sharing Dharma

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sharing Dharma

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Fri Dec 07, 2012 6:37 pm

Most of my family thinks i'm a little crazy for being into Buddhism I think, thankfully my wife is very supportive. I don't bring it up much with the rest of them.

Occasionally though I have a friend that asks a bit about Buddhism..it's hard to know where to start if someone is genuinely interested. Most people ask about meditation and I try to give a brief synopsis of what Shamatha and Vipasyana are like for me, I have no idea if what i'm saying makes sense to a non-Buddhist though, or if it just sounds ridiculous. Describing Zazen is even harder. Since the thing that really got me interested was reading Setting In Motion The Wheel of Dharma a number of years back, i've thought about recommending people read it..but it's not exactly light reading for someone new. Some of the things that were real "ahah" moments for me apparently just seem like nonsense to others.

I'd like to hear from people who have successfully shared the Dharma with interested people, not asking about conversion of some sort of course, just places where you feel you were able to convey something meaningful, that "stuck" enough to benefit the person who was asking.
"We're chained to the world and we all gotta pull" -Tom Waits
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Re: sharing Dharma

Postby Zenda » Fri Dec 07, 2012 7:01 pm

I don't know if it's ever stuck, but if people ask me about meditation, I'll share my experience and relate with them about as much as they are interested. I try to be very conscious to not preach or be evangelical about it at all. It really depends on the person and the context. If it's a friend or family member, I usually keep it light unless they say they want to try it. If they seem like they want to try it, I invite them to come to the local sangha to learn to meditate and to connect with the instructors. Sometimes I'll recommend a book, and sometimes I'll say that I'm going to a teaching and ask if they'd like to come with me.

I think any connection with dharma is a good one, no matter how seemingly insignificant. I know from my own experience that sometimes you bump into something that lies dormant for a long time before the causes and conditions come together for it to take root.

Hope this helps!
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Re: sharing Dharma

Postby wisdom » Fri Dec 07, 2012 9:10 pm

I would say the foremost thing is to maintain strong bodhicitta. That helps us not act from a place of ego or pride when talking to people about the path.

Its best to refer to books, authors, texts and teachers. If you can place a book in their hands without any attachment to getting it back (even if you say you are just loaning it) thats best. In fact you should tell them that they can borrow it even if you intend to never get it back because people often reject gifts, and you don't want them to reject the gift of a Dharma book. It creates a physical condition and cause in their reality to embark on the path or at least express further interest in it. Even if they don't read it for two years, it creates an opening for them. A conversation on the other hand can easily be forgotten 15 minutes from now.

In general its hard to know how to help others when we are full of delusion. Even if we are not *full* of delusion, even a single delusion or poison can propagate at the wrong time and cause us to act with ego rather than selflessness. At the same time we should not be afraid to share Dharma. After all its their karma that they come to us as opposed to some realized master. All we can do is to do our best to be of benefit to them and hope that they find their way.
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Re: sharing Dharma

Postby Konchog1 » Fri Dec 07, 2012 10:23 pm

wisdom wrote:I would say the foremost thing is to maintain strong bodhicitta. That helps us not act from a place of ego or pride when talking to people about the path.

Its best to refer to books, authors, texts and teachers. If you can place a book in their hands without any attachment to getting it back (even if you say you are just loaning it) thats best. In fact you should tell them that they can borrow it even if you intend to never get it back because people often reject gifts, and you don't want them to reject the gift of a Dharma book. It creates a physical condition and cause in their reality to embark on the path or at least express further interest in it. Even if they don't read it for two years, it creates an opening for them. A conversation on the other hand can easily be forgotten 15 minutes from now.

In general its hard to know how to help others when we are full of delusion. Even if we are not *full* of delusion, even a single delusion or poison can propagate at the wrong time and cause us to act with ego rather than selflessness. At the same time we should not be afraid to share Dharma. After all its their karma that they come to us as opposed to some realized master. All we can do is to do our best to be of benefit to them and hope that they find their way.
Seconded. Any book from the Dalai Lama is good. But The Way to a Meaningful Life is the best in my opinion.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

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"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."

