Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

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

Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby Jikan » Fri Oct 29, 2010 3:04 pm

Yeah. So much of it is about patience with oneself and others.

Here's another angle at it:

One time someone asked the great bodhisattva-mahasattva Richard Pryor what it means to love someone. He thought about it and concluded that it's just about sitting next to them and listening for a while. He's onto something: if you can just be real with people, you can start to penetrate the Gr Gr Gr and let the ol' Buddha light shine.

I'm not particularly good at this, but I've seen it happen enough to know it works. I've also met Christians who have shown signs of yogic attainment. (I'm not saying they're enlightened by any Buddhist definition, merely that they've learned a lot and developed a lot through intentional practice.) One particular example: www.sno.org.

Before I turn this into a rant myself, I'll just tie this up by saying that we do no one any favors at all if we try to imagine Christianity or Islam or any other religion as an "enemy," as an "evil." yes, there are deluded people about who identify with every major religion on this planet, but that's beside the point: our enemy is delusion and unkindness, not anyone's creed or heritage.

stepping away from the :soapbox: .
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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby Belincia » Sat Jan 01, 2011 12:59 pm

I have not really encountered much negative when telling I am buddhist.
Several times I have heard people saying "if I was on some religion then buddhist" (tho a guy who said that later debated with me that human mind cannot change. Be buddhist then and believe that you can't change mind ;) ).
And my parents are on a rather strict Christian sect, still they seem to not think really badly of my religion either. Some people of this sect I've talked with have also just been genuinely curious of buddhism... Many have asked why I am buddhist, and what buddhists believe in...

And ah well, an atheist asked me if I consider myself religious person. I answered that I consider myself rather religious and I am buddhist... Well he said immediately "Buddhism isn't a religion!"... and so on...
I have encountered the same from some ... That someone who isn't buddhist themselves come telling me what buddhism teaches and what not :roll:

And oh well one Christian also said that of course religion is very important to me since I am buddhist... He seemed to think that religion is a lot more important for buddhists than say, Christians themselves...

And once I was told buddhism is just "mumbo-jumbo".. that person seemed to think it can't really even be any serious religion.

I'd say, in general, people doesn't really have much of an idea what buddhism even is.
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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby Kyorei » Mon Jan 03, 2011 12:35 am

Having lived a good portion of my life in the southern US (as an unaffiliated "liberal Christian" many years ago, and also as an atheist), I have generally always kept my head low on such subject matters. As someone learning and practicing Zen Buddhism, I still generally keep my head low, though I don't hide books I am reading as I once did, particularly when I was, in more specific terms, an atheist-- which, from where I live, is even worse apparently than being gay (and I was never even a sort of "hardcore atheist").

I tend to avoid discussions that head toward religious discussion. My boss is affiliated with a fundamentalist church, and I find its best to keep those things unspoken. The CEO has started off staff meetings (with well over 100 people present) by leading us in prayer. Perhaps it is not as bad as this in other parts of the US, but there is a predominant fundamentalist voice present here which displays some of the worst features of Christianity. I could tell many other stories from living here that touch on religion that have led me to keep many of my religious (and left-leaning political) thoughts to myself. Its just easier-- and sometimes safer-- that way.

Not that I wish to advertise such things to to others-- but neither should I concern myself with hiding things. For all the talk of US American "individualism" there is an awful lot of implied conformity...

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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby gyougan » Wed Jan 05, 2011 1:54 pm

Where I live (Finland), the atheists are much more troublesome than Christians. Especially young men here around here are becoming quite aggressive atheists at an alarming pace. It is very difficult to have any meaningful conversation with these people since for them anything that can not be measured and "proved" by statistics is hogwash. And unfortunately these people are often really disrespectful and hate anything that even remotely resembles a religion. They seem to posses a sense of superiority over all those who practice a religion or believe in something that is not generally accepted by science.

I really feel that at least in Northern Europe, it is atheists at this moment that make living as a Buddhist troublesome. Not Christians.
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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby tobes » Mon Jan 10, 2011 1:42 am

The normative religion where I live is alcohol.

It is worshipped as the patron deity, and there are a manifold of temples in her honour.

