Buddhism: Just for Asians?

No holds barred discussion on the Buddhadharma. Argue about rebirth, karma, commentarial interpretations etc. Be nice to each other.

Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Thu Oct 18, 2012 7:25 am

Thanks to everyone who has responded. This was a very interesting discussion. If people have more to add to it, please do.

This thread made me remember many things. One of them being the following: I was introduced to Buddhism while in Japan as a child; one of the things I remember most vividly about that trip is being introduced to the figure of Buddha, and another thing I remember most vividly about that trip is how much the Japanese people I met seemed to love all things American. My point being: there is a cultural exchange going on in many ways, and I don't need to feel awkward at all about it, because it's a two-way street.

Here's an example. What made me think about this topic for the first time was a trip I took to Seattle for a dance event last year. It was a "street dance" event, styles of dance called "Popping" and "Locking" and "Breakdancing." This is a style of dance that peaked in the US in the 1980s, but for some reason is extremely popular in Asia these days. So, this dance event I attended in Seattle was about 70% Asian. (Video I filmed of the event: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=txJO9J7bnbs )

About halfway through the day-long event, I started to get really stressed out by all the commotion, so I found what I thought was a secluded area in the building where the event was taking place. I sat down, and started working on the Hoben and Juryo chapters. While working on the chapters, I noticed some Asian dancers walking by my area and sort of slowing down. I didn't know what it was about. Later, after I was done, I collected my things and walked out of the little alcove I had been sitting in, and I noticed a lone Asian male dancer lingering in the area. He had apparently been listening to me. I found this surprising because, in all honestly, I didn't think he'd be interested. I mean, I had come to think of Buddhism as a part of who I am, and I am enlightened enough to know that just because someone is Asian doesn't mean he/she is Buddhist. Anyway, it was just an interesting thing to see this Asian dancer lingering in the area because he was interested in what I was doing -- and to realize that this interest most likely had to do with the fact that he was from the region of the world from which these chants originate. It wasn't really until this incident that it fully occurred to me that I was dealing with something that originates from the culture of another people. (Oh, and if I'm going to be honest, I think that at this point in my study of Nichiren Buddhism I considered it as having more to do with Courtney Love than with East Asian cultures. I know that sounds unusual, but Nichiren Buddhism IS famous for, well, having famous practitioners. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4i--gr5qCM )

(Oh. On an earlier occasion, and a point before I started referring to myself as "A Buddhist" -- which I'm still not sure is completely justifiable -- a dancer/friend from Korea rather angrily said to me, "If you meet anyone in America who says they are Buddhist, don't believe them!" I think that he was referring to the middle class white Buddhist population who reads books by the mainstream authors -- Jack Kornfield, Pema Chodron, etc. -- rather than the more "ethnic" brands of Buddhism. We never discussed the matter further, so I'm not sure. But he's since become aware of my interest in Nichiren Buddhism, and seems to have warmed to it.)
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby kirtu » Thu Oct 18, 2012 3:51 pm

OregonBuddhist wrote: I know that sounds unusual, but Nichiren Buddhism IS famous for, well, having famous practitioners. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4i--gr5qCM )


Unfortunately I think that Nichiren Buddhism has been dismissed in the West largely because of infamous foodfights around SGI, being associated with celebrities, and an apparent simplistic and constructed Buddhism.

Nichiren isn't a constructed Buddhism though, it's just one of the branches of practice found in Tendai Buddhism and proposed as a the main method by a teacher during the development of Kamakura Buddhism. Westerners don't know this history though and as a result can be dismissive since they see constructed sects of Christianity around them. Nichiren isn't simplistic either but is often presented as a chanting only practice.

Tibetans seem to also view Nichiren (and possibly Zen and Pure Land) as a kind of construct and thus a kind of degeneration of Buddha's doctrine.

a dancer/friend from Korea rather angrily said to me, "If you meet anyone in America who says they are Buddhist, don't believe them!"


Because this violates the rules that many Asians have in their minds about Americans and it violates a sense of ownership of Buddhism (even if the Asian person isn't Buddhist).

But he's since become aware of my interest in Nichiren Buddhism, and seems to have warmed to it.)


Curious as Nichiren can't be viewed positively in Korea.

Kirt
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby PorkChop » Thu Oct 18, 2012 5:50 pm

OregonBuddhist wrote:(Oh. On an earlier occasion, and a point before I started referring to myself as "A Buddhist" -- which I'm still not sure is completely justifiable -- a dancer/friend from Korea rather angrily said to me, "If you meet anyone in America who says they are Buddhist, don't believe them!" I think that he was referring to the middle class white Buddhist population who reads books by the mainstream authors -- Jack Kornfield, Pema Chodron, etc. -- rather than the more "ethnic" brands of Buddhism. We never discussed the matter further, so I'm not sure. But he's since become aware of my interest in Nichiren Buddhism, and seems to have warmed to it.)


I tend to think if you're trying to apply the teachings in daily practice, as opposed to just reading up on the philosophy to understand it, then you're probably a Buddhist - even though I think taking refuge & the 8-fold path is considered the official point at which one is Buddhist.

As far as your friend, it seems like his comment points out a bigger limitation of himself rather than any Buddhist in the west.
To Japanese, Japanese Buddhism isn't some exotic, foreign/"ethnic" thing.
For Koreans, Korean Buddhism isn't some exotic, foreign/"ethnic" thing.
Why should western readers of "mainstream authors" from the west be any less Buddhist then the Japanese or Koreans?
To be honest, I think that's precisely why I've embraced the teachers & teachings that I have; ie western authors/teachers that present things in a way I understand.
That way I know it's something I've digested at the core of my being and not linked to fascination with a particular culture.

