Greetings, and a Prodigal Question.

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Dudenextdoor
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Greetings, and a Prodigal Question.

Postby Dudenextdoor » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:03 am

Greetings and salutations.

I come here peacefully, but I should briefly disclose that I am not a Buddhist but rather one who seeks information and answers--not just from books, which are often wise but indirect and aimed at a more general audience, but also from the people who believe in the teachings of the Buddha directly. I know from what perusing I've done here and elsewhere already that Theravadin Buddhism greatly affects the way you live your lives, but I wish to ask about specific ways in which that belief manifests itself.

In other words, I'm happy to read books about Buddhism and the teachings of the Buddha, but I am equally interested in learning about Buddhism from the lives and perspectives of Buddhists, i.e. you. My motivation is to learn, not to debate or be in any way disrespectful, and I beg forgiveness if my questions betray woeful ignorance of basic teachings. I am a newbie. Enough said.

What little I do know already:
--I've read the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, and I've read some of the Suttas online. Of course, I don't claim that merely reading them means that I fully understand them.

I'll just start with one question:

Suppose you have a son, and that son grows up and decides not to be Buddhist. Say he becomes atheist, or Christian, or Muslim, or something else. As far as you can tell, he tries to live a moral life within the framework of his new-found belief, and he bears you and the rest of his family no ill-will--he simply disagrees with parts of Buddhist teaching--for example, doesn't believe in reincarnation, and so he now has a different belief. Do you disown this son, or accept him still, or is it more complicated than this?

(Background for the question, for what it may or may not be worth: I grew up Lutheran, and my parents can preach acceptance of other people all they want, and they do preach this quite often, but they certainly do not accept me at present. My father's basically said he won't bother to come to my wedding because of my unbelief, and I can pretty much consider myself out of my parents' wills. I wish to know how this scenario might play out with Theravadin Buddhist parents instead.)

Peace.

P.S. If anyone remembers me from the old chat at eSangha, where I came for a couple months a few years ago, hi! I remember getting along with the community there, though I admit I was not as serious in my questions back then.

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Re: Greetings, and a Prodigal Question.

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:15 am

Hi Dude,

Welcome to Dhamma Wheel!

Buddhism is very tolerant of other faiths. As a religion, enlightenment takes several lives to achieve (although there is debate over 'how many' lives may be necessary), so it is not a one-lifer philosophy. As such, I think most Buddhists see enlightenment as a Path, so certainly one can lead a moral and spiritual life in another religion too. In Asia it is somewhat common for people to belong to more than one religion (especially in China).

Many of the convert Buddhist community including members here have multi-faith families where one spouse is Buddhist and the other is not. So it is not unusual in convert Buddhist families for some to be Buddhist and others who are not. So in most families disowning would not even be an issue and in the other families where everyone was born Buddhist, I think the tolerant and compassionate teachings would be strong enough to keep the family together.

Would your parents be open to a Buddhist-Christian hybrid belief system if you said you followed both and like the wisdom teachings in both?

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Re: Greetings, and a Prodigal Question.

Postby Mukunda » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:21 am

I do have two grown children, a boy 25 y/o and a girl 23 y/o and neither of them is Buddhist and the girl is quite the atheist. Now, in fairness, they were not raised Buddhist, so it's not like they're rejecting the Dhamma. But their choices are for them to make, and the resultant fruits are theirs to bear. My approval or disapproval at this stage in their life should have no bearing. I love them, and will continue to support them in whatever ethical and rational endeavors they undertake, regardless of their religious affiliations.

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Re: Greetings, and a Prodigal Question.

Postby Wind » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:29 am

We Buddhist believe Salvation is base on one's own effort. No one can force or save another person. So everyone has to make their own decision and regardless what they choose, we will continue to have compassion and love for them.

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Re: Greetings, and a Prodigal Question.

Postby plwk » Thu Mar 25, 2010 1:47 am

Greetings Dudenextdoor,

Suppose you have a son, and that son grows up and decides not to be Buddhist. Say he becomes atheist, or Christian, or Muslim, or something else. As far as you can tell, he tries to live a moral life within the framework of his new-found belief, and he bears you and the rest of his family no ill-will--he simply disagrees with parts of Buddhist teaching--for example, doesn't believe in reincarnation, and so he now has a different belief. Do you disown this son, or accept him still, or is it more complicated than this?
(Background for the question, for what it may or may not be worth: I grew up Lutheran, and my parents can preach acceptance of other people all they want, and they do preach this quite often, but they certainly do not accept me at present. My father's basically said he won't bother to come to my wedding because of my unbelief, and I can pretty much consider myself out of my parents' wills. I wish to know how this scenario might play out with Theravadin Buddhist parents instead.)

