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What is "Western Buddhism"
It's clearly not "all Buddhists in the West".
Is it basically "secular Buddhism"?
Why wouldn't it be in part lineages moving to the west? Tibetan, Chinese, etc lineages developed from transportation from India to Tibet, China, etc respectively. The Buddhism of the west will be like a changed (probably by Christianity and atheism) version of Buddhism from those lineages. For example in China Chan evolved via influence from Taoism.
haha! You wasted no time in posting this, @vinlyn!
I think Western Buddhism, i.e. Buddhism as practiced by Westerners, tends towards the secular, but that, itself, is a somewhat nebulous, or contentious, term. I'm "secular" regarding the 32 realms, and other what one might call "faith-based" teachings, but I'm fine with rebirth, though I don't take it on faith, and I didn't used to accept that aspect of Buddhism. And one can't make a sweeping generalization, like that.
Let me just ask you something. When you lived in Thailand, did you consider yourself an "Eastern Buddhist", or did you not even think about it? And how about now, in reflection, in hindsight? Or is that one thing you're trying to explore and decide, here?
I always think of myself as having "grown up" (in terms of Buddhism) as a Theravadan, and I was pretty content there, although I realized there were old world ideas that I just couldn't swallow. But I'm not sure I realized -- until searching around the internet -- that there was a "Western Buddhism" or a "secular Buddhism".
Well, there ya go (italicized). The unswallowable "old world ideas" we could venture to say, are one difference between Eastern and Western Buddhism. Plus the tendency to revere the Buddha as something very close to a deity, praying to him for help with problems, and for blessings for loved ones, etc. I think that's predominant in Eastern Buddhism, and much less common in Western Buddhism.
Interestingly enough, I read recently that it was "Westerners", Buddhistified Greeks in India and Bactria, who first broke the taboo against portraying the Buddha visually, and introduced to Asia the innovation of creating statuary, two-dimensional art and textual illustrations of the Buddha's form. Prior to "Greek Buddhism", the Buddha had only been portrayed symbolically in texts, as the dharma wheel symbol.
Some Christianity like UU or such might attract 'faithful' Buddhists. Christian negative mysticism is pretty much the same as a Shentong perception of emptiness. Of course there are few Christian negative mystics. All the same some 'spiritual' people who believe in 'God' but don't identify with a particular Christian church might be attracted to Buddhism. I have a lot of friends on Facebook who are not Buddhists but regularly post quotes from Buddhist teachers and they are not 'atheists' rather they are 'spiritual'. A lot of counterculture spiritual people such as in paganism might meld. I don't think Buddhism will ever be huge in US though.
The late Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche said Buddhism would come to the west through psychology. And already for 20 years we have Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR).
@Jeffrey Yes, I've heard of Buddhists joining the UU's. What's "negative mysticism"?
I couldn't find the google search that hit the document (a phd thesis) on the relationship between Buddhism and Christian negative mysticism. I think iirc that their understanding of God is neti neti or 'not this' 'not that'. That's what the negative part is.
One thing is clear -- all Buddhist in the West is not Western Buddhism. Every Theravadan "temple" I've been to here in the States is a little slice of Thai Buddhism.
I am hoping my horrendously bad mood doesn't come across in my words, lol. If it does, my apologies.
While I understand the logic that say, Tibetan Buddhists (who are actually Tibetan) living in the US aren't really western Buddhists, they are still part of western culture and they bring a bit of both to the practice, the sangha, and so on. My teacher is Tibetan, as is much of our sangha where our teacher is based in Minneapolis (which has one of the largest US populations of Tibetans). He teaches in a way that allows all to feel supported and comfortable, so some of the traditional rituals have gone away in favor of allowing people to be comfortable (such as making sure not to sit with feet aimed towards the teacher, or requiring everyone to prostrate when the teacher enters the room). But, he also very much sticks to traditional teachings as far as transmission, as far as choosing which students are reading for which teachings and so on. There are deities included in his teachings, though they are not a main focus. Anyhow, I could go on. I would not call when he does, and thus our Sangha, a strictly western group. We flat out are not because we are not secular. But we are not a Tibetan group, either. Those who are Tibetan in the sangha bring a lot of their culture to the group, their food, their beliefs, their way of life. It's quite nice to have that influence.
