How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

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How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby Luke » Wed Mar 24, 2010 11:31 pm

I realized tonight how different I've become from ordinary people by studying Buddhism.

I went to a bar where a club of expats meets tonight and I was chatting with some women which I'd never met before. One asked me what I do for fun and my answer was that I "do Tibetan meditation and yoga and I exercise." As the conversation evolved, I revealed that I was really involved with a Buddhist center. After about half an hour, the ladies promptly relocated to another sector of the room. I know they were just searching for the usual thing: a normal, but appealing guy they could settle down and have kids with. I am neither normal, nor do I want children (most likely).

I wasn't really interested in them and didn't really care, but it made me realize how strange my interests sound to ordinary people. I'm totally fascinated with Buddhism, even though I still know so little about it. I'd never give up Buddhism for any woman.

At the same time, I can feel compassion for these women because I can see from their perspective how terrible and strange I must seem to them. Buddhism is not something most people want to even think about. It's too serious. It doesn't offer short term thrills (well, I do find meeting famous lamas thrilling...). It's so alien and foreign to them. For this reason, I try not to bring it up, but I can't avoid talking about it after a while because it is my main interest.

Anyway, how do other people react to you when they find out that you're a Buddhist?

My relatives are supportive or at least neutral, but think it's a bit strange.

A lot of work is still left to be done before Buddhist communities become a very ordinary part of life in the west.
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby KeithBC » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:07 am

I am fortunate to live in a community where being Buddhist is considered ordinary. There are probably more Wiccans here than Buddhists, but it is the church-going Christians who are considered odd. :alien:

My family, on the other hand, consider me strange :rolleye: , but they're used to it by now.

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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby meindzai » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:51 am

I get either no reaction or a "that's interesting," kind of thing, but I tend to attract liberal people. Almost ironically, the ones that understand the most seem to be people who are actively involved with a church of some kind. Not fundy types who preach but people who are active and involved and actually, you know, do stuff. I have yet to get any kind of negative reaction.

-M
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby Clueless Git » Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:35 am

Luke wrote:Anyway, how do other people react to you when they find out that you're a Buddhist?.

Usualy they ask if a buddhist should be holding people up with a gun and, if not, please can I have my wallet back?

Um, I said that to be funny. It isn't actualy true ...

Seriously I have never had owt much but polite curiosity as to what a buddhist is and what do buddhists do.
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby plwk » Thu Mar 25, 2010 3:20 am

Lets see...
My dad told me to get out of the da house...
My ma took all of my Buddhist stuff and basically toasted it in a bonfire...
My own sis said...'Yeah so? What's next? Islam?'
A close godsister attempted to get me into her church and when I refused, she slammed the phone down on me and its been years now...
Some of my Christian frens kept their distance...
Some non Christians were curious (as they were used to hearing Buddhists becoming Christians and not vice versa)
But for others..none really bothered...

Life goes on :popcorn:
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Mar 25, 2010 4:32 am

In Japan when I tell people I'm studying Buddhism at university here they often ask, "Oh, but you're Christian, right?"

Um, no, I'm really Buddhist. Refuge vows and lay precepts. :smile:

In East Asia it is still quite very foreign and alien an idea that a non-Asian (for example a white guy) could actually be Buddhist (they evidently don't know the history of Buddhism in India, Central Asia and the Middle East!).

Back home in Canada it depends on where I go. I think my relatives think I'm a weirdo. Around university it is pretty liberal and trendy, so "being Buddhist" is cool, I guess. Very positive image. The atheist God Delusion thumpers don't have much to say to me, and one Baptist Christian woman sympathetically remarked, "Buddhism is really just a way of life."

I presently live in an international housing complex for foreign students and because I tell people I'm vegetarian, refrain from alcohol and meditate regularly, I seem to have a mostly positive reputation as being some kind of ultra-spiritual dude or something like that. A lot of people here deal with East Asian research so Buddhism inevitably comes up. I've been a consultant a number of times.

Oh, but this one time this Muslim from Tunisia asked me why I became Buddhist and not Muslim.
"Surely, if you wanted a religion, you'd investigate all of them! How could you not find Islam to be the most scientific?" We then went on to have a lengthy discussion of why I am not Muslim. :oops:
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Mar 25, 2010 4:54 am

When I was in Texas, people thought I worshiped idols, that the statues were alive according to Buddhists.

