Why so few Western Buddhists?

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No_Mind
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by No_Mind » Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:14 am

binocular wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 3:03 pm
Subharo wrote:
Mon Jan 08, 2018 8:35 pm
No Mind, here is a counter-question for you to ponder (which perhaps will give you a Satori into an answer to your OP):
In Eastern culture, why is critical thinking, and frank debate in a gentlemanly tone of voice, so taboo, especially when people (who are elders) are clearly talking crap (and take great liberty doing so, knowing very well they can get away with it all they want, pretty much)?
Because harmony is valued above everything else.
And it seems that as long as hamorny is given highest value and pursued (enforced!), everything else can fall into place as well (esp. economic development).


I remember a story I once heard, it goes in roundabout like this: A Hindu man was spiritually very advanced. He had a guru. The man would sometimes visit the guru with his young son. The son quickly noticed that his father's guru was nowhere near as advanced as his father. So the son objected that his father should bow to the guru's feet. But the man said that it doesn't matter who is more advanced, and that what matters is that the order of things be respected -- and that he, as his guru's student, should bow to him.
We have discussed it once before

Let me share it again

No_Mind wrote:
Tue Jan 31, 2017 11:14 pm
binocular wrote:
No_Mind wrote:On the whole Asians are not very argumentative or direct.
What do they hope to accomplish with indirectness?
That is just the way it is.

But this may throw some light --
5. Try to come to terms with the concept of ‘face’ (giving, saving and losing it), which is essential in dealing with Asians. Avoid putting possible clients and partners in ‘yes-no’ situations, and expect oblique answers as part of the process of creating a relationship.

http://davidcliveprice.com/12-commandme ... etiquette/
Actually this is better --
It comes down to two different "laws":

The Greeks followed the "law of the excluded middle," which states that if two people are debating, then one of them must be exclusively right and the other exclusively wrong.

The Chinese followed the "doctrine of mean," which states that if two people are debating, then they're probably both partly right and partly wrong - the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

................

Here's Nisbett on China:

The ecology of China, consisting as it does primarily of relatively fertile plains, low mountains, and navigable rivers, favored agriculture and made centralized control of society relatively easy.

Agricultural peoples need to get along with one another ... This is particularly true for rice farming, characteristic of southern China and Japan, which requires people to cultivate the land in concert with one another.

But it is also important wherever irrigation is required... In addition to getting along with one's neighbors, irrigation systems require centralized control and ancient China, like all other ancient agricultural societies, was ruled by despots. Peasants had to get along with their neighbors and were ruled by village elders and a regional magistrate who was the representative of the king.

The ordinary Chinese therefore lived in a complicated world of social constraints.

Way different than Greece.

Again, Nisbett:

The ecology of Greece, on the other hand, consisting as it does mostly of mountains descending to the sea, favored hunting, herding, fishing, and trade (and - let's be frank - piracy). These are occupations that require relatively little cooperation with others. In fact, with the exception of trade, these economic activities do not strictly require living the same stable community with other people.

Settled agriculture came to Greece almost two thousand years later than to China, and it quickly became commercial, as opposed to merely subsistence, in many areas.

The soil and climate of Greece were congenial to wine and olive oil production, and by the sixth century B.C., many farmers were more nearly businessmen than peasants. The Greeks were therefore able to act on their own to a greater extent than were the Chinese. Not feeling it necessary to maintain harmony with their fellows at any cost, the Greeks were in the habit of arguing with one another in the marketplace and debate one another in the political assembly.

Nisbett's argument continues from there.

The geography shaped the way people interacted with one another. The Ancient Greek could decide to move his goat heard with little consideration of what other people thought - unless his livestock invaded somebody else's property. But if the Ancient Chinese were to make the most of his rice harvest, he'd need cooperation from neighbors.

That's where you get the Greek emphasis on the individual and debate, and the Chinese emphasis on the collective and harmony.

The fascinating cultural reason why Westerners and East Asians have polar opposite understandings of the truth
viewtopic.php?f=12&t=28769&p=413443#p413443
I know one thing: that I know nothing

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Subharo
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Subharo » Wed Jan 10, 2018 9:19 am

That was totally fascinating, No_Mind. Thanks.

In the same spirit, I'd like to take another crack at answering the question "Why are there so few Western Buddhists?"