Rejecting this on any grounds is considered blasphemous. Actually I am quite serious about this: drinking alcohol and becoming an intoxicated idiot is genuinely considered moral behaviour. It is kind of the unwritten normative code of our culture.

In this kind of context, practicing shila and abstaining from the alcohol is considered highly suspect.

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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby Pero » Mon Jan 10, 2011 3:33 am

tobes wrote:In this kind of context, practicing shila and abstaining from the alcohol is considered highly suspect.


It's boring too.
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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby Tree » Mon Jan 10, 2011 5:38 pm

tobes wrote:The normative religion where I live is alcohol.

It is worshipped as the patron deity, and there are a manifold of temples in her honour.

Rejecting this on any grounds is considered blasphemous. Actually I am quite serious about this: drinking alcohol and becoming an intoxicated idiot is genuinely considered moral behaviour. It is kind of the unwritten normative code of our culture.

In this kind of context, practicing shila and abstaining from the alcohol is considered highly suspect.

:namaste:


Are you from Australia like me?

Australia is like this.
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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby Blue Garuda » Mon Jan 10, 2011 5:56 pm

gyougan wrote:Where I live (Finland), the atheists are much more troublesome than Christians. Especially young men here around here are becoming quite aggressive atheists at an alarming pace. It is very difficult to have any meaningful conversation with these people since for them anything that can not be measured and "proved" by statistics is hogwash. And unfortunately these people are often really disrespectful and hate anything that even remotely resembles a religion. They seem to posses a sense of superiority over all those who practice a religion or believe in something that is not generally accepted by science.

I really feel that at least in Northern Europe, it is atheists at this moment that make living as a Buddhist troublesome. Not Christians.


I also note a growth in atheist Buddhists who seem almost angry at the mention of post-mortem rebirth and the realms of existence. Some are downright rude about what they term 'superstition'.

More on-topic, there are some very intolerant Christians here in the UK. I've experienced and heard instances of pressure being placed by churches on village hall managers not to permit even Yoga as it is anti-Christian. The local YMCA will not Buddhist meditation in its hall. I understand that, but they permit all manner of fighting arts (turn the other cheek and let me kick it?).

At the same time Christians here are promoting the Alpha Course all over the country - or the 'Alpha Curse' as I term it - which acts like a brainwashing cult in recruiting for their congregations.

One very tolerant organisation seems to be the Congregational Church - our local church allows all faiths to hire rooms and never seeks to proselytise.
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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby Dharmakara » Tue Jan 11, 2011 3:22 am

It goes without saying that being a Christian in a Buddhist country isn't a walk in the park either, another aspect for reflection as this is truly a multifaceted topic for discussion.
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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby Ogyen » Tue Jan 11, 2011 5:43 am

I live in a predominantly Catholic culture in Mexico, but in a bordertown, so it has America's hardcore hypocrtical religulous population alongside a pretty indifferent atheist approach to life.

I don't particularly feel it's anyone's business that I'm a Buddhist, it's not about me. I always have an answer ready to go though if asked about Buddhism as my friends know I'm Buddhist because they've explicitly asked. My answer to go is like Keith's. I lay out the 4 noble truths in simple and daily language. Nothing fancy, nothing exotic, just what we can all resonate with.

I don't think there is anything right or wrong in expressing one's faith, it's a matter of choice in how you want to face your day. If you are ok with religious attention, you present your religiosity to your peers, and that can be a wonderful and inspiring quality or can be preachy and in your face, depending on the day.

I'm not all that skilled with the topic when it comes to monotheistic paradigms so I tend to steer away from the religious emphasis of any given situation. For example a good friend of mine has a very Catholic mother, whom I care a great deal about. When things happen, she often tells her daughter it's god punishing them because they didn't do the *insert right thing to do here*. I don't argue the bit about god, instead say, Ok, even so, God punishing me does not need to prevent us from doing the right thing now. The facts are. This or that happened. The facts are, to make this or that right, we have to do this or that action to amend for the mistake. Even she can't argue with that. I'm not saying God isn't punishing us, I had an aunt who used to spout some hindu karmic stuff about people getting their dues, haha, but really, it doesn't matter which power that be did what, the most important thing is to see the situation for what it really is and not how it feels through the lens of fearful emotions.

