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Cultural Appropriation and Buddhism

As I learn more about Buddhism, I can't help but think about all the cultural aspects I'm missing or disregarding when I try to apply the philosophies of Buddhism to my life. I feel guilty, like I'm stealing bits and pieces, sort of picking and choosing parts of a culture that is not mine; like maybe I shouldn't be pursuing Buddhism. Although I'm doing my best to learn everything I can, there is definitely something you don't get from an online forum (no offense). Has anyone here ever felt this way, and if so, what have you done?

Comments

  • silversilver In the beginning there was nothing, and then it exploded. USA, Left coast. Veteran

    If you start out by reading the book about his whole life story as told by a famous Vietnamese Monk, Thich Nhat Hahn, (It's called Old Path White Clouds), it will give you the very basics and it has helped me so much to not feel any guilt of such things. I have to laugh at myself because every chance I get to tout this book, I take. It's such an enchantingly told story, and I think it is safe to believe that it's as accurate as any book about the Buddha's life and what he taught. Good luck to you, Nave650.

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Nave650 and .. As time goes on and you start to experience the Dharma (and not just study it) you'll find that it crosses all cultural boundaries/barriers..

    Buddhism is about " training the mind" . So my advice.... be "patient" and things will eventually fall into place....

    silvermmoupekka
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    just do the best you can

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited May 2015

    Strangely enough I am not a 2500 year old Nepalise Prince. Ever since then the teachings have adapted, been orthodoxed, hinayaned to death, perverted by the upstart Mahayana etc. What is a gal to do? <3

    Hi and welcome to this den of dharma thieves ... ;)

    mmoHamsakaupekka
  • howhow Veteran

    @Nave650

    Pretty much a duplicate of Shoshin's posting.

    While it is understandable trying to collect many of the cultural aspects of Buddhism, it will all seems a bit useless when you find yourself spiritually on the clothing optional path towards suffering's cessation with no pockets left to carry anything in.

    All those cultural acquisitions will just make you look like like another hoarder, at a renunciates party.

    No understanding of any cultural conditioning is required for your digestion & manifestation of the 4NT, 8FP & DO , which is the Buddha's path.

    lobstersilverbookwormmmo
  • @Nave650 said:. Although I'm doing my best to learn everything I can, there is definitely something you don't get from an online forum (no offense). Has anyone here ever felt this way, and if so, what have you done?

    Are there any local Buddhist groups you can get involved with?

  • @lobster said:
    Strangely enough I am not a 2500 year old Nepalise Prince. Ever since then the teachings have adapted, been orthodoxed, hinayaned to death, perverted by the upstart Mahayana etc. What is a gal to do? <3

    Good point, @lobster, I didn't think about it that way.

    @SpinyNorman said:
    Are there any local Buddhist groups you can get involved with?

    There are a few within driving distance of my dorm (I live on a college campus), but since I have neither a car nor bicycle, I am forced to walk everywhere. Public transportation is an option, but that would have to wait until next fall; right now it is finals week.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited May 2015

    I"m not sure what you mean by "cultural aspects", OP. I don't see anything "cultural" about the 4 Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, meditation (common in many spiritual traditions, including the West), or practicing the Middle Way and non-attachment. In fact, in my understanding, the Buddha was almost anti-cultural; he was a maverick who deliberately went against the cultural norms of his day, in a similar way to Jesus. He didn't recognize caste differences, rejected his society's belief in a pantheon of deities and the concept of "soul", developed his own theory of what forms the "ground of being" contrary to the prevailing ideas of his day, and told followers to avoid clinging to ritual.

    The Buddha's teachings, as I see them, are pure philosophy. There is no cultural baggage, which is one reason why Buddhism has spread all over the world, and adapted easily to any and all cultures.

    silverShoshin
  • bookwormbookworm U.S.A. Veteran

    @karasti said:In any case, the 4 noble truths and the eightfold path are truths available to anyone who can make use of them and no one should feel guilty about putting them to use. No one can own truth. It belongs to us all.

    You don't understand them.

  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    Please explain why you would say that to Karasti based on what you quoted.

  • bookwormbookworm U.S.A. Veteran

    This is suffering
    This is its origin
    This is its cessation
    this is the way leading to its cessation.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @bookworm said:
    You don't understand them.

