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Finding a Buddhist Temple

Is there any need to find a Buddhist temple?

I mean, I have one here in town - that I even went to once when they had an open house.

And let me just say that from talking with the people involved with the temple - it seemed as if they really didn't know why they were there. Or that maybe they were there because no one wants to hang out with them and it was a good option for a social situation.

Whatever the case - it wasn't too impressive.

Plus, it's in the middle of a fairly large Japanese community. Is that anything to take into consideration? Are all Buddhists alike? Would I even know what the hell was going on?



  • edited July 2005
    I have never been to a temple at all. There isn't one in my city. I hear the Thai temples are really good. Brian can tell you all about it.
  • edited July 2005
    You know, as an american that visits a predominantly thai temple, I probably have a sort of weird view on what buddhist temples in america are like.

    I have found that the thai temples are more cultural and "religious" centers than actual places to learn about buddhism. Don't get me wrong - I can go there and learn all I ever wanted to know about buddhism, but you have to be self-directed. I don't think it can be helped, but people who have been born and raised as buddhists sort of tend to forget that they take certain things for granted - things that we don't have. I have told the monks more than once "I am like a small thai child - an infant. I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about buddhism." There was a book that was written for "young students" that I found VERY helpful, because it was written for 7-10 year olds! They said "oh, that's not for you, that's for kids!"... And I had to explain again "no! This is my grade level!"

    Americans don't know how to sit. We don't know that feet are considered impolite. We don't know that you should take your shoes off. We don't know how to bow. We don't know the difference between Pali and Thai (or japanese or whatever). We don't know if a certain ritual or custom is "buddhist" in nature or "thai" or "chinese" or what have you. We know NOTHING!

    And so if you go to a temple that is predominantly japanese, you may find that they assume you understand certain things that they take for granted. Sometimes it's uncomfortable. Especially when nobody around you is speaking English. You start to wonder what the point is.

    Ultimately, I find more value in spending one-on-one time with monks. That is a very rewarding experience because then you can bring these things up, and you can learn a lot and ask a lot of questions. But I find no value in attending any of the ceremonies or holidays because... well, they're just not a part of my culture.
  • edited July 2005
    Well, the only thing that would be tough about this is:

    The temple doesn't have a resident monk. There isn't one in the city and I guess there isn't one that willing to relocate to my city.

    So, from what I understand, they have someone come in from Seattle every 3 or 4 months to spend a day and that's it.

    I don't know what I'll do. I'm not really search for a "social setting". I've got enough of that with my son, friends, golf, band, music, etc.

  • edited July 2005
    No resident monk? Wow.

    In that case it really does seem like a social club. Do they have a meditation room? If nothing else, perhaps you could make use of that. I find going to my temple's meditation room really helps a lot; sometimes I go there alone just for some quiet.

    The temple I attend is the same one Brian attends, and his observations are dead on. I usually attend evening chant/meditation services twice a week if I can, but I make it a point to go at least once per week. There are several monks on residence, and the abbott is a really wonderful man. I've learned a great deal from them; however, if they weren't there then I can't really see gaining much benefit from my attendance in that I don't use it as a social meetingplace either.

    I suppose we are lucky in this area (southeast Michigan) in that, within casual driving distance, there are 2 thai temples, 1 korean temple, and 1 vietnamese temple. If one is willing to venture out further there are a number of additional temples including a few tibetan monestaries.

    Perhaps you could meet with the monk when he is in residence? Maybe he can let you know more about what's going on. If that's not possible it is always worth a trip to visit them where they are, even if it's just once in a while.

    You really don't have to go to a temple -- I go because it's right for me.
  • edited July 2005
    I still have no temple close by. The closest is over an hour away. :(
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited July 2005
    Perhaps you are looking for something that doesn't exist.

    Buddhist temples are not like Christian churches or Jewish schuls. We are not tied to a weekly holy day when we must attend or, even, regular 'services'. Temple practice is essentially for the resident sangha. If there is no sangha then it will become a place of occasional visits and a social venue.

    Our practice is personal. It is based on the fact, stressed in Buddhism, that our awakening is not effected by anyone outside ourselves. A teacher may transmit teachings, even secret and hidden teachings, but the work is ours and the enlightenment.

    It can be very hard for those of us brought up with congregational worship to understand that it is unnecessary and (sometimes) an excuse not to do the work ourselves. Apart from anything else, there is nothing "out there" to worship!
  • edited July 2005
    Nope. No reisdent mon. At least there wasn't about 3 or 4 years ago when I went there out of curiosity. Something may have changed.

