"Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom

"Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby meindzai » Fri Mar 04, 2011 3:50 pm

I hope I can get out the thought that's bouncing in my head without sounding too strange or overly stereotypical or ignorant. I apologize for the latter two. (The first I can't help).

I can speak only for my experience, as an American and a person whose knowledge of Buddhist America comes from message boards (tah dah) and some amount of retreat practice, but really message boards.

It seems that Lay people, espeically theravada lay people, are still trying to figure out exactly what being a lay practitioner entails. I am going to try to make this clearer by some examples of how I see lay practitioners here vs. my understanding of lay practitioners in an imaginary example that we will call Thailand :tongue: I'm thinking mostly theravada. I am not qualifying these characteristics as good or bad.

Non-Buddhist Country Laypeople
--------------------------------------

Not raised Buddhist
large amounts of Judeo Christian Baggage
"Book" Buddhists
not much access to monasteries, monks
not typically superstitious, not devotional, suspicious of "religion"
slow, hesitant, or unwilling to accept the notion of rebirth
intellectual Buddhism - highly questioning
very literal and technical reading of suttas
influenced by multiple schools of Buddhism and often new age notions- picking and choosing
entry point into Buddhism is usually meditation
somewhat frantic pursuit of meditation and attainment goals

Goal: full enlightenment or bust
Common questions: Should I ordain or not? Should I be celibate? Should I stop eating candy/listening to music/going out to clubs/watching TV/eating meat? Is getting married going to totally screw up my practice even if I do not plan on ordaining anyway? (pseudo monasticism)

Buddhist Country Laypeople
---------------------------------
Buddhist upbringing taken for granted
More "merit" based understanding - good kamma bad kamma
Access to monasteries and monks a given
more prone to ritualistic ideas in Buddhism
notion of rebirth not a big deal
Single School of Buddhism based on region
More relaxed attitude towards practice
meditation not a given

goal: Better rebirth? Awakening at some point.


I guess I've been thinking about this since I got married. It may appear I've typified the second group as lax, and in some cases this may be true, but I also have met some of these imaginary people and I have always appreciated their more down to earth and fairly healthy attitude. The reason I say we can learn from this is that I see a lot of Theravada laypeople just beating themselves up over practice and going to a lot of extremes, which I'm not sure is helpful.

Of course, our intense curiosity to find out just what the Buddha is getting at (our literal and questioning attitude) is probably a good thing, yet at the same time it can lead to a lot of frantic questioning and overly technical discussions. (Which I am super guilty of).

It's possible also that I am talking about Americans and that other countries are not having the same complications. The American attitude of "Consume/master/conquer" shows up in our Buddhist practice pretty quickly.

Hope I didn't come off sounding too like a fool, but I'm interested in any comments.

-M
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby ajahndoe » Fri Mar 04, 2011 4:50 pm

These lists can be true in many cases. Several of the ones from the "non-Buddhist country" list had applied to me in the past.
Thank you for taking the time and effort to think about these things. It is beneficial to contemplate!
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Mar 04, 2011 5:46 pm

Interesting. There are some stereotypes but that is okay, sociologists do it too, as long as we recognize that we are speaking in general terms, not in all cases.

It raises some similar points made in this thread: viewtopic.php?f=22&t=7510

I think what you are getting at is that the two groups can learn from each other and share in the successes and positive points in both versions.

For example, the birth-certificate Buddhists could learn from the zeal of the convert Buddhists on things like meditation, 4 noble truths, study, etc.

And the covert Buddhist could learn from the birth-certificate Buddhists the importance of creating a sense of community, even some social functions. The social functions, while not directly leading to the goal can provide a skillful means to keep the community together and then for further practice.
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby Lazy_eye » Fri Mar 04, 2011 8:08 pm

I'm grateful for your post, Meindzai, as this is really one of the core questions for me. I started out pretty clearly in the first mode but have found myself gravitating towards the second (minus the in-country birth and upbringing part, which obviously I can't do much about).

