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Thread: Some thoughts about Buddhist converts

  1. #1
    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    Some thoughts about Buddhist converts

    Disclaimer: I'm not saying all Buddhist converts (which I think is most of us here) are like this. Maybe some, that's me included.

    I think the problem with most religious converts is they come to Buddhism, or any religion in particular, thinking that there's something to be fixed or there's something better. And that something more fulfilling than this world of coming and going is available if we gain something or sit enough or be good enough. It's always not quite enough. And although some teachers will flat out and directly say that there isn't, it still takes a very long time for me and others to really let it sink in.

    In some ways, the people who practice the religions that they were born with and are content with it are kind of lucky. For example, some in Christian religions just live their lives as best they can while having faith that everything has a reason and they're ok with it. And they go on with their daily lives. It's us (well some of us!) who have the bad karma of having to go through all this just to realize that there's really really nothing to go to or to do.

    Well, that's just my impermanent and imperfect opinion right now. Haha. If you ended up reading this far, thank you for reading this little passing thought. I wish you well.
    Gassho
    Ben

  2. #2
    Hi Ben. It's strange, but the word "convert" doesn't come to mind when thinking of the Buddhists I know. No one converted. They just followed their noses and ended up where they are. Nothing was renounced. Nothing outside of themselves was taken on. There are formal commitments made at some point.. but it is always about following their own path. Maybe this is because I live in a very secular environment, where most people are not born into a strong religious identity?

    Gassho Daizan
    大山

  3. #3
    Hi Ben,

    OF COURSE there is something to be fixed and something better than our ordinary ignorant way of experiencing Samsara, this world of coming and going!! What makes you say there is not? That is why I "converted" to Buddhism some 30 years ago and why I have stayed, because it delivers what is totally fulfilling and always enough, fixed and much better!!

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - Some folks may get confused because, in our Koany ways of talking out of both sides of our no-sided mouth, some of that finding and fulfilling occurs by dropping the hunger to hunt amid our subjective "not enough." It might be said that we "convert" to that which is endless converting yet always changeless!
    Last edited by Jundo; 05-28-2014 at 06:13 AM.
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

  4. #4
    Hi Ben,

    Quote Originally Posted by Tiwala View Post
    In some ways, the people who practice the religions that they were born with and are content with it are kind of lucky. For example, some in Christian religions just live their lives as best they can while having faith that everything has a reason and they're ok with it. And they go on with their daily lives.
    In my experience most people who are like this have been indoctrinated their entire life.

    As Krishnamurti put it:
    "Tradition becomes our security, and when the mind is secure it is in decay."

    When one learns to accept doubts instead of ignoring them this is a first step IMHO.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tiwala View Post
    It's us (well some of us!) who have the bad karma of having to go through all this just to realize that there's really really nothing to go to or to do.
    I would not call this bad karma. It is the way it is.
    Some people are seekers and know it.
    Some people think they are home, but either suppress their need to seek or find out after quite a while that they had not been home at all.
    And some others have really found home after searching (that's when the questions have dropped after searching not out of fear).

    And to end with another Krishnamurti quote:
    All ideologies are idiotic, whether religious or political, for it is conceptual thinking, the conceptual word, which has so unfortunately divided man.

    But that's just my opinion, man, as The Dude would say.

    Gassho,

    Daitetsu
    no thing needs to be added

  5. #5
    Hi Ben

    The only time I see this is in new 'converts' to a religion, or even to a political point of view, new favourite band or other such thing. They are so full of excitement about their new findings that they want to share it but mostly their enthusiasm outweighs their knowledge! Charlotte Joko Beck pointed out that newcomers to a Zendo often just replaced the idea that a new car/relationship/pair of shoes will make everything better with the notion that practice or being part of a sangha will do exactly the same. This settles down with time.

    Conversely, I have noticed that people choosing a religious path rather than being brought up in it are often more dedicated and serious than those who are immersed in cultural belief. They have had to mnake an effort to seek out and learn this tradition rather than being handed it on a plate (especially before western dharma centres were widespread in Buddhism) so are more grateful for what it brings to their life.

    Gassho
    Andy

  6. #6
    I've been converted to a way of life, a practice with life. Is that religion? My Buddha statues are just reminders.



