Why so few Western Buddhists?

A discussion on all aspects of Theravāda Buddhism
User avatar
No_Mind
Posts: 1911
Joined: Fri May 23, 2014 4:12 pm
Location: India

Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by No_Mind » Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:32 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:17 pm
No_Mind wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 1:17 pm
Why is there this expectation that in countries where Dhammic religions are pre-dominant .. the populace will also be Dhammic, possess equanimity and always act with profound wisdom (India, Sri Lanka, Thailand are I believe the only three which fit this description of nations with Dhammic religion)
Because Asian supremacism runs deep, sometimes so deep one isn't even aware of it.

(Asian (Buddhist) supremacism being the conviction that only Asian Buddhists know how to properly do Buddhism.)
Where have you come across this supremacism? In monasteries?

First of all if this supremacism exists it is due to cultural gap. It is a sterotype .. like Asian wise man stereotype in Hollywood (Mr Miyagi)

Secondly you have to understand that during colonisation the worst that West had to offer came to Middle East, South Asia and Japan during 17th to 19th century. That memory has not changed with coming of cable television .. most average Asians think of West in terms of Sex and the City and Desperate Housewives .. you cannot really blame them for not having read Derek Parfit.

This impression is not helped by hundreds of thousands of backpackers who make their way through various Asian countries on shoe string budget .. dirty, unkempt and very thin (which Asians tend to associate with drug addiction).

The average Asian does not meet the western business traveller in $500 shoes who stay in five star hotels .. complete their business dealings and move out ..

Asians mostly find westerners looking for cheap prostitutes from Goa to Phuket. If only you met the average western tourist in Bangkok .. you would understand. I suggest you take a 5 day trip to Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya .. avoid monasteries and concentrate on tourist spots .. observe fellow westerners and then form an opinion. There is a reason for supposed Asian supremacism.

If only we met more middle class neat, clean and intelligent westerners like David, Retro, Mike and Sam would the impression change.

Educated Asians do not suffer from Asian supremacism.

Stop sending thousands of tourists who look like this if you want Asian supremacism to die down. I am educated and I understand they may be very well read though they look scruffy .. general population does not understand that

images displaying poorly dressed and scruffy looking backpackers removed

:namaste:
Last edited by No_Mind on Sat Jan 13, 2018 6:18 am, edited 4 times in total.
I know one thing: that I know nothing

James Tan
Posts: 1072
Joined: Sun Jun 04, 2017 1:26 pm

Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by James Tan » Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:46 pm

Subharo wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:07 am
:focus:
No_Mind, I found a great gentlemanly debate between two imminent Westerner thinkers (whom I would call spiritual men worthy of respect). Buddhism gets mentioned several times.



Please note how even though they seriously challenged each other's core assumptions and beliefs a whole bunch of times, observe how they utterly kept their cool at all times, and found many points to agree over. :thumbsup: Near the end of the discussion, they even complimented each other's strengths. Imagine!

I was so impressed with Sam Harris and Jordan Peterson. Where are the Senior monks in Buddhism who are capable of having such discussions as this, not merely gladhanding each other, but **openly challenging** each other on their views, and neither party gets into a conniption fit over "disrespectful behavior" (as a weak-minded, cheap tactic to save face)?

I think the West is going to frankly require open, transparent discussions such as this, over virtually all the long-standing controversies and sticking points (that most monks are too cowardly to make a peep about) if the West is ever going to actually fall in love with Buddhism (which will never be a blind act of faith like you hope it somehow will), to a much broader demographic degree like you are hoping in your OP. And furthermore, this hyper-sensitivity, where face-saving is pretty much valued above all, is frankly a very serious fetter to Buddhism spreading in the West.

So this iron-clad "resect for elders" you speak of, can be a good thing (and please don't get me wrong), but can you see how when it grows too large, then this whole overblown "saving face" game destroys the possibility of constructive and meaningful gentlemanly debate, such as I have pointed at here, which holds Buddhism back in the West?
How many people actually are Master of the Dhamma ?
How many people actually can Master the Dhamma ?
However , perhaps Scholars you can find many .

binocular
Posts: 5638
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by binocular » Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:52 pm

No_Mind wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:32 pm
Where have you come across this supremacism? In monasteries?
Primarily in Buddhist books and from Western monks who insist that Buddhist things be done the Asian way.

