Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

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Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby cooran » Thu Jan 30, 2014 7:29 am

Hello all,

Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25772194

With metta,
Chris
---The trouble is that you think you have time---
---Worry is the Interest, paid in advance, on a debt you may never owe---
---It's not what happens to you in life that is important ~ it's what you do with it ---
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby SarathW » Thu Jan 30, 2014 11:47 am

Hi Cooran
Thanks for the link.

The biggest problem of Buddhist (including me) is their inability to balance the three most important aspect of Buddha’ teaching.
That is to follow (balance) the path of Sila, Samadhi and Panna.
People are either spending too much time for meditation or reading Dhamma books without practicing it.

The link you gave seems to be the other end.
They are trying to practice at all cost without paying attention to Samadhi and Panna.

The worst of all is they are trying to create more rituals by incorporating it in to wedding ceremonies.


Overall it seems ok as it satisfies the needs of some parts of the society.

:shrug:
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby appicchato » Thu Jan 30, 2014 12:19 pm

The worst of all...


From this angle they look/are brilliant...it would be great if everyone took a page from their playbook...

The 'White Wedding' (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8QnN4Ob_CPE) might seem a little out of sync...but so?...

Good on them...
:candle:
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Mkoll » Thu Jan 30, 2014 9:14 pm

Yes, good for them. Generosity is definitely more wholesome than praying.

:anjali:
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby zavk » Tue Feb 04, 2014 9:36 pm

I recall a Dhamma talk I downloaded by Bhikkhu Bodhi (sorry I forget the title) on Dana. He said that 'Western' or contemporary Buddhists who adopt a particular modern approach [this is a trend that developed out of nineteenth century colonial encounters and ideological struggles between the Euro-Atlantic and Asian lifeworlds] tend to approach the Dhamma from the opposite end of how the Sri Lankan laypeople,for example, approach it. For the latter, it was Dana, Sila, Samadhi, Panna. Whilst for the former, they tend to get interested by Buddhist books, then experiment with meditation, then begin to appreciate the importance of ethical conduct, then slowly recognise the immeasurable value of generosity. Bhikkhu Bodhi seemed keen to encourage listeners to reconsider this approach, saying that from a certain perspective, samadhi and panna are not really activities that one 'does' - in the sense that one can only set the right conditions for them to flower. So day-to-day activities like being generous, offering service to the sangha and community, keeping the precepts, etc, will set the conditions for concentration and wisdom to arise when one performs formal or informal mindfulness exercises.

I also recall a conversation with a New Zealander bhikkhu at a forest monastery here in Victoria, Australia, who remarked that 'Western-ised' attitudes (and this is not limited to 'Westerners') that give overwhelming primacy to formal samadhi and panna practice could be missing out on the rich potential of service and devotional practices in strengthening the other balas or spiritual faculties. It was very nice to hear him talk about how his fleshy encounters with others in Thailand helped him to appreciate these other aspects of the Dhamma.

And I know from firsthand experience that for East Asian Buddhists like those associated with Tzu Chi (which btw, extends beyond Taiwan; it is the biggest Buddhist network across Sino-cultures; and by sheer proportion we are looking at a number that far outweighs 'Western Buddhists') - for these Buddhists, what is often dismissed on this forum as 'mere' praying is in fact a part of their daily life. In fact, I just saw many of them queuing up to pray and offer incense at a public altar set up by Fo Guan Yuan at a Lunar New Year street event. Is this just some quaint old habit of others? Or is there, rather, another habit of viewing the customs of others as somehow problematic, quaint, and deviated from the Dhamma? A habit of not quite extending mudita or being generous towards the life-practices of others? Maybe Bhihhku Bodhi is right? Maybe there needs to be a greater appreciation of generosity?

If so, where did the habit or how has the habit amongst 'Westernised' approaches to the Dhamma (and again I stress that this is not limited to 'Westerners') of pointing out how others haven't quite got the Dhamma right (the implication is that one has done it more 'correctly' or at least closer to 'correct'), where did this habit come from and how has it been formed - this habit of talking to oneself about oneself of oneself, even when speaking of others? Narcissistic objectification, no?
With metta,
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Mkoll » Tue Feb 04, 2014 11:57 pm

zavk,

I'm not sure if my post played a factor in triggering your critique, but I will clarify what I meant nonetheless.

I said that generosity is definitely more wholesome than praying in the sense of praying as defined as praying to some sort of deity for good fortune, salvation, or similar boons. However, it appears that I was placing my critical and often cynical-leaning Western mindset from the Christian world onto the Eastern mindset in the Buddhist world, which was a mistake. I was wrong if by praying one is doing as I emphasized below from the Velama Sutta (AN 9.20).

"If one with a confident mind were to go to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha for refuge, that would be more fruitful than... if one were to have a dwelling built and dedicated to the Community of the four directions."