    Kind regards. /\
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  7. #7
    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daitetsu View Post
    Hi Ben

    I would not call this bad karma. It is the way it is.
    Some people are seekers and know it.
    Some people think they are home, but either suppress their need to seek or find out after quite a while that they had not been home at all.
    And some others have really found home after searching (that's when the questions have dropped after searching not out of fear).
    Ah wow. I did not think of it that way. Haha! Just goes to show how flexible our point of views are. Thank you.



    Gassho, Ben
    Gassho
    Ben

  8. #8
    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo View Post
    Hi Ben,

    OF COURSE there is something to be fixed and something better than our ordinary ignorant way of experiencing Samsara, this world of coming and going!! What makes you say there is not? That is why I "converted" to Buddhism some 30 years ago and why I have stayed, because it delivers what is totally fulfilling and always enough, fixed and much better!!

    Gassho, Jundo

    PS - Some folks may get confused because, in our Koany ways of talking out of both sides of our no-sided mouth, some of that finding and fulfilling occurs by dropping the hunger to hunt amid our subjective "not enough." It might be said that we "convert" to that which is endless converting yet always changeless!
    Delivers something Fulfilling, even if I feel it isn't so. Enough, even if there is a 'lack', Fixed, even if there is "coming and going", much Better, even if it appears to be the worst.

    Perfect, perfect in the imperfections!

    How very satisfying indeed!

    I do have a problem, though. It's really hard to say in words!



    Gassho, Ben
    Gassho
    Ben

  9. #9
    Hi Kokuu,

    Quote Originally Posted by Kokuu View Post
    Conversely, I have noticed that people choosing a religious path rather than being brought up in it are often more dedicated and serious than those who are immersed in cultural belief. They have had to mnake an effort to seek out and learn this tradition rather than being handed it on a plate (especially before western dharma centres were widespread in Buddhism) so are more grateful for what it brings to their life.
    Totally agree with you.
    It is also interesting that a lot of Atheists have a far better knowledge of the Bible than the average Christian - many of the former read it thoroughly and finally decided to leave it behind.
    (At least this is the case in many European countries I know.)

    Gassho,

    Daitetsu
    no thing needs to be added

  10. #10
    Senior Member Jakudo's Avatar
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    No "bad" Karma, no "good" Karma, just Karma! Also I've never felt like a convert as I've always been a Buddhist, it just took me some time to discover what label to use.
    Gassho, Jakudo.

    Sent from my GT-N8010 using Tapatalk
    Gassho, Shawn Jakudo Hinton
    It all begins when we say, “I”. Everything that follows is illusion.
    "Even to speak the word Buddha is dragging in the mud soaking wet; Even to say the word Zen is a total embarrassment."
    寂道

  11. #11

    Some thoughts about Buddhist converts

    Jesus is Buddhist. He just doesn't know it yet.

    Gassho, Jishin

    PS: Jesus is Jewish too.
    Last edited by Jishin; 05-29-2014 at 02:18 AM.
    治 Ji (Healing)
    心​ Shin (Heart-Mind)

  12. #12
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich View Post
    I've been converted to a way of life, a practice with life. Is that religion? My Buddha statues are just reminders.



    Kind regards. /\
    I like this. If this topic comes up in my bible belt town, I just say I'm not religious. And, I don't really like going much further than that. This path speaks for itself.

    Gassho,
    Joyo

  13. #13
    Maybe Tiwala/Ben is confusing causes and consequences.
    I imagine many people donīt abandon their original religions, not because they are satisfied with their spiritual life but because they are not especially interested in everything which is not directly related to increase their income, prolong their physical surviving or directly reduce their pain and increase their pleasure. So clearly his decision doesnīt mean that they were more advanced in the task of adapting to the reality (to live the life as it is), or that they have a “better karma”. I think they just prefer to postpone any search in this area. On the contrary, there are other people that feel “there is something else outside”, like Neo asking himself about the Matrix.
    Since they were more concerned about themes related with the search of a peaceful way, is probably that they are willing to assume their “spiritual tasks” with more enthusiasm. For that cause they could be more predisposed to search for more “spiritual activities” than just sitting. But eventually they will be convinced of that, because I feel is not religious faith, but knowledge. And in a general, I guess itīs impossible to arrive to this place without have walked the entire path, like in the ten oxherding pictures and the final return to the market.
    Gassho
    Senryu
    Please forgive any mistake in my writing. Like in Zen, in English I am only a beginner.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Entai's Avatar
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    I was raised in the Christian Church. However, I don't think I really understood Christianity until I began practicing Buddhism. I used to have a lot of animosity toward the Church, but now I get it and have dropped my negativity. Soto Zen Buddhism is where I'm at home. Convert or whatever, I think it's just a matter of where my heart and mind is pointed.

