Why so few Western Buddhists?

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polo
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by polo »

Digity wrote: Thu Jan 04, 2018 2:58 am I think the main issue is that Buddhism goes against the grain and the vast majority of people want to go with the grain, since it's smoother. Following the Buddhist path properly involves going against your own tendencies and changing deeply conditioned patterns. This is long, hard work. On top of that, you need to be able to wrap your head around the teachings. It's not like someone can pick up Buddhism in a day and get it. It takes years of contemplating and making mistakes, coming back, etc, etc. Remember, the Buddha was reluctant to teach the Dhamma at first, since he knew what people were like. Buddhism is never going to be super popular, when taught in its truest form. It's just because it's challenging and tough at times. Regardless, those who see the value in what the Buddha taught and understand it sufficiently enough will push through those difficulties and keep going. But again, that's a small number of people.
Hello there, you are right in every aspect of what you wrote. Worst of all you may have to do some reverse engineering- like trying to change your bad habits formed for so many years especially your thought habits. You tend to get angry or not happy at certain things people do or say is one of them.
I have a feeling that Buddha wants you to be the perfect human being- I read somewhere the disciples try to live a blameless life. Isn't that being perfect?
daveblack
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by daveblack »

No_Mind wrote: Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:12 am 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.
The founders of Western Buddhism assumed all Westerners are "liberal" and that was their mistake. They assumed Westerners hate God, the soul, having beliefs, traditional sexual morality, having borders to their nations, and so they altered Buddhism to fit that specific target audience. Then the West elected Trump and proved the founders of Western Buddhism were as clueless as Nancy Pelosi.

Plus, in addition to that, of those who are liberal, and who did turn to Buddhism, many are figuring out they've been duped, that they've been sold a version of Buddhism specifically altered to target them. They were told there's no God, but they find in the texts there are many gods; they were told no beliefs, but they are running up between a rock and hard place with rebirth, anatta, etc. They were told Buddhism fits perfectly with modern science and psychology, but that is plainly false, as psychology requires a self, and science requires the existence of enduring substances, and the version of Buddhism they've been sold is either Abhidhammic or Nagarjunian and denies those things. They were also told Buddhism supports pro-choice, but when they got around to reading the Vinaya they found that Buddha condemned abortion. They were told Buddhism was pro-LGBT, but when they began reading the Lotus Sutra they found that it says a bodhisattva is not to ever associate with any of "the five types of unmanly men." Then there is the fact that the canons in every sect are too long, especially for those whose mind has an anti-religious bent, and hidden within there are all kinds of doctrinal positions that when they finally stumble across them, they will be shocked. Its a perfect storm of misrepresentations by the founders of Western Buddhism.

Then on top of that, the mainstream way of dealing with Buddhism in the West, by the founders of Western Buddhism, has been to take everything from all the sects, throw it in a cauldron and stir, and the result is a nonsensical goo, of Theravada which clearly requires nirvana and samsara to be separate mixed with Mahayana's claim that nirvana and samsara are one and the same. Or of Theravada that says killing a Buddha equals innumerable eons in hell, with Zen that says "If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him." The unwise mixture of the schools has made a mess. I've yet to find one Theravadan teacher who doesn't believe in the Lotus Sutra's "expedient means" doctrine, and that to me is unacceptable. Mixing the contradictory doctrines of the various schools is by no means wise. Then on top of that, any strictly Theravadan group that might exist in the West is going to insist upon Adhidhamma which contradicts the suttas (plus there is no readily available English translation of) and that is also unacceptable. But maybe that explains why Theravadan teachers are mixing in the Lotus Sutra's "expedient means," i.e. maybe the Abhidhamma did that. In any case, there's a clear problem.
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SDC
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

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Due to the political undertones of this topic, it has been moved to the Hot Topics section, which will require moderator approval for all posts. If people prefer to speak freely regarding the political aspects of Western Buddhism they can do so at DWE.
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WindDancer
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by WindDancer »

Thank you for the discussion. Several replies address real life issues I have faced in communities where I have lived in the Mid-West and Rocky Mountain region of the USA.

