Sharing Buddhism

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Sharing Buddhism

Postby duckfiasco » Sat Sep 07, 2013 11:59 pm

A friend going through some hard times wants to get together to "talk about Buddhism."

I've been practicing for a few years, not very intensely, but enough that "Buddhist" is an adjective that friends use for me. But I don't feel qualified in any way to explain Buddhism, only share my small practice and try to explain why I do certain things. And giving out book titles is always easy :)

Is anyone else reluctant to talk about Buddhism with people in general? People are used to "religious" people being firm and direct. For me, trying to compartmentalize things has caused great harm and distraction.

I should probably mention the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. But I really have no idea what would be easily discussed and understood for relief in my friend's suffering.

Thanks for any insight. If this has been discussed to death, please point me in the right direction! :thumbsup:
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"When people of the Pure Land school chant Namu amida butsu, they are doing zazen with their mouths, and when we do zazen, we are performing Namu amida butsu with our whole body." - Kosho Uchiyama (Opening the Hand of Thought)
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Re: Sharing Buddhism

Postby Hickersonia » Sun Sep 08, 2013 12:30 am

I'm not reluctant to share about Buddhism, or anything in general really, but I'm also very quick to state plainly if I don't know something.

If someone asks me about Buddhism, I let them drive the conversation and I tailor my answers based on their questions. When asked questions to which I don't know the answer, I say so. I may be willing to explain things as I understand them, but I never act as if my answers are "gospel truth" and am quick to suggest that certain questions be directed toward a monastic for further clarification.

So I guess I'd suggest you be willing to explain your understanding of things, your reason for practicing the way you do perhaps, but just to make sure your friend knows that you're not necessarily qualified to answer every question. If you were, you'd probably be living in a monastery.
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Re: Sharing Buddhism

Postby plwk » Sun Sep 08, 2013 4:43 am

I have always lived by a simple self imposed rule: unless asked, silence is golden. But that too, is situational.
I prefer to let my daily life through the three doors of karma do the bulk of the 'preaching'.
Having said that, nothing has stopped me from sponsoring Buddhist missionary activities and stocking up valuable materials to pass on to others when asked for.

It's interesting to read on the Buddha's life when He thought of not teaching the Dharma until Brahma Sahampati made a formal request and later in His teaching career, He sent forth the Sangha for a kind of a 'Great Commission' as seen in the Pali Vinaya Pitaka's Mahavagga:
"Go forth, o bhikkhus, for the good of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the benefit, for the good, for the happiness of gods and men. Let not two go by one way. Preach the doctrine that is beautiful in its beginning, beautiful in its middle, and beautiful in its ending. Declare the holy life in its purity, completely both in the spirit and the letter."

There's also a charming tale of how the Elder Sariputra/Sariputta when he was known as a spiritual wanderer, Upatissa, named after his own village, met up with the Elder Asvajit/Assaji as below..
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... el090.html
Among the sixty-one Arahats (Saints) whom the Master had sent forth to proclaim to the world the virtues of the Triple Gem, there was the Elder Assaji, who belonged to the group of five ascetics, the Buddha's erstwhile companions before his Enlightenment, and afterwards his first disciples.

The Elder Assaji had returned to Rajagaha from his wanderings, and when one morning he was going for alms in the city he was seen by Upatissa, who was on his way to the Paribbajaka ascetic's monastery.

Struck by Assaji's dignified and serene appearance, Upatissa thought: "Never before have I seen such a monk. He must be one of those who are Arahats, or on the way to Arahatship. Should I not approach him and ask, 'Under whom have you been ordained? Who is your teacher and whose teaching do you profess?'"

But then he thought: "It is not the proper time now for putting questions to this monk, as he is going for alms through the streets. I had better follow behind him, after the manner of supplicants." And he did so.

Then, when the Elder had gathered his almsfood, and Upatissa saw him going to another place intending to sit down and take his meal, he prepared for him his own ascetic's seat that he carried with him, and offered it to the Elder. The Elder Assaji took his meal, after which Upatissa served him with water from his own water-container, and in that way performed towards Assaji the duties of a pupil to a teacher.
After they had exchanged the usual courteous greetings.

Upatissa said: "Serene are your features, friend. Pure and bright is your complexion. Under whom, friend, have you gone forth as an ascetic? Who is your teacher and whose doctrine do you profess?"

Assaji replied: "There is, O friend, the Great Recluse, the scion of the Sakyas, who has gone forth from the Sakya clan. Under that Blessed One I have gone forth.
That Blessed One is my teacher and it is his Dhamma that I profess."

"What does the Venerable One's master teach, what does he proclaim?"

Questioned thus, the Elder Assaji thought to himself:
"These wandering ascetics are opposed to the Buddha's dispensation. I shall show him how profound this dispensation is."
So he said: "I am but new to the training, friend. It is not long since I went forth from home, and I came but recently to this teaching and discipline.
I cannot explain the Dhamma in detail to you."

The wanderer replied: "I am called Upatissa, friend. Please tell me according to your ability, be it much or little. It will be my task to penetrate its meaning by way of a hundred or a thousand methods." And he added:
"Be it little or much that you can tell,
the meaning only, please proclaim to me!
To know the meaning is my sole desire;
Of no avail to me are many words."


