Buddhism and Culture - East and West

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

Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 02, 2013 4:39 am

yegyal wrote:And I wasn't suggesting that Tibetans are somehow inherently better than the rest of us, though if I did, wouldn't that be the opposite of orientalism?


One school of orientalist thought is that the west is "materialistic" and the east is "spiritual", hence the superiority of the latter in subjects related to mind, spirit and so forth.

People have made a killing off such sentiments. Spiritual tourism is huge here in India.



What I was suggesting that those that grow up in Buddhist communities tend to know what they're getting involved in and how to go about receiving teachings and so forth.


How have you come to this conclusion? Have you travelled around Asia much?

They might know to defer to authority just because that's what you do in your community. They might bring their kids to an empowerment and chat with each other during the event.



Though I do think that so-called Western Buddhist communities being still in their infancy have a lot to learn from their Asian counterparts.


Asian culture and Dharma are not the same thing. People often misunderstand this and feel compelled to emulate the cultural practices of various Asian groups, to say nothing of katas and momos.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
Former staff member
 
Posts: 5565
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: India

Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu May 02, 2013 4:50 am

It's funny because i've seen some teachers that lay people in some of the cultures of origin of Buddhism in some fashion have less aptitude than us materialistic cynical westerners. This being attributed to the fact that while they have a ton of devotion, they often have little to no desire to understand or practice the teachings, but mainly just to receive blessings or gain merit by giving to the ordained.

I imagine it is exactly the same here with Christianity in places, how many Christians do you know with real interest in understanding theology or ethics of their religion? I'll bet some of the converts in non-Christian countries attack it with more gusto.

While I don't have an opinion or much knowledge on the OP to any large degree, I do agree for sure that Dharma doesn't need a specific culture, I like the sentiment that it will make its way into whatever culture is ready and needs it, and personally I believe it will.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2153
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 02, 2013 5:11 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:It's funny because i've seen some teachers that lay people in some of the cultures of origin of Buddhism in some fashion have less aptitude than us materialistic cynical westerners. This being attributed to the fact that while they have a ton of devotion, they often have little to no desire to understand or practice the teachings, but mainly just to receive blessings or gain merit by giving to the ordained.


I don't think we can really make such distinctions as in reality it is always a complex situation. It is never black and white as we all know.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
Former staff member
 
Posts: 5565
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: India

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby yegyal » Thu May 02, 2013 5:35 am

Have you travelled around Asia much?


I lived in Nepal for the better part of seventeen years and currently live in Japan with my Japanese wife. So, yes I have.
yegyal
 
Posts: 134
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 4:02 am

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 02, 2013 5:43 am

yegyal wrote:I lived in Nepal for the better part of seventeen years and currently live in Japan with my Japanese wife. So, yes I have.


So you have probably noticed things here and in Japan arn't what they're cracked up to be in the west.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
Former staff member
 
Posts: 5565
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: India

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Thu May 02, 2013 6:02 am

Indrajala wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:It's funny because i've seen some teachers that lay people in some of the cultures of origin of Buddhism in some fashion have less aptitude than us materialistic cynical westerners. This being attributed to the fact that while they have a ton of devotion, they often have little to no desire to understand or practice the teachings, but mainly just to receive blessings or gain merit by giving to the ordained.


I don't think we can really make such distinctions as in reality it is always a complex situation. It is never black and white as we all know.


Yeah, by definition any such statement is bound to fall short of the mark, I just think it's interesting that "westerners" often seem to have a perception of themselves that isn't necessarily shared by the people they are often trying to emulate..to me it's a good indication that the most honest way to approach Buddhism is without trying to "be" any specific type of person or culture..other than someone who who is tired of pain. Of course also there is no reason to attempt to create anything new..one can practice within a tradition (applies outside of religion too) without needing to put on airs or to appropriate someone else's culture.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
User avatar
Johnny Dangerous
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2153
Joined: Fri Nov 02, 2012 10:58 pm
Location: Olympia WA

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby yegyal » Thu May 02, 2013 6:08 am

Indrajala wrote:
yegyal wrote:I lived in Nepal for the better part of seventeen years and currently live in Japan with my Japanese wife. So, yes I have.


