Community in Western Buddhism

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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Wed May 25, 2011 9:43 pm

Purplelotus, you are addressing a real concern, a common problem. Can you elaborate a little more on what you posted (shown below) and I think this will help to keep the discussion more about what people can do to make their dharma centers a little more welcoming.

All the quotes that people have posted are great, but I think the question of how to make dharma centers friendlier begs for more "solution-oriented" suggestions.

purplelotus wrote:I just feel that we are going slightly off track with this topic. There is a real need for Dharma Centres and what appears to be an institutionalised coldness and lack of caring and concern is an important point. It puts people off the Dharma and it is also a bit weird for a religion that stresses love and compassion. One is left with the impression that to become a Buddhist you have to be some mindless robot and advancing in ones practise means you become oblivious to the needs and concerns of others because of one's lofty attainments.

Perhaps I am missing something and if so please correct me.

P
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby purplelotus » Wed May 25, 2011 10:29 pm

PadmaVonSamba wrote:Purplelotus, you are addressing a real concern, a common problem. Can you elaborate a little more on what you posted (shown below) and I think this will help to keep the discussion more about what people can do to make their dharma centers a little more welcoming.

All the quotes that people have posted are great, but I think the question of how to make dharma centers friendlier begs for more "solution-oriented" suggestions.

purplelotus wrote:I just feel that we are going slightly off track with this topic. There is a real need for Dharma Centres and what appears to be an institutionalised coldness and lack of caring and concern is an important point. It puts people off the Dharma and it is also a bit weird for a religion that stresses love and compassion. One is left with the impression that to become a Buddhist you have to be some mindless robot and advancing in ones practise means you become oblivious to the needs and concerns of others because of one's lofty attainments.

Perhaps I am missing something and if so please correct me.



P


Hi PadmaVonSamba and everyone

I think other contributors have already outlined a solution to this problem and I am glad it's not just me because sometimes you do wonder. People have mentioned ways for people connect with each other over tea and food etc. I think that's all it is really, just common sense. Everyone wants to be treated well and that's how you get the best out of people. Also if people are happy they are going to be keen and motivated. It's not rocket science.

I know people in Dharma Centres do work very hard and its a difficult job because dealing with people isn't easy. I agree with the contributor who said that it's really for the teacher to make Centres people friendly. But there is a kind of institutionalised coldness. Where does this come from? Is it something inherited from the monastic system in Tibet? Is it something quintessentially to do with religion or institutions. I am not sure?

P
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby Dechen Norbu » Wed May 25, 2011 10:40 pm

Buddhist Pariah, I'm not sure if you are insinuating that I'm one of those senior students you don't like in Dharma centers. I'm not. I stopped going to Dharma centers a while back. Too much BS, very little Dharma. Not all are like that though. I just don't have much of a choice near me, so I'm affiliated with a center in another country, more than 2.000 kms away from my home. :lol:

Serious practice is serious practice. People engaged in serious practice may not feel the need or have the time to socialize as common folk usually do.
I think you have some issues to deal with over there. Don't mind those who feel superior to you. That's their problem. Just do your thing and don't let others bother you too much. Have an open heart, don't mind if they don't notice you or give you credit. Be helpful and kind. It's even better if people don't pay to much attention to you. You'll have less trouble this way. :smile:
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby Aemilius » Thu May 26, 2011 1:01 pm

Huseng wrote:
Aemilius wrote:
Huseng wrote:Unlike in Christianity where marriage is seen as a sacred union, the Buddha specifically said attachment to family and children is like leaping into the jaws of a tiger. It is quite dangerous.

The viable alternative is running things the way they were run in the original culture of whichever tradition a temple belongs to. In most cases that means supporting the monastics is the primary activity of the lay community. It inevitably brings people together and fosters fellowship.


That is basically false, marriage became quite late a sacrament in history of christianity. In the beginning christianity was much like buddhism in its attitude toward marriage, some people have even seen it as buddhist influence in Europe. Here is what wikipedia says about it. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_marriage


Okay, "Unlike in modern-day Christianity where marriage is seen as a sacred union..."

Maybe Jesus wasn't keen on the idea, but nevertheless Christianity as it exists now generally supports marriage.