Being a Buddhist, practicing this Path and integrating Buddhist practice into everyday life, is a real challenge where I have lived in the West. It feels like I am swimming against a powerful current of a wide and unwelcoming river. I have not had access to the support of a local Dhamma teacher or Sangha. I have found it necessary most of my life to keep my Buddhist practice hidden; however, I have run across a few practitioners along the way. I met a few Buddhists when I was in graduate school and when I was an instructor at a university. I have just celebrated 25 years of recovery in a 12 Step program, and some of the people I have met in the rooms of recovery are Buddhists, and other members are at least open minded and welcoming to people no matter their religious or spiritual beliefs.

Both my mother's and father's families come from multiple generations of fundamentalist Christians. They, like many of the people where I now live, believe that their particular denomination of Christianity is the One True Religion. In 2013 I decided that at age 50 it was time for me to stop holding back out of fear and start openly living my practice. It felt like "coming out of the closet" when I shared my Buddhist practice and beliefs with my friends and family and started living my practice out in the open for all to see. It caused a major upheaval in my life, in my family and in my circle of friends.

A half dozen times, I made a 2 hour round trip to a Vipassana meditation group, and I went to hear the Dali Llama give a talk on compassion. I was open about my practice of sila, panna and samadhi, and I finally openly created a space in my home that is supportive of the practice. My closest friends turned on me and have had nothing to do with me since 2013. My father and his wife called me a Satan worshiper for going to hear the Dali Llama. They rallied the family and multiple Christian pastors to pressure me to turn away from this false religion. They attacked me and tried to stop me from going to the meditation group, and they forcefully tried to stop me from any form of meditation because it was the work of Satan and a path further into darkness. I have found it necessary to limit the contact I have with these people.

These are just some of the barriers I have faced since I first started practicing Buddhism. Another barrier to fully embracing Buddhism is not knowing what school or linage to choose. I have maintained a Zen Buddhist practice since the late 1970's. I started studying Tibetan Buddhism in 2006, and I first learned of Theravada Buddhism in 2013. Theravada Buddhism has become my primary focus; however, I feel some doubt or confusion about whether to give myself fully just to one lineage or school.

Another struggle I have is with my strong Christian upbringing. I know some people online put down those of us who are affected by other Paths, but I have learned I need to accept this. I have 50+ years of growing up in a strongly Christian family and local culture. I can't be like someone raised in the East as a Buddhist from birth in a Buddhist family and community. I have accepted that I need to live in humility and accept where I am on the Path and accept where I live. I know that this strong influence affects my perceptions and my growth, but as they say, "We must start the journey from where we are." :)

:namaste:

WindDancer
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by DNS »

Bill Maher had a recently good skit about how we don't need to follow every "batshit rule, custom, tradition, or religion of our parents." We don't have a lounge here anymore, so I'll post the link to where I posted his video on DWE.

https://dharmawheel.org/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=4989
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robertk
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by robertk »

WindDancer wrote: Mon Jan 20, 2020 6:50 am Thank you for the discussion. Several replies address real life issues I have faced in communities where I have lived in the Mid-West and Rocky Mountain region of the USA.

Being a Buddhist, practicing this Path and integrating Buddhist practice into everyday life, is a real challenge where I have lived in the West. It feels like I am swimming against a powerful current of a wide and unwelcoming river. I have not had access to the support of a local Dhamma teacher or Sangha. I have found it necessary most of my life to keep my Buddhist practice hidden; however, I have run across a few practitioners along the way. I met a few Buddhists when I was in graduate school and when I was an instructor at a university. I have just celebrated 25 years of recovery in a 12 Step program, and some of the people I have met in the rooms of recovery are Buddhists, and other members are at least open minded and welcoming to people no matter their religious or spiritual beliefs.

Both my mother's and father's families come from multiple generations of fundamentalist Christians. They, like many of the people where I now live, believe that their particular denomination of Christianity is the One True Religion. In 2013 I decided that at age 50 it was time for me to stop holding back out of fear and start openly living my practice. It felt like "coming out of the closet" when I shared my Buddhist practice and beliefs with my friends and family and started living my practice out in the open for all to see. It caused a major upheaval in my life, in my family and in my circle of friends.

