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Paul Williams - from Buddhism to Catholicism

SattvaPaulSattvaPaul VeteranSouth Wales, UK Veteran
I wonder what are people's thoughts on Paul Williams - a professor of Buddhist studies who has converted to Catholicism (and also wrote a book about that called The Unexpected Way: On Converting from Buddhism to Catholicism.

My personal reason for bringing this up is that I find I am re-examining my own path and re-appreciating Christianity which I had abandoned. Williams raises many interesting points.

http://whyimcatholic.com/index.php/conversion-stories/buddhist-converts/item/65-buddhist-convert-paul-williams

Here's a also short video of him (there's part 2 too):


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Comments

  • SileSile Veteran Veteran
    edited October 2012
    It's pretty straightforward...he prefers the concept of a permanent, unchanging self. Totally understandable urge. But I don't see the hopelessness he does in the cycle of rebirth; quite the opposite. I like, and am comforted by, the thought of having more opportunities for practice down the road if I don't achieve enlightenment in this life. I have hope in the benevolent compassion of the dharma and those practicing it; even if I'm reborn as a cockroach, I have some confidence it might at least be within scuttling distance of a stupa. I want to get out of the cycle of painful existence, but I don't see cyclic existence as the inescapable hell he seems to.

    Personally, I have become a much happier person since I ceased freaking out about the concept that I might change a little over the aeons. I was probably just as attached to my previous self as I am to my current self--and it didn't kill me to shed that skin. It's like being a child and dreading the first tooth falling out...at first there is freaking out. By the tenth tooth, you're pulling it out without a second thought. My little niece recently took one out with a pair of pliers before we even realized what was happening.
    FoibleFull
  • ZenBadgerZenBadger Veteran Derbyshire, UK Veteran
    Yes, my Buddhist friends were angry with me (and in one case violent) when I turned away from Buddhism. I suppose it is human nature to think that just because someone says that a particular path doesn't work for them that they imply that it is worthless for anyone to follow, which often isn't the case. I think it can be especially hurtful when it is a scholar as we tend to believe that such people have an inherently better understanding than we do ourselves and if they don't get it what am I not seeing wrong here?
  • SilouanSilouan Veteran Veteran
    @SattvaPaul

    Thank you for sharing this.

    I came from a non-religous secularist home and became a Buddhist, and after about twenty years I converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. We see the idea that many suggest as Christians we hold to a belief in a "permenant unchanging self" lacking in theological depth and insight.

    I hope the best for Mr. Williams, and you in your journey
  • SileSile Veteran Veteran
    edited October 2012
    Silouan said:

    @SattvaPaul

    Thank you for sharing this.

    I came from a non-religous secularist home and became a Buddhist, and after about twenty years I converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. We see the idea that many suggest as Christians we hold to a belief in a "permenant unchanging self" lacking in theological depth and insight.

    I hope the best for Mr. Williams, and you in your journey

    I didn't mean to suggest he lacks depth and insight, but rather that I totally understand wanting to choose a religion that supports an unchanging self. For myself, I don't see the "changing self" as negatively as he does, that's all. I don't think for a moment he lacks theological depth; the Dalai Lama is quoting as telling his priest friend to "not bother too much with studying emptiness," as it might shake his friend's single-pointed faith in God. Strong faith in ones path is considered such a worthy thing in Buddhism that even the Dalai Lama said it could be a better option for someone than the Buddhist path. I'm sorry if it sounded like I was criticizing Williams; I meant to suggest the Buddhist path doesn't seem devoid of the feeling of "hope" for me, as it did for him.

    I guess I don't see (my belief in) the changeable self as scary or threatening any more, possibly because I've replaced it with a different kind of unchanging self--the concept of enlightenment, which satisfies all the urges for a permanent, unchanging self, and then some. Like a hungry person hoping for a piece of moldy bread, being disappointed not to get it, then being given fresh bread.
  • SileSile Veteran Veteran
    edited October 2012
    An absolutely beautiful, short article, Practicing the Religious Self (Duane Bidwell), talking of what he believes Buddhists and Christians share.

    Excerpt:

    "It is somewhat paradoxical to write or speak about identity formation in two religious traditions that ultimately deny the reality of any identity that we might claim or fashion for ourselves. In the Christian traditions, a person’s true (or ultimate) identity is received through God’s action and grace in baptism; to foreground any other facet of the self, or to anchor identity in anything but baptism, could be considered a form of idolatry. In the Buddhist traditions human identity is empty, woven not from an inherent or externally granted essence but through the interdependent arising of all things...

    From my perspective, ultimate reality in both its Christian and Buddhist expressions is primarily experienced through social processes and artifacts: the church, the sangha, the sutras, the bible, the Christ, the Buddha, and the religious identities that emerge from each individual’s socially embedded “subjectivity.” ...

