people's reactions

Discuss your personal experience with the Dharma here. How has it enriched your life? What challenges does it present?

people's reactions

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun May 12, 2013 3:24 pm

I'm curious to hear stories (positive and negative) about how people in your life reacted whenever you consider yourself to have visibly "gotten serious" about Dharma practice.

Alot of my friends and family subscribe to materialism and secular humanism in some basic sense, and of course I have no desire whatsoever to convince them otherwise. It's kind of annoying hearing myopic arguments about how every single problem faced by the world is actually the fault of religion, and people are dumb to believe anything other than materialism. Of course on one level I understand why they feel this way, when you look at people pushing creationism in schools and whatnot, it's not hard to develop such sentiments.

Still, I can't help but feel some of these people in my life think i'm crazy, and it creates a bit of tension I think..sometimes it almost seems like they fail to distinguish between different beliefs systems, putting everything under the heading of "religion/wrong". For years I didn't do anything that labeled me as "Buddhist", just went to a Zendo on weekends, I still don't talk about practice (other than on here of course) or go around telling people what I believe, but I notice that since I quit drinking, and doing a daily practice, it feels like some people have an odd reaction to it - even to the not drinking part, not like I went around proclaiming I was following the 5th precept mind you.

I should mention my wife is very supportive, it's other parts of my family and friends that fall into this category.
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Re: people's reactions

Postby Ayu » Sun May 12, 2013 6:23 pm

All my life i'm the crazy little black sheep in the eyes of my family, who sits in meditation and visits strange courses and believes in suspicious things. I'm used to that and i can't imagine how it would be different.
People who know me are quite calm and okay about me. "This is Ayu, she's a little bit different, but it's her thing."

I don't really talk about my believes, about Bodhicitta, Nirvana, Emptyness... I leave them in peace about this. Just i say a little bit about samsara and impermanence, because they are able to understand this and it is their problem also all the time.

If i meet knew foreign people, they immediately find out that i'm "strange" - so i never try to hide and never try to missionate.

AND:
"To think what somebody thinks" gives more information about my own anxieties, my expectations and my projections rather than it might be a true picture of an objective reality!
It is all illusion and not worth to worry about.
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Re: people's reactions

Postby undefineable » Sun May 12, 2013 7:38 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:It's kind of annoying hearing myopic arguments about how every single problem faced by the world is actually the fault of religion

I guess for the "other side" it's the fault of irreligion/'wrong' religion Extreme views are always easier to hold, cos u don't end up having to seriously look into what you're 'viewing' _
Johnny Dangerous wrote:people are dumb to believe anything other than materialism.

I'd change that to 'people are dumb to believe anything at all'

Over time, maybe people will realise that what they call 'religion' is actually just the 'fertile crescent'/middle-eastern variety, and that Eastern religions (Chinese ones even more than Indian) tend to be way more philosophical than theistic.
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Re: people's reactions

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun May 12, 2013 8:12 pm

undefineable wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:It's kind of annoying hearing myopic arguments about how every single problem faced by the world is actually the fault of religion

I guess for the "other side" it's the fault of irreligion/'wrong' religion Extreme views are always easier to hold, cos u don't end up having to seriously look into what you're 'viewing' _
Johnny Dangerous wrote:people are dumb to believe anything other than materialism.

I'd change that to 'people are dumb to believe anything at all'

Over time, maybe people will realise that what they call 'religion' is actually just the 'fertile crescent'/middle-eastern variety, and that Eastern religions (Chinese ones even more than Indian) tend to be way more philosophical than theistic.



For sure, yes those people (the ones who will only see the world in terms of black and white religious thought), as equally as hard or even harder to deal with than these folks are, in fact I thank my lucky stars every day that the materialists are who I deal with rather than the other category, plenty of Buddhists i'm sure come from families that are fundamentalists Christian or what have you, and that sounds much worse to deal with.

