Loose Ends

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

Loose Ends

Postby mint » Sun Jan 08, 2012 3:29 am

Don't you hate it when you write something really good and to the point only to have it lost somewhere in the limbo of the internet? Well, that just happened to me... :techproblem:

So, the condensed, more sloppy version is this:

The Neurotic Zen of Mint thread helped me to realize that I'm not nearly as over my past as a Catholic as I thought that I was. There are still a lot of loose ends because I left it behind with a lot of anger and resentment.

Some of you noted in the other thread that I seem to be in an awfully big rush to have things be crystal clear. I can explain: I feel like I've flip-flopped through so many religions only to constantly end up back at the beginning of something new and foreign. It feels like reverting from adolescence to infancy. As I mentioned in that thread, I've accumulated so much learning and experience about Catholic faith and praxis which serves me no good as a Buddhist or Dzogchenpa. No matter what I've practiced, though, I've always approached it genuinely, hoping to subdue ego and experience the ultimate reality of Truth. Unfortunately, my studies have often taken on a hypercritical nature which, in turn, has caused me to lose faith. There's nothing unique about my story, but it's the primary source of my anxiety at the moment as I set out, once again, on another spiritual journey under a new monicker.

Buddhism and Dzogchen truly do feel what I've been searching for all along, but how can I embark on this path when I can't experience peace with my past as a Catholic or with the Catholic Church or my old Catholic friends? I've got to face up to that challenge in addition to attempting to resolve in my own way the theistic impulse which I've only managed to suffocate discreetly in order to seem a more fitting practitioner even though I could not really argue against the impulse itself. So, there are some loose ends. Luckily I've discovered the writings of Chogyam Trungpa and the person of Namkhai Norbu prior to taking this necessary tangential journey.
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Re: Loose Ends

Postby Virgo » Sun Jan 08, 2012 3:39 am

Face up to your past? Do you know how many people I have pissed off (lol). And aside from that, do you know how many times I flipped flopped? For example, when I briefly went to Theravada, all my Vajrayana friends looked at me with a bad eye. When I came back and repaired all damages, all my then Theravada friends looked at me with a bad eye. Relationships, unfortunately, were lost in the process. I am a genuinely nice person, but sometimes there is a friction about me-- I don't conform to what people want. But I just keep on rolling.

:)

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Re: Loose Ends

Postby Zenshin 善心 » Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:03 am

hi Mint, a lot of Buddhists in the west, myself included, are like you, coming to the Dharma from another religious background (predominantly Christian). and a lot of us carry a deal of anger and bitter resentment towards our religious backgrounds and upbringings. i guess this is maybe natural and to a degree understandable. but it is important, as your post acknowledges, to make peace with all of that.

i only have my personal experience to share i'm afraid and i hope, at best, that it is useful and, at least, mildy interesting to read. My dad was a rector for the Church of England but quit the ministry when i was 14. My mother was, and still is, very devout. Myself, in a fit of immature adolescent rebellion, decided it was all bullshit and that alcohol and drugs was much more interesting than God and communion. As i got a little older, i became interested in other religions, inc. Buddhadharma, but never really settled down into one - just skimmed the surface reading as much as possible about all the different kinds without really going indepth into any of them. Anyhoos, to make a long and tedious story a little less long and tedious, i kept being drawn back to Buddhadharma. A few years later i was fortunate to find a sangha, good teacher and tradition i was happy in. The End.

But.....

i was still carrying that anger and resentment at my religious upbringing with me. Now, both my parents had been nothing but supportive of my decision to follow Buddhadharma - my mother even visiting the temple with me on several occasions. When my master told me i should take retreat at the Head Temple here in Fukuoka, i ummed and ahed and hesitated while both my parents encouraged me to do so. Similarly, when i was invited to live at Sanrin Soja, it was my parents who supported and encouraged me to say yes.
Shortly before i went on retreat, i remember talking to my mother about our respective faiths. i told her it was very important for me to aspire to birth in Sukhavati so that i could return and free her from the rounds of Samsara. But during retreat, realising the support and encouragement, genuine interest that she had shown towards my own path - i realised how selfish and full of shit i had been. i never treated her own path with such interest, never gave her support and encouragement, quite the opposite - i viewed it with quiet disdain. And i realised - it's not a case of me being born in Sukhavati, returning and liberating her, because all the time, she had been carrying me on her back toward the Pure Land! i was just too blinded and self absorbed to realise.

i guess if there's a point to any of this it's that i was lucky enough to know someone (in this case my mother) who was open-minded, non-judging and loving enough to accept that someone had chosen a different path, one other than Christianity. If you are lucky enough to know anyone or can find anyone like that, and talk honestly and frankly with them, it can go a long to helping make peace and shedding that anger and resentment.

wishing you the best mate :namaste:
All beings since their first aspiration till the attainment of Buddhahood are sheltered under the guardianship of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas who, responding to the requirements of the occasion, transform themselves and assume the actual forms of personality.

