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Westerners and Buddhism - a question.

@Shim made a comment in a different post about feeling a bit awkward about the difference in cultures. I thought the idea was worth exploring since I have had a few of the same thoughts from time to time.

One of the first things that confused me greatly when trying to decide where to study and learn was all the talk about lineages, and traditions, and how they vary. Buddhism stresses lineages as being an unbroken chain of master and student all the way back to historical Buddha. But this has not seemed to stop the creation of new schools within Buddhism.

While the roots of Buddhism will always be in India, it has spread to the East and been growing in the West for quite some time (4th largest “religion” in the US). Despite this there seems to be a lack of any solid “Western Traditions”. Mind you most of the practicing Buddhists in the US are typically from other countries.

There are plenty of westerners that have gone on to become Buddhist monks and teachers such as Ajahn Pasanno for example who studies under the forest monks of Thailand.

While I am not a scholar in regards to this topic, I have done a little bit of reading. It would seem to me that the initial spread of Buddhism in the East could be attributed in a large part to the likeminded cultures. I would venture to say that most of the Eastern cultures have a strong focus on family, honor, and maybe to a lesser degree community.

So my question then becomes why do you think that a “Western Tradition” has not arisen? What obstacles are there for the West to really make Buddhism its own? Is it just a matter of time perhaps? We just aren’t there yet?

Cinorjer
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Comments

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    There is a decent documentary on this called "When the Iron Bird Flies" which is about Buddhism's spread into the West. I think you can find it online. We watched it as a sangha a few years ago.

    I think there is probably more of it than it seems. Even our small town of 3,000 people has an active and growing Buddhist community and we're about as far from an official center as you can get in many areas of the US. But we also have a lot of people who don't identify as any religion and just use a lot of wisdom from different places. That didn't work for me, but it works for some. So they don't identify as Buddhist even though they are practicing a lot of Buddhist stuff.

    Despite the US not being built on Christian roots as many suggest, we do have a very puritanical history. Buddhism comes from what was long considered to be exotic lands. Even when teachers started coming here in the 60s, the only way for information to spread was word of mouth by published books and those lucky enough in those population centers to benefit from their presence. It wasn't really until the advent of the internet that Buddhism really started to get a decent hold outside of the teaching centers, and that is really very recent even in our young country.

    lobsterRichdawsonTara1978
  • OP, there is a Western tradition, but it's controversial at this point. A former Buddhist monk in both the Tibetan and Korean traditions, Stephen Batchelor, is at the forefront of this tradition, which he calls "Secular Buddhism". You may find a couple of his books interesting: "Confession of a Buddhist Atheist", and the recent "After Buddhism".

    Batchelor is a scholar who has read the Pali Buddhist canon in the original, as well as Tibetan and Korean canons. His latest book is an analysis of the Pali canon from his "secular" perspective. He tries to get to the bottom of what it was the Buddha really taught and why, and what concepts seem to be later additions influenced by Hinduism.

    In any case, that's the only Western tradition in Buddhism that we have. I find it quite thought-provoking.

    CinorjerRichdawsonKeromeRuddyDuck9
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited September 2016

    Time as you mention.

    Enlightened westerners will invariably focus on appropriate means and cultural differences. My lineage is from the Maitriya. In other words it reaches forward rather than back. This enfuriates some 'show us your dinosaur certification' dharmaists ... :3

    I may also do cyber Dudeist Bat and Bar Mitzvah ceremonies and excommunications for heretics (mostly me) o:)

    My understanding of Bat Mitzvah may not yet be fully developed. o:) Basically the men all go into the bar, 'drink one kosher beer'. Raise their bottles and recite the mantra, 'Praise the Bat(man)'. Then pay for free drinks and leave. The women in similar fashion also 'raise the Bar'.

    ... meanwhile ... the unintoxicatable recite the Mantra 'OM YA HA HUM' which is the YinYana Buddhist mantra for the unrepetant ...

    YinYana Creed

    I believe in the Buddha, the Father of the Sangha, Maker of Dharma that ends suffering.
    
    And in the Eight fold Path, created to end Dukkha, created for the welfare of all sentient beings; Path of Refuge, Light of Light. Very good in the beginning, in the middle and in the end.
    
    Buddha for our welfare, came down from Nirvana, and taught skillful means for all Beings and died as do all arisings. The Buddha suffered and practiced under the Bo Tree. On the third day The Buddha sat again, according to the Sutras and entered enlightenment and sits eternally in the Purelands. The Buddha shall come again as the Metta Ray, with understanding and wisdom, to offer teachings
    
    And I believe in the Enlightenment, the Giver of Dharma Wisdom which proceeds from the Practice and the Application. With the Bodhisattvas, dharma is called on for inspiration.
    
