Western cultural adaptations

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
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Re: Western cultural baggage

Post by binocular » Wed Mar 19, 2014 9:00 am

manas wrote:On the other hand, we shouldn't blindly accept what is in the suttas, over reason and modern science, in some instances; take this one for example:
I guess that depends on one's basic idea of what it means to be religious or have an interest in a religion.

Some people seem to think that to join a religion (or even just having an interest in it) is much like marrying someone one barely knows and then feeling obligated to respect that person and agree with them no matter what he or she says and does. Hence the idea of "blindly accepting."

What I had in mind with
5. Compliance with modern Western science and culture, even at the expense of canonical references.
was things like deliberate meat-eating, as can be found among some Buddhists who claim that since modern science and doctors agree that humans have the digestive system of a being that can eat and digest meat and that humans need animal-based protein from meat, one ought to eat meat, regardless of what one's (nominal) religion may say.
Or the loosening of standards around what constitutes illicit sex, stealing, and lying.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by tiltbillings » Wed Mar 19, 2014 9:00 am

binocular wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:According to me.
What do you think taking refuge is about if not that?
People can differ quite a bit in what they mean by "Buddha," "Dhamma," and "Sangha", and what it means to take refuge in them.
So how does one choose whose understanding of these terms to go with?
How have you chosen whose understanding, if any, of these terms to go with? Or maybe you don't understand these terms. And how have you come to an understanding of the HK "triple check?" You must understand it since you are advocating it as a model.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

“Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?” HPatDH p.723

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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by Goofaholix » Wed Mar 19, 2014 6:51 pm

binocular wrote:
Goofaholix wrote:According to me.
What do you think taking refuge is about if not that?
People can differ quite a bit in what they mean by "Buddha," "Dhamma," and "Sangha", and what it means to take refuge in them.
So how does one choose whose understanding of these terms to go with?
Choose your own understanding as a starting point, you can't choose anyone else's, just go with that and be open to new understanding as you go.

The point is if there is a conflict between what you understand from these three sources then you know something is screwy and needs investigation.
“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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Re: Western cultural adaptations

Post by Bakmoon » Wed Apr 02, 2014 3:34 pm

I think that obviously there are a lot of cultural adaptations which can be made with the Dhamma in terms of external things such as what chants to use and what language they are in, ceremonies, and the details of etiquette, as of course, these things themselves have developed and changed from country to country back in Asia as well.

One thing I think that is worth bearing in mind however, is that this sort of adaptation was more gradual and unguided than how the cultural adaptations have been in the west. For example, I doubt that when Theravada Buddhism was first brought into South East Asia the Monks importing it consciously changed the cultural aspects of it all at once. They probably transplanted the customs along with the doctrine and the things people didn't like faded away.

I think similarly it would be better to try to avoid intentionally cutting out cultural elements, and instead try them out to see if they will be liked. For example, a lot of customs related to chanting and pujas weren't brought into the west very much without even seeing how it would turn out. Perhaps some people would really like the different liturgical chants, either in Pali or in English. Maybe over time new liturgical chants would be written by grouping together passages people like and so forth, and over time, a distinctive western chanting tradition would form that people like and find meaningful. But instead, chanting was in large part cut out of non-monastic western groups.

I for one think it would be interesting to see what would happen if we were to transplant Asian customs and let them develop on their own in a western context instead of cutting them out.
The non-doing of any evil,
The performance of what's skillful,
The cleansing of one's own mind:
This is the Buddhas' teaching.

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