    Like I said, I'm really not looking for participating in something for the "social" scene. I've been in churches where that's all the church really was - a big, social thing. The people there, it seemed from their words and actions, could really have cared less if they were in a "church" or a mall by the way they acted.
    I have social things that I do - and there is no disguise or pretense why I do them. When I'm playing games with my son - that's what I'm doing. When I'm golfing or going to a dinner party or playing a gig or practicing with the band - that's exactly what we're doing.
    But to have a monk to teach one as ignorant as I? That would probably be beneficial.

    Maybe I'm just stuck with you people.

    Just kidding. :)

  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited July 2005
    There are those, Buddhafoot, who say that when the student is ready, the teacher will arise.

    True, in my experience, although we may need some discernment (and humility) to recognise the teacher from the fellow-student. LOL
  • edited July 2005
    I wonder if you understand my delimna, Simon The Pilgrim,

    Being that I've spent my whole life in a "Christian church" mentality - there are some habits that are hard to break. Does one need to mingle with other Buddhists to help be taught what a Buddhist should do? Maybe a person doesn't need that. Maybe this is actually the best way to learn Buddhism. Learn by hanging out on the internet where you still have communication with other Buddhists - but you're not bothered by actually hanging out with them in person.

    It seems kind of odd to go through a "process" like this with most of the people you're able to connect with - you really can't connect with. And not knowing who these people actually are - how does one know they are learning correctly? Although maybe I just don't know yet that this could be the best way for me to learn! Who knows.

    And the last comments on my last post were just a joke :)

  • edited July 2005

    I can see what's wrong with your thinking. I have been trying to think of a way to explain it to you. I think maybe the problem is within you. You are looking for someone to tell you how to be Buddhist. That is part of the "Christian mentality". You already are Buddhist. That's what I think you are missing here. It's not about hanging out with anyone. I connect with the people here on the forum just as easy as someone in front of me. Maybe you are not thinking of them as real people. They are. They are just using a different form of communication. You are looking for answers but maybe not asking the right questions. You need to strip away all that dependency the church has put into your head. You don't need anyone to help you be Buddhist. You only need yourself.
  • edited July 2005
    Yeah, but the reason that I'm looking for a temple or other Buddhists is so that I can learn what one needs to know to become a Buddhist.

    I can't sit here and go, "Hmmm... well I think to be a Buddhist... you have to do this!" Because then, I'd actually be a Me-ist.

    Is it all to be learned by books? If there is no need to be "taught" then why are there monks? Is there no teaching that takes place anywhere? Have all Buddhists learned from the internet or books? Why did Buddha say anything? Why didn't he just write a book or start html.

    That's my only point. I may sound like a smart-ass - but that's not how I'm meaning it. I'm just saying that it would be nice to have someone that you could talk to for teaching.

    It seems silly of me to say, "Am I supposed to learn my Buddhist lessons from people on the internet that I don't know?" But then, I'd be basically doing the same thing learning from a monk that I didn't know either! :)

  • edited July 2005
    I have never read one book on Buddhism. Most of the things I have learned are from this site. I read a few things on line but most things are from here. Buddhism comes from within. A monk will give you the same information you can get here. How you use the information is what makes you Buddhist. Can a person with a bible be a Christian without going to church?
  • edited July 2005
    I kinda disagree with you, comic. I think what michael is asking is how to learn what the buddha taught. There IS structure to this path, the buddha couldn't exactly be a wise teacher if he had no students.

    Michael, I'm going to assume that you were like me when I started: What are the noble truths, what is the eightfold path, etc. Am I correct?

    Sometimes people get hung up on words. Let's call monks "teachers" in this case. You need a teacher to teach you the basics about buddhism, or other students to share your learning experience with, right?

    Please let me know where you stand before I continue. :)
  • edited July 2005
    Brian, maybe I phrased it wrong but you just agreed with me. At least that's what I was thinking.
  • edited July 2005
    I know that I gained a great deal of knowledge from learning directly from the monks. I found that reading in books is one thing, but actually having the teachings TAUGHT is another entirely. In that respect we could all benefit from teachers...

    Further, there is definately something to be said for face-to-face meeting with fellow Buddhists. There is a reason Sangha is a refuge. To be part of the community, and to learn from the monks AND the lay people is a blessing. I also think that it really benefits a follower to be among other followers of similar beliefs -- especially in person.

    Today I spent some time with some of the novices at the temple and they were adorable. They read me some stories from their books and showed me how they take bugs outside so as not to kill them, and after spending just a half hour with them, sucked into their world, I gained a greater persective on what it is I do everyday.

    Community isn't only a social club. It's reinforcement of your ideals and beliefs, and it is a place to "fit in".

