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 » Tue Oct 30, 2012 1:06 am

catmoon wrote:
Huseng wrote:
This is closer to the Buddha's original ideas than what you find in the contemporary English speaking Buddhist world where the "middle way" is easily assumed to mean being middle class.


LOL! Ain't it the truth!

Gimme my meditation cave, an air conditioner, a little central heating, a CD player and TV for my Buddhist videos, a cell phone for emergencies and calls to my lama, and gee it's isolated and that's a lot of stuff to move, so I guess I'll need a pickup truck or something...

Ah, the simple life.


But if you are a Buddhist from a lower income bracket, as many Nichiren Buddhists are, you may not be able to afford a meditation cave, an air conditioner, central heating, a CD player or TV for your Buddhist videos, nor a cell phone for emergency calls to your lama (granted, Nichiren Buddhists don't have lamas). In fact, most of the luxuries that the mainstream Buddhists you refer to here are often things that many inner city members of SGI can't afford, which is why some of them do things like chant to be able to pay the rent (something that higher income American Buddhists often don't have to worry about) -- and then have to endure the accusation that they aren't really Buddhists because, according to many middle class white American Buddhists, real Buddhists don't want material things after all.

A good article about this topic that I posted in another thread recently: http://www.sgi-usa.org/newsandevents/ne ... icycle.pdf

(And, again, lest I sound self-righteousness: the only father I ever knew, technically my stepfather, was born a poor Mexican American in a migrant camp in Texas, and I grew up in a black neighborhood among many people on welfare and food stamps and subsidized housing -- some of them being my own family members.)
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby illarraza » Tue Oct 30, 2012 4:18 am

OregonBuddhist wrote:
catmoon wrote:
Huseng wrote:
This is closer to the Buddha's original ideas than what you find in the contemporary English speaking Buddhist world where the "middle way" is easily assumed to mean being middle class.


LOL! Ain't it the truth!

Gimme my meditation cave, an air conditioner, a little central heating, a CD player and TV for my Buddhist videos, a cell phone for emergencies and calls to my lama, and gee it's isolated and that's a lot of stuff to move, so I guess I'll need a pickup truck or something...

Ah, the simple life.


But if you are a Buddhist from a lower income bracket, as many Nichiren Buddhists are, you may not be able to afford a meditation cave, an air conditioner, central heating, a CD player or TV for your Buddhist videos, nor a cell phone for emergency calls to your lama (granted, Nichiren Buddhists don't have lamas). In fact, most of the luxuries that the mainstream Buddhists you refer to here are often things that many inner city members of SGI can't afford, which is why some of them do things like chant to be able to pay the rent (something that higher income American Buddhists often don't have to worry about) -- and then have to endure the accusation that they aren't really Buddhists because, according to many middle class white American Buddhists, real Buddhists don't want material things after all.

A good article about this topic that I posted in another thread recently: http://www.sgi-usa.org/newsandevents/ne ... icycle.pdf

(And, again, lest I sound self-righteousness: the only father I ever knew, technically my stepfather, was born a poor Mexican American in a migrant camp in Texas, and I grew up in a black neighborhood among many people on welfare and food stamps and subsidized housing -- some of them being my own family members.)


All very good but some [many?] SGI members, even after twenty or thirty years, are still chanting to pay the rent, find a steady job, or get a motorcycle so they won't have to take public transportation. This is contrary to what they were promised by their sponsors and leaders and what they are promised by the Lotus Sutra,

"If he goes to a Sangha dwelling
Wishing to hear the Dharma Flower Sutra
And, hearing it but for a moment, then rejoices,
I will now tell of his blessings.
He shall later be born among gods and humans,
Acquire fine elephant and horse carriages and
Precious, jeweled palanquins
And will even ride in heavenly palaces.
If, in a place where the Sutra is lectured,
He encourages another to sit down and listen,
By virtue of his blessings, he will gain
The seat of Shakra, Brahma, or a wheel-turning king.
How much greater will the blessings be of one who single-mindedly listens
And explains the Sutra's meaning,
Cultivating it as he preaches
His blessings shall know no limit.
-- LS Chapter 18

