Talking about the Dhamma without talking religion

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Talking about the Dhamma without talking religion

Postby wingsofwax » Mon Aug 20, 2012 7:51 pm

Hi,

I've been interested in Buddhism for many years, and in the last 3, I have more or less accepted it as my true direction. I like to talk about this with people, and this usually yields interesting thoughts.

But I sometimes find that the people around me are much more likely to really listen if I talk about the teachings of Buddha without mentioning Buddhism.

So this is how I talk about Buddhism in a secular way. Really, it is nothing but common sense.

I usually start out by saying that all the problems we perceive to have in our lives are self-created. That what we perceive as problems are really the product of wanting something outside ourselves to make us happy. This leads into a discussion about priorities; why do people do anything? What are the reasons for the actions and directions we take in life? They're all supposed to make us happier. This is an implicit truth - everything we do, we do to eliminate suffering. Problem is, our actions and how we understand happiness is counter-intuitive. Getting a bigger car won't make you happier - it will intoxicate you.

That word leads into a discussion about the difference between happiness and intoxication. What intoxicates us makes us less happy, because intoxication always comes with a high and a low. We get a high when we buy a Ferrari we've always wanted, but that joy disappears quickly, as we realize that it didn't make as much of a difference as we thought it would.

So happiness is defined as a positive feeling that does not have mental highs and lows. So what creates this kind of feeling? All we need is inside ourselves. I usually mention the 3 main concepts that make us unhappy: Wanting, aggression and misunderstanding the mind. People usually understand this immediately - those concepts aren't appealing to most people. I then go into a discussion about what "wanting" means, and why aggression really is a poison of the mind.

I usually end the talk by saying that wanting is the same as not being happy with what you have, right now in this moment. It is a misunderstanding of how our minds work. If we believe that we need something we don't already have, we're on the wrong path. Sometimes I mention the over-used phrase "we have to live in the moment, for the moment."

So this is of course simplified Buddhism, but it's a great way to open people's minds. Those that want it, that is.

Any comment is welcome.
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Re: Talking about the Dhamma without talking religion

Postby Kim OHara » Mon Aug 20, 2012 9:52 pm

It's all good, Wingsofwax, and it's pretty much the way I approach it with people who 'aren't interested in religion' but would be happier if they knew some of this stuff.
Where I would use different words is here:
Getting a bigger car won't make you happier - it will intoxicate you.
That word leads into a discussion about the difference between happiness and intoxication. What intoxicates us makes us less happy, because intoxication always comes with a high and a low.

I don't think 'intoxication' is the right analogy. To me, it's more like the empty calories you get from soft drink, compared to real food which doesn't give you the immediate sugar hit but does give you long-lasting nourishment.

:namaste:
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Re: Talking about the Dhamma without talking religion

Postby Magoo » Tue Aug 21, 2012 4:28 am

Sadhu Sadhu!

I agree with both these sentiments entirely. I myself was agnostic until I found Buddhism, as the path to the end of my discontent with things. Before I heard some Dhamma talks and started reading about Buddhism, my ignorance had me believe it was another religion based on a belief in some type of creator, god and/or demons etc.

How wrong I was and more than anything this ignorance I possessed and my sudden undertsanding of how wrong my views can be, has led me to be completely open up about things now and let go of my views and opinions. Already this has given me a great sense of freedom.

Once this awareness and understanding sets in, it is hard not to want your frineds to realise also, as the Buddhist approach provides help to all human beings, as we are all full of greed, hatred and delusion. But it is sometimes hard to turn friends away from the Religious concept they have of Buddhism, like I also had. But like the Buddha did, the best we can do is just point to the way and the best way to do this is in our actions. If we seem much happier than ever before, much more tolerent than ever before and much kinder than ever before, then this can't be ignored by our friends for too long...........hopefully for their sake. :anjali:

With Megametta
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Re: Talking about the Dhamma without talking religion

Postby wingsofwax » Tue Aug 21, 2012 12:20 pm

Yes, I agree that the empty calories analogy would fit better in that context.

But I think the word intoxication is useful in other contexts. It implies poisoning, which I think is an important aspect because it illustrates the difference between intoxication and happiness. My country has a terrible alcohol culture, and the analogy works perfectly if I use an example like getting drunk and feeling the effects the next day. It drives the point home extremely well, because you poison your mind and body by drinking, and you suffer the next day. People understand this immediately. which makes it easier to explain the difference between intoxication and happiness.

But intoxication isn't confined to taking drugs like alcohol. We intoxicate ourselves with sex, entertainment, anger, desire. Everything that causes intoxication is detrimental to our happiness. This thought makes way for the idea that what we need to do is identify the elements in our lives that intoxicates us and then remove or avoid them. This task sounds simple to most people,. but when they get down to it, they begin to realize just how much of our lives and society is designed and meant to intoxicate us.
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