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Thread: Buddhism and Cults

  1. #1

    Buddhism and Cults



    in one of those coincidences where I was thinking about Brad Warner's http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VrHFCSxzRls[/video]]well made video commentaries on Buddhism specially in regards to whether Buddhism is a religion or not (ah the perennial debate :mrgreen: ) and i came into this article from Slate magazine:

    http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2 ... dhist_kind

    Close Encounters of the Buddhist Kind
    An exclusive look inside a booming multibillion-dollar, evangelical, global Thai cult.




    Picture this: millions of followers gathering around a central shrine that looks like a giant UFO in elaborately choreographed Nuremberg-style rallies; missionary outposts in 31 countries from Germany to the Democratic Republic of the Congo; an evangelist vision that seeks to promote a "world morality restoration project"; and a V-Star program that encourages hundreds of thousands of children to improve "positive moral behavior." Although the Bangkok-based Dhammakaya movement dons saffron robes, not brown shirts, its flamboyant ceremonies have become increasingly bold displays of power for this cult-like Buddhist group that was founded in the 1970s, ironically, as a reform movement opposed to the excesses of organized religion in Thailand.
    Does anyone have more info or background on this group?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Hoyu's Avatar
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    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    Hi Erik,

    Thanks for the links. The title of your topic made me think of my youth. At age 15 I told my parents that I wanted to become a Buddhist. Needless to say they freaked out, thinking that I was going to be taken away and brainwashed by some cult. They didn't have a clue what Buddhism was, but they were from a generation where cults had destroyed many lives so I'm sure they didn't want to take any chances.
    Now they are supportive and even proud of me for spending time at a Buddhist monastery.

    Gassho,
    John

  3. #3

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    There are many many "Buddhist" cults, just as there are many Christian cults, Jewish cults, UFO cults ... all loosely based, in one way or the other, on the tenets of those schools. Even some Zen groups I could name (I won't) that are on the border between healthy practice and 'culty-ness'!

    But (as I discuss in the post a couple of posts down), maybe we should be hesitant to throw around too quickly the loaded word "cult".

    I do not have much information on the Thai group, but here is another group, sometimes known in the west as "Happy Science". It is what is called a "New Religion" in Japan, with a leader who claims to be a rebirth of Buddha and some interesting beliefs.

    http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Kofuku_no_Kagaku

    Gassho, J

  4. #4

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    I would add this too ... just looking at the article mentioned. Just because the Thai group is BIG, does not mean it is BAD. The article does not mention anything particularly nefarious about them, and the message looks fairly standard. So, we should hold off on criticism of anyone's church too easily.

    Gassho, Jundo

  5. #5

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    many cults because everyone(not everyone) wants to think they have the right answer, and their way is the best.
    I can testify to the "Interesting" beliefs of Happy science since I use to be a member :shock:

    To me the first sign of a cult is that the teacher is always right, his practice is the highest and most profound, and everyone else is wrong, and just plain evil.

    The thing I love about Buddhism is the emphasis on doubt. The acknowledgment that yes we don't know everything. I think that's good, because we do not know, we can keep on moving forward.

    Which is why one of my favorite Buddha quote is:
    “Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

    Gassho to all in the zen cult. :wink:

    Seiryu

  6. #6

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    Quote Originally Posted by Seiryu

    Which is why one of my favorite Buddha quote is:
    ... Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”
    Of course, what the Buddha also implied in teachings such as that is "except, of course, for the things that this old teacher, Buddha, says, for in the end you will know that these Buddhist teachings are right, good and beneficial! So, listen to me!" 8)

    And, truly, these Buddhist teachings --are-- right good and beneficial! So, that's okay!

    The following is a list of what makes (especially in a harmful way) a "CULT", a word that should not be thrown around too easily. I mean, anyone joining in this 'Sangha' is certainly part of a small group of people practicing a practice that runs often quite against the values and perspectives of "mainstream" society ... under the guidance of two All Wise and Compassionate Teachers (handsome too!) 8) I think everyone active here (or in any groups of any kind) should take the time to run down the list. It is by a well known "cult fighting" organization ...

    http://www.rickross.com/warningsigns.html

    And here is a collection of other like lists by experts in the subject, also worth running through ...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cult_checklist

    Gassho, Jundo (The ALL POWERFUL)

  7. #7

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    Thank you Jundo!
    Helpful Checklist.