    Our practices of our religious selves in the mundane, conventional realities of social processes can simultaneously express ultimate realities that might only be accessed through the artifacts of our relating to one another."
    CittaJasonvinlyn
  • JasonJason God Emperor Arrakis Moderator
    edited October 2012
    Personally, I don't see anything inherently wrong with someone being drawn towards a different spiritual path than the one they're currently on, and I'm somewhat sympathetic.

    As I mentioned in a similar discussion, I've found myself increasingly drawn to spiritual people and places of all kinds lately, including a local Greek Orthodox Church. I've also been reading spiritual works outside of Buddhism, and I often get a feeling of expansive peace and interconnectedness when I come into contact with deeply spiritual people and teachings of all faiths. For example, here's something I wrote earlier this month:
    It seems like I’ve spent the majority of this weekend at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, where the 61st annual Portland Greek Festival is being held, which, if you know me, is kind of funny considering how much I used to shun churches in my younger days. But whereas I used to scoff at organized religious institutions, particularly Christian ones, I've since found myself increasingly drawn towards spiritual people and places of all kinds, often getting a feeling of expansive peace and interconnectedness whenever I come into contact with deeply spiritual people and teachings of all faiths.

    Eastern Orthodox churches seem to especially draw me in, not only because of their beautiful iconography, but because of some of the symbolism underlying them as well. Some of them (like the one depicting Jesus' descent into Hades, for example) are quite philosophically complex, and I find them intriguing to contemplate, not unlike Christian koans in a way. The concept of theosis is also appealing to me, i.e., the idea of trying to emulate the life of Jesus, and genuinely putting into practice his teachings on forgiveness, generosity, renunciation, and unconditional love in order to become more god-like, to become one with the best aspects of our humanity and share a deep sense of communion with one another.

    Of course, there are certainly many Christian ideals and theological aspects that I don't like and will probably never agree with; but I respect Christianity and the Christian community for what it is or potentially could be to people. It's a guiding light in times of darkness, and a source of comfort and a place of refuge in difficult ones. It's a journey towards wholeness for those who feel incomplete. It's a celebration of life and happiness in a world filled with sadness and death. It's a philosophy, a riddle, a vehicle for gnosis. And deep down, it can be characterized by one simple commandment, which Jesus gave to his Apostles at the Last Supper: love one another.

    It's hard not to appreciate this commandment and the spirit it was given, or the people who sincerely endeavor to follow it. It speaks to the salvific power of love, and reflects the idea that there's something special, something divine, in our interactions with other people—an idea that's mirrored in Bible passages such as, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love," and echoed by Church Fathers like Augustine of Hippo: "Once for all, then, a short precept is given you: Love, and do what you will: whether you hold your peace, through love hold your peace; whether you cry out, through love cry out; whether you correct, through love correct; whether you spare, through love do you spare: let the root of love be within, of this root can nothing spring but what is good."
    And this idea of the the salvific power of love can be found in Buddhism, as well. For example, in April of last year I wrote:
    In Richard Gombrich's new book, What the Buddha Thought, for example, he mentions that, while the idea of loving-kindness (metta) being salvific is often neglected in Theravada (i.e., the general consensus traditional being that the four brahma-viharas themselves only lead to rebirth in the Brahma realms, not nibbana), there are texts in the Pali Canon extolling kindness and how it can lead to enlightenment. One is the Metta Sutta (found at Khp 9 and Snp 1.8), which begins with extolling kindness towards the world, and climaxes with this passage:

    Towards the whole world one should develop loving thoughts boundless: upwards, downwards, sideways, without restriction, enmity or rivalry. Standing, walking, sitting or lying, one should be as alert as possible and keep one's mind on this. They call this divine living in the world. Not taking up ideas, virtuous with perfect insight, by controlling greed for sensual pleasure one does not return to lie in the womb. (Gombrich's translation)
    He notes that, "This conclusion to the poem surely corroborates that the whole poem is about how one may become enlightened. Moreover, it is natural to interpret 'not returning to lie in the womb' as meaning that one will have escaped altogether from the cycle of rebirth, which is to say that one will have attained nirvana" (87). Of course, he's careful to point out that the poem doesn't state kindness alone will produce salvific results, and that it mentions other qualities of great importance (e.g., insight and self-control), but then he brings up Dhp 368:

    The monk who dwells in kindness, with faith in the Buddha's teachings, may attain the peaceful state, the blissful cessation of conditioning. (Gombrich's tranlsation)
    Gombrich concludes this passage is "saying that kindness is salvific, and it is surely no coincidence that the term for nirvana, 'the peaceful state', is the same as the one used at the opening of the Metta Sutta" (87).

