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Obstacles in the western world

JeroenJeroen Do it with a smileNetherlands Veteran
edited March 3 in Buddhism Today

It occurred to me that the Buddha encouraged his followers to become mendicant monks for a good reason. As a monk you spend far less time engaged in the difficulties of the ordinary, day to day world, and you have the opportunity to meditate and learn the dharma. Now here in the west there are far fewer opportunities to become a monk, and perhaps there is more of those things that monks get to avoid.

All of this leads to greater difficulty for western Buddhist practitioners. So I have spent some time thinking about the differences between a monks life and an ordinary westerner, and I came to the conclusion that for a serious spiritual life it seems to be important to avoid feeding the fires: desire, anger, delusion. Now there are things in the common life which feed these fires more than others. There is a definite connection with the three poisons.

Here is a short snippet from a post in the Enlightenment and Psychedelics thread:

Family => Love, possessiveness, my-making
Power, status, renown, fame => Vanity, distraction, daydreams, delusion
Money, property => Greed, wishes for more, desire, attachment
Sex, lust => Jealousy, desire, possessiveness, my-making
Pleasure, the senses, food, alcohol => Distraction, attachment, delusion
Conflict, feuds, rows, fighting => Adrenaline, anger, hatred

It strikes me that one could live a style of life in the west where one avoids some or all of these things, a kind of sober and minimalist way of living without necessarily a full set of monastic vows, which attempts to follow the Buddha’s prescription in spirit, if not in all of the particulars of the vinaya.

personTara1978

Comments

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

    That sounds right to me. I'd add though that being in the world tests, and can help develop ones spiritual progress in a way that isolation doesn't.

    Practicing while in the world often seems like swimming upstream and progress is difficult. The metaphor also means that as one practices, while progress may not be as good one becomes a stronger swimmer.

    That's how I think of it anyway.

  • howhow Veteran Veteran

    Our relationship to family, status, possessions, avarice, indulgences and stimulation offers as much a potential of thralldom as it does of liberation from our identities dreamscape whether one is a monastic or a layperson. This one present moving nano moment of these relationships determines whether we are currently walking along the path toward suffering's cessation, away from it or around in circles. I think monasticism, laity, West or East turns out to be pretty secondary considerations compared with where our present footstep is actually landing on that path.

    lobsterShoshin1Dakini
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran
    edited March 3

    @how said:
    Our relationship to family, status, possessions, avarice, indulgences and stimulation offers as much a potential of thralldom as it does of liberation from our identities dreamscape whether one is a monastic or a layperson.

    Why do you think that the Buddha advised going forth for those of his followers who were able to do so? There must have been some advantage to it, otherwise why allow people to leave a comfortable home and family?

    I don’t see how being continuously exposed to the things that motivate the Three Poisons within us helps us become liberated. Most people in the modern world seem as caught up in samsara as ever, and if there was equally as great a potential for liberation as for thraldom then one would expect equally as many liberated folks as those ensnared in suffering.

    I think undisturbed time spent in silence definitely helps you become clear inside. It allows the muddy water to settle, and through the clear water you get the opportunity to see. But that can be hard to come by in modern society.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran

    I must be feeling silly today. When I read this I think of a video of monks in robes doing an obstacles course hehe :p

    JeroenコチシカfedericaShoshin1
  • howhow Veteran Veteran
    edited March 3

    @Kerome said:

    Why do you think that the Buddha advised going forth for those of his followers who were able to do so? There must have been some advantage to it, otherwise why allow people to leave a comfortable home and family?

    The buddha suggested two "goings forth"

    The first was going forth into renunciation and the second was forth back into the world to spread the teachings of sufferings cause and the way towards its cessation.

    I think the Buddha's second advisement for his followers to go forth, was among other reasons..... to lessen the tendency of his practitioners to substitute spiritual attachments for their former material equivalents, to lessen the likely hood of them falling prey to prechekka Buddhist failings, to manifest the path towards suffering's cessation into the wider world for anyone with little dust in their eyes, to move them beyond quietism and most practically to not end up with a community so densified and centralized that alms rounds and adequate sanitation became too difficult for his renunciates to maintain.

    I think I have seen more practitioners limited by their excuses for what they conveniently perceived were external limitations to their world of practice....
    than practitioners who saw that the main obstruction was simply that excuse.

    Shoshin1コチシカlobsterDavid
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    Obstacles in the western world

    While @Jeffrey fondles one of the 7 dwarves aka little people ...

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    The biggest obstacle stopping us?

    Us.

    How to learn from our stops? How to utilise our stone blocking path as dust or mountain top boulders?