In response, the Elder Assaji uttered this stanza:
"Of all those things that from a cause arise,
Tathagata the cause thereof has told;
And how they cease to be, that too He tells,
This is the doctrine of the Great Recluse."


Upon hearing the first two lines, Upatissa became established in the Path of Stream-Entry, and to the ending of the last two lines he already listened as a Stream-Winner.
Here's another simple article & a discussion on the sister site.

But since I am neither the Elders Sariputra nor Asvajit, until then, have a cup of tea... :mrgreen:
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Re: Sharing Buddhism

Postby Wayfarer » Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:02 am

I became part of a 'dhamma sharing group' in about 2008 - which is still going. It is facilitated by a couple of lay teachers, one of whom now has a PhD in mindfulness-based therapy. The aim of this group was to develop methods and materials specifically to talk about Buddhism to interested newcomers. Over the years I have lead and/or participated in quite a few sessions at a Buddhist Library, and it is on-going.

So my advice is - teach what you know; try to remain impartial; and talk at the level that you think the person asking you will understand. Also recommend they read and consider getting guidance in meditation, if that is what they're interested in. I think that is about all you can do.
Learn to do good, refrain from evil, purify the mind ~ this is the teaching of the Buddhas
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Re: Sharing Buddhism

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Sep 08, 2013 7:20 am

I dunno, I come up empty here alot of the time.

One thing I have found is that there's no need for "framing" sometimes, it just gets in the way, don't bother trying to frame it or give them a point of reference, just explain what you think, in simple language if possible..it sounds best in our own words. Don't be too quick to point out misconceptions either if they come up, just try to figure out why they are interested, what attracts them, what repels them, and go from there.
"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
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Re: Sharing Buddhism

Postby dude » Sun Sep 08, 2013 8:30 pm

duckfiasco wrote:A friend going through some hard times wants to get together to "talk about Buddhism."

I've been practicing for a few years, not very intensely, but enough that "Buddhist" is an adjective that friends use for me. But I don't feel qualified in any way to explain Buddhism, only share my small practice and try to explain why I do certain things. And giving out book titles is always easy :)

Is anyone else reluctant to talk about Buddhism with people in general? People are used to "religious" people being firm and direct. For me, trying to compartmentalize things has caused great harm and distraction.

I should probably mention the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. But I really have no idea what would be easily discussed and understood for relief in my friend's suffering.

Thanks for any insight. If this has been discussed to death, please point me in the right direction! :thumbsup:



When I talk to people about Buddhism (and yes I usually wait for them to ask unless it relates to something we're already talking about) I do more listening than talking, putting my energy into what that person needs/wants and what they might find helpful.
I try to remember to keep compassion uppermost, what the other person would find useful or encouraging.
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Re: Sharing Buddhism

Postby steveb1 » Mon Sep 09, 2013 7:34 pm

Being Jodo Shinshu, I find that there are some built-in difficulties for this particular school. When most people think of Buddhism, they think of the Path of the Sages/Holy Ones - i.e., the path of self-effort which includes meditation, contemplation, spiritual exercises, etc., and which teaches that the attainment of Buddhahood is deeply tied to successful practicing. Shin has to be carefully unpacked and its lack of all self-power practices explained with nuance - but while also explaining that in Shin, secular self-effort is fine. It is only self-power in the spiritual sense of personal striving for enlightenment that is shunned in Shin. Also, Dharmakara's 18th Vow must be explained in terms of its effectiveness, i.e., it must be explained that the Vow is not a matter of "some guy millions of years ago wishing benefits for others", but rather the special case of a special being, the Bodhisattva, reaching out to sentient beings from "the Other Shore". The power and primal-cosmic character of the Bodhisattva must be distinguished from that of mortal beings.
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Re: Sharing Buddhism

Postby Nosta » Tue Sep 10, 2013 12:40 pm

Exposing religious teachings can be seen as a fanatic thing and thats what I would like to avoid when showing buddhism to others.

For instance, when people knock at my door and start to talk about Jeovah, I really dont like; they seem just like fanatics. Everybody says that about jehovah witnesses. But is that correct? Can we say the same about buddhists? If a buddhist monk knocks at the door of a christian, a muslim, etc, how will he be perceived? As a fanatic too?

If so, how should we expound the Dharma in a Way that will not look like that?
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Re: Sharing Buddhism

Postby KeithBC » Tue Sep 10, 2013 1:35 pm

I am not reluctant to talk about Buddhism, if asked. If the person shows an interest, I feel an obligation to respond to that interest.

In the case of your friend, be careful not to get drawn into the role of counsellor (unless, of course, you are qualified to do so). I am happy to talk about how the Eightfold Path will reduce life's suffering, in general. But if someone asks how to reduce his or her particular suffering, that is counselling, something best left to the professionals.

Om mani padme hum
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Re: Sharing Buddhism

Postby Hickersonia » Tue Sep 10, 2013 1:53 pm

KeithBC wrote:I am not reluctant to talk about Buddhism, if asked. If the person shows an interest, I feel an obligation to respond to that interest.

That's pretty much my take on it. I wouldn't dare to advocate a "door-to-door salesman" model...
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"Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of
throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned."

Nam mô A di đà Phật!
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