Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

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Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

Postby Luke » Sat Jan 08, 2011 5:43 pm

Hello fellow Dharma Wheelers,

I was wondering if you had any thoughts about how to gently expose your relatives and other people to the Dharma who are indifferent to it now and who seem to think that believing in anything but material things is pure stupidity.

I met some of my relatives recently whom I hadn't seen in a while. It seems to make them feel pretty awkward that I am heavily involved with Buddhism now. I wish I could expose them Dharma in a gentle way which they would benefit from and wouldn't reject, but I don't think I have the skill to do this yet.

It especially depresses me when I think of my grandmother. She is 85 and knows nothing about Buddhism and isn't the slightest bit religious in any other way either. All she does is cook, clean, shop, go to her exercise class, and visit with relatives. She does a few nice things for others, but I could easily imagine her getting reborn as an ignorant animal.

The thought of someone being very old and knowing nothing about Buddhism is something that I find horrifying. The thought of a person having wasted most of her human lifespan depresses me beyond belief. However, I think that there is little I can do for my grandmother other than dedicate the merit from some of my meditations to her.

At the same time, I am optimistic about my mother. She is very supportive of my Buddhist activities and enjoys it when I tell her the details of the Buddhist retreats I've gone to and about the Tibetan lamas I've met. She naturally feels very warmly about the Dalai Lama. Perhaps in the future, I might be able to convince her to do some simple Buddhist practice, such as reciting the mani mantra. She seems to have better karma right now than my grandmother does.

It's painful to see sentient beings acting foolishly and not to know how to help them.
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Re: Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

Postby Blue Garuda » Sat Jan 08, 2011 9:13 pm

In such things one may display too much enthusiasm for some to deal with.

I've found that age is not necessarily indicative of conservatism, and whilst my own parents think I'm eccentric, others of the same age are really keen to listen and even debate (we're talking 80 plus age).

Of course we can't impose or be a nuisance, but when things pop into my mind at funerals etc. which could be helpful, gently is the way. LOL :)
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Re: Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

Postby Pero » Sat Jan 08, 2011 9:45 pm

Don't bother doing anything. Talk only when asked.
Although many individuals in this age appear to be merely indulging their worldly desires, one does not have the capacity to judge them, so it is best to train in pure vision.
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Re: Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

Postby Mr. G » Sat Jan 08, 2011 10:08 pm

I think that if your practice is strong, people will take notice and further inquire about you and your beliefs. This would probably the appropriate time to convey your beliefs to them. Any other time could be seen as proselytizing which could be annoying to some people.
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
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Re: Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

Postby Kyosan » Sat Jan 08, 2011 10:47 pm

Luke wrote:It especially depresses me when I think of my grandmother. She is 85 and knows nothing about Buddhism and isn't the slightest bit religious in any other way either. All she does is cook, clean, shop, go to her exercise class, and visit with relatives. She does a few nice things for others, but I could easily imagine her getting reborn as an ignorant animal.

The thought of someone being very old and knowing nothing about Buddhism is something that I find horrifying. The thought of a person having wasted most of her human lifespan depresses me beyond belief. However, I think that there is little I can do for my grandmother other than dedicate the merit from some of my meditations to her.


Perhaps your grandmother knows more about Buddhism than you think. I think that, if when she cooks, cleans, shops or exercises she is mindful, she knows something about Buddhism. If she realizes that change is part of life and isn't devastated when something bad happens to her she knows something about Buddhism. If she believes in tolerance to others who are different and treats others fairly she knows something about Buddhism. If she is a kind person she knows something about Buddhism.

Luke wrote:I was wondering if you had any thoughts about how to gently expose your relatives and other people to the Dharma who are indifferent to it now and who seem to think that believing in anything but material things is pure stupidity.

If you think about how bodhisattvas are they tailor the dharma teaching to each individual or group. They explain the dharma in a way that is meaningful to the persons listening to them. Maybe if you explain about the lamas or about the sutras to your grandmother she can't relate to that. But maybe she can relate to the qualities I mentioned in the above paragraph. If you exibit those qualities and praise those qualitities you are already turning the dharma wheel.

Whatever you do you shouldn't come across as being preachy or pushing your religious ideology on her. People dislike that.
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Re: Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

Postby Luke » Sun Jan 09, 2011 11:25 am

Pero wrote:Don't bother doing anything. Talk only when asked.

Yeah, that's my feeling as well.

In many ways, I think it's best if I avoid seeing my relatives altogether for the moment, since I'm so focused on Buddhism and don't really care about ordinary things which make for good conversation topics, this makes me seem like a dreadful person to many of my relatives.

