Buddhism and Western Culture

General forum on Mahayana.

Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby thornbush » Thu Apr 16, 2009 11:45 am

Read this interesting thread elsewhere which started with:
http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index. ... =86806&hl=
Does anyone practice Zen without the Japanese cultural accutriments...?


Can Buddhism, in the West, then be practised without the Western Culture?
I have heard many laments from some Westerners on how warped Buddhism has been with its 'Eastern' flavor, 'trapped' in a yesterday's fascination with all things East...quite similar to how when Christianity was first brought to the East, the Gospel was brought along with all the implications of it being 'western' by the early missionaries.

So, I asked in 3 ways:
Can 'Buddhism' then be without the same trappings of Western mentality and culture? Can the Dharma brethren in the West bring the same Buddha Dharma to the East without Western culture?
Is not the 'Buddhism' supra-culture?

What do you think? :popcorn:
thornbush
 
Posts: 609
Joined: Mon Apr 06, 2009 6:21 am

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby kirtu » Fri Jan 29, 2010 6:08 pm

thornbush wrote:Can Buddhism, in the West, then be practised without the Western Culture?


What is Western Culture?

Personally I was raised in Germany, mainland US and Hawaii and have lived in at least three distinct cultures, with similarities and differences.

So what is Western Culture exactly?

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
User avatar
kirtu
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4371
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:29 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ronnewmexico » Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:10 pm

A very broad definition which applies to the common description....

"Western culture (sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization) refers to cultures of European origin."

In other words, cultures that have adopted their norms(generally how peoples do things) from a European model. This is almost always derived from a predominance of populations but not exclusively. Some south American countries for instance may in the majority have a indegenous population but adhere to the norms found in western(european) cultures. Who hold the economic and political power is probably the determinate. Usually it is the predominate population but not always.

As to Buddhism....it happens always that Buddhism adapts to the culture it is growing into. In Sri Lanka you will find native deity and such incorporated in their form of Buddhism as in a similiar fashion you find the historical deity of India incorporated into Buddhism transfered from INdia to other places. In Tibet the same is present.

There occurs periods perhaps that the core teachings are challenged, and thusly the historical importance of lineage to Buddhism to prevent ultimate corruption of the religion. All Deity is within the purview of lack of inherant existance in Buddhism for example. In transferance to a extreem theisticly oriented culture like most western cultures are, a challenge is very much present to such core belief. So lineage generally is the means whereas core values of Buddhism are retained, and this has served well.

The peoples of cultures new to Buddhism may believe any number of things which may or may not be Buddhism as it corrosponds to core teachings and values. The lineages however invariably contain these core things.

That is why lineage is so important to Buddhism. That is why you will have many western buddhists saying things like.... they are judism adherant Buddhists Christian Buddhists and all sorts of things, which infer incorporation of ultimately considered inherantly existant beings but the lineages cannot be found affirming inherant existance of such things. The closest thing that may be found perhaps is a agnositic type of belief but even that does not incorporate inherantly existant beings.

Personal belief is confused with concensus(of lineage holders) belief. General belief does not qualify a religion, they are not set up as Democracies. The pope is elected for example but only from a select group and once elected he is essentially a dictator for life. Buddhism has no such central authority but all the lineages are essentially republic in form not democratic. You must first qualify as a lineage holder then you can assume a leadership position usually by direct determination of your predesesor or a group of existing predesesors. So to a peoples who think their republics are democracies (such as mistakeningly in the US) this presents another problem. General nonlineage holder view is confused with lineage holder view and given (mistakeningly) equal weight.

IN Buddhism it is always the lineage holders who determine perameters of view.
That is why it has translated to vastly differing cultures and survived largly intact.

So if you find peoples claiming correct interpretation of Buddhism and its tenants by creative interpretation of sutra or sutta but they hold no lineage....be very wary. ABout 100% of the time it is nonsense.

These statements are not to be confused as to apply to what a Buddhist may hold as personal interpretation of their religion. Which basically consists of anything that brings them comfort and assists compassion to grow into their lives. Confuseing the personal with the core structure and beliefs of the lineage is to my opinion a generator of much confusion. A arbitrary limitation of personal belief by dogmatic principal is the flip side of that coin it seems.

