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Thread: Self-centered Buddhism?

  1. #1

    Self-centered Buddhism?

    Hello all!

    I have just found this article on Guardian titled "Self-centered Buddhism".

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree ... on-retreat

    What do you think?
    I think he is missing the point of Buddhism in general totally.

    Gassho,
    Agata

  2. #2

    Re: Self-centered Buddhism?

    It seems to me that the writer of the article, like most western writers, have a subconscious idea that westerners all start out as Christian's then turn to Buddhism.

  3. #3

    Re: Self-centered Buddhism?

    I don't know. He's just a writer who went to a meditation retreat and then made up some opinions about it. He obviously likes God which is OK with me but I'm not into the Meditation-as-therapy or the 'that can lead to self-absorption and self-obsession' . He may have missed the main point of What is the self? But we all do that and say a lot of shit when there's really nothing to say.
    /Rich

  4. #4

    Re: Self-centered Buddhism?

    Yes, this is not right ... although it is absolutely true that this practice can turn into merely a self-centered search for our own narcissistic peace of mind if we are not careful. We have to constantly remind our "self" to avoid that.

    The author is not aware that our Bodhisattva Vow starts (and never finishes) ...

    TO SAVE ALL SENTIENT BEINGS, THOUGH BEINGS NUMBERLESS

    The raison d'Ítre of Gaia House is the wellbeing of the those who come to stay in it. That seems like a pretty good raison d'Ítre, and it is. However, it comes with risk. Meditation-as-therapy flirts with narcissism when it is devoted to observing yourself, for that can lead to self-absorption and self-obsession. It's a danger inherent in any community devoted to a particular task, though perhaps more so in one that lacks a reference point beyond the individuals taking part.

    Religious houses in a Christian tradition would be different, in theory at least. Ultimately, they don't exist for the wellbeing of the occupants, but for the glory of God. That nurtures a way of life that has less to do with the self, and more to do with the service of something greater. You have to believe in God, of course. That many don't, and might say they are "spiritual but not religious", must be another reason why Buddhism appeals. But I did wonder whether a God-centred spiritual practice might offer a better way to get over yourself, and in turn offer a more satisfying "therapy".

  5. #5

    Re: Self-centered Buddhism?

    I'm reminded of Carolyn Myss, "THIS IS NOT A SPA, PEOPLE. LEAVE YOUR CRYSTALS AT HOME!" But I think shikantaza is more immune than most practices from becoming narcissistic. After all, there's nothing there. One can enjoy floating along in a feeling of well-being for a while, but the practice doesn't do or create anything, so that will only last as long as it needs to. If one's practice is creating something, there are continual reminders of right practice, and they work on the pseudo-practice itself. :-)

  6. #6

    Re: Self-centered Buddhism?

    Quote Originally Posted by scott
    But I think shikantaza is more immune than most practices from becoming narcissistic. After all, there's nothing there.

    Thanks for this, Scott. Well said.

    I think the article betrays some misunderstandings about practice, but it is hard for me to fault the author too much. I think it takes a long time for most people to understand the ethos of zazen, especially those of us who were raised in Judeo-Christian cultures/families. The re-shaping of my interaction with reality continues on a daily basis, so I'm not surprised that someone might not "get it" at first.

    Gassho,
    Eika

  7. #7

    Re: Self-centered Buddhism?

    Hi Everyone,
    This article is clearly an opinion and not an actual factually accurate piece of journalism. That's a bit annoying as it seems to be the general consensus and I recently had to "defend" my beliefs in class on Monday night. I just wish people would ask questions rather than mock or be facetious. Hopefully it will not always be this way!
    Kelly

  8. #8

    Re: Self-centered Buddhism?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kelly
    Hi Everyone,
    This article is clearly an opinion and not an actual factually accurate piece of journalism. That's a bit annoying as it seems to be the general consensus and I recently had to "defend" my beliefs in class on Monday night. I just wish people would ask questions rather than mock or be facetious. Hopefully it will not always be this way!
    Kelly
    Actually, reconsidering the issue, I side with author maybe more than most.

    This practice can turn into self-centered naval gazing if we are not careful, another "me me" search for self-fulfillment, personal peace, a relaxing resort vacation from responsibilities. It can turn into the equivalent of getting a massage at a spa, going to a yoga class before heading off for shopping, a weekend at some spiritual Club Med for one's own private happiness and peace of mind.

