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Thread: SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: The Dangers of Talkin' Religion

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  1. #1

    SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: The Dangers of Talkin' Religion

    One thing my mother always used to tell me is "don't discuss religion with people, cause people get too easily defensive and offended about their personal religion.". It's true. Of course, that's a little hard to avoid when one is posting on an internet forum devoted to religion, Zen Buddhism in this case. People tend to take any criticism of their religion ... no matter how couched in "it's just my opinion", and no matter how small and reasonable the criticism ... as an affront. That's especially true when the critic is not an outsider, but someone inside the religion ... and maybe most especially clergy of the religion like Taigu and me.

    This recently happened when I posted my last Sit-A-Long talk supportive of "out in the world" practice, and critical of some aspects (emphasis on "some aspects among many good points") of monastic practice entitled Knocking Down Monastery Walls, at ZFI, a sometimes surprisingly conservative place. People began to really jump on me and Taigu (who also added some comments very critical of monasteries and some of the institutionalized religion-ness that often accompanies them), accusing us sometimes as if we really wanted to rent bulldozers and do a sneak attack on helpless monks!

    Taigu and I were taking our usual stand about how, for some or many folks (emphasis on "some or many" not "all"), training out in the world to be a priest might be a good path, and monastery life not possible or the wrong soil for that individual (emphasis on "for that individual"). The substance of the attitude of some folks can be symbolized by a typical post ...

    There are many life situations which make someone not a proper candidate for ordination. Parents of small children, people in deep financial debt or legal difficulty, pregnant women, people in the armed forces... they have other obligations and are not proper candidates for ordination. They are also not proper candidates for the space program, a traveling circus, etc. This is not about "who is good enough." ... It's called home leaving.
    To which I would typically respond with something like ...

    Perchance, if one truly knows how to look ... some particularly wise folks can overturn the delusions of life right in the heart of life, shining in/as/right through life. Radical transformation can manifest where we stand. Buddhas can be seen in our small children, and freedom from the shackles of life are in the key of financial debt and legal difficulties. Pregnant women have Buddha Nature too (for one? for two?), and people in the armed forces serve in places where the "rubber meets the road" of the Precepts in action. Is not Enlightenment something even vaster than space, and is not life just a wondrous (sometimes beautiful, sometimes ugly) circus?
    And again, my point is that monasteries may be right for some people, but wrong for other people. "Out in the world" training may be right for some people, but wrong for other people. To each his own, and many good paths up the mountain suited to different people and needs.

    I also became a bit hot under the collar at one point in one post with one guy, but generally kept my cool. However, I did notice a tendency of folks in such religious discussions to completely ignore how a statement is couched and hear what they want to hear, a kind of Cognitive Dissonance. For example, I pull no punches in my criticisms of certain small aspects of Buddhism and Zen, calling them "superstitious" and the like, or "abusive". But I typically do it in the following way ... in effect, pulling my punches!

    In my humble opinion, and that is all it is (for one man's "made up legends" is another man's "sacred stories" that he has full right to believe) ... Buddhism does, among the many many very good things, contain much "superstition, bull-crackers, hocus-pocus and made up legends, baseless claims, funny hats and dusty rituals, institutional church-iness" that we could often do without, in my limited view ... and some situations which, among the many good situations, are sometimes occaisionally abusive, disfunctional, even cult-like

    ... but which, I fully recognize and respect, may be very beautiful and precious to others, interpreted quite differently by them. Lovely, and many paths up the mountain for different folks (anyway, ultimately, what mountain?) We cherish and honor the right of such folks to practice their religion as they wish in their Sanghas ... just as we cherish and honor the right of Jews, Christians, Muslims, Scientologists, Hari Khrisna's, Atheists, Agnostics of all stripes to practice their beliefs as they wish ... and we will practice as we wish in our little Sangha.
    ... which some people seem to hear in their minds as ...

    You think Zen is bullshit, monasteries are all abusive and Buddhism is like Scientology!

    Oy vey.

    I'll have more on this topic in a future post ... including how people became very upset when I once turned into Bro. Brad and typed "bullshit" instead of "bull crackers". That became a more important topic than the monasteries!

    Last edited by Jundo; 01-06-2017 at 05:09 AM.