Not so often from Asians (but then again, I don't get to talk to many Asians). There are examples, though. Such as just recently, an Asian poster here expressed himself disparagingly about following the suttas, and that he, instead, supposedly does it right and follows advanced Buddhist teachers.
Secondly you have to understand that during colonisation the worst that West had to offer came to Middle East, South Asia and Japan during 17th to 19th century. That memory has not changed with coming of cable television .. most average Asians think of West in terms of Sex and the City .. you cannot really blame them for not having read Derek Parfit.

This impression is not helped by hundreds of thousands of backpackers who make their way through various Asian countries on shoe string budget .. dirty unkempt and very thin (which Asians tend to associate with drug addiction)

The average Asian does not meet the business traveller in $500 shoes .. they find Westerners looking for cheap child prostitutes from Goa to Phuket
There's that. And there seems to be pure Asian racism where they'll write off a person simply because the person is white.

But more than that, I find it difficult to conceive of a Buddhism that is somehow separate from Asian cultures. I tend to think that Asians own the copyright to the Dhamma, so to speak. On the one hand, it seems silly to think so (and it makes Buddhism seem like just another tribal religion), but on the other hand, I don't know how to conceive of Buddhism as a supra-national, supra-racial religion (I can do it with Catholicism, though).


If only we met more neat, clean and intelligent westerners like David, Retro, Mike and Sam would the impression change
Are you sure? From what I've heard, Hindu supremacism is all about disliking anyone who was born outside of Bharatavarsha and is of the wrong color.
:woohoo:
No_Mind wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:32 pm
Stop sending thousands of tourists who look like this if you want Asian supremacism to die down. I am educated and I understand they may be very well read though they look scruffy .. general population does not understand that.
Who is sending those tourists ...

Anyway, I have no desire to travel to any Asian country.
send us more who look like this and Asian supremacism will die down
I don't see much difference.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

binocular
Posts: 5638
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by binocular » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:10 pm

Subharo wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 2:11 pm
I, for one, would prefer to be part of an assembly trained in cross-questioning, not in the bombast. What do you think? Which kind of assembly would be more inspiring to laypeople (in a longer-term sense)?
It's not clear that this is a matter of choice to begin with.

Which assembly would be more inspiring to lay people? Hard to say. Depends on the individual layperson, or on the group of laypersons (if it's a group with a lot of internal cohesion).
This quotation doesn't say that you should necessarily debate, but it does set a precedent that all monks, even well-meaning arahants, after the Buddha's death, should have their claims and beliefs and customs and rituals and what-have-you compared back to the original teachings of the Buddha, in a rigorous manner, like I'm advocating here.
Except that it's not clear what the "original teachings of the Buddha" are. In fact, this is one of the controversial topics!
There are yet more Suttas I could dig up where the Buddha explains how one monk should carefully confront another to correct some wrong view (and it is a duty to do so), but I can't remember quite where they are at the moment. There are at least a few more like this sprinkled around the Suttas. There are also tons of suttas where the Buddha debates (or perhaps you might say, "cross-examines") with one of his own disciples when there's an audience listening, sometimes a very big one. And sometimes disciples discuss with other disciples when there's an audience present.

Except that it is the Buddha himself who does that, which I think is categorically different from anything anyone else can do. It's not clear that the situations described in the suttas can be meaningfully compared to present times when the Buddha isn't actually here anymore to take part in discussions.
There are huge numbers of suttas which do not follow the stock scenario of one monk giving a highly formalized one-way Dhamma talk to an audience of monks or laypeople.
Sure, but I think you're downplaying the role of the layperson in their own spiritual life. Someone eager to make progress (or at least to get clarity on some important matter) will act proactively, will seek out a monk and request a discussion with him.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

User avatar
No_Mind
Posts: 1911
Joined: Fri May 23, 2014 4:12 pm
Location: India

Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by No_Mind » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:18 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:52 pm
If only we met more neat, clean and intelligent westerners like David, Retro, Mike and Sam would the impression change
Are you sure? From what I've heard, Hindu supremacism is all about disliking anyone who was born outside of Bharatavarsha and is of the wrong color.
Let us not go off topic but there is nothing called Hindu supremacism aside from people who want to put Muslims in their place after Godhra train burning incident in 2002 and repeated terrorist attacks backed by Pakistan.

Hindus love westerners .. absolutely love them .. but we wish some backpackers would not wear strange clothes.