    So while I'm not sure if love alone can lead to nibbana, I'm more inclined to agree with Gombrich that it can be salvific in the proper context. It's one of the ten perfections, after all, which are not only the skillful qualities one develops as one follows the path to nibbana, but the basis of the path to full Buddhahood as well. And this, I think, accords well with passages in the Bible such as, "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:8).
    As for anyone thinking about doing the same, the only advice I can give is to explore wherever your heart takes you, and just try to be receptive to all the good things you find along the way in whatever form they may take, whether it's the Metta Sutta and Buddha's advice to his son, Rahula, or the Sermon on the Mount and Jesus' commandment to his Apostles at the Last Supper.
    vinlynSilouanlobster
  • SonghillSonghill Veteran Veteran
    Some grist for the mill...
    "Yet one reason why I think my Buddhism was always deep down a sham is that I never really had much of a story to tell about why became a Buddhist" (Paul Williams, The Unexpected Way, p. 2).

    "G. K. Chesterton has commented somewhere that usually when a Westerner converts to a non-Christian religion they never really convert to that religion at all. All they really convert to is Christianity minus the parts of Christianity they find unpalatable" (Paul Williams, The Unexpected Way, p. 7).

    "Buddhism the way it is presented by so many Western practitioners ('Western Buddhism') is, of course, pre-eminently a religion of kindness and compassion to others. Western Buddhists are keen to emphasise that Buddhism is not world negating, but implies one way or another direct action in the world to benefit all sentient beings. There is a tendency in Western Buddhism to push the laity and the option of social engagement to the ideological forefront. It includes wiggly worms as much as humans. And Western Buddhism as a religion also has a major advantage over Christianity. It is liberated from the idea of a Creator God. It downplays the role of faith (which, as it is employed by Christians Buddhists always seem to think of as 'blind faith') and stresses direct personal experience" (Paul Williams, The Unexpected Way, pp. 7-8).



    Frankly, I enjoyed Paul William's book. I learned a lot about Western Buddhists, that some of them are still basically Christians — lapsed Christians, that is. In some way, Christianity let them down. Buddhism seemed to have what they needed at the time.

    I like to think that Paul Williams, the Christian, is starting to understand religion. But I don't think Western Buddhists understand religion: what it's really about. Perhaps they never will (I hope this is not true).

    Switching gears, I think the Christian Gnostics like the Valetinians understood what religion was about more than the Christians who followed them after the Nicene creed. I also think some traditions of Tibetan Buddhism grasp what religion is really about, for example, the Jonang tradition and others of the same mystical bent.
  • SileSile Veteran Veteran
    edited October 2012
    Songhill said:

    I don't think Western Buddhists understand religion: what it's really about. Perhaps they never will (I hope this is not true).

    Can you give an example, @songhill? Western Buddhists cover a wider philosophical spectrum, possibly, than Eastern Buddhists do in any particular Asian nation, or possibly even than Eastern Buddhists as a whole.
  • cazcaz Veteran Veteran
    He's more then likely not practised Dharma, People who tend to do this are those who like the idea of it but lack the effort to put it into practice and choose an easier form of spirituality.
  • SonghillSonghill Veteran Veteran
    Sile:

    Religion is different than philosophy. Philosophy is nothing more than metaphysical assertions, or more precisely, hypotheses. Philosophy is a world of fictions (Hans Vaihinger), even useful fictions — but fictions nevertheless. Religion, on the other hand, goes much further. The true religionists aims to realize the very stuff of the universe which the Lankavatara Sutra says is cittmatra (mind-only/pure mind). I don't find Western Buddhist engaged in 'religion'.
  • ZenBadgerZenBadger Veteran Derbyshire, UK Veteran
    If you think Catholicism is easier than Buddhism then you have never experienced it. Both are difficult paths in their own way but it is impossible to say that one is simpler than the other or one is easier, or less rigorous. To practice Catholicism sincerely takes a lot of effort just as practicing Buddhism does, however it is possible to practice either one to a lesser degree. I would not want to speculate on the depths of Mr Williams practice from my own glass house, would you?
    lobsterKundo
  • SileSile Veteran Veteran
    edited October 2012
    I sensed a feeling of longing in him. I really understand that longing...to have a benevolent entity that is looking out for me, taking care of me, and that I--in my current form--will be united with my lost loved ones, exactly as they were, unchanging, permanent people who I miss so much. It is almost impossible not to long for this. I long for this every single day.

    I really, truly believe that ultimate reality accommodates all that longing, and more. When I eventually realized that, I relaxed and felt that, "Not only is it the same as being reunited with my loved ones, it's even better." Everyone along the way becomes a loved one, and eventually self doesn't matter so there's no fear necessary over losing self, and so on. It's not some cold place "stripped of identity" and "separated forever from family." The misconception would be almost humorous if it weren't so tragic. Ultimate reality is exactly what we truly, in our souls, long for--and exceeds even our wildest imaginations as to how perfect it could be, or this is what I believe.

    Is there any chance that shooting for enlightenment could be called wise clinging, lol? Because I do cling to the concept that there is a positive and worthy reason to try and escape the cycle of rebirth. Non-attachment doesn't mean there's no sense of love, or sense of positive. Certainly once enlightened, concepts such as negative and positive themselves no longer matter--but that doesn't mean enlightenment is cold. If it were, how could enlightened beings possibly have any feelings of loving-kindness toward non-enlightened beings, the tireless desire to help them?