The article in Wikipedia has more to say on this topic, for example there is : "Augustine was clear that if everybody stopped marrying and having children that would be an admirable thing; it would mean that the Kingdom of God would return sooner and the world would come to an end. "
and, "People could marry by mutual agreement in the presence of witnesses. This system, known as Spousals, persisted after the Reformation. At first old Roman pagan rite was used by Christians, although modified superficially. The first detailed account of a christian wedding in the West dates from the 9th century and was identical to the old nuptial service of Ancient Rome."

I tried to find figures about the number of monasteries that were supressed in Europe during the Reformation, looks like that the figure is in thousands of monasteries and convents, whose livelihood was taken by the State and whose inhabitats were forced to return to ordinary life. Sounds kind of familiar, doesn't it ? I.e. that Mao ZeDong was continuing in the spirit of European Reformation, ?!?
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suppression_of_Monasteries
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby purplelotus » Thu May 26, 2011 7:42 pm

Serious practice is serious practice. People engaged in serious practice may not feel the need or have the time to socialize as common folk usually do.

Common folk? Really? Don't know whether to laugh or cry Dechen Norbu!

P :bow:
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu May 26, 2011 8:24 pm

By common folk, I mean people who aren't engaged in serious practice like long retreats, remaining or trying to remain in instant awareness all day, keeping the commitments 24/7 and so on and so forth, probably 99% of the world's population. I see myself as part of those 99% who aren't completely immersed in a life of practice. So I'm also common folk! :smile: Those are my standards for serious practice. Then there's average practice, mediocre practice and no practice at all. I would say great practitioners as my teacher are not common folk. I see them as very special and uncommon (think statistically if you will).

So why do you have to be so negative about a perfectly innocent term? :shrug: And then you bow?! What is that? :(

I'm sorry to say, but I think one of the problems about Dharma centers is exactly the sort of behavior you display here, P. You throw a stone and then hide behind bows. That has a name: hypocrisy and it's, sadly, one of the reasons I don't go much to Dharma centers.
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Thu May 26, 2011 8:43 pm

I doubt Dechen Norbu meant the term "common folk" in a derogatory way. It just sounds weird to Americans. Like something one might hear at Buckingham Green, spoken by these guys:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TSqkdcT25ss
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu May 26, 2011 8:46 pm

I think everyone knows I'm not a native speaker. It shows doesn't it? I do my best to communicate with you fellows, but I'm sure that many times I fail to use the more adequate expressions. :emb: When in doubt, why not ask me what I mean? Seriously, I don't mind. :smile:
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Thu May 26, 2011 8:52 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:I think everyone knows I'm not a native speaker. It shows doesn't it? I do my best to communicate with you fellows, but I'm sure that many times I fail to use the more adequate expressions. :emb: When in doubt, why not ask me what I mean? Seriously, I don't mind. :smile:


It's easy to forget that English isn't your first language.
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby BuddhistPariah » Thu May 26, 2011 9:29 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:Buddhist Pariah, I'm not sure if you are insinuating that I'm one of those senior students you don't like in Dharma centers. I'm not. I stopped going to Dharma centers a while back. Too much BS, very little Dharma. Not all are like that though. I just don't have much of a choice near me, so I'm affiliated with a center in another country, more than 2.000 kms away from my home. :lol:


Denchen Norbu sorry but I wasn't insinuating that, in my opinion you look very much like a gentle guy. That's why I think your are developing an art writing your messages very close to Pastry Chef Art. Did you notice that in this message you put less sugar than in the first one? you decorated your first message with pink colour and this second one is closer to blue. :stirthepot:

Dechen Norbu wrote:Serious practice is serious practice. People engaged in serious practice may not feel the need or have the time to socialize as common folk usually do.
I think you have some issues to deal with over there. Don't mind those who feel superior to you. That's their problem. Just do your thing and don't let others bother you too much. Have an open heart, don't mind if they don't notice you or give you credit. Be helpful and kind. It's even better if people don't pay to much attention to you. You'll have less trouble this way. :smile:


Serious Practitioner is often a label Dharma Centre People use to describe themselves, that's why at the end doesn't mean much to me. The problem is when this elites of senior students socialize with themselves but not with those inferior cockroaches around, even when some of those despicable ones have been working as volunteer in that centre for almost two years or almost a decade.