We have to ask ourselves, why after twenty or thirty years in the Soka Gakkai are there faithful disciples of Daisaku Ikeda who fail to reap both the material and spiritual benefits of the Lotus Sutra, especially during a relatively peaceful era in which few are persecuted? Could it be that what they are practicing is not the Lotus Sutra but some inferior Sutra? Is there something wrong with the travelers or with the road builder, or with both the travelers and road builder? I maintain that they have taken the wrong road, a poorly constructed road built by a mobbed up contractor, rather than the sturdy, pristine, safe, well signed, divided highway of the master road builders, Shakyamuni Buddha and Nichiren Daishonin. I am well aware of the Three Kinds of Treasures and the nature of conspicuous and inconspicuous benefit. However, what is promised in the Soka Gakkai, a material success for every member, "victory in every endeavor", and guaranteed golden years for every faithful believer, when evaluated by whatever measure or standard one chooses, is patently false. Let me leave you with an instructive teaching of Nichiren, the concluding passages On Persecutions Befalling the Sage [WND page 998]:

"Urge on, but do not frighten, the ones from Atsuhara who are ignorant of Buddhism. Tell them to be prepared for the worst, and not to expect good times, but take the bad times for granted. If they complain of hunger, tell them about the sufferings of the world of hungry spirits. If they grumble that they are cold, tell them of the eight cold hells. If they say they are frightened, explain to them that a pheasant sighted by a hawk, or a mouse stalked by a cat, is as desperate as they are. I have been repeating these things in detail day after day, month after month, year after year. Yet with the lay nun of Nagoe, Sho-bo, Noto-bo, Sammibo,5 and the like, who are cowardly, unreasoning, greedy, and doubting, my words have no more effect than pouring water on lacquer ware or slicing through air.

There was something very strange about Sammi-bo. Nevertheless, I was concerned that any admonition would be taken by the ignorant as mere jealousy of his wisdom, and so I refrained from speaking out. In time his wicked ambition led to treachery and, finally, to his doom. If I had scolded him more strictly, he might have been saved. I have not mentioned this before because no one would have understood it. Even now the ignorant will say that I am speaking ill of the deceased. Nevertheless, I mention it so that others can use it as their mirror. I am sure that our opponents and the renegades are frightened by the fate of Sammi-bo."

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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Indrajala » Tue Oct 30, 2012 5:35 am

OregonBuddhist wrote:But if you are a Buddhist from a lower income bracket, as many Nichiren Buddhists are, you may not be able to afford a meditation cave, an air conditioner, central heating, a CD player or TV for your Buddhist videos, nor a cell phone for emergency calls to your lama (granted, Nichiren Buddhists don't have lamas).


A lot of such things are really unnecessary depending on your circumstances (you'll need heating if you live in a deathly cold climate of course).

Still, at the end of the day most possessions just suck away your time. You need to keep them clean and in good order. You'll need to earn money to maintain such a lifestyle. It isn't enough to have a house, but you need to fill it with furniture and paint the walls. Maybe put some carpeting in, too.

... real Buddhists don't want material things after all.


Beyond your basic survival necessities (food, shelter, clothing and medicine when necessary) you don't really need much. The less crap you have in your life, the more freedom and time you'll have.

This is something I appreciate about the Buddhism I saw around India. The Tibetan gonpas are usually very simple buildings with a white paint job on cracking cement. No air conditioning, heating, washing machines, and minimal furniture. The shrine room of course gets substantial attention, but most of the monasteries are relatively stoic. Electricity comes and goes.



(And, again, lest I sound self-righteousness: the only father I ever knew, technically my stepfather, was born a poor Mexican American in a migrant camp in Texas, and I grew up in a black neighborhood among many people on welfare and food stamps and subsidized housing -- some of them being my own family members.)


I grew up in relative poverty as well (by western standards), but after traveling around I've come to think that possessions beyond the basics are a waste of time and resources. If you can live minimally and not have children, you'll be free to practice and travel provided you're healthy and not attached to people.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Tue Oct 30, 2012 7:35 am

illarraza wrote:All very good but some [many?] SGI members, even after twenty or thirty years, are still chanting to pay the rent, find a steady job, or get a motorcycle so they won't have to take public transportation. This is contrary to what they were promised by their sponsors and leaders and what they are promised by the Lotus Sutra,


Well, I wasn't arguing whether the SGI practice works or not. I was arguing the motivation behind the chanting for material things. As the article I link to above says, many people look down on the practice of chanting for basic necessities in life -- because they take those necessities for granted.