None of those people are part of family or set of friends though, which is why the previous category is more what i'm concerned with, just in terms of personal bias.
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Re: people's reactions

Postby LionelChen » Mon May 13, 2013 2:55 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I'm curious to hear stories (positive and negative) about how people in your life reacted whenever you consider yourself to have visibly "gotten serious" about Dharma practice.


"You are being too impractical." is probably the most heard comment from my family.

My immediate family has what i'd like to call, a rather undefined "floating" belief - adaptational to circumstances or moments with a bedrock sensibility that often gets labelled as "Confucian" in the West.

Segments of my extended family are technically nominally Buddhist to quote a friend, although my grandmother on my mother's side was a devoted adherent to Guan Yin. I think its more accurate to say we're more of your typical Chinese immigrant family - we're "culturally" Buddhist..and Daoist....and the rest of that matrix which informs popular Chinese religion.

So on the one hand, there's a kind of well.. pride.. I guess that i'm interested in such things.

On the other hand, when theory has to meet action, when it comes time to practice - well i've gotten into some serious debates with members of my family who I guess...feel i violate that line between "culturally accepted Buddhism" and well.. "fanaticism."

Maybe that's the wrong word to use because it has implications in English. Perhaps its better to say that they if i am to get anywhere in this world, i just shouldn't take it as serious as I do.
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Re: people's reactions

Postby TaTa » Mon May 13, 2013 5:44 am

I definitely have to work on the keeping quite about my practice and beliefs aspect. Luckily i have a lot of people around me that are very supportive and the comments are usually funny and i take it that way. The most common is when i get mad or something like that " what kind of buddhist are you" or "you cant do that, you are a buddhist", it always for fun.

In terms of family, my father doesn't understand much but he is glad that i dont smoke pot or drink anymore so he is fine. My mother has some influence from nichiren buddhism because of my sister (who i don't see much because she is older and lives in another state) who is a nichiren practitioner, so she is very happy about my spiritual path.

In terms of philosophical debate i try to talk about buddhism without talking about buddhism, although i do quot some stories or sayings sometimes. My friends are all great people that are growing in their own way and are very open, and most of them follow some dharma aspects without knowing. Of curse i do meet friends or people who dont think like me but i have learned to accept people beliefs without trying to evangelize anyone XD
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Re: people's reactions

Postby lobster » Mon May 13, 2013 12:10 pm

I find most people very accepting. It is perhaps a question of how and if one relates a practice. Most people equate meditation with stress relief. Chanting with prayer, prostrations with prayer etc. If relating a strange practice, I tell them it is strange, say what it does or why it is done. Then we talk about our favourite movies, which are usually equally strange. Nobody seems in the least concerned that I enjoy SF and probably think Buddhism is no more strange than Yoda.

"No! No different. Only different in your mind. You must unlearn what you have learned." >> Yoda :popcorn:
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Re: people's reactions

Postby Indrajala » Mon May 13, 2013 7:12 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:I'm curious to hear stories (positive and negative) about how people in your life reacted whenever you consider yourself to have visibly "gotten serious" about Dharma practice.


When I was in Japan living in an international village of sorts I was affectionately called "Buddhist Jeff" by friends. It was already unusual that I didn't eat meat or drink alcohol. Naturally this lead to questions as to why.

Recently when I formally became a monk I received really nothing but support and kind words from everyone, even someone whom I thought would mock me.

One friend said, "I hope you find the truth you're looking for." I think the subtle implication was that I'm somehow desperate or confused about life and have to go on some existential-crisis-driven-journey to find some abstract truth before getting on with the "real world" of career and so forth.

But then I found the truth I was looking for years ago and renunciation was just the logical outcome of several years of contemplation and implementation of the teachings. I've generally always been a bit eccentric, even as a kid, so it isn't too big of a surprise to most people I know even from long ago.