I don't want to represent Buddhism badly. I have to focus on my own spiritual progress and on removing more of my own negativities before I can be of any real use to others.

Visiting my relatives just causes suffering for both them and me, so I'll just stay away.
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Re: Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

Postby Pero » Sun Jan 09, 2011 12:18 pm

Luke wrote:In many ways, I think it's best if I avoid seeing my relatives altogether for the moment, since I'm so focused on Buddhism and don't really care about ordinary things which make for good conversation topics, this makes me seem like a dreadful person to many of my relatives.

I don't want to represent Buddhism badly. I have to focus on my own spiritual progress and on removing more of my own negativities before I can be of any real use to others.

Visiting my relatives just causes suffering for both them and me, so I'll just stay away.


Hm but be careful because this could make things worse. If you isolate yourself completely they might just think you've fallen into some kind of cult. Just don't talk to them about Buddhism lol. Lead by example, maybe if they see good qualities arising they'll wonder where they come from and warm up to it.
Although many individuals in this age appear to be merely indulging their worldly desires, one does not have the capacity to judge them, so it is best to train in pure vision.
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Re: Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

Postby Luke » Sun Jan 09, 2011 1:57 pm

Pero wrote:Hm but be careful because this could make things worse. If you isolate yourself completely they might just think you've fallen into some kind of cult. Just don't talk to them about Buddhism lol. Lead by example, maybe if they see good qualities arising they'll wonder where they come from and warm up to it.

True, but I don't live near any of them, so it's not as dramatic as if I lived down the street from them and didn't talk to them.

I was also very, very sick the last time I visited them, so I think that exaggerrated my negative perceptions. Maybe I'll try visiting them again later when I'm fully healthy.
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Re: Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

Postby Pero » Sun Jan 09, 2011 7:18 pm

Luke wrote:True, but I don't live near any of them, so it's not as dramatic as if I lived down the street from them and didn't talk to them.


Ah sorry, that's what I assumed. Yeah that's different. :smile:
Although many individuals in this age appear to be merely indulging their worldly desires, one does not have the capacity to judge them, so it is best to train in pure vision.
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Re: Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

Postby Ogyen » Sun Jan 09, 2011 7:59 pm

It is more than likely if you came from a previous context that was non-Buddhist that they won't care much. At first. It is even more likely that they would care less if born in the Western world to a Christian cultural matrix. The reason I say this is because there is a great deal of average-joe apathy towards organized religion in the west.

Think of this. The only way to expose people who don't care about the dharma is to BE dharma. Don't try to be Buddhist and share Buddhism with your family. Be a Buddha to your family, and share yourself and your time with them... you will expose them to dharma by BEING dharma.

I am married to someone who is not Buddhist, and at first it was awkward when I first took refuge. I really wanted to talk about everything I was learning, but I also realized the excitement was mine, not his. However, you can imagine, if you're not really into something, someone talking to you about that thing all day long can get annoying. LOL. I also went through a phase where it hurt to feel like I was going through all these realizations but my partner didn't really seem to care about it.

Then something happened. I stopped trying to tell anyone anything. I understood, if I am dharma, others will feel that warmth and if they are ready, they will inquire as to what this warmth is I have and how it is I feel so much more relaxed than I used to.

Since then I've seen some momentous events happen. I was asked to interview on Buddhism on Mexican local television, which I did this past week. My partner is now more interested in Buddhism not because I've told him anything, actually I have told him very little, but because he sees the positive difference it's made in OUR life, our relationship, and that it is attracting good people around us. Of course he'll eventually be curious as to what caused the shifts. And he never even has to hear a word of dharma, but just by me BEING what I practice in my home, he sees dharma every day.

Do I make any sense. Sorry, I'm a bit word-impaired today, at least that's what I feel like a bit.

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Re: Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

Postby Tree » Mon Jan 10, 2011 5:21 pm

Ogyen wrote:Think of this. The only way to expose people who don't care about the dharma is to BE dharma. Don't try to be Buddhist and share Buddhism with your family. Be a Buddha to your family, and share yourself and your time with them... you will expose them to dharma by BEING dharma.


I agree with this.

To the OP: Please be aware also, that in most cases you do very little to change someone's destiny.

Your Grandmother is not necessarily destined for an animal's rebirth. Besides, according to the Buddha she has been endlessly rebirthing in Samsara for endless Kalpas. She, you and I have already suffered more than we can currently conceive in our minds.

You are on the right course. We must purify our own mind of 'evil doing' before we can teach others. :sage:
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Re: Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

Postby KeithBC » Thu Jan 20, 2011 5:53 am

Luke wrote:I could easily imagine her getting reborn as an ignorant animal.

