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Thread: Bad Buddhist Vibes

  1. #1

    Bad Buddhist Vibes

    Bad Buddhist Vibes

    Buddhism is America’s fastest-growing religion, and it’s making some people uncomfortable

    At least 2 million Buddhists currently practice their religion in the United States, and many of their fellow citizens disapprove. A survey conducted by political scientists Robert Putnam and David Campbell, coauthors of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us (2010), endeavored to determine how Americans perceive the nation’s major religions and found that Buddhists rank second to last, above only Muslims, writes James Coleman in Buddhadharma (Fall 2011). The same survey reports that whereas a large Christian church coming to their neighborhood would be acceptable, a large Buddhist temple would raise objections from one in five Americans.

    The negative image seems to stem from a lack of publicity, which has contributed to the sort of ignorance that fuels fear. “Buddhism has remained something of a stealth religion, virtually invisible to most people outside our cosmopolitan coastal enclaves,” explains Coleman, who entreats practitioners to enter the public discourse, especially since the faith has become America’s fastest-growing religion with numbers rivaling those of Mormons, Muslims, Anglicans/Episcopalians, and practicing Jews. Coleman points to His Holiness the Dalai Lama for inspiration, not only because of his peace-loving message, but also because of his carefully crafted public image.
    http://www.utne.com/Mind-Body/Buddhi...#ixzz1i6HxxSMf

    As I understand it historically the Zen community hasn't been exactly evangelical, but maybe a community outreach effort is needed. I live in the bible belt where I have seen how skittish people are about Muslims and the LDS. I would hate to see congress wasting time trying to stop Dharma Law :roll: or trying to make wearing robes or even meditation illegal in public.

    Yes I realize I sound alarmist, but I also have family members that would call their congress critter in a second if $televangelist asked them to :-/

    Your thoughts?

  2. #2

    Re: Bad Buddhist Vibes

    Interesting... I would hasten to say that most of those in the survey probably think buddhists believe buddha is god, prayers are sent to buddha akin to Jesus or saints in which an actionable reaction is anticipated from the deity or saint, etc.. which is to say, they probably don't really know buddhism but dislike the idea of Dalai Lama, funny suits and rituals, powerful figure heads and general competition with Christianity. Having a Christian family and knowing the bible belt well, there is always an US vs. Them mentality and the Them are even more heinous when not known well or understood. Likewise, I've heard many times never to meditate and how dangerous it is and even evil. IF Idle hands are the devil's playground then an idle mind??? ..Sinister music here...

    Some activism is definitely warranted.. and would help. I think.. my preference and opinion.. is social rather than political activism. Buddhist Peace Fellowship and things like that are great but a local presence is even better for things like this.. So get out there and do it! While I go sit in my closet and meditate...

    Nate

  3. #3

    Re: Bad Buddhist Vibes

    Here in Canada the right wing of the political spectrum tends toward the libertarian side of things rather than religious conservatism.
    Few people actually practice Zen Buddhism, but it is seen as harmless if maybe a bit exotic . In cosmopolitan urban centers "Zen" has a mainstream image like yoga, though once again few actually practice. Sorry to hear about the drift of things in some parts of the U.S. The problem seems to be deepening. You shouldn't even have to think about that kind of thing.

  4. #4

    Re: Bad Buddhist Vibes

    Humm

    I guess I would not worry much about what opinions and perceptions of Buddhists are out there. There always has been and always will be distrust of what one does not understand. Certainly we should not practice dana for the purpose of obtaining understanding by others of our Buddhist practice. Dana should be practiced totally from an altruistic perspective, no expectations of gain, no purpose other than the concern for others.

    Think the best practice is just being ourselves and ride the waves of prejudice and fear.

    Jim

  5. #5

    Re: Bad Buddhist Vibes

    Hi,

    I usually say that one need not try to persuade people ... family, friends or strangers ... of the value and innocence of the Buddhist Way. Folks will always have doubts or fears about people who they see as "different". What I often advise people who have a doubtful or worried parent or sibling or friend (who perhaps thinks you are about to start wearing a bed sheet, handing out George Harrison CD's in the streets 8) ) is this: ... say little, act much. Just be a loving, caring, peaceful, tolerant, helpful son, daughter, sibling or friend and they may eventually, with time, get the message that this way of life is very positive. It may take time (and sometimes some people will never be convinced), but I believe that our actions are much more powerful than any words or arguments. If the people who know you see positive changes in you ... see that it has brought peace, wholesomeness and stability into your life, and come to realize that you have not turned into a zombie or joined a dangerous cult ... they may come to be a bit more open to it (such was the case with my own mother in her last years).

