, 2011 2:11 am

Start where you are, then proceed accordingly.
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby Rain » Mon Oct 31, 2011 2:33 am

PadmaVonSamba - I have done a little reading about meditation deities existing as archetypes in the mind rather than in the western sense of "gods", and can just about wrap my head around that... the thing I'm really having a hard time with is reincarnation, because when they say the Rimpoche is a reincarnated Lama, I get the impression that they believe that literally. I would be really interested in hearing how, having come to Tibetan Buddhism from an atheist perspective, you have handled the reincarnation issue.
Last edited by Rain on Tue Nov 01, 2011 10:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby Rain » Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:14 am

Edit: I have deleted my reply that was formerly in this space because it only contained negativity about religion and contributed nothing useful to the conversation.
Last edited by Rain on Tue Nov 01, 2011 10:43 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby ground » Mon Oct 31, 2011 3:49 am

There are many "buddhisms" but only one "Buddha dhamma".

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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby catmoon » Mon Oct 31, 2011 5:01 am

Btw, i find it quite helpful to avoid using words like "gods" and "deities". I like to think of them as advanced beings, beings with somewhat augmented abilities and so on. Actual gods in the Western sense are nowhere to be found in Buddhism.
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby Thug4lyfe » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:36 am

People talks about mother natrue and mother earth all day long. But when it comes to earth dieties that helps us everyday, all the respect are gone :shrug:
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby catmoon » Mon Oct 31, 2011 6:40 am

With some exceptions, apparently.
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby LastLegend » Mon Oct 31, 2011 8:49 am

About supernatural things such as gods and goddesses, there are many realms of existence that created by different karmas or perceptions of sentient beings' minds. You should not be surprised that there are realms of animals, gods, humans, ghosts, and hells. Why? Because human perception allows human to experience their physical environment that is built by the mind. Gods and goddesses perception allow them to experience their environment that is built by the mind. So, to experience an environment (created by the mind) there must be a perception and body (both created by the mind). So all is created by the mind. I hope you understand what I am saying. If you don't, somebody will come along and explain it to you well. So if you understand that everything is created by the mind, you should be able to understand rebirth.
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby Multiplicity » Tue Nov 01, 2011 4:13 am

LastLegend,

I agree with you when you say "created by the mind".

I just have one line of thinking nagging me though when I think of that.

You say the body is created by the mind, and yet, from observation it seems like the body is born and then the mind is developed?

Or is the mind something that exists without the body and then localizes itself to a body when the karma is right? One would then wonder when the mind became into existence in the first place.

Or are we saying there is some form of Universal Mind that specializes itself?
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Tue Nov 01, 2011 4:38 pm

Multiplicity wrote:LastLegend,

I agree with you when you say "created by the mind".

I just have one line of thinking nagging me though when I think of that.

You say the body is created by the mind, and yet, from observation it seems like the body is born and then the mind is developed?

Or is the mind something that exists without the body and then localizes itself to a body when the karma is right? One would then wonder when the mind became into existence in the first place.

Or are we saying there is some form of Universal Mind that specializes itself?


Some things to give your mind something to think about:

1. If you look for the mind, its location, its shape, color, duration, you cannot find it.

2. The brain and the rest of the body are composed entirely of non-living elements such as carbon, salt, calcium, and so forth, which in turn are merely molecular compounds. If we assert that the body (the brain) produces thought, or cognitive awareness, then we must be saying that these minerals and other chemicals are capable of producing thoughts. But there is no scientific evidence that suggests that minerals can think.

3. What is meant by the term "mind"? It is a witness to the chemical activity of the brain. The mind interprets various chemical activities, such as a sudden influx of adrenaline, as panic or excitement. It experiences brain & body chemistry as sexual desire, as hunger, as dreams.

4. The body is constantly changing, and the mind is constantly changing. The baby body you were born with already died, cell by cell, long ago, and every day pieces of your body die and are replaced by new cells. So, you have already taken rebirth in many new bodies, many times, even in one "lifetime". So, the term "lifetime" is really a misnomer. It is a word that only reflects one way of viewing things. It is a convenient term, but not totally accurate.

5. Since the mind appears to have continuity from Childhood through your last day, we think it is the same mind and the same body. So, when we wonder how a mind can jump from one body into another body after somebody dies, this doesn't make sense because it is a question framed by all the wrong assumptions. It assumes that the body and mind have some existing quality to begin with, and that assumption is erroneous.

6. The Buddha taught that no continuous thing that can be called mind can be said to truly exist, but instead, a series of mental events which happen in rapid succession, each taking an appearance echoing the one which preceded it.

7. Behavior training actually rewires the brain. The things you do and think actually cause changes to neuropathways, which are part of the physical body. So, this is one way that it can be shown that the mind creates the body, and it creates the brain constantly.

8. If we think that everything only happens in the physical brain, then why do we not imagine ourselves as brains, locked inside of skulls, living in total darkness, riding around on the shoulders of tall bodies? We say "My brain, my body, my thoughts, my actions", but who is this "MY" we are referring to?

9. The brain provides the physical environment for the thoughts of the mind, but it doesn't create the mind or the thoughts, just as a forest provides a home for a deer, but nothing in the forest, none of the trees create the deer. Yet, in a way, they do, because deer evolve in a way that it can eat and live in that forest. they evolve together. Likewise, the brain and body do not create thoughts, but they do create the way that those thoughts occur. So, a dog and a person both seeing a squirrel running will have different mental responses because the human brain is wired with one type of chemistry and the dog's brain with another.

10. The deer and the forest arise together to create a mutual relationship. The mind and the body also influence each other. Similarly, thoughts arise with changing conditions. Nagarjuna said (in the 17 stanzas) that thoughts do not spontaneously occur out of nothing, but that every thought must follow one that goes before it. From this, he inferred that the first thought a new life form has (and that can even be something as basic as the sensation of warmth) must follow something that can roughly be referred to as a a previous thought.

11. "The essence of thought is dharmakaya, as is taught.
They are nothing whatsoever and yet they arise."

-from the Kagyu Lineage prayer
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
Original painting by P.Volker /used by permission.
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Re: All those different types of Buddhism!

Postby muni » Wed Nov 09, 2011 8:04 am

Different types of Buddhism. Well there is cat food and dog food and cows eat grass or newspapers................

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