The West's conflict with mixing spirituality and materiality

Re: The West's conflict with mixing spirituality and materiality

Postby OregonBuddhist » Fri Nov 23, 2012 9:33 am

Phew! Thank you very much for the very interesting response. "This is what I'm talkin' 'bout." :)

So, what you write here is related to what I mention in another thread I started: that Buddhism in Asia is part of a cultural fabric that is foreign to many Western convert Buddhists: viewtopic.php?f=66&t=10259

I'm reading a book about Japanese Buddhism that relates to your third point. It says that Japanese society largely sees the world as a positive place, and yet Buddhism is a religion that denies the physical world and seeks to escape it. When Buddhism arrived in Japan, it therefore had to take various adjustments. This is obviously why Nichiren Buddhism is so different from many other forms of Buddhism.

Your third point also highlights something interesting. It seems that many Western Buddhists who get up-in-arms about mixing the material with the spiritual/religious, are people who are quite comfortable already. To be honest, I get a bit of a sense of hostility in just bringing up this topic.

PadmaVonSamba wrote: 1.There is a common belief that one should reject the material world in favor of spiritual pursuits.
This might be an attitude that came from from the 1960' counter-culture.
I would make a very random guess that quite often,
those who feel this way have had a materially abundant life yet found it not fulfilling,
as characterized by the saying, "money can't buy happiness".

2. Western buddhists are often reluctant to financially support the dharma centers that they are affiliate with,
and often feel resentment when asked to pay to attend teachings and so forth.
As a result, Buddhist organizations are often lacking in financial resources.
This is in stark contrast to Buddhists groups whose memberships are largely Asian to begin with,
and it is also at odds with Western Christian church organizations
which are able to get considerable financial support from their members.

3. "Spiritual pursuits" including the study and practice of dharma often manifest as ways of escaping the drudgery of having to make money, so whenever money issues enter the buddhist conversation, this threatens that escape mechanism, and people complain.
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Re: The West's conflict with mixing spirituality and materiality

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Nov 23, 2012 4:23 pm

OregonBuddhist wrote:I'm reading a book about Japanese Buddhism that relates to your third point. It says that Japanese society largely sees the world as a positive place, and yet Buddhism is a religion that denies the physical world and seeks to escape it.


This is a common misunderstanding.
Buddhists teachings do not deny that the appearance of an intrinsically existent material reality arises.
Rather, it teaches that attachment to these appearances, or to the reality of these appearances
always leads to dissatisfaction
because these appearances, this "material reality" is made up of impermanent parts
thus, basing one's happiness on something temporary means that the happiness will also be temporary.

Rather that using the word "escape", it would be more accurate to say that
Buddhism teaches that one should not rely on these appearances
but instead, should work with one's own actions of body, speech and mind.

But I am not sure that this understanding belongs in the Nichiren subcategory of this forum.
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Re: The West's conflict with mixing spirituality and materiality

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri Nov 23, 2012 5:03 pm

My own experience with Nichiren Buddhists has been very limited.
My firest encounter, after I had already been studying and practicing vajrayana (Tibetan) Buddhism, was when I dropped in at an SGI place, just to check it out. I try to be very open minded and always curious and eager to explore or at least try to understand all paths which call themselves Buddhist.

The group had just finished a chanting session and was braking up, and I was talking to an elderly japanese woman who said to me, "Oh. that Tibetan...only want to talk about death! Here, you chant Myo Ho Renge Kyo, you can have money, a car, big TV, whatever you want!
And this struck me as rather odd, because praying for "stuff" is not what I normally associate with Buddhism. I can get "stuff" anywhere. Buddhist practice for me had what i would consider somewhat loftier goals. And I think this may also be what you were referring to, many buddhists seeming to reject the material world.

Beyond that, I have had a few acquaintances and one good friend for a long time who is Nichiren. I have also known a person whose experience with SGI was very negative, and who found "what she was looking for" in Tibetan Buddhism.

But all that shows is that everybody is different.
I am also aware that not every Nichiren Buddhist is eager to defend SGI.
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Re: The West's conflict with mixing spirituality and materiality

Postby OregonBuddhist » Sat Nov 24, 2012 2:45 am

Thank you for the response. Here is the quote from the book which I paraphrased above:

"In general, the Japanese affirm the world and humanity as they are and do not seek a realm or a state of existence that rejects or transcends the natural world. Several reasons can be given for this mindset. For one thing, though there have been many prolonged and bloody contests for power and authority among the Japanese, the nation was never successfully invaded or ruled by another people before the twentieth century, so that the Japanese never had to face the bitter reality of occupation by a foreign power or submission to foreign beliefs. For another, Japan's climate is temperate, and the country has no vast spaces for people to wander in. The japanese tendency to remain firmly grounded in the natural world has been at times a strength, at times a weakness. This is was the environment of thought, feeling, and belief into which Buddhism was introduced, a religion that rejects reality as it is -- the phenomenal world -- and teaches a way to transcened it. When Japan's indigenous religion and Buddhism, so different in basic nature, met head on, we would have expected considerable mutual opposition and resistance." Pages 25-26. Japanese Buddhism: A Cultural History. http://www.amazon.com/Japanese-Buddhism ... 4333016843 (I Purchased this book in the gift shop of the Portland Japanese Garden, said to be the most authentic outside of Japan. http://www.japanesegarden.com/ )

