Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
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Astus
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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby Astus » Mon Oct 01, 2012 8:45 pm

What originally made Zen famous in the West was its anti-intellectualism, anti-structuralism, iconoclasm, minimalism, etc. That is, the way DT Suzuki painted it. There was also a fascination with Japanese culture. But it seems that while that idea of Zen is still alive and well, it leaves too much out. That means that people are mostly free to fill out the huge gaps with their own ideas - thus the many Zen of this and Zen of that - but that results in Zen being little more than a catchword. It takes enormous dedication/fanaticism to stick with a formless and aimless seated meditation as the centre of one's faith. Generally it just turns into some relax time. My hope is that Korean Buddhism can establish itself in the West as a comprehensive practice and doctrine, since there are apparent intentions to do so by the Jogye Order (largest Buddhist organisation in Korea).

I can second Dzoki in that in Central Europe it is Tibetan Buddhism that rules the land, Diamond Way being the number one by miles. In Hungary's case there are a couple of historical reasons too, for instance . Another example, the last time the Dalai Lama was in Budapest (2010) he had an audience of more than 10,000 people (that is 0.1% of the entire population of the country) in a stadium. Of course that doesn't mean all were Buddhists.
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



JKhedrup
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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:10 pm

Another reason for the popularity of Tibetan Buddhism is I think the high-quality translations available of many of the essential materials.

Because the Tibetans emphasize teaching during dharma assemblies (as opposed to say, group sitting meditation, which is actually a Western innovation in TB), there is a huge amount of material available. Traditional Geshes (the majority of my experience is with the Gelug order, though also HH Karmapa teaches in this way) will often take a text as the basis of their teaching. They will gloss the text with commentary in the majority of cases, which makes reproducing their classes in book form very easy for their students. In this case of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, his commentaries are widely read all over the world and instant bestsellers.

So there are very accessible books on all aspects of the path of Tibetan Buddhism. People pick up a book by a Tibetan teacher and find it easy to understand and practical, so naturally if they go to the next step of looking for a centre it will likely be in the Tibetan tradition.

Generally the quality of the translations is quite high. Many of the translators of the classical texts (rather than books based on oral teachings) are university educated scholars, with English as their first language. There are also many scholar-practitioners, which means that the works are often quite fresh and readable rather than try university-level analysis. In the Chinese tradition often not enough care has been put into producing publications (sorry, I am not trying to offend). The quality of the grammar is as poor as that of my posts on Dharma Wheel, and there are many spelling mistakes. That labeled as "practical" or "humanistic" is often very relevant to those coming from Chinese cultures but very foreign and confusing to Westerners.In short, they are for the most part not books or translations that people would read or buy.

There are a few exceptions to this. Notably the excellent work of the Buddhist Text Translation Society (Master Hsuan Hua), Kalavinka, and some of the translations of Ven. Sheng Yen's work. On the board we have Ven. Hui Feng and Huseng who are native English speakers translating high quality stuff. (NO they did not pay me to say that). But for the most part, what I see is not of the same quality as the Tibetan publications of Shambhala, Wisdom or Snow Lion (wait, are Snow Lion and Shambhala one thing now?)

The volume of Tibetan Buddhist material is also quite high. This is because most lamas stress the translation of text important to their lineage into the English language, so each practice tradition tries to produce its own publication, so the amount of what is available is pretty staggering. The 84,000 Project to translate the Kangyur is amazing and though I have heard those in the Chinese Buddhist community express a wish to do this with the Chinese canon, I do not see anything as concrete.

In terms of it being free to study in Taiwan for example this is true. But unless you have a firm grasp of Chinese you will likely find it difficult. In terms of what is on offer to laypeople I am not as knowledgeable, as most of what I know comes from my experience as a monk in the monasteries and the experiences of fellow Western monastics I have spoken to.

I don't know of any monasteries there that are really equipped to handle Westerners properly which is why I usually mention CTTB in the USA for those interested in Chinese monastic life. Being a Chinese monk or nun also involves conforming to the standard modes of behaviour of Chinese Culture (Confucian) as well as Buddhism. Most will find this difficult and without other Westerners there for support unless one's resolve is firm it can be very discouraging. Controls on things such as communication with one's family down to things like how shoes are lined up under your bed, and how to address and interact with superiors are very difficult to adjust to for individualistic (selfish?) Westerners.