That being said, my wife is Okinawan and my kids (#2 due in march) are half-Okinawan and so I know that Okinawan/Japanese culture will always be a part of my life.
In the same way, Japanese culture was a major part of your upbringing and will always be a major part of your life.
So neither of us have to worry about falling into disinterest in the culture.
But if there are western authors who are accomplished Buddhists presenting a message to a western audience (who may not have any connection with another culture) in a manner that they can understand & embrace; why is that not Buddhist?

Every culture had Buddhism imported at some point (because the original Buddhist culture in India was all but annihilated).
No culture has exclusive rights and ownership of the Dharma.
Heck, even if the original Buddhist culture still survived today, it wouldn't have exclusive rights & ownership, because the Dharma preaches renunciation & non-ownership.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Thu Oct 18, 2012 9:48 pm

Thanks for the response.

With regard to celebrities: what about Richard Gere? His association with Tibetan Buddhism has only helped the cause. I think the negative perception many American Buddhists have of Nichiren Buddhism has less to do with the celebrity aspect and more to do with the "chanting for material objects" aspect. That violates what many Americans consider to be "Buddhist."

With regard to the Asian attitude of "ownership" toward Buddhism, that is in some ways the point of this very thread. To be honest, the friend I'm referring to here from Korea is one of the young guys in this video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT1EZcgxMR4 He's about 22-years-old now. I'm not sure if he knows much about Nichiren Buddhism, so I don't know if the Korea-Japan politics, particularly with regard to Buddhism, are a part of his awareness. (Why do you say a Korean couldn't have a positive view of Nichiren Buddhism? Because it is so Japan-centered, and Korea is a former colony of Japan?)

What do you mean by the term "constructed Buddhism?"

Oh, with regard to the Asian "ownership" of Buddhism.... Here's the thing. Some Asians may not like Westerners to be Buddhist, but when all is said and done, most Asians are very gentle with regard to Buddhism. I think if they see the Westerner is actually sincere -- as my Korean friend has seen about me -- the attitude changes. One of the guys in the above video is from China, and he was really happy to see a figure of Buddha in my car. On my dashboard actually. Where some Americans keep a figure of Jesus. :)

kirtu wrote:
OregonBuddhist wrote: I know that sounds unusual, but Nichiren Buddhism IS famous for, well, having famous practitioners. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4i--gr5qCM )


Unfortunately I think that Nichiren Buddhism has been dismissed in the West largely because of infamous foodfights around SGI, being associated with celebrities, and an apparent simplistic and constructed Buddhism.

Nichiren isn't a constructed Buddhism though, it's just one of the branches of practice found in Tendai Buddhism and proposed as a the main method by a teacher during the development of Kamakura Buddhism. Westerners don't know this history though and as a result can be dismissive since they see constructed sects of Christianity around them. Nichiren isn't simplistic either but is often presented as a chanting only practice.

Tibetans seem to also view Nichiren (and possibly Zen and Pure Land) as a kind of construct and thus a kind of degeneration of Buddha's doctrine.

a dancer/friend from Korea rather angrily said to me, "If you meet anyone in America who says they are Buddhist, don't believe them!"


Because this violates the rules that many Asians have in their minds about Americans and it violates a sense of ownership of Buddhism (even if the Asian person isn't Buddhist).

But he's since become aware of my interest in Nichiren Buddhism, and seems to have warmed to it.)


Curious as Nichiren can't be viewed positively in Korea.

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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Thu Oct 18, 2012 11:27 pm

Thank you for the response. Yes, it's true; I think that Japanese culture, and my experience in Japan, will always be with me. Obviously, it is the same for you.

With regard to the Four Noble Truths, you've probably seen this thread I started a while ago: viewtopic.php?f=59&t=10249 The Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism are apparently just subsumed under Daimoku. I I realize that this means that many Buddhists won't consider Nichiren Buddhism to be "Buddhism." To be honest, I'm not too concerned with that. I'm just concerned that it "works" for me, whatever it is.

I didn't mean to put down the mainstream Western authors on Buddhism. The most honest way to put it is that their works just don't appeal to me very much. One of the many reasons Nichiren Buddhism appeals to me is because it is so steeped in Japanese history. It brings Japanese history with it (which interests me), it brings the linguistic aspect with it (I love to learn about languages), and unlike what I perceive in many other Buddhist traditions Nichiren Buddhism isn't passive. I read an article a while ago about the SGI/Nichiren practice of chanting for material outcomes. The article said that, though one may disagree with this practice of chanting for material things, at the very least it's not passive.

I'm a relatively gentle, passive person by nature. So, I think that what I need is something that pushes me out of that -- and that's what Nichiren Buddhism does for me.

Thanks again for the response. :smile:

PorkChop wrote:
OregonBuddhist wrote:(Oh. On an earlier occasion, and a point before I started referring to myself as "A Buddhist" -- which I'm still not sure is completely justifiable -- a dancer/friend from Korea rather angrily said to me, "If you meet anyone in America who says they are Buddhist, don't believe them!" I think that he was referring to the middle class white Buddhist population who reads books by the mainstream authors -- Jack Kornfield, Pema Chodron, etc. -- rather than the more "ethnic" brands of Buddhism. We never discussed the matter further, so I'm not sure. But he's since become aware of my interest in Nichiren Buddhism, and seems to have warmed to it.)