Renunciation doesn't make sense to a lot of modern people where their whole value systems revolve around acquisition rather than abandonment. We praise those who gain much and aggrandize themselves as paragons of virtues to be emulated, whereas someone who would abandon mundane aims and eliminate pride is seen as noteworthy though really not suited to the present reality.

Older generations in India I find tend to appreciate the idea of renunciation even if they won't go so far in their own life, though they might fast for a few days or refrain from their desires for a specified period in emulation of renunciates. They'll touch the feet of a monk to get a blessing. Renunciation and celibacy entail holiness.

Of course on one level I understand why they feel this way, when you look at people pushing creationism in schools and whatnot, it's not hard to develop such sentiments.


Creationism and intelligent design are attempts to find objective meaning in the universe and provide arguments for it. If times changed or we lived in another time period with similar scientific knowledge such ideas might have been held up in great esteem (some Stoics for example were convinced about the role of the gods' interactions with humanity and hence the great value in astrology with which to discern their intent). Nowadays the top echelons of intelligentsia are largely materialists who have a lot to gain by pushing their own cosmology which, while treated with logic and mathematics plus observations, is just one more theory about the cosmos, and really just one aspect of it (the physical).

Some people don't find it convincing or satisfying. The state and society are not going to collapse if a segment of the population wants to believe that the cosmos was constructed by an intelligent consciousness of some sort, though certain mainstream and very loud scientists would have us believe that and flock to them the guardians of truth and reason.

Of course it is often difficult to explain this to people steeped in the religious narratives of progress and modernity.

Inevitably you'll encounter similar problems when you get deep into Buddhism and have to justify to the materialist world that, yes, there are multiple realms and demonic possessions do in fact occur. There are devas and pretas. Sorcery is part of the game, so is astrology in many schools of Buddhism past and present. The universe is created by collective karma, not mindless physical reactions. All such things go against the grain of contemporary educated society not just in the west, but also in much of Asia now, too.

I mean you might quickly dismiss Christian creationism, but then Buddhists have their own ideas about the development of time and space which are equally dependent on inference and testimony. You can personally reject such theories, but you'd be at odds with centuries of tradition and scripture.
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Re: people's reactions

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon May 13, 2013 7:50 pm

It sounds like you haven't been around enough Christians of the US fundamentalist variety, I know Buddhists can have beliefs which might seem equally "out there", but it is a different thing entirely, IMO. you are welcome to believe that's small-mindedness on my part, but again in turn I suspect you haven't had the direct dealing with evangelical Christians, nor a political climate where they have some sway as I have.

I mean you might quickly dismiss Christian creationism, but then Buddhists have their own ideas about the development of time and space which are equally dependent on inference and testimony. You can personally reject such theories, but you'd be at odds with centuries of tradition and scripture.


Buddhism has a long history of though and philosophy regarding these things, whatever they are..thinking abhout them is encouraged, similar to Judaism.

Plenty of strains of modern Christianity on the other hand, have a history of actually repudiating the very act of thinking and questioning itself...this creates IMO something alot worse than simply having beliefs which might clash with my own assumptions, admittedly colored by the materialism I grew up with.
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Re: people's reactions

Postby Konchog1 » Mon May 13, 2013 9:24 pm

LionelChen wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:I'm curious to hear stories (positive and negative) about how people in your life reacted whenever you consider yourself to have visibly "gotten serious" about Dharma practice.


"You are being too impractical." is probably the most heard comment from my family.

My immediate family has what i'd like to call, a rather undefined "floating" belief - adaptational to circumstances or moments with a bedrock sensibility that often gets labelled as "Confucian" in the West.

Segments of my extended family are technically nominally Buddhist to quote a friend, although my grandmother on my mother's side was a devoted adherent to Guan Yin. I think its more accurate to say we're more of your typical Chinese immigrant family - we're "culturally" Buddhist..and Daoist....and the rest of that matrix which informs popular Chinese religion.

So on the one hand, there's a kind of well.. pride.. I guess that i'm interested in such things.