    Bunks
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran Colorado...for now Veteran
    Songhill said:

    Some grist for the mill...

    ...

    "G. K. Chesterton has commented somewhere that usually when a Westerner converts to a non-Christian religion they never really convert to that religion at all. All they really convert to is Christianity minus the parts of Christianity they find unpalatable" (Paul Williams, The Unexpected Way, p. 7).

    I think there's a lot of this kind of thinking among "converts", including here on this forum.

    I know that there are still things I am attracted to in Catholicism, but I reject one key tenet in it -- the sacrament of Confession. Not because I'm afraid to confess, but because the concept really says, "anyone who does not confess through a priest cannot be save". In other words, excluding most of the world's population. It's very much a "my religion is better than your religion" type of thinking. And so, people move on to a different Christian religion or ever a different world religion.

  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran Colorado...for now Veteran
    Songhill said:

    Sile:

    Religion is different than philosophy. Philosophy is nothing more than metaphysical assertions, or more precisely, hypotheses. Philosophy is a world of fictions (Hans Vaihinger), even useful fictions — but fictions nevertheless. Religion, on the other hand, goes much further. The true religionists aims to realize the very stuff of the universe which the Lankavatara Sutra says is cittmatra (mind-only/pure mind). I don't find Western Buddhist engaged in 'religion'.

    I may agree with you on this, although I would take it no further.

  • Could we just conclude that we choose religion based on our preferences? It is impossible to know which religion is true (or whether there is a truth at all), so all one can do is choose a religion that makes us feel good. Religion is just a coping mechanism, it is like going to a movie to distract oneself when one is upset.
  • CittaCitta Veteran Veteran
    edited October 2012
    caz said:

    He's more then likely not practised Dharma, People who tend to do this are those who like the idea of it but lack the effort to put it into practice and choose an easier form of spirituality.

    and you came to this conclusion ( that he has not practised Dharma ) how ?
    And that he has chosen an "easier" path how ?
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran Colorado...for now Veteran
    music said:

    Could we just conclude that we choose religion based on our preferences? It is impossible to know which religion is true (or whether there is a truth at all), so all one can do is choose a religion that makes us feel good. Religion is just a coping mechanism, it is like going to a movie to distract oneself when one is upset.

    You started out pretty good, but then you went way too far.
  • vinlyn said:

    music said:

    Could we just conclude that we choose religion based on our preferences? It is impossible to know which religion is true (or whether there is a truth at all), so all one can do is choose a religion that makes us feel good. Religion is just a coping mechanism, it is like going to a movie to distract oneself when one is upset.

    You started out pretty good, but then you went way too far.
    Story of my life, lol.
    BunkslobsterKundo
  • CittaCitta Veteran Veteran
    music said:

    Could we just conclude that we choose religion based on our preferences? It is impossible to know which religion is true (or whether there is a truth at all), so all one can do is choose a religion that makes us feel good. Religion is just a coping mechanism, it is like going to a movie to distract oneself when one is upset.

    Is there any reason why you are here and not at a movie ?
    vinlyn
  • Citta said:

    music said:

    Could we just conclude that we choose religion based on our preferences? It is impossible to know which religion is true (or whether there is a truth at all), so all one can do is choose a religion that makes us feel good. Religion is just a coping mechanism, it is like going to a movie to distract oneself when one is upset.

    Is there any reason why you are here and not at a movie ?
    Let's not trivialize important matters. Please focus on the op, thanks.
  • CittaCitta Veteran Veteran
    music said:

    Citta said:

    music said:

    Could we just conclude that we choose religion based on our preferences? It is impossible to know which religion is true (or whether there is a truth at all), so all one can do is choose a religion that makes us feel good. Religion is just a coping mechanism, it is like going to a movie to distract oneself when one is upset.

    Is there any reason why you are here and not at a movie ?
    Let's not trivialize important matters. Please focus on the op, thanks.
    It is you that described religion as a coping mechanism " like going to the movies" so who exactly is trivialising what ?
  • SileSile Veteran Veteran
    edited October 2012
    Songhill said:

    The true religionists aims to realize the very stuff of the universe which the Lankavatara Sutra says is cittmatra (mind-only/pure mind). I don't find Western Buddhist engaged in 'religion'.

    I think it's safe to say there a great many Western Buddhists working hard to realize the very stuff of the universe. Struggling to realize is struggling to realize--we can't judge another's struggle by our own struggle, and say that if the two struggles aren't exactly alike, one of them (always the other person's, lol) is not struggle!

    Oy, this is starting to sound like Mao in the 1960s. I think I won't use the word "struggle" any more for a while.

    When Buddhism first came to Tibet, I think it probably took the Tibetans a while to get past the basics and go deeper, too. It may have been tempting for the Indian teachers to throw up their hands and say, "they're not engaging in religion." It takes a good, long while for a new path to settle in and be fully embraced at all its levels. We can't necessarily take shortcuts (or if we can, we should definitely point them out!)