:namaste:
I know one thing: that I know nothing

User avatar
Subharo
Posts: 164
Joined: Thu Sep 10, 2015 8:22 pm

Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Subharo » Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:29 pm

James Tan wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 4:46 pm
How many people actually are Master of the Dhamma ?
How many people actually can Master the Dhamma ?
binocular wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:10 pm

Except that it's not clear what the "original teachings of the Buddha" are. In fact, this is one of the controversial topics!
...
Except that it is the Buddha himself who does that, which I think is categorically different from anything anyone else can do. It's not clear that the situations described in the suttas can be meaningfully compared to present times when the Buddha isn't actually here anymore to take part in discussions.
James Tan and binocular, I think you are suffering from the logical fallacy called "black-or-white".

James Tan seems to imply that only an arahat deserves to speak on the Dhamma in a way that can be trusted, not any monk with an attainment level lower than that (or no attainment level at all).

Binocular seems to imply that since we can't know 100% what the Buddha actually said (or would say, if he were still alive today), then what's the point of investigating it whatsoever (in a rigorous, debate-like manner)?
Subharo Bhikkhu
"There is but one taste on this path, the taste of freedom" -The Buddha :buddha1:

binocular
Posts: 5638
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by binocular » Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:44 pm

Subharo wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:29 pm
Binocular seems to imply that since we can't know 100% what the Buddha actually said (or would say, if he were still alive today), then what's the point of investigating it whatsoever (in a rigorous, debate-like manner)?
No, that is not a correct interpretation of what I mean.

I'm saying that since the arbiter of the Dhamma (ie. the Buddha) isn't here with us, that changes the terms of engagement when we try to discuss the Dhamma.

Of course I believe in investigation and discussion (just look at the number and content of my posts, for example). But it's not clear whether that way, one can arrive at the kind of certainty which would give one the justified confidence to rightfully denounce other people (or even kill them, as has been the case in several other religions -- people killing eachother because they were so sure they correctly understood a religious claim and the others didn't).


You used the word "debate". Just to clarify: Is your intention to convey that talking about the Dhamma should be a kind of competition, with a winner and a loser?
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

User avatar
Sam Vara
Posts: 4604
Joined: Sun Jun 05, 2011 5:42 pm
Location: Sussex, U.K.

Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Sam Vara » Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:02 pm

binocular wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:44 pm

I'm saying that since the arbiter of the Dhamma (ie. the Buddha) isn't here with us, that changes the terms of engagement when we try to discuss the Dhamma.

Of course I believe in investigation and discussion (just look at the number and content of my posts, for example). But it's not clear whether that way, one can arrive at the kind of certainty which would give one the justified confidence to rightfully denounce other people (or even kill them, as has been the case in several other religions -- people killing eachother because they were so sure they correctly understood a religious claim and the others didn't).
The Buddha did indeed act as an "arbiter", but he also often spoke to encourage reliance in his followers upon their own understanding and reason:
"Monks, be islands unto yourselves,[1] be your own refuge, having no other; let the Dhamma be an island and a refuge to you, having no other. Those who are islands unto themselves... should investigate to the very heart of things:[2] 'What is the source of sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair? How do they arise?'
https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitak ... .wlsh.html

Monks were urged to take refuge in themselves - atta-sarana

One does not need the kind of certainty which gives the confidence to denounce or kill other people (although there is nothing wrong with a bit of honest denunciation at times!). One merely needs the kind of certainty which motivates one to humbly practice. To try it out as the least bad option, maybe, and see if it actually works.

binocular
Posts: 5638
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by binocular » Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:36 pm

Subharo wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:29 pm
James Tan and binocular, I think you are suffering from the logical fallacy called "black-or-white".

James Tan seems to imply that only an arahat deserves to speak on the Dhamma in a way that can be trusted, not any monk with an attainment level lower than that (or no attainment level at all).
Here's the thing: A discussion between us can never be a discussion between equals. Already because as a monk, you simply due to that have an elevated position, and I am aware of that, however confident (or offensive) I may otherwise seem. This affects how I approach any conversation with you in that it effectively makes no difference to me what your actual attainment is. And even if you don't use your elevated position against me, me knowing that you hold such a position is enough for me to assume the position of the defeated one.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

binocular
Posts: 5638
Joined: Sat Jan 17, 2009 11:13 pm

Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by binocular » Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:46 pm

Sam Vara wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:02 pm
Monks were urged to take refuge in themselves - atta-sarana
How about lays?
One merely needs the kind of certainty which motivates one to humbly practice.
This is what I've been getting at. This, however, will possibly severely limit one's verbal interactions with others, to the point that much of what the venerable emphasized earlier about open communication, becomes redundant or at least not a high priority.
Every person we save is one less zombie to fight. -- World War Z

User avatar
Subharo
Posts: 164
Joined: Thu Sep 10, 2015 8:22 pm

Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Subharo » Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:06 pm

I attempted to give hopefully-constructive (albeit uncomfortable-sounding to the status quo), insightful answers to the OP, which is "Why so few Western Buddhists"? Then I backed it up with a phalanx of Suttas, which you pretty much brushed your hand at and yawned.

