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What is "Western Buddhism"
I think there is. One term that's been used to describe such hybridization is 'double belonging,' and people like Thomas Merton, Paul F. Knitter, Fr. Robert Kennedy, and Fr. Kevin Hunt are a few examples. I think my own practice is an example, as well.
I used to have issues with that, too, but I'm starting to see that these two traditions are more compatible than I once believed.
Where God fits in, I can't say for certain; but I think it all depends on one's understanding of God, and many of the 'attributes' of God can be found in Buddhism, albeit in impersonal terms.
Nibbana, the final goal of the path to liberation, and which is ineffable and beyond concepts and language, is described as in terms like the deathless, the unborn, the unbecome, the unmade, the unfabricated, all things applicable to God.
The Dhamma, our island and refuge, is none other than the laws of nature, the reality of things are they truly are, truth, which is an apt definition of God, I think. Submitting to God in this sense is akin to aligning oneself with the Dhamma, submitting oneself to mindfulness, wisdom, and a spirit of harmlessness. (The New Testament is also full of Dhamma, in my opinion.)
Kamma, of course, can be viewed in the same light, as an impersonal version of God's will/sin. Sinful actions = unskillful actions; righteous actions = skillful actions.
I suppose that in Christianity, I see these ideas presented from a more revelatory point of view, arising out of a peculiar Semitic culture (and later, Greco-Roman), replete with its own religious traditions and worldviews in which they’re framed. And in Buddhism, I see these ideas presented from a more philosophical and/or empirical point of view, arising out a peculiar Indic culture, replete with its own religious traditions and worldview in which they’re framed.
I haven't 'heard' the words AIN SOPH for decades, and no matter how many NOVA space and physics documentaries I watch I end up brain-blown by AIN SOPH every time. I guess I'm not even agnostic in this regard.
My ego prefers to consider AIN SOPH as a helluva lot more than a 'god', so I can still sooth the little bugger with non-theist (gawd what a shit my ego is)
AIN SOPH AUR is way beyond human concepts which stop at Daath in terms of comprehension.
It is important to differentiate between every day theism (pah) and the kind of mystical depth that @Jason alludes to.
God is beyond Cod (the fish is a Buddhist symbol of being awake, having no eyelids) and chips about religion.
Go west young Skywalker . . .
Interesting post, @Jason.
I think if anyone thinks some of us are saying that Buddhism and Christianity are congruent, then they are misunderstanding the point.
If various Buddhist principles cannot seem wise to a Christian, then either Buddhism does not have universally applicable principles OR the recipient is too narrow minded to see values and is simply clinging to dogma.
If various Christian principles cannot seem wise to a Buddhist, then either Christianity does not have universally applicable principles OR the recipient is too narrow minded to see values and is simply clinging to dogma.
Interesting point. When I do silent worship with the Quakers, they use the silence in a variety of ways. Some of the theists there talk about waiting to feel Gods presence in the silence, or looking for the "God within". It's hard to say whether this is comparable to a Buddhist experience of "resting in the present" since the starting assumptions are quite different.
For a Buddhist the "truth" might be an experience of emptiness, for a Christian the "truth" might be an experience of "God". Belief colours the way we experience things.
It is all Buddhist practices that tries to adapt any type of Buddhism to fit into Western society.
But I think the use of the term has glided to mean those practices that have been successful at it.
Is "God" a universally applicable principle, or just a belief? Is conditionality in Buddhism a universally applicable principle, or just a belief?
SN, I have no intention of attempting to argue or make you understand my point(s). I accept that you have a different viewpoint than mine.
It's a discussion forum where we explore and develop points of view, so explaining your points might be useful.
Do you mind if I weigh in
It's not scientific and may never be, but perspective reveals "God"/Ain Soph/Brahma as implicit in the order of matter, energy, and life. It's hard for me to know if this is a belief or not, because I don't consciously ascribe to 'belief' without compelling (to me) evidence. Compelling evidence can be anecdotal sometimes. "Faith" is the word that works best to describes something I must believe or need to believe to be included in a group or 'correct'. "Just a belief" makes me think "faith". Yeah there's a ton of grey area between them, from 'this is what my Mama told me' to anecdotes all the way to 'you too can do this in the lab'.
Conditionality is just way too apparent to simply be a belief or an item of faith.
Am I getting what you mean by 'belief' and/or principle, Spiny?
Mystic Judaism, Christianity and Islam are profound.
They trancend thought and logic. Very easily and very quickly. They are intuitive rather than rational.
So is it possible to 'know' a God beyond Knowing? Logically not.
Really? That is another level . . .
I don't think anyone has implied this, or thought it, at all.
I certainly do not prescribe to such views.
I see much benefit available in all practices.
I just don't believe in a "Higher Power".
I think @Hamsaka's comments ^^ are very insightful...