The main reason is that it just seems more feasible for a person with worldy involvements to focus on merit. There are just too many things that I deal with that don't mesh particularly well with the path of purification, and I was experiencing a great deal of cognitive dissonance as a result. If I say that my goal is to eliminate desire, then I end up feeling like a hypocrite. Romantic evening with wife? Oops, here we go with the lobha. Should I pretend not to enjoy it? That's not very sweet to the missus, and it's a strain. Or my kid comes to me with her preschool painting and, wow, she's my daughter and so cute. Ooops. Got some serious attachment happening there. Bad Buddhist. Ya know?

I'm always very interested to hear the experiences of serious lay practitioners who have managed to work around such conflicts, but until I can find my way through them, merit is probably the best goal for me. Anyway, just trying to crank my sila up a notch or two is a lifetime of work in itself.

When i first started reading up on Buddhism and checking around to see what kinds of communities were available in my area (DC), I saw pretty quickly the split which you mention. There was dharma as presented to Westerners -- intellectual, somewhat removed from any particular cultural context, and focused on meditation. But I knew already that there had to be more to the story. Because years ago I lived in Asia and visited temples there, and saw that most people were practicing a devotional kind of religion...lighting incense, making prostrations, praying to Kwan Yin, and so on. The disparity really fascinated me.
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 04, 2011 8:12 pm

Hi David,

David N. Snyder wrote:And the covert Buddhist could learn from the birth-certificate Buddhists the importance of creating a sense of community, even some social functions. The social functions, while not directly leading to the goal can provide a skillful means to keep the community together and then for further practice.

Certainly!

Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, "This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie."

"Don't say that, Ananda. Don't say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Now, some might argue that the Buddha wasn't talking about "social functions", but about more "serious" aspects of Kalyanamittata (admirable friendship). But those are, of course, inseparable... :hug:

:anjali:
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby Viscid » Fri Mar 04, 2011 8:33 pm

David N. Snyder wrote:And the covert Buddhist could learn from the birth-certificate Buddhists the importance of creating a sense of community, even some social functions. The social functions, while not directly leading to the goal can provide a skillful means to keep the community together and then for further practice.


I can imagine it being a challenge for Western Buddhist organizations to participate socially in a culture which finds their tradition to be alien to their own. Western Buddhists also have the perception that their practice is personal and private, and are therefore reluctant to overtly express their Buddhist identification.

For Western Buddhists to feel as if they have social functions and develop responsibilities, attitudes need to change. The general population needs to be more educated and familiar with Buddhism, and Buddhists need to develop the desire to become socially involved.
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby Goofaholix » Fri Mar 04, 2011 8:35 pm

They are true enough a stereotypes go, but stereotypes always have exceptions, people just make the most of the cards they've been dealt.

For myself though family responsibilities do make it hard to get the most out of dhamma practise I wouldn't see changing my mode of practise to that of the second group an option, the affect of training my mind through intensive meditation practise is essential for me, I have no interest in accumulating merit other than to the extent that it helps train my mind.

Also beware of drawing stereotypes from the internet. My city is quite a small city but I'd estimate there are hundreds of people regularly practising insight meditation whether part of a traditional Buddhist group or not. Extending that to Mahayana practitioners hundreds more, extending to traditional Theravadin Buddhists thousands more. Yet it's very rare for me to encounter somebody from my city on a Buddhist discussion board, or on any of the retreats I've attended overseas for that matter.
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby mikenz66 » Fri Mar 04, 2011 8:51 pm

Good point about stereotypes,

The kind (mostly rather old) Thai women who feed me (and the monks) when I am on retreat do also do brief meditation retreats (every Uposatha day during the rains retreat). It's not necessarily an either-or thing.

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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby Elkstone » Fri Mar 04, 2011 10:34 pm

This topic interests me a lot as it reflects my current experiences. For a number of years I have been slowly gathering an interest in Zen Buddhism styles. My initial interest stemmed from the art and design of Japan and as I read more about the philosophies involved I found them to be a mix of interesting revelations about life and a way of living as well as keying into some of my own thoughts that I already possessed about things. I haven't taken any monastical or strict devotional path yet rather I am slowly discovering my own meandering pathway and quite like the notion that it is important for people to find their own way to enlightenment and that to barrel down a seemingly certain path doesn't necessarily get you there.