    Gassho, Entai

    Entai (Bill)
    "Be kind - for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" - Plato

  15. #15
    Senior Member Shawn's Avatar
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    Hi Entai

    Similar for me as well.

    Gassho

    Shawn
    I am relatively new to zen. Please keep that in mind and take what I say with a truck load of salt.

  16. #16
    Hi all,

    As a drop-out Presbyterian minister, I couldn't continue to profess belief in "outlandish" stories in the Old and New Testaments. But after studying koans for a while, I grok those stories. Who knows what would have happened if I'd come upon this 40 years ago? Yes, ridiculous question.

    Gassho
    John

  17. #17
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Entai View Post
    I was raised in the Christian Church. However, I don't think I really understood Christianity until I began practicing Buddhism. I used to have a lot of animosity toward the Church, but now I get it and have dropped my negativity. Soto Zen Buddhism is where I'm at home. Convert or whatever, I think it's just a matter of where my heart and mind is pointed.

    Gassho, Entai
    Can you tell me what made you get it? I still have a lot of negativity and animosity towards Christianity.

    Gassho,
    Joyo

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Joyo View Post
    Can you tell me what made you get it? I still have a lot of negativity and animosity towards Christianity.

    Gassho,
    Joyo
    I don't get it and that's okay. It takes too much energy to get it.

    Gassho, Jishin
    治 Ji (Healing)
    心​ Shin (Heart-Mind)

  19. #19
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jishin View Post
    I don't get it and that's okay. It takes too much energy to get it.

    Gassho, Jishin
    I so get that I would like to move past my anger and resentment, Christianity has taken away a lot of my life, especially as a child and young adult, and I'll be perfectly honest, it's left me very bitter towards this religion.

    Gassho,
    Joyo

  20. #20
    Hi Joyo,

    Quote Originally Posted by Joyo View Post
    I so get that I would like to move past my anger and resentment, Christianity has taken away a lot of my life, especially as a child and young adult, and I'll be perfectly honest, it's left me very bitter towards this religion.
    Then be bitter! Accept your bitterness, and maybe one day you'll make peace with it.
    However, you should not be bitter towards people of this religion (I don't say you are, I just wanted to add this in case).
    Try to distinguish between a "thought system" and people that are stuck in it.
    Why are some people actually stuck in it? Did they have much choice (considering their childhood, region, etc.)?
    Perhaps they use their religion like a kind of crutch in their lives?
    I think compassion and understanding are key elements here.


    Having said this:
    I have made so many bad experiences with Christianity in my entire life, so please don't think it has been easy for me.
    Most times nowadays I treat proselytizing people like the Dude:


    Only when I witness really harmful opinions/actions I am willing to debate...

    Hope you make peace with this religion someday - and if not, it's fine, too (as long as there is no harm done).

    Gassho,

    Daitetsu
    no thing needs to be added

  21. #21
    I was raised in an environment that was quite bitter about “religion”. There were the common modern grievences... superstition, mass control, make believe, no proof, hypocrisy. There was a cynicism that covered every base, and reduced all discussion to those terms. I made my own private investigation while being aware of all the Jeeezus preaching garbage, and corrupt institutions, and inquisitions, and holy water for sale...., but at the same time, there was something appealing to my own heart. I remember one silly little incident while watching a Woody Allen movie, where Max von Sydow played an old painter (he also played Jesus once). At one point he is talking about life in a tired way and grieving religiosity when he says something like “if Christ came back today and saw what was done in his name, he would throw up”. The audience in this big-city urban-secular theater erupted with an ovation. It was the strangest thing, and it pointed to something that many people I know feel, maybe quietly, that no matter what, Christ is an archetype of unconditional compassion. I also do not doubt that an itinerant rabbi went into the desert and gave up the ghost, forgave those who were killing him, and manifest unconditional compassion, why not.

    Also... for people raised in traditional Asian societies, Buddhism can be just as full of shit as Christianity is for people here..

    Cynicism is like armor over the heart. It is so smart, but it's a killer.

