(The failure to) Go West

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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby Mexicali » Thu Apr 30, 2009 2:28 pm

Individual

Not that Christians and Muslims with swords haven't had an impact on Buddhist historically, but it doesn't work to explain completely why Buddhism didn't spread west. It had about 300-400 years before Christianity even appeared to get rolling (depending on whose estimate of the Buddha's life we believe), and a couple more centuries before Christianity became a paying concern, then a couple more centuries until Islam appeared on the scene. Why didn't mostly-Pagan Eurasia embrace Buddhism? Islam may have decimated Buddhism in India, Afghanistan, etc, but it can't explain why it never seemed to take hold west of there in the first place.

Dmytro

Thanks for the link but I meant that an actual monarch of Greece proper is mentioned as a convert at one point, as opposed to one of the Greco-Asians. The Greek influence is obvious in a lot of early Buddhist art though.
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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Thu Apr 30, 2009 3:37 pm

It is the individual, after all, and his or her understanding or misunderstanding that counts ... not the thing that is so good and pure.


Thank you, genkaku. I can relate to your statement, and particularly the piece about transformation.

How people make use of the triple gem isn't an indication of its actual worth, imho.
Likewise, if you are meditating on a corpse, does that corpse become an object of dharma for you?
But normally we don't think of something that's in a state of decay in that way.

:anjali:

Buddhaghosha gives a number of guidelines on how it [corpse meditation] is to be taken. Firstly, he recommends that the monk should undertake this practice only after informing his superiors of his intention. ‘Why?’ he asks rhetorically. ‘Because if all his [the monk’s] limbs are seized with shuddering at the charnel ground, or if his gorge rises when he is confronted with disagreeable objects such as the visible forms and the sounds of non-human beings, lions, tigers etc., or something else afflicts him, then he whom he told will have his bowl and robe well looked after in the monastery, or he will care for him be sending bhikkhus [monks] or novices to him.’ Indeed, according to Buddhaghosha, the correct way to set out to perform the meditation is not with a kind of anticipatory terror, but rather, ‘happy and joyful as a nobleman on his way to the scene of anointing… or as a pauper on his way to unearth a hidden treasure.’

-Vishuddhimagga of Acharya Buddhaghosha
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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby Individual » Thu Apr 30, 2009 7:12 pm

Mexicali wrote:Not that Christians and Muslims with swords haven't had an impact on Buddhist historically, but it doesn't work to explain completely why Buddhism didn't spread west.

I think it did. I think that Greek philosophy and Christianity (and thus Islam too) were both heavily influenced by Indian (Buddhist) thought. But they simply didn't call it "Buddhism," and things like statues of Buddha, the name of Buddha, actual groups of people calling themselves Buddhists, etc., didn't make their way west because they would have been killed by Christians and Muslims, for being seen as pagans and idolaters. Both Jews and Christians (somewhat) lived side-by-side and both Jews and Muslims too lived side-by-side, because their beliefs, while not being the same, were close enough that they could mostly tolerate eachother (with exceptions, like the Crusades). But with the Buddhists' rejection of a monotheistic God, their statues, etc., they would've been wiped out, just as the Israelites, Christians, and Muslims eradicated various religious groups throughout the world.
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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby jcsuperstar » Fri May 01, 2009 2:57 am

there was probably no reason for it to take hold in the west. religion in the past seems to have been more more um, practical(?) , if things were going well then the gods are real and we're doing it right, but if someone takes over the empire or whatever then their gods must be more powerful etc. religions in the past seem to work top down; whatever the ruling class is doing spreads.
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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby Individual » Fri May 01, 2009 4:36 am

Also, considering the existence of Buddhist shrines in Afghanistan, until they were destroyed by the Taliban, Buddhists did make their way westward... Not very effectively, though, because there have been zealots historically, like the Taliban, that wiped them out and destroyed whatever they built, so they had to retreat eastward.
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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby Dan74 » Fri May 01, 2009 5:20 am

From the very little reading that I've done the above does not accord with historical evidence. The reasons for the Dharma's failure to spread were a lot more complex than a supposedly militant attitude of Christians and Muslims.