I tend to think if you're trying to apply the teachings in daily practice, as opposed to just reading up on the philosophy to understand it, then you're probably a Buddhist - even though I think taking refuge & the 8-fold path is considered the official point at which one is Buddhist.

As far as your friend, it seems like his comment points out a bigger limitation of himself rather than any Buddhist in the west.
To Japanese, Japanese Buddhism isn't some exotic, foreign/"ethnic" thing.
For Koreans, Korean Buddhism isn't some exotic, foreign/"ethnic" thing.
Why should western readers of "mainstream authors" from the west be any less Buddhist then the Japanese or Koreans?
To be honest, I think that's precisely why I've embraced the teachers & teachings that I have; ie western authors/teachers that present things in a way I understand.
That way I know it's something I've digested at the core of my being and not linked to fascination with a particular culture.

That being said, my wife is Okinawan and my kids (#2 due in march) are half-Okinawan and so I know that Okinawan/Japanese culture will always be a part of my life.
In the same way, Japanese culture was a major part of your upbringing and will always be a major part of your life.
So neither of us have to worry about falling into disinterest in the culture.
But if there are western authors who are accomplished Buddhists presenting a message to a western audience (who may not have any connection with another culture) in a manner that they can understand & embrace; why is that not Buddhist?

Every culture had Buddhism imported at some point (because the original Buddhist culture in India was all but annihilated).
No culture has exclusive rights and ownership of the Dharma.
Heck, even if the original Buddhist culture still survived today, it wouldn't have exclusive rights & ownership, because the Dharma preaches renunciation & non-ownership.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby PorkChop » Fri Oct 19, 2012 10:55 pm

OregonBuddhist wrote:With regard to the Four Noble Truths, you've probably seen this thread I started a while ago: viewtopic.php?f=59&t=10249 The Four Noble Truths in Nichiren Buddhism are apparently just subsumed under Daimoku. I I realize that this means that many Buddhists won't consider Nichiren Buddhism to be "Buddhism." To be honest, I'm not too concerned with that. I'm just concerned that it "works" for me, whatever it is.

...

I'm a relatively gentle, passive person by nature. So, I think that what I need is something that pushes me out of that -- and that's what Nichiren Buddhism does for me.


My understanding of Nichiren Buddhism, is that you guys do take refuge in the 3 Jewels.
Is this correct?
The Daimoku implies the Lotus Sutra.
Lotus Sutra is the foundation of Tien Tai, which is the source of a lot of East Asian Buddhism.
Unless I'm missing something, it should still be Buddhism.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Sat Oct 20, 2012 12:15 am

Thank you. Yes, the Lotus Sutra becomes The Dharma in Nichiren Buddhism.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Queequeg » Mon Oct 22, 2012 12:56 pm

kirtu wrote:Nichiren isn't a constructed Buddhism though, it's just one of the branches of practice found in Tendai Buddhism and proposed as a the main method by a teacher during the development of Kamakura Buddhism.


Not quite sure what "constructed" means.

I guess viewing Nichiren Buddhism as a "branch" of Tendai is possible, but there are a lot of people on both sides who would have problems with that. There literally were wars fought between Nichiren and Tendai Buddhists in which Nichiren Buddhists were nearly annihilated in Kyoto. I would suggest that Nichiren is as related to Tendai as Tendai is to Madhyamika in the Karika sense. They are related because one gave rise to the other, but there are such profound differences that I think calling Nichiren a 'branch' of Tendai would be too much. There are no institutional connections that I am aware of.

Nichiren himself didn't consider Tendai to be faithful to Zhiyi or Saicho, so how much they are "Tendai" in Nichiren's view is a matter of debate.

Its all about who holds the hegemony of creating meaning.

OregonBuddhist wrote: That violates what many Americans consider to be "Buddhist."


Further of the point about who decides meaning. That is an "American" hangup because Westerners, particularly Christians, in my impression, have a very hard time reconciling the Sacred and Profane and seem to think that the distinction must be absolute. Its further compounded in America with notions of "Separation of Church and State" etc. My wife, who is Israeli Jewish, but born and raised in the US, always has a hard time dealing with the merchant arcades leading up to the entrances of sacred sites in Japan. Its her problem that the sacred has been distinguished from the world, in my opinion. For me, it just reinforces that the sacred permeates all life. I think this is a more "Asian" view of the sacred. Notice when you go into "Asian" stores or restaurants, whether East or Sout Asian, you will often find a shrine in the store dedicated to the prosperity of the business. In India, you often see shopkeepers dedicate the first sale of the day to some god. This is what culture looks like when religion has not been beaten back into the "private" sphere. That's a big statement, I know, but I stand by it as a generality.

PorkChop wrote:My understanding of Nichiren Buddhism, is that you guys do take refuge in the 3 Jewels.
Is this correct?


Some do, some do not. Some take refuge in the Three Great Secret Dharmas instead.