    Gassho Daizan
    Last edited by Daizan; 06-04-2014 at 01:42 PM.
    大山

  22. #22
    Senior Member Shawn's Avatar
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    This can be a difficult thing. I recently watched a documentary on a cult in the USA (by no means am I saying Christianity is a cult!) the young adults who opened there eyes and left were shunned by the community and vilified by even there own parents. This was done out of love because the parents or community knew they could not save the soul of the individual unless they returned to that belief system.

    My parents (Catholics) would likely have great concern for me and family if they knew what my belief system has evolved into. To a far lesser extent then any cult, they would be concerned for my soul. This concern is out of love. I however would still be invited to Easter dinner and christmas mass, which I happily attend.

    From your posts, it seems your situation has been far more difficult then mine. And understandably so, far more difficult to cultivate forgiveness or acceptance given the past and ongoing circumstances that I assume exist even still into adulthood.

    I am no teacher, far from it, but as I understand it, Buddhism is not rigid, or exist in a bubble as some faiths seem to. This perhaps is why many young people leave faiths that require you to believe one thing or the other blindly because you were told to. In fact that is how I found myself here, although the word "convert" feels irrelevant here.

    I don't think any wise words will help you out of your situation. Your own acceptance and practice might.

    My shitty situation last year made me very angry, and still sometimes. What helped me was realizing through practice that the situation was over a year ago, and I am the one adding, commenting and letting my thoughts guide my emotion. There exists not one thing I can do to make it better, and that is very freeing.

    Now, when I am on a nature walk with my wife and kids, and feel like something is missing, if it's sadness, I try and just feel that sadness. At the same time feeling the wind, my sons hand in mine and the ground beneath my feet.

    I wish you well.

    Gassho

    Shawn
    I am relatively new to zen. Please keep that in mind and take what I say with a truck load of salt.

  23. #23
    Senior Member Entai's Avatar
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    Joyo,
    I never understood how Jesus dying was supposed to save me, etc. I try to view it now in terms of a Bodhisattva. How does one save all sentient beings? That's a question, not an answer.

    Now, the way the church rose up around the ideas of love, compassion, service, etc. is something I will never get. But the message itself is important.

    My animosity surrounded the institution and not the message, just as the zealotry and abuses have come out of the institution. Greed, anger and ignorance. My negativity is more useful when transformed into compassion. I have no idea if this helps.. or makes sense. But my views overall have softened and I can see where the intentions lie.

    Gassho, Entai

    Entai (Bill)
    "Be kind - for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle" - Plato

  24. #24
    Hello,

    institutionalised religions manifest through people's actions. There may be different tendencies and doctrines, but all those who kill, lie and rape (or just get on your nerves and annoy you) share the same red life blood and are all our family.

    Buddhism is a made up umbrella term that somehow manages to connect Stephen Batchelor on one end with Soka Gakkai on the other

    There are good reasons why millions of Koreans have converted to Christianity, just as there can be good reasons to "convert" to one of the countless Dharmic approaches.

    From my limited experience it is those individuals new to a religious current that go on the most about how great it is for reasons x,y and z. Reality always gets you in the end though, and once you have spent half a decade to really research and practise your newly adopted religion (most people just like to bask in the sun of their own enthusiastic projections though....), you will have discovered that one cannot find a magic bullet there either...and warts are everywhere.

    So what do you do? WHAT do you do?

    One of the reasons why Buddhism is seen as being so nice is because is has no structural power in western society. It "feels" like it is so free....because it is not a force to be reckoned with in western societies.

    The Dalai Lama cannot even allow women to receive full Bhikshuni vows in his own school....that is how free Buddhism can be.....

    Much more importantly:

    What does your heart say when all the chips are down?

    Whatever is true about you, embrace it, see it clearly...and spend your life expressing it in a worthy way.


    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen
    Chudo Mongen, Ordained Novice Priest-in-Training

  25. #25
    I love Christians, it's just that some of the things they say and do, I can't agree with.



    Kind regards. /\
    _/_
    Rich
    MUHYO
    無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

  26. #26
    Senior Member Joyo's Avatar
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    Thank you everyone for your kind responses. I appreciate them all very much.

    Hans, this is beautiful...

    "What does your heart say when all the chips are down?

    Whatever is true about you, embrace it, see it clearly...and spend your life expressing it in a worthy way."

