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East meets West

Hello everyone.

Upon finding out that I practice Buddhism, people tend to ask questions. It's always a bit uncomfortable for me because, at least where I live, there is a good chance that everything they know about Buddhism is going to come from me. So, I spend a bit of thought trying to choose my words, examples and explanations carefully. One of the ways that I do this is to use Western examples to explain Buddhist principles in order to try and help bridge the gap between what they know and what they do not.

For instance, I've found that the 'Ship of Theseus' is a good way to explain the illusion of self to a Western person. I like pairing the butterfly effect and dependent origination as well. I think too that it relieves some of the pressure I feel to 'get it perfect' because they are going to bring their own beliefs about butterflies and ships and as a result, muddy the waters by themselves.

Anyway, do you have any other Western/Eastern comparisons that you would be willing to share?



  • personperson Don't believe everything you think the liminal space Veteran

    I find that explaining things from a pragmatic scientific or psychological point of view helps. Also, not really Buddhist but western people seem to grasp the idea of yin and yang fairly well. And prefacing statements that whatever you say is just your own understanding and may not be definitive helps me at least not feel so pressured to get it perfect.

  • I've found that expressions like "the grass is greener on the other side of the fence" or different expressions can express my attitude or view but in familiar terms.

  • paulysopaulyso usa Veteran

    what comes to mind is surfer culture can bridge east and west . to me it's dharma. for example the sign language "hang loose" fits perfectly with buddha-dharma.the spirit of that phraise can be about balance or the middle way.with practice in surfing or buddhist the skillset is second nature with ease in the midst of stress.the stress is the waves. hang loose can be a mantra in or state of being as we build our skillset to cope with life.... as we trust our experience and training as a surfer or buddhist.

  • 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
    edited October 2018

    I tend to use pithy one-liners, or snappy descriptions... you know, easy nibbles which merit expansion if the curious delve further...

    It is what it is.
    you can't swim in the same river twice.
    Rebirth is lighting a second candle from a first, then blowing the first flame out. Is it the same flame - or different?
    Reincarnation is like planting a cutting, because the original plant is virtually dead...
    Re-birth is like layering, then removing the original plant and leaving the rooted branch...

    that kind of thing....

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    I usually talk about the mixture of learning the lore and the practice of meditation, not clinging and letting go, the path to enlightenment, and so on. Short perspectives on the approaches to Buddhism which I have found the most valuable.

  • @yagr said:
    So, I spend a bit of thought trying to choose my words, examples and explanations carefully.

    Why? You only represent yourself and your understanding ... B)

    Fortunately in the interests of ecumenical and friendly interaction I have previously explained all religions o:) ?

    Here are some 'alternative facts' from wikipedia ... ?

    Since my scholarly efforts were mostly ridiculed ;) I as usual have no useful input ?

  • VimalajātiVimalajāti Whitby, Ontario Veteran
    edited October 2018

    The dharmakāya is like this axe.

    This axe is my grandfather’s axe, I tell you, handed down to me through my father’s line. I got this axe when my father died when I was 21.

    I used it all my life to make a living.

    Over time, the head had to be replaced, of course. And at one point, the handle got a chip in it, and that had to get replaced too.

    But this is my grandfather’s axe, I tell you.

    My grandfather’s axe, permanent throughout all time, never the same for a moment.

    Me. You. The ascetic Gautama.

    This is called Buddha-nature.

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