    I'd be more tempted to say that it's the changing times affecting the absorption of this new religion; the same obstacles Westerners face are being faced in India itself--electronic distractions everywhere, etc.
    vinlynKundoperson
  • SonghillSonghill Veteran Veteran
    Sile:
    I think it's safe to say there a great many Western Buddhists working hard to realize the very stuff of the universe. Struggling to realize is struggling to realize--we can't judge another's struggle by our own struggle, and say that if the two struggles aren't exactly alike, one of them (always the other person's, lol) is not struggle!
    Would you include secular Buddhists? I find no evidence in their literature that strongly suggests they are "working hard to realize the very stuff of the universe." I don't find it in Soto Zen, either, which seems to believe that all we need do it sit — that solves all problems. I don't find some sects of Theravada trying to realize the stuff of the universe; who seem adamant that all is conditioned; an unconditioned substance or essence can't be. The list goes on.
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran Colorado...for now Veteran
    Citta said:


    Is there any reason why you are here and not at a movie ?

    Let's not trivialize important matters. Please focus on the op, thanks.
    It is you that described religion as a coping mechanism " like going to the movies" so who exactly is trivialising what ?

    I agree, @Citta. I think @Music made a good point -- that when people "decide" on a religion, they have gravitated toward a belief system that already matches aspects of their already-formed beliefs. But then he went too far -- religion is not just to "makes us feel good" (in fact, it often does the opposite), is not "just a coping mechanism", and is far more complex than "going to a movie to distract oneself when one is upset". No matter how serious one takes his or her religion, following a religion is a life's project.

  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran Colorado...for now Veteran
    Songhill said:

    Sile:

    I think it's safe to say there a great many Western Buddhists working hard to realize the very stuff of the universe. Struggling to realize is struggling to realize--we can't judge another's struggle by our own struggle, and say that if the two struggles aren't exactly alike, one of them (always the other person's, lol) is not struggle!
    Would you include secular Buddhists? I find no evidence in their literature that strongly suggests they are "working hard to realize the very stuff of the universe." I don't find it in Soto Zen, either, which seems to believe that all we need do it sit — that solves all problems. I don't find some sects of Theravada trying to realize the stuff of the universe; who seem adamant that all is conditioned; an unconditioned substance or essence can't be. The list goes on.

    "There he goes again" -- RR.

    Everytime you go on about secular Buddhists I can't help but think "Onward Songhill soldier, marching as to war. With the staff of Buddha going on before."

    This should not be a battle among people who admire Buddhist thought.

    tmottesCittaDairyLama
  • SileSile Veteran Veteran
    edited October 2012
    Songhill said:

    Sile:

    I think it's safe to say there a great many Western Buddhists working hard to realize the very stuff of the universe. Struggling to realize is struggling to realize--we can't judge another's struggle by our own struggle, and say that if the two struggles aren't exactly alike, one of them (always the other person's, lol) is not struggle!
    Would you include secular Buddhists? I find no evidence in their literature that strongly suggests they are "working hard to realize the very stuff of the universe." I don't find it in Soto Zen, either, which seems to believe that all we need do it sit — that solves all problems. I don't find some sects of Theravada trying to realize the stuff of the universe; who seem adamant that all is conditioned; an unconditioned substance or essence can't be. The list goes on.

    What is your definition of realizing the stuff of the universe? Are you referring to investigating reality, through study, analysis and meditation?

    To me, the attempt to realize the stuff of the universe takes all these forms, and I hear the teachers saying all these things are important: studying the teachings on life-the-universe-and-everything, analyzing those teachings in our own mind, and spending time in several types of meditation--single-pointed, analytic, and both at once.

    I like the Dalai Lama's regular emphasis on scientific developments related to understanding the stuff of the universe, because I think that helps bring some of our Western experience (which is so science-focused) into the arena of Buddhist discussion. We are creatures of our own culture, and it makes sense to use some of our own cultural environment as the basis of at least some investigation, imo. I don't think that makes it any less of an effort to understand the stuff of the universe--maybe it makes it even more of one.

    I don't know -- I just see a lot of people working very hard to deepen their knowledge. That doesn't mean everyone's trying to, but it's never been the case in history that everyone is trying to.
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran Colorado...for now Veteran
    @MaryAnne, maybe you're talking in part about me, because I think it's valid to draw comparisons between Eastern -versus- Western "styles" of Buddhism. In my school an important part of our curriculum was to teach students to draw comparisons as a means of learning more effectively.

    What I dislike, and perhaps this is what you're referring to, is to draw such comparisons and then say of the Thais or the Tibetans (or whichever group), "Well, they're old world and they don't really understand Buddhism", or "They don't really 'do' Buddhism right", etc. Gee whiz, if it wasn't for the Thais and Tibetans (and so forth), few Westerners would even know about Buddhism. Of the Americans I met at the sangha in Northern Virginia, most of them became interested in Buddhism when they went to Thailand on vacation.