This means normally I don't care for the religious attention. Too often it tends to be a divisive topic rather than an inclusive one when dealing with monotheisms, not only but it pushes people's deepest buttons if they're serious believers, and I live by the creed: Primum non nocere. Cura te ipsum. First do no harm. Cure your self instead.

The only time I discuss religion is when I can see clearly that addressing it in conversation directly benefits the person listening, in particular it benefits them in healing some part of themselves. I always ask myself how anyone knowing something about me benefits them. If it does not and it only benefits me, I've been practicing refraining when I speak... Most people give you clear cues if they are really curious about dharma. They usually let you know that they want to know or learn about Buddhism and ask you direct questions about it.

It's ironic that I have this view point and I happened to speak with a friend about dharma a few months ago. She has since asked three times, and the first two times I simply said what seemed fit for the circumstances, mostly I'm really a beginner, not qualified to explain, but it is a path in helping those who need help. I help because I know what it feels like to be alone and in much pain and need the help.

The third time she asked me and asked me to do an interview on her TV show on a local tv channel in town. I shared with her that I am Buddhist because I practice dharma, and not because of any ritual or church. She wanted to know about esoteric practices and asked about astrology and tarot. I had mentioned that I had studied these forms before coming to Buddhism and had explored many forms of truth. However, this is the truth I have experienced in all that I studied. Esoteric or mundane forms of understanding life and systems of mind like astrology and tarot have no more power or magic than my morning cereal.

Truly it is the mind that guides itself, not something divine outside the being right now. Whether there is or isn't a divine being outside my house in the sky may well be, I have no way to say either way, but I have lived this life and have suffered this way thus far. And I don't want to anymore, but I realize I've come to this place because of the ways I've chosen to see things in time, and now my perception is what I see through. But what I see isn't necessarily the truth, what seems isn't necessarily what is.

Immediately, regarding interviewing, I didn't feel comfortable speaking for "the dharma" to local Mexico as a complete noob to Buddhism and practice. I wouldn't say 2 years of having taken refuge qualifies me as much more than noob.

I thought it over and realized, I could speak about something I knew about. Kindness. The four noble truths. Taking responsibility for ourselves by first of all breathing and being present. So on the third time she asked me to interview on her show, I said, ok.

We met for the show, I talked about something simple. The warm tenderness that gets elicited from daily experiences, and how we can see in them the 4 noble truths. There is suffering, but we are intelligent capable beings who can help alleviate ourselves by being present, by keeping warmth in ourselves, and not becoming rigid to the life we encounter. Compassion comes from knowing suffering. Without suffering's existence, there would be no need to have compassion, everyone would be fine. But the whole world hurts, big and small. Everyone is subject to hope and fear, therefore everyone goes between pleasure and pain. We hate losing what we love, we hate things changing from comfortable forms to uncomfortable ones, we don't much like getting what we want to avoid, these things are hard to tackle every day.

I spoke of the things I usually speak of, which aren't religious per se. They're simply human. I told her the path I practice advocates guardianship of those with no protector, caring for those in need, and helping the weakest become self sufficient. In Mexico we could do this by making sure that those who don't have are taught to be able to provide for themselves, even if we started small with just being present in the moment, we can reach it. I asked the audience at home to just try taking 10 deep breaths without thinking, without the inner voice talking. I said, you count and you see. If you can get to 10 you are doing far better than I when I first started breathing normally.

I talked about appreciating life in every stage, and how even though some days are more bitter than others, this is perfectly human, what is the alternative? There is no alternative to the present but the one we're in. So, we have the ability to truly transform in real time, to stop being what is damaging, in every moment that we are, we can know who we are in what we do and how we see ourselves and the world around us.

I showed a mala, a singing bowl, a prayer wheel. I spoke of how these are tools of prayer, but not prayer to a god necessarily, prayer in the form of concentrating intention, goodness and compassion into the moments of each day. Reflecting on this very moment, the beginning and the end of your breath is the core of the beginning of life and the ending of death. We use what we encounter in our lives, ordinary as they may be as opportunities to build a momentum kindness, sharing, and truly joy. Because joy that is shared is the elixir of life.