The significance of the 4 Noble Truths, the Refuges, the Dharma Seals, etc. have different interpretations in Nichiren Buddhism than what you find in other forms of Buddhism. (many of these ideas hold true for Tientai/Tendai, as well, at least in doctrine, but not so sure in practice. Tientai/Tendai practitioners should answer this for themselves.) The adjusted regard directed to these sorts of "traditional" Buddhist teachings is not just some casual decision. It actually flows from a reorientation toward the uncreated - I guess it could be summed up by saying, Nichiren Buddhists take Buddhanature very seriously. Consequently, the manner in which this is done radically alters the meaning ascribed to teachings such as the 4 Noble Truths. Its a complex point, but has to do with the Buddha's revelations of expedient means and life span from the Lotus Sutra.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby kirtu » Tue Oct 23, 2012 1:02 am

OregonBuddhist wrote:
With regard to the Asian attitude of "ownership" toward Buddhism, that is in some ways the point of this very thread. To be honest, the friend I'm referring to here from Korea is one of the young guys in this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dT1EZcgxMR4 He's about 22-years-old now. I'm not sure if he knows much about Nichiren Buddhism, so I don't know if the Korea-Japan politics, particularly with regard to Buddhism, are a part of his awareness. (Why do you say a Korean couldn't have a positive view of Nichiren Buddhism? Because it is so Japan-centered, and Korea is a former colony of Japan?)

What do you mean by the term "constructed Buddhism?"


The term "constructed Buddhism" is a nicer way of saying a degenerate form of Buddhism that in fact many TB's more or less think about developments in Japanese Buddhism. Constructed Buddhism also refers to Western scholastic dismissals of forms of Buddhism because they aren't intellectual enough or seem to have been created by a charismatic individual.

I would be surprised if Korean Buddhists regarded Nichiren Buddhism positively basically because of what I wrote above. Change is suspicious. We find this attitude to some degree in Souther Buddhism as well.

So to be clear I'm saying that the development of the Nichiren lineages is not a constructed form of Buddhism - Nichiren was clear about the reason for the practices, etc. and the practices are directly derived from Tendai practices. However this is not to say that Nichiren is Tendai-light - that would be untrue. Basically all of the founders and exponents of Kamakura Buddhism saw the need for a practice, usually a simple practice or a single practice that laypeople could practice. Generally this was centered on a form of Pure Land Buddhism. Zen is not actually an exception in this.

Oh, with regard to the Asian "ownership" of Buddhism.... Here's the thing. Some Asians may not like Westerners to be Buddhist, but when all is said and done, most Asians are very gentle with regard to Buddhism. I think if they see the Westerner is actually sincere -- as my Korean friend has seen about me -- the attitude changes. One of the guys in the above video is from China, and he was really happy to see a figure of Buddha in my car. On my dashboard actually. Where some Americans keep a figure of Jesus. :)


That's good.

Kirt
kirtu wrote:
OregonBuddhist wrote: I know that sounds unusual, but Nichiren Buddhism IS famous for, well, having famous practitioners. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4i--gr5qCM )


Unfortunately I think that Nichiren Buddhism has been dismissed in the West largely because of infamous foodfights around SGI, being associated with celebrities, and an apparent simplistic and constructed Buddhism.

Nichiren isn't a constructed Buddhism though, it's just one of the branches of practice found in Tendai Buddhism and proposed as a the main method by a teacher during the development of Kamakura Buddhism. Westerners don't know this history though and as a result can be dismissive since they see constructed sects of Christianity around them. Nichiren isn't simplistic either but is often presented as a chanting only practice.

Tibetans seem to also view Nichiren (and possibly Zen and Pure Land) as a kind of construct and thus a kind of degeneration of Buddha's doctrine.

a dancer/friend from Korea rather angrily said to me, "If you meet anyone in America who says they are Buddhist, don't believe them!"


Because this violates the rules that many Asians have in their minds about Americans and it violates a sense of ownership of Buddhism (even if the Asian person isn't Buddhist).

But he's since become aware of my interest in Nichiren Buddhism, and seems to have warmed to it.)


Curious as Nichiren can't be viewed positively in Korea.

Kirt
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Queequeg » Tue Oct 23, 2012 3:44 pm

kirtu wrote:The term "constructed Buddhism" is a nicer way of saying a degenerate form of Buddhism that in fact many TB's more or less think about developments in Japanese Buddhism.


We all have hangups. Hey - that's one of the points of the Lotus Sutra... whaddaya know?

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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby kirtu » Wed Oct 24, 2012 2:14 pm

I think in this degenerate age that the main question is whether anyone, Asian or otherwise, can be a Buddhist.

People are self-centred and like dress-up and reassurance. Meanwhile poverty on our planet grows (even as poverty declines overall) and our environment degrades significantly.

In the US we have seen that a consequence of the 2008 Depression is an enormous increase in homelessness and poverty. This has been ignored. We have seen countries cast into economic subservience (Greece for example). We have see the rise of a form of Darwinian Anglo-American capitalism (in facr we have seen it's apparent victory).

And what have "Buddhist" done for others who lost everything in recent years and are now bereft of resources and opportunities for life? Very, very little. Usually nothing in fact. So people play dress-up, chant and superficially cultivate "compassion" while ignoring opportunities to alleviate real material suffering of people who were formerly actual acquaintances or friends. This is a form of degeneracy of the Buddha's doctrine IMO. And this is practiced by many millions of "Buddhists". Thus the question, is anyone a Buddhist at all, Asian or otherwise?

Kirt
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Oct 24, 2012 3:17 pm

kirtu wrote:I think in this degenerate age that the main question is whether anyone, Asian or otherwise, can be a Buddhist.

People are self-centred and like dress-up and reassurance. Meanwhile poverty on our planet grows (even as poverty declines overall) and our environment degrades significantly.

In the US we have seen that a consequence of the 2008 Depression is an enormous increase in homelessness and poverty. This has been ignored. We have seen countries cast into economic subservience (Greece for example). We have see the rise of a form of Darwinian Anglo-American capitalism (in facr we have seen it's apparent victory).