    Me neither.

    Earthninja
  • bookwormbookworm U.S.A. Veteran

    The keyword is This

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Me neither this o:)

    bookwormEarthninja
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    I am mystified.

    bookworm
  • bookwormbookworm U.S.A. Veteran
    @vinlyn To give you a better idea, when you look at the first link in dependent origination you see that it is ignorance, and what is ignorance? The Buddha said ignorance is not understanding the 4 Noble Truths as they really are.
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    Still mystified.
    Are you sure you're studying the same 4NT we are? :confused:

    How can you dare to presume what others do or do not understand?

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    No clue what you are getting at @bookworm . The 4 noble truths are available to everyone to learn about and understand. That was my only point. That whoever happens to stumble across them or find them, can make use of them, learn them, apply them to life without feeling guilt that they are stealing them from a culture. I know what they are and I understand them to the best of my current ability and stage in my practice. I'm not sure what exactly you were reading into my post but it was much more than what I was trying to say.

    Nave650
  • howhow Veteran
    edited May 2015

    Some Buddhists believe that that culmination of the path to suffering's cessation is the only full understanding of the 4NT & 8FP & DO. Any understanding shy of enlightenment itself is the proof of a lack of that understanding.

    Sometimes introduced by teachers when they worry that their students are becoming complacent or are resting on their spiritual laurels.

    Always misused when unaccompanied with the skillful means to advance that understanding or it degrades into a casual mentality of one up man ship.

    DavidbookwormsilverEarthninja
  • bookwormbookworm U.S.A. Veteran

    I hope i'm not misrepresenting the Buddha when I say this, even if someone were to say that they partially understand the 4 Noble truths, it would be the same as not understanding them at all, because their understanding is incomplete.

    Therefore i'll admit that I don't understand them either because my knowledge and vision of these 4 Noble Truths as they really are, are not thoroughly purified in their 3 phases and 12 aspects.

  • bookwormbookworm U.S.A. Veteran

    @federica said: How can you dare to presume what others do or do not understand?

    How can you dare to ask me how I can presume what other do or do not understand?

  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    Maybe it's just me, but this is getting dumb.

    silver
  • bookwormbookworm U.S.A. Veteran

    I'm really sorry @federica and @karasti, I realize I was being a jerk.

    With metta.

    howEarthninja
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I didn't think you were being a jerk @bookworm I just was confused on what you were getting at. But that's ok, our understandings are often different. Thanks for the apology though, if you feel like you were being a jerk ;) But not necessary.

    bookwormlobsterEarthninja
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran
  • HamsakaHamsaka goosewhisperer Polishing the 'just so' Veteran

    "Whom" are we . . . I dunno, insulting or being unfair to by incorporating bits and pieces of the great mass that is Buddhism, rather than 'the whole kaboodle' (as IF anyone short of the Buddha could perceive a whole kaboodle of anything!).

    Are we being dishonest? Are we gonna miss something important? Like, leave out an ingredient and make our cake fall? Is it like "You forgot to add in 15 lojongs and now you'll NEVER get Awakened!!"

    I think our trouble is we have too much choice. It's something about the way we are taught to know things 'completely'. There's too darn much to 'know' and although they say the devil is in the details, I haven't found (yet?) this to be the case when it comes to my practice, anyway.

    I blatantly cherry pick, I 'belong' to no school or Great Vehicle. There are chunks of everything in there . . . and not just Buddhism, but other philosophies. It hasn't always been that way, but as my practice kind of developed (with the kindness and feedback of these folks around here) I began to feel less anxious about what I SHOULD be doing, am I doing it 'right'. It's like I sort of let go and allow my practice to be whatever evolves within certain parameters . . . and right now, those parameters are (hopefully) the 4 Noble Truths, as many precepts as I can genuinely keep spinning in the air (and those silly things have a way of showing different faces to me). My temperament is more suited for some things Theravada, some things Mahayana and I plan to sink myself into some Djogchen (sp?) some day. Oh, and Zen, much of that hits home as does Chan Buddhism, which modern Zen evolved from.

    lobsterEarthninjaNave650silver
  • bookwormbookworm U.S.A. Veteran

    @vinlyn said:
    I am mystified.