    Gassho

    Seiryu

  8. #8

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    I would add this too ... just looking at the article mentioned. Just because the Thai group is BIG, does not mean it is BAD. The article does not mention anything particularly nefarious about them, and the message looks fairly standard. So, we should hold off on criticism of anyone's church too easily.
    Thank you Jundo.
    I was re-reading a bit the article, but not much of information that would make me question their "mainstreamness." I am not much for BIGness, but doesn't that unsual.

  9. #9
    Treeleaf Unsui Kyrillos's Avatar
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    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    I ran across the Dhammakaya group a few years ago and at that time did feel a certain draw in their direction pperhaps simply because they were one of the very few groups, at that time, which was openly offering monk ordination to westerners. Even though I did run across the occasional western Tibetan lama, in the group I was practicing with at the time; it did "feel" as though westerners were being put through a whole lot of hoops no one else was being asked to jump through for the same thing. So here was a Thai monastic tradition, albeit different from the one I was practicing, not Mahayana, and yet they were offering and making it relatively simple for someone to become ordained, in practically the same way that the majority of Thai men ( and some women) had been doing for centuries, for a period of time. To be able to learn and practice monastic principles and then to return to their lives, or to remain monks if they chose just like the Thais. Sure one had to go to Thailand, except for one or two years when they had a similar program I believe in California; but their are folks taking vacations around the world all the time. You had to take a leave of a month or two to complet the program, but they also made allowances for that if neccesary. The Dhammakaya group sure looked, and still looks as though all they hope to do is to make this available to as many people as possible. I sure didn't find anything sinister about that. They didn't "make" anyone stay in Thailand after ordination, and the costs according to the syllabus I read seemed to be responsible for a two months stay at a monastery, robes, monastic accoutrements, food and classes.

    Gassho,

    Seishin Kyrill

  10. #10

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    Well they certainly know how to put on a show!

    As previously stated, I see nothing sinister. Sometimes we tend to jump to conclusions when "new" organizations gain power, some land, and many followers. Buddhism was new once too, you know.

    Either way, common sense goes a long way for these things.

    Gassho,
    Taylor (Myoken)

  11. #11
    disastermouse
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    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    Any new religion MUST be bad. /sarcasm

    Chet (Zen Cultist)

  12. #12

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    Quote Originally Posted by disastermouse
    Chet (Zen Cultist)
    :lol:

    gassho
    Greg

  13. #13

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    The Yasutani-Harada lineage has been accused of being a Japanese "New Religion".
    (http://www.terebess.hu/english/sharf.html)

    The Association Zen International AZI (Deshimaru lineage) in France has been accused of being sectarian and using mind control by a former member.
    (http://www.darkzen.com/Articles/AZI.html)

    Personally I think both cases are very much exaggerated, but one should be aware that other people may consider Zen communities cult like. Thank you Jundo for the list!

  14. #14

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    The Yasutani-Harada lineage has been accused of being a Japanese "New Religion".
    (http://www.terebess.hu/english/sharf.html)

    The Association Zen International AZI (Deshimaru lineage) in France has been accused of being sectarian and using mind control by a former member.
    (http://www.darkzen.com/Articles/AZI.html)

    Personally I think both cases are very much exaggerated, but one should be aware that other people may consider Zen communities cult like. Thank you Jundo for the list!
    Well, again, I would be careful about calling any group a "cult", which has a sinister meaning.

    The Yasutani-Harada lineage is certainly a reform, lay movement very critical of both the Rinzai and Soto sects in Japan. It is a hybrid of both, but with its own organization and interpretation of many doctrines (not all I agree with). However, I would not call it, in any way, a dangerous group.

    Likewise, the AZI has had many problems in the past, and has its own ways of doing things (Taigu can tell you about that, as he came from the AZI) ... but I would not call it, in any way, dangerous or overall harmful to its members (no more than any large group or club or company, from the Lions Club to IBM is harmful to its members and employees, although there might be incidents that one could point to over their history).

    Same for Shasta Abbey/Order of Buddhist Contemplatives, which has its own ways, and can be rather inward looking. However, not dangerous in any way.

