Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Dan74
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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by Dan74 » Mon Apr 20, 2015 12:55 am

pilgrim wrote:Interesting discussion.. I agree with almost all the points raised. In order to popularise Theravada would we be agreeable to adopt or adapt these tested strategies?
I don't know how it is where other folks here live, but down here, Buddhism of all stripes, is a very small scene, and outside the ethnic temples, of little or no relevance to the vast majority of society. It saddens me that the Dhamma is unable to reach this incredible mass of suffering.

I see the need for more imagination, more daring, in order to place the Dhamma, with its revolutionary message, squarely in the public consciousness.
_/|\_

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by SarathW » Mon Apr 20, 2015 2:36 am

Kamran wrote:Interesting thread. I think there might be a political factor involved in that Tibet and its political exiles are promoted in the media due to anti-chinese politics.
:goodpost:
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Jetavan
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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by Jetavan » Mon Apr 20, 2015 2:48 am

The answer is quite simple: the Tibetan Buddhist emphasis on compassion, on Buddhahood for all. Westerners (in particular, Americans) love the idea that the highest goal is accessible to all.

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by SarathW » Mon Apr 20, 2015 3:53 am

You do not have to be a Buddha to attain Nibbana.

============
Is Buddha higher than Arahant?

http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=20457" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by Aloka » Thu Apr 23, 2015 3:26 pm

Jetavan wrote:The answer is quite simple: the Tibetan Buddhist emphasis on compassion, on Buddhahood for all. Westerners (in particular, Americans) love the idea that the highest goal is accessible to all.
Westerners are also fascinated by all the elaborate ceremonies & rituals and by the idea of having a personal guru who they hope will enable them to reach their goal.


.

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by Bundokji » Thu Apr 23, 2015 7:22 pm

Hello :smile:

I agree with most of the points raised. I don't have much knowledge about Vajrayana but I have a couple of points to add from my limited observations:

1- I noticed that in Vajrayana there are many famous and active Female teachers but as far as I know, there are not many in Theravada. I have a feeling that the Vajrayana attitude towards women is more in line with the modern western culture which might make it more appealing especially to Feminists. I also remember that Ajahn Brahm was excommunicated for his attempt to support the full integration of women into Theravada Buddhism. It seems that "preserving the tradition" in Theravada is more important than modernization.

2- Vajrayana includes a lot of tantric practices which might involve sex and Alcohol, and as you know, sex and alchohol sell! Let us also consider the types of personalities that find these kind of practices appealing (hippies and romantics) which is very common in western countries. In addition,bad popularity can attract some! The behaviours of some Tibetan gurus (Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Sogyal Rinpoche) can be very appealing. If we can enjoy Tantric sex and get drunk as a part of our practice to get enlightened, that would be the cream on the top for some :smile:

Peace
ولَرُبَّ نَازِلَةٍ يَضِيقُ بهَا الفَضَـــــا *** ذَرْعًا؛ وعِندَ الله مِنهَا المَخْرَجُ
عَظُمَت فَلَما استُحكِمت حَلقاتها *** فُرِجت وكَانَ يَظُنُّهَا لا تُفْرَجُ
لا تَيْأَسَنَ فَكُلُ عُسْــــــرٍ بَعْــدَهُ *** يُسر يُسرّ ُبِهِ الفُؤَادُ المُحَرَّجُ
واصبر فَإِنَّ الصَــــــبر في الدُّنْيَا *** نَيْلُ المُنَى والقَصْدُ نِعْمَ المْنهجُ

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by DNS » Thu Apr 23, 2015 8:34 pm

Bundokji wrote: 1- I noticed that in Vajrayana there are many famous and active Female teachers but as far as I know, there are not many in Theravada. I have a feeling that the Vajrayana attitude towards women is more in line with the modern western culture which might make it more appealing especially to Feminists. I also remember that Ajahn Brahm was excommunicated for his attempt to support the full integration of women into Theravada Buddhism. It seems that "preserving the tradition" in Theravada is more important than modernization.
Actually all Buddhist traditions have a pretty entrenched patriarchy, which is slowly eroding with the influence of pc convert Buddhists. In Zen and Tibetan Buddhism, all the patriarchs and Dalai Lamas have been male. In Tibetan Buddhism, they have the same issue I believe with the ordination of nuns, with some believing that there shouldn't be any due to no existing nuns to perform the double-ordination for new nuns.