Yes, it's really the distinction between something which can be observed / experienced and something which cannot. It's clear that belief colours perception, so somebody who believes in God ( say ) will tend to interpret their experience in a way that confirms that belief. So we are talking about confirmation bias, and in the extreme case about self-perpetuating delusion.
To take a more extreme psychiatric example, a paranoid personality would interpret their experience in a way that confirms that delusion, so their perception becomes very irrational.
Yes, and there are strong similarities with Buddhist meditative approaches. However the experience of mystics is notoriously subjective, and people will interpret them in very different ways according to their underlying belief system.
So somebody from a theist tradition might talk about experiencing God or the Divine, while somebody from a Buddhist tradition might talk about experiencing jhana, or non-duality, whatever.
You should go to a Parasha class and listen to them argue and debate over the set teachings for the class!!!! OY VEY!!!!
Is an experience 'mystical' when other people have it too? Is it no longer subjective if others have the same or similar? What makes something subjective? Is it subjective if I'm the only one who has this particular experience? Does it become objective when I find another two or fifty others who claim to have had the same?
I think I get confused very easily here because what comes to mind as being 'subjective' is not the same process someone else uses to determine subjectivity. Was the Buddha's awakening subjective? How does one arrive at a subjective experience anyway, from the inside out or the outside in? Is subjectivity a distinct place or arena? See my problem?
I think the difficulty is that people use very different language to describe "mystical" experiences according to their background and assumptions, so it's not obvious that they are talking about the same experience. Perhaps they are, but it is all very subjective.
I don't think we have a way to even know if what I say about an experience matches what someone else says. Of course, it might come close, many words used to describe such things are similar, of course. But the more I see people attempt to explain their experiences, the more it seems to me that we aren't necessarily meant to impart them to others. Some things seem destined to be only experienced and not explained (and thus shared). If 100 people say they had an experience (for example, people who claim to have gone to heaven or hell during death experiences and returned to talk about it) does their shared perception imply reality? I would say no. Cult members experience the same things, it doesn't make their experiences reality, it means someone altered their perception to make it appear as if they experienced something that wasn't real.
Using God, a whole lot of people attribute everything good to God. Someone I know is going through cancer treatment right now (for the second time in a year for a different cancer) and all things are attributed to God. I read their CaringBridge and the wife of the man with cancer cannot even fathom how anyone deals with anything without having God to rely on. God is the one who made chemo successful last time. God is the one who can heal him. It never has to do with the actual chemo or the work of the doctors or the science used. It's all God's will, or not. While she cannot fathom not having that, I cannot fathom attempting to see life from that view. Millions share her point of view, even billions. But millions of others share mine as well. In the case of life questions, does it even matter if we ever truly know the answer? It seems belief can be so powerful that what can be proven or not doesn't even matter.
Such beliefs can of course bring comfort to people, and that's fine. But are we interested in finding comfort or finding truth? It's something I've discussed with my Quaker friends, the "Truth or comfort?" question. It seems there is inevitably a tension between these two goals.
@SpinyNorman, I was talking about non-affiliate Christians in my sangha under the guidance of a Lama doing shamata vipasana meditation. They are not doing a 'form', in the presence of Jesus. If they are experiencing the presence of Jesus in shamata vipasana then that is their yogic experience. People have all sorts of mental experiences and they are not 'wrong' to have that experience. If they are seeking Jesus in their meditation that is their choice and they can still do that in a sangha. And they can still ask a Lama questions. However of course the Lama mainly teaches the message as they have learned and cannot teach about Jesus. I believe our sangha has a support group for those who have both belief systems and they have in common challenges that they face.
It's not a question of right or wrong, but what you're describing here sounds like a very confused approach to me. Seeking the presence of Jesus contemplatively is not samatha or vipassana, they are completely different activities.
As a New Age Buddhist (have cushion might sit, might not, might for a mite) I believe Western Buddhism is here to make us karma (calmer) and generally:
OM MANI PEME HUM as I heard on my best meditation DVD . . .
guys WE HAZ PLAN!
Religion is a heart-opener. The people who use their religion as an inspiration for hate and violence, or for intellectual hairsplitting are misguided.
(All of this is my humble opinion, I won’t keep saying that.)
When we have inter-religious debates it’s like two people who are both in love, but not with the same person. They could argue endlessly about the color of their loved ones hair, or eyes, or his/her smile, but it’s a futile discussion. They feel the same thing. They’re in love. Their hearts are open.
The problem for us in the 21st century (not just in the West) is that we can’t take religious narratives seriously any more. We can’t believe in myths as if they are actual facts, not like many people did that for ages.
“God above” is no longer literally above and he is no longer literally God either. He is myth.
What are the options?
1. Going into denial and taking the myths to be facts. Take the Holy Scriptures as accurate descriptions of the world that we live in.