I don't feel a need to label it as one or another. If someone asks, I consider myself a Tibetan Buddhist because I follow a mostly traditional Tibetan Vajrayana teacher. So in the other discussion, reading that "most western Buddhists don't believe in that stuff" I found to be a sticking point to me, because in my experience, they do. Not all of them by any means. But I wouldn't consider them such a small % of US Buddhists to completely discount them, either.
I don't agree with you @vinlyn based on how Buddhism was transferred from India to other nations. The lineages in the west ARE western Buddhism. My teacher developed her own angle to Buddhism to meet up with western students needs for example. Is shambhala sangha the same as in Tibetan in exile? I don't think so because the western people are different. You hear this in the HHDL's reaction to mental illness. He says that westerners have so much material wealth but suffering comes to them a different way. He also says he cannot understand the widespread self hate (probably to strong a word) in the west. So when an eastern form of Buddhism comes to the west it will be changed by the make up of western students. 84000 dharma doors and more will be manufactured to suit the western practice.
I can believe that. But I haven't found that true in Thai Theravadan temples here in the States. They are still run by ordained monks. Most of their "flock" are Thais. And most of the Americans who go either have lived in, or at least visited Thailand. In a Theravadan temple here in the States sponsored by the Supreme Sangha, no one other than an authorized monk would be "teaching".
I'm not sure you can compare Trungpa's Shambhala buddhism to the rest of Western Buddhism though. As I understand, he set out with a goal specifically to help the West and to form Buddhism to fit the special needs of the west. He sought to change Buddhism as he knew it to fit the US culture. Not all Buddhist teachers who have come here have had the same goal.
I think there are still too many diverse elements at play in the west to allow for anything that would distinguish a truely western form of Buddhism. We aren't sufficiently separated from our Asian roots. We don't have the maturity. The fact that we seem to insist on that distinction is indicative of that.
Western Buddhism will happen eventually, but we're not there yet. Not even close.
It is a question of confidence.
Western Buddhists often look to existing traditions, teachings and teachers for confirmation of subtle points of dharma.
An increasing realisation that enlightenment is not hereditary, birth, location or culture dependent and we have Buddhism in the West. We can then start liberating our Easter friends . . . bring on the Buddha Bunny Gals . . .
What is "Western Buddhism"
There is currently an emerging Western Buddhism which is simple, uncluttered, and goes to the core of the teaching of the Buddha. Many concepts and practices, difficult for Westerners are left out. Rituals such as the chanting, the music and dancing, which form part of the Oriental culture are often not found in this new Western Buddhism, which will become a new style in the Buddhist movement.
That actually sounds like so-called Secular Buddhism.
We westerners are prevented from being 'clear' on what 'western' IS, and how it compares and contrasts to something else. We're too close. I guess I would note the Insight Meditation Society as an example of 'as western as it gets', along with Buddhist Geeks and Daniel Ingram's "Hard Core Dharma". These are basically 'home grown', or as home grown as it becomes. There's so much MISSING and incomplete in calling these 'westernized Buddhism' though, that I hesitate to offer it without a lot of 'yes, but'.
Not a good definition at all.
Secular Buddhism or Western Buddhism doesn't leave things out because they are difficult to understand. It leaves things out because they don't agree with the concept(s).
And in Theravada Buddhism, where is all this music and dancing that you mention? Certainly not in the hundreds (literally) of temples in Thailand I visited over the years. Or is Theravada Buddhism in Thailand not part of what you call "Oriental culture"?
