Buddhism: Just for Asians?

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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Queequeg » Wed Oct 10, 2012 2:29 pm

Hi OB,

I can say from personal knowledge, your attraction to things East Asian is common. I don't know if I am an expert, but I've spent a lot of time around East Asian grad students and expats in Japan. We sometimes call people like that Otaku, a word used in Japan for people with an intense interest in some subject - usually comics, but we give it a broader meaning for anyone with an intense interest in East Asia. I don't think its something bad, and being conscious of what may be going on is healthy. I think your attitude toward it is good. Racist? Maybe some features of it are there, but its not the same thing.

I don't think it is unfounded to develop an interest the way you have. I am sure you remember, Japan is a different universe. Asia is a different universe. The trappings of Western civilization are there, but as you may recall, there is something very different going on. I think its indicative of an adventurous spirit to want to learn and know about a culture or civilization different than your own. Many people in Japan would appreciate your interest. After you graduate, you might consider going over there to teach English and get to know the place first hand. The pay isn't great, but if you can get a gig out in the countryside in a vibrant area, you may get a lot out of it.

I don't think being attracted to Asian Buddhist statues is outrageous - Japanese statuary is an incredibly refined art. No offense to others, but I think some Japanese Buddhist statues are the best in the genre in the world. I may be biased. Like this one:Image
My wife and I after riding around Kyoto for a week looking at numerous masterpieces were stopped dead in our tracks when we saw this Maitreya at Koryuji. We sat there and stared at this one for literally half an hour - and it was in a room filled with exquisite pieces.
I don't think I have seen any Ghandaran statues with the same refinement, especially when it comes to portraying a serene Buddha. I like them for their stylistic flare, but if I had a choice of what to look at everyday, my choice would be some Japanese statue. Ghandaran Buddhist statues are very stiff and stylized. I don't think Buddhist sculpture reached the same level of dynamism anywhere in the world as it did in Japan. If you are interested, do a google search for Unkei's statutes. The guy is one of the greatest Buddhist artists of all time.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unkei

Anyway, I guess I'm suggesting you might be giving yourself too hard of a time over this. Maybe turn the table and think of it this way: is a Japanese guy who loves American Jazz racist? Maybe if he insists it has to be played by somebody who looks like Satchmo, but I think you would be hard pressed to find someone like that in real life, and if you do, that person probably has much bigger problems going on.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Indrajala » Wed Oct 10, 2012 2:42 pm

You can study in Japan for free if you meet the criteria. Being an ESL teacher is an option, but the pay is decreasing and the work is often draining (wearing a suit to teach a bunch of kids who just don't care).

The Japanese government gives out nice scholarships for MA and PhD degrees (and undergrad but you need to be average freshmen age). They pay for airfare, tuition and you get a monthly stipend sufficient to live on (I lived in Tokyo and saved money, though some of my friends couldn't manage though their spending habits were different from mine).

If you're interested look for MEXT scholarships on the Japanese consulate or embassy website for your region.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Queequeg » Thu Oct 11, 2012 1:56 pm

Huseng wrote:Being an ESL teacher is an option, but the pay is decreasing and the work is often draining (wearing a suit to teach a bunch of kids who just don't care).


That is what I hear. I would not want to teach in lower middle class or working class schools in suburban Tokyo. People who go to smaller cities and nice parts of the countryside seem to have better experiences even now.

a monthly stipend sufficient to live


Woo. Sufficient if you live very conservatively. It is really easy to spend money in Japan, especially in Tokyo. :broke: But the memories you'll have!

Tokyo is really fun.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Oct 11, 2012 2:09 pm

Queequeg wrote:
That is what I hear. I would not want to teach in lower middle class or working class schools in suburban Tokyo. People who go to smaller cities and nice parts of the countryside seem to have better experiences even now.



The countryside would be far better. Far cheaper. Not too many people want to live in the inaka. I wanted to, but my university was a few stations away from Shibuya in Tokyo. :?