Thus for the sake of all beings Buddhas and Bodhisattvas become sometimes their parents, sometimes their wives and children, sometimes their kinsmen, sometimes their servants, sometimes their friends, sometimes their enemies, sometimes reveal themselves as devas or in some other forms.


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Re: Loose Ends

Postby mint » Sun Jan 08, 2012 5:17 am

dumbbombu wrote:i guess if there's a point to any of this it's that i was lucky enough to know someone (in this case my mother) who was open-minded, non-judging and loving enough to accept that someone had chosen a different path, one other than Christianity. If you are lucky enough to know anyone or can find anyone like that, and talk honestly and frankly with them, it can go a long to helping make peace and shedding that anger and resentment


You're definitely not alone in your realization that, in our own pious, earnest attempts to assert the unflinching legitimacy of our own spirituality, we provide others the opportunity to demonstrate the true meaning of compassion and understanding. For this reason most of my attempts at practicing anything have been a farce. This is where "Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism" comes in handy.

When I dropped out of graduate school and told my mom that Catholicism was what I wanted to do, I felt a sense of obligation that Catholicism would be where I remain especially considering the hell she went through after my conversion to Islam - which was also supposed to be "it." So, I think that I'm disappointed in myself. I also look back at all my fickleness and inability to choose a path and I can't help but see any future with Buddhism or Dzogchen as dubious.
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Re: Loose Ends

Postby deff » Sun Jan 08, 2012 6:23 am

follow your heart mint :smile:

don't stress too much, though it is of course understandable... but laugh and love yourself more - it sounds like you're your own enemy in a sense, which really doesn't help

if you feel like you're lacking motivation, maybe try focusing on developing bodhicitta... as this will guide and motivate the rest of your practice

drop by drop the ocean is filled :smile:
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Re: Loose Ends

Postby Clarence » Sun Jan 08, 2012 10:43 am

You could become a Christian like this:



They are pretty cool.
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Re: Loose Ends

Postby Mr. G » Sun Jan 08, 2012 12:58 pm

This is probably why H.H. Dalai Lama once stated that Christians shouldn't convert to Buddhism....too much ingrained spiritual baggage that causes stress.
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
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Re: Loose Ends

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:11 pm

Mr. G wrote:This is probably why H.H. Dalai Lama once stated that Christians shouldn't convert to Buddhism....too much ingrained spiritual baggage that causes stress.


I don't think that's why HHDL suggested Christians shouldn't convert to Buddhism.

In any case, it's probably the most curious statement of his. I've got no idea what he actually meant - though I'd speculate the key word here may be 'convert', and not 'Christians' or 'Buddhism'. And perhaps that was, all in all, the only thing he could say in the context - him being an exiled spiritual authority speaking to the people who host him but do not share his 'religion', pardon the word; he couldn't really tell them, 'cut the crap and start practising Dharma', could he?
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Re: Loose Ends

Postby plwk » Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:22 pm

Or take some lessons from the committed, those who've been there and done that...



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Re: Loose Ends

Postby Mr. G » Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:23 pm

I agree...a good documentary
    How foolish you are,
    grasping the letter of the text and ignoring its intention!
    - Vasubandhu
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Re: Loose Ends

Postby Mr. G » Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:48 pm

treehuggingoctopus wrote:I don't think that's why HHDL suggested Christians shouldn't convert to Buddhism.

In any case, it's probably the most curious statement of his. I've got no idea what he actually meant - though I'd speculate the key word here may be 'convert', and not 'Christians' or 'Buddhism'. And perhaps that was, all in all, the only thing he could say in the context - him being an exiled spiritual authority speaking to the people who host him but do not share his 'religion', pardon the word; he couldn't really tell them, 'cut the crap and start practising Dharma', could he?


Or perhaps he just thought attempts at conversion are just crass and overbearing? I don't know. Then again he's had Dzogchen teachings so perhaps he's speaking from that POV.
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Re: Loose Ends

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Sun Jan 08, 2012 4:55 pm

Mr. G wrote:Or perhaps he just thought attempts at conversion are just crass and overbearing?


Makes sense, too. Proselytizing is crass and overbearing.
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Re: Loose Ends

Postby catmoon » Mon Jan 09, 2012 7:27 am

The Dalai Lama has spoken at some length on this. He generally opposes conversion because in most cases, one is better off staying with a supportive community with many opportunities to learn, practice and be accepted. The sudden transition to a new religion means the loss of the old liturgy, philosophy, the loss of support from clergy, community and family. The crisis of faith involved can be wrenching. So the Dalai Lama advises that a Christian is better off trying to be a better Christian than starting all over as a Buddhist. In most cases.


