So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Blue Garuda » Sat Nov 27, 2010 8:15 pm

[quote="Luke"] Is Vajrayana more popular in South American countries than it is in the US? I don't think so...

/quote]

That's what I would love to know - individual experience is obviously really valid and important, but I wonder if there any stats on this.

For example, Brazil?

Most maps just show distribution with all the 'West' as very low.
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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Astus » Sat Nov 27, 2010 9:53 pm

Yeshe,

The problem with the question is that just because a country is mainly Catholic doesn't mean that those who get involved with Buddhism were Catholics themselves. It can very well be that they see Catholicism as something they don't want at all so they have a very secular and materialistic approach which goes better with modern Zen and Theravada. Statistics are unreliable in case of religion and Buddhism in the West. I'd rather measure the presence of a religion in terms of official data, like the number of temples, clergy, annual income, social activities, media presence, etc. However, these kinds of information are not always available and can be hard to obtain.

Another thing is that one should make a difference between a country being historically Catholic or Protestant and the current situation. All EU countries are secular by nature and while for instance according to the Eurobarometer Poll 2005 81% in Portugal believes in God (one of the largest percentage in the EU) same-sex marriage is legal. In Poland the percentage was 80% and in 2007 88.4% were member of the Catholic Church, however, only 41% of the population attended regularly to churches in 2009. (stats from Wiki) Counting Buddhists is a lot more difficult as there are quite a lot of ignorance and misunderstandings about who is a Buddhist. Like, those who go to mass every Sunday are considered Christians but those who do meditation in a centre do not always (quite rarely) think of themselves as Buddhists.

We can discuss the Western phenomena related to Buddhism and we can also ponder on its future. To me personally what is actually interesting are doctrinal matters and their presentation. That's something more concrete and more important than clothes and rituals.
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Blue Garuda » Sat Nov 27, 2010 10:39 pm

Astus wrote:Yeshe,

The problem with the question is that just because a country is mainly Catholic doesn't mean that those who get involved with Buddhism were Catholics themselves. It can very well be that they see Catholicism as something they don't want at all so they have a very secular and materialistic approach which goes better with modern Zen and Theravada. Statistics are unreliable in case of religion and Buddhism in the West. I'd rather measure the presence of a religion in terms of official data, like the number of temples, clergy, annual income, social activities, media presence, etc. However, these kinds of information are not always available and can be hard to obtain.

Another thing is that one should make a difference between a country being historically Catholic or Protestant and the current situation. All EU countries are secular by nature and while for instance according to the Eurobarometer Poll 2005 81% in Portugal believes in God (one of the largest percentage in the EU) same-sex marriage is legal. In Poland the percentage was 80% and in 2007 88.4% were member of the Catholic Church, however, only 41% of the population attended regularly to churches in 2009. (stats from Wiki) Counting Buddhists is a lot more difficult as there are quite a lot of ignorance and misunderstandings about who is a Buddhist. Like, those who go to mass every Sunday are considered Christians but those who do meditation in a centre do not always (quite rarely) think of themselves as Buddhists.

We can discuss the Western phenomena related to Buddhism and we can also ponder on its future. To me personally what is actually interesting are doctrinal matters and their presentation. That's something more concrete and more important than clothes and rituals.


What do they seek and what do they find attractive, and why? These are concrete and important too - how many seek something which bears no resemblance to their past culture, and how many actually seek something new yet familiar and comfortable.

People in 'Catholic' countries may have weak faith or even abandon Catholicism, yet still be drawn to a ritualistic form of Buddhism which appears to satisfy the same personal needs.

It is the process of selection which interests me, as it may display how the growth of Buddhism in the West is based upon predispositions - or not. :)


The presentational aspect may be what first entices a person to explore Buddhism, or they may first encounter doctrine. Either way, these are not mutually exclusive and people appear at classes with all kinds of past experiences which colour their behaviour.

Advertising people know well that it is the 'sizzle' which often attracts people to taste the sausage. Some Buddhist organisations may experience huge growth through attractive packaging and the pyramid selling of benefits rather than product features with respect to Dharma. Basic marketing maybe, but it works.