Mind you, living in Setagaya Ward wasn't so bad. It is dead silent at night in suburban Tokyo. The Tokyo government also killed all the stray dogs, so not even animals wander the streets at night.

I originally thought to go to Koyasan University, but fate took me to Komazawa University (Soto Zen).

If anyone does go to Japan, I recommend Kansai (Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Kobe, etc...) over Kanto (Tokyo, Yokohama, Kawasaki, Chiba, etc...). For one thing the culture and history is much more rich out west, but the people are generally known to be more easy going. I think in general the cost of living is a lot lower as well. If I could live anywhere in Japan it'd be Nara. Imagine being able to walk around Todai-ji with the tame deer every morning.



Woo. Sufficient if you live very conservatively. It is really easy to spend money in Japan, especially in Tokyo. :broke: But the memories you'll have!


I was getting about 160,000 yen / month. In Tokyo I lived in an international dorm which was only about 35,000 / month on average. Rent in Tokyo is otherwise insane in most places with the key money and deposits factored in. I hear elsewhere in Japan the cost of housing is much much cheaper.

If you don't drink alcohol and keep partying to a minimum while eating like a local you can live on 160,000 / month. An ESL teacher maybe makes 250,000 / month, though their housing costs are a lot more, plus they need to pay for their uniform business suits to be dry cleaned. :|

On my scholarship I saved a lot of it and went wandering about.



Tokyo is really fun.


It can be. The university scene there is kinda cool because so many academics in a small area makes for a lot of special opportunities. Tokyo Uni has a monthly reading of Chan texts where a bunch of students and profs from various universities get together and read some text. Outside the Akamon (Red Gate) of Tokyo Uni there is a Buddhist bookshop which sells all those rare titles that costs 25,000 yen or more each.

Living in Japan was fun. I miss it sometimes. Taiwan doesn't have much history.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby PorkChop » Thu Oct 11, 2012 7:12 pm

Wow, this is turning into quite the discussion for Japan expats (for lack of a better term).
I went to high school in Okinawa and my wife is from Ishigaki.
I'm actually kind of shocked that I haven't gravitated towards Japanese Buddhism in the way that OregonBuddhist did/does.

Okinawa is pretty different from mainland Japan.
Okinawa has a very "nan kuru nai sa" attitude which I guess is sort of a Buddhist attitude in a way.
I believe the closest translation is "c'est la vie"; but very much a connotation of "don't sweat the small stuff" or "things will turn out, no use stressing over it".
Otherwise, I don't remember seeing all that much Buddhist influence when I lived there - aside from maybe the Bon festival (which is slightly different in Okinawa than mainland).

My wife's parents are SGI and she really doesn't think much of it.
As a kid they never explained to her why they were chanting for hours on end or even what they were chanting.
As a teenager she encountered a teacher who was a Christian.
She thought enough of this teacher to convert to Christianity.
You can imagine how thrilled she is that I've been getting into Buddhism... :oops:

The influences I've mainly followed in learning Buddhism have been decidedly non-Japanese.
Living in Okinawa, the first taste of Buddhism I had was Shaolin Ch'an Buddhism through martial arts.
Back in the states, my exposure has mostly come from Thai Theravadans (again, through martial arts) - in fact last night my coach gave me an Ajarn Chah medallion.
My initial temple chanting service/practice experience has been a Vietnamese temple that's mainly Tian Tai (with some Pure Land & Thien influence).
I find that in my studies, I've been gravitating towards Tibetan Buddhism because of the available teachings in English by Americans, the online resources of places like the FPMT, and the straight-forward progression of the Lam Rim.
I have another (American) buddy who's somewhat accomplished in Japanese Zen (I believe Rinzai). He's helped me out a bit with advice and book recommendations, but seems reluctant to teach. He's intimated that his earlier experience came along at the right time, the right place, with the right teacher, and that he hasn't really been practicing since he moved away.