Just working from memory here, a little caution is advised.
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Re: Loose Ends

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Mon Jan 09, 2012 10:30 am

catmoon wrote:The Dalai Lama has spoken at some length on this. He generally opposes conversion because in most cases, one is better off staying with a supportive community with many opportunities to learn, practice and be accepted. The sudden transition to a new religion means the loss of the old liturgy, philosophy, the loss of support from clergy, community and family. The crisis of faith involved can be wrenching. So the Dalai Lama advises that a Christian is better off trying to be a better Christian than starting all over as a Buddhist. In most cases.


Two problems here.

1. When pressed, HHDL will of course acknowledge that he thinks Buddhism is, all in all, a more advanced system of soteriological practices that Christianity is. Little wonder he thinks so, given the Buddhist view on eternalism - but, if he thinks so, then why the hell discourage people from 'converting' to Buddhism? And here we get to the clou: if we speak of "staying with a supportive community with many opportunities to learn, practice and be accepted", because "The sudden transition to a new religion means the loss of the old liturgy, philosophy, the loss of support from clergy, community and family. The crisis of faith involved can be wrenching", we're speaking about fulfilling our need to belong and be safe - and not to get liberated; about religion, not awakening; about cultural conditioning, not being liberated from it.

It is unpleasant.

The bottom line might be construed like that: Christians (who want to leave Christianity) shouldn't risk losing their conditioning in order to be liberated, because it will stress them out.

Very unpleasant.

2. The idea of "Christian" personal identity is useless and misleading. What exactly makes one a "Christian"? What are the requisites here?

(A nice glimpse into the core problems of the idea of 'religious identity' can be found in Phillip Pullman's little piece here: http://www.docstoc.com/docs/103105660/I ... s-%5BEN%5D)
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Re: Loose Ends

Postby mint » Mon Jan 09, 2012 3:01 pm

treehuggingoctopus wrote:
catmoon wrote:The Dalai Lama has spoken at some length on this. He generally opposes conversion because in most cases, one is better off staying with a supportive community with many opportunities to learn, practice and be accepted. The sudden transition to a new religion means the loss of the old liturgy, philosophy, the loss of support from clergy, community and family. The crisis of faith involved can be wrenching. So the Dalai Lama advises that a Christian is better off trying to be a better Christian than starting all over as a Buddhist. In most cases.


Two problems here.

1. When pressed, HHDL will of course acknowledge that he thinks Buddhism is, all in all, a more advanced system of soteriological practices that Christianity is. Little wonder he thinks so, given the Buddhist view on eternalism - but, if he thinks so, then why the hell discourage people from 'converting' to Buddhism? And here we get to the clou: if we speak of "staying with a supportive community with many opportunities to learn, practice and be accepted", because "The sudden transition to a new religion means the loss of the old liturgy, philosophy, the loss of support from clergy, community and family. The crisis of faith involved can be wrenching", we're speaking about fulfilling our need to belong and be safe - and not to get liberated; about religion, not awakening; about cultural conditioning, not being liberated from it.

It is unpleasant.

The bottom line might be construed like that: Christians (who want to leave Christianity) shouldn't risk losing their conditioning in order to be liberated, because it will stress them out.

Very unpleasant.


So, you're suggesting that liturgy, philosophy, community and family are completely unimportant in the progress of one's spiritual life?

How is a person who converts to Christianity culturally conditioned? Actual Christianity is one of the furthest things away from contemporary cultural values and mores.

2. The idea of "Christian" personal identity is useless and misleading. What exactly makes one a "Christian"? What are the requisites here?


Do you consider yourself a Christian, then?
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Re: Loose Ends

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Mon Jan 09, 2012 5:31 pm

mint wrote:So, you're suggesting that liturgy, philosophy, community and family are completely unimportant in the progress of one's spiritual life?


I wrote nothing of the kind. However, all that you mention might be even worse than completely unimportant for a practitioner - it may become, and probably very often becomes, an obstacle to practice. If you use all the 'religious' stuff as a means of illusory escape - in order to find 'safety' in this or that identity (religious or otherwise) with its well-prepared boundaries, with its solid doctrines, rich traditions, established communities, etc. - well, then you're only fortifying the walls of the prison, aren't you?

mint wrote:Do you consider yourself a Christian, then?


