American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Kim OHara
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Post by Kim OHara » Thu Jun 21, 2012 1:45 am

Viscid wrote:I'm pretty sure all Buddhist traditions, western or not, vehemently believe that their particular brand is most representitive of some 'essence of Buddhism.'
Of course. Why would anyone follow a path they didn't believe was the best?
:shrug:

Kim

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Dan74
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Post by Dan74 » Thu Jun 21, 2012 3:07 am

Viscid wrote:
Mr. Man wrote:Would an aspect of western folk buddhism be that there "is" an essence beyond folk Buddhism that can be found when all the layers are striped away (A Buddhist holy grail of pure and definitive Buddha Vacana)?
Westerners have their empiricism, their romanticism, their individualism, and appropriate the authority of The Buddha and Buddhism to validate those values. Hence we see the Kalama Sutta being waved about on here so often. The Western pursuit of an 'essence' in the texts leads them, naively, to their own image. Westerners love their own image, so I think we can characterize Western Folk Buddhism as being narcissistic.
A bit of a brutal generalisation, but some bitter truth may just be contained therein...
_/|\_

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Goofaholix
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Post by Goofaholix » Thu Jun 21, 2012 3:16 am

Viscid wrote:The Western pursuit of an 'essence' in the texts leads them, naively, to their own image. Westerners love their own image, so I think we can characterize Western Folk Buddhism as being narcissistic.
Surely Asians went through much the same process 2000 or so years ago when they integrated Buddhism into their own cultures and reinterpreted the more radical aspects.
“Peace is within oneself to be found in the same place as agitation and suffering. It is not found in a forest or on a hilltop, nor is it given by a teacher. Where you experience suffering, you can also find freedom from suffering. Trying to run away from suffering is actually to run toward it.” ― Ajahn Chah

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gavesako
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Post by gavesako » Fri Jun 22, 2012 7:43 pm

There is an interesting response from a Pure Land monastic perspective to an article which appeared recently in the American press:

"North American Buddhists are likely to create their own traditions and schools of thought, but they should do so with the awareness that they are forging a new Buddhist culture, not the ‘true’ Buddhist culture."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/gue ... _blog.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;


The response is entitled:

Sanitizing of Buddhism, Buddhists and erasing Sangha in America by Elitists


2,555 years ago Buddha passed away leaving the disciples and the rest of the Sangha to remember his teachings and pass them along to the next generations. Very little has changed in the Sangha who carefully follows the Vinaya which are his guidelines of monastic conduct and instructed in his last bequest. They carried Buddha’s teachings (the Dharma) to various countries teaching and forming practice places for generations with a great deal of sacrifice and effort.
Recently in media by Buddhist orientated sites online and in print through Tricycle, Buddhadharma, and Shambala Sun much has been made about the national form that Buddhist followers should or as they assume will eventually take in the USA.
Their Protestantism of Buddhism or rather a sanitizing or erasing/rewriting of Buddha’s history and rejection of what they identify as irrelevant to modern Americans today.
...
This sanitizing of Buddhism is wrong. It is a symptom of lack of effort and study of Buddha dharma. It’s rote repetition of wrong teachings based on fear of loss of their own leadership due to aging and somehow they must keep their flame alive and make a historical memory so their efforts don’t seem wasted to others. The fact of the matter is the hippies are old and their start into Buddhism was filled with false intentions, most are failed monks and they are damn mad that people did not support them when they were innocents in robes, so they formed their careers by damning the robes and those that wear them. All of them… look up the writers for yourself in the rags, tricycle, shambala sun, buddha dharma, the big 3 have featured all white… and all secular people claiming to be experts and leaders of Americans ‘cuz they failed to be monks.
They said they failed to be monks because they failed to get enough dana to do as they want to do (and become hits in their homelands). Instead they were ignored perhaps bored in their robes, fearing poverty and they lacked the balls to stick it out they left their robes because there is no money in them. Then these ex-monks damned repeatedly the very people who had virtuous roots that helped them succeed and go forth and being accepted.
Playing king of the mountain pushing off their competitors. They promoted themselves as experts saying they have really represented Americans cuz they can have sex and create families… and they want their kids to be able to participate fully in their activities in the zendo cuz they don’t feel welcome anyplace but where they want to go and meditate while they ignore how bored their kids are waiting for them and let their kids run around doing things unsupervised while they zone out in hippie bliss or their mental version of it. ...