How uncanny! I have the same kind of parents too, they tell others one thing yet apply another standard to their own son.
Apparently, its ok if others do it but not when one of their own does it.

When I was found out as a Buddhist via a house robbery, (as I did not dare share with them yet on how I had a change of mind and that house robbery 'outed' me when all of my personal & Buddhist stuff were strewn all over the floor) my own dad told me to get out of the house claiming that I had 'betrayed' the family's Christian Tradition and 'polluted' their home spiritually. I had all of my Buddhist stuff toasted in a bonfire and was subjected to a modern day version of Inquisition where I was given yelling lectures and beaten physically. Believe me, no amount of dialogue or talking 'sense' worked at all. After that big 'storm', so I had to shift out to live on my own and 6 months later, they decided to smoke the peace pipe with me after their flares cooled down but I still stayed on my own. I stood up for the Triple Gem despite what they did and before I left my home, I told my parents that irregardless of what faith I had adopted, I am still their son and they are still my parents, that my filial piety towards them have never changed and am moving out solely because they requested for it.

And I must echo with my Dhamma brethren here that no such similar act is warranted nor justifiable in 'Buddhism' and if any 'Buddhist' family were to engage in such acts, then it is purely their own personal indiscretion and decision, not reflective of the teachings of the Compassionate Buddha.

Best wishes for your situation :namaste:
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Re: Greetings, and a Prodigal Question.

Postby Dudenextdoor » Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:01 am

David N. Snyder wrote:Would your parents be open to a Buddhist-Christian hybrid belief system if you said you followed both and like the wisdom teachings in both?

I highly doubt it, although it's a non-issue; my opinion of (at least traditional) Christianity is not very high. There are some wise statements in a few verses, but then there are some very cruel verses I can't bring myself to ignore. Suffice it to say I've rejected that religion outright. My current struggle is to try and not be bitter about my experience with it, but rather learn from it as well as from other people's perspectives. That's part of why I'm here. The other reason is that although I'm atheist (and as such, skeptical about things like reincarnation and nirvana/nibbana), I find Buddhist philosophy very interesting, and there certainly is much wisdom to be found in following the basic tenets of trying to alleviate the suffering of oneself and others, living a life of moderation instead of abject poverty or opulence, being mindful, and meditating, etc.

I guess my biggest problem with the way I was taught Christianity was that you could live as good a life as you liked, but if you simply held the wrong beliefs, I was told, you'd go to hell forever. There's a part of my brain that says that just gets it all backwards, y'know? If I don't believe a Creator exists, for example, but I turn out to be factually wrong, this to me doesn't seem like it should reflect my morality, but just that I was factually mistaken. Certainly there's a difference between being mistaken (factually wrong) and being dishonest (morally wrong), and I can manage to be mistaken without having been dishonest?

plwk wrote:How uncanny! I have the same kind of parents too, they tell others one thing yet apply another standard to their own son.
Apparently, its ok if others do it but not when one of their own does it.

:console:
^Sometimes the simplest picture is worth a thousand words, eh? That and a bit of shared experience, anyway. My parents, I admit, didn't destroy anything of mine, and I think they're trying their best to keep on good footing with me. Time will tell how that works out.

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Re: Greetings, and a Prodigal Question.

Postby Ben » Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:08 am

Hi Dude

Welcome to Dhamma Wheel.
Having grown up in a staunch Catholic family, I was very careful not to indoctrinate my children. I wanted them to have the freedom to explore their own spiritual path that I was denied. While I have introduced the Dhamma to my kids, I have not insisted that they follow it. My 15-year-old son is an avowed atheist and my nine-year-old son describes himself as "Buddhist".

With regards to your particular situation with the threats of being cut off from your family, I think the best course of action you can adopt is to continue to live a 'good' and Dhammic life. Don't take on your parent's baggage. Try to remember the lesson in the Akosa Sutta:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .budd.html
metta

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Re: Greetings, and a Prodigal Question.

Postby Dudenextdoor » Thu Mar 25, 2010 2:54 am

Very good advice, that. I shall try.

And, I realize I forgot to say this in the last post, but thank you for the welcome, all. :)

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Re: Greetings, and a Prodigal Question.

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Mar 25, 2010 3:25 am

plwk wrote: I had all of my Buddhist stuff toasted in a bonfire and was subjected to a modern day version of Inquisition where I was given yelling lectures and beaten physically.