I'd say if anything, my preference would be towards people who are comfortable in the English language, people who come from a mentality that I understand and can relate to.
Mainland Japanese & Okinawans tend to be very different in their attitudes & language.
Hard to say whether or not I would be more receptive towards Japanese Buddhism coming from an Okinawan.
I haven't encountered anybody like that, so I don't know.
I think in the end, I'm probably going to end up one big mutt of a Buddhist.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Queequeg » Thu Oct 11, 2012 7:59 pm

Huseng wrote:The countryside would be far better. Far cheaper. Not too many people want to live in the inaka. I wanted to, but my university was a few stations away from Shibuya in Tokyo. :?


I noticed that people who were in Japan to study tended to like the inaka for the simple reason that you had to speak Japanese and there wasn't much else to do but study... people who were there for the "cultural" experience tended to want to be in the cities... Makes sense that if you were studying you might have an inclination to the countryside.

If I could live anywhere in Japan it'd be Nara. Imagine being able to walk around Todai-ji with the tame deer every morning.


Yeah, I have family in Nara and like to visit - but its ちょっとつまらない (a little boring). I really like Kyoto. Minus the deer, but bigger city, more to do, a little more vibrant - and even more culture...

It can be. The university scene there is kinda cool because so many academics in a small area makes for a lot of special opportunities. Tokyo Uni has a monthly reading of Chan texts where a bunch of students and profs from various universities get together and read some text. Outside the Akamon (Red Gate) of Tokyo Uni there is a Buddhist bookshop which sells all those rare titles that costs 25,000 yen or more each.

Living in Japan was fun. I miss it sometimes. Taiwan doesn't have much history.

[/quote]

My wife was a student at IUC when we lived there, but I was a 社会人 (a grownup with a job). We lived and ate well. Restaurants in Tokyo are as good as anywhere - on a whole even better than where I live now in New York. She has to write her dissertation, so there is a chance I might be moving back...
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Queequeg » Thu Oct 11, 2012 8:03 pm

PorkChop wrote:I think in the end, I'm probably going to end up one big mutt of a Buddhist.


I'm actually really appreciative that I am a practicing Buddhist in the US - there are so many influences here. It would be nice to have the institutional resources in Asia, but, we have the advantage of Buddhism being wide open, challenged, and as a result, really vibrant.

There are worse things to be than a mutt.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby PorkChop » Thu Oct 11, 2012 9:29 pm

Queequeg wrote:
PorkChop wrote:I think in the end, I'm probably going to end up one big mutt of a Buddhist.


I'm actually really appreciative that I am a practicing Buddhist in the US - there are so many influences here. It would be nice to have the institutional resources in Asia, but, we have the advantage of Buddhism being wide open, challenged, and as a result, really vibrant.

There are worse things to be than a mutt.


Yeah, but figuring out what to practice and how is a MAJOR challenge.

My muay thai coach wants me to go to his Thai/Lao Theravadan temple with him and study with the monk he likes (lunch on the weekends after 10am).
Last night he gave me 4 or 5 different things to chant (in Thai & Pali) every day on top of his monk's recommendation of at least an hour of meditation.
I sort of accidentally volunteered to start studying the teachings of Ajarn Chah, not that I don't like him but I already have my hands full and I didn't mean to sign on for additional stuff.
Of what he gave me, this morning I was just able to sneak in a little bit of the Pali Morning Prayer in English (the one with the analogy of building the house).

My boxing coach wants me to go to his Vietnamese temple to learn and study with the monk he likes (Sunday service 5pm).
That means practicing Tian Tai/Pure Land - chanting a sutra daily, chanting "nembutsu" in sanskrit, reading Thich Thein Tam's books on Pure Land, and meditating.
Finished one of the TTT books, not sure if/when I'll finish the other one.

My Zen friend says "don't overcomplicated sh*t. Just shut up and sit. Read some Charlotte Joko Beck if you want to learn something." He recommended "Hardcore Zen" too, which I listened to on audio book format, but wasn't really feeling. Not sure when I'll get around to reading up on Zen (have a lot of books from DT Suzuki & David Kapleau).