I'm not advocating superficiality, as it doesn't interest me either, but recognising that it may have a part to play in attracting people to Buddhist groups, whether that be Zen or Vajrayana, with the robes and rituals in the mix. ;)
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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby kirtu » Sun Nov 28, 2010 3:22 pm

Yeshe wrote:Basic marketing maybe, but it works.


Marketing (an unmitigated evil BTW), clothes, robes, rituals, etc. are completely irrelevant.

People are encountering the teachings of the Buddha and are responding. It's as simple as that. Exactly what Toynbee predicted. And BTW how some Buddhist prophecies had apparently been interpreted at least in Tibet going back at least to the 30's.

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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Blue Garuda » Sun Nov 28, 2010 6:30 pm

kirtu wrote:
Yeshe wrote:Basic marketing maybe, but it works.


Marketing (an unmitigated evil BTW), clothes, robes, rituals, etc. are completely irrelevant.

People are encountering the teachings of the Buddha and are responding. It's as simple as that. Exactly what Toynbee predicted. And BTW how some Buddhist prophecies had apparently been interpreted at least in Tibet going back at least to the 30's.

Kirt



Hi Kirt


You and I would agree that the important thing is that people are meeting the teachings, but you can't also deny the lure of the mystical and esoteric image of the East - after all, Westerners have been fascinated by for many years. What first brings them through the door is sometimes the latter I suspect - but there seems to be little research. My own observation of many hundreds of students leads me to draw the conclusion, but it's not a valid sample I'm sure.

I think you are correct in that it is the teachings which retain some people. Equally, I know very well that many are lured by the promise of the next 'empowerment' or see their guru as some kind of deity which satisfies a craving for a 'saviour figure'. Some I know bounce from Osho to Zen to TB-based groups which may encourage such vulnerable Westerners. I know some Buddhist groups where there is never a mention of the 8FP, and one may attend classes for years without never learning of it.

I'm certainly not recommending such attitudes, but have observed them for many years.

Off topic a bit:

I used the term 'marketing' loosely and incorrectly. Marketing is a management process responsible for anticipating and satisfying consumer needs. It is important - for example if farmers grow more than they can sell, or grow too little to satisfy the demand, their marketing has failed. It's a very different thing from persuading people to consume what they don't need, and become dependent on it, which is the tactic of some organisations some may call cults.

maitri

Yeshe :)
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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Huifeng » Mon Nov 29, 2010 4:21 am

kirtu wrote:
Yeshe wrote:Basic marketing maybe, but it works.


Marketing (an unmitigated evil BTW), clothes, robes, rituals, etc. are completely irrelevant.

People are encountering the teachings of the Buddha and are responding. It's as simple as that. Exactly what Toynbee predicted. And BTW how some Buddhist prophecies had apparently been interpreted at least in Tibet going back at least to the 30's.

Kirt


Any pointers on that Toynbee source, Kirt?
I would be quite interested to see that!
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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby kirtu » Mon Nov 29, 2010 5:12 pm

Huifeng wrote:Any pointers on that Toynbee source, Kirt?
I would be quite interested to see that!


Toynbee is quoted as "The coming of Buddhism to the West may well prove to be the most important event of the Twentieth Century." I have seen the quote excerpted from a larger work but cannot find that. I think, but am not sure, that this quote stems from his historical analysis in "A Study of History". However he might just have well said it in a news interview as he was interviewed several time when I was a kid.

However David Loy suggests in a Tricycle article "Why Buddhism Needs the West" that the quote may be apocryphal.

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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Chaz » Mon Nov 29, 2010 11:55 pm

Sonrisa wrote:It has been said that wherever Buddhism went, it adapted to the local culture. How come we dont see sutras written in Western style calligraphy or stained glass images of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas?


The reason you don't see it is most likely because there hasn't been enough time for that to fully develop.

We see lots of Sutras written in "western style" caligraphy. I have two different liturgies in english with no tibetan script or phonetics. Plain English in a Times New Roman font. That's pretty western if you ask me. I have several books with sutras in them. All in English with western fonts.

We can always use more translators though.

