Why so few Western Buddhists?

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by DNS » Sat Jan 06, 2018 4:57 am

Joel Olsteen's church in Houston, Texas:

Image

I believe it holds about 17,000 seats and they fill it up 3 times each Sunday (staggered services to allow the maximum number to attend).

And it's not exceptional, these type of mega-churches are quite common throughout the U.S., although more so in the Bible Belt.

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by No_Mind » Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:08 am

Justsit wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 4:50 am

Well, you just dumped a whole lotta the US out of the West! So what are the states you mentioned???
All except Utah are part of the Bible Belt .. I think I forgot Texas. Of course these states are part of the West but conservative and Christian. They are usually traditional red states.

If I visit these parts of USA .. I fully expect to be stopped by a sheriff (chomping on a stogie) who asks "Son, y'all are an Indian. Is that there one frawum east av Tennessee aw west?" (Son, you are an Indian. Is that one from east of Tennessee or west? .. am I a native American or an East Indian)


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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by cappuccino » Sat Jan 06, 2018 12:24 pm

No_Mind wrote:
Sat Jan 06, 2018 5:08 am
am I a native American or an East Indian

either is only identity, to be transcended
“Life is anxiety”

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by dhammafriend » Sun Jan 07, 2018 5:43 pm

No_Mind wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:12 am
Percent of population who are Buddhist (along with percent who are irreligious in parenthesis) -

USA - 1.2% (35% irreligious), UK - 0.4% (66% irreligious), France - 0.3% (53% irreligious), Germany - 0.4% (59% irreligious), Sweden - 0.4% (76% irreligious) (taken from Wikipedia)

I assume the spike in case of USA is due to larger number of immigrants from Buddhist countries. Converted Buddhists are therefore between 0.2% and 0.4% (rough estimate)

In a country with population of 10 million that is a mere 40,000.

Why are the number of Buddhist converts so low? With its lack of God(s), dictats, popes, church and open attitude, one would have thought that Buddhism in some form would be a natural religion for liberal Westerners to turn to.

:namaste:

No_Mind
Hi No_Mind, see my 2 cents below as some in the global south from another non-western point of view.

1. There is no such thing as "Buddhism" (or "Hinduism" for that matter). These categories were created by western Indologists. They assumed that what they were observing was analogous to what they had in Europe, ie: Christian monotheism and all the assumptions that entailed. "Buddhism" only really exists in the heads of westerners and western educated people of colour. There is no corresponding phenomenon in the world.

2. Based on the above, what they've transplanted in many ways is their "experience" of these traditions. Not the actual thing itself. If we lost all western literature and accounts of "Buddhism, Hinduism etc" today, we'd be no worse off to be honest.

3. The fatal flaw for western Buddhists is their assumption that Buddhism can be understood as a purely textual tradition. ie: that the "truth" of the tradition can only be found in the texts of the tradition. (like the Bible) This assumption comes from their Semitic / Christian / Protestant conditioning that all human cultures have "religion", and that all other "religions" are simply (inferior) variants of the Christian religion. ie: holy book, church, ritual, etc.

4. So their assumptions that brahmins are "priests", deva means "God", karma means "sin" etc is no reflection of any facts about India and it's traditions but simply westerners projecting their epistemology onto other cultures and traditions.
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by dhammafriend » Sun Jan 07, 2018 5:56 pm

Asian supremacism: the notion held by many Asian and Western Buddhists that an Asian way of doing Buddhism is the only right one. Also shows itself in the form of ignoring the challenges that prospective converts in countries and societies hostile or at least foreign to Buddhism have to face. Basically, Asian supremacists expect that prospective Western converts to Buddhism should approach Buddhism with the same kind of faith and conviction as people do who were born and raised Buddhist; and accuse the Westerners of all kinds of lowly things if they can't live up to the Asian model.
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Natthi me saranam annam buddho me saranam varam
For me there is no other refuge, the Buddha is my excellent refuge.
Etena saccavajjena vaddheyyam satthu-sasane
By the utterance of this truth, may I grow in the Master’s Way.

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Subharo » Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:25 pm

binocular wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 9:20 am
No_Mind wrote:
Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:12 am
Why are the number of Buddhist converts so low?
In the West, there is very little Buddhist infrastructure (temples, places where groups can meet) and community (very few Buddhist converts, and much fewer potentially like-minded ones).

There are so many Buddhists schools, lineages etc. to choose from that one can easily get lost in the diversity and crumble under the burden of choice (a burden that cradle Buddhists generally don't face).