    コチシカ
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    Wile E Coyote is the perfect expression of thwarted desire... every episode he tried to catch the road runner, presumeably to eat him, but his devices always fail him. It’s destiny, yet he never learns.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    In Vajrayana and Get Real Dharma, the obscurations/hindrances/obstacles/difficulties/impediments are our stepping stones to clarity.

    How so?

    If we grasp/reject/hate the stone it does not crumble into dust. So we either get coyote crushed or we let the road runner free crossing ...

    Let it go. Relax (think I read that in a fortune cookie ...)

    https://secularbuddhism.com/acceptance-vs-resignation/

    ChoephalFoibleFull
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    A good point, but I respect these obstacles in particular for stirring the passions in our minds. It is not as simple as just saying “I accept thee” to be rid of that aspect of them. There is also the risk that so many obstacles together will obscure what is really going on. For many people the Buddha’s prescription of avoiding them may be better..,

    lobster
  • ChoephalChoephal UK Veteran
    edited March 6

    @Kerome said:
    A good point, but I respect these obstacles in particular for stirring the passions in our minds. It is not as simple as just saying “I accept thee” to be rid of that aspect of them. There is also the risk that so many obstacles together will obscure what is really going on. For many people the Buddha’s prescription of avoiding them may be better..,

    That may be true for some people. But it’s not an option for some others. The Buddha was a great physician who prescribed different medicine for different conditions.
    If only renunciates could practice Dharma it would have been confined to a small group in every age and culture.
    But the Buddha also revealed the Mahayana path which is a path of integration not renunciation.
    Although it also has a monastic movement within it.
    Many Mahayana groups have advanced lay people within their ranks. Including Zen and the Vajrayana...some of the greatest Buddhist teachers have been lay women and men who have held down jobs and raised children.
    There are various models within Buddhadharma. Incidentally it is now pretty well established that some of the Mahayana Sutras are older than some of the Theravada Suttas.
    Buddhism has always had both renunciate and non renunciate means to the same end..🙂

  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran
    edited March 6

    Still, his advice to the non-renunciates is of a different quality and trend than that provided to the renunciates. If you read a sutra anthology such as Bikkhu Bodhi’s In the Buddha’s Words which has a section on sutta’s addressed to laypeople it becomes clear that advice given to laymen is more in the trend of ‘here is advice on fitting in with the family’, while the monastics get detailed instruction on meditation.

    I’m sure there are advanced laypeople, but is it as easy to reach those states as it is for a monastic? I suspect that there is quite a big difference, and that is why the truly dedicated became renunciates.

  • ChoephalChoephal UK Veteran
    edited March 6

    Deleted. It looked as though I was being argumentative. I wasn’t. But I am too opinionated..

    I will drop out of the discussion with all good will.🙏🏻

    lobsterJeroen
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    Sometimes I do that too... it’s the tension between wanting to add something to support your point of view but realising that doing so would not add anything beneficial to the discussion, so it’s better to just say nothing. It’s very familiar ;)

    lobster
  • lobsterlobster Veteran

    @Choephal said:
    Deleted. It looked as though I was being argumentative. I wasn’t. But I am too opinionated..

    I will drop out of the discussion with all good will.🙏🏻

    Ah ha!
    ... now we are talkin' ... <3

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran

    I think it depends on what we consider an obstacle.
    We do not have to try to possess another in order to love them so I do not see love as an obstacle.

    Raising a family could be an obstacle to the path if one finds the path after finding the family. If one finds the family while on the path then it is not an obstacle. The desire to raise a family is not the same as raising a family.

    Greed, anger, jealously, intolerance, heedlessness... These are obstacles to the path but they are also obstacles to raising a family.

  • JohnCobbJohnCobb Hot Springs Arkansas Explorer

    @Kerome what is meant by "mendicant" monk?

  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @JohnCobb said:
    @Kerome what is meant by "mendicant" monk?

    A monk who begs, as the traditional Buddhist monks still do in places like Thailand. There are also monks who rely on a monastery which sustains itself in other ways…

    JohnCobb
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @how said:
    Our relationship to family, status, possessions, avarice, indulgences and stimulation offers as much a potential of thralldom as it does of liberation from our identities dreamscape whether one is a monastic or a layperson. This one present moving nano moment of these relationships determines whether we are currently walking along the path toward suffering's cessation, away from it or around in circles. I think monasticism, laity, West or East turns out to be pretty secondary considerations compared with where our present footstep is actually landing on that path.

    Going on retreat can be a useful way of stepping back from the "distractions" of lay-life, maybe giving a differing perspective on what's important.
    And we all have choices about our lifestyle, right?