@vinlyn, you asked what Western Buddhism was and the link I provide gave its definition....In the long run they are just labels that we 'attach' and or attach too... The proof is in the pudding/practice....
I, like many Western Buddhists I know, tend to float from one tradition's teachings to another whatever happens to 'float our boat' of no fixed abode....
Western Buddhism? Heck, I couldn't give you a definition of "Eastern Buddhism".
Western Buddhism as distinct from simply Eastern schools setting up their own temples to serve immigrant populations? I suppose one thing that's clear is, it's focused much more on lay participation than a sangha composed of monks. Beyond that, who knows? The huge Zen fad came and went back in the 60s when Zen became a marketing tool that lost meaning and various Masters began abusing the system for their own egos. Then Tibetan Buddhism became the huge thing with "Free Tibet" the catch phrase. Now?
I have no idea.
@Shoshin the link you provide gave "a" definition. There is no "the" definition. Western Buddhism is constantly evolving, and does not have enough boundaries required to put it into a definition right now. Like I think @Chaz said, I think it's going to be a long time. A lot of eastern Buddhism definition seems to be found in the history and the culture and tradition. The western world doesn't have it's roots nearly as solidly in a shared tradition or culture. I think the chunky stew that is western culture, especially in the US, is going to always make it very difficult to define "western Buddhism." It means something entirely different to everyone who considers it. Ken Wilbur has one take, Shambhala Buddhism has another. Even within Tibetan Buddhism, there are many different takes on what western Buddhism is/will be. My teacher feels quite differently from Lama Tony Duff. Of course, my teacher is Tibetan and spends 6 months a year in Nepal and Tibet. Tony Duff is an American who now lives in Nepal but travels quite a bit. Different takes entirely on the subject despite them being fairly close and sharing a lot in common with their teaching beliefs. Tony Duff was a student of Chogyam Trungpa. So, there is no one definition.
That's true @Karasti...
Buddhism throughout its history has adapted to the cultures it finds itself in...It would seem it's the only belief system that can easily accommodate 'change'...Ie, go with the flow...
The Buddha had good foresight...So it would seem..............
@Shoshin, you must be a politician. Someone asks you a question, and you answer a different question!
In my mind it’s all the same thing: Western Buddhism, Modern Buddhism and Secular Buddhism.
And it’s neither typically Western nor typically Buddhist.
When you’re in India or Thailand you can’t seriously believe the world is flat and that the Buddhist cosmology is accurate.
When you’re in Europe or the US you can’t seriously believe in the biblical tale of creation and deny evolution.
We (we all) have to find a way of understanding the value and the meaning of our religion in the context of the 21st century view of the world.
You've missed some posts a while back in another thread where Buddhist cosmology was touted by several on this forum.
Like all religious people we (Buddhists) have the choice between either closing our eyes and clinging to the dogmatic “certainties” that probably seemed valid many ages ago, or facing the truths of modern life ant trying to find a deeper meaning to our religion
Which is which?
Here in the UK most of the "traditional" versions of Buddhism already have some degree of adaptation to western culture. Also there are schools specifically designed for a western audience, like Triratna/FWBO, Samatha Trust, Interbeing, NKT, and of course Secular Buddhism.
I'm just wondering why this should be an 'either/or' question... You know, it happens with all kinds of creeds and religions... The Catholicism practised in South America, for example, is not the same as that practised in either North America, or Italy, come to that....
I don't think it's so much a question of what the differences are, it's a question of personal interpretation and adoption, and implementing the practice.
I'm sure I don't practice Buddhism in the same way @lobster or @SpinyNorman do,but here we are, fellow patriots on a Buddhist forum....
Am I any less a Buddhist than HH the DL? No.
Is he a better Buddhist than I? Define 'Better'...!
Is he more experienced and dedicated than I? Oh, indubitably, unquestionably!
Maybe it's not the location.
Mybe it's how we do it, not where.
Whatever YOUR talk is - Walk it.