She asked me if Buddhists believe in god. I said, it's not that Buddhists affirm or deny the presence of a god per se, whether there is or isn't is simply not relevant to the you-and-me daily life. Can god appear right now and take this arthritis from me please? Not really, I need a doctor. So I take medicine. Buddhism is like medicine for being present and clear.

There is no real conflict with following your culture's customs, and many of my Catholic friends here are more by culture than any real belief in God, there is a rich heritage tied into the local celebrations of food and love and life. You cannot go somewhere and tell people they need to change their way of life. That's very harmful. You must respect the environment of culture. Catholicism in Mexico is a deep part of the people's way of relating to daily life.

My belief on this is that you can still believe in your culture's ways and have clarity of mind. Dharma is a method to find the cessation of your own suffering, the universal language of wisdom that speaks through cultural appearance. Really all it asks you to do is stop and relax long enough to know what this moment is made of. Who knows what a clear and tranquil mind can do. No matter what religion you're from. There are simple or complex techniques, depending on the mind doing the thinking. Dharma is truth that takes the shape of its practitioner's actions. We need our humanity. It is what carries this truth across language and the barriers of body.

What I think is that being a Buddhist in a Christian/Catholic society does not necessarily mean there has to be a conflict. People like using logic, wisdom, why are elders so respected in so many societies? Because there is a strong presence of respecting wisdom built within the fabric of the culture's aesthetic. Except America. It throws away its old like trash. Puts them in homes to die without the warmth of their families, because people have lives that are too busy to take care of those who took care of them.

Being a Buddhist in a Christian society involves a lot of trials of "self" and not being the center of my own world, because I have to deeply respect the matrix my friends come from the way they respect mine. And I still respect those who don't respect mine, because well, that's on me, not them.

Thank you for such an inspiring question!

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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jan 11, 2011 9:20 am

Imagine being Buddhist in a Buddhist society -- everyone knows your refuge vows and will remind you when you start swaying from them. :crying:

As a layperson it wouldn't be a big deal, but traditionally Buddhist societies keep their monks and nuns in line.

For example if you were in Taiwan and in robes, if you walked into a bar and ordered a steak and beer people could possibly get quite upset.
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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby tobes » Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:09 am

Tree wrote:
tobes wrote:The normative religion where I live is alcohol.

It is worshipped as the patron deity, and there are a manifold of temples in her honour.

Rejecting this on any grounds is considered blasphemous. Actually I am quite serious about this: drinking alcohol and becoming an intoxicated idiot is genuinely considered moral behaviour. It is kind of the unwritten normative code of our culture.

In this kind of context, practicing shila and abstaining from the alcohol is considered highly suspect.

:namaste:


Are you from Australia like me?

Australia is like this.


Ha! Yes. I must have described our *culture* well!

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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby tobes » Tue Jan 11, 2011 10:12 am

Pero wrote:
tobes wrote:In this kind of context, practicing shila and abstaining from the alcohol is considered highly suspect.


It's boring too.


Not nearly as boring as long, dull, boozy conversations where everyone is intrinsically convinced of their own greatness.....

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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby Dharmakara » Tue Jan 11, 2011 11:16 am

Huseng wrote:Imagine being Buddhist in a Buddhist society -- everyone knows your refuge vows and will remind you when you start swaying from them. :crying:

As a layperson it wouldn't be a big deal, but traditionally Buddhist societies keep their monks and nuns in line.

For example if you were in Taiwan and in robes, if you walked into a bar and ordered a steak and beer people could possibly get quite upset.


True, one would hope anyway, though this doesn't appear to be the case in Japan.

I recall an article on the Buddhist Channel dealing with the struggles of the Japanese Sangha, where it mentioned not only monks sharing beer with laymembers in taverns, but in one instance the tavern in question was actually owned by a senior-ranking monk.

Out of curiousity, do you think this might be more related to the current state of Buddhism in Japan or a shift in how laymembers perceive the Sangha itself?
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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jan 11, 2011 12:03 pm

Dharmakara wrote:True, one would hope anyway, though this doesn't appear to be the case in Japan.