As one can see, confidence and refuge in the Triple Gem is more fruitful for one's future well-being than even such great forms of generosity. If by praying, one is recollecting the sublime nature of the Triple Gem, that is a very fruitful act as it is anussati. However, if one is praying to the Buddha as some sort of deity with the intention of having him grant favors for oneself in this life, that is unwholesome. And I will provide an excellent example of a recent event in my own life.

My grandparents on my mother's side are Chinese-Americans living in the United States but they are still very much Chinese; my grandmother still doesn't read English after 40+ years in this country. They are both nominally Buddhist in that they call themselves Buddhist but don't practice Buddhism or go to a temple. My grandfather has serious Alzheimer's and was recently taken into the hospital because he was displaying signs of great distress. The doctors in the ICU hooked him up to assisted breathing machines, dosed him with sedatives, and tried to get a feeding tube down his mouth. They said his organs were failing and that the family should come to say their final farewells. I said mine last week. Anyway, my grandmother asked my mom to ask me if I knew any "Buddhist prayers" to "help him along".

I was abhorred. She has taken care of him for years now as he's gotten progressively worse and I can't imagine how stressful that must be, but this request was hard to believe. My grandmother is a very superstitious person who believes, among many other superstitious things, that the gods are punishing her for something by having her husband come down with Alzheimer's and necessitating her taking care of his needs. She also has told me that she "prays to Buddha" and everything I know points to her viewing him as a deity, perhaps a supreme deity. I've tried to explain to her what Buddhism is, but there's a language barrier, a cultural barrier, and a lot of other barriers that have prevented any sort of understanding. That is the kind of praying I was referring to when I made my post. Anyway, my grandfather is now much better just a few days after that request; he wide awake and desiring food. He made a miraculous recovery and the doctors were wrong.

Regardless, I'm glad you posted because it's helped me examine some of my own biases born of conditioning, hate, and ignorance. Thank you.

:anjali:
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James
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby zavk » Wed Feb 05, 2014 1:38 am

Hi Mkoll

I have a diasporic 'Chinese' ancestry too. So I guess it helps that we have shared lived experience as a point of reference - though what I'm suggesting is relevant more generally.

Mkoll wrote:My grandparents on my mother's side are Chinese-Americans living in the United States but they are still very much Chinese; my grandmother still doesn't read English after 40+ years in this country. They are both nominally Buddhist in that they call themselves Buddhist but don't practice Buddhism or go to a temple. My grandfather has serious Alzheimer's and was recently taken into the hospital because he was displaying signs of great distress. The doctors in the ICU hooked him up to assisted breathing machines, dosed him with sedatives, and tried to get a feeding tube down his mouth. They said his organs were failing and that the family should come to say their final farewells. I said mine last week. Anyway, my grandmother asked my mom to ask me if I knew any "Buddhist prayers" to "help him along".

I was abhorred. She has taken care of him for years now as he's gotten progressively worse and I can't imagine how stressful that must be, but this request was hard to believe. My grandmother is a very superstitious person who believes, among many other superstitious things, that the gods are punishing her for something by having her husband come down with Alzheimer's and necessitating her taking care of his needs. She also has told me that she "prays to Buddha" and everything I know points to her viewing him as a deity, perhaps a supreme deity. I've tried to explain to her what Buddhism is, but there's a language barrier, a cultural barrier, and a lot of other barriers that have prevented any sort of understanding. That is the kind of praying I was referring to when I made my post. Anyway, my grandfather is now much better just a few days after that request; he wide awake and desiring food. He made a miraculous recovery and the doctors were wrong.


Thanks for sharing this. I think this is actually very important, good material for collective reflection. What I would add (again, not expecting any specific answer but just points for general reflection) is:

Why should such customs and attitudes be regarded as 'abhorrent'? Or why are they generating feelings of 'abhorrence'? And if there are feelings of abhorrence, what should these feelings be attributed to - some defect in the life-practices of others and their supposed lack of understanding, or rather, a limitation or blindspot within our own expectations?

What are the implications - not for ourselves or anyone else - but for those other people we are speaking of, when their customs and practices regarded as mere superstition and of little real spiritual benefit to them?

Of course, i am not talking about charlatans and unethical practices that would exploit such customs and practices - it is important to speak out against this when we encounter them. But as you note yourself, your grandparents speak a different language, they have never fully been 'Americanised'. They are in fact from a different lifeworld, a different lived reality. Or to put it another way, they are of an entirely different SPACETIMEMATTERING. What you regard as 'barriers' to 'understanding' may not be so for them - and this is the difficult bit isn't it, how are you to find out given the vast gap in conditioning/lived experience between you and them? So the challenge is:

What's preventing us from suspending judgement about the relative merits of certain customs and practices of other lifeworlds that WE DO NOT LIVED AND HAVED NOT LIVED? What is there to gain/lose by passing judgement? What is there to gain/lose by NOT passing judgement? What's so challenging about simply accepting difference?

