What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

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pilgrim
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What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by pilgrim » Thu Apr 30, 2015 3:19 am

What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?
I wanted to ask "in the west" but that could be too general, so let's focus on the US for the time being. The limited places for ordination seems to be one. I would venture the lack of Buddhist communities and supportive institutions as others.

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Ben
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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by Ben » Thu Apr 30, 2015 4:48 am

The growth of Buddhism in the United States has been nothing short of explosive.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_i ... ted_States" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
“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.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

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soapy3
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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by soapy3 » Thu Apr 30, 2015 4:20 pm

pilgrim wrote:What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?.
Numbers.

Enough people to provide the support of having a community and large enough communities to provide financial support.

In the very metropolitan area where I live there are very impressive buildings for churches every few blocks. I could go into any one of them ( or any motel room ) and get a free Bible or make arrangements to borrow the space for Christian related activities. I could join anyone of those churches to support me in living a Christian life as well as to get the benefits of belonging to a community.

Copies of the Pali Canon are expensive. The Buddhist temples tend to be converted homes. The more elaborate ones have sanghas with languages I don't speak and different cultures from my own.

There are all sorts of books about Christianity beyond the Bible, taking many approaches to Christianity and in all types of language. Many of those books are cheap ( under $10 sometimes under $5 ) and are often even available in supermarkets. Books on Buddhism tend to be expensive and require sending away for them. Not too many books, or movements taking a different approach to Theravada.

All of those good things come with numbers.

Numbers.

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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by Wri » Thu Apr 30, 2015 4:55 pm

I agree with Ben. My impression is that Buddhism and Buddhist ideas are rapidly becoming more and more available and apparent throughout the US community. Even in the Midwest where I live, Buddhism has very active communities and people tend to agree with the Buddhist concepts. Even if they don't know the complexities of Buddhism or even the existence of Theravada, most people here seem to at least adore the Dalai Lama and Buddhist culture. Even the ones completely ignorant of Buddhist ideas have an idea of it being very peaceful and accepting. Further more, Buddhist ideas are spreading extremely rapid in mental therapy. It's everywhere you go these days, even being taught in my university lectures. I think we're doing excellent for ourselves.

I think we're worrying too much here about being powerful and in control rather than looked upon with respect. People that I talk to have a deep respect for Buddhism because we're NOT making ourselves super-visible, with temples in every neighborhood and preaching our truths. They know they can talk to us without us selling them our religion.
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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by dhammarelax » Thu Apr 30, 2015 6:29 pm

pilgrim wrote:What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?
I wanted to ask "in the west" but that could be too general, so let's focus on the US for the time being. The limited places for ordination seems to be one. I would venture the lack of Buddhist communities and supportive institutions as others.
I would risk a theoretical answer since I don't live in the US but I think that is the same for all the west, I think that the main reason is that the original teachings are lost, the dhamma is supposed to be immediately effective and really it is if we practice as per the teachings but almost all of the teachings available today are not following what the suttas say hence the dhamma we get to hear is not really the dhamma. The biggest example is MN 10, arguably the most popular Sutta for practitioners, the sutta reads:

"Breathing in long, he understands: 'I breathe in long'; or breathing out long, he understands: 'I breathe out long.' Breathing in short, he understands: 'I breathe in short'; or breathing out short, he understands: 'I breathe out short.'"

The mainstream interpretation of this is focus all your attention at your nostril (abdomen, etc.). the sutta is not saying to use all the force of the concentration on anything, is saying "he understands" Starting from this the practice is different and the results are different, if we don't have even Sotapannas to give a living example of the effectiveness of the teachings then how can we expect propagation?

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chownah
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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by chownah » Fri May 01, 2015 2:38 am

I think the biggest hindrance is the idol worship which buddhists are prone to.....most westerners are really really against idol worship.
chownah

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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by soapy3 » Fri May 01, 2015 3:01 am

Have you ever seen Christians with their crucifixes? It is about the same thing. What spooks me more is the reverence for monks as if they are something other than ordinary human beings.

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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by Maitri » Fri May 01, 2015 3:07 am

chownah wrote:I think the biggest hindrance is the idol worship which buddhists are prone to.....most westerners are really really against idol worship.
chownah
Doubtful. I don't think most Western people think of Buddhism in those terms. Most people tend to see statues as exotic or decorative at worse. Concerns of idolatry would probably apply to devout Christians who are not interested in Dhamma anyway.

The largest hurdles to overcome are distribution and cultural/language barriers.

Distribution in the U.S. is mostly limited to the West and East coasts with smatterings in the interior. The centers and temples which lay outside those two geographic areas are mostly focused on a specific Asian nationality i.e. Thai, Lao, Chinese etc.. Their cultural events reflect those origins.

As English is not the default language for he services, pastoral care, or teachings it makes integration between born Buddhists and convert Buddhists difficult. Without further education in the tenants of the faith or community support, English speakers just tend to fade away. This is no one's fault, just how the situation has arisen in the past several decades.

