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

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

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

Postby Annapurna » Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:47 pm

meindzai wrote: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


Perhaps this IS an American experience, becaseu so little is true for me


Green: True

Red not true

Orange: partially true

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)


I'm seing all this very relaxed.

European...?
http://www.schmuckzauberei.blogspot.com/
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Re: "Buddhist country" Lay practice as a model for the rest?

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:54 pm

Clearly differentiating between Asian vs Western cultures is not straightforward as it might seem at first look. I would propose that we differentiate between what the Buddha would call a 'aryan' (noble) and putajjana (uninstructed) community. Then it doesn't matter which country you live in, the turning of the Wheel of dhamma and Wheel of samsara becomes evident.

with metta

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

Postby Annapurna » Mon Mar 07, 2011 1:03 pm

Lazy_eye wrote: 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.


Hi, Lazyeye,

It's interesting to hear what considerations are at times going through your mind.

I don't think I could function, if I lived so much through my "head" , instead of spontaneous impulses from the heart/mind .

Perhaps it is because I spend most of my day working, and most of it as an artist.

I NEED to follow spontaneous insights, and so- that's what I do.

I don't even have the time to stop and reflect,-I just do.

It doesn't lead to an increase of desire-it doesn't make me squash insects.

That is a structure within...

I'm not sure if my entry is useful, but it seems so useless to me to worry about all this.

Just be, just do good, just learn a bit more each day, and if that's not possible, every other day, week, month.

Work. That should surely be enough.

In short:

Don't overthink, don't overanalyse.

Hope I'm not misunderstanding you or putting your experience down.

You just asked you wonder how people get around such conflicts.

I don't. They arise, they come and go. Normal. Acceptance of what is. No worries, no avoiding.

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

Postby rowyourboat » Mon Mar 07, 2011 3:12 pm

Hi Lazyeye

Start with keeping the precepts and meditating. Don't go too much into removing defilements that are too hard to remove right now. Then work on hindrances- ie defilements that arise when meditating. Then work on developing samadhi (concentration) to a deep level. After that, work on vipassana and seeing insights into the true nature of phenomena. Than become a stream entrant. Then start working on your cravings :)

with metta

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

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:14 pm

Anna, Matheesha, thanks for your observations -- they are very helpful. Overanalysis is a hard habit to break. And it's a common "beginner's problem" to be obsessing about the finish line before you are even out of the starting gate.

:anjali:
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