There is some relevant discussion here:

http://www.lioncity.net/buddhism/index.php?act=ST&f=17&t=87105

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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby floating_abu » Fri May 01, 2009 12:44 pm

pink_trike wrote:If I was the king of the world, I'd mandate that Westerners start with a decade of strict Theravada _practice_


Everyone speaks from their own experience only.

pink_trike wrote:I've seen too many people here in the U.S. over the last 30 years lose their minds after they become involved with some types of Buddhism, and worked with too many of them in my private practice.


What type of problems are experienced, that you have seen? :namaste:
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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby pink_trike » Thu May 07, 2009 5:15 am

genkaku wrote:
If I was the king of the world, I'd mandate that Westerners start with a decade of strict Theravada _practice_


Dear PT -- Crass (but apt) phrase alert!

There used to be a saying that went something like, "he's so dumb, he'd f*** up a wet dream." And I imagine that any one of us might be accused of the same. In my view, there just plain does not exist a thing that is so good or true or warming that it cannot lead a person down some silly or painful garden path: It is the individual, after all, and his or her understanding or misunderstanding that counts ... not the thing that is so good and pure.

To my way of thinking, people choose their lies. Maybe very good lies, maybe very deluded lies, maybe some mixture ... it depends on the individual, not on the praise or blame that anyone else might heap on the lie. But the important part of this scenario is not the cringing that may follow the use of the word "lie," but the willingness, based on honest-to-goodness suffering, to get to the bottom of that lie ... to see things through ... right down to the truth.

Buddhism is not built for people who get things right. If they got things right, why would they bother with Buddhism in the first place? I simply don't know a practicing Buddhist who has not made and who does not continue to make mistakes ... sometimes things that can be corrected, sometimes leading to some very profound psychological misadventures. But whatever their mistakes, the imperatives of suffering mean, for many people, that they feel they must choose some way to find relief. Sometimes they choose wisely. Sometimes not. Either way, there is suffering and a longing to end that suffering.

Is Buddhism a better choice than, say, skeet shooting? Maybe so, but I have not consulted with the skeet shooters of this world, so the fact is I don't honestly know. I do know what I have chosen. I do try to avoid subtle and gross mistakes ... and often fail. But is there a fail-safe way, even in Buddhism? I doubt it. There is just this effort, whatever it is. There are pointers from good friends and a number of enemies, but in the end, there is just this effort ... and a hope that I will see things through for once in my life.

Sorry for all the blither.



Pure and Good? No, I've never said that. Just saying that if it's a house of cards that's being built, at least start with a solid foundation so that wind meets mountain.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby pink_trike » Thu May 07, 2009 5:32 am

floating_abu wrote:
pink_trike wrote:
pink_trike wrote:I've seen too many people here in the U.S. over the last 30 years lose their minds after they become involved with some types of Buddhism, and worked with too many of them in my private practice.

What type of problems are experienced, that you have seen? :namaste:

Speaking very generally:

- Deprivation that borders on or becomes self-abuse.
- Self-loathing.
- Pathological nihilism.
- Paranoia.
- Delusions of grandeur and attainment.
- Clinical depression.
- Hysteria.
- Psychosis.
- Extreme intellectual rigidity, or extreme lack of personal boundaries.
- Pathological fear of ghosts, spirits, etc...
- OCD
- runaway magical thinking

Likely for some of these mind-states the seeds were already present when the person discovered Buddhism, but for some people psychopathology clearly emerges after their engagement with Buddhism (also true with other forms of religion) and for many become increasingly worse the longer they practiced/studied. It's easy to say that they just didn't have right view, or that they weren't practicing incorrectly, or that they needed more sangha/teacher support, but these are all rationalizations. The mind doesn't have a neat and orderly way of allowing one form of irrationality while precisely not allowing other forms of irrationality. For many humans, the irrationality of religion serves as a gateway for the egoic embracement of other irrational mind-states. Religion, including Buddhism if it is engaged with religiosity, is easy pickin's for the crafty ego in it's quest to run the show. The idea that Buddhism is benign isn't consistent with reality. It is mind-altering, and just like with mind-altering substances, not everyone has a good trip.
Last edited by pink_trike on Fri May 08, 2009 2:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Thu May 07, 2009 4:51 pm

Pure and Good? No, I've never said that. Just saying that if it's a house of cards that's being built, at least start with a solid foundation so that wind meets mountain.