    And this is true not just in the West ... but in the East too, despite all its talk about Compassion and "saving all sentient beings" ...

    You see, part of "saving all sentient beings" is finding that nothing in the universe requires anything, not anything at all. So, by this perspective, even innocent Jews marching into Nazi ovens or little children with debilitating illnesses ... nobody is ever in need of saving any more than a blade of grass can be made a more perfect blade of grass. Everything "just is what it is" ... Thus, some have traditionally held, nothing "material" needs to be done to save folks in this world, because this world is just like a dream of sorts.

    What is more (by one perspective ... remember we always are dealing in simultanesouly true perspectives here, all true at once), by simply saving yourself by working for your own "enlightenment" you are "saving all sentient beings" because, in Buddhist philosophy, you ARE all sentient beings in the most radical sense (as much as your eyes, toes, hands and heart are just you, but even more "one" than that ... as much as your eyes are your eyes). So, by this perspective, no need to work on anyone else's navel ... cause your belly button is theirs.

    Now, historically, the above perspectives are one reason that Buddhists have not done as good a job, perhaps, as Christians and such in building hospitals, schools and orphanages. (That is a very misleading statement, actually, because Buddhists have provided medical care, education and other social services to the general population in many countries ... and the Christians often partly have missionary work in mind in many of their charitable activities ... However, certainly, Buddhists could have done more than we have done).

    Thus, the current "engaged" view of "saving all sentient beings" and acting in Compassion involves charitable work in society. I believe in this strongly.

    So, although a drowning man requires not the slightest saving by the Buddhist view, the Buddhist view can be (another simultaneously true perspective) to also jump in the water and save him. Though sick children require nothing, we should work hard to find a cure. Sides of a single coin. All "simultaneously true".

    THIS IS A VERY GOOD TIME TO REMIND FOLKS THAT PARTICIPATION IN TREELEAF SANGHA IS NOT FREE, BUT COMES WITH A VERY STEEP PRICE. FOR THOSE WITH THE TIME AND FINANCIAL RESOURCES (EVEN A POOR MAN CAN GIVE A BROKEN COOKING POT) WE HAVE TO GET OUT AND ROLL UP OUR SLEEVES, GIVE UNTIL IT HURTS A BIT. Please review the follow on Samu and Dana at Treeleaf

    I do not accept any "Dana" financial contributions for Treeleaf, as we have sufficient resources for what we are doing. However, I do ask (strongly) people to make financial donations in lieu to charities that help folks, e.g., feeding the poor, finding a cure for a disease. In fact, it is truly a part of Practice, one of the great Virtues of a Bodhisattva.

    What, you thought Treeleaf was a free service? It is a "freeing" service, but not free.

    The same with "Samu" (daily work practice) ...

    Samu is vital to Practice. In fact, Samu --IS-- "working Zazen"!

    I have not been too insistent on people doing "Samu" work practice at Treeleaf, but I think I should crack the whip a little from time to time. If someone will do community volunteer work, preferably, it should be hands on actually helping people in need like the sick or elderly or kids in need (not just folding envelopes) However, for those already loaded with work and family obligations, an intentional commitment to non-do some of those activities is "Samu" practice. That is fine (nurturing children and family is a Bodhisattva's work, and enough if that is truly all you have time for). But if you can get out, and have the time, work in the community is a wonderful road.

    Both donations and Samu work should be a bit beyond the point where it starts to hurt. In fact, it is even good to choose a volunteer activity that you resist ... hands on work with the sick, the abused or suffering.
    This is not only true at time when there are particularly sad stories in the news like now.

    Gassho, and I mean it, Jundo

  9. #9

    Re: Self-centered Buddhism?

    I think that the author of this makes a good point. It is a difficult thing to be self-less when doing a practice ment to engender enlightenment. The whole purpose of Buddhism is to be free of the suffering of this world and to share that freedom with all sentient beings, but sometimes it can be easy to get caught up in the "me"factor of it. I sometimes find myself wanting to gain enlightenment, or some other grasping thought, and I have to remind myself that those thoughts are very "me" oriented and that I have to let them go. After all, I have to remember that I won't attain enlightenment until I realize that I've already attained enlightenment.

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