Saying "I am a Buddhist"

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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby seanpdx » Tue Dec 08, 2009 10:29 pm

It didn't take me any time, from the moment that I took refuge, to publicly call myself a buddhist.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Laurens » Thu Dec 10, 2009 6:35 pm

There are a few things that make me shameful to asscociate myself with the term Buddhist. Without being overly specific, there are a lot of ancient superstitions and whatnot, that in some cases have promoted shameful sectarianism and discrimination.

I think we should try to weed out this kind of poisons, but sadly even westerners are caught up in it. There are many cringeworthy things in Buddhism for me, but thankfully there are some teachers who work to remove such things.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Cittasanto » Thu Dec 10, 2009 9:18 pm

it is a term which has its uses at the end of the day!

sometimes we still use what can be clung to, to remove the clinging.
can't remember the sutta reference to quote properly
This offering maybe right, or wrong, but it is one, the other, both, or neither!
Blog, - Some Suttas Translated, Ajahn Chah.
"Others will misconstrue reality due to their personal perspectives, doggedly holding onto and not easily discarding them; We shall not misconstrue reality due to our own personal perspectives, nor doggedly holding onto them, but will discard them easily. This effacement shall be done."
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Aloka » Thu Dec 10, 2009 10:14 pm

I used to teach in a Catholic secondary school, and there was no problem saying "I am a Buddhist" at my job interview, or in getting on well with the staff who were mostly Catholic and knew that I was a Buddhist. I've never had a problem telling other people in general if I've been asked. However I don't go around shouting it from the hilltops ! :smile:

_/\_
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Tex » Fri Dec 11, 2009 12:09 am

I take refuge every day and try to learn from the Buddha's teachings and put his instructions into practice, so I have no qualms about referring to myself as "a Buddhist". As for when I started referring to myself as "a Buddhist", right after the first time I took refuge.

I make it a point not to advertise that "I am a Buddhist", though, mostly because most people here don't know any Buddhists, and I make a lot of mistakes, and I'd hate for someone's only experience of "a Buddhist" to be me on a bad day. Maybe when I'm further along the path and I feel like a better example of "a Buddhist" I'll make it a point to describe myself as a Buddhist to others. Or maybe not.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby PeterB » Fri Dec 11, 2009 9:11 am

I take your point Tex. I have no problem in thinking of myself as Buddhist, and if anyone asks which doesnt happen much I will indicate my interest. But I am a reluctant ambassador, I dont want to put people off, and after many years I am still trying to get the hang of Buddhism.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby imagemarie » Fri Dec 11, 2009 2:13 pm

Tex wrote:I make it a point not to advertise that "I am a Buddhist", though, mostly because most people here don't know any Buddhists, and I make a lot of mistakes, and I'd hate for someone's only experience of "a Buddhist" to be me on a bad day. Maybe when I'm further along the path and I feel like a better example of "a Buddhist" I'll make it a point to describe myself as a Buddhist to others. Or maybe not.

PeterB wrote:I am a reluctant ambassador, I dont want to put people off, and after many years I am still trying to get the hang of Buddhism.


These are moving and somehow heartening responses :bow:

Thank-you.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Kokoro » Fri Dec 18, 2009 9:56 pm

I often describe myself as a student of Buddhism.

:anjali:
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Kim OHara » Sat Dec 19, 2009 1:50 am

I do sometimes say, "I am a Buddhist,' but rarely and reluctantly. The main obstacle is that such a simple, unqualified statement aligns me, in the listeners' minds, with religious structures and beliefs I'm ambivalent about as well as those I wholeheartedly support. So I am more likely to say something like, 'I am more Buddhist than atheist or Christian,' or, 'I try to meditate regularly,' (being honest, here, with the 'try'!) or, 'There is a lot in Buddhism that I like.'

The other obstacle to the simple, mostly-truthful statement is that I'm a habitual non-joiner - not quite commitophobic, but close. I usually support organisations from the outside, not the inside.

A separate reason for avoiding the simple statement is that a less absolute statement helps the other person feel more comfortable about talking to me about the dharma, if they want to.

:namaste:

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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby nowheat » Sat Dec 19, 2009 5:18 pm

I don't recognize the distinction that some do, that you have to have taken the precepts to be a Buddhist. To me, a Buddhist is someone who gives their best efforts to following the teachings of the Buddha and that is all it's about -- lineages and refuges are only peripherally relevant.

I've always been a bit of an outsider so have never had trouble labeling myself. I am what I am, and I'm a strong believer in people talking about the ways in which they feel different, isolated, or alone, in people sharing experience as a way of helping others (and themselves) feel not so alone. Philosophically I feel that it's better for people and the world if we open up and share rather than close up and put on our "normal" face all the time.