    And I believe in nothing holy or profane as separate. I acknowledge my flaws and I look for the arising of virtue, and the moment of awakening.
    

    http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?t=10289

    ... Normal service is now resumed ...

    dhammachick
  • @Dakini said:
    OP, there is a Western tradition, but it's controversial at this point. A former Buddhist monk in both the Tibetan and Korean traditions, Stephen Batchelor, is at the forefront of this tradition, which he calls "Secular Buddhism". You may find a couple of his books interesting: "Confession of a Buddhist Atheist", and the recent "After Buddhism".

    Batchelor is a scholar who has read the Pali Buddhist canon in the original, as well as Tibetan and Korean canons. His latest book is an analysis of the Pali canon from his "secular" perspective. He tries to get to the bottom of what it was the Buddha really taught and why, and what concepts seem to be later additions influenced by Hinduism.

    In any case, that's the only Western tradition in Buddhism that we have. I find it quite thought-provoking.

    Did some quick reading on this guy, and while I can appreciate the heart of what he is trying to say and achieve, I don't know that I would call that a "Tradition" at this point. Rejecting Karma and reincarnation is a pretty large omissions of a fundamental that Buddhism is based on.

    RuddyDuck9
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    Ken Wilber also has a theory on the so-called "4th turning of the wheel" in regards to the direction Buddhism will go now that it has set up in the West. My sangha leader loves his book, I tried but could not get into it. Perhaps it would be interesting to some though. It is called "The Fourth Turning: Imagining the Evolution of an Integral Buddhism" It's only like $3 on amazon for the digital version.

    It's interesting that some completely reject some of the major tenets of Buddhism. They are free to do so, but I think truly understanding a religion you have to know those foundations whether you accept them for yourself or not. It makes one wonder how much has been dropped of other religions as they have moved around the world. And it's no wonder Westerners have such a poor grasp of the Quran while trying to claim that they do because they read passages online. There is so much behind the cultures and histories of religions that whether you accept them as your beliefs, that understanding seems vital to me to understand the religion itself.

    lobsterRichdawsondukkha
  • Many Muslims don't know their own scripture. For example Muslims may not know or accept that many early versions of the Koran existed and were written, until one was decided and the rest destroyed as not the revelation of Gabriel/Allah/Mohammad

    Muslims agree that the manuscript, or version, of the Quran we see today was compiled by Uthman, the third caliph (reign 644 to 656); a caliph being the political leader of a Caliphate (Islamic government). For this reason, the Quran as it exists today is also known as the Uthmanic codex
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_Quran

    ... and now back to the Buddha (PBUH) ...

    dhammachick
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    Not sure if this is relevant...but....

    The Mind does not distinguish between cultures and traditions (The Buddha knew this).... and Buddhism being for the most part (when striped of the religious trimmings) is inner science or science of the mind...

    So on a personal level I would have to say Western Buddhism comes in the form of psychology which many Western psychologists have taken to like ducks to water...It would seem this is how the Western mind can best absorb/digest/relate to the Dharma....

    lobsterRichdawsondukkhaRuddyDuck9
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @Shoshin That is kind of where Ken Wilber goes with it, the psychological viewpoint. But I question whether making it about "fixing" ourselves is the best route to take. It suggests something about Buddhism that I don't think is quite accurate. One could consider it a treatment for life's ills, but the way Americans tend to view their problems is so lacking a well-rounded view that I think something gets lost. I think we lose that part that is so obvious in, for example, Tibetan Buddhism, that has a heart focus. In their culture and language, mind and heart are the same. To us, mind is just the thinking that goes on, and it lacks heart. We separate the 2, and I think that duality that we so strongly view the world from complicates matters where other cultures, perhaps, don't have quite the same issue. The West as a whole, but I think it tends to be worse in the US than in Europe where they have seen the tides shift away from organized religion and so on more than we have.

    lobsterShoshin
  • DavidDavid some guy The Hammer in Ontario, Canada, eh Veteran

    I never talked to another Buddhist until I got on the net. 25 years ago the only Buddhist information I could get was in the library or book stores and there were no sanghas anywhere close to me.

    Now they seem to be fairly plentiful and there is so much information just waiting to be filtered on the Web and the books are easily accessed.

    I like the diversity of views on the dharma and in my mind the Sangha never split, it just catered to different styles so I'll probably always consider myself non-sectarian.