    We have had a few threads on people who have come to Zen practice from other religions where they felt they had a difficult time, or who now must deal with parents and relatives who do not understand ...

    viewtopic.php?p=46281#p46281

    viewtopic.php?p=38301#p38301

    viewtopic.php?p=26717#p26717

    viewtopic.php?p=58323#p58323

    viewtopic.php?p=33924#p33924

    viewtopic.php?p=44744#p44744

    viewtopic.php?p=62930#p62930

    viewtopic.php?p=60061#p60061

    I think it true on a societal scale as well. No need to advertise, try to persuade on doctrinal grounds or have famous actors as spokesmen! What is more ... when it comes to religion ... one can rarely persuade folks to accept others if, in their hearts, they are closed to it. Some Christians see other Christians of a slightly different flavor as misguided or fallen, some Jews see other less/more observant Jews as fanatics or 'not Jews at all' (and the same for all the other religions ... even atheists may judge the religious as misguided, or other atheists as not true to the creed! :shock: ) The wonderful thing about Western Democracies is that there is room for all of us ... and we can all do our religious/philosophical thing ... even if secretly believing everyone else is going to burn in hell! :evil:

    And don't think that Buddhists, or Zen folks, are free of this either ... often looking at other Buddhists or Zennies as practicing "wrong" or in a completely misguided way! When I was in China recently, I had a few conversations with folks about why Japanese Zen is not really "Buddhism". Dogen, Dahui and Hakuen were often critical of ways of practice other than their own. I myself am often VERY critical of aspects of other religions (for example, if overly fanatical or hateful in their beliefs) and of Buddhism and Zen Buddhism too that I believe are harmful or negative, and I do not think that such constructive criticism is itself harmful or negative ... provided, however, that HOW the criticism is offered is very important (for example, I am often critical of what I see as many superstitious or hyper-exaggerated elements in Buddhism and Zen Buddhism, but it is vital to emphasize that (1) what is wrong for one person may be right for another ... and one person's 'superstition' may be another person's 'sacred tale and lesson to live by', (2) there is enough room in the world for all of us, (3) none of us are the last word, and we should leave it up to God/Buddha/The Universe/Whatever to decide who is ultimately right and wrong ... and in the Ultimate perhaps, all differences drop away! )

    Now, one thing that was said in this thread ...

    Quote Originally Posted by natezenmaster
    Interesting... I would hasten to say that most of those in the survey probably think buddhists believe buddha is god, prayers are sent to buddha akin to Jesus or saints in which an actionable reaction is anticipated from the deity or saint, etc.. which is to say, they probably don't really know buddhism ...
    Actually, they may know Buddhism better than many who say otherwise! The view you express overlooks the way that Zen/Chan Buddhism is actually practiced by the vast vast majority of Zen/Chan Buddhists in Asia ... Japan, Korea, Vietnam and China ... both lay and priest. There, it is often coupled with (or is centered on) belief in "god-like Buddha or Buddha(s)" who will take you to be reborn in heaven just by faith in them ... plus also help one in this world too with family and business worries in return for worship and prayer. I recently wrote a little about this during my trip to China ... The similarities and parallels between belief in and worship of Jesus as Messiah and Amida Buddha (or Maitreya, Shakyamuni) as Messiah ... and Kannon and the Buddhist saints ... are so close and remarkable that it leads me to surmise that both come from some place in the human brain, East or West, where people are "wired" to such beliefs ...

    viewtopic.php?p=65263#p65263

    In the West and in "convert Buddhism" (and especially at places like this Treeleaf Sangha) we may move away from some of that "old time religion" ... and be rather "modern" ("modern" does not always mean wiser) and skeptical on subjects like Rebirth, Cosmic Buddhas in the Sky, literal Buddha Heavens and Buddhist Hells ...

    viewtopic.php?p=12078#p12078

    ... just as many "modern" Christian theologians may seek to give a more skeptical and less literal interpretation to their religion. However, it may be (and I do not mean to sound like a snob in saying this) that the vast vast majority of people in the world ... Christian, Buddhist or any other religion ... need the magic and miracles, and what we do here would not suit them or their spiritual/psychological needs. It speaks to them in ways that many of us cannot hear ... and perhaps with the very same messages at the heart of all religions.