As for whether it works or not, I'm sure there are just as many cases on either side. As for me, Courtney Love (the rock star) wrote to me that "it works period." She chanted for fame, and she got it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4i--gr5qCM
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Tue Oct 30, 2012 7:39 am

Huseng wrote: A lot of such things are really unnecessary depending on your circumstances (you'll need heating if you live in a deathly cold climate of course).


But the point I was making is that there are some people, some Buddhists, who don't have such posessions to begin with. :smile:
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Konchog1 » Tue Oct 30, 2012 9:01 am

OregonBuddhist wrote:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4i--gr5qCM
Wonderful voice
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

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

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby PorkChop » Tue Oct 30, 2012 7:22 pm

Huseng wrote:I grew up in relative poverty as well (by western standards), but after traveling around I've come to think that possessions beyond the basics are a waste of time and resources. If you can live minimally and not have children, you'll be free to practice and travel provided you're healthy and not attached to people.


I think this is where my preference for certain teachings & teachers is really showing through.
I realize this is a Nichiren board; but I gotta say that the 8 Verses for Training the Mind by Geshe Langri Tangpa (1054-1123) truly speaks to me in this regard.
It teaches that those people who upset us and destabilize the stillness of our minds are not enemies, but precious teachers that show us what we need to work on.
By extension, my kid has been one of my best Dharma teachers for various lessons, especially renouncing ownership of the way I spend my time and learning to let my anger go.
Having a kid has done a lot to take me out of my "me first" mentality.
Baby cries, it's gotta be fed, regardless of whether every single cell in my body is screaming for more sleep.
Kid destroys the carpet, if I act out of anger, ultimately I'm going to be the one that suffers. Best to remember not to let my possessions own me, to teach him not to do it again, and just let the anger go.

There's an implication with your message that I don't think exists in the teachings of the Dharma, and I'm not sure you mean to make that implication.
The teachings of Metta and Karuna teach us that we need to have unconditional love and compassion for all sentient beings - treating them as if they were our mother or our child.
Attachment for people is only bad in the sense of wanting them to act in a certain way or not being able to accept that some day we are going to have to lose them.
You don't renounce people so much as renounce having any expectations of them.
I tend to think that the Buddha abandoning his family on the birth of his son was more about how he would have to assume the crown on the birth of his son, that being a king meant he would no longer be free to learn how to have a religious life, and that ultimately he left them to help them (and all of the rest of us).
Again, I don't know if that was your intention to imply that family/people should be avoided/renounced altogether; if not I apologize.

Being able to properly study Dharma requires certain causes and conditions.
In order to accomplish this, many perform acts of wisdom & compassion in order to increase their stores of merit and hope the fruits of their karma will provide an opportunity.
That being said, chanting to get a debt collector off your back or to get a job where you have enough to meet your obligations is a wholly different thing than wanting a yacht, fame, or a mansion.
The first case is not that different than chanting Medicine Buddha to heal a body/mind that is making it difficult to practice the Dharma.
The second case is not at all the same.
"Possessions beyond the basics" is different from situation to situation.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Tue Oct 30, 2012 10:47 pm

Konchog1 wrote:
OregonBuddhist wrote:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4i--gr5qCM
Wonderful voice


Thank you. :)
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Queequeg » Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:04 pm

PorkChop wrote:It teaches that those people who upset us and destabilize the stillness of our minds are not enemies, but precious teachers that show us what we need to work on.


In Lotus Buddhism there are similar concepts. One of the texts that Zhiyi commented on extensively is the Vimalakirti Sutra. In that Sutra, those who present obstacles and challenges to bodhisattvas are revealed to be bodhisattvas themselves. Bodhisattvas take on these roles because only they can present obstacles and challenges sufficient to tax bodhisattvas and afford them an opportunity for dharma training.