In any event Buddhism is as lineage holders define it, not otherwise regardless of the particular political structure into which it grows. That has generated much confusion to the western "democracies" to which it has grown, it seems. That will not change for example, as theistis have not instituted generally democratic institutions of religion despite being in the West. All religions must maintain a teacher student relationship to survive as individual entities with core beliefs seperate from the cultures into which they integrate. If not they dissolve into different religions over time, without commonality of core belief.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
User avatar
ronnewmexico
 
Posts: 1601
Joined: Fri Dec 25, 2009 10:17 pm

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby kirtu » Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:26 pm

ronnewmexico wrote:A very broad definition which applies to the common description....

"Western culture (sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization) refers to cultures of European origin."

In other words, cultures that have adopted their norms(generally how peoples do things) from a European model.


Ok - what are those norms? Can they be enumerated and elucidated? And how fine grained do you want to go to spell these norms out?

Superficially German and US ways of doing things are similar but there can be important differences. Then more frequently people just latch onto current issues that people disagree with and assert that issue as normative for the other.

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
User avatar
kirtu
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4371
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:29 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ronnewmexico » Fri Jan 29, 2010 7:42 pm

The study of culture is a very expansive one of great nuance and specific issue. It is very very easy to quickly loose the forest for the trees, and get lost in the specificity of the issue.

For our intents and purposes there do exist nuances between cultures, and a german culture(for example) may differ in some manners from a American culture. But in large manners such as economic, political, communication media, even language derivitive, and yes religion(and I could go on and on) there are more similiarities than differences.

So European cultures with these general points in common, are looped together for general purposes of communication and called western cultures.

If you want to get into a specific discussion of culture and what constitutes such I would suggest you first read Wikipedia on the issue of culture. It, (about ten pages or so into) becomes quite clear how the forest may be lost for the trees. All true statements but it quickly becomes very technical.

On internet boards cultures are described in common not technical terms. To combine the two causes confusion by my take and leads to mistaken conclusion. A technical discussion on culture may be very interesting and the study of culture and the particular evolution of thought on culture is also very interesting, but beyond the scope of perhaps a religiously oriented board. To draw conclusion when one is describing a technically correct argument on culture when another is describing a common or concensus generally correct argument on culture is impossible.

I'd say here we are describing a common view of culture which is most appropriate for this discussion.

It could immediately get very nuanced if we had a technical discussion of westen culture and Buddhism. So nuanced within a post or two we would be able to draw no reasonable conclusion what so ever.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
User avatar
ronnewmexico
 
Posts: 1601
Joined: Fri Dec 25, 2009 10:17 pm

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby kirtu » Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:18 pm

ronnewmexico wrote:I'd say here we are describing a common view of culture which is most appropriate for this discussion.

It could immediately get very nuanced if we had a technical discussion of westen culture and Buddhism. So nuanced within a post or two we would be able to draw no reasonable conclusion what so ever.


Well that implies that this line should be closed down as if we had a common view of culture. No such common view exists, IMHO.

I asked this question precisely because this statement was asserted:
Can Buddhism, in the West, then be practised without the Western Culture?


This begs for an analysis of what "Western Culture" is supposed to be. What elements endemic to "Western Culture" would hamper the practice of Buddhism?

For our intents and purposes there do exist nuances between cultures, and a german culture(for example) may differ in some manners from a American culture. But in large manners such as economic, political, communication media, even language derivitive, and yes religion(and I could go on and on) there are more similiarities than differences.

Really? Well both English and German are derived from a proto-Indic language that was a precursor of Sanskrit. We can actually trace the influence of Sanskrit upon western languages as if we were not talking about a precursor to Sanskrit but actually what we understand classic Sanskrit to have been. IOW, we can treat English and other western European languages as derivatives of Sanskrit.

As for other similarities, English and German primarily share Greek and Latin word origins and share a very basic simple sentence structure grammar but not much else (both have Subject-Verb-Object structure for simple sentences, adjectives preceding nouns, but otherwise the grammars are generally different).

Economically Germany and the US and the UK are quite different with Germany (and currently all other western European and Scandinavian countries) being a social democracy with significant health care and a significant social safety net. The US and the UK are much more laissez-faire free-for-all get rich or face destitution societies. Politically Germans are (IMO) more democratic than the US as their voting system is a two vote per person system (person and party) for all elected positions. The head of government in the US is elected by the people (albeit not technically directly) and the head of government in Germany is not elected by the people (at least not officially). In the US the head of state and government is the same person. In Germany it is two people (and in the UK, and technically all the Commonwealth Nations, the head of state is not elected). German parliamentary procedure is a kind of cross between the US and UK models. However in the US direct criticism of the head of government during speeches is considered extremely rude and divisive behavior (and usually but not always is in Germany - in the UK they have regular knock down drag out arguments when the head of government and the opposition speaker go at it in scheduled parliamentary debate).