I think the stained class idea is a good one, but even newly constructed Christian churches don't always have stained glass. Just the same, it would be cool - a kind of westernized Thangka. But these things take time and it could be that stained glass may never be a part of western Buddhism.
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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby kirtu » Tue Nov 30, 2010 3:37 pm

Chaz wrote:
Sonrisa wrote:We see lots of Sutras written in "western style" caligraphy....
...

I think the stained class idea is a good one, but even newly constructed Christian churches don't always have stained glass. Just the same, it would be cool - a kind of westernized Thangka. But these things take time and it could be that stained glass may never be a part of western Buddhism.


Chaz -

Not to seem like I'm taking pot-shots but fonts are not culturally specific but are reflections of the necessities of language (in fact fonts can be a cultural artifact like the old Schrift commonly used in German up to about the mid-30's).

Western thanghas are movies. Actually this season's Tricycle has an interview with Robert Beer and goes into how he developed a unique presentation of deity images (usually on deity cards). In part it was because he wasn't trained formally as an artist at art school but because he was tutored by a wild artist and because Beer had a kundalini experience that transformed his perceptions (in a classic unwanted way). He is also red-green color blind and that may have played a role. He goes into his admiration for the developed photorealism of Newari artists and that reflects a cultural difference with traditional Tibetan 2-d art.

I have lived in three distinct cultures and I'm not sure that cultural differences actually exist beyond just being rules of conduct and degrees of directness and myths (esp. myths of direct or indirect communication). There are seemingly traditional art forms and expressions found that are used to characterize different people and that can be used to form identities - people may focus on these forms and expressions as culture and actually believe in their identity making magic (perhaps it's time to see if the semioticians have anything of value on this).

I personally this that people with some kind of previous connection with Buddhism are encountering Buddhism and directly responding to the teaching on an intuitive level and as a result study and perhaps practice Dharma and I don't think that the perceived esotericism or exoticism of Asia plays much of a role at all (of course I was partly raised in Hawaii and was exposed to expressions of different Asia cultures across the board in every classroom I entered in junor hs and hs).

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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby kirtu » Tue Nov 30, 2010 4:16 pm

For example there are differences between US and German people in verbal conduct: Americans will not answer you in general if they don't understand a question (it's kind of like they get stunned) and Germans might not also but more likely they will say some kind of stock thing. If Germans get into a quandary in a discussion they are likely to behave like you haven't understood them and they will repeat something they believe to be true. Germans are direct usually and Americans believe they are direct but usually aren't and seem to me to be masters of some kind of passive-aggressive approach. Americans by and large reflect a kind of bully behavior and are usually devoted to the acquisition of social power. Germans don't seem to do this to the same extent (but I haven't worked in a German organization and they always have an identified person in their office who behaves like they are acquiring power - Americans don't actually always have someone in mind who is going this).

German political philosophy is generally focused on equality in society and helping others (I don't know if this was a significant element prior to the Nazi evil - the current German view is certainly taken from religious influence from the churches and from some philosophers and from the CDU and SPD parties having originated from Catholic church influences and from a feeling of atonement for the Nazi evil and perhaps from a real feeling of community). German social view generally reflects their dominant political philosophy.

Americans social life by and large are focused on their own self and believe ardently in a form of seemingly radical individualism but are actually people dominated by tribal and herd mentalities (however even within the dictates of the tribal and herd following they are nearly completely on their own and furthermore have identified people to reject and ostracize).

Americans are generally all about their and other people's feelings and are fearful of making mistakes in general and definitely socially and Germans don't care nearly as much about their or other people's feelings.

These are some actual cultural difference between two cultures that most people think are deeply related.

Kirt
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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby catmoon » Wed Dec 01, 2010 7:46 am

Stained glass, Srvasti Abbey

Image
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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby catmoon » Wed Dec 01, 2010 7:49 am

Stained glass, commercial, for sale

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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Huifeng » Wed Dec 01, 2010 9:57 am

kirtu wrote:
Huifeng wrote:Any pointers on that Toynbee source, Kirt?
I would be quite interested to see that!


Toynbee is quoted as "The coming of Buddhism to the West may well prove to be the most important event of the Twentieth Century." I have seen the quote excerpted from a larger work but cannot find that. I think, but am not sure, that this quote stems from his historical analysis in "A Study of History". However he might just have well said it in a news interview as he was interviewed several time when I was a kid.