    I cannot get into greater detail then to say that the Dhamma is visible here and now.

    Shoshin
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    @Bookworm, at least in this series of posts you are talking in circles and in cliches. All of us know that the Dhamma is visible here and now; if we didn't, we wouldn't be here. Really, the gist of this forum is in how different people interpret the dhamma and/or conduct their practice. Several of us were simply wondering why, and on what basis, you attacked @Karasti's earlier post. You've chosen not to respond, but you were nice to offer an apology. I'd say the conversation has died a natural death since you "cannot get into greater detail". Which is okay. No problem.

    All of us, including myself, sometimes would benefit from going back and reading our posts and asking ourselves what point we really made. At times, all of us can be rather nebulous.

    silverbookwormlobster
  • bookwormbookworm U.S.A. Veteran

    @vinlyn said: I'd say the conversation has died a natural death since you "cannot get into greater detail". Which is okay. No problem.

    I'm just going to say one last thing, the reason I can't go into detail because I can't finds the words to describe it. If you understood for yourself then you would know what I was talking about when I said, this is suffering, this is its origin, this is its cessation, this is the way leading to its cessation but you don't, because you haven't seen the Dhamma for yourself.

    David
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited May 2015
    That was pretty bad @Bookworm.

    Forgive me for being skeptical but how do you know you understand if you can't even try to put it in your own words?

    We have countless suttas, sutras and discourses put into words.
    Rowan1980
  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    Bravo, @Ourself.

  • bookwormbookworm U.S.A. Veteran

    @ourself said:
    That was pretty bad Bookworm.

    Forgive me for being skeptical but how do you know you understand if you can't even try to put it in your own words?

    We have countless suttas, sutras and discourses put into words.

    Because it wasn't an experience.

  • bookwormbookworm U.S.A. Veteran

    But an understanding.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    Who's on first?

    What is the point in telling everyone "you don't understand. I do, but I can't explain"?
    That may be the case. But what is the point in saying so? It does nothing to contribute to, or further the discussion, it just causes confusion.

    vinlyn
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    I think the point is that it is an end of the discussion.

    bookworm
  • bookwormbookworm U.S.A. Veteran
    edited May 2015

    @karasti said:
    Who's on first?

    What is the point in telling everyone "you don't understand. I do, but I can't explain"?
    That may be the case. But what is the point in saying so? It does nothing to contribute to, or further the discussion, it just causes confusion.

    I did explain it when I said these 4 Noble Truths.

  • vinlynvinlyn Colorado...for now Veteran

    No, that's not a discussion. We are asking you to discuss your meaning, instead of just making unwarranted statements that are little more than phrases.

  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    I still don't know what you supposedly explained, @bookworm Truly, I have no idea what "the 4 noble truths" was a response to, because it makes no sense in response to the comment you quoted me in.

    vinlynlobsterRowan1980
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    Actually it is not the four obvious self help truths. It is the four noble truths.

    Rowan1980
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    this is all somewhat reminiscent of the famous scene from A Few Good Men

    I want an explanation!
    You can't handle the explanation!
    Doh.

    Rowan1980
  • @Jeffrey said:> Actually it is not the four obvious self help truths. It is the four noble truths.

    Quite right, we don't want cheap imitations! ;)

  • Tea anyone?

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @Lionduck said:
    Tea anyone?

    Now you are talking!

    In England and maybe in foreign lands such as Scottishland, every problem is sorted by 'a nice cup of tea'.

    We of a Buddhist inclination created tea, truly . . . well . . . sort of . . .

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited June 2015

    The Buddha drank a lot of tea because he was an English gentleman. And of course Willy Shakespeare drank a lot of tea while he was helping the Buddha write the suttas.

    Shaklobsterupekka
  • KundoKundo Sydney, Australia Veteran
    edited June 2015

    @lobster said:
    In England and maybe in foreign lands such as Scottishland, every problem is sorted by 'a nice cup of tea'.

    Bugger that for a game of soldiers! In Scotland you'd want a good scotch whiskey, not tea, followed by a good game of golf ;)

    NSFW -

    WalkerlobsterZenshinsilver
  • Those drunken Scots need to be firmly put in their place by an English gentleman. Edward Longshanks had the right idea!

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