Meanwhile, the Lam Rim group (1st & 3rd Saturdays) is probably my favorite. That's the one I look forward to the most and the one I feel the best afterward. It's also my favorite to watch videos for online. I am nervous though, because Tibetan Buddhist practice can be pretty involved. Started chanting Medicine Buddha (long & short) whenever I can to help with some health problems that have been plaguing me all summer. Just started an online Meditation101 class. Don't have an official guru yet. Wary of having a ton of commitments.

Otherwise, my daily routine is a bit generic - try to sneak in 2 meditation sessions totaling about an hour of focusing on the breath each day if I can (many times I'm lucky if I can do 30min), bow to the 3 jewels, and maintain a little shrine.

My shrine is nothing elaborate either, not sure if/how that will reconcile with my current leanings toward Tibetan Buddhism. My Buddha statue is a heavy, black, indoor/outdoor, stone Buddha. I like it because it's simple, earthy, practical, and substantial (not sure if that's worded well). It's not one of those fancy gold ones. There's a pocket copy of the Dhammapada on his right hand, a candle in front, a small Chinese tea cup for water offering, the small Ajarn Chah medallion my coach gave me off to the side, and I put up a daily food offering. It's nothing crazy ornate, and it's probably missing something important; but in the sense of ritual, it all means important things to me.

My free time fluctuates wildly. Some days I have maybe 20 minutes to myself, other days, maybe a few hours.
Coming up with a routine that I can do regularly is tough, especially when I feel like I'm being pulled in so many different directions.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Queequeg » Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:04 pm

Porkchop,

WHOA!

Slow down bud... You ever hear that saying, "Too many chefs in the kitchen"? I think you might be in danger of having too many teachers in your head. I guess I should have added that I like the variety for the environment it creates - not as a personal path... LOL

I feel I should offer a warning to you - the eclectic approach may work at the initial stages - especially as you try to find something that agrees with you - but if you sustain this eclectic approach... maybe you won't encounter the tensions due to different views at first, but Buddhist practice, when undertaken diligently, gets in deep very quickly and if you keep going on all these tracks, you are going to end up having them cross and maybe crash into each other. At that point you may find reasons to become discouraged and require extensive searching to figure out where the dissonance is coming from to resolve it. I would strongly advise settling into one path through the early stages of your practice. If you find that a particular one does not work for you, then take a measured exam into other paths, but the key, take it at a measured pace. Choosing a teacher or path is a critical choice that will have long and far reaching effects in your life.

At the risk of adding further confusion to your situation, but since you are here in the Nichiren forum, I must offer some encouragement to try practicing the Daimoku. Your wife might be none too enthused being an ex-Gakker, but I assure you, her experience is not the end of this tradition.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby PorkChop » Thu Oct 11, 2012 11:28 pm

Yeah, I stopped by this forum the cookies... Nah, just liked reading the experiences with "Just for Asians".
Not only is my wife converted Christian, most of her female friends are asian immigrants from Japan, Korea, and Thailand who are also Christian converts.
One Thai girl's reaction when it came up that I'd been studying Buddhism was this weird look that; to me, seemed as if she wanted to hug me and smack me at the same time.

As far as my own practice; I really think Tibetan Buddhism/Gelug/Lam Rim/FPMT is what I'm going to settle on.
It's just, until I find a Guru to help me clearly define a schedule & a path, I'm trying the eclectic route.
I don't think my other 3 friends are going to be thrilled though.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby PorkChop » Fri Oct 12, 2012 4:04 pm

Sorry to post again; but I think I did leave some things unsaid.
I don't have any opposition to chanting the Daimoku, or any type of chanting in another language for that matter.
When it comes to English, I prefer to say sutras & prayers with a familiar prayer cadence instead of each syllable on a separate beat, the language is just not built for it.
I've never tried mantra chanting in English, so I don't know how that'd go.
I'm very surprised that the one non-English language I know is not one that I've spent any time using to learn/practice Buddhism (ie Japanese).
Japanese is practically built for sutra and mantra chanting.
I've also got Rissho Kosei-kai right around the corner, but their service & class times are kind of inconvenient.
Might check them out some day, we'll see.
In the mean time, I'm not super-thrilled about the idea of picking up another 2 or 3 languages for use solely with religious practices.
If I could find another use for the language, maybe penpals or something, it might make it seem worth the effort.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby illarraza » Sat Oct 13, 2012 12:45 am

Yeah, but figuring out what to practice and how is a MAJOR challenge.


