Secular Buddhism

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
[N.B. This is the forum that was called ‘Exploring Buddhism’. The new name simply describes it better.]
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Queequeg
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by Queequeg »

mikenz66 wrote: Thu Nov 07, 2019 9:50 am
Queequeg wrote: Fri Nov 01, 2019 4:46 pm I think there are aspects of Buddhadharma that are perfectly conducive to those expressions, though they have developed and express a little differently in the Asian context in a way that might fall short of a Westerner's expectation. That kind of warmth in interpersonal relations will need to be part of the equation, I think. (And might even be something that Asians could use a dose of.)
The Asian Buddhist communities I've had some involvement with (mostly Thai Theravada, but also a Theravada group in Hong Kong and the local Fo Guang Shan) seem pretty warm to me. And my local secularist-ish Buddhists are pretty friendly too...

However, I do agree that Christians can be fun to interact with, and I often feel I have more in common with them than atheistic work colleagues.

:heart:
Mike
I'm not saying there is no warmth. Human beings have this capacity so it expresses wherever there are people.

What I'm talking about is the religious basis of that interaction. Buddhism has a tendency to focus attention to one's own liberation. Even in Mahayana where the bodhisattva vow encompasses liberation of all - its often framed as something one does only later, upon attaining some advancement.

I think its why there is a red cross, but no red dharma wheel. In Christianity, you have saints who care for the poor and sick as a prominent practice, open and run hospitals, etc. I've heard people make the argument that this is the case with Buddhists, too, but I'm not yet convinced its at the same scale and robustness you find in the Church.

I think this comes down to how one is encouraged to view their fellows.

I've heard criticism of Buddhists as being narcissistic... there's something to it... look at who we consider the saints... guys who leave the world and sit in a cave. Where's the Buddhist Francis?

As another example that doesn't express the way Christianity does - Judaism doesn't have the same impulse. Maybe lately, under the influence of Chrisitianity, but the basic view is not developed in Judaism. It instead has an insular in-group mentality.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta
mikenz66
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by mikenz66 »

Queequeg wrote: Thu Nov 07, 2019 2:00 pm What I'm talking about is the religious basis of that interaction. Buddhism has a tendency to focus attention to one's own liberation. Even in Mahayana where the bodhisattva vow encompasses liberation of all - its often framed as something one does only later, upon attaining some advancement. ...
Thanks for clarifying. I was simply thinking in terms of the actual human interactions I've experienced.

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Mike
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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: Secular Buddhism

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A lot of the issue with Dharma Charity type stuff in the West is just size of organizations.

Christian churches are freaking huge, they often have -way- bigger budgets than Dharma centers, hundreds to thousands of members etc. Your average Dharma center (in my experience) tends to be run by a core group of five to ten people, and have maybe 100 total members, at the high end.

Under circumstances like that, charitable activity done as an organization is almost a waste of time, you might as well just do things as small groups of individuals, and indeed the Dharma people I know who are actively engaged in such things do just that - small groups who cook for people, do prison Dharma work etc.

I do think that Secular Buddhism as a whole tends to be highly influenced by the sort "Early Buddhism" point of view, and a bit more focused on one's personal priorities, but I have known Secular Buddhists who do charitable work too.

the Vietnamese (I think Pureland) temple in my town is always doing community stuff, and has a much more devotional "good works" sort of character to it. I think it is mostly within the Vietnamese community, but they are very active.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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Queequeg
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Re: Secular Buddhism

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Johnny Dangerous wrote: Thu Nov 07, 2019 7:39 pm A lot of the issue with Dharma Charity type stuff in the West is just size of organizations.

Christian churches are freaking huge, they often have -way- bigger budgets than Dharma centers, hundreds to thousands of members etc. Your average Dharma center (in my experience) tends to be run by a core group of five to ten people, and have maybe 100 total members, at the high end.
True. I'm talking about Buddhist institutions in Asia. What I have often observed is, at best, an attitude of benign neglect toward the poor and destitute... "its their karma." These instances have struck me because they were so disappointing. If I had, in my travels, encountered something like a Buddhist hospital run by bhikkunis, I would have taken notice.

the Vietnamese (I think Pureland) temple in my town is always doing community stuff, and has a much more devotional "good works" sort of character to it. I think it is mostly within the Vietnamese community, but they are very active.
I've seen similar in other immigrant communities. I'm not so sure its a particularly Buddhist things so much as the tendency of immigrants to group with their countrymen and support each other. These communities tend to form in the structure of religion.