    There are some takes I disagree with but compassion growing hand-in-hand with wisdom is the main thing I think.

    lobsterpersonCinorjer
  • BhikkhuJayasaraBhikkhuJayasara Bhikkhu Veteran
    edited September 2016

    the biggest obstacle I believe is westerners understanding dāna and supporting monasteries/retreat centers.

    When there are enough western Buddhists and they understand this, then there will be many more places people can go and stay for free to learn the dhamma, and less places that charge 1000 bucks for a week retreat.

    I hear from fellow western Tibetan monastics that they are actually expected to go to work to support the temple, tibet political organizations, and tibetan monastics. This is a ridiculous thing.

    Now of course you have people who follow secular Buddhism who basically feel that the monastic end of the fourfold assembly is simply not needed, or does not need to play a significant role in a western Buddhism, and that may end up actually being the case, who knows?

    I view monastics, and monasteries, as the only places people of all socioeconomic backgrounds can learn the dhamma for free, there are by far not enough of these types of places in America and lay teachers will almost always feel the need to charge. I think this is one of the most primary reasons why we hear things like " buddhism is for rich white people".

    I remember reading a quote from a prominant buddhist teacher, I forget who, who said something like " Buddhism will of fully arrived in the west when there are western monastics in western monasteries supported by western laity.

    with very rare exception, that does not exist in the west yet. If all the immigrants left the western countries and the monasteries didn't have heavy backing from the home countries, Buddhism would basically fall apart and disappear in the west.

    karastiCinorjerRuddyDuck9
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    So my question then becomes why do you think that a “Western Tradition” has not arisen? What obstacles are there for the West to really make Buddhism its own? Is it just a matter of time perhaps? We just aren’t there yet?

    I think a Western Buddhism tradition is best described as just the way a person who practices the Dharma ( regardless of what sect, school, cultural background, or tradition ) lives their life (ie, a way of living an wholesome, helpful life) ..I'm sure the Buddha would agree...

    When we start labelling or polishing up the lineages I believe we tend to lose some of the essence of the Dharma...which by the way was not meant to be exclusive ( example this lineage is much better than that lineage) ....It was meant to be inclusive....No 'body' owns Buddhism or the Dharma....

    Regardless of culture or tradition..."The proof of the Dharma is in its practise"

    But I guess it's Different strokes for different 'religious or secular' folks

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    The way it's been explained to me is that the reasons for keeping the lineage is with the idea that the teachings remain pure and can be traced, as opposed to major changes in Christian (for example) doctrines and even the Bible that are kind of conspiracy theorized but no one knows for sure what happened to lost books or where they went or who lost or changed them. It is supposed to provide a level of comfort and reliability that when you receive teachings from a lineage teacher, it can be traced all the way back to where Buddha came into that area, and then back to Buddha himself. I've not gotten the sense that it was ever intended to suggest exclusivity. But rather an attempt to keep the teachings as pure and as close to the source as is possible. It was more important, probably, in the days before mass communication.

  • Well said @Jayantha
    Western Dharma is white and middle class in the UK too. :3 Your point about 'free for all' is spot on. In YinYana, being extremists, we only allow those willing to pay all of a students training expenses to be admitted as teachers. As all of our members (zero so far) are students, funding is never an issue. :mrgreen:

    The Buddha was an evangelical and visited all, demons, monks, kings and devas. They also came to him. Extreme outer poverty is a teaching in itself. Will you be doing home visits once you are ordained? I am sure somone can send you some sandals (luxury transport system for the bare footed) and provide shed accomodation for your home visits ... (reminder to self: be kind to sangha). Would it help if free prison accomodation was available for Sangha? o:)

    All my local Buddhist monastics are well financed.
    http://zenju.org/what-does-buddhism-have-to-do-with-black-people/

  • @Jayantha. I agree that without a western laity supporting western monasteries and monastics we are not there yet. In my early years when a lot less solvent fellow buddhists made the travel to distant places for study possible. Today thankfully conditions have changed. So I can happily support others as I once was. The great debt I owe to fellow buddhists is beyond reckoning.

    BunksRuddyDuck9
  • @Richdawson said:

    @Dakini said:
    OP, there is a Western tradition, but it's controversial at this point. A former Buddhist monk in both the Tibetan and Korean traditions, Stephen Batchelor, is at the forefront of this tradition, which he calls "Secular Buddhism". You may find a couple of his books interesting: "Confession of a Buddhist Atheist", and the recent "After Buddhism".

    Batchelor is a scholar who has read the Pali Buddhist canon in the original, as well as Tibetan and Korean canons. His latest book is an analysis of the Pali canon from his "secular" perspective. He tries to get to the bottom of what it was the Buddha really taught and why, and what concepts seem to be later additions influenced by Hinduism.