I think you can approach it like you would choosing a marshal arts. You might pick a day or a half a day to complete immerse yourself in the practice of the various grappling [judo, wrestling, jiu jitsu, aikido] and striking [boxing, muay tai, kenpo, kung fu] art against a similar weight and competent competitor and see where your strengths and comfort level lies.

You could spend one day chanting the Nembutsu, one day performing Zen meditation, one day Tibetian meditation, one day Theravadan meditation, and one day chanting the Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, lets say for five hours of concentrated effort.

There will be an important difference however, in both investigative approaches. Mixed martial arts is patently a superior fighting method than any one martial art while [for the most part] each Buddhist school claims superiority as a path to Pure and Perfect Enlightenment. Were this true [which I believe], even were one proficient in many methods, it would be as if a master mixed martial artist flyweight of 125 lbs were to take on a three hundred pound master of Muay Thai or Jiu Jitsu who was at least familiar with the various martial arts. If, as many schools teach, the concept of attaining Buddhahood in this very body is true and if it is true that one path is superior than the others in reaching that goal, you should be able to figure out which path to follow [what to practice] in order to attain Buddhahood in this very life. Should you take up this challenge, I would be interested to know your results.

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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby PorkChop » Sat Oct 13, 2012 3:05 am

illarraza wrote:
Yeah, but figuring out what to practice and how is a MAJOR challenge.


I think you can approach it like you would choosing a marshal arts. You might pick a day or a half a day to complete immerse yourself in the practice of the various grappling [judo, wrestling, jiu jitsu, aikido] and striking [boxing, muay tai, kenpo, kung fu] art against a similar weight and competent competitor and see where your strengths and comfort level lies.

You could spend one day chanting the Nembutsu, one day performing Zen meditation, one day Tibetian meditation, one day Theravadan meditation, and one day chanting the Daimoku of the Lotus Sutra, lets say for five hours of concentrated effort.


Interesting you make that analogy, thanks for opening my eyes to that way of thinking.
I'd been looking at seated meditation where I count breaths as "roadwork" or "conditioning"....though come to think of it, it's probably more like "shadowboxing" or "sparring".
I guess other practices are more like specific skill training - I've been doing a lot of Medicine Buddha mantra, which is comparable to Nembutsu as Medicine Buddha has a Pure Land as well. I'd liken this to throwing a good 10,000 roundkicks.
Prostrations & maintaining the shrine are like working my flexibility - necessary preparatory work that has both priming and maintenance functions.
Certain practices are going to be daily practices, finding out what that sustainable level is is still a bit of a challenge.
The more specialized & intense the training, probably the less frequently I'll be able to do them.
There are also unexpected encroachments onto my available time (like my kid).
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Sat Oct 13, 2012 7:48 pm

Queequeg wrote:I can say from personal knowledge, your attraction to things East Asian is common. I don't know if I am an expert, but I've spent a lot of time around East Asian grad students and expats in Japan. We sometimes call people like that Otaku, a word used in Japan for people with an intense interest in some subject - usually comics, but we give it a broader meaning for anyone with an intense interest in East Asia. I don't think its something bad, and being conscious of what may be going on is healthy. I think your attitude toward it is good. Racist? Maybe some features of it are there, but its not the same thing.