    That's why I agree with the descriptor you used -- elitest.
    Jeffrey
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran Veteran
    edited October 2012
    @MaryAnne, I don't think you can generalize to any who make comparisons. For example a distinction between mundane and supramundane is just a part of certain sects of Buddhism.

    Intent is important. Trying to keep purity of teachings as you see it is a valid motive. I think you need some tough skin to not be put off. As painful as it is to be criticized if the poster makes a distinction between different sects that just means they are a sectarian. And some of it is off putting. That's part of the pain of samsara and attachment to views that we get upset when someone's view does not fit in our box of 'acceptable'.

    Believe me I know how it feels as I am a Tibetan Buddhist and tantra has come up as a highly criticized feature of our sect.

    In my posts I find a need to maintain harmony in addition to portraying truth. So sometimes I won't correct or criticize because harmony is needful. Is more harmony what you long for MaryAnne? But then like I say truth is also important and sometimes I have to stand for what I believe to be true despite it creating disharmony.
    Sileperson
  • cazcaz Veteran Veteran
    Citta said:

    caz said:

    He's more then likely not practised Dharma, People who tend to do this are those who like the idea of it but lack the effort to put it into practice and choose an easier form of spirituality.

    and you came to this conclusion ( that he has not practised Dharma ) how ?
    And that he has chosen an "easier" path how ?
    If you deeply practice Dharma and accomplish its meaning there is no point in returning to Christianity, Obviously as a convert to Catholicism he found something to be lacking in Buddhism which suggests practice but it not having been sufficient enough to make desired changes.

    "Easier" as in all you need is faith in Christ as your get to go to heaven. Christianity at its most fundamental.
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran Colorado...for now Veteran
    @Caz, if you think "all you need is faith in Christ" to be a "good" Christian, then I really don't think you get the principles of Christianity. Christianity is a very complex religion with a great deal of history and multiple interpretations various aspects of both the Old and New Testaments.
    Kundo
  • MaryAnneMaryAnne Veteran Veteran
    edited October 2012
    vinlyn said:

    @MaryAnne, maybe you're talking in part about me, because I think it's valid to draw comparisons between Eastern -versus- Western "styles" of Buddhism. In my school an important part of our curriculum was to teach students to draw comparisons as a means of learning more effectively.

    What I dislike, and perhaps this is what you're referring to, is to draw such comparisons and then say of the Thais or the Tibetans (or whichever group), "Well, they're old world and they don't really understand Buddhism", or "They don't really 'do' Buddhism right", etc. Gee whiz, if it wasn't for the Thais and Tibetans (and so forth), few Westerners would even know about Buddhism. Of the Americans I met at the sangha in Northern Virginia, most of them became interested in Buddhism when they went to Thailand on vacation.

    That's why I agree with the descriptor you used -- elitest.


    @Vinlyn,

    I was not thinking of you / your comparisons when I wrote my post. I completely understand the intentions behind nearly all or any of us simply discussing comparisons between styles, traditions, etc. No problem with that, and I'm sure there have been times I have participated in discussions like those as well.

    Your second paragraph is *exactly* what I was referring to.
    (and @Jeffrey and Vin): An otherwise factual or perceptional comparison ending with judgment and a sense of ... superiority ...over others. That is what puts me off a bit. It just seems... not right.

    Jeffrey
  • CittaCitta Veteran Veteran
    MaryAnne said:

    I thought for quite a long time before
    hitting the Post Comment button... a long time. But here it goes:

    I find myself literally cringing at the attitudes being expressed by the same few people time and time again.

    I'm starting to get, well, 'put off' - just a little bit - when I read the same elitist (yes, I said elitist) comparisons between "western buddhism" and "Eastern Buddhism", and various other phrases like "real practitioners", "true followers" etc. over and over again in various topic areas.
    No you certainly are not the only one...
    Now true, how I react to these conversations is (basically) my issue, but still..... am I the only one who perceives these kinds of ... [trying to find the word]... viewpoints as somewhat troublesome?

    I sometimes feel like I've just stepped into The Buddhist Monastery Of Hard & Fast Rules & Brass Knuckles Zen.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran Veteran
    @vinylyn, wouldn't the individual decide what they needed to be a good Christian? So you could both be right if we assume that caz was just relaying what *many* Christians believe to be the ground of the faith. For example many people on aol chatroom said that salvation was through faith rather than works. I picked up that the majority view is salvation from faith. It depends how you look at it. I mean the 10 commandments could be a part of faith or 'in addition to' faith.
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran Colorado...for now Veteran
    Jeffrey said:

    @vinylyn, wouldn't the individual decide what they needed to be a good Christian? So you could both be right if we assume that caz was just relaying what *many* Christians believe to be the ground of the faith. For example many people on aol chatroom said that salvation was through faith rather than works. I picked up that the majority view is salvation from faith. It depends how you look at it. I mean the 10 commandments could be a part of faith or 'in addition to' faith.