It is true that that isn't the only problem on the centres but is very worrying to see that the longer you've been there the worse you are. There are exceptions of course!
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Thu May 26, 2011 9:41 pm

BuddhistPariah wrote:Serious Practitioner is often a label Dharma Centre People use to describe themselves, that's why at the end doesn't mean much to me. The problem is when this elites of senior students socialize with themselves but not with those inferior cockroaches around, even when some of those despicable ones have been working as volunteer in that centre for almost two years or almost a decade.

It is true that that isn't the only problem on the centres but is very worrying to see that the longer you've been there the worse you are. There are exceptions of course!


As I suggested before, this is a problem that does persist in some Dharma centers, but not all. It's the teacher's job to extinguish it when it flares up. This can be slow in coming, however, in situations where the teacher sees that particular group of students only once a year or less...
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby Dechen Norbu » Thu May 26, 2011 10:55 pm

Thank you for your kind words, guys.
Yes, well... when all is said and done we always have the choice to choose where we decide to hang around. If we see no advantage in going to a certain center, we can try others, but it's unlikely that we find the perfect center.

In the end we have to deal with our expectations and it's important that our practice doesn't end up depending on the reactions we get from other people. We obviously see others faults, but should mainly worry with our own. Sometimes this last sentence is abused to silence people when they have the right to speak about what they don't like, but the fact remains that we will never find perfect conditions. This is samsara, after all.

We see what we see, behave honestly and hold no grudges. The "superior type of fellows" some of you are talking about have their problems to deal with and may be getting the wrong end of the stick. It may be the case that instead of taking advantage of Dharma practice they are "becoming immune to it" and that's motive for sorrow, worthy of great compassion. Sometimes we can't do more than dedicating them our merits and letting them be, moving along ourselves.
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Fri May 27, 2011 2:08 am

Everybody brings their problems to the dharma.
Whenever you see problems at a dharma center, you are seeing those problems that people have brought with them.
Sometimes when patients spend a lot of time in a hospital, they begin to think they are the doctors.
Some people can spend a lifetime practicing and they still don't get it.
When things are not what we expected, where does the problem lie?
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The Chinese characters are Fo (buddha) and Ming (bright). The image is of a student of Buddhism, who, imagining himself to be a monk, and not understanding the true meaning of the words takes the sound of the words literally. Likewise, People on web forums sometime seem to be foaming at the mouth.
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby purplelotus » Fri May 27, 2011 9:02 am

Dechen Norbu wrote:By common folk, I mean people who aren't engaged in serious practice like long retreats, remaining or trying to remain in instant awareness all day, keeping the commitments 24/7 and so on and so forth, probably 99% of the world's population. I see myself as part of those 99% who aren't completely immersed in a life of practice. So I'm also common folk! :smile: Those are my standards for serious practice. Then there's average practice, mediocre practice and no practice at all. I would say great practitioners as my teacher are not common folk. I see them as very special and uncommon (think statistically if you will).

So why do you have to be so negative about a perfectly innocent term? :shrug: And then you bow?! What is that? :(

I'm sorry to say, but I think one of the problems about Dharma centers is exactly the sort of behavior you display here, P. You throw a stone and then hide behind bows. That has a name: hypocrisy and it's, sadly, one of the reasons I don't go much to Dharma centers.



Lets just say it was lost in translation then. I meant no offence but it just came across as so elitist and rather ironic in view of the subject we are discussing.

So I do apologise for any offence caused. :smile:

P
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby muni » Fri May 27, 2011 12:27 pm

purplelotus wrote:
Dechen Norbu wrote:By common folk, I mean people who aren't engaged in serious practice like long retreats, remaining or trying to remain in instant awareness all day, keeping the commitments 24/7 and so on and so forth, probably 99% of the world's population. I see myself as part of those 99% who aren't completely immersed in a life of practice. So I'm also common folk! :smile: Those are my standards for serious practice. Then there's average practice, mediocre practice and no practice at all. I would say great practitioners as my teacher are not common folk. I see them as very special and uncommon (think statistically if you will).

So why do you have to be so negative about a perfectly innocent term? :shrug: And then you bow?! What is that? :(

I'm sorry to say, but I think one of the problems about Dharma centers is exactly the sort of behavior you display here, P. You throw a stone and then hide behind bows. That has a name: hypocrisy and it's, sadly, one of the reasons I don't go much to Dharma centers.