I don't think it is unfounded to develop an interest the way you have. I am sure you remember, Japan is a different universe. Asia is a different universe. The trappings of Western civilization are there, but as you may recall, there is something very different going on. I think its indicative of an adventurous spirit to want to learn and know about a culture or civilization different than your own. Many people in Japan would appreciate your interest. After you graduate, you might consider going over there to teach English and get to know the place first hand. The pay isn't great, but if you can get a gig out in the countryside in a vibrant area, you may get a lot out of it.


Thank you for the response. I'm very interested in what you say here about Japan being a different universe, and Asia being a different universe. The thought had actually never occurred to me. If you care to elaborate, I would be interested.

I don't know how personal I want to get, and I don't want to assume that anyone is interested in my personal life. So, I'll try to make this as succinct as possible. It's interesting what you say about the "Otaku" -- people who have an intense interest in a given topic. An important distinction for me is as follows. I didn't choose to go to Japan when I was a little boy. I was seven-years-old, and I was told that my half-sister (whom I did not know) was living there, and that I was shortly going to be put on a plane to visit her. Put on a plane ... by myself ... at age seven ... to go to a country I had never even heard of. Perhaps understandably, I cried much of the flight to Japan.

Upon arrival in Japan, I was treated like royalty by my sister's boyfriend (the man standing to my left in the picture on my YouTube channel), and just about every other Japanese person I met. As an adult, I can do a more sophisticated analysis and see that I was, well, a cute child. But at the time, all I knew was that I was being sent to a place called "Japan," and that for some reason it was filled with people who liked me and who treated me really well. (And this visit was, of course, my introduction to Buddhism. Some of the friends of my sister and her boyfriend had little figures of Buddha in altars in their houses.)

The point I'm trying to make is as follows: I don't think I can be put in the same category as what you say is referred to as the "Otaku" (people with an intense interest in something), because it wasn't my choice to go to Japan. This isn't an interest I developed on my own nor from out of nowhere. I was forced on to a plane, by myself, at age seven. At some level, what I'm doing now is providing myself with an education about the culture I was forced in to at a very young age.

And, of course, the reason I am providing myself with that education is because, as I mentioned, my experience in Japan turned out to be perhaps THE happiest event of my childhood. As I mentioned above, I'd be interested to know why you say Japan is a different universe. I'm interested because I think the following may have happened in my mind: I may have recognized that Japan is a different universe, and I noticed that in that different universe I was treated very well. I suppose I want to know why.

As for my concerns that it may be "racist" for me to be interested in Buddhism and aspects of Japanese culture. I think it has something to do with what you mentioned about being ashamed of the Buddhist altar in your house growing up. To borrow another quote from Jerry Seinfeld, on one of his episodes he refers to a "gentile" (non-Jew) who converted to Judaism. He said, "Without the parents, it's a breeze." In other words, I didn't grow up ashamed of the Buddhist altar in my parents' house -- because there wasn't a Buddhist altar in my parents' house. It's something I chose as an adult.

Thanks again for the response, and sorry if this is way too much information. :smile:
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Queequeg » Sun Oct 14, 2012 8:43 pm

Hi OB,

Japan is a different world. People have deeply ingrained assumptions about the experience of living that are woven into vocabulary and grammar, aesthetics, culture. You can read tons on what is unique about japan and why. But this is not unique to Japan. Every distinctive world has its cadre of scholars and commentators trying to understand how and why cultures are different. Personally, my interest in Japan is who I am. I can't escape it. It makes up the world I live and breathe in. Its part of the experience that makes me who I am. I just am.

Otaku is otaku. Dont read too much into it. Its not a technical word. Its a kind of humorous word that embodies informal observations and judgments. It really isn't concerned with how someone comes to an abiding interest. If you ask a person with a strong and abiding interest in something, they all have their own reasons. When I use the term Otaku, I have no concern for someone's motivations. Its a remark about how they appear instantaneously. :shrug:

Not sure if that's responsive or a satisfactory answer to your questions.

It sounds like you're trying to understand yourself, and the trail you're following takes you to Japan. Not sure if anyone else can provide satisfactory answers to your big questions, but things more specific - you can find people to talk things through with. Eh, that's just my take on life.