However David Loy suggests in a Tricycle article "Why Buddhism Needs the West" that the quote may be apocryphal.

Kirt


Thanks, Kirt.

I poke here, and found this which is uncited, and also this from Loy, which is probably what you refer to above, whereas this is Toynbee and cited, but not that quote!

Seems like that quote is a bit like Einstein's - famous, everyone know it, but nobody actually knows where it came from, or even if it is true!

Modern Buddhist apocrypha...? Maybe Loy is right. :tongue:

But maybe this? ... Check the notes on pg. 193.
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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby kirtu » Wed Dec 01, 2010 6:02 pm

catmoon wrote:Stained glass, Srvasti Abbey

Image


See that's a reason to use stained glass - not because someone is comfortable with it or likes it but because it naturally produces rainbows and light images in reflection.

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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby kirtu » Wed Dec 01, 2010 6:06 pm

I can't pull those links up (slow network right now) but I'm pretty sure Toynbee did say it somewhere. For one thing one of my teachers in Hawaii mentioned it (actually maybe two of them) so I have an upper date. But it may have been in an interview and not in a text. It may also have been attributed to him by someone like Ginsburg. But I'm pretty sure I've read the attribution from whatever source it was directly over the past few years.

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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby kirtu » Wed Dec 01, 2010 6:11 pm

BTW- the Toynbee attribution is mentioned here in a paper on the San Francisco Zen Center site by Martin Verhoven. And Verhoeven quotes an American historian Arthur Versluis:

More recently, the historian Arthur Versluis, in a new book, American Transcendentalism and Asian Religions (1993), pieced together five or six major historical views on this subject, and presented this by way of conclusion:

However much people today realize it, the encounter of Oriental and Occidental religious and philosophical traditions, of Buddhist and Christian and Hindu and Islamic perspectives, must be regarded as one of the most extraordinary meetings of our age. . . . Arnold Toynbee once wrote that of all the historical changes in the West, the most important—and the one whose effects have been least understood—is the meeting of Buddhism in the Occident. . . . And when and if our era is considered in light of larger societal patterns and movements, there can be no doubt that the meeting of East and West, the mingling of the most ancient traditions in the modern world, will form a much larger part of history than we today with our political-economic emphases, may think.


So presumably there is an attribution in Versluis' book.

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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Aemilius » Fri Dec 10, 2010 2:14 pm

Huifeng wrote:
But the point I wanted to make was that most people nowadays think of modern "Greece" when the term "Greek" is used. But that is simply not the case here. I find it very difficult to say "In the past Buddhism was a Western religion" on this basis.
[/quote][/quote]

It may be difficult identify what is "buddhism"? What are it's chracteristic ideas by which you could identify it in history? I think it has been present in various forms in Western Asia and Europe for more than 2300 years. At the same time it has undergone a natural evolution in East Asian and South Asian countries, which causes that buddhism's traces in history are not at all like the asian developments of buddhism are at the present time. You have to consider that in European cultural area there have been powerfull forces whose purpose has been (and still is) to eradicate buddhism from the face of this planet.
If you look at the history of Afghanisthan http://www.afghan-web.com/history/chron/index.html it is evident that the claim that european culture did not know buddhism 2000 years ago is a huge lie.
What are then its possible traces in European and West Asian history? This is a difficult question because there is a vast propaganda machine ready to wipe out everything one finds in this area of knowledge.
Writers such as Edward Conze, Alex Wayman and Herbert Guenther have therefore expressed themselves cryptically or indirectly, or sometimes quite clearly also. But then they are forgotten, or put on some black list, and thus various "respected" teachers warn people against these true and valuable researchers and authorities! Which is a cause of real sadness.
If you want to see it that way the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman history is still full of things that are recognisably similar to buddhism.
I would even go so far as to say that the Roman empire is the mythical kingdom of Shambhala, as it must have been when seen through indian tantrika's eyes ! Roman culture and technology were the most advanced on this planet, their calendar ( Kalacakra) is in use everywhere, they built a secular society, they unified the four castes, as it says in the Kalachakra teachings, there is only one caste, i.e. the Juppiter Caste, ( Juppiter means Pasupatinath, or Father of the Creatures (which indicates Vajrapani)), they invented and developed the modern city, they built roads around the Mediterranean, built public bath houses and aquaducts in the countries of that area, and so on...