On the other hand, when theory has to meet action, when it comes time to practice - well i've gotten into some serious debates with members of my family who I guess...feel i violate that line between "culturally accepted Buddhism" and well.. "fanaticism."

Maybe that's the wrong word to use because it has implications in English. Perhaps its better to say that they if i am to get anywhere in this world, i just shouldn't take it as serious as I do.
This seems to be common in Chinese families. "You're Buddhist? Great!" "You want to be a monk? Why do you want to abandon your parents?"
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: people's reactions

Postby Indrajala » Tue May 14, 2013 3:15 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:It sounds like you haven't been around enough Christians of the US fundamentalist variety, I know Buddhists can have beliefs which might seem equally "out there", but it is a different thing entirely, IMO. you are welcome to believe that's small-mindedness on my part, but again in turn I suspect you haven't had the direct dealing with evangelical Christians, nor a political climate where they have some sway as I have.


Christian fundamentalism is as much political as the New Atheist movement. It is upper echelons competing with each other, i.e., a struggle amongst elites. It isn't about faith or science so much as it is about personal interests at stake.

A lot of the more vocal New Atheists would prove just as intolerant and oppressive as fundamental Christians if they had the authority. Some of them think of religion as a brain disorder and presumably if they had the power would insist on drugging religious people and having them classed as mentally ill, thus dispossessing them of a voice.



Plenty of strains of modern Christianity on the other hand, have a history of actually repudiating the very act of thinking and questioning itself...this creates IMO something alot worse than simply having beliefs which might clash with my own assumptions, admittedly colored by the materialism I grew up with.


Sure, but then it isn't just Christianity. In modern science if you start moving outside the prescribed boundaries you are guilty of heresy and treated accordingly. Look at what happened to Rupert Sheldrake.

Nowadays if you challenge materialism, you're deemed a religious idiot, hence you're deprived of a voice in the dialogue. You can think, but you need to think in the box. The interest in Buddhism on the part of some materialists is instructive. They like the meditation and some ideas from the Buddha, but rebirth and other metaphysical processes are out of the question.

Basically materialism and the New Atheists strongly pushing it are not necessarily more friendly than Christian fundamentalists. The former usually push liberal values, so they hold an alliance of sorts with a segment of the population, which is quite instructive. If you're a homosexual and want political legitimization of your marriages, you don't side with the Christian right. On the other hand, if you believe in more traditional values you probably won't deal much with the New Atheist movement, if only because they undermine the legitimacy of older values as they reject the authority of the bible (and any other sacred scripture), religious authority and so forth.

This interview by Dawkins is highly illustrative of what I'm talking about:



Both of them are really guilty of the same thing: the inability to recognize that people have different values and truths, and coming to some kind of healthy compromise rather than denigrating others and their beliefs.
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Re: people's reactions

Postby Wayfarer » Tue May 14, 2013 3:40 am

Dawkins said recently that the fact that children were abused by pedophile priests was not as bad as the fact that they were being 'indoctrinated by religion' in the first place. The depths of his misotheism never cease to dismay me.

I guess I'm lucky - Sydney (where I live) is pretty indifferent to anyone's religious views, and besides Buddhism is considered 'cool' by most people. "Oh, you're Buddhist? Cool!' That kind of thing. Not that I talk about it much.
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Re: people's reactions

Postby LionelChen » Tue May 14, 2013 4:08 am

Konchog1 wrote:This seems to be common in Chinese families. "You're Buddhist? Great!" "You want to be a monk? Why do you want to abandon your parents?"


Let me be the first to say my family is rather stereotypical. An American friend used to tell me that, "You are the Chinese family from Central Broadcasting!"

Although, I did meet a person much later on in iife who went through a very similar experience. He was Italian-American and had a deep faith in Catholicism. He wasn't that type of bible-thumping frothing at the mouth Christian. He took his cue from a holy man named Francis who apparently could talk to animals and started to a monastic order of some kind.