Asian supremacism: the notion held by many Asian and Western Buddhists that an Asian way of doing Buddhism is the only right one. Also shows itself in the form of ignoring the challenges that prospective converts in countries and societies hostile or at least foreign to Buddhism have to face. Basically, Asian supremacists expect that prospective Western converts to Buddhism should approach Buddhism with the same kind of faith and conviction as people do who were born and raised Buddhist; and accuse the Westerners of all kinds of lowly things if they can't live up to the Asian model.
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Subharo » Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:35 pm

SarathW wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 9:14 pm
Bundokji wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 2:08 pm
I think it has to do with the western understanding of freedom which radically differs from the freedom gained by practicing Buddhism.
I have seen this is a big problem even for the Western Buddhist converts.
They interpret Buddhism in light of their old belief system.
SarathW, if by saying "old belief system", you mean "the freedom to use critical thinking whatsoever at any time", then I agree with you: Westerners indeed have a hard time letting go of their "old belief system." And that freedom was very hard won. It's a freedom Westerners are not eager to lose.

No Mind, here is a counter-question for you to ponder (which perhaps will give you a Satori into an answer to your OP):
In Eastern culture, why is critical thinking, and frank debate in a gentlemanly tone of voice, so taboo, especially when people (who are elders) are clearly talking crap (and take great liberty doing so, knowing very well they can get away with it all they want, pretty much)?
Subharo Bhikkhu
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Saengnapha » Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:08 am

Subharo wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:35 pm
SarathW wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 9:14 pm
Bundokji wrote:
Wed Jan 03, 2018 2:08 pm
I think it has to do with the western understanding of freedom which radically differs from the freedom gained by practicing Buddhism.
I have seen this is a big problem even for the Western Buddhist converts.
They interpret Buddhism in light of their old belief system.
SarathW, if by saying "old belief system", you mean "the freedom to use critical thinking whatsoever at any time", then I agree with you: Westerners indeed have a hard time letting go of their "old belief system." And that freedom was very hard won. It's a freedom Westerners are not eager to lose.
Do you really think it is only westerners who have a hard time letting go of their 'old' belief system? This is clearly not the case here in Asia. In fact, every Asian country I have visited (many) seems mired in 'old' belief systems, even Buddhist ones. Westerners seem much more willing to argue than most Asians, except maybe Chinese and Indians, also very stubborn as many westerners can be. Anger and argumentativeness is also more commonly expressed in the west as it is very impolite in most cultures east of India.

I think anyone trying to adopt Buddhist principles into their life are going to have a difficult time with their 'old' habits. This is what Buddhism is about, no?

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by binocular » Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:12 pm

Saengnapha wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:08 am
I think anyone trying to adopt Buddhist principles into their life are going to have a difficult time with their 'old' habits. This is what Buddhism is about, no?
Sure. But it's very different if you have a few Buddhist temples and monks around in reasonable distance, and that if you mention Buddhism, people don't instantly think of the Dalai Lama and only the Dalai Lama.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Saengnapha » Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:25 pm

binocular wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:12 pm
Saengnapha wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:08 am
I think anyone trying to adopt Buddhist principles into their life are going to have a difficult time with their 'old' habits. This is what Buddhism is about, no?
Sure. But it's very different if you have a few Buddhist temples and monks around in reasonable distance, and that if you mention Buddhism, people don't instantly think of the Dalai Lama and only the Dalai Lama.
What's the difference what they think? They are not interested in Buddhism is my point. It's only the circumstance for them, not their way of living.

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by binocular » Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:42 pm

Saengnapha wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:25 pm
What's the difference what they think? They are not interested in Buddhism is my point. It's only the circumstance for them, not their way of living.
I'm saying there's a difference between attempting to practice Buddhism in an environment where Buddhism is at least nominally present; as opposed to attempting to practice Buddhism in an environment where Buddhism is alien to it, or where other people are even hostile to it.


Or do you think that living somehwere where most other people are, say, Christians, is in roundabout the same as living in a traditionally Buddhist Asian country where most people are only superficially interested in Buddhism?
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by No_Mind » Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:48 pm

Subharo wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:35 pm
No Mind, here is a counter-question for you to ponder (which perhaps will give you a Satori into an answer to your OP):
In Eastern culture, why is critical thinking, and frank debate in a gentlemanly tone of voice, so taboo, especially when people (who are elders) are clearly talking crap (and take great liberty doing so, knowing very well they can get away with it all they want, pretty much)?
Bhante, there are two parts to your question. One critical thinking and one about elders.

To answer the latter first, traditionally elders have been held in high esteem. Many Asian cultures celebrate the ageing process and venerate their elders.