Perhaps so. But also try to imagine her as a bodhisattva masquerading as your grandmother in order to help you and other sentient beings.
I think that there is little I can do for my grandmother other than dedicate the merit from some of my meditations to her.

This is wise.

Whatever you do, don't push. Tell them what they can handle only. If all they can handle is knowing that you are Buddhist, then tell them that, but no more than that. Be the best Buddhist that they know. In a future lifetime, they may be searching for a path and may remember that they once met a Buddhist guy who wasn't so bad. Even that little bit could be a gateway to the Dharma. You don't want them remembering, "That Buddhist guy sure was a pushy fellow."

Of course, if they open the door, invite them in.

Om mani padme hum
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Re: Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

Postby Luke » Thu Jan 20, 2011 9:48 pm

KeithBC wrote:Whatever you do, don't push. Tell them what they can handle only. If all they can handle is knowing that you are Buddhist, then tell them that, but no more than that. Be the best Buddhist that they know. In a future lifetime, they may be searching for a path and may remember that they once met a Buddhist guy who wasn't so bad. Even that little bit could be a gateway to the Dharma. You don't want them remembering, "That Buddhist guy sure was a pushy fellow."

Good point. Hehe.

Ogyen wrote:Be a Buddha to your family, and share yourself and your time with them... you will expose them to dharma by BEING dharma.

I get what you're saying, but I'm not yet such a pure or inspiring person, so I think I'll just shut up around my relatives and try to be nice in a general way.

Ogyen wrote:I am married to someone who is not Buddhist...

:o Okay, so I won't send you that passionate PM I've been dreaming up for a while... Lol.
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Re: Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

Postby Ogyen » Mon Jan 24, 2011 5:47 am

Ogyen wrote:Be a Buddha to your family, and share yourself and your time with them... you will expose them to dharma by BEING dharma.

I get what you're saying, but I'm not yet such a pure or inspiring person, so I think I'll just shut up around my relatives and try to be nice in a general way.


I wouldn't cut you short of purity or inspiration. In effect, you are as pure or as inspiring as the opportunities you take to be kind. People aren't made pure and inspiring magically. They are made such by one simple choice at a time, in that when confronted with a situation where there is a way to be wise and kind, they are, and for others.

That is, I don't believe for a second that when faced with a choice, you wouldn't at least feel a pull to help. So if you would help, you already have the seed of pure-rising in your mind, action will follow. I think it becomes a matter of time once something like that has begun. That is, even a fly who sits on a Buddha statue could one day be a Buddha himself. Little beginnings are never lost, maybe just lost track OF, but never lost as per the principle of causality.

So for example, the fact that your family is your family and you are Buddhist already puts them in relation to dharma. This is very good karma for them. And for you. It is your puzzle to solve. Perhaps not immediately, but think of how much karma has gone into these exact conditions you call your family.

So, agreed with Keith, don't push. Most importantly, learn to relate to them in what matters to both of you. So sometimes I look at my dog and sigh that he is so slave to his nose that he would be reborn a dog for 30 lifetimes because he loves food THAT much. HAHA. Truth is he could be born next a Buddha, and he is my bodhisattva, teaching me simple wordless patience.

Truth is that he is exposed to dharma, through me, perhaps not directly in language and abstract concepts like freedom and liberation. But he is exposed to my choices, my discipline of his impulses, he is exposed to chants, and lessons in his own doggie life. I'm not going to complain that he's just not getting the dharma enough, instead I'm grateful I have a chance to practice kindness to a little child-like being like a dog. Instead of anger, I treat him with respect when he does something bad. I'm swift, effective, and non-violent. In the same way, with a relative I can't speak well with, my motto is first of all help if I can. If I cannot, then do no harm. Then focus on curing myself first of the ills I see in others. In the end, you have very little influence on others, but sometimes your actions can inspire a little fire in someone next to you, and that desire to know truth can spread like fire too.

I'm also not saying people are dogs, I'm simply saying no matter what the level of difference is in communication and with a dog it's pretty drastic as language is a one-way street in that relationship, you can still give and love kindly. Or try. That's all you ever really need to do, just your best. It's that hard, and it's that easy.

So really, any bit of kindness helps! You cannot go wrong by being a good person to your family regardless of who or how they are or aren't, if you get what I mean.

AND don't think "I'm not such a pure or inspiring person", I mean it wasn't until someone told you there is no self you went, oh?! It wasn't till you understood causality that you understood causality. HAHA. You can never force understanding on anyone, so why try? Just be good to them. Simply strive to be what is needed when it's needed. If that makes sense. Learn that humility is as good as a holy scripture, easygoing patience is as sacred as any guru teaching, and compassion in all things is dharma.