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by Aloka » Thu Apr 23, 2015 8:39 pm

Bundokji wrote:
1- I noticed that in Vajrayana there are many famous and active Female teachers but as far as I know, there are not many in Theravada. I have a feeling that the Vajrayana attitude towards women is more in line with the modern western culture which might make it more appealing especially to Feminists.
On the contrary there are very few famous female teachers compared to male teachers in Tibetan Buddhism, I can only think of 3 myself right now. Its only in fairly recent times that they've stopped saying in Tibetan Buddhism that being a woman is an inferior birth to a man - and also there isn't full ordination for nuns like there is for monks.
2- Vajrayana includes a lot of tantric practices which might involve sex and Alcohol, and as you know, sex and alchohol sell! Let us also consider the types of personalities that find these kind of practices appealing (hippies and romantics) which is very common in western countries. In addition,bad popularity can attract some! The behaviours of some Tibetan gurus (Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche and Sogyal Rinpoche) can be very appealing. If we can enjoy Tantric sex and get drunk as a part of our practice to get enlightened, that would be the cream on the top for some :smile:
There aren't "a lot of tantric practices which might involve sex & alcohol" taking place in the west! Where did you get your highly inaccurate information from Mohammed ?

Just because Chogyam Trungpa took drugs & was an alcoholic & a womaniser and Sogyal was a womaniser (and one or two others who were 'outed' about womanising over the years) doesn't mean that all the teachers are the same either. Its also usually called sexual lust, not Tantra.

There have been a few Zen teachers who've had affairs with women too. I guess being surrounded by adoring woman is often a great temptation to men.

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by Bundokji » Thu Apr 23, 2015 9:22 pm

Hello David and Aloka,

As I mentioned in my post, I don't have much knowledge about Tibetan Buddhism. However, when I referred to "women in Buddhism" on Wikipedia I noticed that, according to the article (women and Buddhahood):
Although early Buddhist texts such as the Cullavagga section of the Vinaya Pitaka of the Pali Canon contain statements from Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, speaking to the fact that a woman can attain enlightenment,[15] it is also clearly stated in the Bahudhātuka-sutta that there could never be a female Buddha
Vajrayana Buddhism also recognizes many female yogini practitioners as achieving the full enlightenment of a Buddha, Miranda Shaw as an example cites sources referring to "Among the students of the adept Naropa, reportedly two hundred men and one thousand women attained complete enlightenment".
Also in the same article, under "Well-known Female Buddhists" there is a list of notable Buddhist Nuns, most of them are Tibetan, not even one from the Theravada school. Maybe the author is biased, I am not sure :smile:

The same article includes:
In Vajrayana Buddhism, a sexual relationship with a consort is seen in a technical way as being a spiritual practice in anuttarayoga tantra intended to allow the practitioners to attain realizations and attain enlightenment. The union of tantric consorts is depicted in the yab-yum iconography of meditation deities.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Women_in_B ... Buddhahood" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Peace
ولَرُبَّ نَازِلَةٍ يَضِيقُ بهَا الفَضَـــــا *** ذَرْعًا؛ وعِندَ الله مِنهَا المَخْرَجُ
عَظُمَت فَلَما استُحكِمت حَلقاتها *** فُرِجت وكَانَ يَظُنُّهَا لا تُفْرَجُ
لا تَيْأَسَنَ فَكُلُ عُسْــــــرٍ بَعْــدَهُ *** يُسر يُسرّ ُبِهِ الفُؤَادُ المُحَرَّجُ
واصبر فَإِنَّ الصَــــــبر في الدُّنْيَا *** نَيْلُ المُنَى والقَصْدُ نِعْمَ المْنهجُ

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by Aloka » Thu Apr 23, 2015 10:22 pm

Hi Mohammed,

As I practised Tibetan Buddhism for a long time, I'm not too interested in what it says in Wikipedia or 'articles', because I experienced it directly.

Miranda Shaw would be most likely to be refering to Tibetan Buddhist nuns.....and the "adept
Naropa" is said to have lived several centuries ago in India, by the way.