And what have "Buddhist" done for others who lost everything in recent years and are now bereft of resources and opportunities for life? Very, very little. Usually nothing in fact. So people play dress-up, chant and superficially cultivate "compassion" while ignoring opportunities to alleviate real material suffering of people who were formerly actual acquaintances or friends. This is a form of degeneracy of the Buddha's doctrine IMO. And this is practiced by many millions of "Buddhists". Thus the question, is anyone a Buddhist at all, Asian or otherwise?

Kirt


Here is what I am doing.
No, I am not Asian.
I am helping a friend of mine, who is a lama, build a school/gompa (monastery) for girls in Sikkim.
These girls cme from all around India, many without family or any other means of income
who would otherwise probably end up in the sex slave market.
http://artclix.com/vajra/slideshow/anistory00.html
With an education and training as Buddhist teachers,
they will in turn be able to help many other people,
who may be able to help even more people.

Your help would certainly be welcomed.

A lot of Buddhists are doing things, trying to help the world become a better place, and the sooner the better!
But most people in the world are not Buddhists, so maybe Buddhists don't get a lot of attention.
We aren't telling everybody how great we are or blowing up buildings to get attention.
And unfortunately,
For most people in the world, they only think about choosing which side to be on.
So there is always a fight going on.

The world is always in a degenerate stage.
Everybody always thinks their time period is the worst and cannot get any worse.
But that's just samsara.
It's part of the grasping and clinging to appearances that the Buddha talked about.

How much fossil fuel have i spent
posting this?
.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Queequeg » Wed Oct 24, 2012 4:45 pm

kirtu wrote:I think in this degenerate age that the main question is whether anyone, Asian or otherwise, can be a Buddhist.

People are self-centred and like dress-up and reassurance. Meanwhile poverty on our planet grows (even as poverty declines overall) and our environment degrades significantly.

In the US we have seen that a consequence of the 2008 Depression is an enormous increase in homelessness and poverty. This has been ignored. We have seen countries cast into economic subservience (Greece for example). We have see the rise of a form of Darwinian Anglo-American capitalism (in facr we have seen it's apparent victory).

And what have "Buddhist" done for others who lost everything in recent years and are now bereft of resources and opportunities for life? Very, very little. Usually nothing in fact. So people play dress-up, chant and superficially cultivate "compassion" while ignoring opportunities to alleviate real material suffering of people who were formerly actual acquaintances or friends. This is a form of degeneracy of the Buddha's doctrine IMO. And this is practiced by many millions of "Buddhists". Thus the question, is anyone a Buddhist at all, Asian or otherwise?

Kirt


Kirt,

Oh, well, you know... I think you might be creating a straw-man Buddhism in suggesting no-one measures up. I don't remember any story of the Buddha providing for the material needs of people like Jesus with his loaves of bread. Other than Nagarjuna's Jeweled Garland and a few other similar texts, I don't recall any counsel to lay persons to make provisions for the material well being of others, and in the cases where such counsel is described as the practice of Dharma, it was counsel to a King to be a just ruler who directs the resources of state for the benefit of the people.

You are taking a materialistic measuring stick and applying it to your contemporary fellows who practice Buddhadharma. Its likely that people will not measure up to this standard; some very well might - PadmaVonSamba seems to be making honorable and admirable efforts - does that measure up? But in the end, the problem is that the standard you use is not a Buddhist standard.

What Buddhism actually is with regard to charity and concern for the most vulnerable among us, has been pointed out as a very serious shortcoming. It may be worth pointing out - these may be judeo-christian expectations of morality and this really wasn't an issue for Buddhism until it came into sustained and intimate contact with Westerners during the last century. Since then, people like Thich Nhat Hahn proposed things like "Engaged Buddhism" to address these perceived shortcomings. As a general rule, I think it is a human value to help one another - its been shown in studies that this impulse arises in us naturally (unless someone is a sociopath or psychopath... autistic... or some other cognitive deficiency). Compassion is hard wired in us. What we do as Buddhists is merely undertake practices to amplify such good qualities that already exist within us, while also suppressing negative qualities like greed and anger. I think you may misunderstand what Buddhism actually is.

Without going into a long drawn out consideration of this - my understanding of how Buddhism deals with things like poverty and environmental degradation could be summed up in the this old proverb - Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime. Or how about this well known passage from one of Nichiren's writings (leaving questions of this letter's authenticity aside for now - it is still veritably Buddha-vacana):

Whether you chant the Buddha’s name, recite the sutra, or merely offer flowers and incense, all your virtuous acts will implant benefits and roots of goodness in your life. With this conviction you should strive in faith. The Vimalakirti Sutra states that, when one seeks the Buddhas’ emancipation in the minds of ordinary beings, one finds that ordinary beings are the entities of enlightenment, and that the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. It also states that, if the minds of living beings are impure, their land is also impure, but if their minds are pure, so is their land. There are not two lands, pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds.


As Buddhists, we have a different approach to resolving the problems of the world. It may seem ineffective and inadequate in the face of the enormous material problems we face in this world right now. However, short of a despot whose power would be far greater than any despot in the past and who can alter the course of our activity by fiat, the task of fixing these problems is enormous.