In any event, he was quite conscientious about trying to be a good man. His family lauded his faith and erudition in his religious tradition, but at the same time he was criticized for some of his actions. Kind of with this "Well, you can try to act holy, but in the Real World...." attitude.

I always found the similarity in experience to be quite striking, despite our difference in religion. Maybe there's something universal about certain family interactions?
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Re: people's reactions

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue May 14, 2013 4:18 am

I actually agree with alot of that Huseng, and I find that many of the people who consider themselves "new atheist" types are quite rabid in many ways. Still, I would any day talk and debate with one of my friends with their Sam Harris books than I would with whatever local group is trying to get The Book Of Genesis taught in leiu of Darwinian evolution. Not because I have a special devotion to Darwinian evolution necessarily.

IME the new atheist folks, -or at least some of their fans-, will consider other ideas, whereas I have met very, very few fundamentalist Christians who will.

For the record I can't stand Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris and I am continually amazed that they are considered bastions of "rational" thought, it shows just how deluded first world comfortable folks are are in thinking they and their worldview is somehow without bias. One of the grossest things about them to me personally is their tacit support of western Imperialism basically under the guise of "civilizing" Muslims etc. Talk about irony.

The stuff about religion being a "disorder" is also code IMO for basically viewing the whole world as a big meritocracy where "The West" with it's superior, evolved moral values of secularism, adherence to scientific materialism etc. has more power simply because it is better, and should continue to use it's power to turn the rest of the world into a version of itself.
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Re: people's reactions

Postby Konchog1 » Tue May 14, 2013 4:36 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:The stuff about religion being a "disorder" is also code IMO for basically viewing the whole world as a big meritocracy where "The West" with it's superior, evolved moral values of secularism, adherence to scientific materialism etc. has more power simply because it is better, and should continue to use it's power to turn the rest of the world into a version of itself.
Whereas the Christians believe they are "the city on a hill" and must guide the world to Christ and away from their pagan gods. The Leftists, amusingly enough, believe much the same thing.

When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

I personally think that if someone can't or won't create order in themselves, they try to create their own version of order in the world.
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: people's reactions

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue May 14, 2013 4:40 am

Konchog1 wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:The stuff about religion being a "disorder" is also code IMO for basically viewing the whole world as a big meritocracy where "The West" with it's superior, evolved moral values of secularism, adherence to scientific materialism etc. has more power simply because it is better, and should continue to use it's power to turn the rest of the world into a version of itself.
Whereas the Christians believe they are "the city on a hill" and must guide the world to Christ and away from their pagan gods. The Leftists, amusingly enough, believe much the same thing.

When you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

I personally think that if someone can't or won't create order in themselves, they try to create their own version of order in the world.



Wise words sir.
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Re: people's reactions

Postby LionelChen » Tue May 14, 2013 5:28 am

Konchog1 wrote:I personally think that if someone can't or won't create order in themselves, they try to create their own version of order in the world.


I think there's a lot of wisdom in what you just said.

I recall a statement from a friend of mine which is rather similar to what you stated, but from a different angle.

"Is this debate that rages on really about our beliefs? Or is an attempt by some to justify their behaviors?"


He's a psychiatrist so he's approaching it from that perspective. And from his experience, he breaks it down into two categories:

1.) A set of people who upon accepting a religious tradition (or even humanist philosophies) as true, are moved in a manner that gives them great empathy for others. They see the flaws in themselves and through their religious beliefs, attempt to correct them in order that they might be better people. Much of this is about an expression of Love or Compassion.

This is the Man or Woman who looks in the mirror for that speck which Jesus asked them to remove from their eye before they raise a voice of criticism of others. Or who contemplates the internal Jyhad, about how their anger or rage are signs that they actually haven't Submitted to the will of Allah and place their lives fully in that god's hands.