After 11 years now in the monastic world full-time (9 years now as fully-ordained Bhikkhu), here's a short guide for Easterners or Westerners who find themselves trying to teach Westerners the subject of Buddhism (and perhaps this will help there to be many more Westerner Buddhists in the future):
  1. Talk to them. Not at them. They tend to really dislike being talked "at".
  2. If you use any of these logical fallacies, you will probably lose credit fast, even though you might feel you are justified in doing so, because you are, after all, representing the invincibly correct and appealing Dhamma.
  3. Know the behavior of tyrants (very well-defined in this excellent, albeit long three part series). And avoid such behaviour.
  4. Know the behavior of Sociopaths. And avoid such behaviour.
  5. Westerners are generally uninterested in becoming anyone's sycophant, no matter how you might describe that as being a religious virtue.
  6. Westerners might strongly object to declaring (or chanting) that they are anyone's slaves. This includes chanting Pali phrases like:
    "Saṅghassā hassami dāso va saṅgho me sāmikissaro... Saṅghassāhaṃ niyyādemi sarīrañjīvitañcidaṃ" ("I am indeed the Sangha's slave, the Sangha is my Lord and Guide ... To the Sangha I dedicate this body and life"). You know, as opposed to dedicating your life to attaining Nibbana. The word "daso" translates literally as "slave", as in the slave caste in India (you know, the "Untouchable" caste, now called the "Dalits" in modern times).
  7. "Political correctness" is highly advisable.
Subharo Bhikkhu
"There is but one taste on this path, the taste of freedom" -The Buddha :buddha1:

binocular
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by binocular » Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:02 am

chownah wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 3:24 am
You say "because harmony is valued above everything else" when speaking of eastern culture....I dispute that statement.
If harmony was valued above everything else then there would be no wars in eastern culture.
If harmony was valued above everything else then there would be no quarrels in eastern culture.
If harmony was valued above all else there would be no murders in eastern culture.
If harmoney was valued above all else then people would not amass gold in eastern culture.
If harmoney was valued above all else then it would not need to be enforced in eastern culture.
It's in order to establish harmony that people are executed, wars fought etc. It's because harmony is so important to them that they will kill for it.

- - -
No_Mind wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 4:14 am
We have discussed it once before /.../
It keeps coming up, as it is so relevant.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Subharo » Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:25 am

No_Mind wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:48 pm
Do you mean to say the Chinese or Japanese or Koreans or Taiwanese or Singaporeans .. all of whom have built their nation from scratch in last few decades are not capable of critical thinking?

Do you mean to say the world's largest democracy built of 30 distinct countries has not fallen apart .. had no civil war or large scale nation wide civil unrest in seventy years since independence .. and there is no critical thinking involved in it?

:namaste:

No_Mind
No I am not saying that. There are many, many impressive examples of critical thinking in Asian Culture.

For example, I am extremely impressed with:
  1. "The Way of Chuang Tzu" (translated into English by Thomas Merton), a Chinese work. ISBN-13: 978-0811218511
  2. "The Mystique of Enlightenment", by U.G. Krishnamurti (Indian). Available online here.
  3. "Tao Te Ching", by Lao Tzu, I liked the translation by Gia-Fu Feng, with art by Jane English. Also a Chinese work. ISBN-13: 978-0307949301
I've met a whole bunch of intensely smart Asians in my day, both inside and outside a Buddhist context. I recently met an Indian-born Buddhist monk who was extremely sharp and capable of critical thought, and we had many intense, often-lengthy, yet enjoyable conversations. He helped me understand many obscure points of Indian philosophy (which had in influence on Buddhism), as he had been a former Hindu monk. He referred to the Upanishads, and specifically the Isha portion of the Upanishads.
Last edited by Subharo on Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:35 am, edited 1 time in total.
Subharo Bhikkhu
"There is but one taste on this path, the taste of freedom" -The Buddha :buddha1:

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by binocular » Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:27 am

Subharo wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 9:19 am
In the same spirit, I'd like to take another crack at answering the question "Why are there so few Western Buddhists?"

After 11 years now in the monastic world full-time (9 years now as fully-ordained Bhikkhu), here's a short guide for Easterners or Westerners who find themselves trying to teach Westerners the subject of Buddhism (and perhaps this will help there to be many more Westerner Buddhists in the future):
  1. Talk to them. Not at them. They tend to really dislike being talked "at".
  2. If you use any of these logical fallacies, you will probably lose credit fast, even though you might feel you are justified in doing so, because you are, after all, representing the invincibly correct and appealing Dhamma.
  3. Know the behavior of tyrants (very well-defined in this excellent, albeit long three part series). And avoid such behaviour.
  4. Know the behavior of Sociopaths. And avoid such behaviour.
  5. Westerners are generally uninterested in becoming anyone's sycophant, no matter how you might describe that as being a religious virtue.
  6. Westerners might strongly object to declaring (or chanting) that they are anyone's slaves. This includes chanting Pali phrases like:
    "Saṅghassā hassami dāso va saṅgho me sāmikissaro... Saṅghassāhaṃ niyyādemi sarīrañjīvitañcidaṃ" ("I am indeed the Sangha's slave, the Sangha is my Lord and Guide ... To the Sangha I dedicate this body and life"). You know, as opposed to dedicating your life to attaining Nibbana. The word "daso" translates literally as "slave", as in the slave caste in India (you know, the "Untouchable" caste, now called the "Dalits" in modern times).
  7. "Political correctness" is highly advisable.
I find it most interesting that you as a monk say such things. It's another set of generalizations, though. Just because people are born and raised in the West doesn't mean they're all the same or want the same things.