Similarly, throughout the Lotus Sutra we see various entities playing the bodhisattva at times, and the foil at other times. One of the more poignant scenes is where Shakyamuni explains that Devadatta was his teacher in a past life. In another scene, the Buddha tells the story of Bodhisattva Never Despise who's practice consists of addressing people and a prophecying their Buddhahood. Some are angered by this and attack the bodhisattva. The Bodhisattva's practice of seeing the Buddhahood of all the people he encounters and treating them accordingly is revealed to be the cause of enlightenment. Without the enemies, the bodhisattva would never be able to make the causes for his future Buddhahood.

In Zhiyi's teachings, these stories from the Lotus Sutra are teased out into various doctrines such as the stimulus and response relationship of the unenlightened and the Buddha. Without the unenlightened beings, the Buddha cannot appear. Conversely, you get the surprising twist in Lotus Sutra Buddhism that holds that the unenlightened beings appear only because of the appearance of the Buddha. (This idea is present in other forms of Buddhism, but is not as pronounced nor developed into the same sort of profound doctrines).

The sum effect is a Buddhist practice that is inseparable from every aspect of life.

I would suggest that the difference with the doctrine you describe is that rather than being distractions from a still mind, in Lotus Buddhism, obstacles and challenges are opportunities to express the function of the Buddha, which invariably does express - though not in the way that we might think at a particular moment. The Buddha function in a given circumstance may not be discernible until one looks from a particular vantage point - another Lotus Buddhism doctrine called "Opening the Trace to Reveal the Root". (Bob Thurman describes a similar doctrine in his "Long Tale")

Similarly, sometimes you read in Buddhist texts descriptions of various pure lands in which all phenomena reveal the Buddhadharma. I've heard Bob Thurman describe the ducks in Sukhavati - they are jewel encrusted and instead of quacking "AFLAC" they quack things like, "Bliss", "Nirvana", "All compounded phenomena are subject to destruction". I read those sorts of passages in the Sutras as meaning that if you view this phenomenal world correctly, if you understand that Samsara is Nirvana, that this is the Buddha's Pureland - then all phenomena are constantly revealing the true aspect of reality to us, directing us to right views and the attainment of enlightenment. Even a colicky baby keeping you awake when you have to be up for a full day of work in a few hours is screaming the Buddha dharma and providing an opportunity to practice our Buddhahood (my first is on his way - I am looking forward to him teaching me a thing or two, although I hope he's one of those "good" babies that lets mommy and daddy sleep at least :) )

You don't renounce people so much as renounce having any expectations of them.


I would modify that a little bit. I would not go so far as renouncing expectations. In my case, I try renouncing disappointment, which may play out as renouncing expectations if after reflecting on the situation that I realize my expectations were unfounded. However, I expect each and every one of us to be the best person we can be, and I expect that we are always capable of more than we presently are. This may be my Lotus Buddhist background, however, where I take to heart the Buddha's declaration that he is always considering how to make all beings equal to him.

There was a time in my life where I thought renouncing people and expectations would be the path to enlightenment. For me, the way that played out was an increasing insularity and separation from the world which conflicted with my Mahayana vow to save beings. I could block the sense doors and maybe even penetrate to deep samadhi, but of what benefit was I to those suffering around me? My practice has since been the clumsy navigation of a middle path, amounting to the pursuit of various expedients (the skillfulness of which are always in doubt) conditioned by coming to terms with the mortality of this body, the limitations of time and space, the closing of doors with each passing day contrasting deeply with the wide open possibilities of my 20s. Now I try focus on fewer endeavors, but instead try to perfect them, and most importantly, to be the best friend, son, brother, husband, father (soon) that I can be. Any other creed, even if Gotama did preach it, is useless to me.