With regard to how what you mention relates to Japanese/Nichiren Buddhism, I'm sure you've seen the earlier discussion we had regarding the fact that the Four Noble Truths are subsumed under Daimoku (or "Odaimoku") in Nichiren Buddhism: viewtopic.php?f=59&t=10249

Thanks. :anjali:

PadmaVonSamba wrote:
OregonBuddhist wrote:I'm reading a book about Japanese Buddhism that relates to your third point. It says that Japanese society largely sees the world as a positive place, and yet Buddhism is a religion that denies the physical world and seeks to escape it.


This is a common misunderstanding.
Buddhists teachings do not deny that the appearance of an intrinsically existent material reality arises.
Rather, it teaches that attachment to these appearances, or to the reality of these appearances
always leads to dissatisfaction
because these appearances, this "material reality" is made up of impermanent parts
thus, basing one's happiness on something temporary means that the happiness will also be temporary.

Rather that using the word "escape", it would be more accurate to say that
Buddhism teaches that one should not rely on these appearances
but instead, should work with one's own actions of body, speech and mind.

But I am not sure that this understanding belongs in the Nichiren subcategory of this forum.
.
.
.
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Re: The West's conflict with mixing spirituality and materiality

Postby OregonBuddhist » Sat Nov 24, 2012 2:57 am

Yes, everyone is different. For me, I was exposed to Buddhism as a child in Japan. I don't know if the form of Buddhism practiced by the people I knew was Nichiren Buddhism. But it makes sense for me that my childhood experience in Japan was perhaps the happiest experience of my life, and the style of Buddhism I have been attracted to is Japanese.

With regard to chanting for material things, I shared this link earlier. It's an interview with a woman named Jacqueline Stone, who is a professor at Harvard. She mentions that the practice of chanting for material things has been a part of Buddhism for thousands of years, but Westerners are generally unaware of this. The reason Westerners tend to be unaware of this is because Buddhism was first brought to the West by Western intellectuals who apparently didn't approve of the aspects of Buddhism that they viewed as superstitious; so, the Western intellectuals brought to the West the aspects of Buddhism that they liked. http://www.tricycle.com/special-section ... line-stone

I have Tibetan prayer flags hanging on my house, but I probably know as little about Tibetan Buddhism as you do about Nichiren Buddhism. But one thing I do know is that Tibetan Buddhism is full of supernatural rites and things that people would call "magical."


PadmaVonSamba wrote:My own experience with Nichiren Buddhists has been very limited.
My firest encounter, after I had already been studying and practicing vajrayana (Tibetan) Buddhism, was when I dropped in at an SGI place, just to check it out. I try to be very open minded and always curious and eager to explore or at least try to understand all paths which call themselves Buddhist.

The group had just finished a chanting session and was braking up, and I was talking to an elderly japanese woman who said to me, "Oh. that Tibetan...only want to talk about death! Here, you chant Myo Ho Renge Kyo, you can have money, a car, big TV, whatever you want!
And this struck me as rather odd, because praying for "stuff" is not what I normally associate with Buddhism. I can get "stuff" anywhere. Buddhist practice for me had what i would consider somewhat loftier goals. And I think this may also be what you were referring to, many buddhists seeming to reject the material world.

Beyond that, I have had a few acquaintances and one good friend for a long time who is Nichiren. I have also known a person whose experience with SGI was very negative, and who found "what she was looking for" in Tibetan Buddhism.

But all that shows is that everybody is different.
I am also aware that not every Nichiren Buddhist is eager to defend SGI.
.
.
.
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Re: The West's conflict with mixing spirituality and materiality

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Sat Nov 24, 2012 6:03 am

OregonBuddhist wrote: "In general, the Japanese affirm the world and humanity as they are and do not seek a realm or a state of existence that rejects or transcends the natural world. "


Well, so much for Manga!!!
:rolling:
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Re: The West's conflict with mixing spirituality and materiality

Postby OregonBuddhist » Sat Nov 24, 2012 12:10 pm

At the risk of sounding humorless (I'm actually watching Family Guy as I type this), I would wager that we can assume that when a book titled "Japanese Buddhism" says that in general the Japanese affirm the world and do not seek a way of escaping it, the book is referring to a religious context and not cartoons. :namaste:
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Re: The West's conflict with mixing spirituality and materiality