A half dozen times, I made a 2 hour round trip to a Vipassana meditation group, and I went to hear the Dali Llama give a talk on compassion. I was open about my practice of sila, panna and samadhi, and I finally openly created a space in my home that is supportive of the practice. My closest friends turned on me and have had nothing to do with me since 2013. My father and his wife called me a Satan worshiper for going to hear the Dali Llama. They rallied the family and multiple Christian pastors to pressure me to turn away from this false religion. They attacked me and tried to stop me from going to the meditation group, and they forcefully tried to stop me from any form of meditation because it was the work of Satan and a path further into darkness. I have found it necessary to limit the contact I have with these people.

These are just some of the barriers I have faced since I first started practicing Buddhism. Another barrier to fully embracing Buddhism is not knowing what school or linage to choose. I have maintained a Zen Buddhist practice since the late 1970's. I started studying Tibetan Buddhism in 2006, and I first learned of Theravada Buddhism in 2013. Theravada Buddhism has become my primary focus; however, I feel some doubt or confusion about whether to give myself fully just to one lineage or school.

Another struggle I have is with my strong Christian upbringing. I know some people online put down those of us who are affected by other Paths, but I have learned I need to accept this. I have 50+ years of growing up in a strongly Christian family and local culture. I can't be like someone raised in the East as a Buddhist from birth in a Buddhist family and community. I have accepted that I need to live in humility and accept where I am on the Path and accept where I live. I know that this strong influence affects my perceptions and my growth, but as they say, "We must start the journey from where we are." :)

:namaste:

WindDancer
Well your many lovely posts on this forum show how much Dhamma has embued your life.
SteRo
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by SteRo »

WindDancer wrote: Mon Jan 20, 2020 6:50 am Thank you for the discussion. Several replies address real life issues I have faced in communities where I have lived in the Mid-West and Rocky Mountain region of the USA.

....

I know that this strong influence affects my perceptions and my growth, but as they say, "We must start the journey from where we are." :)

:namaste:

WindDancer
Thank you very much for your inspiring post! :namaste:
Exhaling अ and inhaling धीः amounts to བྷྲཱུཾ་བི་ཤྭ་བི་ཤུད་དྷེ
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Ceisiwr »

daveblack wrote: Fri Dec 06, 2019 3:19 pm
No_Mind wrote: Tue Jan 02, 2018 6:12 am 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.
The founders of Western Buddhism assumed all Westerners are "liberal" and that was their mistake. They assumed Westerners hate God, the soul, having beliefs, traditional sexual morality, having borders to their nations, and so they altered Buddhism to fit that specific target audience. Then the West elected Trump and proved the founders of Western Buddhism were as clueless as Nancy Pelosi.

Plus, in addition to that, of those who are liberal, and who did turn to Buddhism, many are figuring out they've been duped, that they've been sold a version of Buddhism specifically altered to target them. They were told there's no God, but they find in the texts there are many gods; they were told no beliefs, but they are running up between a rock and hard place with rebirth, anatta, etc. They were told Buddhism fits perfectly with modern science and psychology, but that is plainly false, as psychology requires a self, and science requires the existence of enduring substances, and the version of Buddhism they've been sold is either Abhidhammic or Nagarjunian and denies those things. They were also told Buddhism supports pro-choice, but when they got around to reading the Vinaya they found that Buddha condemned abortion. They were told Buddhism was pro-LGBT, but when they began reading the Lotus Sutra they found that it says a bodhisattva is not to ever associate with any of "the five types of unmanly men." Then there is the fact that the canons in every sect are too long, especially for those whose mind has an anti-religious bent, and hidden within there are all kinds of doctrinal positions that when they finally stumble across them, they will be shocked. Its a perfect storm of misrepresentations by the founders of Western Buddhism.