Lets just say it was lost in translation then. I meant no offence but it just came across as so elitist and rather ironic in view of the subject we are discussing.

So I do apologise for any offence caused. :smile:

P


suppose, you mean people with worldly aims.
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby BuddhistPariah » Fri May 27, 2011 12:45 pm

Jikan wrote:As I suggested before, this is a problem that does persist in some Dharma centers, but not all. It's the teacher's job to extinguish it when it flares up. This can be slow in coming, however, in situations where the teacher sees that particular group of students only once a year or less...


That is normally a hard job for the teacher even when is resident, because even in that case the Centre may split in two or more centres. Dharma Centre Politics at the end are more loudly than what the teacher says. This is my experience: In the same village the centre split in two centres with the same resident teacher, both of them have facebook pages but are not facebook friends of each other.

It would be interesting to see statistics of splitting Buddhist Centres.
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby Dechen Norbu » Fri May 27, 2011 4:35 pm

purplelotus wrote:
Dechen Norbu wrote:By common folk, I mean people who aren't engaged in serious practice like long retreats, remaining or trying to remain in instant awareness all day, keeping the commitments 24/7 and so on and so forth, probably 99% of the world's population. I see myself as part of those 99% who aren't completely immersed in a life of practice. So I'm also common folk! :smile: Those are my standards for serious practice. Then there's average practice, mediocre practice and no practice at all. I would say great practitioners as my teacher are not common folk. I see them as very special and uncommon (think statistically if you will).

So why do you have to be so negative about a perfectly innocent term? :shrug: And then you bow?! What is that? :(

I'm sorry to say, but I think one of the problems about Dharma centers is exactly the sort of behavior you display here, P. You throw a stone and then hide behind bows. That has a name: hypocrisy and it's, sadly, one of the reasons I don't go much to Dharma centers.



Lets just say it was lost in translation then. I meant no offence but it just came across as so elitist and rather ironic in view of the subject we are discussing.

So I do apologise for any offence caused. :smile:

P

No problem. :smile:
I'm sure I could blame myself of jumping the gun too easily on occasion.

I'm elitist though, meaning I believe there's a very important group of serious practitioners whose existence is fundamental to us all. I consider it a rare and very useful elite of practitioners who keep experiencing Dharma practice to its full consequences, ripening its fruits and teaching others. Sometimes you can see this elite in some Dharma centers, made of the lamas and their heart disciples. If this elite disappears, and it will, Buddhadharma will be lost. It's normal that this elite of practitioners doesn't have the time or the inclination to hang around a lot with us, less diligent practitioners, not because they feel superior, but because they have more important things to do (like realizing enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings :lol: ). Knowing this bothers some people's egos. We have this ingrained tendency to think of us as good or worthy practitioners, based on our feelings and not our practice.
I feel very grateful to those who don't have time to be around as much as I would like because they are striving for enlightenment.
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Fri May 27, 2011 5:18 pm

BuddhistPariah wrote:
Jikan wrote:As I suggested before, this is a problem that does persist in some Dharma centers, but not all. It's the teacher's job to extinguish it when it flares up. This can be slow in coming, however, in situations where the teacher sees that particular group of students only once a year or less...


That is normally a hard job for the teacher even when is resident, because even in that case the Centre may split in two or more centres. Dharma Centre Politics at the end are more loudly than what the teacher says. This is my experience: In the same village the centre split in two centres with the same resident teacher, both of them have facebook pages but are not facebook friends of each other.

It would be interesting to see statistics of splitting Buddhist Centres.


I don't see that so much a sangha-splitting as I do a purging of incompetent students, sadly.

I take your point that dharma center politics can overwhelm a sangha, effectively making it impossible for the teacher to teach or lead. I'm not convinced it happens as categorically as you describe, however. In my own experience, I've seen the opposite happen: the teacher does the occasionally dirty and unpleasant work of teaching, and the students stay and learn and maintain a harmonious attitude, or they break like the wind.
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby Jikan » Sat May 28, 2011 12:11 am

Should have mentioned this earlier:

Peter Hershock's essay "Family Matters" offers some useful ideas on how community in the sense of fellowship and mutual support can be built in Buddhist groups. Worth your time.

http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethi ... iberation/
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Re: Community in Western Buddhism

Postby xylem » Sat May 28, 2011 5:13 pm

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