Over the years, I've become quite jaded about Buddhism, esp. Western Buddhists. I'm not saying this as a criticism of you (maybe you're just young and optimistic :smile: ), but I find your list downright comical. I think many Buddhist monks, esp. Western ones, would be offended by your suggestions. The very idea that they should somehow be careful about how they talk to ordinary people -- outrageous! We are your slaves, and that's that.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Saengnapha » Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:33 am

binocular wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:42 pm
Saengnapha wrote:
Tue Jan 09, 2018 2:25 pm
What's the difference what they think? They are not interested in Buddhism is my point. It's only the circumstance for them, not their way of living.
I'm saying there's a difference between attempting to practice Buddhism in an environment where Buddhism is at least nominally present; as opposed to attempting to practice Buddhism in an environment where Buddhism is alien to it, or where other people are even hostile to it.


Or do you think that living somehwere where most other people are, say, Christians, is in roundabout the same as living in a traditionally Buddhist Asian country where most people are only superficially interested in Buddhism?
Here in Bangkok, no one ever asks me if I'm a Buddhist or what I practice. I cannot remember a single instance. My own practice is private. Who would know what I believe just by looking at me? I don't wear an orange robe. I don't go to a Wat, either. If I lived in Berlin, it would be the same practice for me even if there were no Wats or orange robes walking the streets.

However, living my daily life here in BKK, is very different than living my life in Berlin, N.Y., or even India, for that matter. SE Asia has its own flavor and feeling. That is one of the reasons I like living here. It's very conducive to my current circumstances on a day to day level.

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Subharo » Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:44 am

binocular wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:27 am
I find it most interesting that you as a monk say such things.
Monks are humans too.
binocular wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:27 am
It's another set of generalizations, though.
Guilty as charged. They are indeed generalizations.
binocular wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:27 am
I find your list downright comical.
It was comical to write. I guess I wrote it as a form of catharsis. At least I avoided direct confrontation, which is slightly praiseworthy in Buddhism.
binocular wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:27 am
I think many Buddhist monks, esp. Western ones, would be offended by your suggestions.
Some people are virtually impossible to not offend. What does that say about them?
Subharo Bhikkhu
"There is but one taste on this path, the taste of freedom" -The Buddha :buddha1:

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by No_Mind » Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:22 am

Subharo wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 9:19 am
That was totally fascinating, No_Mind. Thanks.

In the same spirit, I'd like to take another crack at answering the question "Why are there so few Western Buddhists?"

After 11 years now in the monastic world full-time (9 years now as fully-ordained Bhikkhu), here's a short guide for Easterners or Westerners who find themselves trying to teach Westerners the subject of Buddhism (and perhaps this will help there to be many more Westerner Buddhists in the future):
....
Bhante, I did not mean that irreligious Westerners accept Buddhism as an organised religion but as a way of life. I believe much of the angst in West in recent decades is due to lack of faith in any body of beliefs .. it may be capitalism or nazism or scientology as long as one has faith in a set of beliefs it provides a home for the mind .. faith in something anchors us.

Buddhism due to its lack of God(s) seems a natural set of beliefs for West to turn to .. at least more than the 0.3% it stands at .. even if 10% of the irreligious became Buddhists that would be 5% of the population in most countries .. I wrote the post because I found surprising that 1 in 10 of the irreligious have not yet discovered Buddhism in spite of the massive presence Buddhism has on YouTube and social media space.

:namaste:

No_Mind
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binocular
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by binocular » Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:26 am

Saengnapha wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:33 am
Here in Bangkok, no one ever asks me if I'm a Buddhist or what I practice. I cannot remember a single instance. My own practice is private. Who would know what I believe just by looking at me? I don't wear an orange robe. I don't go to a Wat, either. If I lived in Berlin, it would be the same practice for me even if there were no Wats or orange robes walking the streets.
But you probably don't drink alcohol, don't smoke, don't mindlessly swat mosquitoes, have a limited range of emotional expressions (little or no anger, just the four brahamaviharas), don't swear, don't gossip, and more. Other people probably notice those things, and there may be social situations where they ask you about them. For example, where I live, it is outrageous not to drink alcohol, and people expect, sometimes even demand an explanation, or else, questions follow -- "Are you pregnant? ... Are you a recovered alcoholic? ... Was someone in your family alcoholic? ... Do you take some heavy medications? ..." It's really tedious. And it limits my social interactions with others. I imagine the same wouldn't happen if I lived in a traditionally Buddhist country.
However, living my daily life here in BKK, is very different than living my life in Berlin, N.Y., or even India, for that matter. SE Asia has its own flavor and feeling. That is one of the reasons I like living here. It's very conducive to my current circumstances on a day to day level.
Yes ... it does make a difference where one lives.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

binocular
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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by binocular » Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:55 am