(read the rest at http://buddhafolk.wordpress.com/2012/06 ... -elitists/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; )
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

Access to Insight - Theravada texts
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
Dhammatalks.org - Sutta translations

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mikenz66
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Post by mikenz66 » Fri Jun 22, 2012 10:05 pm

Interesting blog Bhante. A little petulant, perhaps...
Do you know which occasion with Bhikkhu Bodhi the blog is referring to here?
Led by the protestant versions of Japanese Buddhism and fringe trend setting teachers and all their writers who make them money… virtually ignoring the Sangha “”(they had one show Bhikkhu Bodhi who got rightfully upset with them and whom they posted as somehow he misunderstood..or he mis-heard them and gee wasn’t that embarrassing for him to explode on them during the conference type post on their blog) on whose back they cruelly stepped on to reach their goal as King of the Mountain, they virtually stood and pissed on the the living Jewels, all the while laughing in the faces of those who donate and sacrifice to make Buddhist temples and monasteries in the Americas.
I did find this rather amusing blog while trying to locate the reference:
Theravada is Materialism, not Buddhism
Aryan Buddhism: http://aryan-buddhism.blogspot.co.nz/20 ... dhism.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Bhikkhu Bodhi (Theravada’s mouthpiece) makes implication (unfounded) that there are “mundane aggregates” as opposed to ‘supermundane’ aggregates in addition to a non-Suttic dogmatic claim that “…there is implication that there are aggregates which are anasava (taintless)” ...
As another blogger comments:
http://wisdomquarterly.blogspot.co.nz/2 ... -self.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
There is no dogma, nothing to take on blind faith. But that does not keep the blog from lambasting the great American scholar-monk, Bhikkhu Bodhi. Liberation is an experience. Unfortunately, for many Buddhism has become a religion to identify with rather than what the Buddha set out -- a path to practice.
I guess it is inevitable, given it's cultural background, that some strands of Western Buddhism search for some sort of "one true Buddhism". On the other hand, other strands draw in a dizzying variety of ideas from various traditions (Buddhist, other Asian, Romantic)...

:anjali:
Mike

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Kusala
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Post by Kusala » Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:17 am

This thread reminded me of an article by Ajahn Geoff.

"The news of the Buddha's Awakening sets the standards for judging the culture we were brought up in, and not the other way around. This is not a question of choosing Asian culture over American. The Buddha's Awakening challenged many of the presuppositions of Indian culture in his day; and even in so-called Buddhist countries, the true practice of the Buddha's teachings is always counter-cultural.

It's a question of evaluating our normal concerns — conditioned by time, space, and the limitations of aging, illness, and death — against the possibility of a timeless, spaceless, limitless happiness. All cultures are tied up in the limited, conditioned side of things, while the Buddha's Awakening points beyond all cultures. It offers the challenge of the Deathless that his contemporaries found liberating and that we, if we are willing to accept the challenge, may find liberating ourselves."


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ening.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Image

"He, the Blessed One, is indeed the Noble Lord, the Perfectly Enlightened One;
He is impeccable in conduct and understanding, the Serene One, the Knower of the Worlds;
He trains perfectly those who wish to be trained; he is Teacher of gods and men; he is Awake and Holy. "

--------------------------------------------
"The Dhamma is well-expounded by the Blessed One,
Apparent here and now, timeless, encouraging investigation,
Leading to liberation, to be experienced individually by the wise. "

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gavesako
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Post by gavesako » Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:08 am

A very interesting article about the Western Secular Buddhism and why it is different from traditional Asian Buddhism:


Psychoanalysis and American Folk Buddhism

A Buddhism colored by Western psychoanalysis is a Buddhism turned inward, concerned with the mind. This probably differentiates Western Folk Buddhism from most Asian Folk Buddhisms, which tend to be more outwardly directed, toward ritual and community observances, toward lore and toward ethics.
In practical terms people in the West generally come to Buddhism because life has been difficult. When Buddhism is popularly thought of in terms of psychotherapy this makes Buddhism that much more attractive. However then people relate to Buddhism as patients and Buddhist centers become something like hospitals, or at least outpatient clinics. In short, Western Buddhist communities are generally places of cure, Asian are places of refuge. ...

http://bhikkhucintita.wordpress.com/201 ... ddhism-16/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

:reading:
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

Access to Insight - Theravada texts
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
Dhammatalks.org - Sutta translations

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gavesako
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Post by gavesako » Fri Jul 27, 2012 6:34 pm

In the last article of this series, the author says:

Distinguishing between Essential and Folk Buddhism provides a framework for understanding and monitoring the process by which Buddhism is being assimilated into the Western cultural context. Ideally this process will:

(1) maintain the functional integrity of Essential Buddhism at all costs,

(2) establish the authority of Essential Buddhism over Folk Buddhism and

(3) result in a wholesome Western Folk Buddhism.

The integrity of Essential Buddhism is threatened by the assumption common in Western circles that adapting Buddhism to the West is a matter of stripping Buddhism willy-nilly of Asian cultural accretions in order to make it look more Western. This aesthetic would include, for instance, getting rid of rituals, robes, bowing, chanting (at least in foreign tongues), non-productive lifestyles and so on, not to mention renunciation. However, distinguishing between Essential and Folk Buddhisms highlights the danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, of hacking away at the corn when trying to remove the underbrush. Essential Buddhism is the baby, Folk Buddhism the bathwater. The functional role of any culturally arisen features of a transmitted Essential Buddhism is preserved only by leaving it intact or replaced by Western-looking counterparts. History seems to favor leaving such things intact, tending to lend Essential Buddhism an archaic flavor, for instance as retained in gestures of respect and in monastic garb.


http://bhikkhucintita.wordpress.com/201 ... ddhism-17/" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Bhikkhu Gavesako
Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

Access to Insight - Theravada texts
Ancient Buddhist Texts - Translations and history of Pali texts
Dhammatalks.org - Sutta translations

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Kim OHara
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Post by Kim OHara » Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:30 pm

quoted by gavesako wrote: Psychoanalysis and American Folk Buddhism
A Buddhism colored by Western psychoanalysis is a Buddhism turned inward, concerned with the mind. This probably differentiates Western Folk Buddhism from most Asian Folk Buddhisms, which tend to be more outwardly directed, toward ritual and community observances, toward lore and toward ethics.
I read this when it was posted, and agreed. Something else crossed my mind when I read it again a moment ago, and that is that the Mahayana traditions are even more 'outwardly directed' than Theravada, and the Mahayana traditions are more popular in the West than Theravada. That may, in effect, eventually counterbalance our Western tendency to 'turn Buddhism inward'.

:thinking:
Kim

Dinsdale
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:57 pm

mikenz66 wrote: do some western Buddhist who think they are practising "Essential Buddhism" really practising "Western Folk Buddhism"?
Definitely! On the other hand Buddhism has always adapted to different cultures and times, so maybe this is just the latest installment. ;)
Buddha save me from new-agers!

Dinsdale
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:59 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:...the Mahayana traditions are even more 'outwardly directed' than Theravada, and the Mahayana traditions are more popular in the West than Theravada. That may, in effect, eventually counterbalance our Western tendency to 'turn Buddhism inward'.
Yes, I've noticed that too. I wonder how things will turn out?
Buddha save me from new-agers!

Dinsdale
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Post by Dinsdale » Sat Jul 28, 2012 2:03 pm

gavesako wrote:However, distinguishing between Essential and Folk Buddhisms highlights the danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, of hacking away at the corn when trying to remove the underbrush. Essential Buddhism is the baby, Folk Buddhism the bathwater.
Yes, and what concerns me is the motivation for the hacking, which sometimes seems more to do with personal belief / disbelief than any objective assessment. "That bit of the teachings makes me feel uncomfortable, so it's got to go"
Buddha save me from new-agers!

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