As a practicing Buddhist, my efforts begin with reforming myself and sharing the Buddhadharma with others. Sharing Buddhadharma means conducting myself with effort and aspiration toward Buddhist ideals - loving kindness, compassion, generaosity, etc., as well as actually sharing literal Buddhadharma. When I share Buddhadharma with others, I give them the opportunity to begin the long, arduous task of reforming themselves, and they then share in turn also, ad infinitum - or up to 6 Billion people. And when all six billion are reforming themselves and sharing Buddhadharma, we'll have a mutually supportive civilization where each person is concerned with the enlightenment of all others - an idealized Pure Land.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby kirtu » Wed Oct 24, 2012 5:34 pm

Queequeg wrote:
kirtu wrote:I think in this degenerate age that the main question is whether anyone, Asian or otherwise, can be a Buddhist.

People are self-centred and like dress-up and reassurance. Meanwhile poverty on our planet grows (even as poverty declines overall) and our environment degrades significantly.

In the US we have seen that a consequence of the 2008 Depression is an enormous increase in homelessness and poverty. This has been ignored. We have seen countries cast into economic subservience (Greece for example). We have see the rise of a form of Darwinian Anglo-American capitalism (in facr we have seen it's apparent victory).

And what have "Buddhist" done for others who lost everything in recent years and are now bereft of resources and opportunities for life? Very, very little. Usually nothing in fact. So people play dress-up, chant and superficially cultivate "compassion" while ignoring opportunities to alleviate real material suffering of people who were formerly actual acquaintances or friends. This is a form of degeneracy of the Buddha's doctrine IMO. And this is practiced by many millions of "Buddhists". Thus the question, is anyone a Buddhist at all, Asian or otherwise?

Kirt


Kirt,

Oh, well, you know... I think you might be creating a straw-man Buddhism in suggesting no-one measures up.


In fact some lamas have also stated that social assistance/infrastructure issues are of increasing importance and are an element of service to sentient beings that TB's need to pay more attention to.

Queequeg wrote:I don't remember any story of the Buddha providing for the material needs of people like Jesus with his loaves of bread.


It is replete in the Jataka Tales. During Shakyamuni Buddha's life mission it was less necessary for his disciples because of his tremendous store of merit resulting in rich people donating to him in particular Anathapindika.

Buddha also doctored a very ill monk who the other monks are ignored and admonished them to care for one another. This is a major principle that the Buddha taught and it's applicability is not just for monks.

Other than Nagarjuna's Jeweled Garland and a few other similar texts, I don't recall any counsel to lay persons to make provisions for the material well being of others, and in the cases where such counsel is described as the practice of Dharma, it was counsel to a King to be a just ruler who directs the resources of state for the benefit of the people.


These were letters to kings but they are meant for everyone. As for "other than", Nagarjuna is an obviously sufficient authority for basically all of the existing Mahayana lineages on this point.


You are taking a materialistic measuring stick and applying it to your contemporary fellows who practice Buddhadharma. Its likely that people will not measure up to this standard; some very well might - PadmaVonSamba seems to be making honorable and admirable efforts - does that measure up? But in the end, the problem is that the standard you use is not a Buddhist standard.


It is very much a Buddhist standard. It's just been resisted by Buddhists except for our great teachers of both the Northern and Southern schools, many of whom in modern times advocate exactly what can be seen as humanistic efforts.

PadmaVonSamba's activities are very admirable and I would never criticise helping monks or nuns at all. But in almost every Western society poverty is openly at our doorstep. We must address this. Secondly in Dharma groups we see the same. Prior to the 2008 Depression I had thought to ask people to devote some of their savings to a common pool to help group members in need. This would have been helpful (in fact I mentioned it to a few people but nothing happened).

its been shown in studies that this impulse arises in us naturally (unless someone is a sociopath or psychopath... autistic... or some other cognitive deficiency).


Come on - autism isn't necessarily a cognitive defect. Being borderline autistic I find it helpful (except that I don't socialize well [according to expectations]) and the impulse arises naturally.

Which goes to some versions of Dharma - Shakyamuni Buddha taught that basic goodness was just natural but people permitted conceptualization and conditioning to interfere with that.

Compassion is hard wired in us.


Exactly so ...

I think you may misunderstand what Buddhism actually is.


Quite an assumption....

Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.


That is useless when people actively prevent the man from fishing and that is one of the things we are seeing in the employment market.

Whether you chant the Buddha’s name, recite the sutra, or merely offer flowers and incense, all your virtuous acts will implant benefits and roots of goodness in your life. With this conviction you should strive in faith. The Vimalakirti Sutra states that, when one seeks the Buddhas’ emancipation in the minds of ordinary beings, one finds that ordinary beings are the entities of enlightenment, and that the sufferings of birth and death are nirvana. It also states that, if the minds of living beings are impure, their land is also impure, but if their minds are pure, so is their land. There are not two lands, pure or impure in themselves. The difference lies solely in the good or evil of our minds.


That is obviously true ...


As Buddhists, we have a different approach to resolving the problems of the world. It may seem ineffective and inadequate in the face of the enormous material problems we face in this world right now. However, short of a despot whose power would be far greater than any despot in the past and who can alter the course of our activity by fiat, the task of fixing these problems is enormous.


Which is why people need to quite making excuses and engage the problems now.

A despot is not needed. We can work together to make the world a real Pure Land in as short as 100 years.