When I see you, all I see is a very pure person experiencing being human, not the other way around, a human trying to experience purity. So perhaps we are both right, but perhaps being right is irrelevant too. :namaste:

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Re: Sharing Dharma with relatives who don't care?

Postby Luke » Mon Jan 24, 2011 7:15 am

Ogyen wrote:I wouldn't cut you short of purity or inspiration. In effect, you are as pure or as inspiring as the opportunities you take to be kind. People aren't made pure and inspiring magically. They are made such by one simple choice at a time, in that when confronted with a situation where there is a way to be wise and kind, they are, and for others.

Yeah, perhaps I have some good qualities, but don't possess any sort of "magnetizing"/"mesmerizing" siddhis to influence people who I wouldn't normally be able to influence. I guess I'm trying to say that I lack "spiritual charisma."

Ogyen wrote:So for example, the fact that your family is your family and you are Buddhist already puts them in relation to dharma. This is very good karma for them. And for you. It is your puzzle to solve. Perhaps not immediately, but think of how much karma has gone into these exact conditions you call your family.

That's an interesting point! I think it's also a puzzle to solve for them. They think, "How the hell can an intelligent, fairly young westerner be intensely interested in Buddhism?" Some of them can dismiss it because they think I've just been brainwashed by a cult, but for the others who realize I'm thinking clearly, I think it becomes like a koan for them to reflect on. And maybe when they read things in the future, they will pay more attention to Buddhist news, such as stories about HH the Dalai Lama.

Ogyen wrote:Most importantly, learn to relate to them in what matters to both of you.

Yeah, I try to. We run out of conversation topics and common ground quite fast these days. I guess I'll make my visits with them very brief in the future.

Ogyen wrote:So sometimes I look at my dog and sigh that he is so slave to his nose that he would be reborn a dog for 30 lifetimes because he loves food THAT much.

I never think about dogs like that because I'm blinded by my love for dogs. I find their physical forms so pleasing to look at and to touch that I suppose part of me wishes that they would be reborn as (well-cared for) dogs for a long time.

Ogyen wrote:In the end, you have very little influence on others, but sometimes your actions can inspire a little fire in someone next to you, and that desire to know truth can spread like fire too.

Maybe. Although I'm not so powerful yet as to make it "spread like fire." Right now I think I make it spread more like "grass growing."

Occasionally, I'll meet a person who is interested in things like yoga and who seems pretty open to eastern things, so I'll start to talk to them about Buddhism a little bit, but even these people seem quite scared off by the thought of visiting a Buddhist center. Perhaps I'll have had some tiny effect on them, but it seems like it will be a long, long time before any of them ever walks through the doors of a Buddhist sangha. I guess many people are scared of organized religion and are scared of the thought of having an actual human spiritual teacher who will observe and judge and point out their faults.

Ogyen wrote:I'm also not saying people are dogs, I'm simply saying no matter what the level of difference is in communication and with a dog it's pretty drastic as language is a one-way street in that relationship, you can still give and love kindly.

Hehe. You love humans more than I do. I love dogs more than you do.

The lack of language ability can be a boon as well as a flaw. Since dogs can't speak, they can never say the hurtful things that humans can, and for this reason, I can assume more positive things about them. I suppose I am one of those people who trust and like animals more than people.

Ogyen wrote:So really, any bit of kindness helps! You cannot go wrong by being a good person to your family regardless of who or how they are or aren't, if you get what I mean.

I know what you mean, but I think the kindest thing for me to do right now is to stay the hell away from my family for a few years (they are family members I was never that close to and saw only seldomly in the past anyway).

Ogyen wrote:compassion in all things is dharma.

True. My compassion could use some work. It feels a bit strange to me not to do the Kagyu meditations on compassion that I used to do, but these are my Guru's instructions. I have faith in him and am doing things his way now. Hopefully, I'm setting the stage for compassion to blossom in me in the future. After doing my Ngondro for a month, my mind feels very calm and clear and I feel a very small, general sense of love, but I don't yet possess the compassion for difficult situations.

Ogyen wrote:When I see you, all I see is a very pure person experiencing being human, not the other way around, a human trying to experience purity. So perhaps we are both right, but perhaps being right is irrelevant too. :namaste:

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You're very sweet, Ogyen. Please give your dog a massage, a treat, and almost embarrassing amounts of love for me!

Maybe one day you'll love dogs as much as I do, and maybe one day I'll love humans as much as you do.

P.S. Here's a dog who can almost speak!
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