When I read the Malleus Maleficarum, or Witch Hammer, I felt that it is an instruction manual for destroying a buddhist movement that had developed in Spain (mainly, but was existent in other countries too).

It is very helpfull to study the Ancient Roman Calendar and its yearly festivals. It reads like a tantric calendar of pujas, in the beginning of June there is a day for a divinity that most likely is Shakyamuni Buddha, he is called Semo Sancus, Semo has a much longer name also. The day is obviously like the Wesak,...
It seems that the name Simeon is really Sakyamuni!!
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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Astus » Sat Dec 11, 2010 12:32 am

Aemilius,

Excuse me, but where do you get these ideas from?

What connection do you see between Afghanistan and Europe? Yes, Alexander the Great conquered the land and left some Greek settlements around, then many others came and conquered it too. It doesn't mean that there was great cultural exchange between that land and Europe, especially considering that the Roman Empire was cut off from it by the Parthian Empire, then the Sassanid Empire after which the whole place turned to Islamic land with what the Christian Europe hadn't had much friendly relations.

It is not exactly true that everyone uses the Roman calendar, by which you could at best mean the Julian calendar what was changed in the Western part of Europe to the Gregorian calendar from 1582 on. The Roman Empire was not at all a secular society as you've perhaps heard of the Imperial Cult. They had not unified any castes but built an empire on slave labour and there were different classes of society. Finding connection between Jupiter and Pasupati is not really proper as one is a sky and weather god like Indra while the other one an animal god like Faunus, Jupiter is related to Dyaus Pita etymologically and functionally in the Vedic religion just as it is to Zeus. What you define as a modern city is not really clear, but on one hand the Romans used knowledge from other cultures like the Greek, also there were other quite developed lands throughout the world, like in Han Dynasty China; and in the same era the Gupta Empire is another example of a great civilization.

This conspiracy against Buddhism, well, can't say much of that. You know, even Freemasons and Jehova's Witnesses had to wear different badges in concentrations camps, but no badge for Buddhists (could have been of orange colour). Guess what, Nazis and Fascists were quite interested in Buddhist things. Would you say then that other evil Western forces worked against the poor Buddha followers?
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: So, how about "Western" Buddhism?

Postby Aemilius » Sat Dec 11, 2010 10:59 am

To Astus
I'll answer some of your points, according to afghan history it was conquered by Alexander around 325 BCE, then there developed the greaco-buddhist culture which reached its hight around 50 CE! This means a much longer greek presence in Afghanisthan than you are willing to admit.
You do not need to be "conspiratorist", it is plain evident that in ancient times people could and did go even around the world just on foot if they wanted ! There have been much wider contacts between continents, between lands and countries, but there is an isolationist rule in the writing of history which falsifies verything.
You too are falsifying the Roman history, greeks and romans had imported various articles from India by the sea route to the Roman empire, this was an accepted fact in 1970's, I can't remember the list of articles that were imported from India. There are greek maps from that time which describe the ports and harbours if Indian subcontinent, which shows an extensive knowledge of India's seashore.

It is as you choose to see it! You sound like a normal brainwashed history produced person to me, pardon me, no offence intended! Just look at the pictures and statues of Juppiter! Is he not holding a Vajra-Sceptre in his hand ?

Ofcourse there factually were slaves and barbarians etc in Roman Empire. The unification of the castes means that there was no separate traders, warriors, priests, and rulers. The civil servants, officials, senators and congressmen were themselves Warriors, they had a Priestly education, they were Businessmen or Traders and they were the Rulers ( and artists and filosophers) in One Person. This is the roman ideal of the New Man, Homo Novus.

Where do I get this from? Well, it kind of was around, when buddhism wasn't yet much known in Europe, at that time it was normal and easy to say in academic circles that Dionysos was born in the Himalayas in a city of Nysa, and he seems much like this Indian prince Lotus Born, etc... when they were more distant and did not have any followers or cults present in Europe, see?
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