History also plays a role - comparisons between Germany and the US from 1933 - 1945 would show many more divergences (and the great, unfortunate similarity that both were racist states).

Worldwide communication media are similar due to technology. The differences I see arise from degrees of censorship in the society. In this sense western Europe (including the Czech Republic and Austria), Scandinavia, Hungary, Slovenia and Greece and North America and some of Central and South America are very close.

So European cultures with these general points in common, are looped together for general purposes of communication and called western cultures.


What general points in common? And what points preclude the practice of Buddhism?

Are we talking about more than the issue of adherence to the history of a creator god? Is there something in the different forms of western democracy that precludes practicing Buddhism (aggressive French secularism for example, or aggressive Christianity in the US)?

Kirt
Last edited by kirtu on Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:30 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
User avatar
kirtu
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4371
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:29 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ronnewmexico » Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:28 pm

K

You are getting into a discussion that entails a technical analysis of culture. I would suggest a thread started with the title....what constitutes westen culture? may be more appropriate for that discussion. Technical aspect of what constitute culture can them be discussed ad infinitum.
But I personally would not engage in such a discussion as I find it only moderately interesting.

So I will not reply on this issue, as I do not want to get into a discusssion of the technical description and argument on what constitutes culture. It in a very strict sense it may be considered but that would quickly divert the discusssion from one of religous bias to one of cultural and probably anthropological bias.

So I will not participate......good luck with that....Enjoy!

To be clear to others....I will respond to challenges and inquiries to my post that I find on topic and relevent to the issue and within the context, I suppose the initial poster intended.
Last edited by ronnewmexico on Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
User avatar
ronnewmexico
 
Posts: 1601
Joined: Fri Dec 25, 2009 10:17 pm

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby kirtu » Fri Jan 29, 2010 8:46 pm

thornbush wrote:I have heard many laments from some Westerners on how warped Buddhism has been with its 'Eastern' flavor, 'trapped' in a yesterday's fascination with all things East...


What do they mean by Eastern flavor?

Are they talking about Asian facial features on statues? Western Buddhism first began around 300 BC with Greek colony states in what is now central Asia (mostly but not all from Alexander the Great) of which Gandhara is the best known (much of current Afghanistan).

Are they talking about chanting, incense, and bowing? Incense was used in the west when available until the Reformation. Since then mostly Protestant churches haven't used it (however 20 years ago I went to an Episcopal midnight Christmas Mass here in DC and they had two altar boys with incense burners just like in Orthodox Catholic churches). There is chanting in the west (usually in Catholic churches - in protestant churches there are often reading responses but these are definitely not chanting). There is some bowing in the west but of course that too is generally in Catholic churches during special events (priests being ordained for example) so definitely since the Enlightenment and probably well before bowing was practically eliminated.

Are they talking about sitting of the floor on mats/cushions? This just happens to be best physically for meditation and concentration. It's purely physiological (or psycho-physical in terms of body position affecting mental state directly).

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
User avatar
kirtu
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4371
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:29 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby Huifeng » Sat Jan 30, 2010 2:22 am

Great post, Kirtu.

A lot of things that get labelled "western" are actually also quite new for the West itself.
Often, I think that simply "modern / technologically / scientifically developed" may be a better term.
Then, rather than pitting "east" against "west", we can acknowledge that these are not classic western culture, and that at the way things are progressing, many cultures will also face the same issues.
I note that for some places, eg. China, there is the rush for development on one hand, but a resistance against (what they perceives as) "the west" on the other. And elsewhere, eg. Iran, there is a labeling of these things as "western" in efforts to remain in medieval theocracies, rather than other forms of society which don't have to be "western" at all.
User avatar
Huifeng
 
Posts: 1469
Joined: Tue Nov 17, 2009 4:51 am

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ground » Sat Jan 30, 2010 3:43 am

Huifeng wrote:Great post, Kirtu.

A lot of things that get labelled "western" are actually also quite new for the West itself.
Often, I think that simply "modern / technologically / scientifically developed" may be a better term.