So that makes me one of those Western types, bookish and well-versed on a number of different writings.

I am also recently married and my husband is of the latter type, he is Chinese Malay and was born and raised following the Kwan-Yin practices. In trying to understand his way of doing things I am often frustrated as I ask him about certain things he does in his practice and he has no clue as to why he does it. If I do get an explanation it is very vague and not based on any readings I know of. Rather he does things because that's what he was told to do and will be unshakeable in those practices. He is very superstitious and will follow whatever his mother tells him to which she in turn it seems to just acquire from the local temple where signs are erected to inform the lay-followers what they should be doing for certain days or the year ahead. Chinese New Year brought a small tiger charm suddenly being wedged into my purse that "I must carry around with me at all times". I am rather cynical and am already growing to resent this little tiger token as a superstitious money-raising enterprise dreamt up by those who run the temple. I am not much of a fan of his temple where I get pushed in front of one statue after the other waving joss sticks. For my own individual practice I found much more value in the Japanese Temples sitting by the pond and watching dragonflies scoot over its surface and being able to reflect on the patterns and cycles of nature and how I can gain strength from that understanding.

I guess the challenge in the future for us will be how we in turn will raise our children...
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby zavk » Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:00 pm

Hey meindzai :goodpost:

I think what you've posted is very helpful. It indicates:

1.) that 'we' shouldn't take out own circumstances for granted, as a given or as self-evident. Insofar as we are committed to 'go against the grain', self-reflexivity towards the most obvious and 'common sensical' aspects of our social environment is important, I reckon.

2.) that both sides have much to share and learn from one another.
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Mar 04, 2011 11:37 pm

This topic: http://www.dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=22&t=7510 has quite a lot to say about the current one. I know zavk is aware of both, but I thought I should mention the connection for those that hadn't seen the other thread.
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby chownah » Sat Mar 05, 2011 1:27 am

mikenz66 wrote:Hi David,

David N. Snyder wrote:And the covert Buddhist could learn from the birth-certificate Buddhists the importance of creating a sense of community, even some social functions. The social functions, while not directly leading to the goal can provide a skillful means to keep the community together and then for further practice.

Certainly!

Ven. Ananda said to the Blessed One, "This is half of the holy life, lord: admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie."

"Don't say that, Ananda. Don't say that. Admirable friendship, admirable companionship, admirable camaraderie is actually the whole of the holy life. When a monk has admirable people as friends, companions, & comrades, he can be expected to develop & pursue the noble eightfold path.

http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html

Now, some might argue that the Buddha wasn't talking about "social functions", but about more "serious" aspects of Kalyanamittata (admirable friendship). But those are, of course, inseparable... :hug:

:anjali:
Mike

Maybe it would be good to view Thai village social things keeping the "admirable friendship" idea in mind.....from my experieince alcoholism is wide spread....people are drinking (and to at least mild excess if not major excess) at all functions including funerary gatherings which last for ususally three days....marital infidelity is widespread....the wise person guards against theft which is common....animals are treated poorly (not always..... but often)...mostly no attempt at learning anything about what the Buddha taught .......so..........is this the model of lay practicioners and "admirable friendship" that western Buddhists should be impressed with?
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby pilgrim » Sat Mar 05, 2011 2:09 am

I think the stereotypes are generally correct. I live in an Asian but non-Buddhist country. I started off in the 2nd mode and think that I'm now leaning 20% towards the 1st mode.
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Mar 05, 2011 5:39 am

