My name is Jim Dillon. An American, I have been living in New Mexico though my family are in Michigan, where I lived for many years. In my early 30's my work involved teaching several psychiatry residents from India. I began to inquire about their religion and they were eager to educate me. A searcher by nature, or maybe just by virtue of desperation, I thought deeply about what they had said and decided that my next step would be to read the Bhagvad Gita. I put this off for several months, until one day, while attending a meeting at the World Trade Center (not far from where the airplanes would come crashing in on 9/11), I began to think obsessively about reading the Gita. I resolved that at lunch time I would find a book store in the WTC (the ground floor was shop after shop arranged in a large circle) and acquire a copy. When the meeting let out, I was first to the elevators and soon found myself on the ground floor looking from left to right, wondering which way would bring me to the nearest book store. As I reflected on this decision, a robed man, perhaps one of the once ubiquitous Hari Krishna's, came up to me, held out a book, and placed it my hand. "I would like to give you this book," he said, or something of the sort. I looked down and was flabbergasted to see that I was holding the Bhagvad Gita.
Plainly the East was beckoning and surely something was expected from me, though I still do not know what that was. I later read the Tao Te Ching, which affected me profoundly. Eventually martial arts led me to Buddhism, especially Zen. Zen, in practice, has much in common with Theravada Buddhism, I think, though it extols a range of beliefs, not especially critical to practice, that are distinctly Mahayana--fanciful, magical, and informed by a cosmology that is contrary to what we know of our own universe, let alone all the other posited realms of existence filled with innumerable Buddhas and competing paths to Buddhism. Theravada seems to me much like Zen, stripped of the magic and belief in Gods and ghosts and other forms of spiritual life. DNS has said something along the lines of different strokes for different folks with respect to schools of Buddhism, suggesting that all paths are basically OK; but not all have been so generous in their estimation of alternative beliefs. I just read a tract by Nichiren who calls for burning the temples and beheading the priests of the rival Pure Land, Shingon, and Zen sects!
The Pali texts are of an entirely more modest and more plausible provenance than the Mahayana sutras, which stretch credulity to the extreme when placing their words in the mouth of the historical Buddha. This is not to say that there is not great wisdom to be found in these writings, only that their sources, obscure or unknown, cannot be reliably traced to the Buddha. Moreover, the Pali texts are largely apolitical, requiring no commitment to saving the planet from climate change or removing Trump from office, agendas that many American Mahayanists embrace. (See, e.g., https://www.lionsroar.com/buddhist-teac ... ntial-win/
. It seems to be a given that if you are Buddhist, but especially a Buddhist of the "socially engaged" variety, you see Trump's presidency as a catastrophe.) I do not know where American Theravadists stand on such matters, but I don't think that the philosophy requires them to stand anywhere, whereas the Bodhisattva vow is a pledge to make everyone else as compassionate as you are. (OK, maybe not exactly, but you get my drift here....) Nor do the Pali texts require from the practitioner seeking relief of suffering that she vow to continue to suffer for countless Kalpas and rebirths while everyone else is being saved. I admit it: even if the Mahayana doctrines made sense to me, I am just not nice enough to embrace them. So... this is why I have joined the Theravada forum.
I may said a great deal about myself while ostensibly revealing virtually nothing. By profession I am a psychiatrist with a special interest in forensic and correctional psychiatry, aggression through the life span, and a few other things. I am a lousy amateur musician. I have three grown-up (to varying degrees) children, one of whom is about to marry and has warned me that I will likely be a grandfather soon. I left my last job when the company I worked for was booted out of the state corrections system and I am now decideing what to do next. I am 67 years-old, so one option is to do nothing. But that does not pay very well and my daughter is being charged out-of-state tuition at the University of Michigan. So stay tuned on my next assignment. I have visited Thailand a few times and have vowed to learn the language, but Thai is tough, especially for a geezer with failing hearing, so I may need to be reborn in Thailand before I fulfill the vow.
I've read a few posts and can see that there are many very smart, thoughtful people here. I look forward to learning why I am totally wrong about everything.