I attend a Vietnamese/ Pali chanting service about once a week. Even though the temple is large, new, and located on a main boulevard maybe only 4 English speakers attend regularly. It's simply not accessible to the majority.
"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

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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by Ben » Fri May 01, 2015 3:35 am

chownah wrote:I think the biggest hindrance is the idol worship which buddhists are prone to.....most westerners are really really against idol worship.
chownah
What idol worship?
“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.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by ihrjordan » Fri May 01, 2015 3:58 am

I agree with chownah, while not idol worship in the conventional sense it most definitely is in another. You'll see Buddhists with 100 statues of the buddha in their house, buddha necklaces, buddha lawn ornaments, Buddha Internet avatars, Buddha screen savers. While it might not be "worship" it's still a problem. Because of this most outsiders come to buddhism with the view that we send prayers to our all powerful Buddha God in the hopes that he'll save us...and to address the op I would say buddhism is doing fine in the U.S. But not necessarily Theravada...I would say this is due to westerners unwillingness to change and instead interpret the teachings with a "western lens" which is why the very liberal, vajraayana bodhisatva training is all the rage.

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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by Ben » Fri May 01, 2015 4:15 am

ihrjordan wrote:I agree with chownah, while not idol worship in the conventional sense it most definitely is in another. You'll see Buddhists with 100 statues of the buddha in their house, buddha necklaces, buddha lawn ornaments, Buddha Internet avatars, Buddha screen savers. While it might not be "worship" it's still a problem. Because of this most outsiders come to buddhism with the view that we send prayers to our all powerful Buddha God in the hopes that he'll save us...and to address the op I would say buddhism is doing fine in the U.S. But not necessarily Theravada...I would say this is due to westerners unwillingness to change and instead interpret the teachings with a "western lens" which is why the very liberal, vajraayana bodhisatva training is all the rage.
The charge that Buddhism is idolatry is very much a product of medieval christian polemicists that has persisted until the 19th century and beyond. Its just very unusual and disturbing to see it appear here. There is no idolatry in the theravada and whether some western converts or those in the west who are merely attracted to the image of the Buddha does not make the practice of keeping Buddha images idolatry. How other people interpret the act of Buddhists paying homage to the Buddha by prostrating in front of a Buddha-rupa, offering incense, gifts and food - that is their own affair and baggage.
As for interpreting the teachings through a western lens - no thanks. There's been a very long history of western ïnterpretation"" from Ancient Greece to the present day which has done a great deal of disservice to Buddhism and, in turn, the west.
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.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by Sati1 » Fri May 01, 2015 6:48 am

Ben wrote:The growth of Buddhism in the United States has been nothing short of explosive.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism_i ... ted_States" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
This article states that:
In 2012, U-T San Diego estimated U.S. practitioners at 1.2 million people, of whom 40% are living in Southern California.[3]
Any ideas for why 40% of Buddhists in the U.S. live in Southern California?
Sati1
London, UK

----
"I do not perceive even one other thing, o monks, that when developed and cultivated entails such great happiness as the mind" (AN 1.10, transl. Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi)
"So this spiritual life, monks, does not have gain, honor, and renown for its benefit, or the attainment of moral discipline for its benefit, or the attainment of concentration for its benefit, or knowledge and vision for its benefit. But it is this unshakable liberation of mind that is the goal of this spiritual life, its heartwood, and its end," (MN 29, transl. Ven Bhikkhu Bodhi)

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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by daverupa » Fri May 01, 2015 9:09 am

Sati1 wrote:Any ideas for why 40% of Buddhists in the U.S. live in Southern California?
The hippie movement.

Also, the federal government changed immigration laws in 1965, allowing Asian immigration after about a 30-year ban, and a lot of those folk headed to California. So it was a couple of factors that came together.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by Ben » Fri May 01, 2015 9:15 am

daverupa wrote:
Sati1 wrote:Any ideas for why 40% of Buddhists in the U.S. live in Southern California?
The hippie movement.
and there I was thinking it was the oranges...
Seriously, I am no demographer but I do remember some statistics that David (N. Snyder) posted some months ago on the numbers of different religions in different states. I would imagine that a lot of the growth in certain districts is to do with the growth in particular ethnic communities. The geographical distribution of and the characteristics of non-asian western converts - I think that would make an interesting study.
“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.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by daverupa » Fri May 01, 2015 9:33 am

Yeah, those maps were interesting, if limited; here's the one of note in this case:

Image

California with one of the 2s, the other across the way in Delaware.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by Ben » Fri May 01, 2015 10:31 am

It looks like we have Utah surrounded.
Whaddya say we invade and give those Mormons a bit of a fright with some satipatthana practice?
“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.”
- Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Learn this from the waters:
in mountain clefts and chasms,
loud gush the streamlets,
but great rivers flow silently.
- Sutta Nipata 3.725

Compassionate Hands Foundation (Buddhist aid in Myanmar) • Buddhist Global ReliefUNHCR

e: ben.dhammawheel@gmail.com..

chownah
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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by chownah » Fri May 01, 2015 10:33 am

soapy3 wrote:Have you ever seen Christians with their crucifixes? It is about the same thing. What spooks me more is the reverence for monks as if they are something other than ordinary human beings.
It is the roman catholic christians who are really into crucifixes and many protestant christians hold that this constitutes idol worship among catholics goes against the bible.
chownah

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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by daverupa » Fri May 01, 2015 10:47 am

Ben wrote:It looks like we have Utah surrounded.
Whaddya say we invade and give those Mormons a bit of a fright with some satipatthana practice?
I was actually surprised by that, since there was a large influx of Tibetan refugees once upon a time, as I recall. Otherwise, there is a bit of an insight meditation community, apparently, but I wouldn't know any details. Other than that, I think there are a few Wats scattered in the surrounding cities; my niece once attended one or another holiday celebration at one of them, I think.