Chownah wrote something very like this:
Maybe it would be good to view Carolina village social things keeping the "Christian community" idea in mind.....from my experieince alcoholism is wide spread....people are drinking (and to at least mild excess if not major excess) at all functions including funerary gatherings which last for ususally three days....marital infidelity is widespread....the wise person guards against theft which is common....animals are treated poorly (not always..... but often)...mostly no attempt at learning anything about what the Christ taught .......so..........is this the model of lay practicioners and "Christian community" that eastern Christians should be impressed with?
Chownah [did not, of course, write this. Please be careful attributing what is said to whom. Mod edit]

My point, of course, is that a particular religious tradition is not enough by itself.
Most people - everywhere - need leadership, role models and encouragement if they are to give more than lip-service to the religious ideals they were brought up with.
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby mikenz66 » Sat Mar 05, 2011 5:47 am

Hi Chownah,
chownah wrote:Maybe it would be good to view Thai village social things keeping the "admirable friendship" idea in mind.....from my experieince alcoholism is wide spread....people are drinking (and to at least mild excess if not major excess) at all functions including funerary gatherings which last for ususally three days....marital infidelity is widespread....the wise person guards against theft which is common....animals are treated poorly (not always..... but often)...mostly no attempt at learning anything about what the Buddha taught .......so..........is this the model of lay practicioners and "admirable friendship" that western Buddhists should be impressed with?
chownah

Yes, Thai villages can be very odd, and I've certainly observed that in Thailand. Up near Nong Kai in 2007 one of the men in the extended family we were staying with would say "Lets go sightseeing" (or something like that), and we'd ride around on his motorbike for about 5 minutes and then stop for a drink with his friends...

One of the photos on this blog is from one of those trips...
http://www.thai-blogs.com/2007/05/05/ma ... -thailand/
(no, not the one with the monks in it...).

So I'm not unaware that there are serious problems in many parts of Thai society.

That doesn't mean that there aren't good things as well, as I explained in my post. Though that experience is at a Wat here in New Zealand I spent enough time in our "home" Wat in Bangkok to see similar things.

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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby zavk » Sun Mar 06, 2011 5:03 am

It is entirely possible to distinguish between (1.) the cultural values of a society, and (2.) the behaviour of the people caused by social circumstances which may contravene those values. In this instance, what some of us are pointing to is (1.). The useful things we could learn from traditional Asian Buddhist cultures are the values of communality, hospitality, and so forth.

As for (2.), things like alcoholism, adultery, and other kinds of questionable behaviour--well, I don't think it is unreasonable to say that these could be prompted by the living conditions of those places. It is very easy for those of us who have the privilege of coming online to chat about things--i.e. those of us living under very different conditions--to attribute their behaviour to moral or intellectual deficiency. This is not to say that some of the behaviour are not morally wrong but that they have to be situated within their context. The fact is that they are living under much more difficult conditions than those of us in developed, late-capitalist societies.

To overlook their circumstances and attribute those behaviour to 'individual or cultural failings' is at best to risk slipping into a kind of patronising attitude/arrogance/smugness, and at worse to risk slipping into all sorts of 'isms', racism, sexism, nationalism, etc. All these attitudes contravene the principles of karuna, metta, mudita, and uppekha orientating the path.
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby chownah » Sun Mar 06, 2011 12:47 pm

zavk wrote:It is entirely possible to distinguish between (1.) the cultural values of a society, and (2.) the behaviour of the people caused by social circumstances which may contravene those values. In this instance, what some of us are pointing to is (1.). The useful things we could learn from traditional Asian Buddhist cultures are the values of communality, hospitality, and so forth.

As for (2.), things like alcoholism, adultery, and other kinds of questionable behaviour--well, I don't think it is unreasonable to say that these could be prompted by the living conditions of those places. It is very easy for those of us who have the privilege of coming online to chat about things--i.e. those of us living under very different conditions--to attribute their behaviour to moral or intellectual deficiency. This is not to say that some of the behaviour are not morally wrong but that they have to be situated within their context. The fact is that they are living under much more difficult conditions than those of us in developed, late-capitalist societies.