That's all from me, I have other things to attend to now.


Goodnight :anjali:

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by tattoogunman » Sun Apr 26, 2015 10:53 pm

Dan74 wrote:
pilgrim wrote:Interesting discussion.. I agree with almost all the points raised. In order to popularise Theravada would we be agreeable to adopt or adapt these tested strategies?
I don't know how it is where other folks here live, but down here, Buddhism of all stripes, is a very small scene, and outside the ethnic temples, of little or no relevance to the vast majority of society. It saddens me that the Dhamma is unable to reach this incredible mass of suffering.

I see the need for more imagination, more daring, in order to place the Dhamma, with its revolutionary message, squarely in the public consciousness.
This is the same thing that I see where I'm at and I'm in a fairly large metropolitan area (Dallas/Ft. Worth). There are a few local temples of varying schools (Theravad, Mahayana, Diamond Way, etc.) but the biggest problem is that they are all native speakers (i.e. Chinese, Thai, etc.). They maybe offer an English language "class" once a week, but that's about it. They are fine if you want to actually attend functions at the temples, but unless you can speak their language, you really have no idea what's going on (not that you can't learn the prayers, chants, etc. so don't get me wrong). I tried going to a local temple yesterday because they were having a First Nine Star Astrology Blessing and everything was in Thai. I was finally directed towards a table with a few "westerners" who were simply there promoting a local meditation center - they no more had any idea what was going on than I did. I understand that many of these temples are initially built to cater to a local population who needs/wants it, but since Buddhism (and any religion for that matter) is about spreading the word/teachings, I feel that many of these types of temples need to change how they operate if they hope to attract westerners. I know that there are other temples in this country that operate differently, but unfortunately there aren't any within a reasonable distance from where I live.

As for Tibeten Buddhism is more popular, and I'm going out on a limb here, I would say that the amount of press the Dalai Lama generates here in the U.S. and the number of celebrities and academics who promote him/Buddhism (notably Richard Gere), people think that is the only Buddhism there is.

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by Maitri » Fri May 01, 2015 3:34 am

Tibetan Buddhism on the outside is very different than from the inside.

For example, many females seem partial to becoming Dharma teachers, translators, or scholars of Tibetan Buddhism giving it the appearance of being friendly to women. This outlook is encouraged by the plethora of feminine "deities" such as Tara or Vajrayogini.

However, within the Tibetan religious political hierarchy we find it to be patriarchal and feudal. The same systems that existed in Tibet have pretty much been planted in India and other diaspora countries. Nearly all the lineages are headed by men, Tibetan men at that. It's not a system for outsiders. Outsiders are the funders receiving blessings and empowerments along with some guidance.

In the monastic/male respect it's quite like the issues within Theravada. However, Tibetan Buddhism has a much better PR machine in their tulkus and high Lamas. Theravada isn't as colorful or a sexy; it's austerity might make it less popular in the west.
"Upon a heap of rubbish in the road-side ditch blooms a lotus, fragrant and pleasing.
Even so, on the rubbish heap of blinded mortals the disciple of the Supremely Enlightened One shines resplendent in wisdom." Dhammapada: Pupphavagga

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by Maitri » Fri May 01, 2015 3:46 am

Dan74 wrote:
pilgrim wrote:Interesting discussion.. I agree with almost all the points raised. In order to popularise Theravada would we be agreeable to adopt or adapt these tested strategies?
I don't know how it is where other folks here live, but down here, Buddhism of all stripes, is a very small scene, and outside the ethnic temples, of little or no relevance to the vast majority of society. It saddens me that the Dhamma is unable to reach this incredible mass of suffering.

I see the need for more imagination, more daring, in order to place the Dhamma, with its revolutionary message, squarely in the public consciousness.
I often think about this.

What would this look like and who do it? The ones who should teach don't and the people who shouldn't do.

Part of American Buddhism's problem is that we are either stuck between strictly following the culture ( lay people running around wearing robes and shaving their heads) at the expense of making the Dhamma accessible and jettisoning it all i.e. secular Buddhism. There doesn't seem to be a middle way yet.