Since I moved to the West coast (Nevada & California) the people I meet think it is cool and even know the different forms (Theravada, Mahayana, Zen, Tibetan, etc.) and some even told me they are Buddhist too.
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Mar 25, 2010 5:05 am

Luke wrote:
I'd never give up Buddhism for any woman.


Hi Luke,

If you are looking for a woman partner, why not try the online services that 'narrow the field' down by religious preferences? I imagine they all have the preferred religion, if any, on those profiles. I think a bar is just taking a crap shoot on who you may find, in my opinion.
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby Indrajala » Thu Mar 25, 2010 5:19 am

David N. Snyder wrote:
Luke wrote:
I'd never give up Buddhism for any woman.


Hi Luke,

If you are looking for a woman partner, why not try the online services that 'narrow the field' down by religious preferences? I imagine they all have the preferred religion, if any, on those profiles. I think a bar is just taking a crap shoot on who you may find, in my opinion.


Or better yet find a nice Buddhist woman at a Buddhist temple. :smile:
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby Ogyen » Thu Mar 25, 2010 6:02 am

I'm a half-Indian brownie. No one questions my practice. If I say I'm Buddhist, people just go, "Oh, ok." like somehow brown + Buddhist seem to make sense together in the liberal-but-not-as-much-as-you'd-think-California paradigm... Not that it's something I prance about yelling to the world, Ye, I am Buddhist. But so far never had anyone give me a nasty look or comment when asked what religion I practiced. Mostly it doesn't come up in conversation. My spouse, my colleagues, my closest friends, and my blood family is not Buddhist. All of my heart family is Buddhist, but they are mostly far away so long-distance friendships are what I have to discuss dharma. It's no issue, but it's just not usually the "talk of the day" kind of subject. This is possibly a contribution as to why I have no negativity from others around it. It just doesn't come up much. They all KNOW I'm Buddhist, but it's like I know this person is gay or that person is divorced. It doesn't tell you anything about the person or the practice, just that they're affiliated with this thing called Buddhism. Even that, works out fine. I'm able to practice a lot more with a lot less words since whatever words I'd use would not be either of interest or understood probably. It's great patience practice.

To put it in perspective, one of my friends get a LOT more reactions for being gay than I have ever even experienced for being bi-many things one of them being bi-racial, so to me being Buddhist has presented no issue to date (comparatively).

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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby ball-of-string » Thu Mar 25, 2010 6:23 am

There are a lot of Buddhist temples and centers in my area. Most people are pretty accepting. Sometimes people conclude that I am not a "real Buddhist" because my practice does not resemble something from the movie Kundan.
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby muni » Thu Mar 25, 2010 9:45 am

Once I was looking for a street and had no map. I came on traffic lights when four people came to me. "Are you seeking?" Happely I said yes and showed my paper with the name of the street. They looked like not understanding me, and so did I. Meanwhile the light was red again! Oh yes, seeking God.
People told me that only God can help and Buddha is not God. I said: Yes. Buddha is not God.

I tell nothing. By the way, I found that street which I was seeking. :smile:
There is only nature and all is nature. Any discrimination is ones’ own delusion.
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby catmoon » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:27 pm

muni wrote:Once I was looking for a street and had no map. I came on traffic lights when four people came to me. "Are you seeking?" Happely I said yes and showed my paper with the name of the street. They looked like not understanding me, and so did I. Meanwhile the light was red again! Oh yes, seeking God.
People told me that only God can help and Buddha is not God. I said: Yes. Buddha is not God.

I tell nothing. By the way, I found that street which I was seeking. :smile:



Similar incident happened to me the other day. Nice lady asked me for a smoke on the street corner, and as she was lighting up asked "Are you looking?". Took about three seconds for the penny to drop. Lady. Cigarette. Street corner. After dark. I almost replied, "But - I'm a Buddhist!" but it occurred to me that that particular line of conversation wasn't going to fly very well.
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby ChangYuan » Thu Mar 25, 2010 4:46 pm

Most of the people I know are fellow 12 steppers, where spiritual discovery is common practice, so I don't get many weird looks. A close friend actually introduced me to the temple where I took refuge.
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby Huifeng » Fri Mar 26, 2010 4:54 am

Interesting thread, thanks to all for sharing. :smile:

My own situation is somewhat different, of course. It's pretty obvious. I don't need to "tell" anyone! Often have complete strangers come up and start Dharma conversations with me. Particularly on public transport and the University cafeteria. Have met some really nice and interesting people in the process.