To overlook their circumstances and attribute those behaviour to 'individual or cultural failings' is at best to risk slipping into a kind of patronising attitude/arrogance/smugness, and at worse to risk slipping into all sorts of 'isms', racism, sexism, nationalism, etc. All these attitudes contravene the principles of karuna, metta, mudita, and uppekha orientating the path.

zavk,
To specifically consider Thailand (as is suggested in the original post) I think that it is probably incorrect to think that in Thailand people live "under much more difficult conditions". The people in my village by and large do not have alot of physical things. In their homes for instance it is not uncommon for their to be almost no furniture in the "living room"...usually a TV, a few floor mats, some cushions, and perhaps a small low table...meals are usually served on mats on the floor with people sitting on the mat around the food...if you walk into some homes here you might think the house is abandoned!!! But this does not (in my view) mean that conditions here are much more difficult than in more developed countries. Most of the people here are not tied to their jobs and take time off whenever they want since most of them have a house with no payments to make on it and a small plot of rice which provides their basic staple....other foods are grown in small plots or can be bought very cheaply because so many people are raising small plots and additionally there is naturally alot of food that can be gathered hither and yon by anyone with some time to spend...so...if you decide to not work for awhile you don't have to pay rent, you've probably got a stockpile of rice from your harvest, and you have time to walk around add collect the foods that nature offers which include an abundance of vegetables and greens most of which a westerner has never seen and also fish, crabs, snails, snakes, rats, roots of various kinds and fruits. If you are sick there is gov't subsidised medical care at very low cost....a hail storm struck our village a couple of years ago and broke some roof tiles on most of the houses in the village and within 24 hours the local gov't had distributed free tiles to replace half of the amount which you claim were broken(free...and within 24 hours!!!...I couldn't believe it!!!) and everyone pretty much didn't go to work that day and instead everyone helped each other repair roofs....
All in all I would say that a good case could be made that the wage slaves who flip the burgers and wash the dishes in developed countries live "under much more difficult conditions" than the people in my village.

On the other hand I think that one can describe the vises prevelant here without having any kind of patronising attitude/arrogance/smugness, the people here simply are how they are...let the one that who has never indulged in any vice cast the first stone....certainly it is not me....but....didn't the Buddha say that to evaluate whether some practice is a good one we should look at those who practice it and see if their practice has created detachment etc. etc....? IF this is what the Buddha taught then for me it seems that the Buddhist practices prevelant here are not the ones for me to follow since they seem to lead to attachment and aversion...
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby Kim OHara » Sun Mar 06, 2011 9:44 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:Chownah wrote something very like this:
Maybe it would be good to view Carolina village social things keeping the "Christian community" idea in mind. ...is this the model... that eastern Christians should be impressed with?
Chownah [did not, of course, write this. Please be careful attributing what is said to whom. Mod edit]

...

Sorry, Chownah! I didn't mean to leave your name at the end of the twisted quote.
I'll try to be more careful in future.
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby zavk » Sun Mar 06, 2011 10:30 pm

Hi Chownah

Yes, you're right, Thailand should definitely NOT be painted in one brushstroke as a 'poor country. It's been several years since I last visited the region, but there is definitely a range of different socio-economic demographics in the country, from very rural villages to the kinds you described to huge urban centres. As for Bangkok.... I'd say that on any given day it would make Melbourne (the second largest city in Australia) seem pretty 'dead'!

To qualify what I was saying: it seems to me then that in rural areas like the ones you're in or even the poorer ones, the lives of the people are not oriented by the kind of economic model of progress that governs the cities and indeed the advanced capitalist global societies which (I assume) most of us hail from. This means then that the lifestyles of these people cannot be unambiguously evaluated on the same terms of 'productivity/efficiency' that we are accustomed to.

YET, it could also be argued that the situation in these rural areas are the 'shadow' effects of the economic impulse of the city centres and globalisation more generally. So there's a certain tension here which makes it difficult to say that these people are living a 'complacent' or 'unproductive' lifestyle, just as it is difficult to say that the people living in the margins of developed societies ought to get a 'real job'.