No_Mind wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:22 am
I wrote the post because I found surprising that 1 in 10 of the irreligious have not yet discovered Buddhism in spite of the massive presence Buddhism has on YouTube and social media space.
I'm sure many have discovered Buddhism; but far fewer seem to stick around. My father, for example, used to be interested in Zen, but gave up. He says that Buddhism is too idealistic and impractical.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by binocular » Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:25 pm

Subharo wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 10:44 am
Monks are humans too.
I laughed when I read that!
Some people are virtually impossible to not offend. What does that say about them?
That they have good self-esteem, I suppose. I'm virtually impossible to offend, so I don't what that is like to be someone who readily takes offence.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Subharo » Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:55 pm

Some people are virtually impossible to not offend. What does that say about them?

That they have good self-esteem, I suppose.
Well I, for one, am making a personal effort to not get all snooty and up myself, or I would regard that as a spiritual fault on my part, not a spiritual virtue. No doubt I have other personality flaws, but let at least snootiness not be one of them.
binocular wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:25 pm
I'm virtually impossible to offend, so I don't what that is like to be someone who readily takes offence.
Thanks for saying that.
Subharo Bhikkhu
"There is but one taste on this path, the taste of freedom" -The Buddha :buddha1:

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Subharo » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:02 pm

No_Mind wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:22 am
.. even if 10% of the irreligious became Buddhists that would be 5% of the population in most countries .. I wrote the post because I found surprising that 1 in 10 of the irreligious have not yet discovered Buddhism in spite of the massive presence Buddhism has on YouTube and social media space.
I too would love it if the percentage rose to 5%. Any serious Buddhist in Canada or the USA probably has the option of moving out to the West Coast, where Buddhism will be much easier to find (and will feel more like 5 or more %). But the East Coast? It seems to be a particularily stubborn place, IMHO. There can be quite a lot of liberality (meaning "Buddhist-friendly") in the larger cities in the middle of said countries. Again, these are admittedly more generalizations.
Subharo Bhikkhu
"There is but one taste on this path, the taste of freedom" -The Buddha :buddha1:

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Caodemarte » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:15 pm

Subharo wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:02 pm
No_Mind wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:22 am
.. even if 10% of the irreligious became Buddhists that would be 5% of the population in most countries .. I wrote the post because I found surprising that 1 in 10 of the irreligious have not yet discovered Buddhism in spite of the massive presence Buddhism has on YouTube and social media space.
I too would love it if the percentage rose to 5%. Any serious Buddhist in Canada or the USA probably has the option of moving out to the West Coast, where Buddhism will be much easier to find (and will feel more like 5 or more %). But the East Coast? It seems to be a particularily stubborn place, IMHO. There can be quite a lot of liberality (meaning "Buddhist-friendly") in the larger cities in the middle of said countries. Again, these are admittedly more generalizations.
Buddhists are scarcer on the ground in the South East than the North East in the USA. Living in the south I look at the north as comparatively full of Buddhists.

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Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Subharo » Wed Jan 10, 2018 1:53 pm

No_Mind wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:22 am
Bhante, I did not mean that irreligious Westerners accept Buddhism as an organised religion but as a way of life.
For Westerners to slow way, way down and find time to meditate regularily, etc., en masse, is like asking a pack of monkeys not to climb trees any longer. A subtle lifestyle concept like "ending bhava", (or as the Taoists would say, "Wu Wei") is not something Westerners will appreciate any time soon.

Perhaps this sort of thing (slowing down one's pace of life) is easier to appreciate for Indians. I heard one highly entertaining story from my Indian monk friend, who attended Kumbh Mela before ordaining. He said there was one naked Sadhu there whose only possession was a pillowcase stuffed right full of Marijuana. And he slept with the pillowcase clutched shut, and that was his pillow under his head. I repeat, that pillowcase of weed was his one and only one possession. :rofl:

Not even one pair of gotch.

So this gives me confidence that India knows how to slow their lives down, as examples are seen of this in the Sadhu culture.
No_Mind wrote:
Wed Jan 10, 2018 11:22 am
I believe much of the angst in West in recent decades is due to lack of faith in any body of beliefs .. it may be capitalism or nazism or scientology as long as one has faith in a set of beliefs it provides a home for the mind .. faith in something anchors us.
Well, I've managed to develop faith in my Kammatana, and man has that ever made a difference. It was extremely hard to do. Again, not something that easy for Westerners to appreciate, generally speaking, as there are typically many, many other forms of instant gratification available to them.
Subharo Bhikkhu
"There is but one taste on this path, the taste of freedom" -The Buddha :buddha1:

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