Eh? On this forum you are much more likely to see people dismissing Buddhist cosmology as irrelevant superstition.
But returning to the topic, I imagine that Buddhism will gradually become more secular in approach as it adapts to western culture. I imagine it will also become less guru-centric, and less monastic.
Hard to define it really since, like Hinduism, Buddhism is diverse and pluralistic. So no, not Secular Buddhism, though I imagine Buddhism will gradually develop a more secular approach as it adapts to western culture.
Is Japanese Buddhism the same as Tibetan Buddhism?
Eastern Buddhism and western Buddhism are umbrella terms at their best and generalizations at their worst.
We are all unique and we are also products of our environment. It's no wonder that the truth must behave like a chameleon.
In my nearest UK city there are the following Buddhist groups:
Triratna/FWBO ( by far the largest, partly because they are the only group with their own centre )
Zen x 3 ( including an Interbeing sangha )
Tibetan x 2
Theravada x 1
Nichirin x 1
I think this distribution is fairly typical, though there are regional variations.
The UK probably has a much higher percentage of Buddhist groups than the US, but then again we in the US are much more conservative and intolerant when it comes to other religions. Go figure. England even has their own official religion. Just think what a platform for oppression our fundamentalists would use that for, if we had an official "Church of America". I shudder to think.
To quote the venerable Alan watts - 'It's the Which, in Which, there is no Whicher?'
Can you 'adam and eve it' despite his vehement denial that he was not a guru, and should not be taken seriously, and was just making a living about talking about something that couldn't be spoken about, and suggested that buddhism was just Hinduism stripped for export [to the west], they (particularly his kids) are building a church to him!
So my idea of western buddhism is that is as @Chaz has suggested secular - stripped of life-force and worked to death. Damn you non-spiritual beings, you are nothing so make something of yourself in this little window of life! Look at all those christians? Hang on where have all the good christians gone - to buddhism?
It may happen that way in Europe, but i can't be as sure. The secularization of Europe may be nothing more than a fad.
In the US, Buddhism will eventually take on elements of Christianity or vice versa.
That would be a strange hybrid. Any evidence of this having begun to happen yet?
We see Buddhists who are from Jewish background, continue to embrace that heritage. There's even a word for it. Jewbu.
I used to see devout Christians coming to Shambhala Trainning weekends. We have a member here who's path is a Buddhist/Christian fusion and there's more out there. I know a woman who's practicing Buddhism as a Mormon.
But the source of my opinion is in something called purposive evolution. Simply put, the process is the status quo (Christianity) is influences by a revolutionary force (Buddhism). The result is a new status quo that retains elements of both.
The US is Christian nation, like it or not. We are a religious people. If we ever have a western (American) Buddhism, it will have work within the status quo.
I don't see secularism as a factor right now. It could very well be a fad. I'll give it 100 years. Then we'll see.
It will have similar expressions.
The kanji letters of the Japanese language are used in Shingon Buddhist meditations.
This can be done with the Roman Alphabet for example:
A is the beginning of the path representing:
So we will find a magic based Buddhist system continue to emerge and merge. Perhaps the Freemasons will try invigorating their ageing membership by a new 'Dharma Degree'.
Verification by western doctors and psychologists of beneficial meditations and visualisations will focus on Buddhism for the health conscious. So we may have health spa dharma.
I would suggest that the mythology will change, a lot of it used primarily decoratively.
Statues and temples will be purpose built to innovative Western styles.
More egalitarian organisation, rather than monad structures.
Depends what people want and need.
I look forward to 'Buddha World', perhaps a Disney Franchise (no screaming from the Dukkha Roller Coaster . . . )
While I can't tell you what Western Buddhism is, here is an example of what it's not:
Summary: A couple hundred years ago, a Tibetan monk performed the slow suicide ritual of turning himself into a mummy while still alive. Supposedly, their mind remains in a state of meditation even after the body is a dry husk.