    In any case, that's the only Western tradition in Buddhism that we have. I find it quite thought-provoking.

    Did some quick reading on this guy, and while I can appreciate the heart of what he is trying to say and achieve, I don't know that I would call that a "Tradition" at this point. Rejecting Karma and reincarnation is a pretty large omissions of a fundamental that Buddhism is based on.

    No one rejects karma completely; it still is applicable and observable in our day-to-day lives. As for reincarnation, I've attended lectures by Batchelor, and he doesn't rule it out completely. He says it's something we can never know about for sure, so it's ok to be agnostic about it. His position is that it's ok to question reincarnation, and decide that since it's not observable, it's ok to leave that part out. He says Buddhism is often said to not have dogma, but requiring people to take reincarnation on faith is dogma. Therefore, people should be free to make up their own minds about it.

    Anyway, it's the closest thing the West has at this point, to a "tradition" or "school" of Buddhism.

    BunksRuddyDuck9
  • genkakugenkaku Northampton, Mass. U.S.A. Veteran
    edited September 2016

    One of the first things that confused me greatly when trying to decide where to study and learn was all the talk about lineages, and traditions, and how they vary. Buddhism stresses lineages as being an unbroken chain of master and student all the way back to historical Buddha.

    @Richdawson -- Put in the politest of possible terms, the assertion by any school that it has an unbroken historical linkage (teacher-to-student, etc.) all the way back the Buddha (by whom is meant Gautama), is just plain not true. It is a wonderful selling point but if you honestly give a hoot about so-called lineage, I strongly suggest you research the matter without fear or favor and discover for yourself.

    There are horse-feathers and eyewash in Buddhism as in any other grand tradition. It's not so important whether a particular aspect is a lie -- the important part is not becoming enmeshed. After all, whether Buddhism and its pointers evolved from a Big Mac is not so important as the nourishment is may provide you with. You decide ... though there's probably no need to be a jackass about it.

    PS. If lineage does appeal, you might try contacting Stuart Lachs, who, among others, has done the research.

    ShoshinsilverlobsterRuddyDuck9
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I personally think whatever you want to put on the back burner for now or forever is up to you. But rebirth is much more important in some traditions than others, to the point the entirety of practice is to ensure a favorable rebirth, and if that is what you are working towards (it seems too much like working towards heaven, to me) then it's harder to set it aside while you continue the practice. Obviously if it's not important in your practice, then it doesn't matter. My view of rebirth and karma is quite different than what I am taught. I'm ok with it. So is my teacher. None of that is as important as what I am doing right now (which is being really frustrated that I had to ask "what else do you have to throw at me today, life? at 9pm. Never ask. NEVER.)

    I tried following the lineage of my teacher, as it is posted on the website, but I couldn't even tell you who his root guru was/is. I just don't care. I have no doubt it's traceable a certain degree, just like my family tree. But at some point, it becomes a lot of guesswork and then probably fairytale make believe.

    person
  • @Jayantha said:
    the biggest obstacle I believe is westerners understanding dāna and supporting monasteries/retreat centers.

    When there are enough western Buddhists and they understand this, then there will be many more places people can go and stay for free to learn the dhamma, and less places that charge 1000 bucks for a week retreat.

    I hear from fellow western Tibetan monastics that they are actually expected to go to work to support the temple, tibet political organizations, and tibetan monastics. This is a ridiculous thing.

    Now of course you have people who follow secular Buddhism who basically feel that the monastic end of the fourfold assembly is simply not needed, or does not need to play a significant role in a western Buddhism, and that may end up actually being the case, who knows?

    I view monastics, and monasteries, as the only places people of all socioeconomic backgrounds can learn the dhamma for free, there are by far not enough of these types of places in America and lay teachers will almost always feel the need to charge. I think this is one of the most primary reasons why we hear things like " buddhism is for rich white people".

    I remember reading a quote from a prominant buddhist teacher, I forget who, who said something like " Buddhism will of fully arrived in the west when there are western monastics in western monasteries supported by western laity.

    with very rare exception, that does not exist in the west yet. If all the immigrants left the western countries and the monasteries didn't have heavy backing from the home countries, Buddhism would basically fall apart and disappear in the west.

    I was thinking this very same thing when I wrote the original post. I was going to say I think you would be pretty hard pressed to find monks who could live off alms in the US. There is a different mindset that would equate them to beggars or pan handlers. Many just wouldn't get it or respect why they were doing it.

  • @Shoshin said:

    So my question then becomes why do you think that a “Western Tradition” has not arisen? What obstacles are there for the West to really make Buddhism its own? Is it just a matter of time perhaps? We just aren’t there yet?