I mean, sure, for the purpose of discussion, it may be useful to talk about how their customs and practices differ from the ones we prefer. But at the end of the day, I think what tends to get lost is this important question:

In whose interest, and to what ends, does making judgements about the relative merits of these customs and practices of other lifeworlds (which we DO NOT LIVED AND HAVED NOT LIVED), serve?
With metta,
zavk
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Mkoll » Wed Feb 05, 2014 4:48 am

zavk wrote:Why should such customs and attitudes be regarded as 'abhorrent'? Or why are they generating feelings of 'abhorrence'? And if there are feelings of abhorrence, what should these feelings be attributed to - some defect in the life-practices of others and their supposed lack of understanding, or rather, a limitation or blindspot within our own expectations?

It wasn't any custom/attitude that I found abhorrent at the time. It was simply that my thought at the time was what she was asking was basically this: will you please hasten along your grandfather's death with Buddhist prayers? Or to put it more bluntly: will you help me murder your grandfather? I was abhorred at that. Maybe I misinterpreted it but regardless that was the perception I had. I've never been asked to help kill someone before so I hope you can understand my reaction.

zavk wrote:Of course, i am not talking about charlatans and unethical practices that would exploit such customs and practices - it is important to speak out against this when we encounter them. But as you note yourself, your grandparents speak a different language, they have never fully been 'Americanised'. They are in fact from a different lifeworld, a different lived reality. Or to put it another way, they are of an entirely different SPACETIMEMATTERING. What you regard as 'barriers' to 'understanding' may not be so for them - and this is the difficult bit isn't it, how are you to find out given the vast gap in conditioning/lived experience between you and them?

I'm not sure what you're asking here. What am I to find out?

At some point with some people, there is a certain gap in understanding that is insurmountable to getting ideas across. To use a metaphor as an example, when two people speak two different languages there is just no possibility of complex communication without an interpreter. And when the languages are the languages of each individual's conditioning, there is simply no interpreter available.

zavk wrote:I mean, sure, for the purpose of discussion, it may be useful to talk about how their customs and practices differ from the ones we prefer. But at the end of the day, I think what tends to get lost is this important question:

In whose interest, and to what ends, does making judgements about the relative merits of these customs and practices of other lifeworlds (which we DO NOT LIVED AND HAVED NOT LIVED), serve?

To the end of Buddhist practice, there is no good purpose served and I'm well aware of that. As we all should be. But to the end of food for thought, expanding one's knowledge, and discussion on an internet forum, it's good stuff. :thumbsup:
Peace,
James
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby chownah » Wed Feb 05, 2014 8:02 am

Mkoll,
Seems to me that she was asking if you knew any prayers that would help him in the afterlife and not about helping him die sooner.
But then again, I wasn't there.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby binocular » Wed Feb 05, 2014 10:44 am

zavk wrote:In whose interest, and to what ends, does making judgements about the relative merits of these customs and practices of other lifeworlds (which we DO NOT LIVED AND HAVED NOT LIVED), serve?

For the purposes of clarifying interpersonal boundaries; for the purposes of clarifying the nature of the relationships one has with others (such as whether one sees a particular person as a teacher or role-model, or not); for the purposes of getting more clarity on one's own priorities.

Many people cannot do this in some kind of vacuum, on their own, without any kind of discussion or interaction with other people.
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby binocular » Wed Feb 05, 2014 10:54 am

chownah wrote:Seems to me that she was asking if you knew any prayers that would help him in the afterlife and not about helping him die sooner.

And perhaps also to make the eventual transition easier.
Many traditional Buddhists believe that the moment of death is very important and that as such, it is important to be able to die with the right frame of mind, and that other people can help with that.

There's also a difference between hoping that a person in a difficult situation would soon die, and hoping that the difficult situation would soon resolve. A speedy resolution doesn't necessarily mean death. It could also mean a speedy regaining of health. The idea is that one hopes that the period of suffering would be as short as possible.


Other than that, I've noticed that it can be very difficult to talk with people about their religion. Sometimes, they just don't want to. Other times, they aren't able to - they have little or no meta-understanding of their religiosity. Asking them to explain why they believe what they believe is much like asking them "Why did you choose to be born with blue eyes?"
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Re: Meeting Taiwan's new-age Buddhists

Postby Mkoll » Wed Feb 05, 2014 4:15 pm

binocular wrote:Other times, they aren't able to - they have little or no meta-understanding of their religiosity. Asking them to explain why they believe what they believe is much like asking them "Why did you choose to be born with blue eyes?"


Yes, that is the often the case. And for those of us who are especially self-reflective. we can become so used to this way of being that we forget that there others on the complete opposite end of the spectrum. At least that's how it is for me. But, progress is being made in the direction of more brahmavihara and less judgement, slowly but surely, thanks to the wisdom of the Buddhas.
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James
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