Too much emphasis on the superficial aspects of Buddhism?

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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John C. Kimbrough
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Too much emphasis on the superficial aspects of Buddhism?

Post by John C. Kimbrough » Thu Mar 29, 2012 11:55 pm

My second question is do you think that in some Buddhist countries, cultures and environments there is too much or more emphasis on the superficial aspects of Buddhism (temples, robes, rites, rituals, making merit, etc.) instead of the spiritual aspects and the teachings?

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retrofuturist
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Re: Too much emphasis on the superficial aspects of Buddhism?

Post by retrofuturist » Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:00 am

Greetings,

For a variety of different perspectives, see:

Richard Gombrich - Comfort or Challenge?
http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=10426" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

Metta,
Retro. :)
"Do not force others, including children, by any means whatsoever, to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education." - Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh

"The uprooting of identity is seen by the noble ones as pleasurable; but this contradicts what the whole world sees." (Snp 3.12)

"One discerns wrong view as wrong view, and right view as right view. This is one's right view." (MN 117)

Yana
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Re: Too much emphasis on the superficial aspects of Buddhism?

Post by Yana » Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:06 am

Whether something is superficial or not depends on "intention".Someone who partakes in Buddhist rituals with the sincerest intentions are not being superficial.Such aspects strengthen one's faith..which is necessary to aid in the practice of the dhamma. :namaste:
Life is preparing for Death

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Ben
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Re: Too much emphasis on the superficial aspects of Buddhism?

Post by Ben » Fri Mar 30, 2012 1:28 am

Greetings John,
Who is to say what is superficial?
kind regards,

Ben
“No lists of things to be done. The day providential to itself. The hour. There is no later. This is later. All things of grace and beauty such that one holds them to one's heart have a common provenance in pain. Their birth in grief and ashes.”
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in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
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Re: Too much emphasis on the superficial aspects of Buddhism?

Post by nowheat » Fri Mar 30, 2012 2:28 am

John C. Kimbrough wrote:My second question is do you think that in some Buddhist countries, cultures and environments there is too much or more emphasis on the superficial aspects of Buddhism (temples, robes, rites, rituals, making merit, etc.) instead of the spiritual aspects and the teachings?
For my personal practice, it would be too much. But one of Buddhism's jobs is to introduce itself to people wherever it goes, and this is best done with some concession to local culture.

I have some rather strong opinions about the making of merit -- anywhere it is a practice. I don't think that it is cultural or environmental, I think it is built into Buddhism everywhere. I understand its usefulness in getting the support of the laity to maintain monastics, and maintaining monastics is a very good thing, but since I do not see the Buddha as having wanted his monks to focus their practice on merit (since it can't help but involve I-making), I rather suspect he would prefer everyone be offered the opportunity to understand his deeper teachings.

:namaste:

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Re: Too much emphasis on the superficial aspects of Buddhism?

Post by Ferox » Fri Mar 30, 2012 2:38 am

buddhist " cultures" and countries come with them all sorts of extra added things that really have no use or bearing on the practice in the end. Insightful teachers like Ajahn Chah, Brahm, and Bhante G talk about this to a fair degree.

one example I can give is the touching of flowers that are passed around...

however people make good use of these things to varying degrees and the further along you practice the less you need such things until you totally abandon them when you become a stream enterer. I'm at the point where I question even having an altar, years ago I use to have candles and incense and all such things, all it has now is a Buddha statue and I rarely the altar for anything.


There is a story of Ajahn Chah where some big general came to ask him for holy water to protect him in battle, and supposedly Ajahn Chah spit on him and said it was the spit of the monk so therefore holy water lol..
-just one more being treading the ancient path of Dhamma-

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Re: Too much emphasis on the superficial aspects of Buddhism?

Post by pilgrim » Fri Mar 30, 2012 3:14 am

There is something like 400-500 million Buddhists in the world. There will be a few ardent practitioners at the top of the pyramid striving for enlightenment, but you also need a large base of popular practice for the general population, and all different levels of commitment in between.

