Huseng wrote:Quoting the article...
Trying to get contemporary westerners to think like a Tibetan in the 8th century is problematic for any number of reasons. To make them feel guilty for not receiving the Dharma so readily is also inconsiderate of their ethnic backgrounds, which are well-grounded in long-standing philosophies and religions which are often at odds with Buddhadharma.
This is true, but can be broadly applied to people around the world, including, and perhaps most especially, the East. Nor would I necessarily hold up 8th century Tibetan thought (or "openness") as the benchmark for piety. None of us knows how they thought, we can only project our illusions on how we think they thought.
Huseng wrote:Quoting the article...
Instead of making them feel guilty for not having the same piety as an ancient Tibetan would have had, it might be best to ask them to explore their own unquestioned assumptions and so on (I think Rinpoche is getting to this, but I sense an expectation that ideally we should be as pious as ancient Tibetans). Most westerners are educated in a system which is contrary to the core ideas of the Buddha, so you can't expect them to organically accept everything. We might pretend we're pious, but it would just be fake and psychologically damaging in the end.
Being born and raised in a democratic heavily industrialized complex society complete with a state-sanctioned materialist ideology and vast perpetual advertising turning people into consumers is a far cry from being born in Buddhist Bhutan. Such differences must be understood.
Of course Westerners have unquestioned assumptions and those assumptions would come out of its own culture and history. Some of these assumptions are that ancient Tibetans (as a whole) were pious; that somehow ancient Westerners/Europeans weren't pious; that people in the West today aren't pious; Or that people in the East are.
The term pious means religious devotion, and there are hundreds of millions, if not billions, of people who have that in the West. Today is Christmas and is celebrated by over 2 billion Christians. While there are many who only give lip service to their beliefs, and businesses try to exploit the day for economic gains, Christmas (and Easter) is still a powerful day for Christians to renew their faith and devotion. There are another 1.5 billion muslims in the world. Many of them live in the west and many of those are highly pious.
The term pious also means religious/virtuous hypocrisy. There are traditions of Buddhism where the core ideas have nothing to do with religious devotion. So from what Buddhist tradition should any need for piety be expected?
Other assumptions are that we can use an umbrella term like Westerners to mean something. What or who is a Westerner?
Or looked at another way, why the need for Buddhism in Tibet or in the East? You'd think that everyone there would have been enlightened long ago. The simple life of the farmer in the field, free of the complexities and advertisements of the modern, western world. Except when he ponders emptiness, it's usually the emptiness of his belly, either in the moment or one drought away from happening. Or he's thinking of supporting his family, perhaps he's angry that his neighbor has more buffalo than he does, or that his neighbor's wife is more loving, or that he owes money to some powerful landholder, or that he carries the debt of his father, or any number of the thousands of things that makes up living in Samsara.
I have heard some lamas express appreciation for the Western approach to Dharma, one that is based on questioning the teaching, as Buddha himself advised, not just accepting everything and anything that is said. Devotion won't free someone from the bonds of Samsara. Often, devotion only reinforces assumptions.
So to borrow a saying from the Christian Bible "And why behold you the mote that is in your brother's eye, but consider not the beam that is in your own eye?" We all need to challenge and explore our own unquestioned assumptions and not worry about pointing fingers at others who we think have a greater need to challenge their unquestioned assumptions. And it is in exploring our unquestioned assumptions that we can progress on the path.