As far as I'm concerned, asking the question "Why" and seeking answers is the whole point of life in the big picture.

To turn this back to Buddhism - in a way, I think Buddhism is a rubric of thought and practice to better ask and answer the question "Why".
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby PorkChop » Mon Oct 15, 2012 2:45 am

I think it's important to note the meaning of otaku: お宅 - it literally means "The house". There is a nuance that refers to someone who stays indoors all the time studying up on some subject (usually anime). For reference see the film "Densha no otoko" (man on the subway/electric train). Anime fans in the States get labeled "otaku" because of their interest in anime. The term is not used to belittle, as Queequeg mentioned it's almost humorous - most Japanese are surprised to see what is considered a subculture in Japan be so popular over here.

There is also the nuance of otaku meaning anybody with a keen interest in something. Again, the term's not so much a term of belittlement, but an acknowledgement of someone having a certain level of interest in something. In the states we use "nerd" or "geek" for these kinds of people. Most intelligent people who are passionate about learning a particular subject learn to embrace the term "nerd" or "geek" as a badge of honor. See "BuddhistGeeks" podcast for an example of this.

Having a passion for learning a subject is something to be commended in my opinion. Much better than being a couch potato, wasting away in front of the tube, happy with whatever form of processed entertainment is served up on network television.

I don't fault you at all for having an interest in Japanese Buddhism and trying to get in touch with the culture of some place you have experience with. I'm a bit of an "otaku" myself when it comes to Okinawan stuff - I didn't have a choice in moving to Okinawa in high school either. That's why I'm surprised that I haven't really felt an affinity for most of the Japanese Buddhism that's available to me here; but part of that is because 2 of the main places here are pretty much the flavor of Buddhism that my wife rebelled against in converting to Christianity. So in order to reduce any friction between us, I've actively pursued other routes.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Mon Oct 15, 2012 5:00 am

Thank you for the response. Sorry if I sounded defensive or anything in my previous message. I've had some time to think about this topic over the last few days, and I've come to realize a few things. I don't know how much I want to put on to a public forum like this, and I can't assume how much anyone else is interested in knowing about my personal life.... So, I'll just mention this: there is an obvious connection between my interest in Buddhism, Japanese culture, and the fact that the man I refer to above (to my left in the picture on my YouTube channel) treated me the best I was ever treated during my childhood. He basically treated me like I was his son when I was in Japan; he wanted a son, because he didn't have one. He instilled in me a sense of confidence and self-esteem that has spanned my childhood, teen years, and now adulthood. I don't know why I am conflicted about admitting/accepting this, and admitting/accepting that this is connected to my interest in Buddhism. But I suspect it may be because I have lost touch with him and miss him. Oh, and that I love him.

Queequeg wrote:Hi OB,

Japan is a different world. People have deeply ingrained assumptions about the experience of living that are woven into vocabulary and grammar, aesthetics, culture. You can read tons on what is unique about japan and why. But this is not unique to Japan. Every distinctive world has its cadre of scholars and commentators trying to understand how and why cultures are different. Personally, my interest in Japan is who I am. I can't escape it. It makes up the world I live and breathe in. Its part of the experience that makes me who I am. I just am.

Otaku is otaku. Dont read too much into it. Its not a technical word. Its a kind of humorous word that embodies informal observations and judgments. It really isn't concerned with how someone comes to an abiding interest. If you ask a person with a strong and abiding interest in something, they all have their own reasons. When I use the term Otaku, I have no concern for someone's motivations. Its a remark about how they appear instantaneously. :shrug:

Not sure if that's responsive or a satisfactory answer to your questions.

It sounds like you're trying to understand yourself, and the trail you're following takes you to Japan. Not sure if anyone else can provide satisfactory answers to your big questions, but things more specific - you can find people to talk things through with. Eh, that's just my take on life.

As far as I'm concerned, asking the question "Why" and seeking answers is the whole point of life in the big picture.