This was more or less what I was trying to get at: that we ought to be mindful of the frames of reference we use to view other lifeworlds, because while 'frames' help us to see things better, to view something through a framework is inevitably to bracket something out.

However, you're absolutely right. Regardless of circumstances, individuals everywhere are susceptible to indulging in vices. In the case of the village you're in, it certainly appears that people are indulging in various vices. But there's nothing particularly Buddhist about these habits, even if these people have a certain collective Buddhist identity.

I'm confident that anyone looking to understand or learn 'Asian Buddhist values' would be able to sift through these behaviours and not mistake those contravening sila as 'what the Buddha taught'--well, at the very least I'm sure those who have the ability to read and study Buddhism independently would be able to tell them apart from the admirable aspects of traditional Buddhist societies.

:anjali:
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby Freawaru » Mon Mar 07, 2011 9:54 am

meindzai wrote:I

Non-Buddhist Country Laypeople
--------------------------------------

Not raised Buddhist
large amounts of Judeo Christian Baggage
"Book" Buddhists
not much access to monasteries, monks
not typically superstitious, not devotional, suspicious of "religion"
slow, hesitant, or unwilling to accept the notion of rebirth
intellectual Buddhism - highly questioning
very literal and technical reading of suttas
influenced by multiple schools of Buddhism and often new age notions- picking and choosing
entry point into Buddhism is usually meditation
somewhat frantic pursuit of meditation and attainment goals

Goal: full enlightenment or bust
Common questions: Should I ordain or not? Should I be celibate? Should I stop eating candy/listening to music/going out to clubs/watching TV/eating meat? Is getting married going to totally screw up my practice even if I do not plan on ordaining anyway? (pseudo monasticism)

Buddhist Country Laypeople
---------------------------------
Buddhist upbringing taken for granted
More "merit" based understanding - good kamma bad kamma
Access to monasteries and monks a given
more prone to ritualistic ideas in Buddhism
notion of rebirth not a big deal
Single School of Buddhism based on region
More relaxed attitude towards practice
meditation not a given

goal: Better rebirth? Awakening at some point.

-M


Hi meindzai,

I can only speak for myself. From my personal point of view the merit-making, ritualistic kind of Buddhism is not interesting. The reason is that I think this kind of religious practice as interchangeable. Each religion has it's own "holy days" and specific rituals and ways to make merit - but I consider them to be no different in essence. I don't think rituals as superfluous in general but they can be changed without changing the meaning. For example: each culture has developed it's own ritual of greeting someone. Wether bowing or shaking hands or rubbing noses or kissing each others cheeks or saying hello - the meaning is always the same: greeting each other.

Merit making and rituals can be found in every religion. I don't see the Buddist (or even more precisely the Theravadan way) as anything better than the rest. If I felt a desire for religious rituals and merit making I would probably choose the Catholic for rituals and devotion and the Lutheran for merit making for they already excel in that and are part of the culture I live in.

The reason I am interested in Buddism and especially Theravada is meditation and meditation alone. This cannot be found in Christianity nowadays even though the scriptures of Christian mystics and desert fathers suggest that this has not always been the case. But Christian scripture is less technical and more flowery than Buddhist one and I am no poet. The Christian scriptures are more difficult to understand from my point of view because of this.

I do not think it necessary to change one's lifestyle in general for meditation. One can watch TV and have sex and all that and still practice both samatha and vipassana. Thus - for me - all those changes of lifestyle and rituals are irrelevant. If someone wants to bow as greeting it is okay and if someone else wants to say hello it is okay, too. If someone wants to live celibate it is okay and if someone else does not it is okay, too. IMO, it makes no difference to the practice of vipassana because one can learn to observe the mind during a state of sexual arousal or watching TV (or whatever) just as well as during every other state.

I don't mind others lighting candles and doing prostrations and elaborate rituals if they want to. But, myself, I want to stay out of it as much as possible - not because of the rituals themselves but because I think most people give religious rituals a meaning and importance that is not there.

I guess I am an example of your first kind of practitioners and that is fine with me. :popcorn:
Freawaru
 
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