    As a matter of fact, my own teacher, Nishijima Roshi is a Soto Priest, and his teacher was the Abbot of Eiheiji and Head of the entire Soto School in Japan, but Nishijima is a critic of the current state of Soto and Rinzai Zen in Japan, with his own organization and particular interpretation of many doctrines.

    So, every "church" always considers the church next door a little unusual.

    Gassho, Jundo

  15. #15

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Well, again, I would be careful about calling any group a "cult", which has a sinister meaning.
    Yes, me too.
    Just pointing out that Zen communities aren't immune to being called cults, sects or new religions either, even by former members of their organizations.
    That being said, when I read though that check list with Treeleaf, Jundo and Taigu in mind I laughed several times. :lol: Jundo in particular was such a worthless sinister cult leader in that daydream of mine within a dream within a dream! :wink:

    Gassho,
    Pontus

  16. #16

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    Jundo in particular was such a worthless sinister cult leader in that daydream of mine within a dream within a dream! :wink:

    Gassho,
    Pontus
    Obviously you missed the part where I ask all our Sangha members to sell their houses and send Taigu and me the money (actually, just me the money). You see, we are building a base for the space aliens who cloned us to land their UFO's in Las Vegas, and we desperately need funds ...

    http://www.ufoland.com/

    You can write me for my bank account wire information. :shock:

    (yes, the Raelians are a real group)

  17. #17
    Friend of Treeleaf Daido's Avatar
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    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    i am so getting a Raelian t-shirt. :lol:

  18. #18

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    goenka's group is sometimes criticised as a "cult" -- i attended a 10-day retreat with them last year -- you know, its like people with self-diagnoses of "borderline" schizophrenia, bi-polar, etc. -- i tend to hold back on taking those definitons seriously, since we're all slightly this or that

    there were "cultish" elements in goenka's group, there are some at treeleaf(a lot more at goenka) -- i think my term would be "focused" -- a little too focused, perhaps, for my liking -- so i just sat the retreat, and let the rest pass on by -- but this is a group that is working very hard to get a certain technique(not my cup of tea) out to the regular folks, for free, not just the usual yuppies you see at spirit rock or ims -- for all the talk of inclusion at spirit rock, i've never seen the variety of folks i saw at goenka's retreat

    it takes a certain "dedication" for people to work that hard, volunteer their time, for free, and without even the title of "teacher"(they use recorded videos of goenka) -- and that amount of committment can be "cultish" --- plus their technique of "vipassana" is more samadhi than vipassana

    i've always felt that all this buddhist stuff doesn't mean much if its just college-educated professionals doing it, not waitresses and mechanics -- my 2 cents

    gassho, roky

  19. #19
    Treeleaf Unsui Shokai's Avatar
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    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    Jundo;
    O Great One, You'd better save some of those incoming funds to buy a trampoline so you'll be able to bounce as high as the cheque I'm sending you

  20. #20

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Quote Originally Posted by Omoi Otoshi
    Jundo in particular was such a worthless sinister cult leader in that daydream of mine within a dream within a dream! :wink:

    Gassho,
    Pontus
    Obviously you missed the part where I ask all our Sangha members to sell their houses and send Taigu and me the money (actually, just me the money). You see, we are building a base for the space aliens who cloned us to land their UFO's in Las Vegas, and we desperately need funds ...

    http://www.ufoland.com/

    You can write me for my bank account wire information. :shock:

    (yes, the Raelians are a real group)

    Sorry Jundo, but I know the truth. There are no alien clone people. We are all children of the Flying Spagetti Monster, who will gather us into the embrace of His Noodly Appendage.

    http://www.venganza.org/about/

    Soon we will all be Pastafarians.

  21. #21

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    Sorry Jundo, but I know the truth. There are no alien clone people. We are all children of the Flying Spagetti Monster, who will gather us into the embrace of His Noodly Appendage.


    ...in accordance with the prophecy.
    ((nods knowingly.))

  22. #22

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    Quote Originally Posted by KvonNJ
    We are all children of the Flying Spagetti Monster, who will gather us into the embrace of His Noodly Appendage.
    Count me in! :lol:

    Jinyu

  23. #23

    Re: Buddhism and Cults

    Long Live Crom! :mrgreen:

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