  2. #2
    Thank you Jundo

    sat today

  3. #3
    Thank You Jundo

    Sat Today

  4. #4

  5. #5
    Thank you for this, Jundo.


  6. #6
    Thank you Jundo. I personally love the simplicity (and learnedness) of your teachings as I do Joko Beck's 'Simple Mind' philosophy. As a beginner I find passionate discussion refreshing......and fun. As for offending others I'm also fond of Eleanor Roosevelt's rather Buddhist-like observation that ' no-one can make you feel inferior without your consent' (or something like that!).
    Sat today

  7. #7
    Thank you, Jundo.


  8. #8
    It's not just religion, it's parenting also. Always a topic I tread very lightly upon. Just the other day on facebook, a (now former) facebook friend posted that she's sick of kids being brats and parents need to discipline their kids more. Someone commented and started calling kids who behave a certain way spoiled brats. I posted, very nicely I might add, to please not assume because there can be more going on than meets the eye. I gave the example of my son and how he used to throw the worst tantrums in public, and now he's older and a great kid. However, all the guy heard was "please don't assume" and got very defensive towards me. I left the conversation, and this made him more angry at me and told me it's a shame I won't listen to his educated opinion. OOyy, thank goodness for delete buttons on facebook. I rarely open my mouth with my opinions and this is why.

    You are so right, Jundo. People will only hear what they want to hear. Thank you for your openness and honesty here.

    sat today

  9. #9
    Thank you for your insight Jundo. I recently had the opportunity to discuss my Buddhist practice with my father (a devout Christian). I have avoided this conversation for years because I felt ashamed to admit to my father that I no longer shared his beliefs or religious affiliations. After all these years, what gave me the strength to speak to my father honestly about my religious views was a perspective I have tried to cultivate in my own mind: I do not speak about religion with any intentions of winning the conversation. I accept what I believe, but that does not require (in my mind) the rejection of someone else's beliefs for them. It's like accepting that my favorite color is black, and my son's favorite color is red. My perspective does not require validation through conformity of those I share it with. I believe this is similar to what you have written about the monastic vs. layman paths and discussions of religion.
    Thank you.
    (I sat today)

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
    thank you
    -Lou Sat Today

  10. #10
    I just came across this thread today. It has me thinking about many things.

    This week we are taking about Case #60, and I commented how, to me, this koan spoke about the person of no rank. Jundo often mentions that entering the priesthood is a step DOWN, not a step up. I can easily see how monastics could come to a feeling that they are the "real" buddhists. I admit I personally take issue with this perspective; not because I feel like they are not serious practitioners, but more perhaps because they feel like this sets them, in their minds ABOVE. ( though I am not saying all do feel this way) I also find myself inherently skeptical of monastic practice that is not self sufficient and depends on donations of lay practitioners, again separation of practitioners in a type of hierarchical pecking order. Can we not find enlightenment chopping wood and carrying water? Are the monastics going to the feast on Mt Tai or laying down?

    #Sat Today

    Grateful for your practice

  11. #11
    Thank you Jundo.
    for this Talk I think that when one has a Opinion its just
    that a opinion to some degree i feel some get angry or
    offended because they see some truth ? I don't know
    for sure its just something i think about from time to time


  12. #12
    This is unfolding in my life right now, but I'm the offended, affronted one. I tried to have a conversation with someone very dear to me about Buddhism, and it got emotional pretty quickly. I could see she had some misconceptions (and some accurate criticisms).

    I've had to stop and look deeply at my reaction. Why do I feel like I need to defend? Why do I feel like I need to change her mind? Is engaging in this and trying to convince her to see things my way going to help anybody?

    Like Mr. Lou said above, I have to let go of my ideas of winning the conversation. My attachment to being right is going to keep causing suffering for everyone involved, so I just need to let it go.

    I've been letting it go about 300 times a day. It's sticky.


  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by dudleyf View Post

    Why do I feel like I need to defend? Why do I feel like I need to change her mind? Is engaging in this and trying to convince her to see things my way going to help anybody?
    Why do I feel like I need to defend? Why do I feel like I need to change her mind?

    ---- Ego does not want to let go of itself (sounds funny, doesn't it?) for fear of disappearing. Delusional thinking.

    Is engaging in this and trying to convince her to see things my way going to help anybody?