2. Stop being religious and don’t ever open our heart this way again.
3. Find a deeper understanding of religion. Lose dogmatic certainties. Lose the poor religion of our heads and find the much richer religion of our hearts (of our hara if you like).
I follow the Shambhala tradition, which is defined as a secular rather than a religious one. In some ways, it is not even Buddhist in the traditional sense; the focus is on an enlightened society rather than esoteric spirituality. The founder, Chongyam Trungpa Rinpoche, brought this new tradition to the west devoid of most of the cultural trappings of traditional Vajrayana. All chanting and dedications are in English, and there are no references to deities, although there is supplication to enlightened rulers of mythical Shambhala (rigden) as symbolic guides and protectors.
Advanced teaching in the tantric traditions are available, I believe, but there is no requirement there.
What is Western Buddhism?
A phrase representing just another version of a them verses us mentality.
I disagree. There's no conflict that I can see, necessarily. 'Them versus us' implies an opposition....
I agree, I don't see any conflict, but I do see distinct differences in the way Buddhism is handled in, for example, Bangkok and Denver.
Well yes indeed, @vinlyn. I would say that's a given....
I recently discovered there is another Buddhist going to the Quaker group that I attend.
I think we will be doing some pollinating there.
You did not understand me. In the sangha they do shamata vipasana under instruction of a lama. If they want to sit with presence of Jesus that is fine but it is not under the guidance of a teacher rather it is their own belief. If they have thoughts about Jesus in meditation that is no different than having thoughts about anything else.
I'm still a bit confused. If they have thoughts about Jesus in meditation, do they just allow them to pass and return to the breath, as with other thoughts, or do they stop and contemplate Jesus? I am used to this kind of thing in a Quaker context, but not in a Buddhist one.
@SpinyNorman Well if they are doing their own practice they can do whatever they want.. If they are practicing at shamata vipasana then they read about the meditation which contains hints to have the right touch at meditation. Returning to the breath is a technique taught in my introduction to meditation booklet but it is also said that some people get more anxious when counting or breathing so the meditation instructions are hints to get you to the right touch in meditation and people might let go into sounds or their body or whatever instead of the breath.
That person if they are serious about their practice will take to heart the instructions and have a personal relationship with the lama and sangha to have a journey into meditation.
On your question if they have thoughts of Jesus if they practice the way I did yesterday they would return to counting on the in breath because I want to have some way to stop day dreaming. On the out breath we just feel the spaciousness of whatever is there. Some people count with 25% of their attention on counting during the out breath, 50% of the attention on spaciousness and 25% of attention on the actual feel of the breath, in my sangha, but I have been doing it on the in breath to give me less things to do on the out breath so I feel a blend of peace and avoiding day dreaming. But my lama teaches that counting or breathing is just like posture in that it facillitates the meditation but is not the essence of awareness.
Again to repeat the answer to your question my lama gives hints to find the right touch. She doesn't teach about Jesus so for the greater part she doesn't know what to tell you about Jesus. I am not sure what she says to those students. It might be a straw man because the Christ/Buddhs wouldn't be learning in a Buddhist sangha if they were insistent on finding the presence of Jesus (to exclusion of new information.. 'cup full'). I mean why would they take all the effort to read teachings and go to retreats where Jesus is not mentioned? They must have a thirst for something else to add that they can get from something outside of Christianity. But what she is teaching is shamata vipasana which does include 'returning to the breath' though the instruction is hints and you find out for yourself.
Again to repeat the answer to your question my lama teaches shamata vipasana (specifically 'formless meditation' which has elements of vajrayana without actually being a tantric practice... it 'opens outward into Dzogchen) and she gives hints to get the right touch of meditation and lead the student into their experience. Her students may belief in Jesus, aroma therapy, yoga, TM, or whatever but she can only teach her awareness practice which is examining awareness (heart, confidence, heart wish, openness, clarity, sensitivity, mandala) and meditating.
And then her students are individuals. I imagine many are scientific materialists who just as the Christians they are looking in my lamas sangha for something different from what they get from meditating on Jesus presence or whatever a scientific materialists does (doctor up the mind?).
Truth is an objective quality, but comfort isn't. I agree with your premise, though.
Maybe comfort is whatever state of affairs that creates the sense that you will survive and even thrive. The truth promises no such thing! Except the Buddha seems to have disagreed -- instead the truth is what sets you free, not comfort, not even assurances of survival.
I find the emerging depths and shallows already similar to development in the Eastern tradition.
We have the populist dharma. Here in the west it pervades a sort of new age mish-mash of karma, crystals, reincarnation and vegetarianism.
Then we have experts in orientalism. Many practice, trying to adopt an alien Japanese Zen culture or Tibetan culture or . . .
Then we have contemplatives and core value practitioners.
As always we have to decide if we like the game or the wake up call . . .