- Delusions of grandeur and attainment.
- Clinical depression.
- Psychosis.
- Extreme intellectual rigidity, or extreme lack of personal boundaries.
- OCD
- runaway magical thinking

For many humans, the irrationality of religion serves as a gateway for the egoic embracement of other irrational mind-states

Religion, including Buddhism if it is engaged with religiosity, is easy pickin's for the crafty ego in it's quest to run the show.


I've seen it happen to some, what Pink Trike describes. The mind can be a dangerous place. It's the person not the religion, of course. But I don't think PT is really putting the responsibility on Buddhism.

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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby pink_trike » Thu May 07, 2009 5:56 pm

Ngawang Drolma wrote:
Pure and Good? No, I've never said that. Just saying that if it's a house of cards that's being built, at least start with a solid foundation so that wind meets mountain.

- Delusions of grandeur and attainment.
- Clinical depression.
- Psychosis.
- Extreme intellectual rigidity, or extreme lack of personal boundaries.
- OCD
- runaway magical thinking

For many humans, the irrationality of religion serves as a gateway for the egoic embracement of other irrational mind-states

Religion, including Buddhism if it is engaged with religiosity, is easy pickin's for the crafty ego in it's quest to run the show.


I've seen it happen to some, what Pink Trike describes. The mind can be a dangerous place. It's the person not the religion, of course. But I don't think PT is really putting the responsibility on Buddhism.
:|


Hi Ngawang Drolma,

Actually, I do put the responsibility squarely on any institutionalized religion (Buddhism included) that doesn't acknowledge that what they widely disperse is potentially mind-altering and potentially dangerous to many people, especially in this time/place when the collective human mind is in a near barbaric state of confusion, alienation, and disconnection from the natural world. There was a time when the mysteries and related practices required initiation and close supervision, and were only given to those who were believed to be capable of integrating them safely, and who had been very carefully trained over long periods of time to receive them in a way that didn't endanger them - in environments that helped keep the initiate on the right path.

Imo, when the the mysteries are widely dispersed via mainstream publication channels or urban teaching centers (that resemble factories) that have no time for individual consultation (both frequently resulting in enormous profit - but that's another topic) and without personal supervision or care about the mental states of those who blunder into the teachings - this defines religious corruption. It really is no different than letting our children grow up sitting in front of the violence box for years and then wondering why there is so much violence in our world. It should be no surprise that mind-altering practices (mind-training practices) combined with religious irrationality can potentially cause mental disorders.

The human mind tends to default toward literality and irrationality - so great care must be taken to make sure that what is put into it doesn't harm or result in thicker literality or deeper irrationality. At this point in the evolution of religion, much harm is being done to many people, and countless people are being led deeper into delusion that can result in any number of mental dis-eases or pathologies. Unfortunately most institutionalized religions have built a wall between them and the field of psychology (and the natural world). The field of psychotherapy is all to often left to clean up their messes. Religion has turned into a cheap drug for the masses, with the same dangerous potential as street drugs.
Last edited by pink_trike on Thu May 07, 2009 6:40 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

---

Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Thu May 07, 2009 6:40 pm

Hi Pink_Trike,

Although I'm not sure I agree with you about where to place the responsibility, I definitely agree that religion can be powerful medicine. And it should be dispensed carefully. In the wrong hands it's easy for disasters to happen, as you so aptly pointed out. It's strange where we've gone with this in the US. George Dubya used to talk publicly about his experiences of god talking to him :rolleye:

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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby pink_trike » Thu May 07, 2009 6:43 pm

Ngawang Drolma wrote: It's strange where we've gone with this in the US. George Dubya used to talk publicly about his experiences of god talking to him :rolleye:

Yes. :cookoo: And in the U.S. regular church-goers are significantly more likely to approve of torture than those who go to church infrequently or not at all. There is a stark lesson in those statistics.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Thu May 07, 2009 7:06 pm

It freaks me out a little. I joined the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster because they actively petition the teaching of Intelligent Design in schools (outside of World Religion class). I think the thing that bothered me the most about George Dubya and his conversations with god is that nobody questioned it much. Comedians and late night show hosts should have been slapping that down silly. And Sarah Palin wanted Creationism taught in public schools, yet no one seemed too concerned about that. They were more concerned with how much she was paying for her wardrobe. What about those of us for whom Christianity isn't compatible? Or our children?