---

One of the problems is relevance. Iron Age India had a renunciate culture that was pursuing a certain philosophical enterprise as one integrous facet; the United States has a Protestant background, so a pro-monastic Catholic history is unable to give the modern monastic Buddhist shape a boost here. The other side of that coin is the Protestant Work Ethic, strike two against the monastic model... & secular (miccha-) mindfulness is strike three, I think.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

chownah
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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by chownah » Fri May 01, 2015 10:49 am

Ben wrote:
ihrjordan wrote:I agree with chownah, while not idol worship in the conventional sense it most definitely is in another. You'll see Buddhists with 100 statues of the buddha in their house, buddha necklaces, buddha lawn ornaments, Buddha Internet avatars, Buddha screen savers. While it might not be "worship" it's still a problem. Because of this most outsiders come to buddhism with the view that we send prayers to our all powerful Buddha God in the hopes that he'll save us...and to address the op I would say buddhism is doing fine in the U.S. But not necessarily Theravada...I would say this is due to westerners unwillingness to change and instead interpret the teachings with a "western lens" which is why the very liberal, vajraayana bodhisatva training is all the rage.
The charge that Buddhism is idolatry is very much a product of medieval christian polemicists that has persisted until the 19th century and beyond. Its just very unusual and disturbing to see it appear here. There is no idolatry in the theravada and whether some western converts or those in the west who are merely attracted to the image of the Buddha does not make the practice of keeping Buddha images idolatry. How other people interpret the act of Buddhists paying homage to the Buddha by prostrating in front of a Buddha-rupa, offering incense, gifts and food - that is their own affair and baggage.
As for interpreting the teachings through a western lens - no thanks. There's been a very long history of western ïnterpretation"" from Ancient Greece to the present day which has done a great deal of disservice to Buddhism and, in turn, the west.
kind regards,

Ben
I hope that you are not too disturbed by the mention of idolatry in buddhism. There are two things I would like to mention.
1. Westerners who think of buddhists as worshiping idols might be a wrong interpretation of what some buddhists are doing some times but from the standpoint of this topic it is the PERCEPTION of what the buddhists are doing which is the important factor as to why many westerners are averse to buddhism....and I can tell you from personal experience that many westerners are of the view that buddhists do worship idols and they probably think that they are taught to do this so it is in their view part and parcel of buddhist devotions. I am not vouching for the accuracy of those views but those views exist regardless of how well they are founded....and it is my sincere belief that idol worship is a hindrance in spreading the buddhist religion in the west.
2. I hope you don't find this too disturbing but in fact many buddhists do worship idols...I have seen it with my own eyes. Of course how can one know that they were in fact engaging in idolatry since the only way to know this would be to look into the hearts and minds of those people and see their inner views and intentions....something I can not do and probably no one here either. So how have I come to the brash statement that I have seen it? By asking people about their beliefs and seeing how buddha statues are treated. When my local temple got a new buddha statue they performed a ritual to "open the buddha's eyes". This means that the buddha statue has been "activated" as near as I can tell. Doesn't this seem like the statue is being considered as having some sentience or abilities or capabilities other than what is ususally attributed to the physical reality of the statue? And...what about the buddha statue in bangkok where the crown prince changes its close four times a year?....people say they want the buddha to be happier and it will be happier if it is more comfortably dressed....and why do they want the buddha to be happier?...so that it will be more effective in distributing merit. I could go on and on and on. As near as I can tell it is absolutely fact that many buddhists are idol worshipers.

No insult intended but I do think that one of the major hindrances to spreading the buddha's teachings in the west is the idol worshiping both real and imagined.
chownah

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Re: What are the hurdles hindering Dhamma propagation in the US?

Post by Maitri » Fri May 01, 2015 11:30 am

Chownah,

I don't disagree that the veneration of statues in Asia is prolific. But Bangkok is not Bangor, Maine; the West is not Asia. We aren't talking about the spread of Dhamma in Asia, but in the West.

The cultural dimensions of Buddhism in Thailand or India will most likely never be encountered by Westerners outside of a vacation travel. The fixation on ritual, amulets etc. is something for the East to resolve. That's not really an influence in the West as to why Buddhism is not more prevalent.

As someone mentioned above, the West has a lack of even a steady monastic Sangha which is a core aspect of the Buddhist religion. Concern for dressing statues doesn't really rank for western people when they can't even locate a temple or center within 50 miles of their home.
"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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