Postby OregonBuddhist » Sat Nov 24, 2012 11:30 pm

Are you denying that Christianity does basically teach that there is a difference between the physical world and the spiritual world, and that the spiritual world (heaven, which you go to after you die) is better than the physical world?
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Re: The West's conflict with mixing spirituality and materiality

Postby Myoho-Nameless » Sun Nov 25, 2012 4:19 am

I am going to cut in late here

I actually disagree with the west having a problem with materialism and spirituality in today's world. I see the west as having two different takes on it, one, and increasingly the more prominent in the west, is that there is NO spiritual reality at all, and silly superstitious uneducated people like to hang on to religious "stuff" and trinkets, or thy cannot resist putting arcades next to temples...which just proves that religion is bupkiss. the other (and this is ironic) is fundamentalism, and this has, due to trying to be diametrically opposed to communism, become welcoming of materialism. they might not SEE it that way, but basically capitalism and fundamentalism are the general mix in this other view. If it were still the case that those with religion in the west see the material world as grubby and animal and coarse and inferior, and the spiritual as higher, better, and godly, this would not be the case. But as it turns out religious people are more materialistic now, in fact I heard that somehow religious people actually make more money. I think the "old" christian world is dead or dying, and the new one is emerging, and the other popular alternative is philosophical materialism.
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Re: The West's conflict with mixing spirituality and materiality

Postby OregonBuddhist » Sun Nov 25, 2012 6:36 am

Thanks for the response. :smile:

In the first illustration, you say that the West doesn't have a problem mixing spirituality and materialism -- but has trouble with spirituality, period.

In the second illustration, you say that Christianity is mixing spirituality and materialism all the time.

I agree with both points.

But the "directness" of it seems quite different. For example, I think that most of the fundamentalist Christians who make a lot of money off of religion would strongly deny this. I think that, though they make a lot of money off of religion, they would be some of the first to say, "Money is the root of all evil." That is, they pay "lip service" to the standard old fashion Christian view, all the while defying it.

Contrast this with the SGI practice of being very upfront about chanting for material things. No apologies.

I don't think the concept of "money is the root of all evil" exists in the East. I could be wrong, and if I am wrong I hope someone corrects me.

Maybe at some level it goes back to the doctrine of Original Sin, which basically says the material world is wrong to exist, period. Or, rather, the material world is the result of sin. (Is that teaching, Original Sin, a part of other branches of Christianity? I ask, because I don't know. :shrug: )

Thanks.
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Re: The West's conflict with mixing spirituality and materiality

Postby Wayfarer » Sun Nov 25, 2012 8:43 am

Money is more like a subset of the "8 worldy concerns" here under as parsed by HH The Dalai Lama:

1. Attachment to getting and keeping material things.

2. Aversion to not getting material things or being separated from them.

3. Attachment to praise, hearing nice words, and feeling encouraged.

4. Aversion to getting blamed, ridiculed, and criticized.

5. Attachment to having a good reputation.

6. Aversion to having a bad reputation.

7. Attachment to sense pleasures in general.

8. Aversion to unpleasant experiences.




Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/dalai- ... z2DDaFzzgj
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: The West's conflict with mixing spirituality and materiality

Postby OregonBuddhist » Sun Nov 25, 2012 11:57 am

Thank you. I have a book of meditations by the Dalai Lama. But the Dalai Lama isn't a teacher of Nichiren Buddhism. (I did find a clip on YouTube, though, of him chanting the Odaimoku, which was great to see. :namaste: )
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Re: The West's conflict with mixing spirituality and materiality

Postby Zen Dude » Sun Nov 25, 2012 5:50 pm

I don't have any experience with Nichiren, but I have practiced Buddhism as a lay follower in both America and China/Thailand, so perhaps I can share some observations.

1. The path in Asia tends to be the opposite of the US. Asian lay followers are usually much more concerned with making merit, than with doing any sort of meditation. Following the precepts tends to be highly regarded here, whereas meditation is seen as a practice for people who are extremely dedicated.

2. With the exception of Japan and possibly South Korea, people make far less money in Asia than the west. Praying for "material goods" when you are single and making 40kusd a year is one thing, praying for "material goods" when you are making 800usd a year and have a family to feed, is something completely different.

3. Even the poor lay followers out here tend to be very generous, some will cook better food for the monks than they will for themselves, and will have no issues donating whatever the can spare. Compared to the west, I've noticed a lot less pressure from monks on the lay followers to donate, people pretty much do it without being told. In the west, many lay followers don't seem to be aware of the Buddha's teaching on making merit, or think they are above it.

4. I've noticed lay followers in the west are generally after "the truth", and "enlightenment", and think that spiritual teachers should be above such worldly concerns as paying the rent. Or figure that the book their teacher just published and sold 893 copies of, is enough to pay the bills, because the teacher is "famous".
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Re: The West's conflict with mixing spirituality and materiality

Postby OregonBuddhist » Mon Nov 26, 2012 3:57 am

Interesting. Thank you.
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