In the US, we had organizations like the Knights of Columbus which was an Italian-American institution. Two, three generations on when the descendants of those communities are integrated into society, their meeting halls become little more than catering halls, and all the other social functions they served shrivel up.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta
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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: Secular Buddhism

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Queequeg wrote: Thu Nov 07, 2019 7:54 pm
Johnny Dangerous wrote: Thu Nov 07, 2019 7:39 pm A lot of the issue with Dharma Charity type stuff in the West is just size of organizations.

Christian churches are freaking huge, they often have -way- bigger budgets than Dharma centers, hundreds to thousands of members etc. Your average Dharma center (in my experience) tends to be run by a core group of five to ten people, and have maybe 100 total members, at the high end.
True. I'm talking about Buddhist institutions in Asia. What I have often observed is, at best, an attitude of benign neglect toward the poor and destitute... "its their karma." These instances have struck me because they were so disappointing. If I had, in my travels, encountered something like a Buddhist hospital run by bhikkunis, I would have taken notice.

the Vietnamese (I think Pureland) temple in my town is always doing community stuff, and has a much more devotional "good works" sort of character to it. I think it is mostly within the Vietnamese community, but they are very active.
I've seen similar in other immigrant communities. I'm not so sure its a particularly Buddhist things so much as the tendency of immigrants to group with their countrymen and support each other. These communities tend to form in the structure of religion.

In the US, we had organizations like the Knights of Columbus which was an Italian-American institution. Two, three generations on when the descendants of those communities are integrated into society, their meeting halls become little more than catering halls, and all the other social functions they served shrivel up.
What about the Tzu-Chi society? Are they basically an anomaly?
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low
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Queequeg
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Re: Secular Buddhism

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Johnny Dangerous wrote: Thu Nov 07, 2019 8:05 pm What about the Tzu-Chi society? Are they basically an anomaly?
I don't know much about them, but I would say in the bigger picture, yes kind of an anomaly. With that said, and my personal knowledge and familiarity are very limited, I get the impression that Chinese Buddhists in Hong Kong and Taiwan do seem to make outreach more of a priority.

It would be interesting to see a study on this.

Off the top of my head, these factors might be at play:

1. The relative prosperity in Taiwan and Hong Kong.
2. The liberty to practice religion as one feels inspired to (contrast with main land China)
3. Duration of Western influence.

My impression is that these groups exhibit some traditional Mahayana social and political attitudes that one might find in say, Nagarjuna's Jeweled Garland, for instance. Again my impression, Chinese Buddhists seem to value Dana Paramita, maybe more than others. That may be most a function of that first point above... As other Asian Buddhists gain those kinds of levels of prosperity, it will be interesting to see if dana becomes a more prominent practice. My question though is because Japanese are prosperous, but you don't see the same kind of robust, outwardly oriented generosity, with a few exceptions I can think of associated with the Pure Land schools (which I think is a function of their soteriology).
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by mikenz66 »

Queequeg wrote: Thu Nov 07, 2019 8:19 pmI get the impression that Chinese Buddhists in Hong Kong and Taiwan do seem to make outreach more of a priority.
The obvious example for me is Fo Guang Shan, who ran kitchens after our earthquakes and provided support after the terrorist attack on local mosques (one quite close to their Christchurch centre. The NZ abbess states quite firmly that social engagement is her practice. Large events inevitably include the Mayor, Police Chief, representatives from other religions, and so on...