As a practicing Buddhist, my efforts begin with reforming myself and sharing the Buddhadharma with others. Sharing Buddhadharma means conducting myself with effort and aspiration toward Buddhist ideals - loving kindness, compassion, generaosity, etc., as well as actually sharing literal Buddhadharma. When I share Buddhadharma with others, I give them the opportunity to begin the long, arduous task of reforming themselves, and they then share in turn also, ad infinitum - or up to 6 Billion people. And when all six billion are reforming themselves and sharing Buddhadharma, we'll have a mutually supportive civilization where each person is concerned with the enlightenment of all others - an idealized Pure Land.


We cannot step over people dying in the streets and pretend we are practicing Dharma. Don't think people are dying in the streets? All homeless people face death in a short time because at least in the US there is no social safety net (except of some women with children and it's still inadequate).

Kirt
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“All beings are Buddhas, but obscured by incidental stains. When those have been removed, there is Buddhahood.”
Hevajra Tantra
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Queequeg » Wed Oct 24, 2012 9:58 pm

Kirt,

I don't have much to add to what I already wrote. I think you have a tendency to overstate your case. I think your response to me makes it abundantly clear that it is possible to practice Buddhism, and even more, that people ARE practicing Buddhism.

So you "mentioned to a few people" that people should put some savings aside to help others down on their luck. Just because your suggestion to put together a charity fund was not enthusiastically taken up by others does not form a basis for the indictment of all Buddhists. And I don't think it even is a basis to indict the people in your group. Did you do anything more than mention it to a few people? Like maybe get a jar and shake it in people's faces?

You seem to be confusing the US economy and politics with Buddhist practice. Just because we are not emptying our pockets to end all the injustices in the world doesn't mean we aren't doing anything. Many of us DO energetically carry out our Buddhist practice, doing things we believe are effective to making the world a better place. Sorry that some of them were not donating to this fund we never heard of. And even if we did give everything we have, would that solve things? No.

The problems in this world run much deeper than the material shortcomings you are intent upon.

You may not be, but the Buddha is grateful for even the slightest efforts made for Buddhadharma. There are countless people practicing Buddhadharma in this world now. I firmly believe this. If your see things differently, well, there's room for more than one view in this world.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Oct 24, 2012 10:20 pm

kirtu wrote:We cannot step over people dying in the streets and pretend we are practicing Dharma. Don't think people are dying in the streets? All homeless people face death in a short time because at least in the US there is no social safety net (except of some women with children and it's still inadequate).

Kirt


Actually, there are quite a few safety nets. they may not be very good nets, but they are there.
You can live better in the Untied States on what people throw away than do most people in the world.

20 years ago I was living on about $5000 - $6000 a year. Well below poverty level. I had no car, no refrigerator. As a result i walked a lot and my food never went bad! I never got any govt. aid. My friends and I used to dumpster dive a lot. We always had enough money for pot, beer & cigarettes (as many low income people do today) and I never thought of myself as poor. Of course, I was younger then, I didn't have health insurance, I was a male, and so it was easy. Admittedly, it is very hard for most people. If a person has a drug addiction, or a chronic illness (mental or physical) it can be hell. I was without my own home for only about three months, and yes, it sucks. I was not the freely wandering buddhist I thought I might be. David Carradine made it look so easy!!!

But there are no dead bodies scattered around on my street, and the local buddhist sangha is always involved in food drives and other programs to help the needy.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby viniketa » Wed Oct 24, 2012 11:23 pm

Queequeg wrote:I don't remember any story of the Buddha providing for the material needs of people like Jesus with his loaves of bread.


During much of Buddha's story, he is the mendicant. Were it not for the culture in which he resided, which admired and supported spiritual seekers, he would have been in bad shape. How can we do less than was done for Buddha?

kirtu wrote:
Queequeg wrote:I think you may misunderstand what Buddhism actually is.


Quite an assumption....


Indeed. The times were much different, but Buddha's compassion was not so different.

kirtu wrote:
Queequeg wrote:Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.


That is useless when people actively prevent the man from fishing...


Most places, one could not even legally be a mendicant, today, much less find free water or open land.

kirtu wrote:
Queequeg wrote:As Buddhists, we have a different approach to resolving the problems of the world.


In which sutra do you find this teaching?

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Actually, there are quite a few safety nets. they may not be very good nets, but they are there... 20 years ago I was living on about $5000 - $6000 a year. Well below poverty level. I had no car, no refrigerator. As a result i walked a lot and my food never went bad! I never got any govt. aid. My friends and I used to dumpster dive a lot. We always had enough money for pot, beer & cigarettes (as many low income people do today)...


You were an adult male with no dependents, living as you wished. And, as you know, beer & cigarettes are a poor means of liberation for those ignorant of the 4NT. There are safety nets, dwindling and with quite a few holes in them, but there are a few. To avail oneself of such "safety" is a full-time occupation, leaving little energy left-over to seek anything other than the end of the day. Further, in times such as these, entire families become homeless. Without an address, those safety nets are not available.

PadmaVonSamba wrote:But there are no dead bodies scattered around on my street, and the local buddhist sangha is always involved in food drives and other programs to help the needy.


Living bodies are not even allowed on the streets, so you will not find the dead ones. If one can organize sangha contributions, great. But, sangha or not, one can always contribute money or time to local food banks, shelters, and other assistance programs. One can foster children (the largest and growing number of poor in the U.S.) or donate time to Boys-Girls clubs or other organizations. There are so many ways to become involved, there is really little excuse not to.

:namaste:
If they can sever like and dislike, along with greed, anger, and delusion, regardless of their difference in nature, they will all accomplish the Buddha Path.. ~ Sutra of Complete Enlightenment
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Queequeg » Thu Oct 25, 2012 5:24 am

viniketa wrote:
Queequeg wrote:I don't remember any story of the Buddha providing for the material needs of people like Jesus with his loaves of bread.