So you have probably noticed things here and in Japan arn't what they're cracked up to be in the west.


Ya, but that goes both ways. Besides, it's our own fault for romanticizing the exotic and I quite enjoy the way they actually are. Well, most of the time.


BTW, we're really getting off topic.
yegyal
 
Posts: 134
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 4:02 am

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 02, 2013 7:08 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Yeah, by definition any such statement is bound to fall short of the mark, I just think it's interesting that "westerners" often seem to have a perception of themselves that isn't necessarily shared by the people they are often trying to emulate..


Funny thing is a lot of Asians, especially the educated ones, want to emulate western consumer culture. They wear the clothes, talk the talk (English) and read all about upcoming Apple and Samsung smart phones. From my perspective it strikes me as contrived and awkward because they get a lot of things wrong, but then in history you see parallels of this phenomenon.

One concern I've come to have about western adoption and implementation of Buddhism is a sense of always being second-best and inferior to the natives. In Tibetan Buddhism all kinds of teachers, some of them rather young, are celebrated and brought over to teach, regardless of their ability to communicate. People want their Tibetan teacher, or someone close enough like Nepali or Bhutanese.

You can't continue your Buddhism relying on imported teachings. People need to have the self-confidence to make their own decisions, but of course not drift into adharma like materialism and secular humanism like what we see with popular western authors at the moment.

Tibetan Buddhists outside of the Tibetan cultural sphere should also hopefully divorce themselves from religious politics. As an outsider you're not going to have a voice anyway, so whatever the Tibetans are doing in Asia is of little consequence if you're on another continent. With very few exceptions I can't think of any non-Tibetan (minus Nepali, Bhutanese, etc...) that really has a voice in the religious politics of Tibetan Buddhism.

The same applies to Zen and so forth. Do you think the upper echelons in Buddhist organizations in Asia really care what foreigners think? They might have a small wing devoted to international affairs, but that's not really a pressing concern for most organizations as far as I see it.

So there's no point in trying to join a club you're probably never going to be accepted into unless you crush your soul and completely submit to new cultural and authority paradigms.

That's why I hope in new lands people take up their own ideas and go their own ways rather than deferring to and relying on foreign cultures.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
Former staff member
 
Posts: 5565
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: India

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby yegyal » Thu May 02, 2013 8:08 am

Indrajala wrote:
Funny thing is a lot of Asians, especially the educated ones, want to emulate western consumer culture. They wear the clothes, talk the talk (English) and read all about upcoming Apple and Samsung smart phones. From my perspective it strikes me as contrived and awkward because they get a lot of things wrong, but then in history you see parallels of this phenomenon.



Hmmm, where are those phones made? And Apple might be an American company, but Samsung is Korean and I think it goes without out saying that most of our electronics come from Asia. As for the clothes, I would love to watch you, as you are pictured in your avatar explaining to a Japanese business man, why he looks contrived and awkward in his suit.

Sorry, but I just couldn't resist pointing out the irony of this.
yegyal
 
Posts: 134
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 4:02 am

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby yegyal » Thu May 02, 2013 8:08 am

Indrajala wrote:
Funny thing is a lot of Asians, especially the educated ones, want to emulate western consumer culture. They wear the clothes, talk the talk (English) and read all about upcoming Apple and Samsung smart phones. From my perspective it strikes me as contrived and awkward because they get a lot of things wrong, but then in history you see parallels of this phenomenon.



Hmmm, where are those phones made? And Apple might be an American company, but Samsung is Korean and I think it goes without out saying that most of our electronics come from Asia. As for the clothes, I would love to watch you, as you are pictured in your avatar explaining to a Japanese business man, why he looks contrived and awkward in his suit.

Sorry, but I just couldn't resist pointing out the irony of this.
yegyal
 
Posts: 134
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 4:02 am

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 02, 2013 8:11 am

yegyal wrote:
Hmmm, where are those phones made? And Apple might be an American company, but Samsung is Korean and I think it goes without out saying that most of our electronics come from Asia. As for the clothes, I would love to watch you, as you are pictured in your avatar explaining to a Japanese business man, why he looks contrived and awkward in his suit.