    Yes, I thought that was what I was saying...I guess not very well.

    My 3 best friends here often talk religion...lightly. We're all very different.

    The couple (in their mid-60s) are fairly devout Catholics. She's just as happy going to an Episcopal Church, but he's adamant they go to a Catholic Church...an it is extremely rare that they miss church on Saturday night/Sunday. He believes in Confession. She doesn't. In some issues they agree with the Pope, in other issues they don't, but neither does something just because the Pope says so.

    The single woman is in her late 70s, and is Methodist. Rarely missed a Sunday and goes to a couple of church-related activities each week, even does "security" at the church entrance twice a week. Thinks being gay is fine. Concentrates on the New Testament. Thinks there is no "right" religion, but that there are "wrong" religions.

    I'm, 50% Christian and 50% Buddhist, but will listen to wisdom from any source. On the Christian side, I pretty much ignore the Old Testament and really prefer the Jefferson Bible to even the whole New Testament. On the Buddhist side, I'm Theravadan, fairly liberal, and also think there is no "right" religion, but there are "wrong" religions. I believe there are many "paths" to fulfillment (whatever fulfillment means in a spiritual sense). I have no problem with beliefs based on faith, as long as the individual knows the difference between faith and fact.

    In other words, I see "religion" in America as changing. More and more people sort through various aspects of their religion and feel free to accept and reject things, as they wish. I know of a number of churches who have separated from the national church body, and I know of churches that have fired their ministers. The day of trickle down religion in America is pretty much over.



    Silelobster
  • SileSile Veteran Veteran
    edited October 2012
    The main problem I have with Williams' paper is not his personal decision to live as a Christian, which is of course completely fine and he should absolutely do if he feels it's right for him. The problem I have with the paper (not Williams) lies in several of his statements--one of which implies Buddhists feel no sense of hope. Even if he had said, "Christianity has hope," as opposed to "Christians have hope," it would have come off more as a comment on dogma, and less a criticism of people, with the implication that there's something wrong and negative about Buddhists and their choices.

    But the bigger red flag for me was his statement that if you are Christian you must reject rebirth. I know Christians who believe strongly in rebirth, and many Christian traditions of the past have strongly believed in rebirth. By his judgement, they're not allowed to be called Christians--which he should know is a broad enough religion, historically and today, to accomodate both rebirth and non-rebirth views. I'm surprised to find a man who has practiced several religions coming out as sort of a neo-fundamentalist, stating what others should believe. I have no problem with him stating strongly what he believes.
    ArthurbodhiSilouanMaryAnne
  • SilouanSilouan Veteran Veteran
    @vinlyn

    I'm not shy about stating my Christian orientation as being Eastern Orthodox either.

    The fact is that there are huge differences in theology and practice between the Christian East and West, and the majority of people on the forum when relating their Christian experiences or interpretation of theology, practice, faith, etc... is predominantly Western influence. They don't necessary announce it with boldness, but it is clear without them having to, and in that sense a distinction is already being made.

    Despite my limitations in knowledge it is not with superiority that I clarify the Christian East, but to show that there is more to Christianity then one sided influenced assumptions about it.
  • SilouanSilouan Veteran Veteran
    @Sile
    I didn't mean that you had wrong intentions about mentioning a 'permanent unchanging self' with regards to Mr. Williams, and I apologize for making it seem so. I was trying to make the point that ultimately the concept of a 'permanent unchanging self' in Christianity is not seen as the ultimate truth either.

    Also, you had mentioned earlier regarding the Dalai Lama speaking to a Christian priest friend about emptiness. Similarly, a long time ago I read a book from the Dalai Lama where he mentioned that a Christian shouldn't probe too deeply into the doctrine of emptiness, because it might undermine their belief in a creator God.

    As a Buddhist I completed agreed with him, and though I love and respect him, I know now that he has no in depth knowledge regarding apophatic mystical theology, and is attached the to one sided concepts or ideas he has about God. The God that dwells in divine darkness can only be known through the ignorance that requires ultimately of letting go of constructs and concepts, and I don't see how that can be undermined.

    Anyway, we are all trying to arrive at what is ultimately and essentially a mystery that is beyond what mere words can describe. I look forward to reading the article 'Practicing the Religious Self' you previously posted.
  • SonghillSonghill Veteran Veteran
    Sile:
    What is your definition of realizing the stuff of the universe? Are you referring to investigating reality, through study, analysis and meditation?
    Foremost of all unanswered questions posed by scientists in the 2005 anniversary edition of the magazine Science was this question: "What is the universe made of?"

    This question is answered in the Lankavatara Sutra (I am not sure Buddhists have read this Sutra, let alone grasp its implications). It is Mind-only or the same, pure Mind.