Personally, I'm done with of convert style WASP Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism gives culturally/community starved western people something to latch onto; it's got color and life.
"Upon a heap of rubbish in the road-side ditch blooms a lotus, fragrant and pleasing.
Even so, on the rubbish heap of blinded mortals the disciple of the Supremely Enlightened One shines resplendent in wisdom." Dhammapada: Pupphavagga

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by Feathers » Fri May 01, 2015 11:01 am

I wonder if for some westerners coming from a Christian background the idea of the Bodhisattva - merciful beings working to free others - is reassuring, or fulfills some of the emotional wishes that the Jesus figure may fulfill, or saints in Catholic tradition. Green Tara stepping down to help could be compared to the supposed intercession of Mary on behalf of sinners? Just a random thought.

Browsing various traditions, feeling there is 'something' in Buddhism and trying to find my way in, I have found Tibetan Buddhism too 'religious' but very warm, Zen aesthetically appealing but very stern, and Theravada most appealing to / sitting easiest with my intellect, but quite demanding (however, perhaps the fact I feel it is demanding is actually a good thing, even if it doesn't feel nice :tongue: )

If I could have a practice that somehow ties together the compassionate understanding of Pema Chodron, the humour and wisdom of Ajahn Brahm, and the aesthetic setting of zen (which I find somehow clears my head) that would be wonderful - but the one thing ALL traditions seem to agree on is you shouldn't cherry pick, and should stick to one tradition! :tongue:
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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by Mawkish1983 » Fri May 01, 2015 5:31 pm

Feathers wrote:the one thing ALL traditions seem to agree on is you shouldn't cherry pick, and should stick to one tradition! :tongue:
Well that's completely up to you: do whatever you find beneficial.

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by tattoogunman » Fri May 01, 2015 6:37 pm

Feathers wrote:I wonder if for some westerners coming from a Christian background the idea of the Bodhisattva - merciful beings working to free others - is reassuring, or fulfills some of the emotional wishes that the Jesus figure may fulfill, or saints in Catholic tradition. Green Tara stepping down to help could be compared to the supposed intercession of Mary on behalf of sinners? Just a random thought.

Browsing various traditions, feeling there is 'something' in Buddhism and trying to find my way in, I have found Tibetan Buddhism too 'religious' but very warm, Zen aesthetically appealing but very stern, and Theravada most appealing to / sitting easiest with my intellect, but quite demanding (however, perhaps the fact I feel it is demanding is actually a good thing, even if it doesn't feel nice :tongue: )

If I could have a practice that somehow ties together the compassionate understanding of Pema Chodron, the humour and wisdom of Ajahn Brahm, and the aesthetic setting of zen (which I find somehow clears my head) that would be wonderful - but the one thing ALL traditions seem to agree on is you shouldn't cherry pick, and should stick to one tradition! :tongue:
I've run into the same problem, but I come from an atheist background. I like the concept of Buddhism at its core, but I think it has lost some of its core at the expense of becoming a full fledged religion (even if just about every book I pick up says that it is not) over the years and that aspect turns me off - I have a difficult time subscribing to the supernatural and unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your views) this is where Buddhism ultimately arrives at once you start getting into it.

I actually found a site dedicated to secular Buddhism and that may be what you are looking for. It's more about purely following Buddhist teachings/practices and foregoing all of the supernatural elements:

http://secularbuddhism.org/new-to-secular-buddhism/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

I'm still on the fence so to speak with this - my main plan at the moment is to read, try to follow the Middle Way, and let it go at that.

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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by Feathers » Fri May 01, 2015 7:18 pm

I'm an atheist but was raised pretty intensely Christian, so manage to have both the scepticism and the longing for the bodhisattva saviour figure :tongue:

Thanks for the link, will check it out :smile:

Re. cherry picking: I think the idea is you should be consistent and go deep into a practice, rather than hopping from one thing to another. I don't take that to mean I can't read people from various traditions, but I need to try and develop one fairly coherent practice - rather than trying zazen one day, tonglen the next . . .
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Re: Why is Tibetan Buddhism more popular than Theravada in the west?

Post by Jetavan » Sat May 02, 2015 6:59 pm

Feathers wrote:but the one thing ALL traditions seem to agree on is you shouldn't cherry pick, and should stick to one tradition! :tongue:
Of course. It's in each tradition's interest to say that. :reading:

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