2.) And then there's that other set of people, who upon receiving "The Truth," feel as if knowledge of it empowers them to go off and re-tool everything in the image of their own ego.

My psychiatrist friend often points out that Group 2's understanding of "the Truth," usually involves a kind of "pat on the back" validity toward their own actions and views.

ie: "I don't have to change. I'm already doing the Right Thing. Everyone else needs to change!"

The most interesting tidbit he gave me from his years of "people watching" were the following:

a.) When Group 2 "Converts" (and this applicable to religion, political ideology, etc.)

All the "Bad Things" that they've done are automatically blamed on an External Cause. The Church. Liberal Media. American Society. etc. etc. They exonerate themselves of any wrongdoing.

All the "Good Things" however belong to them.

b.) Group 2 converts and surrounds themselves in the symbols of their new belief.

They might stop eating pork, grow a beard, buy a Buddha statue, etc. etc. Anything to show that they are fully on-board.

But... while the Car might have a new Paint Job, the Engine is still the same. Or to paraphrase my friend.

The core behaviors don't change. Trust me on this one. You can get a guy spouting about the evils of religion or the pernicious influence of secular society. When they flip-flop, their so-called "change" is as trivial swapping a green hat for a blue hat. Now instead of a being a loud-mouth intolerant person for Team Green, they become that same person for Team Blue.


I guess they feel that acceptance of a set of ideas as true, allows them to act in a certain manner toward their fellow human beings.

Never do they actually question the validity of those actions in and of themselves.
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Re: people's reactions

Postby Jnana » Tue May 14, 2013 6:26 am

Johnny Dangerous wrote:Plenty of strains of modern Christianity on the other hand, have a history of actually repudiating the very act of thinking and questioning itself...this creates IMO something alot worse than simply having beliefs which might clash with my own assumptions, admittedly colored by the materialism I grew up with.

Of course, not all Christians are Christian fundamentalists. I've met some Franciscan friars and Benedictine monks who are pretty cool.
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Re: people's reactions

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue May 14, 2013 6:30 am

Jnana wrote:
Johnny Dangerous wrote:Plenty of strains of modern Christianity on the other hand, have a history of actually repudiating the very act of thinking and questioning itself...this creates IMO something alot worse than simply having beliefs which might clash with my own assumptions, admittedly colored by the materialism I grew up with.

Of course, not all Christians are Christian fundamentalists. I've met some Franciscan friars and Benedictine monks who are pretty cool.



Yes, for sure, I should say i've known a few really wonderful Christians. In fact, I also know a Franciscan friar fairly well who is one of my favorite people all and all.
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Re: people's reactions

Postby Beatzen » Tue May 14, 2013 8:59 am

My earliest memories on this subject come to me from 7th grade. I had moved across my city, and my only friend happened to be a Zen buddhist. Over the course of the next few years, up until i moved away for college in another part of my State - I my friend's family became almost like an adopted family.

His father was a doctor of philosophy and divinity, and a disciple of Prem Rawat Maharaji. His mother was a Zen practitioner in the White plum lineage, If memory serves me correctly.

Most of my own family is devoutly Roman Catholic. They had no real problem with me not pursuing confirmation (which was what alot of kids my age were preparing for). I even stopped going to Mass (except on Christmas and Easter, i am told in order to have a care for my grandmother's high blood pressure).

But a few friends of my family were enthusiastically evangelical. I remember sitting in my grandmother's living room as she entertained a particularly virulent pentecostal friend of hers. When I told my grandmother then that I wanted to become a Buddhist, this woman became VERY irate and told me that I was satanic. This is her to a twelve year old.

On the flip side, some "new agers" and even some buddhist practitioners criticize me for not being a vegetarian. I rarely go very far into it with them, except to point out that the buddha was not a vegetarian. I mean, he died having been poisoned via ingesting tainted pork offered to him on his alms round. To him, the real "sin" was to refuse food offered in alms. No matter what that food happened to be.
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