    I think a Western Buddhism tradition is best described as just the way a person who practices the Dharma ( regardless of what sect, school, cultural background, or tradition ) lives their life (ie, a way of living an wholesome, helpful life) ..I'm sure the Buddha would agree...

    When we start labelling or polishing up the lineages I believe we tend to lose some of the essence of the Dharma...which by the way was not meant to be exclusive ( example this lineage is much better than that lineage) ....It was meant to be inclusive....No 'body' owns Buddhism or the Dharma....

    Regardless of culture or tradition..."The proof of the Dharma is in its practise"

    But I guess it's Different strokes for different 'religious or secular' folks

    When I said "Western Tradition" I really was referring to / thinking of a unified Buddhism teaching that could support monks much in the way it is in the East. Wasn't really trying to set us above or aside.

    Shoshin
  • In the West it's possible to organize co-op communities. Actually, there was a group in England interested in Batchelor's perspective, and his wife teaches meditation (she has also lived in a Korean monastic community), and the group proposed organizing such a community; buying some land where everyone would live in cottages. I don't know what came of the idea.

  • CinorjerCinorjer Veteran
    edited September 2016

    From best research, lineage didn't become a real obsession until Buddhism hit China with its extreme ancestor worship and "apprentice-master" structure. When you set up shop in China, the question wasn't "How good are you?" but "Who was your Master? Who did you study under?" That affected Buddhism since these masters were expected to go back many generations due to ancestor worship. It's well understood the lineages were a bit of wishful thinking and "So who's going to prove different?" when the schools needed a list to hand to the Emperor or hang on their wall.

    But the West values innovation and pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps over making copies or reciting something our master's master's master said or did. It means a central part of Buddhist sangha structure doesn't fit us. It's changing. The Eastern Buddhism of lay people attending ceremonies and rituals for good fortune and letting the monks worry about that enlightenment stuff has been left behind. We expect to be a part of the temple and partake in the study and practice along with the monks, even if we can't devote every hour to it.

    Quite frankly, we fueled a "Protestant Revolution" type revolt against the old ultra-authoritarian structure that clutches the authority of the Buddha behind their robes and walls. I doubt it ever gets to the point that anyone can declare they have a "calling" and set up a Buddhist church and preach the Sutra like we have in the Christian church. It begins with the lay members having more control over the temple finances and even choosing their Teacher. We have a ways to go. It'll happen one day. Took a thousand years for Zen to ripen in China and Korea and Japan, after all. We're just getting started.

    DakiniShoshinlobsterperson
  • IronRabbitIronRabbit Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @Richdawson said:

    When I said "Western Tradition" I really was referring to / thinking of a unified Buddhism teaching that could support monks much in the way it is in the East. Wasn't really trying to set us above or aside.

    So, there is no "Western Tradition" then. None at all. Buddhism in the West is mimicry. In saying that there is no intention of denigrating those who practice at any and all levels. Its just that this practice has only been in vogue, so to speak, since the 1950's in the West. (Okay, Madam Blavatsky and her cohorts brought some Buddhist philosophy to the West in the late 1800's but it didn't really take hold until after WWII.) That's like, 66 years or so compared to the Eastern tradition beginning in around 450 BCE. That effectively defines the "Western Tradition" of Buddhism as in its infancy. So, maybe it will require hundreds of years for such a phenomenon. It may be through the continuation of the evolution we have witnessed in the West, or it may come about by the arising of a Buddha in the West. Weirder things have happened. (Witness the U.S. 2016 presidential race.) Western science has adopted mindfulness practice (secular Buddhism) with a vengeance (because there is money to be made) and awareness about practice has increased remarkably in recent years. The Psychology angle towards Buddhism (Dharma Lite) has probably increased awareness of the practice far more than any teacher, sangha or school as well, recently. Perhaps the "Western Tradition" will evolve as a scientific method, which is probably much more palatable to the masses when supported by research and proclaimed benefits. There has to be a payoff in the West, you know?

    ShoshinlobsterCinorjerperson
  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited September 2016

    Let's look at the practicalities involved in sustaining a monastic community. Firstly, someone needs to raise the money to build it or buy an existing facility. Buddhist sanghas do seem capable of doing that; they've managed to build retreat centers all over the US. What about supporting those who choose the monastic life? Would that even be taken seriously by society, or would it be viewed as some kind of escapism, or laziness?

    Well, we have an example to study. The Catholic Church has monasteries and nunneries. How are they supported? In part by parishioners tithing. How many participants in Buddhist sanghas would be willing to tithe 5-10% of their income every month. Are you all ok with that?