During much of Buddha's story, he is the mendicant. Were it not for the culture in which he resided, which admired and supported spiritual seekers, he would have been in bad shape. How can we do less than was done for Buddha?

kirtu wrote:
Queequeg wrote:I think you may misunderstand what Buddhism actually is.


Quite an assumption....


Indeed. The times were much different, but Buddha's compassion was not so different.

kirtu wrote:
Queequeg wrote:Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.


That is useless when people actively prevent the man from fishing...


Most places, one could not even legally be a mendicant, today, much less find free water or open land.


Viniketa, with due respect, I don't think you quite grasp the issue that is being discussed.

The Buddha being a mendicant in a society that supported mendicants is a different matter than Kirt's judgment that we fail to practice Buddhism because we do not drop everything and answer his call to justice in the limited manner he asserts is the measure of whether someone practices Buddhism. The Buddha lived in a place that enabled one to become a mendicant more easily, but as far as I know, giving is not a commandment. It is a behavior that is encouraged, but the Buddha never demanded that people give alms or that it was required. We give when we can, we give what we can. And in turn, the Buddha taught his disciples to accept what is given without judgment. In fact, one of the reasons the Buddha promulgated the Vinaya is to make the sangha admirable to lay people who would then be inspired to give to them - not because they have to, but because they want to.

What you both seem to miss is that I am not denying anything in particular asserted as "good". Some of it may be good, some may not - much of it is a matter of politics for which this is not the appropriate forum. My point is that there is more to practicing Buddhadharma, which may include some of the things Kirt calls for, but even acting otherwise can still be Buddhist practice. It can include generosity, but doesn't have to, or isn't required in any particular manner. It could be advocacy on behalf of others - I've argued that advocacy for justice could be bodhisattva practice in the past (not that anyone would necessarily know that I did this). It could be agitation for changes in laws and policy - there are many Buddhists who see their activist work as intimately related to their Buddhist practice. But Buddhist practice is not limited to any one of these things, and I don't see the justification in questioning people's Buddhist bona fides if they don't do what Kirt expects of them.

What I reject is Kirt's limitations on what defines Buddhist behavior.

Maybe most places you can't be a mendicant. Come to NYC - very easy to be a mendicant here. My panhandler acquaintances tell me they can make $100 an hour and more in the right spots and food is abundant. It would be a matter of conditioning people to recognize mendicants and to give to them here. I'm not joking at all. Its something I thought about when I was younger and had fewer attachments.

kirtu wrote:
Queequeg wrote:As Buddhists, we have a different approach to resolving the problems of the world.


In which sutra do you find this teaching?


This is the approach I was referring to above.

As a practicing Buddhist, my efforts begin with reforming myself and sharing the Buddhadharma with others. Sharing Buddhadharma means conducting myself with effort and aspiration toward Buddhist ideals - loving kindness, compassion, generaosity, etc., as well as actually sharing literal Buddhadharma. When I share Buddhadharma with others, I give them the opportunity to begin the long, arduous task of reforming themselves, and they then share in turn also, ad infinitum - or up to 6 Billion people. And when all six billion are reforming themselves and sharing Buddhadharma, we'll have a mutually supportive civilization where each person is concerned with the enlightenment of all others - an idealized Pure Land.


That is the Bodhisattva path, is it not? Practice for oneself and for others - the characteristic that distinguishes the Bodhisattva vehicle from the Individual Vehicle.

As for how Buddhist practice transforms the world...

In which sutra do you not find this?

According to the 4 Noble Truths, how do you cure suffering? By cutting off ignorance.

"The mind is a skilled painter" -Avatamsaka

"When sentient beings see themselves
Amidst a conflagration
At the end of a kalpa,
It is in fact my tranquil land,
Always full of devas and humans.
All the gardens and palaces
Are adorned with various gems.
The jeweled trees abound with flowers and fruits,
And the sentient beings are joyful among them.
The devas beat heavenly drums
Making constant and varied music.
They rain down māndārava flowers
Upon the Buddha and the great assembly.
Although my Pure Land never decays,
The sentient beings see it as ravaged by fire
And torn with anxiety and distress;
They believe it is filled with these things.
Because of their misdeeds
These erring sentient beings do not hear
The name of the Three Treasures
For incalculable kalpas.
But all who cultivate merit,
And are receptive and honest,
Will see me residing here,
Expounding the Dharma."
-the Lotus Sutra

And

“It is through the transgressions of sentient beings that they do not see the purity of the Tathāgata‟s (i.e., the Buddha land). This is not the Tathāgata‟s fault! Śāriputra, this land of mine is pure, but you do not see it."
-Vimalakirti Sutra
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby viniketa » Thu Oct 25, 2012 12:01 pm

Queequeg wrote:Viniketa, with due respect, I don't think you quite grasp the issue that is being discussed.


I ask pardon for intruding on the conversation. I will never "grasp" why some Buddhists use their Buddhism as an excuse for walking away from basic human need.

:namaste:
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby kirtu » Thu Oct 25, 2012 2:55 pm

viniketa wrote:
Queequeg wrote:Viniketa, with due respect, I don't think you quite grasp the issue that is being discussed.


I ask pardon for intruding on the conversation. I will never "grasp" why some Buddhists use their Buddhism as an excuse for walking away from basic human need.

:namaste:


And that is the actual issue.

Kirt
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