What I'm getting from you is "Naw, let's not do that". Do you have anything constructive to say in response to the OP yourself, other than to basically drag down the attempts made by others?

Also, please substitute my use of the word "debate" for "gentlemanly discussion". I agree the Buddha taught non-confrontation (but didn't teach doing that to the point where everyone diverges too much in their understandings of the teachings).
Subharo Bhikkhu
"There is but one taste on this path, the taste of freedom" -The Buddha :buddha1:

User avatar
Subharo
Posts: 164
Joined: Thu Sep 10, 2015 8:22 pm

Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Subharo » Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:50 pm

I'd like to add to my list of interesting and relevant (at least I feel are relevant) Suttas, basically all of the AN 4's (which is a lot of Suttas, sorry for that). There are many fiesty suttas there (every bit as fiesty as anything I've ever said on this forum), where the Buddha makes very direct and uncomfortable statements to the effect of trying to maintain the integrity of his teachings.

If you might think that all of the Buddhas teachings are as gentle as a sullen-eyed, bleating lamb, then AN 4's (especially) livens up the Suttas a lot. There are spicy suttas all over the AN, BTW (a whole bunch more in AN 5's), but the 4's seems to have a particularly dense concentration.
Subharo Bhikkhu
"There is but one taste on this path, the taste of freedom" -The Buddha :buddha1:

chownah
Posts: 7596
Joined: Wed Aug 12, 2009 2:19 pm

Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by chownah » Sat Jan 13, 2018 2:54 am

Subharo wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:50 pm
I'd like to add to my list of interesting and relevant (at least I feel are relevant) Suttas, basically all of the AN 4's (which is a lot of Suttas, sorry for that). There are many fiesty suttas there (every bit as fiesty as anything I've ever said on this forum), where the Buddha makes very direct and uncomfortable statements to the effect of trying to maintain the integrity of his teachings.

If you might think that all of the Buddhas teachings are as gentle as a sullen-eyed, bleating lamb, then AN 4's (especially) livens up the Suttas a lot. There are spicy suttas all over the AN, BTW (a whole bunch more in AN 5's), but the 4's seems to have a particularly dense concentration.
Do you delight in presenting these "feisty" suttas? Do you delight in the buddha presenting "uncomfortable statements"?

chownah

Saengnapha
Posts: 1350
Joined: Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:17 am

Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by Saengnapha » Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:23 am

binocular wrote:
Fri Jan 12, 2018 10:36 pm
Here's the thing: A discussion between us can never be a discussion between equals. Already because as a monk, you simply due to that have an elevated position, and I am aware of that, however confident (or offensive) I may otherwise seem. This affects how I approach any conversation with you in that it effectively makes no difference to me what your actual attainment is. And even if you don't use your elevated position against me, me knowing that you hold such a position is enough for me to assume the position of the defeated one.
Surely this assumption by you is a self created reaction that can only lead to a wrong view. Even if the monk was out of his mind, (he probably is :tongue: ), your view of him would be in conflict with Dhamma as an emotional reaction that prevents you from Right View, the first stage of the 8FP. Why assume any position of elevation/inferiority? The orientation needs to be one of reasoning in light of the Dhamma, not our particular preferences or assumptions. This also goes for the monk, I might add.

User avatar
No_Mind
Posts: 1911
Joined: Fri May 23, 2014 4:12 pm
Location: India

Re: Why so few Western Buddhists?

Post by No_Mind » Sat Jan 13, 2018 3:33 am

Now I understand why so few Western Buddhists.

I expected participants to share reasons based on their understanding of why so few.

But it turned to an argument!! Dhamma cannot be argued about. Realising the Dhamma is not an intellectual activity. It has to be understood not by the brain but heart.

Debating too much is unhealthy for the mind.

:namaste:
I know one thing: that I know nothing

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot], JamesTheGiant, Majestic-12 [Bot], Yahoo [Bot] and 90 guests