Asian Gen X (born in 70s), the demographic to which I belong, have largely began to break away from that tradition. However it is still impossible to be very young and be taken seriously. Without being critical, in recent years West has an increasing obsession or fetish with youth and anyone over the age of 40 is considered to be ancient. And yes, I admit our elders often talk crap and it is difficult to bear and keep on being polite for decade after decade. But being impolite or confrontational is bad, really bad. Between 20 and 40 I have confronted family elders few times (geriatric uncles and such) but always after few months or few years "made up" with them.

About four years ago, when I was well into my middle age (40 plus), I became friends with a well known but retired and octogenarian economist who was very knowledgeable but spoke real crap at times. In 2015, after one such episode in a cafe I told him to go to hell and stormed out. I wish I had not been so rude. No matter that he was wrong, demonstrably wrong .. he was same age my late father would have been .. and my words must have hurt him .. and that is bad Kamma, pure and simple. He was old. The well known scholars and PhD students who fawned over him one day were no longer present. He spoke few stupid and senile words to someone half his age. Should I not have forgiven him and held back my temper?

Coming to critical thinking .. it is by and large allowed to a much greater degree than before.

Critical thinking is defined as - disciplined thinking that is clear, rational, open-minded, and informed by evidence. Do you mean to say the Chinese or Japanese or Koreans or Taiwanese or Singaporeans .. all of whom have built their nation from scratch in last few decades are not capable of critical thinking?

Do you mean to say the world's largest democracy built of 30 distinct countries has not fallen apart .. had no civil war or large scale nation wide civil unrest in seventy years since independence .. and there is no critical thinking involved in it?

We do not have the accompanying fanfare and fuss .. debating across large mahogany tables while wearing a tweed jacket and bow tie .. neither do we have the command over English that makes us seem intellectual in forums and seminars .. but we are intelligent all the same. Before Oxford and Harvard there was Nalanda and Takshashila and similar centres of learning in China and Japan.

I might add this with little bit of hubris .. there are many in this forum who are learned (or consider themselves learned and speak in a grave tone) .. but I have yet to meet too many who know more than I do (total amount of knowledge in their brain is more than in mine) .. or whom I really admire (except Venerable Dhammanando) .. my English is not polished enough .. I write using dots .. instead of using prepositions and conjunctions .. so my words seems to come from a relatively uneducated person (same for other Asians too) .. but we are happy as we are .. no need to be impressive .. we just need to be effective.

:namaste:

No_Mind
Last edited by No_Mind on Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:36 am, edited 8 times in total.
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by binocular » Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:57 pm

No_Mind wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:48 pm
Do you mean to say the world's largest democracy built of 30 distinct countries has not fallen apart .. had no civil war or large scale nation wide civil unrest in seventy years since independence .. and there is no critical thinking involved in it?
My personal theory about how come the many nations in India can live together in relative peace is that everyone just minds their own business. I think they don't try to understand eachother. And this is the key to what on the surface appears as tolerance.
It's a cost-effective and incredibly efficient solution to the problem of multiculturalism.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by binocular » Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:03 pm

Subharo wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:35 pm
No Mind, here is a counter-question for you to ponder (which perhaps will give you a Satori into an answer to your OP):
In Eastern culture, why is critical thinking, and frank debate in a gentlemanly tone of voice, so taboo, especially when people (who are elders) are clearly talking crap (and take great liberty doing so, knowing very well they can get away with it all they want, pretty much)?
Because harmony is valued above everything else.
And it seems that as long as hamorny is given highest value and pursued (enforced!), everything else can fall into place as well (esp. economic development).


I remember a story I once heard, it goes in roundabout like this: A Hindu man was spiritually very advanced. He had a guru. The man would sometimes visit the guru with his young son. The son quickly noticed that his father's guru was nowhere near as advanced as his father. So the son objected that his father should bow to the guru's feet. But the man said that it doesn't matter who is more advanced, and that what matters is that the order of things be respected -- and that he, as his guru's student, should bow to him.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by chownah » Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:24 am

binocular wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:03 pm
In Eastern culture, why is critical thinking, and frank debate in a gentlemanly tone of voice, so taboo, especially when people (who are elders) are clearly talking crap (and take great liberty doing so, knowing very well they can get away with it all they want, pretty much)?
Because harmony is valued above everything else.
And it seems that as long as hamorny is given highest value and pursued (enforced!), everything else can fall into place as well (esp. economic development).

[/quote]
You say "because harmony is valued above everything else" when speaking of eastern culture....I dispute that statement.
If harmony was valued above everything else then there would be no wars in eastern culture.
If harmony was valued above everything else then there would be no quarrels in eastern culture.
If harmony was valued above all else there would be no murders in eastern culture.
If harmoney was valued above all else then people would not amass gold in eastern culture.
If harmoney was valued above all else then it would not need to be enforced in eastern culture.

chownah

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