    Also, I imagine that Catholic monasteries, like Tibetan ones, have their own small commercial enterprises; selling honey, crafts of some sort, and so forth. So the monks contribute labor to the enterprise, as part of their chores.

    The Tibetan Buddhist monastery in Switzerland that Stephen Batchelor studied in had a system of sponsors in the surrounding communities. (It was located in the mountains outside Geneva--good location for finding wealthy sponsors.) So the abbot would approach individuals in the community who were sympathetic toward the tradition, and explain that a new novice or two had arrived, and would ask if they would like to sponsor them by paying for their meals and minor living expenses.

    So that's the kind of thing it takes to acquire and run a monastery, and support monks. There may be more examples of Buddhist monasteries in the West than we're aware of; this place outside of Geneva has been around for over 40 years. Who knows what else is out there? Isn't there one in Scotland or northern England, too? But these aren't a Western tradition, they're Tibetan. I'm not entirely clear on what the OP is asking, now.

    Cinorjer
  • @Jayantha said:

    I hear from fellow western Tibetan monastics that they are actually expected to go to work to support the temple, tibet political organizations, and tibetan monastics. This is a ridiculous thing.

    Perhaps.
    Slavery to Rinpoches and Lamas was the feudal system in Tibet until recently. Many Tibetans teachers still think they are in the business of Dharma ... ah well, they will learn as well as teach ...

    However it is quite possible a 'pay as you go' system of part work as practice and part being totally monastic might emerge. The Theravadin model is not the only option. We might have a franchise system or commercial sponsorship. 'This monk sponsored by Apple computers', as part of ones robes. Stranger things have happened.

    Personally I feel one should be able to buy a monk and get them to tithe some of their practice to our personal welfare. When this becomes available I may put in a special order for ten of the best monks ... I probably need more than ten but it may be all I can afford. o:)

    Not sure if I need this one training to be a lobster ...

  • There are quite a few Chinese monasteries in the US. They are open to visitors. But being a lone westerner may be a bit uncomfortable. If they sense a sincerity in you they will do a lot to help you out. In these way places the monks have daily chores as do lay people. In olden times a day without work was a day without rice.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Dakini said:
    OP, there is a Western tradition, but it's controversial at this point. A former Buddhist monk in both the Tibetan and Korean traditions, Stephen Batchelor, is at the forefront of this tradition, which he calls "Secular Buddhism". You may find a couple of his books interesting: "Confession of a Buddhist Atheist", and the recent "After Buddhism".

    Batchelor is a scholar who has read the Pali Buddhist canon in the original, as well as Tibetan and Korean canons. His latest book is an analysis of the Pali canon from his "secular" perspective. He tries to get to the bottom of what it was the Buddha really taught and why, and what concepts seem to be later additions influenced by Hinduism.

    In any case, that's the only Western tradition in Buddhism that we have. I find it quite thought-provoking.

    There is also Triratna, formerly FWBO ( Friends of the Western Buddhist Order ). And many of the more "traditional" groups have been tailored for a western audience.

  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @Richdawson said:> > I remember reading a quote from a prominant buddhist teacher, I forget who, who said something like " Buddhism will of fully arrived in the west when there are western monastics in western monasteries supported by western laity.

    We have that in the UK, there are a number of Thai Forest monasteries for example.
    I have been on retreat at this one several times: http://www.amaravati.org/

    lobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    TNH has a few monasteries in the US, correct? I imagine those are support by his vast Buddhist empire, lol. There is one in British Columbia too, I believe. People who truly desire to be monastic do have options. The places that are available in the West do accept people after a trial run and various processes, like what Jayantha is doing. The communities do often help support those places, as I understand. Not fully, not like in Asia, but they do help.

    My teacher spends half the year at a monastery teaching in Tibet. And half the year here. Our Sangha supports him by voluntary donations and we make use of non-profit matches that our state does every fall, so our donations are doubled to our sangha by generous businesses and so on elsewhere in the state. He doesn't live in a monastery, but his needs are still fully supported by the Sangha and there is no requirement or guilting (tithing) into doing so. Teachings are offered freely, donations are appreciated but not required.

    Cinorjer
  • I'd heard that even the Catholic church has found the cost of supporting monasteries and nunneries too great and also have problems with people wanting to become monks and nuns now. Remember, in the East the temples were often supported by the government and sometimes given orders by the rulers, and this whole separation of church and state thing we have would have seemed insane to them. The government also told the people which religion to observe upon pain of death. Just like we used to do in the West. So big temples were either funded and supported by their rulers or, if they fell out of favor, destroyed and abolished. Tibet had their native Buddhism almost wiped out at one point because of this boom and bust cycle.