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Re: sharing Dharma

Postby Ukigumo » Sat Dec 08, 2012 12:26 am

wisdom wrote:I would say the foremost thing is to maintain strong bodhicitta. That helps us not act from a place of ego or pride when talking to people about the path.

Its best to refer to books, authors, texts and teachers. If you can place a book in their hands without any attachment to getting it back (even if you say you are just loaning it) thats best. In fact you should tell them that they can borrow it even if you intend to never get it back because people often reject gifts, and you don't want them to reject the gift of a Dharma book. It creates a physical condition and cause in their reality to embark on the path or at least express further interest in it. Even if they don't read it for two years, it creates an opening for them. A conversation on the other hand can easily be forgotten 15 minutes from now.

In general its hard to know how to help others when we are full of delusion. Even if we are not *full* of delusion, even a single delusion or poison can propagate at the wrong time and cause us to act with ego rather than selflessness. At the same time we should not be afraid to share Dharma. After all its their karma that they come to us as opposed to some realized master. All we can do is to do our best to be of benefit to them and hope that they find their way.


That is a really good point, about how giving them a book is a condition that creates an opening...I've "lent" people dharma books in the past (without expecting to get them back) but never really thought about it like this before.

For a North American with no background in Buddhism or meditation, I would recommend The Experience of Insight by Joseph Goldstein. It's basically a series of dharma talks and Q & A sessions from a Vipassana retreat. It lays out the basics of the Buddhist path, contains some basic meditation instructions, and answers a lot of common questions (i.e. "if there's no self what gets reborn?" etc). Goldstein is part of the Theravadin Insight Mediation tradition but he draws on a lot of different sources in this book, including masters of the Tibetan and Zen traditions. I think it is an excellent book for beginners, it is thorough and easy to understand.
All compound phenomena are like a dream;
a phantom, a drop of dew, a flash of lightning
That is how to meditate on them
That is how to observe them
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Re: sharing Dharma

Postby catmoon » Thu Dec 20, 2012 7:53 am

I have noticed a curious thing. If I attempt to share Dharma, it is often mocked and dismissed out of hand. But if, a few months later, I give the same person the book I was quoting, (usually an HHDL book) they nod sagely and agree that this is a pretty wise book. The may even start taking the arguments seriously.

Do what works, I guess. It seems to be an unwritten rule in Buddhism not to offer teachings unless they are requested. I don't know where that comes from, but at least it stops me from going door to door on Saturday mornings, which is no blessing to me, but is an unparalleled blessing for those who are spared my visits.
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Re: sharing Dharma

Postby Wayfarer » Thu Dec 20, 2012 9:50 am

My sangha group is actually called 'the dhamma sharing group'. It came out of an effort by a couple of experienced lay teachers to get others involved in teaching activities. I have been involved with this group since 2008. We hold talks at a Buddhist Library on various topics to do with Buddhist teachings in everyday life. We're all lay people although one of the convenors has a PhD in Buddhist principles in psychology.

Generally speaking our talks are well-received although not always well attended. The thing I find a bit frustrating is the inability to create any real continuity so as to study topics in depth. During 2013 I am going to try and develop a more semi-academic type of approach. I tried to run a course at an Evening College about ten years back, but I was a bit too academic for that audience. Still a couple of the attendees said they got a lot out of it.

As for speaking to people in my social circle, my sister has gotten very interested and started to practice and study. in Australia where I live, Buddhism is generally well-regarded and thought of as 'cool'. If people ask me about it, I talk to them, but it doesn't come up that much.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: sharing Dharma

Postby plwk » Thu Dec 20, 2012 12:56 pm

I have noticed a curious thing. If I attempt to share Dharma, it is often mocked and dismissed out of hand. But if, a few months later, I give the same person the book I was quoting, (usually an HHDL book) they nod sagely and agree that this is a pretty wise book. The may even start taking the arguments seriously.
Lose the miso soup bowl hat and stop looking like the famous Japanese cat, Shiro and the humans will start taking you seriouzly....
Do what works, I guess. It seems to be an unwritten rule in Buddhism not to offer teachings unless they are requested. I don't know where that comes from...
Ayacana Sutta
...but at least it stops me from going door to door on Saturday mornings, which is no blessing to me, but is an unparalleled blessing for those who are spared my visits.

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