Kim O'Hara wrote:
Great post, Chloe
Can I just comment on one section?
You said, "So this is my main contention with Buddhism spreading in the West. I think it's a wonderful and beautiful thing, but it's spreading "backwards" into the Occident, with the wrong End first. And I mean no disrespect by this, nor do I mean that one group is a better Buddhist then another. By this I mean that Dhamma in the form of textual writings goes first, the Buddha goes in second, and Sangha can't be found anywhere."
I agree that it has happened the way you say, but I don't think it could have been any other way.
With just a few Westerners interested in the teachings and coming to it later in life instead of growing up with it, there was no possibility of beginning with a religious community. The first few people in each city had to learn it from books and the occasional visiting teacher, then practice alone until they met others to practice with, and then establish community (meditation) centres to begin making a community. It will be a very long time before most Westerners grow up with Buddhism as a normal part of their culture, or even a normal minority choice within their culture. But at least we do have the chance to learn about the dhamma - previous generations of Westerners didn't have that chance.
Afterthought (two minutes later!): Is it really 'backwards'?
It does mean that we are making a conscious choice to follow the dhamma and know what we are committing ourselves to, and that we are likely to seek a reasonably good grasp of the teachings. And isn't that the way the Buddha's own disciples must have approached it?
Thank you Kim
[and everybody else],
You're right, I shouldn't have used the word "backwards." It conveys a very bad meaning and quality. How do I explain how I see things?
I'm using generalizations, but the generalized difference between East and West in regards to Buddhism [as I see it, which is only one of many different perspectives] is where our Minds are attached to or fixated on, and the Cause and Effect results of such fixation of awareness.
By this I mean that - generally speaking - in Khmer Theravada Buddhism on a social laity level we our minds is more fixated on DOING Dhamma. And from that doing via our actions and how we live for one another Ariya Sangha is born.
Sangha [here meaning the Order/Community of laity] is only the visible symptom of a Cause: the cause being an awareness or focus of mind on doing Dhamma or expressing it thru action to the people around us, you see?
Whereas - generally speaking - in the West the Mind is more aware of or fixated on the STUDY of Dhamma. And from this Study of Dhamma, such Minds do develop insightfully and intellectually, but when Mind is fixated on Study and not Doing, the visible symptom of such fixation will not be Sangha, you see?
Backwards was not the right word. But the presents of a "religious community" being first established "somewhere" is not the causal fruit of a study or philosophication or intellectualization of Dhamma. Sangha as in Community - or rather: the Essence, Ethos, Elan of Community - is the causal fruit of living Dhamma and doing dhamma with people around you. And from that Ethos grows Sangha when Dhamma is reciprocated and Flows between people. But It looks like you figured this point out first already