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Musings on life as a western buddhist

JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matterNetherlands Veteran

It is intriguing, being halfway between a religious life and a secular one. At one point I seriously thought about becoming a monk, trading the problems of secular living for the vinaya because it felt like a calling. But I thought at my age (46) it would probably be rather difficult to absorb the sutra’s to the required extent. At least as a lay Buddhist you have the choice how to direct your studies and practice.

I’m also probably a bit too much of a heretic with the Osho background to really fit well into monastic life, if I’m being honest. My Buddhist studies have slackened a bit of late, I feel that many topics such as ‘correct sitting’ are born out of the real spirit becoming a tradition instead and thus missing the mark. Perhaps I feel the lack of a Buddhist teacher in my life, but they are a bit thin on the ground.

And also when I think of finding a teacher I also think of all the organised religious aspects of Buddhism that come along with it, religion as opposed to spirituality. I’m not sure I am desirous of mixing in those circles. Still there is something about for example the Plum Village approach to being a monastery which really appeals to me, I’d enjoy spending time there doing chores and attending dharma talks.



  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    The most essential method which involves all other methods is to behold the Mind...The Mind is the root from which all things grow...If one can understand the Mind..Everything else is included


    I think that when it comes to Buddhist practice, (especially in the West)... self discipline is a key factor...Self discipline as in, it is really up to the individual (what motivates them) as to whether or not they are prepared to commit themselves to Dharma study and practice... ( I guess karmic debt is involved :) )

    There are many Dharma books, YouTube clips, online forums/Dharma groups and if one is lucky enough to live in a big city or town, actual Buddhist centres with Dharma teachers available...We are fortunate enough to have Dharma served up on a plate.... a smorgasbord of Dharma for the mind to feast upon...

    However in saying this....I'm also aware that for some people, self discipline is a struggle, there's so much more interesting stuff going on mind-wise, that it's hard to have a bit of non-self time...I guess this is when it is important to have a Dharma teacher pointing the way... the mind a prod/kick start so to speak...

    On a personal note...Because I'm more along the lines of a secular Buddhist, this doesn't mean that I avoid Dharma teachings by those Dharma teachers who adhere to certain schools of Buddhism where rituals & ceremonies are the norm...Organised religion (bells & whistles), or secular (plain wrapper), ... Dharma is Dharma.... a spiritual/mind training path...Dharma goes beyond the bells & whistles and the plain wrappers....

    Slightly off track.... I've been reading "Buddhism in the Netherlands"

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Go on a retreat. That way you can be a heretic for a week or two. Check out the monks for potential teachers (that is their day job) and generally mix with Buddha Lotus Buds.

    I have just returned from a hermetic secular retreat. Obviously as a heretic I have to be self disciplined enough to

    • remain on the interweb
    • not pollute the mind streams of the pure in non-spirit
    • practice mindless mindfulness and Tantric Mayhem ...

    Now I am back in the unreal world. I have to be good again ...

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

    A retreat... not a bad idea, though I have some current commitments to take care of first. I will look into it.

  • FoibleFullFoibleFull Canada Veteran

    I think it is important to have a teacher and a sangha to interact with. The things you learn from a teacher, you learn on a subliminal level that you cannot get any other way. And if your teacher is worthy of being a teacher, much of this is HOW they do things rather than WHAT they do. You start to get an understanding of where Buddhism takes us.

    As for the religious aspect ... you take it or leave it. Your choice. It IS your path, after all. Take what is useful, take what works.
    I like this quote:
    “When presented with a concept difficult to accept, we either reject it or believe it. Neither is better. Either way our mind is distorted, because denying is a form of underestimating, and blind faith is a form of overestimating.”
    From “What Makes you (Not) a Buddhist” by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Very useful and insightful understanding @FoibleFull. Well said.

    Overt teaching is often little more than information. My teacher as an awake Pratyekabuddha did not teach overtly but in essence was the teaching.

    How do we find such a genuine individual? It depends where we are.

    You can not find them by seeking but by preparing ... Those of us fortunate enough to recognise our seniors or where we are going, learn. We experience the teaching. We know the dharma or spiritual way is true. Without doubt. Then we die ...

    Ay caraamba! Better get started ...

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