I used to not have a problem with the Buddha's renunciation of his royal life. But as I've gotten older, seen people grow up without fathers, I have developed deep misgivings about this story. To find value in the Buddha's story of renunciation, I have to interpret the Buddha's story in a way that puts a deep emphasis on the existential crisis he had on seeing the dead body. In this reading, the Buddha really had no choice but to escape palace life as quickly as he could. In the face of death, all life lost meaning for him. What good would it have been to have such a depressed king. How deadening a life spent in royal duty would have been. Perhaps he would have turned to indulgence to escape, but in either case, what kind of king would he have made? In this reading, the Buddha was compelled to find a resolution to his existential crisis, a redemption from the nihilistic tendencies that confrontation with death can have. In the Individual Vehicle interpretation of Buddhadharma, I don't think there is redemption; there is some resignation and release. In what we (Lotus Buddhists) call Provisional Mahayana, and even Separate Teaching, that ultimate release is mitigated only by a bodhisattva career, which in some senses can be perpetual, but always still bounded by parinirvana. Perfect Teaching however provides for a full embrace of all aspects - suffering and its release, but also joy, love, compassion, bliss, and that Bogeyman for most Buddhists, the eternal, "True Self" - not so different from other Buddhists notions of the "uncreate", but often startling, nonetheless.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Konchog1 » Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:30 pm

To find value in the Buddha's story of renunciation, I have to interpret the Buddha's story in a way that puts a deep emphasis on the existential crisis he had on seeing the dead body.
There once was a starving family with only enough food for one person. The father has a choice: 1. does he split the food between everyone and thus have everyone die a little later or 2. eat the food himself and use the strength to find food for everyone?

Besides, the Buddha came back several years later.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

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

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Queequeg » Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:48 pm

Konchog1 wrote:
To find value in the Buddha's story of renunciation, I have to interpret the Buddha's story in a way that puts a deep emphasis on the existential crisis he had on seeing the dead body.
There once was a starving family with only enough food for one person. The father has a choice: 1. does he split the food between everyone and thus have everyone die a little later or 2. eat the food himself and use the strength to find food for everyone?

Besides, the Buddha came back several years later.


I don't see the easy application of your analogy to the Buddha's story.

He never returned to take the throne. He never returned to become the cakravartin Sudhodhana wanted him to be. He never returned to lead his people.

In fact, the suttas suggest that he hastened the destruction of the Sakya kingdom because all of his ablest relatives also abandoned the home life, leaving the kingdom bereft of their ablest young men. This is spun as a further lesson in non-attachment - but it still does not ameliorate my concerns that the Buddha's story can be abused as a justification for shirking responsibility, and in practice, Buddhism has been used that way in the past. That is a historical fact.

Even accepting your analogy and that it applies to the Buddha's story, its not without its moral and ethical ambiguity. This actually doesn't bother me so much, though. Life is plagued by ambiguity and ambivalence.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Konchog1 » Sat Nov 03, 2012 1:01 am

Queequeg wrote:
Konchog1 wrote:
To find value in the Buddha's story of renunciation, I have to interpret the Buddha's story in a way that puts a deep emphasis on the existential crisis he had on seeing the dead body.
There once was a starving family with only enough food for one person. The father has a choice: 1. does he split the food between everyone and thus have everyone die a little later or 2. eat the food himself and use the strength to find food for everyone?

Besides, the Buddha came back several years later.


I don't see the easy application of your analogy to the Buddha's story.

He never returned to take the throne. He never returned to become the cakravartin Sudhodhana wanted him to be. He never returned to lead his people.

In fact, the suttas suggest that he hastened the destruction of the Sakya kingdom because all of his ablest relatives also abandoned the home life, leaving the kingdom bereft of their ablest young men. This is spun as a further lesson in non-attachment - but it still does not ameliorate my concerns that the Buddha's story can be abused as a justification for shirking responsibility, and in practice, Buddhism has been used that way in the past. That is a historical fact.

Even accepting your analogy and that it applies to the Buddha's story, its not without its moral and ethical ambiguity. This actually doesn't bother me so much, though. Life is plagued by ambiguity and ambivalence.
No matter what, the Shakya were doomed. Siddhartha was doomed. His family was doomed. I'm doomed. You're doomed. Every single living and nonliving in existence is doomed.

Everything decays second by second, inexorably leading into its death. Everything dies. Everything ends. The universe is a graveyard filled with compost and zombies.

And the Lord Buddha found the way out. He defeated death and shared his findings with his family and the entire world.
The guide who leads sentient beings
On the path of liberation
And who teaches all aspects of the Dharma:
I prostrate to you!

The Protector who, with a loving mind,
Looks after all these sentient beings eternally
Like your only son:
I prostrate to you!