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Queequeg
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Re: Secular Buddhism

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Looking into these Taiwan based groups - they promote a "Buddhist Humanism". Interesting.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta
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Re: Secular Buddhism

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rory
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Re: Secular Buddhism

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Queequeg wrote: Fri Nov 08, 2019 3:34 am Looking into these Taiwan based groups - they promote a "Buddhist Humanism". Interesting.
it's great helping the sick and the indigent, look in the old days when Japanese monks were, building roads, hospitals etc but how many Buddhists now here celebrate Obon? Ullabambana; do you think Westerners experience and give gratitude to their families and ancestors. How about being kind and helpful to our neighbors? It's a lot easier doing the big thing: giving service to utter strangers than dealing with the people in our everyday lives.
Also doesn't anyone here aspire to be a bodhisattva? I try in my small way to be compassionate in my daily life with the people I meet on the bus, my neighbors, my parent etc.
gassho
Rory
Namu Kanzeon Bosatsu
Chih-I:
The Tai-ching states "the women in the realms of Mara, Sakra and Brahma all neither abandoned ( their old) bodies nor received (new) bodies. They all received buddhahood with their current bodies (genshin)" Thus these verses state that the dharma nature is like a great ocean. No right or wrong is preached (within it) Ordinary people and sages are equal, without superiority or inferiority
Paul, Groner "The Lotus Sutra in Japanese Culture"eds. Tanabe p. 58
https://www.tendai-usa.org/
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by tkp67 »

rory wrote: Mon Nov 11, 2019 3:00 am
Queequeg wrote: Fri Nov 08, 2019 3:34 am Looking into these Taiwan based groups - they promote a "Buddhist Humanism". Interesting.
Also doesn't anyone here aspire to be a bodhisattva? I try in my small way to be compassionate in my daily life with the people I meet on the bus, my neighbors, my parent etc.
gassho
Rory
There are many ways to articulate this dependent on teaching and tradition but personally as long as others suffer there will be the need for Bodhisattva to aid in liberation. Personally I see dedicating one's existence to Bodhisattva practice as described by the Lotus Sutra the greatest use of one's existence. Since this is my practice of my choice however I might be a bit biased.
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by Dan74 »

This is a beautiful thread. Putting our money where our mouth is. Mahayana Buddhists at the very least, should put our own little concerns behind those of others. Especially those genuinely suffering, with no succour from the Dharma.
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by muni »

Whatever beings think, however they appear, whatever they do,...……... may all be free.

In inseparable dependency-emptiness Chenrezig shines.

Whatever is available and helps fellows temporary...
Conversely, viewing the self as a mere convention or as a designated label for our dynamic stream of experience - consciousness in relation to the body and the world - is in harmony with the interdependent and impermanent nature of reality; and leads to a state of well-being grounded in wisdom, altruism, compassion, and inner freedom.
https://www.matthieuricard.org/en/blog/ ... he-self--2

Simplicity reveals the nature of the mind behind the veil of restless thoughts.
https://www.matthieuricard.org/en/blog/ ... plicity--2
Fortyeightvows
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by Fortyeightvows »

Matt J wrote: Sat Nov 02, 2019 3:56 pm It is funny you bring up the video game, because this is a favorite example of a Tergar Khenpo. He points the difference between meditative concentration (in his tradition) and video game concentration turns on two important factors: clarity and presence. A person playing video games we would typically say probably has more dullness and is absorbed into the video game.
A very good point.
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Re: Secular Buddhism

Post by Thundering Cloud »

hkvanx wrote: Tue Oct 29, 2019 8:54 pm Is it possible to practice secular Buddhism?

I like to meditate to calm my mind and lower my desires.

Do you have to believe in the other aspects like karma, incarnation, Mara, etc to get the full benefit of Buddhism (enlightment, nirvana, etc)?
I'd say kind of yes and no, actually. The Buddha himself advocated against accepting his teachings on blind faith, but to examine and test them for yourself. If you meditate on the teachings of emptiness, practice not grasping at conceptual thoughts but allowing them to come and go, and so on, you'll be preparing yourself to understand and independently validate more of the dharma. For example, you'll come to appreciate that believing "there is no such thing as karma or incarnation" hinges upon accepting a cluster of conceptual ideas as truths (mostly revolving around the intrinsic existence of the physical world as seen), and such conceptual ideas are — by construction — nothing more than projected expectations.

Or to put it another way: I'd say that learning to still your mind such that you are less prone to becoming caught up and enmeshed in its concepts will ultimately help you to liberate yourself from those you're already mired in and that obscure your view of reality. As that happens, more and more of the Buddha's teachings start to ring true. That has been my experience thus far on the path anyway. ^.^
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