I agree that "modern / technologically / scientifically developed" may be that what is often meant when applying the term "western". However "technology" and "science" as we know these phenomena today have their origine in the western world and not in the eastern. So the arising of "technology" and "science" can be seen in a context of "cause and effect". Therefore when speaking about "western" but meaning "modern / technologically / scientifically developed" what really is referred to may be the causes and conditions for "technology" and "science" to appear in the first place. These causes and conditions cannot be separated from what we call "western [history of] thought" or "western culture".

Huifeng wrote:I note that for some places, eg. China, there is the rush for development on one hand, but a resistance against (what they perceives as) "the west" on the other. And elsewhere, eg. Iran, there is a labeling of these things as "western" in efforts to remain in medieval theocracies, rather than other forms of society which don't have to be "western" at all.

I think that these resistances against "the west" or what is considered "western" are not resistances against "technology" and "science" but against the way of "being and seeing" still inherent in "technological and scientific" approaches simply due to the fact that the initial causes and conditions for "technological and scientific" approaches are alien to regions not sharing the outer history and history of thought of the western world.

IMO it is "western mentality" - a term which stands for the whole of "western [history of] thought" and "western outer history" experienced in the "flow of time" to various degrees by individuals and the knowledge thereof being transmitted from generation to generation that will inevitably colour that what is called "buddhism". But since what may be called "western" is actually an isolated thought extract from the whole of present day experience "in the west", a whole which is continually changing in the "global era" that started just a few years ago (and also has its origine (cause) in the "western world") one may hardly say that the result will be a "western" buddhism. Due to "globalization" what is called "western culture" today actually is continually changed by ways of "being and seeing" alien to the "western world of the past". Thus what is referred to by the assessment "western" - in the context of thought and culture - is itself continually changing.

In the long run what is known as "buddhist traditions" today that have their origine in specific cultural environments (comparable to "technology" and "science" having their origine in a specific cultural environment) will not survive without being significantly transformed. But this IMO is a triviality considering that "western" and "eastern" have started to merge. At first glance - being blinded by outer appearances - it may appear as if there is a dominance of "western" in this merging process, but I doubt that how it may appear is how it actually is.

Kind regards
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 1782
Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2009 8:31 am

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby DmitriNet » Sun Jan 31, 2010 5:43 am

One problem with the question is that "Western culture" is considered as something static, something frozen in time. And that is probably one of the biggest misconception about "Western culture".
In fact, it is quite liquid. Given how many people in "Western culture" practice Buddhism, do yoga, tantra, etc., given how all those "Oriental" cultural "things"
have grown into literature, arts and philosophy and everyday life of "Western" countries, it would be difficult to explain what "Western culture" minus "Oriental philosophies" is in this age.
DmitriNet
 
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:20 am
Location: Denver, CO

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ground » Sun Jan 31, 2010 7:15 am

DmitriNet wrote:... it would be difficult to explain what "Western culture" minus "Oriental philosophies" is in this age.

Exactly. Because culture, any culture, does not inherently exist.

:namaste:
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 1782
Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2009 8:31 am

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby zengammon » Sun Jan 31, 2010 7:21 am

Hi thornbush,

"Can 'Buddhism' then be without the same trappings of Western mentality and culture? Can the Dharma brethren in the West bring the same Buddha Dharma to the East without Western culture?
Is not the 'Buddhism' supra-culture?"



Of course, these questions are in process and yet to be answered. I’m American, and in the U.S. it’s doubtful that there will be ONE answer. Rather there will probably be many answers and many variations. But, overall, my short answer is that a ‘cultural container’ seems essential for Buddhism to thrive within a group of people.

In addition to the issues you raise, in the U.S., there is also the issue of “cross training” and cross teaching. Teachers from one discipline (say, Zen) are invited to run retreats in sanghas of other disciplines (say,vipassana). And students also cross train in sanghas other than their home group. Nobody seems yet to have an idea where all this is going.

And, at least in the U.S., there are the two big issues of the relationship of Buddhim to Western Psychology and to Western science. The development of the relationship with psychology is further along and has been much written about.


“I have heard many laments from some Westerners on how warped Buddhism has been with its 'Eastern' flavor…,”

IMS, Insight Meditation Society is an interesting case to look at. When they first started more than 30 years ago, they began with a stripped down version of the teachings in an attempt to make it more accessible to Western students--and culture. They removed any “Eastern flavor.” It was a practical, secular approach that seems to have been successful. However, over time, some of the culturally ‘difficult to accept’ or ‘problematic’ teachings for Westerners, such as Literal Rebirth and Karma, that were left out or de-emphasized in the beginning, have now been restored to the IMS approach and teachings. In the natural course of their practice they came to the realization that Rebirth for example was not an “Eastern flavor,” but rather an essential teaching of the Buddha.