And then, I'm an evangelist for Buddhism. I don't hand out pamphlets, or knock on doors, and get in people's faces, but I see Buddhism as both extremely helpful for individuals and having huge potential for changing social attitudes and the history of the world if its message of tolerance spreads. If I don't stand up and say I'm a Buddhist, how will anyone know what a Buddhist might look like, act like? Who can someone interested come to privately to get past their discomfort about asking about Buddhism if there's not a tolerant Buddhist known to them, someone who labeled themselves a Buddhist?

If I don't agree with everything every Buddhist everywhere stands for, that makes it more important, not less, for me to stand up for the sort of Buddhism I do believe in. Any religion (any belief system) represents a range of people and ideologies; if I don't make my voice heard then those who get interested in Buddhism but can't accept its more fantastic beliefs may feel they are alone in worrying about those parts of Buddhism they can't take on faith, and they may turn away and lose the opportunity to find a practice that is both logical and very helpful in their lives.

It's not about being attached to the label -- I don't call myself a Buddhist for its shock value, or its coolness value (in fact, it rarely comes up) but a label is a tool -- language is a tool -- to communicate with others. We need to use those tools wisely.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby seanpdx » Mon Dec 21, 2009 6:39 pm

nowheat wrote:I don't recognize the distinction that some do, that you have to have taken the precepts to be a Buddhist. To me, a Buddhist is someone who gives their best efforts to following the teachings of the Buddha and that is all it's about -- lineages and refuges are only peripherally relevant.


Indeed. When I decided to actually "become" (?) a (practicing?) buddhist, I shaved my head and took refuge. Not because that's what makes me a buddhist -- it most certainly does not -- but rather to fix in my own mind what it is I wanted to do.

nowheat wrote:And then, I'm an evangelist for Buddhism. I don't hand out pamphlets, or knock on doors, and get in people's faces, but I see Buddhism as both extremely helpful for individuals and having huge potential for changing social attitudes and the history of the world if its message of tolerance spreads. If I don't stand up and say I'm a Buddhist, how will anyone know what a Buddhist might look like, act like? Who can someone interested come to privately to get past their discomfort about asking about Buddhism if there's not a tolerant Buddhist known to them, someone who labeled themselves a Buddhist?

If I don't agree with everything every Buddhist everywhere stands for, that makes it more important, not less, for me to stand up for the sort of Buddhism I do believe in. Any religion (any belief system) represents a range of people and ideologies; if I don't make my voice heard then those who get interested in Buddhism but can't accept its more fantastic beliefs may feel they are alone in worrying about those parts of Buddhism they can't take on faith, and they may turn away and lose the opportunity to find a practice that is both logical and very helpful in their lives.


I agree wholeheartedly, and this is one of the reasons I don't shy away from calling myself a buddhist. I have no interest in converting anyone, but if someone wants to learn more about buddhism I am more than happy to indulge them. And, hopefully, I can teach them about buddhism and the Buddha's teachings in a way that they can accept/understand. And in a way that's somewhat accurate. =)
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby dspiewak » Wed Dec 23, 2009 6:53 pm

This is an interesting thread. I started calling myself a Buddhist for the same reason I took refuge in the first place: commitment. I typically refrain from all things that put me at risk of failure and embarrassment, and it's a tough habit to break. I find myself ashamed of that, and that disrupts my practice, so to that extent I find it helpful to demonstrate my commitment.

I do understand that there are good reasons not to go around declaring oneself a Buddhist, however, and I agree with them. In fact, the reality I see is that there isn't much reason to do so. No one in my life goes around threatening anyone unless they give a one-word description of their religious worldview. In fact, not many people in my life demonstrate any interest in talking about the spiritual/transcendent aspect of life at all. There is a part of my mind that badly wants to define myself for (and perhaps defend myself to) others, but a calm view of things shows me that it's a waste of energy to prepare for such a moment that will probably never happen.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby SDC » Sun Dec 27, 2009 5:15 pm

What is the intention when we speak to others about our beliefs? What is the goal?

First off, like some others said, I don't get into it unless a discussion goes in that direction or unless I am directly asked. I am not embarrassed or ashamed but sometimes it is not appropriate or necessary. But when I do, I simply say, "I practice Buddhism” or “I practice Buddhist teachings”. Some may see this as nitpicking, but I believe our words can mean far more then we expect sometimes. I am very careful and specific. I don’t want to say anything that would diminish what Buddhism is or not properly convey the ideas to another person. I want to have that person leave with some understanding of it, even if it is only a very small aspect. I feel the statement; “I am a Buddhist” starts the dialogue of on the wrong foot. It automatically sets Buddhist ideas on the same level as other religions/philosophies and conveys the idea, “I have chose this way and the work is done.” And we all know choosing to walk the path is only the beginning.