Sorry, but I just couldn't resist pointing out the irony of this.


Korea and Japan are more or less part of the western cultural sphere at this point. They are subjugated client states of the USA and this shows in their shopping habits and consumer culture. Moreover, they started emulating western consumer culture at some point. What you see now (suits and cell phones) is just the mature development.

By Asia, though, I'm referring more to India.

As to my attire -- this is just the uniform.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
Former staff member
 
Posts: 5565
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: India

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Seishin » Thu May 02, 2013 11:30 am

Indrajala wrote:I don't think we can really make such distinctions as in reality it is always a complex situation. It is never black and white as we all know.


I think this is really very important to remember when criticising or praising Buddhist culture on either side of the world

Gassho,
Seishin
User avatar
Seishin
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 1363
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2010 11:53 am

Re: Historical reasons for secrecy in Vajrayana?

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 02, 2013 12:23 pm

Seishin wrote:I think this is really very important to remember when criticising or praising Buddhist culture on either side of the world


Perhaps take it a step further and just praise or criticize specific cultural practices so as not to generalize too much.

From a purely anthropological perspective, it is interesting to see how some communities turn their backs on their own principles when it opportunistically suits them. It is also worth considering how and why national and ethnic identities get jumbled together with Buddhism. With the advent of nationalism a lot of communities started to conceive of themselves within such a model of nation states with their own national narratives. Past figures were recast as national icons (Kukai comes to mind in Japan).
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
Former staff member
 
Posts: 5565
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: India

Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Seishin » Thu May 02, 2013 12:34 pm

In many ways, studying (rather than criticising) the mishaps and mistakes of the past and present, can help identify where we are going wrong on a personal level and inspire change in ourselves. Would you agree?

Gassho,
Seishin
User avatar
Seishin
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 1363
Joined: Mon Mar 22, 2010 11:53 am

Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby BuddhaSoup » Thu May 02, 2013 1:22 pm

As for the clothes, I would love to watch you, as you are pictured in your avatar explaining to a Japanese business man, why he looks contrived and awkward in his suit.

Sorry, but I just couldn't resist pointing out the irony of this.


Yegyal, really not a very thoughtful statement on your part. Here's one of our scholar contributors going forth and you feel the need to speak in a somewhat pejorative tone about his robes. In a sense, you insult the robes, as anyone who has gone forth are given the robes and wear them as representative of the Buddha's design that those gone forth be in robes.

If you study the points made by Ven. Indrajala, and others, I don't believe they were suggesting that Japanese men in suits and ties are somehow out of place, culturally. See http://www.wyohistory.org/sites/default ... g1950s.jpg

Spend some more time on this forum, get to know Ven. Indrajala a bit better, and I imagine you'll use a more respectful tone from hereon out. Research his scholarship online, Review his comments on this board. Understand that he has been a homeleaver for some time, and has now gone forth. I respect this immensely, and suggest that you might then cultivate some yourself for all who follow this path.
BuddhaSoup
 
Posts: 165
Joined: Sun Nov 13, 2011 6:06 pm

Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Jikan » Thu May 02, 2013 1:40 pm

Seishin wrote:In many ways, studying (rather than criticising) the mishaps and mistakes of the past and present, can help identify where we are going wrong on a personal level and inspire change in ourselves. Would you agree?

:good:
Jikan
Site Admin
 
Posts: 4293
Joined: Tue Jul 13, 2010 5:04 pm

Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby yegyal » Thu May 02, 2013 1:51 pm

BuddhaSoup wrote:
As for the clothes, I would love to watch you, as you are pictured in your avatar explaining to a Japanese business man, why he looks contrived and awkward in his suit.

Sorry, but I just couldn't resist pointing out the irony of this.


Yegyal, really not a very thoughtful statement on your part. Here's one of our scholar contributors going forth and you feel the need to speak in a somewhat pejorative tone about his robes. In a sense, you insult the robes, as anyone who has gone forth are given the robes and wear them as representative of the Buddha's design that those gone forth be in robes.