    And I think you really do benefit from a teacher and regular instruction, if only to keep you focused and to help you through rough times. I appreciate all the love I have gotten from the monks who help me, and I really believe they have helped me become a better person.
  • edited July 2005
    That's exactly the sort of thing I'm talking about.

    I've purchased books on Buddhism but I find that they are so dry or covering things that a basic knowledge of Buddhism exists - which it doesn't in me - so I'm lost at times.

    I've also read some things on the internet - but Buddhism is also like Christianity in a way. For a person that knows nothing about Christianity - they wouldn't know if they were Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist, Pentecostal or Mormon. Not that having to have a specific "type of Christianity" is required - but what if a person ends up being taught something that isn't what they truly believe or takes them years to find out exactly ~what~ they believe - wasting years when they could have been progressing in their faith.

    So - I guess what I'm saying is: I'm ignorant and want to learn the basics of Buddhism. What should I do? What is acceptable? What are the teachings. I have to learn something, don't I?

  • edited July 2005
    Comic - thanks for yours thoughts and input. I don't want you to think that I'm discounting what you've take the time to tell me - I really do appreciate it. But, Brian was kind of identifying with some of the basic questions I've had here.

  • edited July 2005
    Well I just got home from work and I was thinking all off and on tonight about your questions. I can understand that you have problems with Buddhism and I guess maybe I am having a hard time trying to tell you what it is you need to know. I think it's because Buddhism comes very natural for me. I am not close to enlightenment by any means but I can take what I learn here and use it in my day to day life. I would like a Sangha to go to but I don't feel that I have to have one either. I'm sorry if I am a bit gruff but I believe in being very straightforward. :bowdown:
  • SimonthepilgrimSimonthepilgrim Veteran
    edited July 2005

    I imagine that I recognise where you are at the moment. It reminds me of my own journey into Buddhism.

    When I first considered giving Buddhism a go, I had read a bit and I went to a meditation class run by an ex-monk from the Burmese Forest tradition. It was simple Awareness meditation, although he also introduced a basic Metta element. We committed to practising for 30 minutes a day and, for once, I stuck to the brief! By the end of the 6 week course, I had found that I was experiencing the world differently.

    During the course, John spoke about the Four Noble Truths. At first, I found myself resisting the teaching: I had come to learn to meditate and this sounded like proselytising. But I am the sort of person who goes away and researches. I began to ask people about Buddhism and I was directed towards a number of books. Of these, it was Thich Nhat Hanh's The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching which made the difference.

    There was enough 'technical' information about the Dharma, and beautifully-written and poetic explanation.

    From there, I did what I always do: I read and I reflected. I began to see the connections of ideas between this Buddhism and the aspects of the Christ message that attract me. I read some Hindu stuff, too, to give myself background. I found much there that helped me to make some sense of the mysteries of Buddhism.

    My son and I were blessed to be able to visit India a few years ago and to meet some wonderful Buddhists, lay and monastic. I have no doubt that these meetings were enormously important on my journey. And, on the day we left, I was introduced to the writings of Longchenpa, which are tantra wisdom writings of the Dzogchen school.

    Where I can, I shall be delighted to try and answer your questions. They are the right ones to be asking. May I, however, give you a piece of advice?

    (Skip this if advice unwanted) There are, traditionally, two aspects to Buddhist meditation: Looking Deeply (Vipashyana) and Stopping (Shamatha). A lot of writing about meditation focuses on Looking Deeply but we have to learn to Stop first. My advice is that, whatever you care to label yourself, you begin a daily practice of Stopping. (End of advice)

    Go well, my friend.
  • edited July 2005

    I didn't think you were being gruff in the least.

    I'm really not having "problems" with Buddhism - I feel that I'm just learning, asking questions, and being ignorant. That's why I keep asking.

    Thanks for everything you've said.

  • edited July 2005
    I think I know where you're coming from with the questions, and it is a place very similar to where I was coming from.

    As much as it may be true that we are "all Buddhists", at the same time we don't all know or understand the Dhamma, nor the Noble Truths, etc...

    As Brian said, there IS structure to the religion. There ARE teachings for us to follow. It isn't simply a case of making it up as you go along. One can, for example, refrence the Pali Cannon for a great deal of insight into many of the teachings of a variety of issues.

    A teacher most certainly helps, and a community without a doubt is very useful in a practice. Lord Buddha himself was a teacher -- the monks are teachers. We, as students, can (or at least most of us can)often learn a great deal more from a face to face discussion than a thousand books can teach us. I compare it to a college course -- it's lecture AND readings. Each building upon the other and explaining things that don't make sense, etc...

    Also there is an awful lot of awful Buddhist literature out there. Too many writers assume throwing out a few paradoxes or talking like an episode of Kung Fu somehow makes them authorities.
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