    Dakini
  • there's a simple answer to your question. the western Buddhists can not agree on what the western tradition should be. at the best it will. be a mish mash of the different traditions that exists. at worst, it will be a place where everything is acceptable ie you can practice whatever suits you ie here, we agree to disagree . my prediction is there. will never be a unified western. tradition. simply. because we can not agree on what. it should. be.

    lobster
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I don't think that would be a bad thing. I think it's good that many of us come to Buddhism to escape the trapping of more traditional religions, and it's a good thing that we don't simply accept similar trappings about other religions. the more strict you are in maintaining an identity around your beliefs, the more likely you feel the need to defend it. Which is half the reason we are in the state we are in in the US, and the world, right now.

    Cinorjer
  • do western Buddhists believe in reincarnation? or maybe it's just don't ask, don't tell ....

    Dakini
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I don't think anyone can say "do western Buddhists believe..." for anything. My view of it is different from most Buddhists. I still celebrate Christmas. Others do not. People just do what works for them, and I think that's a good thing. I wish more people would do that instead of worrying about whether the other person is doing everything the "right way" because their is some centralized idea of what everything should be like.

  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran

    @lobster said:

    My understanding of Bat Mitzvah may not yet be fully developed. o:) Basically the men all go into the bar, 'drink one kosher beer'. Raise their bottles and recite the mantra, 'Praise the Bat(man)'. Then pay for free drinks and leave. The women in similar fashion also 'raise the Bar'.

    I think I just cracked a rib :p

    _ /\ _ (Dhammachick the JuBu)

    lobsterCinorjer
  • possibilitiespossibilities PNW, WA State Veteran

    I don't see the relevance of monks for establishing/perpetuating a Western form of Buddhism. Modern technology- rather than clergy - has promoted the spread of Buddhist ideas, no matter what the origin. And the information/dharma teaching is widely accessible for free to anyone who choses to find it.

    It is still too early for an established Western branch, but I agree with @Dakini that Stephen Bachelor is the best representative of a uniquely western approach.

    Of course, traditional views oppose his ideas even though the core (8-fold path, 4 noble truths) remains in tact. IMO this IS the western approach, even if you don't like it.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    I just don't think a person can go to another person and say "Oh yes, I'm an American Buddhist" and have anyone know what that means, because it'll mean something different to every single American Buddhist. I don't want anyone to assume I follow Bachelor's brand of Buddhism just because I'm an American. I don't have a problem with him, but he's just not for me. I don't really want to see Buddhism at all turn into something like that where we identify by even more labels. In the US, you aren't a Christian, you are a Catholic or a Lutheran or a Presbyterian. And when you say so, most people know what you mean by it. I don't want Buddhism to be put into those boxes. I don't think it's necessary.

    RuddyDuck9
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @karasti said:I don't want anyone to assume I follow Bachelor's brand of Buddhism just because I'm an American.

    Don't worry, Stephen is actually an English gentleman. :p

    karastiWalkerdhammachickRuddyDuck9
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @SpinyNorman LOL I know. I just meant generally speaking.

  • Labels are certainly nice. They may even help attract attention. But the content of what we are and how we honorably we face our defects of our character defines Buddha-Dharma as I know it.

    dhammachick
  • WalkerWalker Veteran
    edited September 2016

    Buddhism is a recent phenomenon as far as the West is concerned. We went through the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution first, and Buddhism is taking root at the same time as the rapid development of technology, as well as the Environmental Movement. As well, there's the scepticism of authority involved as well.

    I think all this is having the effect of the eclectic nature of Western Buddhism.

    We don't really know what it is yet, because we're still in its infancy.

  • @Walker. I can't perceive Buddhism becoming a major religion in the US. But it may become influential in ways we cannot know as yet. Though many religions have flourished here I have never felt Americans to be religious in particular. One mans opinion.

  • possibilitiespossibilities PNW, WA State Veteran

    @karasti said:
    I just don't think a person can go to another person and say "Oh yes, I'm an American Buddhist" and have anyone know what that means, because it'll mean something different to every single American Buddhist. ...... I don't want Buddhism to be put into those boxes. I don't think it's necessary.

    American Buddhism is a label you created, and it would not be appropriate since we're talking about "western Buddhism" - which, as mentioned above, is not even ready to be defined.