If you study the points made by Ven. Indrajala, and others, I don't believe they were suggesting that Japanese men in suits and ties are somehow out of place, culturally. See http://www.wyohistory.org/sites/default ... g1950s.jpg

Spend some more time on this forum, get to know Ven. Indrajala a bit better, and I imagine you'll use a more respectful tone from hereon out. Research his scholarship online, Review his comments on this board. Understand that he has been a homeleaver for some time, and has now gone forth. I respect this immensely, and suggest that you might then cultivate some yourself for all who follow this path.


I think you need to go back a bit farther and look at what I was responding to before you quote me out of context and assume I was criticizing his robes. I was merely pointing out that he thought it odd that Asians wanted to have cell phones and wear "western" clothes, when the phones he was referring to were made in Asia by an Asian company and he is wearing the robes of Asian religious tradition and criticizing others for looking awkward while wearing the clothes of another culture. I was not making fun of his robes.
yegyal
 
Posts: 134
Joined: Mon Mar 18, 2013 4:02 am

Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby dyanaprajna2011 » Thu May 02, 2013 3:00 pm

From what I can gather, and this is just my own personal opinion, Buddhism in Asia has become cultural, in the same way that Christianity has in the states. Ask any common person, and if they don't generally have or practice a religion, what their religion is, and they generally answer "Christianity". They don't even have to actually practice the religion. It's just what's culturally accepted. Sure, they may accept some of the beliefs, such as one god, Jesus as god's only incarnate son, and may attend church on Easter, but this is about it. This is what I see Buddhism as in Asian countries. But Buddhism, as taught by Shakyamuni, is not tied to any one culture. It goes where it's needed.
"If you want to travel the Way of Buddhas and Zen masters, then expect nothing, seek nothing, and grasp nothing." -Dogen
dyanaprajna2011
 
Posts: 108
Joined: Tue Mar 19, 2013 6:26 pm
Location: Midwest US

Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 02, 2013 5:35 pm

yegyal wrote:I was merely pointing out that he thought it odd that Asians wanted to have cell phones and wear "western" clothes, when the phones he was referring to were made in Asia by an Asian company and he is wearing the robes of Asian religious tradition and criticizing others for looking awkward while wearing the clothes of another culture. I was not making fun of his robes.


I did clarify by Asian I meant more Indian as these are the folks I tend to interact with as of late. I should have been more clear with my wording.

When I said it seems awkward, what I mean is that the clothing can be a bit off, their versions of western cuisine are warped and quite often the use of English can get downright baffling. The warped versions of western clothes that hipsters wear are odd, too.

It isn't so much the suits as it is the attempts at emulating western pop culture.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
Former staff member
 
Posts: 5565
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: India

Re: Buddhism and Culture - East and West

Postby Indrajala » Thu May 02, 2013 5:51 pm

Seishin wrote:In many ways, studying (rather than criticising) the mishaps and mistakes of the past and present, can help identify where we are going wrong on a personal level and inspire change in ourselves. Would you agree?


I think so, but the criteria with which we judge positive change and reform differs according to the individual and cultural sphere.

For instance, in many places the idea of unquestioning obedience to authority is considered a worthy virtue to instil in underlings. The foreseeable chaos that would arise if critical thought and democratic processes were introduced could easily be seen as a step backwards rather than forwards. If you're used to a top-heavy power structure you might even feel more comfortable not taking responsibility for yourself and just letting the powers that be decide things for you. Having everyone "harmonious" (as in thinking, acting and speaking the same way) could be considered an improvement over more anarchic arrangements.

Trying to change such an arrangement as an outsider would be doomed to failure.

So, personal change is subjective ... in my view becoming more critically minded and independent are positive qualities, whereas I've learnt that in other parts of the Buddhist world such things would be considered character flaws.
Flower Ornament Depository (Blog)
Indrajāla's Contemplations (Blog)
Exploring Classical Chinese (Blog)
Dharma Depository (Site)

"Hui gives me no assistance. There is nothing that I say in which he does not delight." -Confucius
User avatar
Indrajala
Former staff member
 
Posts: 5565
Joined: Fri Feb 12, 2010 3:19 pm
Location: India

Next

Return to Open Dharma

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Arjan Dirkse, Dan74, daverupa, greentara, JKhedrup, Majestic-12 [Bot], Osho and 16 guests

>