On the other hand, there wasn’t, and to this day isn’t, much bowing or chanting there, which perhaps are seen as purely cultural approaches. (*this is all info from a year and a half ago.)

And IMS has an occasional “retreat for scientists.” But this retreat is not designed for scientists to determine whether or not Buddhism can fit into the Western scientific model, but rather for people who happen to be scientists to learn about Buddhism from a Buddhist perspective. So in this case Buddhism is given the dominant position over the cultural issue.


“can Buddhism, in the West, then be practised without the Western Culture?”


To me, practically speaking, no, Buddhism cannot exist outside of a ‘cultural container’ and still be relevant to the culture at large. Somehow, each culture must adapt to Buddhism and at the same time formulate an approach that is effective within the particular culture –while carefully preserving the essential elements of the Path. But the important thing to me is that the experiment at IMS indicates that Buddhism is effective enough to survive explorations and integration intact. At IMS they seem--for cultural reasons--to have practiced successfully without some of the teachings, and then came naturally in the course of practice to discover the truth of those teachings, integrating them and evolving--as an organization that is a microcosm of larger culture.

So the process is more of an integration of culture and practice, not an either/or thing.

Just my two cents.
http://www.dharma.org/

And a talk by one of the founders, Joseph Goldstein, "Karma" (and rebirth), that shows what they are now teaching:
http://www.dharmaseed.org/teacher/96/talk/2309/
John
zengammon
 
Posts: 34
Joined: Wed Jan 20, 2010 11:57 am
Location: Seoul, Korea. Sometimes California

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ronnewmexico » Sun Jan 31, 2010 8:28 pm

Excellent post and very on point to my opinion.
Agree 100% with every aspect mentioned.

To add..."while carefully preserving the essential elements of the Path" this preserving, has been done historically and is today, through the useage of lineage. If the west abandons lineage, enmass or at large, to my opinion western Buddhism is over as a Buddhist faith. But I see that not happening.
"This order considers that progress can be achieved more rapidly during a single month of self-transformation through terrifying conditions in rough terrain and in "the abode of harmful forces" than through meditating for a period of three years in towns and monasteries"....Takpo Tashi Namgyal.
User avatar
ronnewmexico
 
Posts: 1601
Joined: Fri Dec 25, 2009 10:17 pm

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby DmitriNet » Mon Feb 01, 2010 12:15 am

ronnewmexico wrote: If the west abandons lineage, enmass or at large, to my opinion western Buddhism is over as a Buddhist faith.


Ron, does not this imply that the ideas and practices of Buddhism as preserved in scriptures are not sufficient, for following the Noble Path?

Seems a bit overboard.

Lineages tend to overestimate their role, but that is just a part of the psychology of small groups.

I would think that bauddha-dharma, being reflective of the fundamental nature of human mind, does not depend on any group of people (like a lineage) any more than the geometry depends on continuous lineages of mathematicians.

Regards,
Dmitri.
DmitriNet
 
Posts: 8
Joined: Mon Jan 11, 2010 12:20 am
Location: Denver, CO

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ground » Mon Feb 01, 2010 3:52 am

DmitriNet wrote:I would think that buddha-dharma, being reflective of the fundamental nature of human mind, does not depend on any group of people (like a lineage) any more than the geometry depends on continuous lineages of mathematicians.

Knowledge of geometry and its relations does depend on the transmission of this knowledge. If transmission ceases at some point the development of knowledge has to start from scratch.
This would be comparable with all lineages ceasing.
If (only) single lineages cease it is just that single perspectives will get lost. But it is the variety of lineages that actually represents buddha dharma authentically. The more lineages cease the more distorted conventional buddha dharma (meaning "teachings for beings") will become.

Kind regards
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 1782
Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2009 8:31 am

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby catmoon » Mon Feb 01, 2010 5:28 am

I recently attended an all day teaching and was surprised to see how Western it felt. There were the usual helpful ladies doing setup that are found in all churches, the slightly exotic looking fellow that does the sound board and electronic setup was there, the recititations were set to a chant that was almost a hymn, the recital of a sutra was very like the recital of a creed, there were cookies and coffee and stacking chairs and so on. There was no incense. Following the trend against smokers, perfume wearers and such, burning incense in a public place is nearly a crime and would certainly get you thrown out of a hotel conference room. You even have to be careful about not bringing in highly scented flowers.