    Bunks
  • LionduckLionduck Veteran

    It is when we face the challenges of life that we are able to grow as persons and in our Buddhist practice. When we have faced to pain, loss and quixotic events of living, we are able to better, through experience and example, to help others. When we shine the lantern to guide others along the path, our own way is lit.
    Priests and monks may be able to concentrate on the philosophical and esoteric, but the lay are, by necessity, applying there practice life's actual daily real world experience.
    It is the ordinary man and woman who breath life into the the Buddhist Sangha. The lay members are the true sangha.
    In the organizations containing priests, Nuns and monks, such are part of the great sangha, not of themselves the sangha. The sperit of Buddhism is the equality of the greatest and the least. All may strive for and attain the Awakening, Enlightenment, Buhhda. None who strive, even a little, are exclided. Ney, none are excluded and all are encouraged to strive.

    Peace to all

    コチシカBunkslobsterDavid
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran
    edited July 28

    @Lionduck said:
    It is when we face the challenges of life that we are able to grow as persons and in our Buddhist practice. When we have faced to pain, loss and quixotic events of living, we are able to better, through experience and example, to help others. When we shine the lantern to guide others along the path, our own way is lit.
    Priests and monks may be able to concentrate on the philosophical and esoteric, but the lay are, by necessity, applying there practice life's actual daily real world experience.
    It is the ordinary man and woman who breath life into the the Buddhist Sangha. The lay members are the true sangha.
    In the organizations containing priests, Nuns and monks, such are part of the great sangha, not of themselves the sangha. The sperit of Buddhism is the equality of the greatest and the least. All may strive for and attain the Awakening, Enlightenment, Buhhda. None who strive, even a little, are exclided. Ney, none are excluded and all are encouraged to strive.

    Peace to all

    In any case, it seems like western Buddhism is challenging that traditional model of monks + nuns V. lay-people, which is probably a good thing.
    But again, we all have choices about our lifestyle, right?

    Lionduck
  • JeroenJeroen Do it with a smile Netherlands Veteran

    @DairyLama said:
    In any case, it seems like western Buddhism is challenging that traditional model of monks + nuns V. lay-people, which is probably a good thing.
    But again, we all have choices about our lifestyle, right?

    Yes, I don’t think what the west will come up with will finally be a monks and nuns solution. I see a lot of life in Buddhist organisations like Zen Peacemakers and Dharma Punx. It will probably have its own unique feelings to it.

    We do have our choice in lifestyle. I think an awful lot of buddhists are not going to adhere to one school, but will instead take a little from here and there, as we were discussing here…

    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/26825/talking-to-other-buddhists

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @DairyLama said:
    In any case, it seems like western Buddhism is challenging that traditional model of monks + nuns V. lay-people, which is probably a good thing.
    But again, we all have choices about our lifestyle, right?

    Yes, I don’t think what the west will come up with will finally be a monks and nuns solution. I see a lot of life in Buddhist organisations like Zen Peacemakers and Dharma Punx. It will probably have its own unique feelings to it.

    We do have our choice in lifestyle. I think an awful lot of buddhists are not going to adhere to one school, but will instead take a little from here and there, as we were discussing here…

    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/26825/talking-to-other-buddhists

    Though there is that thing about digging many shallow wells. That's why I'm not a fan of syncretism and perennialism, it often means not going deep enough.

  • DakiniDakini Veteran
    edited July 31

    @Kerome said:
    It occurred to me that the Buddha encouraged his followers to become mendicant monks for a good reason. As a monk you spend far less time engaged in the difficulties of the ordinary, day to day world, and you have the opportunity to meditate and learn the dharma. Now here in the west there are far fewer opportunities to become a monk, and perhaps there is more of those things that monks get to avoid.

    All of this leads to greater difficulty for western Buddhist practitioners. So I have spent some time thinking about the differences between a monks life and an ordinary westerner, and I came to the conclusion that for a serious spiritual life it seems to be important to avoid feeding the fires: desire, anger, delusion. Now there are things in the common life which feed these fires more than others. There is a definite connection with the three poisons.

    Here is a short snippet from a post in the Enlightenment and Psychedelics thread:

    Family => Love, possessiveness, my-making
    Power, status, renown, fame => Vanity, distraction, daydreams, delusion
    Money, property => Greed, wishes for more, desire, attachment
    Sex, lust => Jealousy, desire, possessiveness, my-making
    Pleasure, the senses, food, alcohol => Distraction, attachment, delusion
    Conflict, feuds, rows, fighting => Adrenaline, anger, hatred

    It strikes me that one could live a style of life in the west where one avoids some or all of these things, a kind of sober and minimalist way of living without necessarily a full set of monastic vows, which attempts to follow the Buddha’s prescription in spirit, if not in all of the particulars of the vinaya.