There is a huge emphasis on conformity

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby Yudron » Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:17 pm

I think, in terms of numbers of Tibetan Buddhist centers in the U.S., we have have to bow to Trungpa Rinpoche who established many many franchise Dharmadhatu (now Shambhala) centers all over the place. They excel at being gateway programs for English language speakers. But looking at the Buddhanet directory, I would say that Zen, Pure Land and Theravadin centers greatly outnumber Tibetan Buddhist centers.

If you counted the number of people here who were not raised in Buddhist families and then formally took refuge in the Three Jewels, maybe the numbers of individual would be higher for Tibetan Buddhism, for all the reasons stated by people above. I suppose some young immigrants are Buddhist by birth and never think about it much, and a lot of people who go to zen and vipassana centers retain their old religious beliefs and just use meditation to relax on the weekends. They don't want Guru Rinpoche or Tsongkhapa staring at them from the temple wall.
Author of Buddhist young adult fiction. Vlogger at Wisdom and Compassion: Grandma Yudron's Totally Chill Vlog on Meditation and Tibetan Wisdom Blogger at Very active on Twitter.

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby Yudron » Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:22 pm

Author of Buddhist young adult fiction. Vlogger at Wisdom and Compassion: Grandma Yudron's Totally Chill Vlog on Meditation and Tibetan Wisdom Blogger at Very active on Twitter.

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:26 pm

That is interesting to note! Perhaps HHDL's books are the exception.
Most of the people I know in Buddhism are voracious readers of dharma stuff but I suppose that Sanghas vary widely and many might emphasize a formal sitting practice more than study.

I still think if you look at the Buddhist section of your average bookstore, though, more than half is usually coming from the Tibetan tradition or inspired by it.

But if you are talking about the more scholarly things I think you are probably 100% right. To me it is amazing that there is enough funding to get things like the Tsadra series and Lam Rim Chenmo published. I am very grateful for the work of the translators as well as the generosity of the benefactors.

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby Astus » Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:47 pm

While I can only agree regarding publications with JKhedrup, there is another thing I'd like to add here. And that is the difference in the source material itself. Most of the texts translated from Chinese are either Chan works or sutras. Both are difficult to understand for any beginner, or even not so beginner readers. Without a firm knowledge of essential Mahayana doctrines it is only natural that there will be serious misunderstandings. But to get the knowledge of basic Mahayana one has to start reading either academic translations from Sanskrit or works from the Tibetan tradition. And here I'm talking about classical works, not introductory books.

Here is an example of a classical Chinese Buddhist text that was later often referred to in Chan,

"In entering there is transcendence and in emerging there is subtlety. The entering of wisdom is transcendent, [since] the outer defilements have no support. The emergence of wisdom is subtle, [since] the inner mind is devoid of activity. When inwardly the mind is free of intentional activity, one is no longer moved by various views. When outer defilements have no support, one is no longer bound by manifold existence. Free from the bonds of manifold existence, discursive thought no longer charges about. Unmoved by various views, there is inconceivable quiescence and cessation. This can be called originally pure and intrinsic transcendence and subtlety."
(Treasure Store Treatise, ch. 2, in "Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism", p. 204)

It is not a matter of bad translation but mainly a foreign terminology. And Dogen - whose works are almost completely translated to English - is a whole different level. Longchenpa's Precious Tresury series are like childen's books compared to that in terms of language.
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



Yudron
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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby Yudron » Mon Oct 01, 2012 9:48 pm

Author of Buddhist young adult fiction. Vlogger at Wisdom and Compassion: Grandma Yudron's Totally Chill Vlog on Meditation and Tibetan Wisdom Blogger at Very active on Twitter.

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby Admin_PC » Mon Oct 01, 2012 11:22 pm

I have to agree with the sentiments that it's the easy-to-follow language used in the translated texts & used by the big speakers.
TB has folks like Robert Thurman, Robina Courtin, Richard Gere, Keanu Reaves, Thubten Chodron, Pema Chodron, Karin Valham, Thubten Dondrub, Constance Miller, Mattieu Ricard...
They're all westerners and they're easy for westerners to relate to...
I also agree that the linear progression of the Lam Rim is very attractive.
Those are the 2 big reasons that I've become very interested in Tibetan Buddhism; even though I was initially wary of it's "trendiness" and by the sheer amount of ritual.