So what is my intention? What is my goal when it comes to publicly discussing my beliefs? To show respect for the teachings and properly explain them within reason to whom I’m talking to. And considering most of those around me, to start that off with, “I am a Buddhist” would very much hinder that goal. As far as I am concerned, when it comes to talking about Buddhism, it’s about spreading the ideas for the benefit of everyone, not about declaring my association to them. I know my level of devotion to the Buddha, the teachings and those that follow. Saying the words, “I am a Buddhist”, even just to myself, would not affect that level. However if it helps others build confidence in their practice I fully encourage it.

Agree? Disagree?
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Fede » Sun Dec 27, 2009 6:34 pm

Oh this is difficult.
to stand up and be counted, but admit it's just a label,
or
to stand up and be counted and be glad you wear the label.

Intention is all, I guess.
it's important to let people know what you will stand for.
it's equally important to let them know what you WON'T stand for.

Informing people you're Buddhist is a way of communicating some of those things, and opening up avenues of dialogue which can only increase knowledge, and decrease ignorance.

I think....
So far....
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Ben » Sun Dec 27, 2009 9:02 pm

Fede wrote:Informing people you're Buddhist is a way of communicating some of those things, and opening up avenues of dialogue which can only increase knowledge, and decrease ignorance.


This is excellent Fede! And it mirrors my own attitude. The label is just a means to an end, and not something to get attached to.
metta

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but great rivers flow silently.

Taṃ nadīhi vijānātha:
sobbhesu padaresu ca,
saṇantā yanti kusobbhā,
tuṇhīyanti mahodadhī.

Sutta Nipata 3.725


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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Monkey Mind » Mon Dec 28, 2009 7:55 am

Hmmm... I have tried to answer this post several times, and I find the whole thing complicated. My closest friends know that I am a Buddhist, but don't necessarily know what that means and I have to address misconceptions a lot. My husband and I had a Buddhist wedding; I keep an alter in the house and he has seen me meditating many times. However, I do feel embarrassed when he sees me chanting, and in general I save this practice for when he is not around. Not sure what that is about, I need to clarify that with myself. My coworkers know I attend meditation retreats, but when they ask me about these experiences I have a hard time explaining. "It's just something I do." They also know that on some days I engage in "fasting", which is how I explain Uposatha days. In my town, if I identify as being Buddhist, I often hear one or more of three awkward questions: "What is your Dharma name?" ; "Who is your teacher?" ; and "Are you familiar with the life empowering chant Nam Myoho Renge Kyo?" Depending on how I answer any of these questions, I often get the response, "Well, you're not really a Buddhist then, are you?" So I tend to keep my Buddhist practice as private unless I know the person and their practice.
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby yuuki » Mon Dec 28, 2009 8:16 am

I don't mind saying I'm a Buddhist.

On the contrary I think it keeps me honest about the way I present the teachings. If I were just "eclectic", then I could put whatever spin I wanted on the Buddha's words, or present them in a convenient way while putting distance between the Buddha and me.

But that's not how I feel. I feel that I can take the Buddha seriously, not just as a myth or a metaphor or a path among many equivalent paths.

I think knowing that people are going to ask difficult questions spurs my mind to make a full effort to Right View, such that I can teach it to others as well.

In other words, it's an extra challenge, and a lot of fun! :)
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby seanpdx » Mon Dec 28, 2009 4:57 pm

Monkey Mind wrote:Depending on how I answer any of these questions, I often get the response, "Well, you're not really a Buddhist then, are you?"


I love getting that from people. Invariably, they're people whose only knowledge of buddhism is that the Buddha was a fat, jolly guy. =D
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Fede » Mon Dec 28, 2009 6:35 pm

Yes, somebody told me "your fat Chinese friend lied to you"

I had great fun stripping him to bits and tearing him a new @$$hole.

With metta and Compassion, of course! :quote: :jumping:
"Samsara: The human condition's heartbreaking inability to sustain contentment." Elizabeth Gilbert, 'Eat, Pray, Love'.

Simplify: 17 into 1 WILL go: Mindfulness!

Quieta movere magna merces videbatur. (Sallust, c.86-c.35 BC)
Translation: Just to stir things up seemed a good reward in itself. ;)

I am sooooo happy - How on earth could I be otherwise?! :D


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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Monkey Mind » Mon Dec 28, 2009 7:32 pm

Well, it finally happened. A friend gave me a statue of Hotoi (spelling?) for Christmas. I keep an eclectic alter, but not sure what to do with this guy...
"As I am, so are others;
as others are, so am I."
Having thus identified self and others,
harm no one nor have them harmed.

Sutta Nipāta 3.710
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