Then on top of that, the mainstream way of dealing with Buddhism in the West, by the founders of Western Buddhism, has been to take everything from all the sects, throw it in a cauldron and stir, and the result is a nonsensical goo, of Theravada which clearly requires nirvana and samsara to be separate mixed with Mahayana's claim that nirvana and samsara are one and the same. Or of Theravada that says killing a Buddha equals innumerable eons in hell, with Zen that says "If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him." The unwise mixture of the schools has made a mess. I've yet to find one Theravadan teacher who doesn't believe in the Lotus Sutra's "expedient means" doctrine, and that to me is unacceptable. Mixing the contradictory doctrines of the various schools is by no means wise. Then on top of that, any strictly Theravadan group that might exist in the West is going to insist upon Adhidhamma which contradicts the suttas (plus there is no readily available English translation of) and that is also unacceptable. But maybe that explains why Theravadan teachers are mixing in the Lotus Sutra's "expedient means," i.e. maybe the Abhidhamma did that. In any case, there's a clear problem.



I agree with quite a lot of this. That being said this “ They were told Buddhism was pro-LGBT, but when they began reading the Lotus Sutra they found that it says a bodhisattva is not to ever associate with any of "the five types of unmanly men." only applies to Mahāyāna. The “liberal” Buddhist is wrong when it comes to abortion but right when it comes to LGBT and the Dhamma.
"Analysis and synthesis are praised by the wise,
liberation in the Sāsana comes from analysis and synthesis;
the purpose of the method of analysis and synthesis is the ultimate"


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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Ceisiwr »

Where I live (South Wales, UK) I’m the only Theravadin I know of. There are no meditation groups or centres and my nearest temple and monastery is a 3 hour train journey away. Most white welsh are non-religious and culturally Christian. With Wales being 93% white it means most people just aren’t interested in religion. When I tell people I’m religious and stay at monasteries they are genuinely taken back and find it strange. My mates all think I’m slightly odd for being a Buddhist. I even had someone ask if it’s even possible to be a Buddhist because I’m white lol.

I don’t see this changing anytime soon.
"Analysis and synthesis are praised by the wise,
liberation in the Sāsana comes from analysis and synthesis;
the purpose of the method of analysis and synthesis is the ultimate"


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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by retrofuturist »

Greetings Ceisiwr,
Ceisiwr wrote: Mon Jan 20, 2020 11:17 pm I don’t see this changing anytime soon.
Agreed, especially since the classical notion of getting your own house in order before trying to fix the wider world is becoming increasingly "old hat".

And amongst those who don't even care for that, such people tend to see themselves as consumers rather than moral agents capable of reflection and improvement.

As such, it would appear that we're a long way from a Dhammic age, but on the other hand, as the saying goes, the night is always darkest before the dawn.

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

"It is natural that one who knows and sees things as they really are is disenchanted and dispassionate." (AN 10.2)

"Overcome the liar by truth." (Dhp 223)
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Ceisiwr »

retrofuturist wrote: Mon Jan 20, 2020 11:30 pm Greetings Ceisiwr,
Ceisiwr wrote: Mon Jan 20, 2020 11:17 pm I don’t see this changing anytime soon.
Agreed, especially since the classical notion of getting your own house in order before trying to fix the wider world is becoming increasingly "old hat".

And amongst those who don't even care for that, such people tend to see themselves as consumers rather than moral agents capable of reflection and improvement.

As such, it would appear that we're a long way from a Dhammic age, but on the other hand, as the saying goes, the night is always darkest before the dawn.

Metta,
Paul. :)

Yes. The majority of people I know aren’t really interested in the deeper questions of existence. They experience dukkha but they never examine the cause and instead turn to sensual pleasures as a fix. Politics is probably the highest meta-thought and analysis that most people here engage with.
"Analysis and synthesis are praised by the wise,
liberation in the Sāsana comes from analysis and synthesis;
the purpose of the method of analysis and synthesis is the ultimate"


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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by WindDancer »

Thank you DNS, robertk and SteRo for your kind and supportive comments. As you might guess, I don't receive much kindness or support in daily life for living this Path. Instead, I typically have been attacked and harmed. Where we all can benefit from the giving and receiving of support with our good spiritual friends, I appreciate this more than you can know. Thank you for taking the time to reply. :anjali:

DNS, Thank you for the link. I enjoyed watching Bill Maher's skit. It brought me big smiles and the nodding of my head in understanding.

Peace,

WindDancer
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