Who, for those sentient beings circling in samsara,
Has become an object that can be relied upon,
And who has become an island, savior, and a friend:
I prostrate to you!

For whom all phenomena have become the object of direct perception,
Who is pure and does not mislead,
And maintains the purity of your stainless speech:
I prostrate to you!

When you attained the essence of Buddhahood,
Six times the earth mightily shook,
Making the demonic forces unhappy:
I prostrate to you!

The stunner who defeated all heretics
With Dharma teachings
And conquered all crowds:
I prostrate to you!

-Based off of The Noble Sutra on Entering the Great
City of Vaishali
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

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

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Queequeg » Sat Nov 03, 2012 2:51 pm

Hello Konchog,

I'm not sure what your point is. You are reciting the standard explanation of the Buddha's actions. It is an end justifies the means. That is not the only way to consider the story. Part of what I'm suggesting is that the Buddha's story is much richer and nuanced than the simplified cartoon version where the ending is predetermined and hanging like a bright light over the whole thing, casting a rose colored, hunky-dory pale over it all.

I don't know how broad your familiarity with the stories of the Buddha's enlightenment is, but there are many versions that treat the story with deeper detail and sensitivity, emphasizing different aspects of the story, which remarkably also tends toward different stories. This is one of the wonders of story telling, IMO. One of the versions has Yasodhara being angry at being abandoned, not because she was the poor abandoned wife being left with the burden of child rearing alone, but because she wanted to join Gautama on his spiritual quest and felt left behind. Doesn't quite change much, but does make for a slightly more feminist interpretation. In yet others, he is actually portrayed as having a near nervous breakdown at seeing the dead body, and then disgusted, repulsed by palace life. In what seem to be the most reliable records of the Buddha's own explanation for leaving home it was because "household life is dusty and cramped, life gone forth is wide open." My point is, your response is the standard after-the-fact, ends justify the means, explanation of his decision to abandon his home and in my opinion, glosses over this point that is very problematic. Walking out on your family is difficult to justify for a lot of people. This has been an issue for many in the Buddhist community, from the beginning to now.

There is much more to Buddhism than some strict monumental interpretation. I don't know if there is a "right" answer. However, I do think having a broader and more open discussion about Buddhism, regardless of where it goes on the topic is "right".
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby Jikan » Sat Nov 03, 2012 5:40 pm

This discussion on the narrative of Shakyamuni's life is of great interest, but it may merit a new thread. Let's try to stay on topic (Buddhism: Just for Asians?).

Also, please note that as this thread has become generalized to Buddhism as a whole rather than Nichiren Buddhism specifically, I'm going to move it to the free-for-all forum.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby PorkChop » Sun Nov 04, 2012 12:44 am

Queequeg wrote:In Lotus Buddhism there are similar concepts. One of the texts that Zhiyi commented on extensively is the Vimalakirti Sutra. In that Sutra, those who present obstacles and challenges to bodhisattvas are revealed to be bodhisattvas themselves. Bodhisattvas take on these roles because only they can present obstacles and challenges sufficient to tax bodhisattvas and afford them an opportunity for dharma training.


I really need to read the Vimalakirti Sutra.
That's very interesting.
This summer I was dealing with painful skin infections on my back - from my rear end to my shoulder blades.
It finally got me to slow down and think about my life outside of the gym.
All of a sudden I had all this time to read; 2+ hours a night in the gym became a book or two each week.
I started meditating (to deal with the pain), started going to a local Buddhist Temple, and even started visiting to online sites like here.

A few weeks ago, I was dropping my son off at school.
I remember listening to some Dharma talk playing on the car stereo and reflecting that I felt like I was finally done shopping around as far as spirituality was concerned - that the Dharma seems to make the most sense of anything I've come across and that for once I didn't have that nagging voice of doubt in the back of my head.
After pulling my kid out of his car seat, I was about to shut the car door, when this little yellow spider jumped out of the car.
It jumped out almost slow motion, both my kid and I were staring at it, and we both had the vibe it was staring right back, before it ran into the playground of the daycare.
I looked up the spider on the internet and turns out it was a yellow sac spider (or possibly a yellow crab spider) and it causes bites consistent with the skin infections I've been dealing with. Within a week my son had similar bites all up and down his side, the spider's last gift before running off.