There were sign in sheets and registration, and credit card machines and even a small gift shop set up in a corner.

Rather than avoiding physical contact, the "clergy", if you like, were very much open to the shaking of hands and hugs. And they smiled and laughed a lot too. For most of the particapants, getting there involved a car trip and the burning of several gallons of gasoline.

I wonder how difficult it might be to change all this. I wonder if it would even be desirable.
Sergeant Schultz knew everything there was to know.
User avatar
catmoon
Former staff member
 
Posts: 3006
Joined: Thu Nov 19, 2009 3:20 am
Location: British Columbia

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby kirtu » Mon Feb 01, 2010 6:04 am

Huifeng wrote:Great post, Kirtu.

A lot of things that get labelled "western" are actually also quite new for the West itself.
Often, I think that simply "modern / technologically / scientifically developed" may be a better term.


Ok - technology has come up in the postings a bit. But technology is the ongoing development of tools with which humans master the physical world in order to solve problems. Technology has been under development for at least 5000 years and quite probably longer (but machines are probably only a maximum of 5000 years old).

I don't really see what technology has to do with impeding Buddhism.

Science, following the scientific method, restricts itself to investigation of phenomena of the physical world. As it has developed over time, there is a naive tendency to reduce all experience, all phenomena, to physicalism. Perhaps this is asserted as an essential element of western culture that would inhibit Buddhism. If physicalism (following what people view as laws that can be proven using the scientific method) is asserted then of course rebirth is rejected out of hand (after all, we never observe it) and karma is reduced or rejected. And this is based on the western rejection of supernaturalism as phenomena attributed to supernatural activity more than 400 years ago have been shown to have physical causes (or have been shown to be fantasy [werewolves, vampires, rakhas, yakhas, ghosts, etc.]). Literalist mythology has been largely discounted and with it, the entire mythology.

Another point is the rejection of supernatural activities out of hand as an active force in the universe. This resulted in the "God is dead" view, "Where was God in Auschwitz", etc. Miracles are explained away as random physical occurrences, esp. since we can point to many, many other events daily where any number of beings perish.

However, scientific inquiry is not practiced by the majority of westerners who are poor in science, math and esp. logic. In general science is invoked to provide an explanation for a point of view with mostly superficial understanding of the specific facts.

eg. China, there is the rush for development on one hand, but a resistance against (what they perceives as) "the west" on the other.


What do they perceive as western?

And elsewhere, eg. Iran, there is a labeling of these things as "western" in efforts to remain in medieval theocracies, rather than other forms of society which don't have to be "western" at all.


Ironic given the west's centuries long history with theocracy and more recent history with totalitarianism. How do the mullahs justify repeating western history?

The west's history of theocracy resulted in cynicism/skepticism toward religious attainment and loss of faith in religious institutions.

So as far as I can tell, the western scientific cultural thread means: a rejection of the supernatural, an embrace of strict physicalism following scientific laws, a loss of faith wrt spiritual intervention in daily life. Western history also resulted in cynicism wrt religious attainment and loss of faith in religious organizations.

Do you think this is basically correct? And that these elements play a significant role in western culture (cause I'm sleepy and my brain is foggy)?

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
User avatar
kirtu
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4371
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:29 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby kirtu » Mon Feb 01, 2010 6:20 am

DmitriNet wrote:One problem with the question is that "Western culture" is considered as something static, something frozen in time. And that is probably one of the biggest misconception about "Western culture".


One would expect to see cultural elements persist of long periods of time (history). In the English speaking west, the mythology is that western culture is mostly derived from ancient Greek and Roman traditions (in Germany this is paired down just to Roman traditions).

Kirt
Kirt's Tibetan Translation Notes

"Only you can make your mind beautiful."
HH Chetsang Rinpoche
User avatar
kirtu
Former staff member
 
Posts: 4371
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 5:29 pm
Location: Baltimore, MD

Re: Buddhism and Western Culture

Postby ground » Mon Feb 01, 2010 6:29 am

catmoon wrote:I recently attended an all day teaching and was surprised to see how Western it felt. ...

What you are discribing are just outer appearances. If there is "western" distinct from "non-western" then this manifests in phenomena that are more "hidden".

Kind regards
User avatar
ground
 
Posts: 1782
Joined: Mon Nov 23, 2009 8:31 am

Next

Return to Mahāyāna Buddhism

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 21 guests

>