    Arriving at this answer is not a metaphysical exercise of raising questions, forming certain opinions, concepts and hypotheses, and sharing ideas with others. It is a matter of seeing directly Mind stuff which I hasten to add, is more real than this illusory, suffering world.
  • taiyakitaiyaki Veteran Veteran
    edited October 2012
    Vajrayana is both theistic and non-theistic.

    Theistic in that when there is dualistic vision the energy moves from outside to the individual. This energy or the protectors is seen as them or the external other.

    Non-theistic in that when there is pure vision of the three kayas, then that same energy isn't seen from coming from outside of oneself.

    So the premise of God or an external Other really breaks down if one comes into contact directly with one's unborn buddha mind.

    Whereas if the world is perceived dualistic (here and there) then there is self and there is other.

    This is something one must come to terms in practice.

    For myself God is the natural state. Jesus is the bodhisatva principal. And I am sure many Christian mystics would come to the same conclusion using different terminology for something that is non dualistic and non conceptual.

    Thomas Keating describes it as space and the ultimate mystery. And that my friends sounds exactly what Buddhism calls Dharmakaya. <3
    JeffreyCitta
  • SileSile Veteran Veteran
    edited October 2012
    Silouan said:

    @vinlyn

    I'm not shy about stating my Christian orientation as being Eastern Orthodox either.

    The fact is that there are huge differences in theology and practice between the Christian East and West, and the majority of people on the forum when relating their Christian experiences or interpretation of theology, practice, faith, etc... is predominantly Western influence. They don't necessary announce it with boldness, but it is clear without them having to, and in that sense a distinction is already being made.

    So true - and to be honest, those of us with roots in, as you say, Western Christianity, have practically no knowledge or even more than vague awareness of Eastern Christianity. We aren't even aware we practice "Western" Christianity. We don't have any intention of stating the Western view as opposed to the Eastern view--it's far worse than that--we literally have almost no awareness of even the existence of an Eastern view. We don't announce our "Western" label with boldness; rather, we literally don't even know to acknowledge any alternative. Or at least, that's my experience, coming from Adventism, which is fairly representative of much North American, Protestant fundamentalism.

    SilouanCitta
  • BunksBunks Veteran Australia Veteran
    edited October 2012
    MaryAnne said:

    I thought for quite a long time before hitting the Post Comment button... a long time. But here it goes:

    I find myself literally cringing at the attitudes being expressed by the same few people time and time again.

    I'm starting to get, well, 'put off' - just a little bit - when I read the same elitist (yes, I said elitist) comparisons between "western buddhism" and "Eastern Buddhism", and various other phrases like "real practitioners", "true followers" etc. over and over again in various topic areas.

    Now true, how I react to these conversations is (basically) my issue, but still..... am I the only one who perceives these kinds of ... [trying to find the word]... viewpoints as somewhat troublesome?

    I sometimes feel like I've just stepped into The Buddhist Monastery Of Hard & Fast Rules & Brass Knuckles Zen.

    There are some big ego's on this forum for sure....not a criticism, just an observation.

    Being relatively new to buddhism, I was of the understanding that removing this ego was the purpose of the practice.

    Is that wrong?

    lobsterKundoMaryAnne
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran Veteran
    Would you care to name out some in particular? I always get in trouble for this. See I don't think people should leave vaguely veiled remarks. I find it better to just either keep it silent, deal in PMs, or man up and say what your grievance and with whom.
    Sile
  • BunksBunks Veteran Australia Veteran
    No, I'd rather not thanks.

    I guess I just don't understand why people argue about buddhism and the different traditions. Maybe I am just naive.
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran Veteran
    edited October 2012
    Yeah it's weird. It's based on attachment. I know it's distressing I feel the same way.

    I just commented because sort of vague nebulous backbiting (that's too harsh just couldn't find word) is hard to isolate the problem and get constructive. I mean even if you know you don't get along with someone that in itself is a victory, because you can avoid them. Or you can call them out and discuss it.
  • DaozenDaozen Veteran Veteran
    Whatever works for you.

    My only objection to Christianity is when it becomes all hell-fire and brimstone, preachy, and telling women what to do with their bodies. (Although even then, I mostly say "whatever" and laugh it off.)
  • BunksBunks Veteran Australia Veteran
    I didn't mean to offend anyone. Apologies if I did.
    Jeffrey
  • vinlynvinlyn Veteran Colorado...for now Veteran
    Daozen said:

    Whatever works for you.

    My only objection to Christianity is when it becomes all hell-fire and brimstone, preachy, and telling women what to do with their bodies. (Although even then, I mostly say "whatever" and laugh it off.)

    Just for the record, I go to a Methodist Church about once a month. I've yet to hear a single word about hell-fire and brimstone and no one telling women what to do with their bodies.

  • DaozenDaozen Veteran Veteran
    vinlyn said:

    Just for the record, I go to a Methodist Church about once a month. I've yet to hear a single word about hell-fire and brimstone and no one telling women what to do with their bodies.

    Wonderful. Moderate Christianity such as yours is as much of a blessing as fundamentalism is a curse.

    lobster
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