    Making more boxes is not a problem since a box is just the container for new content. If there is legitimate new content, there will be a new box and label. Whether it stays relevant is just a matter of time.
    @karasti, you are apparently suggesting that there should not be any new content since in your view there are already enough versions (boxes) of Buddhism. Many people outside the current lineages beg to differ.

    The split of "western Buddhism" away from traditional forms of Buddhism reminds me of Martin Luther's transformation/reformation in Germany.

  • @grackle said:
    @Walker. I can't perceive Buddhism becoming a major religion in the US. But it may become influential in ways we cannot know as yet. Though many religions have flourished here I have never felt Americans to be religious in particular. One mans opinion.

    And, true to form, Americans tend not to consider Buddhism to be a religion. Compared to Asians.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Veteran

    @possibilities I never once said, or suggested that. Buddhism will continue to change shape everywhere it goes and with everyone it encounters. I do not feel a need to further segregate people by deciding on a name/box for American Buddhism or Western Buddhism. Seeking to constantly compare and differentiate our views from others only creates more division. It should grow as it will, without people seeking the need to name it.

  • I wouldn't say that Americans are 'not religious in particular'. Especially in the South.

    But there is a definite trend toward the 'nones' i.e. people who don't affiliate with any religion. And I think some (like myself, and others interested in Secular Buddhism or just mindfulness and meditation in general) are taking Buddhist ideas and incorporating them into their lives without affiliating themselves to any particular Buddhist sect.

    Maybe that's where Western Buddhism is going, I'm not sure.

    Shoshin
  • SpinyNormanSpinyNorman It's still all old bollocks Veteran

    @Walker said:> We don't really know what it is yet, because we're still in its infancy.

    Sure, we're only about 50 years in. Things will look very different in a few hundred years.

  • So the general feel of what I am getting from the responses seem to mirror much of what I was thinking myself.

    That primarily being that the practice is still fairly new, and hasn’t settled or grown to such a point yet where it has “come into its own” sort of speak. Looking at some timelines for the spread of Buddhism you can see that in most of the cases new schools took a few hundred years to evolve.

    Another thing that was touched on a bit is how Buddhism is viewed in the west. Is it a psychology, is it a religion, is it mysticism? With all the different practices that exist in the west, it might be hard for some to strip away the “extra stuff” and get to the heart of the teachings. Some of the views of Buddhism (no self for example) directly contradict the Protestant and Roman Catholic values that western countries “grew up” with, the idea of being an individual with a soul created by a higher power.

    The works of Stephen Bachelor seem to broach this last point (from what I understand, still need to research on my own), and perhaps that is where the west will go with the teachings. Taking the heart of what Buddhism is, and exposing the truths therein without the “mumbo jumbo” (for lack of a better term). A cleaned version if you will, going back to basics. If not his works in particular, than perhaps someone else’s.

    Cinorjer
  • @karasti
    @possibilities

    As I understand it the variations in the different schools arose (at least in some regards) as a result of exposure to the different cultures it came into contact with. Wether that be a different perspective, rituals or prayers they all seem to at least in some part have developed to help the people of a culture better understand the core teachings.

    Ideally there wouldn't be any different schools to begin with (in my opinion), but with two very different cultures east / west it seems only natural that something similar would happen in the west.

    I don't look at it as a division, but rather more of a unifying evolution. East/West

    However I suppose you could argue that with the resources of today's technology making information easily available, and the co-mingling of cultures, that evolution may not need to or will even happen.

    person
  • dhammachickdhammachick crazy Aussie BUJU Sydney, Australia Veteran
    edited September 2016

    @Richdawson said:

    Taking the heart of what Buddhism is, and exposing the truths therein without the “mumbo jumbo” (for lack of a better term). A cleaned version if you will, going back to basics. If not his works in particular, than perhaps someone else’s.

    You do realise the "mumbo jumbo" you refer to is traditional Buddhism from the East and referring to it as such is disrespectful? Just because people don't agree or identify with it doesn't mean it's okay to treat with disregard. A cleaned version - clean from what, its origins? You do realise the Buddha himself was born a Brahmin before he became enlightened?

    This, in my view is why the West will never have a singular path of Buddhism. So many Westerners turn to Buddhism to distance themselves from their religions of birth. It's fine to be an atheist, a non theist or even an anti theist (though the ones I've met tend to be complete arsehats full of hate). The Buddha even said of Buddhism to take what works and discard what doesn't. So if this is the case, nothing needs to be cleaned, just adapt. Why do you need to even label it? It's making a mountain out of a molehill.

    Addendum - And to be painfully clear, I'm not having a dig at anyone or being arrogant, grumpy or any of the other seven dwarves. Just offering my view on it. Take it for what it's worth.

    RuddyDuck9
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