Of course, all of these are related to where I spend most of my time: If it's not some monastery, temple or Buddhist center, then its the University Center for Buddhist Studies.

Occasionally somebody actually asks "Are you Buddhist?", though these people are usually those who don't know much about the Dharma. (Those who know, don't need to ask!) After about two minutes, they are pretty clear. :tongue:
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby muni » Fri Mar 26, 2010 8:25 am

Catmoon: "Similar incident happened." Yes, indeed. Three seconds, three red traffic lights.

Clothes can clarify or make people form ideas. Really can happen to see a Buddhist in winter clothes as a Hare Khrisna as well.
There is only nature and all is nature. Any discrimination is ones’ own delusion.
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby Indrajala » Fri Mar 26, 2010 1:02 pm

Huifeng wrote:Interesting thread, thanks to all for sharing. :smile:

My own situation is somewhat different, of course. It's pretty obvious. I don't need to "tell" anyone! Often have complete strangers come up and start Dharma conversations with me. Particularly on public transport and the University cafeteria. Have met some really nice and interesting people in the process.

Of course, all of these are related to where I spend most of my time: If it's not some monastery, temple or Buddhist center, then its the University Center for Buddhist Studies.

Occasionally somebody actually asks "Are you Buddhist?", though these people are usually those who don't know much about the Dharma. (Those who know, don't need to ask!) After about two minutes, they are pretty clear. :tongue:


So ... you really are Buddhist then? :tongue:

BTW, does your uni cafeteria have vegetarian dishes? Or do you gotta brown bag it?
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby Huifeng » Fri Mar 26, 2010 2:08 pm

Huseng wrote:
So ... you really are Buddhist then? :tongue:



:namaste:



BTW, does your uni cafeteria have vegetarian dishes? Or do you gotta brown bag it?


Yes, I think there are usually about 6-8 vegetarian dishes on a given day. Plus a few sandwich options, too, and some pastries. Of course, HKU is just a regular Uni, not set up by a Buddhist group. I think at the Buddhist Studies dept at FGU, it is ONLY vegetarian! haha!

But I usually bring a bento, from the real expert vegetarian cooks at the monastery. We also have a staff / post-grad student option to buy from a restaurant which does good vege, as a group, because probably 75% of the staff are vegetarian, too. And Wednesday is dana day, Sri Lankan vegetarian, because Prof Karunadasa's wife is also a vegetarian.

Jealous already?! :hug:
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby Indrajala » Fri Mar 26, 2010 3:20 pm

Huifeng wrote:But I usually bring a bento, from the real expert vegetarian cooks at the monastery. We also have a staff / post-grad student option to buy from a restaurant which does good vege, as a group, because probably 75% of the staff are vegetarian, too. And Wednesday is dana day, Sri Lankan vegetarian, because Prof Karunadasa's wife is also a vegetarian.

Jealous already?! :hug:


FGS does a good vegetarian lunch. That's for sure. :smile:
Everytime I walk into an FGS temple they give me food! Even at FGS HQ in Taiwan in the afternoon somebody is giving out fruit, ice cream or sweets!

You know what my options are here?

White rice, salad (shredded cabbage most of the time -- though they once put a huge scoop of tuna on top!), a fried hashbrown kind of thing, hard boiled egg (if you're okay with eggs), and sometimes a small bowl of seaweed (which might have fish stock in it).

Everything else is either fish or meat, or has some kind of fish or meat in it. Not even plain spaghetti with tomato sauce! You would think Soto-shu's university would have something special like shojin-ryori 精進料理, but vegetarianism is seldom understood or appreciated here. Not even in a Buddhist university!

Ah well. I usually go down the street and get a tofu avocado burger:

Image

They have a mushroom burger too, though not so filling.
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Re: How do people react when you tell them you're Buddhist?

Postby amber » Fri Mar 26, 2010 4:17 pm

Getting hungry...

I don't tell people about being Buddhist, mostly they start asking questions, when they come to my home and see the statues. I had some strange looks from evangelical Christian family members, but they never talk openly about faith, at least not with me.

In general, many of my friends come from different backgrounds and religions. We are lucky to live in a multi-cultural, liberal town. And I have many Buddhist friends - from Western and Asian countries.

My family is tolerant, too. Actually, my mom and mother-in-law were astonished, when I went to Buddhist teachings, but got used to it.
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