    I have found it difficult to hear my heart as their are chips, and walls. But, I know that what is true about me is not anger and bitterness, and perhaps that is a good place to start.

    deep bows,
    Joyo

  27. #27
    Whatever is true about you, embrace it, see it clearly...and spend your life expressing it in a worthy way.
    Hans,

    wow, that's beautiful, thank you for this

    Gassho,
    Lisa

    edit: oh.haha, we are thinking alike, Joyo!

  28. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by Hans View Post
    Whatever is true about you, embrace it, see it clearly...and spend your life expressing it in a worthy way.
    I too agree Hans, this is a simply beautiful expression in itself. =)

    Gassho
    Shingen
    真 眼

    As a trainee priest, please take any commentary by me on matters of the Dharma with a pinch of salt.

  29. #29
    Senior Member Tiwala's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hans View Post
    Hello,

    institutionalised religions manifest through people's actions. There may be different tendencies and doctrines, but all those who kill, lie and rape (or just get on your nerves and annoy you) share the same red life blood and are all our family.

    Buddhism is a made up umbrella term that somehow manages to connect Stephen Batchelor on one end with Soka Gakkai on the other

    There are good reasons why millions of Koreans have converted to Christianity, just as there can be good reasons to "convert" to one of the countless Dharmic approaches.

    From my limited experience it is those individuals new to a religious current that go on the most about how great it is for reasons x,y and z. Reality always gets you in the end though, and once you have spent half a decade to really research and practise your newly adopted religion (most people just like to bask in the sun of their own enthusiastic projections though....), you will have discovered that one cannot find a magic bullet there either...and warts are everywhere.

    So what do you do? WHAT do you do?

    One of the reasons why Buddhism is seen as being so nice is because is has no structural power in western society. It "feels" like it is so free....because it is not a force to be reckoned with in western societies.

    The Dalai Lama cannot even allow women to receive full Bhikshuni vows in his own school....that is how free Buddhism can be.....

    Much more importantly:

    What does your heart say when all the chips are down?

    Whatever is true about you, embrace it, see it clearly...and spend your life expressing it in a worthy way.


    Gassho,

    Hans Chudo Mongen
    This is exactly how I feel. No matter where you go, you will always have a sense dissatisfaction, and to be able to welcome that in and live in it is what some people learn without too much religion. Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, etc, when you're really honest with yourself, are human beings recognizing their own fragility and their own imperfections and moving towards settling into it and getting on with their lives. Nothing much can change, actually, but at least you can face the world with less animosity. And maybe that can open the door to being a better person.

    Personally, I don't understand how some Abrahamic religions are bent on converting other people. And I will not try to meddle with it. 'Cause no matter what you do, you really can't change someone else's mind. If they're ok with how they are, and religious beliefs aside, they're just normal human beings, then that much is enough to respect. I'm not letting beliefs and thoughts hinder me from actively engaging with someone else. Really, are you going to inquire about someone's religious beliefs or examine their theological understanding when you see them kneeling on the ground with both eyes blind? Do ideas and thoughts really have to have so much weight to stop you from responding to that situation?

    What I like about the Philippines is that despite the religiosity, there are still so many people who know how hard life really is. And when you really settle into that, you realize how small some things really are. And really, we really are small. And that's what makes us so very big.
    Last edited by Tiwala; 06-05-2014 at 04:36 AM.
    Gassho
    Ben

  30. #30
    Quote Originally Posted by Tiwala View Post
    This is exactly how I feel. No matter where you go, you will always have a sense dissatisfaction, and to be able to welcome that in and live in it is what some people learn without too much religion. Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, etc, when you're really honest with yourself, are human beings recognizing their own fragility and their own imperfections and moving towards settling into it and getting on with their lives. Nothing much can change, actually, but at least you can face the world with less animosity. And maybe that can open the door to being a better person.
    Hi.

    Thank you.
    Very good.
    So, how do we go about doing that?

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen
    Treeleaf Unsui
    Blog: http://fugenblog.blogspot.com/

  31. #31
    Senior Member Nengyo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fugen View Post
    Hi.

    Thank you.
    Very good.
    So, how do we go about doing that?

    Mtfbwy
    Fugen
    Man I hope the answer is eating, drinking, dancing, and jumping out of airplanes!



    Gassho,
    Nengyo
    Try not to be a jerk-- one of the Buddhas

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