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Thread: Giving advice on Buddhism / meditation

  1. #1

    Giving advice on Buddhism / meditation

    Okay, I'm just thinking out loud, but this is the situation I've encountered.

    A co-worker's wife called me to ask for information on Buddhism and meditation. Odd and out of the blue. She told me she is very stressed and wanted a way to "clear her mind". She found a group locally that has meditation seminars for different things such as stress relief, reducing anger, coping with loss. Apparently they market it as Buddhist teachings.

    It's rare that I even mention Buddhism to anyone other than my wife (and my fellow Treeleafers, obviously). And I'm not much for giving advice. But I spoke with her. She asked a little about Buddhism. I gave the most basic answers I possibly could and directed her to a book, "Buddhism Plain and Simple" (it lives up to it's title). I explained that the meditation I do isn't to "bliss out" or anything like that. In fact, it's the opposite. I'm pretty sure that she isn't looking to practice zazen, but I told her I could direct her to some basic instructions should she want to try it down the road.

    I found it very hard to offer advice on the subject, even though it is my practice. Instead, I asked her about her concerns and thoughts about the meditation she planned to try. She was worried that she would have to convert to Buddhism, what she would tell her family, etc. I think I reassured her that she didn't have to be a Buddhist to meditate (and not to believe anyone who told her differently). I suggested getting more involved in her Christian faith, because some people find that prayer eases their minds. Also, it is something more familiar to her. She actually laughed at that.

    Overall, I let her do most of the talking and answered her questions the best I could. She is going to read the book I suggested, and try out the seminar. I wished her well. She's going to let me know if she likes it.

    Has anyone else ever encountered this sort of thing? Do you suppose I could have done something (or lots of things) differently? I know I came to Zen in a roundabout sort of way. I think if someone sat down with me from the get go and said, "hey, try this...sit with no purpose other than to sit.....and that's it," I would have steered clear of it.


    泰 Entai (Bill)
    "this is not a dress rehearsal"

  2. #2
    Bill, I cannot imagine a lovlier and more sensible way to have handled this with care.

    Many Bows, Jundo

  3. #3
    Oh yes. I have encountered many instances like this. But what's worse is that it is mainly with people around my age: teenagers. They ask if I meditate and I reply "in a way, yes". Then they proceed to ask if I can perform mystical powers like levitation or Element bending a là avatar the last airbender. It's become quite a fun game to guess what they'll come up with next. XD

    Usually, I just reply "no, my meditation is just sitting" which they tend to find so disappointing. Now I just say as little as possible like that after I read something somewhere about those that speak without knowing. "Killing Buddhism." Since I don't want to be a murderer, I try keeping it as simple as possible.

    "Try sitting still for a few minutes studying your reactions. You may be interested by what you see."

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

  4. #4
    They ask if I meditate and I reply "in a way, yes". Then they proceed to ask if I can perform mystical powers like levitation or Element bending a là avatar the last airbender. It's become quite a fun game to guess what they'll come up with next. XD
    But Buddhist Masters DO have amazing mystical powers! It's True!

    Here, for example, is my returning from the PAST ... and a sit-a-long talk from way back in 2009 ...

    We now come to the Bodhisattva Virtue of ....

    Miraculous, Mystical Powers (bala)

    Mahayana sutras and lore refer to a variety of supernatural powers developed through meditation and Buddhist practice, said of aid to the Bodhisattva ... such as the ability to foretell the future, to see the past lives of beings, to read minds, to radiate light and to cause rain ... others too ...

    There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.

    Taigen Dan Leighton writes ...

    Buddhist attitude toward such powers has often been ambivalent, particularly in the Zen tradition, which emphasizes attention to ordinary, everyday activity. This outlook was epitomized in the legendary utterance by the great eighth-century Chinese adept, Layman Pang, that the ultimate super- natural power was chopping wood and carrying water. The ordinary world, just as it is, can be appreciated as an amazing, wondrous event. And experiences that seem supernatural and miraculous may only appear so to the limited portions of our mental and spiritual faculties that we conventionally employ.
    Unfortunately, my amazing powers did not including fixing the sound and picture quality on Youtube back then.


  5. #5
    Bill, that was an impressive show of wisdom and compassion! WOW! Nine bows on how you handled a sensitive and tricky situation!



  6. #6
    Hello Bill,

    well handled indeed!

    Although my personal Buddhist colour is "Zen", I often refer people to the "Buddhism for Dummies" book, because it does a rather good job of introducing most major currents without proselytising.

    To me it's a slightly different story if people are interested in Zen in particular.


    Hans Chudo Mongen

  7. #7
    Thank you all for the encouraging words. I was sort of worried that I did too little (or too much).

    Bobman4671, What do you mean you can't levitate yet?

    Jundo, I watched you levitate objects and illuminate entire rooms on your video. And seeing is believing....right?

    泰 Entai (Bill)
    "this is not a dress rehearsal"

  8. #8
    Hi Bill,

    I tell them I try to stay present during sitting and off the Zafu and that this is good for my mental health. I also tell them there are a couple of cool Zen teachers online and tell them about this web site for more information. :-)

    Gassho, John

  9. #9
    Wonderful approach Bill, thank you for this compassionate approach. =)


  10. #10
    I think you handled it very well. When I get questions from people interested in Buddhism or meditation I always try to keep the conversation basic and simple, much the way you did. And I let people borrow books on Buddhism/Zen/Meditation from me when they ask to borrow one.


  11. #11
    Hey Bill,

    "Buddhism, Plain and Simple" IS a good introduction for ordinary people. Even when asked I can not give advice but no one has ever left without their answer.

    "Recognize suffering, remove suffering." - Shakyamuni Buddha when asked, "Uhm . . .what?"

  12. #12
    Being 15 (and having been in public schools), I always get questions about Buddhism. But that's okay, I like questions. I think you handled it very well with the Q/A style thing, I don't see why at all you are worrying. Whenever they ask me how to be calmer or what is Buddhism, I say meditate and you will find out. I actually have met a 15 year old on a Buddhist subreddit and am helping him learn about Buddhism and meditation, usually sending videos and giving resources of people who can explain meditation better than I and are far more wise than me. He is very interested, but I am his only resource as his parents aren't very accepting of his curiosity. I imagine that would be very difficult having parents like that, I am grateful that my parents are open minded.

    Hope that was on topic.

    Kind regards,

  13. #13

    Having just come from High School, I know how it is talking with teenagers about Buddhism. A lot of them, being young and not even knowing what Buddhism is, are very good receptors and able to take things with a fresh mind. Others hear Buddhism and think of yoga yogis or Guru Pitka from The Love Guru. I've dealt mainly with with the latter. XD

    It's nice to know there's another teenager here.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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