Wow, that is rough. I admire your perseverance and determination in sticking with the Dhamma and glad to hear you are on good terms with them now.

I was lucky to have very liberal Jewish parents who encouraged education and investigation. Also, something that probably helped a lot is that most Jewish people see themselves as an ethnicity and a religion. So although I don't follow that religion, I can still keep the ethnicity, as a JuBu. As Goldie Hawn has stated, "Buddhism is my religion and Judaism is my tribe."

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Re: Greetings, and a Prodigal Question.

Postby jcsuperstar » Thu Mar 25, 2010 3:47 am

my mom thinks i'm a Christian, or at least believe in god or some such nonsense, despite what i say she believes what she wants to believe. so we dont have any real issues.

my father asked me if buddhist celebrate Christmas and i replied "who doesn't like gifts?" thats all we've ever said on the matter.

if i had a human child (i have cats they are our babies) and s/he was the type of person you said
he tries to live a moral life within the framework of his new-found belief, and he bears you and the rest of his family no ill-will--he simply disagrees with parts of Buddhist teaching

then i'm not so sure i would even care. if by morals you mean doesn't kill, steal, lie, rape etc.
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Re: Greetings, and a Prodigal Question.

Postby Sylvester » Thu Mar 25, 2010 5:36 am

Dudenextdoor wrote:I'll just start with one question:

Suppose you have a son, and that son grows up and decides not to be Buddhist. Say he becomes atheist, or Christian, or Muslim, or something else. As far as you can tell, he tries to live a moral life within the framework of his new-found belief, and he bears you and the rest of his family no ill-will--he simply disagrees with parts of Buddhist teaching--for example, doesn't believe in reincarnation, and so he now has a different belief. Do you disown this son, or accept him still, or is it more complicated than this?




Or you could try what Anathapindika (a model Buddhist layman) did. He bribed his son to visit the Buddha and listen to his teachings. Leaving aside the money issue, the parable is quite telling of the time and effort Anathapindika was prepared to invest in giving his son access to the "Deathless". There was no negativity or disappointment attached in the whole exercise, just unremitting hope.

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Re: Greetings, and a Prodigal Question.

Postby Nibbida » Thu Apr 29, 2010 1:55 am

My daughter is too probably too young to have a religious orientation (she's 4). But I don't plan to indoctrinate her into anything. I don't really care what religion she does or doesn't practice. I don't really even talk about "Buddhism." I do talk about compassion, kindness, patience, mindfulness, equanimity, etc. Those qualities are universal.
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Re: Greetings, and a Prodigal Question.

Postby somniis » Thu Apr 29, 2010 9:05 pm

Greetings Dude,

I'm no parent but perhaps I can comment on what I have experienced. I was raised Baptist by my mother (who is still Baptist), "fell" into atheism, and eventually discovered the Dhamma. My entire family that I know of is Christian. They know I am Buddhist, but (probably) do not take me too seriously seeing as how there is not a very large Buddhist community in Alabama. (anyone who disbelieves in God is considered an "atheist", regardless of their faith, according to my grandmother :jumping: )

My older brother and grandmother are the only vocal ones about this, declaring that "I should find God" or threatening me with eternal damnation or something of the sort because I do not believe. They of course do not know the Dhamma -- and because of that I do not get angry at them. As Ben suggested, the best thing you can do is continue to lead a good Dhammic life, and hope that your parents or whomever does not agree with you sees that it is a pure life to lead.

It is easy to merely say one believes this, or one believes that, but to actually practice, day in and day out, what one believes, it becomes an entirely different story. I know very few of my family members that would actually be considered Christian by how they act -- totally contradictory to what Jesus taught.

Be well,
somniis

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Re: Greetings, and a Prodigal Question.

Postby Pannapetar » Fri May 07, 2010 5:15 am

Hello Dudenextdoor,

I have seen this scenario played out in various families in Bangkok, i.e. parents are Buddhist, son or daughter comes into contact with Christianity, often at school, and becomes Christian. I have actually attended two Christian weddings where the majority of attendants were Buddhist. -No big deal.- I haven't seen a single case where this has led to falling out with family members. If it is a son, the parents may be a bit disappointed, because the son can no longer become a monk and make merit for the family, but I have never seen parents disowning their children. That would appear exceedingly cruel. Such cases might exist, but if they do exist they are certainly very rare, because "disowning" a family member is incompatible with Buddhist teaching as well as with Asian culture.

Cheers, Thomas


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