Relating the story to my friends at the Lam Rim group and they joked that the spider was probably a Bodhisattva.
Reading your post, I'm starting to wonder. :)

Without the unenlightened beings, the Buddha cannot appear. Conversely, you get the surprising twist in Lotus Sutra Buddhism that holds that the unenlightened beings appear only because of the appearance of the Buddha.

That's pretty deep.

I would suggest that the difference with the doctrine you describe is that rather than being distractions from a still mind, in Lotus Buddhism, obstacles and challenges are opportunities to express the function of the Buddha, which invariably does express - though not in the way that we might think at a particular moment. The Buddha function in a given circumstance may not be discernible until one looks from a particular vantage point - another Lotus Buddhism doctrine called "Opening the Trace to Reveal the Root". (Bob Thurman describes a similar doctrine in his "Long Tale")


It was a Robert Thurman talk late last year or earlier this year that made me give Buddhism another look after coming to the conclusion over a decade ago that it seemed to be nihilistic.
I'm really going to have to read more Lotus Buddhism material.

Similarly, sometimes you read in Buddhist texts descriptions of various pure lands in which all phenomena reveal the Buddhadharma. I've heard Bob Thurman describe the ducks in Sukhavati - they are jewel encrusted and instead of quacking "AFLAC" they quack things like, "Bliss", "Nirvana", "All compounded phenomena are subject to destruction". I read those sorts of passages in the Sutras as meaning that if you view this phenomenal world correctly, if you understand that Samsara is Nirvana, that this is the Buddha's Pureland - then all phenomena are constantly revealing the true aspect of reality to us, directing us to right views and the attainment of enlightenment.


I've heard Thurman say the same thing many times.
Today we were talking about how when you strip off the layer of conceptualism from the information you get from your senses, the world takes on a bright, beautiful, "new" quality - like looking at the world through a child's eyes. I'm guessing the further you're able to progress down the path, the more you're able to see the world for the Pure Land that it is.

Even a colicky baby keeping you awake when you have to be up for a full day of work in a few hours is screaming the Buddha dharma and providing an opportunity to practice our Buddhahood (my first is on his way - I am looking forward to him teaching me a thing or two, although I hope he's one of those "good" babies that lets mommy and daddy sleep at least :) )


Joseph Campbell describes the story of the Buddha's birth in one of his talks and about how the Buddha took 7 steps in each direction and declared "Heaven above, Earth below, there's never been another one like me." He relates how Dr. T Suzuki told him that the story was just as much about the Buddha's spiritual birth as it was his physical birth; but he added "all babies are Buddha babies, they just don't know it yet." To which Campbell adds, "so when you hear a new born baby crying, what do you think it's saying? 'Heaven above, Earth below, there's never been another one like me.'" :)

I would modify that a little bit. I would not go so far as renouncing expectations. In my case, I try renouncing disappointment, which may play out as renouncing expectations if after reflecting on the situation that I realize my expectations were unfounded. However, I expect each and every one of us to be the best person we can be, and I expect that we are always capable of more than we presently are. This may be my Lotus Buddhist background, however, where I take to heart the Buddha's declaration that he is always considering how to make all beings equal to him.

That's pretty much what I was trying to say.


Now I try focus on fewer endeavors, but instead try to perfect them, and most importantly, to be the best friend, son, brother, husband, father (soon) that I can be. Any other creed, even if Gotama did preach it, is useless to me.

This is very much a Japanese mentality. :)

In what we (Lotus Buddhists) call Provisional Mahayana, and even Separate Teaching, that ultimate release is mitigated only by a bodhisattva career, which in some senses can be perpetual, but always still bounded by parinirvana. Perfect Teaching however provides for a full embrace of all aspects - suffering and its release, but also joy, love, compassion, bliss, and that Bogeyman for most Buddhists, the eternal, "True Self" - not so different from other Buddhists notions of the "uncreate", but often startling, nonetheless.
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Definitely more I have to read.
I will say that my Laotian Theravadan coach does embrace the concepts of Metta, Karuna, and service to others - much more so than I gather from some of the Theravadan presence online from here in the west. After reading that wiki page on agreements between Mahayana & Theravada from Ven Walpola Rahula; I was almost surprised to see a mutual embrace of the Bodhisattva path - but then I remembered my coach. :D

Thanks for the lesson!
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby muni » Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:38 am

OregonBuddhist wrote:[
But the point I was making is that there are some people, some Buddhists, who don't have such posessions to begin with. :smile:


They don't have indeed. But it makes them not necessarely good practicioners.