    Living as a householder, though, provides more opportunity to practice the teachings. It's easy to stay on track when all temptations are removed. But if you can face the secular life with equanimity, that's thr real test of a practitioner's mettle, don't y ou think?

    Lay life offers plenty of opportunity for undisturbed time spent in silence, for those who are so inclined. And lay life doesn't necessarily mean starting a family and accumulating possessions beyond the basics. Those are choices people make. There are plenty of people in lay life who remain single, or who may couple up but without children. There are many ways to live a lay life. Some people's lay life isn't much different from the monastic life; these days, monks have "jobs" too; they have chores to do in the operation of the monastery.

    I suppose the Buddha didn't advocate such a relatively cushy arrangement as a monastery, though. How did the Buddha's monks deal with inclement weather, if they didn't have fixed residences with 4 walls and a roof? How did they manage?

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran Veteran

    @Dakini said:

    @Kerome said:
    It occurred to me that the Buddha encouraged his followers to become mendicant monks for a good reason. As a monk you spend far less time engaged in the difficulties of the ordinary, day to day world, and you have the opportunity to meditate and learn the dharma. Now here in the west there are far fewer opportunities to become a monk, and perhaps there is more of those things that monks get to avoid.

    All of this leads to greater difficulty for western Buddhist practitioners. So I have spent some time thinking about the differences between a monks life and an ordinary westerner, and I came to the conclusion that for a serious spiritual life it seems to be important to avoid feeding the fires: desire, anger, delusion. Now there are things in the common life which feed these fires more than others. There is a definite connection with the three poisons.

    Here is a short snippet from a post in the Enlightenment and Psychedelics thread:

    Family => Love, possessiveness, my-making
    Power, status, renown, fame => Vanity, distraction, daydreams, delusion
    Money, property => Greed, wishes for more, desire, attachment
    Sex, lust => Jealousy, desire, possessiveness, my-making
    Pleasure, the senses, food, alcohol => Distraction, attachment, delusion
    Conflict, feuds, rows, fighting => Adrenaline, anger, hatred

    It strikes me that one could live a style of life in the west where one avoids some or all of these things, a kind of sober and minimalist way of living without necessarily a full set of monastic vows, which attempts to follow the Buddha’s prescription in spirit, if not in all of the particulars of the vinaya.

    Living as a householder, though, provides more opportunity to practice the teachings. It's easy to stay on track when all temptations are removed. But if you can face the secular life with equanimity, that's thr real test of a practitioner's mettle, don't y ou think?

    Lay life offers plenty of opportunity for undisturbed time spent in silence, for those who are so inclined. And lay life doesn't necessarily mean starting a family and accumulating possessions beyond the basics. Those are choices people make. There are plenty of people in lay life who remain single, or who may couple up but without children. There are many ways to live a lay life. Some people's lay life isn't much different from the monastic life; these days, monks have "jobs" too; they have chores to do in the operation of the monastery.

    I suppose the Buddha didn't advocate such a relatively cushy arrangement as a monastery, though. How did the Buddha's monks deal with inclement weather, if they didn't have fixed residences with 4 walls and a roof? How did they manage?

    Yes, going by experience of retreats at monasteries, monks and nuns don't have it that easy either.
    FWBO/triratna tried to bridge the gap with their "Order Members" (I nearly became one in the 1980s), sort of a cross between a lay person and a monk/nun.

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited August 1

    @Kerome said:

    @DairyLama said:
    In any case, it seems like western Buddhism is challenging that traditional model of monks + nuns V. lay-people, which is probably a good thing.
    But again, we all have choices about our lifestyle, right?

    Yes, I don’t think what the west will come up with will finally be a monks and nuns solution. I see a lot of life in Buddhist organisations like Zen Peacemakers and Dharma Punx. It will probably have its own unique feelings to it.

    We do have our choice in lifestyle. I think an awful lot of buddhists are not going to adhere to one school, but will instead take a little from here and there, as we were discussing here…

    https://newbuddhist.com/discussion/26825/talking-to-other-buddhists

    Thay likes the idea of the next Buddha being the collective Sangha. In the Order of Interbeing there is only the fourteenth of the Fourteen Mindfulness Trainings that differs between laypeople and monastics by celibacy. I will take the Fourteen after 2 years working with the Five and take refuge in the tradition while remaining nonsectarian at heart.

    federica
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