I recall an article on the Buddhist Channel dealing with the struggles of the Japanese Sangha, where it mentioned not only monks sharing beer with laymembers in taverns, but in one instance the tavern in question was actually owned by a senior-ranking monk.


There is nothing at all unusual about Japanese monks drinking liquor even to the point of severe intoxication.

This is, after all, Japan where alcoholism is considered an amusing personality trait rather than a problem.

In some companies they even gauge your potential by your ability to withstand round after round of hard liquor.

I recall there being a bar with a Siddham (archaic Sanskrit letters) theme. The owners, who are priests, think people might take an interest in Buddhism once again if they frequent such an establishment.

In Japan a monk can do anything anyone else can. It doesn't matter. As long as you don't kill anyone or break any really severe worldly laws, nobody cares really. You can even go out and shot wild animals. I know of one Zen abbot who is said to have done this (and not in self-defence).

Out of curiousity, do you think this might be more related to the current state of Buddhism in Japan or a shift in how laymembers perceive the Sangha itself?


Perhaps it is both. The state of Buddhism in Japan is frequently called a "funeral religion" by the natives. You only ever call up a temple when somebody has died and you need a priest to mutter a bunch of archaic scriptures while ringing a bell. On top of that there are many other rituals that are performed well after the person has died. They have a whole system of temple patronage where you basically pay a priest a lot of cash to look after the remains of your dead relatives.

It ain't cheap. Hence why Japanese people generally perceive Buddhism as a "funeral religion" and nothing more.

The priesthood does not help matters much. They're all married with children and living an ordinary life like anyone else. If you felt a need to seek out spiritual things, would you look to such a person who lives the same way you do? In any case, most priests are not spiritual guides anyway. They're basically funeral directors and grave diggers. Would you call up the funeral chapel director for spiritual advice?

That's why a lot of spiritual seekers in Japan end up in cultish new religions.

I pray Tibetan Buddhism and Theravada make quick headway in Japan in the coming decades.
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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby Dharmakara » Tue Jan 11, 2011 12:47 pm

Huseng, thanks for taking the time. I was aware of much of this, as well as fashion shows and monastic hiphop/rap, but not in such detail. I suspect you're correct that both factors are involved in this sad scenario. Whether Tibetan or Theravada, anything would be better that the current state of affairs, though the Tibetan tradition would probably turn out to be the most likely successor should such a prayer be answered, yes?
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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby Mr. G » Tue Jan 11, 2011 12:57 pm

Dharmakara wrote:Huseng, thanks for taking the time. I was aware of much of this, as well as fashion shows and monastic hiphop/rap, but not in such detail.


This is interesting too:

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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jan 11, 2011 1:36 pm

Dharmakara wrote:Huseng, thanks for taking the time. I was aware of much of this, as well as fashion shows and monastic hiphop/rap, but not in such detail. I suspect you're correct that both factors are involved in this sad scenario. Whether Tibetan or Theravada, anything would be better that the current state of affairs, though the Tibetan tradition would probably turn out to be the most likely successor should such a prayer be answered, yes?


There is a lot of interest in "Original Buddhism" and in Japan that usually means the Pali canon.

That's why I suspect Theravada could rapidly grow.
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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby kirtu » Tue Jan 11, 2011 3:03 pm

Huseng wrote:That's why a lot of spiritual seekers in Japan end up in cultish new religions.


So is this terrible state of affairs the same across traditions? Are there no upstanding Obaku, Soto, Rinzai, Sanbo Kyodan, Shingon, Jodo, Jodo Shin, Nichiren, Nipponzan Myohoji places?

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Re: Being a Buddhist in a Christian society

Postby Indrajala » Tue Jan 11, 2011 8:55 pm

kirtu wrote:
Huseng wrote:That's why a lot of spiritual seekers in Japan end up in cultish new religions.


So is this terrible state of affairs the same across traditions? Are there no upstanding Obaku, Soto, Rinzai, Sanbo Kyodan, Shingon, Jodo, Jodo Shin, Nichiren, Nipponzan Myohoji places?

Kirt


Sure, there are some and I could name them too.

However, public perception of Japanese Buddhism is that it is just a bunch of dudes who do funerals and get paid stupid sums of money for it.
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