Now these days even in so seen Asian Buddhist places are there glitters to find in form of mobilphones, pc's next to the mom who must send her eldest child on the street to gain some coins. Those items are very attractive to greedy mind and now already are seen as fortune to make a better life ( a comfortable samsara) and Buddhism is losing. A friend told me: "Buddhism is here losing, people are not listening or interested anymore. It is now going to the west, but there is a "wanting" of instant Dharma".
Buddhism is moving, spreading. It is up to each of us to be responsable in order to practice it for the sake of all and so to inspire or re-inspire our fellows. My two coins... :smile:
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby illarraza » Sun Nov 04, 2012 9:54 pm

OregonBuddhist wrote:
illarraza wrote:All very good but some [many?] SGI members, even after twenty or thirty years, are still chanting to pay the rent, find a steady job, or get a motorcycle so they won't have to take public transportation. This is contrary to what they were promised by their sponsors and leaders and what they are promised by the Lotus Sutra,


Well, I wasn't arguing whether the SGI practice works or not. I was arguing the motivation behind the chanting for material things. As the article I link to above says, many people look down on the practice of chanting for basic necessities in life -- because they take those necessities for granted.

As for whether it works or not, I'm sure there are just as many cases on either side. As for me, Courtney Love (the rock star) wrote to me that "it works period." She chanted for fame, and she got it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p4i--gr5qCM


More importantly than the teachings of Courtney on fame, what does Nichiren Daishonin say? Anyway, we will have to agree to disagree about the efficacy of SGI Daimoku in the life of Courtney Love:

http://www.spinner.com/2012/02/02/court ... d%3D132252

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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby icylake » Sat Nov 10, 2012 5:50 pm

[quote="PadmaVonSamba"]Shakyamuni was from North India. North Indians and Europeans already share a common ancestry from back in the Bronze Age. The majority of representations of The Buddha, other than (only through) calligraphy are essentially cartoons rather than "realistic" images.

Shakamuni was from nepali basin, where is the home of Newari tribe. and original newaris are Tibeto-Burmese people. so i think from the perspective of race, he might have been Mongolian, but from the perspective of culture, it may be quite different. and i think the ethinic geography of the subcontinent could have been more diverse than what we assume now.. :tongue:
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby OregonBuddhist » Wed Nov 21, 2012 9:32 pm

Thanks to everyone for the responses. I'm surprised that this thread got this long. I may be repeating myself here, I don't know. But the reason I started this thread is that the more I study Nichiren Buddhism, and Buddhism in general, the more I see how Buddhism shaped Asian cultures, and vice versa. Same as Christianity and Judaism for the West. So, I'm realizing that at some point practice of Buddhism goes beyond a religion and actually becomes cultural -- and I was wondering if anyone who isn't culturally (or perhaps biologically) "Asian" can therefore truly be Buddhist. I'm still not sure. Or, maybe I need to just "own" the statement and admit that I suppose I don't feel that I'm a Buddhist, "yet." And I don't know if I ever will. (I saw an article in, I believe, Shambala Sun, a few days ago. The title was, "You become a Buddhist when you decide you are." I don't know. I don't know if it's really that simple.)

Maybe the other issue is ... I think I do need to accept and make peace with the fact that there ARE some Asians who DO feel this way -- that only Asians can truly be Buddhist. Probably some Westerners feel that way too.
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Re: Buddhism: Just for Asians?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed Nov 21, 2012 9:58 pm

OregonBuddhist wrote: I was wondering if anyone who isn't culturally (or perhaps biologically) "Asian" can therefore truly be Buddhist.


let me ask you this...can anyone who wasn't living in India 2500 years ago "truly" be buddhist?
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