To turn this back to Buddhism - in a way, I think Buddhism is a rubric of thought and practice to better ask and answer the question "Why".
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Masaru » Mon Oct 15, 2012 5:22 am

PorkChop wrote:That's why I'm surprised that I haven't really felt an affinity for most of the Japanese Buddhism that's available to me here; but part of that is because 2 of the main places here are pretty much the flavor of Buddhism that my wife rebelled against in converting to Christianity. So in order to reduce any friction between us, I've actively pursued other routes.


It's a bit off topic, but what compelled your wife to convert to Christianity?

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A certain man said to the priest Shungaku, "The Lotus Sutra Sect's character is not good because it's so fearsome." Shungaku replied, "It is by reason of its fearsome character that it is the Lotus Sutra Sect. If its character were not so, it would be a different sect altogether."
-- The Hagakure
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby PorkChop » Mon Oct 15, 2012 5:46 am

Masaru wrote:It's a bit off topic, but what compelled your wife to convert to Christianity?


If nobody minds the thread hijack...
Her parents are SGI. Her parents made the kids chant the Daimoku for hours on end without explaining what they were chanting or why. Whenever election time came around, the SGI folks hit her parents up for donations. Meanwhile, she had a teacher in high school who was a Christian. She admired this teacher and this teacher took her to church.
To be honest (not trying to insult her), I don't think she really understands much of Christian doctrine. She's never read the whole New Testament, let alone the whole Bible. I've been with her to Church; she attends services at nondenominational Christian churches in the vein of Max Lucado. Coming from a Catholic upbringing, it was a bit of a trip seeing coffee served and the casual atmosphere. So it's a very "feel good" environment, not so heavy on the doctrine. "Let go, let God" seems to be a concept she's very taken with.

It's been a little bit of a balancing act trying to explain to her what I'm doing and why without her feeling alienated (ie embracing something she left behind). I try to encourage her spiritual practice when I can and have been very clear that I don't intend to convert her. I show her the stuff I think she'll like - she really liked the 8 verses of training the mind from the Tibetan tradition. I think she has an open mind - enough to let me do what makes me happy. For our son, I completely leave that in her hands. I think being raised Christian makes life a bit easier in this country. I try to avoid any confusion for him.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Mon Oct 15, 2012 6:59 am

Thank you, actually, for interjecting this into this thread. The following has occurred to me: I would never dream of telling someone from an Asian country (or of Asian descent) that they can't be Christian because it's a "Western" religion, and so the opposite must be true: it's just fine for a Westerner to be Buddhist. (Technically speaking, though, Israel is in Asia, and so in fact both religions are "Eastern" religions, actually. lol :D )

PorkChop wrote:
Masaru wrote:It's a bit off topic, but what compelled your wife to convert to Christianity?


If nobody minds the thread hijack...
Her parents are SGI. Her parents made the kids chant the Daimoku for hours on end without explaining what they were chanting or why. Whenever election time came around, the SGI folks hit her parents up for donations. Meanwhile, she had a teacher in high school who was a Christian. She admired this teacher and this teacher took her to church.
To be honest (not trying to insult her), I don't think she really understands much of Christian doctrine. She's never read the whole New Testament, let alone the whole Bible. I've been with her to Church; she attends services at nondenominational Christian churches in the vein of Max Lucado. Coming from a Catholic upbringing, it was a bit of a trip seeing coffee served and the casual atmosphere. So it's a very "feel good" environment, not so heavy on the doctrine. "Let go, let God" seems to be a concept she's very taken with.

It's been a little bit of a balancing act trying to explain to her what I'm doing and why without her feeling alienated (ie embracing something she left behind). I try to encourage her spiritual practice when I can and have been very clear that I don't intend to convert her. I show her the stuff I think she'll like - she really liked the 8 verses of training the mind from the Tibetan tradition. I think she has an open mind - enough to let me do what makes me happy. For our son, I completely leave that in her hands. I think being raised Christian makes life a bit easier in this country. I try to avoid any confusion for him.
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