Theravāda in the 21st century - modern applications of ancient wisdom
I wondered -what do you see as being positive aspects of western culture which would aid the practice of the dhamma. Often we hear about the difficult aspects but little has been said about the positive aspects.
I live in the UK having come from Sri Lanka. I find that politeness and manners (fast vanishing) is a very nice way of being considerate of another's feelings- it is a very compassionate thing to cultivate. There maybe many other examples.
I'm preparing a talk on 'Undertanding buddhism' and this is partly my attempt to find western ways which serve as a links to eastern values.
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Individualism. Open-mindedness. Diversity. Rapid change.
There are positives and negatives, but overall I think we're fortunate to have been born into a society where generally we have the freedom and opportunity to explore these many ideas and discuss them openly.
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.
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To the extent anyone might call Buddhism a religion, I think all religions benefit from stable and relatively open societies that have a body of laws protecting individual preference.
Religion generally seeks out a status quo when that status quo benefits its interests, so there is a tendency for religion to be conservative and sometimes both stultifying and unkind ... the Roman Catholic approaches to the indigenous peoples of South America come to mind. But western societies are often better off and more given to a democratic approach, which in turn tolerates other ways of thinking.
Clearly no generalization will cover all the bases or all the exceptions. Culture may be useful in Buddhism, but I think the central factor in its attractiveness, whether in the East or the West, is the fact that it addresses suffering and suffering knows no culture.
Just my two cents.
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One attraction to Westerners seems to be the ability that Buddhism gives one to find out if the teachings are true for oneself instead of being told they are true. We discover the truth through experience. Truth is not simply revealed to us. Sher
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I don't know if I'm missing the mark or not, but I definitely feel the relative "wealth" in the west is a tremendous benefit. Wealth in this case being the (typically) high availability of food, water, and shelter. I imagine in many other locales, the work required to obtain these necessities is much greater, thereby leaving an equally smaller amount of free time available for practice. Granted, there are many more distractions and overt attempts to draw us into the material culture, but discipline coupled with mindfulness can deal with that. There isn't much that mental effort can do if you have to spend the whole day struggling for food, water, etc.
The birds have vanished down the sky. Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me, until only the mountain remains. Li Bai
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The west and the east have deep and long philosophical traditions but both are from very different views. I think exploring the philosophy of Buddhism through the western thinking traditions would prove very interesting and perhaps bring about new and rich depths in Buddhist thought.
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