What makes Skeptical Buddhists grit our teeth is the article says this is "Buddhist tradition" and "Buddhist practice" when it's a unique and isolated belief of the highly mystical and unique Tibetan Buddhism sect. But if someone finds out I'm Buddhist, I'm asked something like "So do you really believe a 200 year old mummy is still alive?"
Thomas Merton springs to mind, Jim Pym is another....
I have Jim Pym's book. He went to Buddhist meetings for a year, then the meetings folded so he started attending Quaker meetings. He's been a Quaker ever since and had no further involvement in Buddhism.
Anyway there is a sort of relationship between Buddhists and Quakers in the UK, it stems from Buddhists often hiring Quaker meeting halls for meetings.
I'm involved with the local Quakers and will be leading a Quaker Quiet Day for them in the spring.
Oh, thanks for that... I actually thought he was an ordained Zen Monk... maybe he disrobed, or I'm mistaken....
Yes, I remember you saying you were associated with them, and that some of them don't even believe in/mention 'God'... So maybe I stretched it a bit with Pym....
Quakers are right on the liberal end of Christianity, so they're an interesting bunch. I sometimes join them on a Sunday morning for "silent worship", which is basically an hour of silent reflection, sort of like meditation really.
That's a conclusion I can get on board with, seeing that this is happening before our eyes. Buddhism underwent significant change when it was accepted in China, and then into other countries/ethnicities and became Chan and Zen etc. Very legitimate and rich Buddhist traditions, I might add, as will 'westernized' Buddhism become in the coming centuries.
Obviously there are people who mix and match traditions, but I'm struggling to see how a Christian-Buddhist hybrid tradition could develop. I don't see how the theist / non-theist tensions could be resolved in a meaningful way, given that many western Buddhists are atheist or non-theist in orientation and will already have rejected the Christian path.
People come to Buddhism, often as refugees from Christianity, because they perceive Buddhism to be very logical. The 4 NT's, the 8-fold path, and other aspects of it that beginners learn give the impression that it's very rational. This is a big draw to people raised in or around Christianity and Judaism. Then later some find out about the more faith-based aspects of it, and reject that. Voila! Secular Buddhism is born.
A Christianized Buddhism doesn't make sense from that perspective. But who knows? If there's a demand for that, it may develop as a 2nd tendency, alongside Secular Buddhism. It doesn't have to be a matter of either/or. It can be both/and.
I know quite a few Methodists here, as well as a number of Catholics. If you ask anyone of them if they believe the whole kit and caboodle of what their church offers, the answer is that they absolutely do not. My neighbor would appear to be a die hard Methodist. Yet, she will tell you that there is no "right church", that most people go to the church they were raised on, nothing more than that. My Catholic friends don't agree on many of any Pope's positions. I know Thai Buddhists that pray.
At least here in the States the "Church" that is really catching on is each individual's "personal church". And while some things in Buddhism and Christianity don't equate, they don't have to if what you are seeking is wisdom, and wisdom can come from many quarters. No major religion corners the market on wisdom, and no major religion is lacking in wisdom. Many Americans have simply freed themselves from the chains of officially belonging to "a" church.
I know you don't agree with this. So that's fine. No argument will be forthcoming. I respect your right to see things differently.
Sure, there are more people doing their own thing and drawing from different traditions, not so dependent on organised religion as previously.
I wasn't questioning that, I was saying I found it hard to see how there could be an organised hybrid of Christianity and Buddhism, a new tradition encompassing both.
As I mentioned I have some involvement with the local Quaker group here. They are very liberal and laid back, and they don't mind that I am an atheist and a Buddhist. But even there I can't see how we would ever be able to agree to some sort of formalised hybrid, because the basic assumptions are just too different. So while there might be individuals who label themselves as Quaker Buddhists or Buddhist Quakers ( whatever ), I don't see how it could ever become a formal arrangement or identity.