    Perhaps we are losing something important at places like Treeleaf which forsake such aspects of Zen and Buddhism?

    Gassho, Jundo

  6. #6
    Senior Member Heisoku's Avatar
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    Re: Bad Buddhist Vibes

    the vast majority of people in the world ... Christian, Buddhist or any other religion ... need the magic and miracles, and what we do here would not suit them or their spiritual/psychological needs. It speaks to them in ways that many of us cannot hear ... and perhaps with the very same messages at the heart of all religions.
    Perhaps we are losing something important at places like Treeleaf which forsake such aspects of Zen and Buddhism?
    Many people look for external confirmation that what we are living is not extraordinary, many look for external support as their internal resources wane (given quite willingly as a panacea by those who take advantage of such needs) but what Treeleaf offers is shikantaza…a way of being internal with the external so there is just......this. However I find that it is a hard road to travel sometimes and that at times 'easier routes' are preferrable, that is until they are shown they are not all they are cracked up to be…look at the thread on Drugs and Enlightenment!http://www.treeleaf.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=1&t=4388
    The magic and miracle of being alive to all ‘this’ is what I have found at Treeleaf…warts and all... and what we are gaining is something that Taigu expressed in his gatha;
    my mantra, just being
    my deity, the ordinary
    my practice, wonder.


    Good Buddhist vibes! _/_

  7. #7

    Re: Bad Buddhist Vibes

    Interesting topic, thanks for sharing!

    P.S. Nice to see another Hoosier on here :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

  8. #8

    Re: Bad Buddhist Vibes

    Quote Originally Posted by Matto

    P.S. Nice to see another Hoosier on here :mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:
    Represent!

    also I wasn't really calling for a evangelical mass conversion to Buddhism (no one expects the Buddhist Inquisition ) . I was just concerned that people are concerned about the growth of Buddhism and the line that they would be opposed to a Buddhist temple going up in their towns. That just reminded me of the "Ground Zero Mosque" and how people on my girlfriends college campus defaced fliers for a cross cultural campus event celebrating a Muslim holiday. I have seen how difficult Muslims can have it in America and are concerned that we may be next.

  9. #9

    Re: Bad Buddhist Vibes

    Yes, to see the doubt and ignorance manifest itself in frantic scramble for the 'special', the 'extraordinary', is very sobering. Under my eyes a colleague is falling apart. He has burnt out once before and is only a few days from a repeat. There is nothing wrong with him; a considerate thinking people manager who is doing a fine job. But, the job has a grip on him he cannot shed. It dominates him 24 hrs per day. He knows I sit and has even asked about it from time to time. I have suggested he could sit with us but he cannot make that decision. He sees 2 of us sitting in the lounge when going to his room. It must look strange I guess.

    I now ask searching little questions as one does not pick up his struggle in his behaviour. He is of the disciplined Swiss mould. This morning he said 'It is frustrating, not being able to recover'. All I could say was ' you are able to recover'. I could not say any more - not wanting to be like an evangelical Christian.

    m

  10. #10
    Senior Member kirkmc's Avatar
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    Re: Bad Buddhist Vibes

    Isn't part of the perception of buddhism in the US the fact that a number of celebrities are followers of Tibetan buddhism, which may seem a bit esoteric to those who don't know anything about it (and even to those who do)? The only buddhist - other than celebrities - that most Americans have heard of is the Dalai Lama, and, while he's a nice guy, and very communicative, I have a feeling that there's a perception of "inscrutability" regarding him.

  11. #11

    Re: Bad Buddhist Vibes

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo
    Perhaps we are losing something important at places like Treeleaf which forsake such aspects of Zen and Buddhism?
    Hey Jundo and all,

    I've pondered this a bit since you mentioned it in the China thread. I'm not sure that anything has been gained or lost. Instead, that which is "forsaken" (though I'd use the term "reinterpreted") leads to other aspects being brought into focus. For example, I find the humor, the simple expression of an ordinary moment, and the general "spirit" of Zen to be much more beautiful than any ritual or speculative belief. It also seems to me that this particular approach to "Buddhism" creates an almost perfect balance between scientism and spiritism. We have a pragmatic ethical and psychological view melded with the mind melting goodness of a non-dual approach.

    It may not be beautiful and uplifting in comparison to Asian forms, but I think it is the perfect Zen for this time and this place.

    Rod

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