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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby clw_uk » Thu May 07, 2009 7:36 pm

And which creationist speculaitve myth to teach, christian? Hindu? Shinto? ancient greek? Egyptian religion?
“Happy is the man who has broken the chains which hurt the mind, and has given up worrying once and for all.” Ovid
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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby pink_trike » Thu May 07, 2009 7:51 pm

pink_trike wrote:
Ngawang Drolma wrote: It's strange where we've gone with this in the US. George Dubya used to talk publicly about his experiences of god talking to him :rolleye:

Yes. :cookoo: And in the U.S. regular church-goers are significantly more likely to approve of torture than those who go to church infrequently or not at all. There is a stark lesson about religion and the mind in those statistics.
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

- Dawa Gyaltsen

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Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.
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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Thu May 07, 2009 8:10 pm

That's a very interesting statistic, Pink_Trike.

:anjali:
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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby vitellius » Sun May 10, 2009 9:47 am

Here is a research on similarities in Greek philosophy and Indian yoga (in broad sense):
The Shape of Ancient Thought: Comparative Studies in Greek and Indian Philosophies
http://books.google.com/books?id=Vpqr1v ... frontcover

To my opinion some similarities presented in this book are just similarities, but there is also some evidence of borrowing.

It seems that at least part of Greek philosophy was what in India would be called "yoga" - or "personal development" and "self-improvement" in modern times. Pyrrho(nism), Stoicism, Cynicism, Epicureanism, (Neo)platonism - all these included ethical systems (sometimes involving asceticism) and mental training aimed at reaching dispassionateness and happiness. If not inspired by, these philosophies were at least influenced by Indian samana teachings, - probably including early Buddhism.
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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby termite » Sun May 10, 2009 6:06 pm

pink_trike wrote:Actually, I do put the responsibility squarely on any institutionalized religion (Buddhism included) that doesn't acknowledge that what they widely disperse is potentially mind-altering and potentially dangerous to many people, especially in this time/place when the collective human mind is in a near barbaric state of confusion, alienation, and disconnection from the natural world.


I'm sure that the problem lies somewhere there... Yeah, the "mind-altering" is surely the problem. ;)
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Re: (The failure to) Go West

Postby Dan74 » Tue May 12, 2009 12:20 am

pink_trike wrote:Likely for some of these mind-states the seeds were already present when the person discovered Buddhism, but for some people psychopathology clearly emerges after their engagement with Buddhism (also true with other forms of religion) and for many become increasingly worse the longer they practiced/studied. It's easy to say that they just didn't have right view, or that they weren't practicing incorrectly, or that they needed more sangha/teacher support, but these are all rationalizations. The mind doesn't have a neat and orderly way of allowing one form of irrationality while precisely not allowing other forms of irrationality. For many humans, the irrationality of religion serves as a gateway for the egoic embracement of other irrational mind-states. Religion, including Buddhism if it is engaged with religiosity, is easy pickin's for the crafty ego in it's quest to run the show. The idea that Buddhism is benign isn't consistent with reality. It is mind-altering, and just like with mind-altering substances, not everyone has a good trip.


I feel that this is an extremely important point and one that is heard all too rarely.

Are people really helped by discovering the Dharma? I heard Joshu Sasaki Roshi, a 102-year-old Rinzai Zen teacher in the US, quoted as saying that a typical Westerner really needs years of therapy before they are ready for Zen.

Around the fora especially one sees so often that the Dharma becomes just another tool in the ego's neurotic arsenal.

The Buddha was a healer, we say, and his medicine is still effective. And yet, many are made more sick by (mis)application of it. In prison I have often felt that the Dharma is just not accessible to some. Although the fault is probably with me and the way I share it.

On the other hand, having come (rather involuntarily) to our Vesak celebration in the Town Hall the other day, I thought for a moment how much more wholesome and natural are things like the alternative festival, or just a simple street party, where people participate, are joyful, feel a sense of togetherness, rather than sitting in a dark hall, looking at a bunch of kids singing off-key or a Venerable droning on in an incomprehensible accent. This is a celebration of the greatest being and our greatest potential?? :shrug:

:cry:

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