That being said, I think the Thai/Lao Theravadins have done well in the US, as have the Vietnamese.
Zen has a very deep presence here as well.

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby greentara » Mon Oct 01, 2012 11:50 pm

Kaji, "As a Chinese Buddhist living in a Western country, I have been trying to "casually" spread Buddhism to people around me whenever an apparently opportune moment arises. My temperament makes me want to go about this ardently, but circumstances prevent me from doing so, especially my recent family situation. I have realised I not only lack freedom, but the necessary skills and knowledge. Until then... gotta train more"
Going about it ardently without much skill and knowledge is pointless. I understand if you are very interested in a 'religion' you want to talk about it, mull over it, discuss it. The Christians are famous or 'infamous' for it.
An old saying "When the flower blooms, the bees come uninvited"

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Oct 02, 2012 5:34 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Oct 02, 2012 5:35 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Oct 02, 2012 5:37 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Oct 02, 2012 5:55 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Oct 02, 2012 5:56 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Oct 02, 2012 6:05 am

tad etat sarvajñānaṃ karuṇāmūlaṃ bodhicittahetukam upāyaparyavasānam iti |

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby Quiet Heart » Tue Oct 02, 2012 6:59 am

:smile:
Back in the 1970's....actually 1965 to be truthful....when I first encountered Zen as a freshman in University, Zen was regarded as the "cool" thing to be.
Yes, since you asked, I am that old...66 years old in 4 days.
When asked your "religion" saying you were a "Zen Buddhist".....even if you weren't really all that sure what either the thing you called "Zen" or "Buddhisim" in fact really was.
But it sure was "cool".
I guess now the "cool" factor is with the Tibetan boys.
And, for me personally, my "Zen" practice has changed a lot. Sitting on mats and counting breaths looks like silliness to me now.
I think Zen has become to institutionalized, too structured. The "rebellion" factor in Zen of the 60's and 70's is long since gone.
That's only a personal view, but I can see where a beginner encountering Zen for the first time, could be frankly bored by "sitting quietly, doing nothing"
Now it's the Tibetan and esoteric suff that has all the theatre.
:smile:
Shame on you Shakyamuni for setting the precedent of leaving home.
Did you think it was not there--
in your wife's lovely face
in your baby's laughter?
Did you think you had to go elsewhere (simply) to find it?
from - Judyth Collin
The Layman's Lament
From What Book, 1998, p. 52
Edited by Gary Gach

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Oct 02, 2012 8:09 am

Yes there is the cool factor but I don't think Tibetan culture is as in as it was in the 90s, around the time the Kundun and Seven Years in Tibet films came out. And while the cool factor may get people in the door, when they realize how much work, study and practice is involved to really "get it", they often don't stick around. A bit of the revolving door syndrome.

I think that the best hope for Chinese Buddhist organizations would be to establish institutes to train and educate qualified Sangha and lay teachers, and then give them the freedom and form to "propagate" in their own culture, while staying true to the teachings. There are certainly the resources for this but I have to admit that Chinese monastic life's emphasis on conformity, for example, might disallow any "special treatment" for people from Western cultures. (Which, on the other side of the coin, might mean that those who manage to stick around are extra exceptional).

The next step would be to have a graduated course of study of the Buddhist fundamentals, much like the "Discovering Buddhism" course of the FPMT, but instead perhaps using material sourced from Chinese texts. Lectures on tougher topics can be given in an engaging matter to keep the students past the beginner level. If you look at the Avatamsaka Sutra lectures of Ven. Heng Sure at the Berkeley Buddhist monastery, he presents beautifully for a Western audience and people have been going there for years.

It's funny because I spoke with Geshe la a fair bit about trying to establish a dialogue between Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism in the context of presenting for Westerners. He is all for it and has a natural affinity with Asians. But how to get such an endeavour off the ground is beyond the means of either of us, our main concern right now is making sure what we present is attractive enough to keep the students coming for more and our classes at the centre feasible.

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

Postby Astus » Tue Oct 02, 2012 10:46 am

Another thing is that here if you mention Buddhism, people think it exists in India - Buddha was Indian, right? - and then the Dalai Lama and Tibet. That Buddhism is a major religion in China, that's not common knowledge at all.
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular?

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