    --- Maybe. If you are doing it for her, yes. If you are doing it for yourself, no. Sounds like your Ego is trying to get stronger if you ask me.

    Complicated. Complicated.

    My 2 cents.

    Gasho, Jishin, _/st\_
    "The Great Way is not difficult for those not attached to preferences. When neither love nor hate arises, all is clear and undisguised. Separate by the smallest amount, however, and you are as far from it as heaven is from earth." - Xin Xin Ming

  14. #14
    You're more right than you know, Jishin, thanks

    Dudley (sat today)

  15. #15
    Just listened to this and I appreciate it. I have to bite my tongue a lot now that I am the family "heretic/apostate" for no longer believing in the "one true religion". I have never been one to push my ideas on others but I am constantly on the receiving end such behaviors these days. Being able to let go has been hugely helpful in my mental health being the one that is different in a homogeneous religious group. It's kind of ironic there is so much discussion of processes and not outcomes sometimes. I think we lose sight of the target due to obsession with the tools supposed to help us get there. I don't know anything about Monasteries and have not been practicing but a few years so my opinion is to be taken as such but I greatly appreciate what I perceive as Jundo's focus on the principles as opposed to the traditions. I think something that is accessible to everyone has a much greater chance of improving the world/reducing suffering than one that is only accomplished by a few. Just my 2 cents. Thanks again for all the wisdom Jundo!

    Sat today

    sat today

  16. #16
    All too often people can be unbending. Much like a certain oak tree that refused to bend with the wind. And yes, it is very much a cognitive dissonance situation, because when we challenge a belief we are in effect challenging the hope that belief engenders. To challenge one word spoken by Christ is to challenge the very fabric of Christian Salvation. Sadly, many do not want to understand that hope can be a living thing too, and like all living things, it must grow and change - the only other option being stagnation and entropy. We also challenge the other person's legitimacy when we challenge a belief. The challenged person starts to wonder if their conviction was misplaced; if the effort to get where they are was for nothing. No one likes to feel like they've been played like a fiddle. Buddhism teaches us one thing if it teaches us anything, our perseptions are probably jaded, and therefore should be treated with a certain sense of awareness. It teaches us that our efforts should be more effortless, and that our convictions got us to the only place they possibly could: here; now. That maybe we shouldnt get so tied up in what we perceive to be "good enough for the gander" as also being "good for the goose" - after all we are different and unique and as far as i recall when different disciples asked Shakyamuni similar questions, he didn't just say the same exact scripted response.

    I applaud you, Jundo, to speak on things with dubious benefit to the Way or the people who practice it. Rainbows would certainly be less captivating, if they were all one color. And how could anything that hurts people also help them in their practice. Compassion for all (beings and ideas).



  17. #17

    SIT-A-LONG with JUNDO: The Dangers of Talkin' Religion

    I am a Christian, but at the same I've been sitting for almost 40 years. In some circles, some may refer to me as a dual practitioner or a person who practices across traditions.

    Anyway, many years ago I was part of a Christian group. Actually I wasn't only a member, but also one of the leaders of the group. Thinking that at least some people could benefit from Zen practice, I asked my Zen teacher to introduce the practice to those who were interested.

    When some people got wind of what was happening, it caused such a fire storm, so to speak. Some people in the group thought i had become a Buddhist missionary out to topple the idols of Christianity.

    Nothing could be farther from the truth.

    Like Yamada Koun Roshi, i believe that you don't have to become a Buddhist to benefit from Zen practice. In fact, he trained many Christian priests, nuns and pastors. Some of them are now Zen teachers. My 2 Zen teachers -- Sr. Elaine Macinnes and Sr. Sonia Punzalan -- are Catholic nuns who were trained by Yamada Koun Roshi himself.

    Although I'm still a Christian, I decided to leave the group, not only for this reason, but also because of other concerns. Nowadays, I just keep quiet about my Zen practice, at least most of the time. Living in the Philippines, which is a predominantly Catholic country, where once people become aware you're a Zen practitioner, they look at you as an oddity at the very least; or worse as a heretic or an apostate...



    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Last edited by themonk614; 01-07-2017 at 03:11 AM.
    "You may wander all over the earth but you have to come back to yourself." --Jiddu Krishnamurti

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