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ground
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Re: Too much emphasis on the superficial aspects of Buddhism?

Post by ground » Fri Mar 30, 2012 3:16 am

John C. Kimbrough wrote:My second question is do you think that in some Buddhist countries, cultures and environments there is too much or more emphasis on the superficial aspects of Buddhism (temples, robes, rites, rituals, making merit, etc.) instead of the spiritual aspects and the teachings?
There are many buddhisms, many traditions, many cultures, many regions, many buddhists ... but does multiplying the numbers of these reach the number of thoughts that have arisen in the past and are arising at present?

It boils dow to this: Perceiving buddhism instead of Dhamma or not perceiving Dhamma to be located exclusively in the sphere of "head to toe" is nothing but error.
What would one without error do regarding his perceptions of "the world around him"?

Kind regards

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Re: Too much emphasis on the superficial aspects of Buddhism?

Post by Cittasanto » Fri Mar 30, 2012 5:58 am

I particularly like this recent post of a monk http://bhikkhucintita.wordpress.com/201 ... uddhism-1/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
he makes a very very good point early on,
For a Western newcomer and many a seasoned practitioner Buddhism as a whole appears as a tangle of bushes with a few edible berries but in general no clear path or order. Unfortunately the individual or collective Western response has often much like that of the landowner who discovers an overgrown but still potentially productive corn field on his property and with limited understanding of both corn and non-corn dauntlessly hacks away with a machete only to destroy half of the corn and to leave half of the undergrowth, then plants one row of Monsanto super-corn and row of squash to make it look right. It looks pretty good, so we call it Western Buddhism.
we don't know how much of what is found within Buddhism is useful, and our personal/cultural perspectives are not necessarily the correct perfectly inline with the Dhamma we may like to think they are.

But just to note, Ajahn Chah was criticised by teachers of the forest tradition (I believe Ajahn Maha-Bua was one in this regard also, although they were friends) for so much emphasis on community life, for doing paritta chanting and other things, seen by forest monks in Thailand as distractions to the practice.
Blog, Suttas, Aj Chah, Facebook.

He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them.
But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion …
...
He must be able to hear them from persons who actually believe them … he must know them in their most plausible and persuasive form.
John Stuart Mill

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Re: Too much emphasis on the superficial aspects of Buddhism?

Post by befriend » Fri Mar 30, 2012 10:30 am

as to bowing. i started practicing bowing in the therevedan way doing kneeling prostrations 2 days ago. it took about 3 minutes before my ego started running for its life. can you imagaine what that does to the ego/pride. bowing your head, to the buddha, dhamma, and sangha, it gave me revelations that I am not all that awesome. it made me see involuntarily there are people whom i can look up to instead of look down on. and from doing the prostration i realized the reality of myself in the world, there are people better than me, and the ego hate this, and it burns but this burning is good because its the ego burning. so i wouldnt call rituals superficial.
Take care of mindfulness and mindfulness will take care of you.

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Re: Too much emphasis on the superficial aspects of Buddhism?

Post by Ferox » Fri Mar 30, 2012 11:28 am

befriend wrote:as to bowing. i started practicing bowing in the therevedan way doing kneeling prostrations 2 days ago. it took about 3 minutes before my ego started running for its life. can you imagaine what that does to the ego/pride. bowing your head, to the buddha, dhamma, and sangha, it gave me revelations that I am not all that awesome. it made me see involuntarily there are people whom i can look up to instead of look down on. and from doing the prostration i realized the reality of myself in the world, there are people better than me, and the ego hate this, and it burns but this burning is good because its the ego burning. so i wouldnt call rituals superficial.
bowing can also become a culturally pressured " thing to do" and/or something that becomes habit , with it's real meaning lost. There is a danger there as well but of course the practice can be very beneficial if done with the right mindset and with mindfulness.
-just one more being treading the ancient path of Dhamma-

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