How could I? I've just said that the idea of personal religious identities is deeply misleading and potentially quite useless.
Unless I'm given some context, I honestly don't know what 'being a Christian' means. You're suggesting it's contrary to the modern lifestyle - yet Vatican claims to be the capital of the world's most popular and powerful religion. One half of Europeans claim to be Christians, even though more than one fifth of them believe in reincarnation, and probably one in tenth knows anything about the contemporary Christian doctrine - are they lying? I could go on and on and on.

Even the idea of 'ethnic Christianity' is problematic. I was born to a nominally Catholic family - my parents, who have been baptized, don't go to church unless it's a funeral or a wedding, don't know ANYTHING about theology (nor would ever care, or see a need, to learn about it), utterly despise the clergy, the dogmas and the official doctrines, etc., etc.. They surely don't think of themselves as Catholics (as opposed to Protestants). Are they 'ethnic Christians'? Am I - or was I ever - an 'ethnic Christian'?
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Re: Loose Ends

Postby mint » Mon Jan 09, 2012 6:07 pm

treehuggingoctopus wrote:I wrote nothing of the kind. However, all that you mention might be even worse than completely unimportant for a practitioner - it may become, and probably very often becomes, an obstacle to practice. If you use all the 'religious' stuff as a means of illusory escape - in order to find 'safety' in this or that identity (religious or otherwise) with its well-prepared boundaries, with its solid doctrines, rich traditions, established communities, etc. - well, then you're only fortifying the walls of the prison, aren't you?


Thanks for clarifying. I agree that all these things can and are used as crutches which, as you say, becomes an obstacle to practice. I'm thinking specifically of Christians who defend orthodoxy and orthopraxy at the price of compassion and charity. However, even the aspiring Dzogchenpa has need for these crutches in the beginning.

How could I? I've just said that the idea of personal religious identities is deeply misleading and potentially quite useless.
Unless I'm given some context, I honestly don't know what 'being a Christian' means. You're suggesting it's contrary to the modern lifestyle - yet Vatican claims to be the capital of the world's most popular and powerful religion. One half of Europeans claim to be Christians, even though more than one fifth of them believe in reincarnation, and probably one in tenth knows anything about the contemporary Christian doctrine - are they lying? I could go on and on and on.


I think there are a plenitude of examples of what "being a Christian" means, and they're not all institutionalized saints. As you say, personal religious identities are deeply misleading: someone may claim to be a Christian but live the life of an non-theistic existentialist. Likewise, someone may claim to be Buddhist but actually have beliefs which conform more towards Vedanta. We've seen this before - so let's not pretend that titular and actual practice is somehow homogenous. Your statistics are really quite beside the point of an authentic Christian religious experience which, like any human experience, is dynamic. One need only compare Henri Nouwen and Mother Teresa's bouts with depression to the life of the average layman to see what I mean.

Even the idea of 'ethnic Christianity' is problematic. I was born to a nominally Catholic family - my parents, who have been baptized, don't go to church unless it's a funeral or a wedding, don't know ANYTHING about theology (nor would ever care, or see a need, to learn about it), utterly despise the clergy, the dogmas and the official doctrines, etc., etc.. They surely don't think of themselves as Catholics (as opposed to Protestants). Are they 'ethnic Christians'? Am I - or was I ever - an 'ethnic Christian'?


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Re: Loose Ends

Postby wisdom » Tue Jan 10, 2012 3:17 am

There is of course the risk that a person would try converting to Buddhism, fail, and yet not go back to Christianity. So rather than following an ideally compassionate and loving Savior, and seeking to cultivate compassion and love in themselves, they just end up with a heap of sorrow and generate worse karma than if they had just remained a Christian and done good works in the world.

This of course is not speaking of those who hold extremist views or who are not taking Christianity seriously in the first place, but those who really believe in it and are, as a result, say, giving money to the poor, doing charity, and are generally compassionate, good people. That will make it so in their next life they will have good karma and merit, and if they encounter the Dharma then (perhaps because of that good karma) they will be more ready to approach the teachings.

The key point I think is being a good person.
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Re: Loose Ends

Postby treehuggingoctopus » Tue Jan 10, 2012 9:54 am

wisdom wrote:This of course is not speaking of those who hold extremist views or who are not taking Christianity seriously in the first place, but those who really believe in it


Now why would such a person ever 'convert' to Buddhism? If you're 100%, or 80%, or probably even 50%, OK with what you're doing, you won't be 'converting'. 'Conversion' implies a previous 'crisis of faith' by definition, doesn't it? Otherwise, why 'convert' at all?
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Re: Loose Ends

Postby catmoon » Tue Jan 10, 2012 11:42 am

No reason at all. Who would have the chutzpah to go tell Mother Theresa she'd do better as a Buddhist? Given a chance to meet such a person, wouldn't it be better to sit down, shut up and listen?
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