American (Western) Folk Buddhism

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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Postby Kusala » Sat Jun 23, 2012 1:17 am

This thread reminded me of an article by Ajahn Geoff.

"The news of the Buddha's Awakening sets the standards for judging the culture we were brought up in, and not the other way around. This is not a question of choosing Asian culture over American. The Buddha's Awakening challenged many of the presuppositions of Indian culture in his day; and even in so-called Buddhist countries, the true practice of the Buddha's teachings is always counter-cultural.

It's a question of evaluating our normal concerns — conditioned by time, space, and the limitations of aging, illness, and death — against the possibility of a timeless, spaceless, limitless happiness. All cultures are tied up in the limited, conditioned side of things, while the Buddha's Awakening points beyond all cultures. It offers the challenge of the Deathless that his contemporaries found liberating and that we, if we are willing to accept the challenge, may find liberating ourselves."


http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... ening.html
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Postby gavesako » Wed Jul 25, 2012 8:08 am

A very interesting article about the Western Secular Buddhism and why it is different from traditional Asian Buddhism:


Psychoanalysis and American Folk Buddhism

A Buddhism colored by Western psychoanalysis is a Buddhism turned inward, concerned with the mind. This probably differentiates Western Folk Buddhism from most Asian Folk Buddhisms, which tend to be more outwardly directed, toward ritual and community observances, toward lore and toward ethics.
In practical terms people in the West generally come to Buddhism because life has been difficult. When Buddhism is popularly thought of in terms of psychotherapy this makes Buddhism that much more attractive. However then people relate to Buddhism as patients and Buddhist centers become something like hospitals, or at least outpatient clinics. In short, Western Buddhist communities are generally places of cure, Asian are places of refuge. ...

http://bhikkhucintita.wordpress.com/201 ... ddhism-16/

:reading:
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Postby gavesako » Fri Jul 27, 2012 6:34 pm

In the last article of this series, the author says:

Distinguishing between Essential and Folk Buddhism provides a framework for understanding and monitoring the process by which Buddhism is being assimilated into the Western cultural context. Ideally this process will:

(1) maintain the functional integrity of Essential Buddhism at all costs,

(2) establish the authority of Essential Buddhism over Folk Buddhism and

(3) result in a wholesome Western Folk Buddhism.

The integrity of Essential Buddhism is threatened by the assumption common in Western circles that adapting Buddhism to the West is a matter of stripping Buddhism willy-nilly of Asian cultural accretions in order to make it look more Western. This aesthetic would include, for instance, getting rid of rituals, robes, bowing, chanting (at least in foreign tongues), non-productive lifestyles and so on, not to mention renunciation. However, distinguishing between Essential and Folk Buddhisms highlights the danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, of hacking away at the corn when trying to remove the underbrush. Essential Buddhism is the baby, Folk Buddhism the bathwater. The functional role of any culturally arisen features of a transmitted Essential Buddhism is preserved only by leaving it intact or replaced by Western-looking counterparts. History seems to favor leaving such things intact, tending to lend Essential Buddhism an archaic flavor, for instance as retained in gestures of respect and in monastic garb.


http://bhikkhucintita.wordpress.com/201 ... ddhism-17/
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Kiṃkusalagavesī anuttaraṃ santivarapadaṃ pariyesamāno... (MN 26)

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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Postby Kim OHara » Fri Jul 27, 2012 10:30 pm

quoted by gavesako wrote:Psychoanalysis and American Folk Buddhism
A Buddhism colored by Western psychoanalysis is a Buddhism turned inward, concerned with the mind. This probably differentiates Western Folk Buddhism from most Asian Folk Buddhisms, which tend to be more outwardly directed, toward ritual and community observances, toward lore and toward ethics.

I read this when it was posted, and agreed. Something else crossed my mind when I read it again a moment ago, and that is that the Mahayana traditions are even more 'outwardly directed' than Theravada, and the Mahayana traditions are more popular in the West than Theravada. That may, in effect, eventually counterbalance our Western tendency to 'turn Buddhism inward'.

:thinking:
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:57 pm

mikenz66 wrote: do some western Buddhist who think they are practising "Essential Buddhism" really practising "Western Folk Buddhism"?


Definitely! On the other hand Buddhism has always adapted to different cultures and times, so maybe this is just the latest installment. ;)
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Jul 28, 2012 1:59 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:...the Mahayana traditions are even more 'outwardly directed' than Theravada, and the Mahayana traditions are more popular in the West than Theravada. That may, in effect, eventually counterbalance our Western tendency to 'turn Buddhism inward'.


Yes, I've noticed that too. I wonder how things will turn out?
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Re: American (Western) Folk Buddhism

Postby Spiny Norman » Sat Jul 28, 2012 2:03 pm

gavesako wrote:However, distinguishing between Essential and Folk Buddhisms highlights the danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater, of hacking away at the corn when trying to remove the underbrush. Essential Buddhism is the baby, Folk Buddhism the bathwater.


Yes, and what concerns me is the motivation for the hacking, which sometimes seems more to do with personal belief / disbelief than any objective assessment. "That bit of the teachings makes me feel uncomfortable, so it's got to go"
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