Saying "I am a Buddhist"

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Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby ChangingMan » Fri Dec 04, 2009 12:15 am

How long did it take you to be able to say publicly "I am a Buddhist"?

If I think back, I have been exposed to Buddhism in some way for around 17 years. I have taken an active interest in it for around 14 years. I have times when I come closer to Buddhism, and times when I step away - those times when I come closer relate more to my attendance at my local monastery, the basic practice tends to remain whatever. But, being honest, I find it hard to say to people (friends, relatives, stranger) that I am a Buddhist, to make a positive assertion of what I believe and follow.

I think in some ways, it is easy (almost) to make a throw away statement about something. I find myself wondering at times why I did not take a more active interest in Buddhism in my student years, when "anything goes" as looking back, it would have been an easier transition than now (but perhaps that is what student life is about, "trying on" concepts and ideas?). But what drives the uncertainty I now have about saying something in which, internally, I have little doubts? I think we in the West have some cultural issues to overcome. Personally, I had to forge a very lonely path toward Buddhism - the life I was brought up in could not have been more Christian, Western, conventional. I came to Buddhism at a time when I felt a spiritual gulf from rejecting all of that - interestingly, I did so on an intellectual level, as I no longer could accept the teachings, or realities I was being told - Buddhism resonated for me. It filled a hole in my spiritual life, and I was drawn deeper into it through that route. But even now, it is seen so much as "the other", that I feel a degree of hesitance of talking about this to people outside of a receptive community like this.

Do others on this forum tell their parents, relatives, friends that they are Buddhist? And if so, did there come a point when you felt comfortable saying that when you had not done previously? What triggered the change for you? I want to feel more certain about the path I have chosen, but at times I feel very isolated, simply because I am not able to make the sort of public pronouncement that would "get things out in the open".

With metta
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Sanghamitta » Fri Dec 04, 2009 6:01 pm

I am not sure when the change was triggered in me so that i could quite unselfconsciously describe myself as a Buddhist, but I do what triggered it, it was going for Refuge in a public ceremony along with a number of others. Before that I had done the usual, you know, avoidence of labels and so on. There came a point where that seemed more phony than simply accepting that I was a Buddhist.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Mawkish1983 » Fri Dec 04, 2009 10:17 pm

If you abandon the raft too early you drown before you reach the far shore. I am a Buddhist.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby pink_trike » Fri Dec 04, 2009 10:41 pm

I stopped concretizing an identity as a "Buddhist" at the point that waking up became more important than being "identified".
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: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Vardali » Sat Dec 05, 2009 8:43 pm

pink_trike wrote:I stopped concretizing an identity as a "Buddhist" at the point that waking up became more important than being "identified".


Agreed.

Plus: I have not formally taken refuge so there is not label to be attached atm.
I am just trying my best (well, most of the time) to make my way along the Path of Buddha's teaching; this is an non-issue for me in my environment other than that family/work/friends etc. are just different areas for practice

:reading:
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby catmoon » Sun Dec 06, 2009 5:59 am

I say I am a Buddhist but it isn't formally true.

After some time spent in study and meditation I formed a habit of carrying a Dharma book around with me to fill in any spare time from missed meetings and such. Soon people would half jokingly look at me in the middle of some philosophical discussion and ask "What does the Buddhist think?" So I just sort of inherited the designation. I am large fish in an exceedingly tiny pool, since I am pretty much the only source of Buddhist thought for most of the people I know. So there I was, a rank beginner bungling his way through emptiness, karma, rebirth, attachment, the nature of good and evil - just about any big question you can imagine has been tossed at me. I had to learn very quickly to say "I don't know" instead of speculating myself into some logical quagmire.

But long story short - I revived my meditation practice a year or two ago, and about a year after that I was comfy with the label, so long as it was used in a casual way.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Laurens » Sun Dec 06, 2009 10:46 am

I don't really feel the need to tell anyone, unless they ask, or something arises in conversation. I don't feel the need to really.
"For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring."

Carl Sagan
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby James N. Dawson » Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:32 am

Pragmatically, why not call myself a Buddhist? It succinctly conveys what I'm committed to, value and respect.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby zavk » Mon Dec 07, 2009 12:56 am

Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. For me, it is simply a question of whether it is pragmatic to say so in any given situation. As far as my experience goes (which is not much), it doesn't seem to affect my practice whether I express my 'allegiance' to Buddhism or not. It might change one day, I dunno.....
With metta,
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Cafael Dust » Mon Dec 07, 2009 1:14 am

I find myself saying it more and more. For a long time I used to say 'I practice meditation and study Buddhist texts', which is truer, since I study other religious and philosophical, indeed literary texts that have affected me profoundly. I think as practice goes on one becomes less attached to the need to define oneself perfectly to others - no longer do I feel so much the need to avoid labels and keep an 'authentic' self, therefore I often say 'I'm a Buddhist' because it fits the situation. Sometimes I don't say it for the same reason.

Sometimes it can be quite relative; here in Bolivia I feel very Buddhist, almost a representative, because people here aren't very aware of its basics, perhaps when I go to a Buddhist country, I'll feel less like stating 'I'm a Buddhist' amongst people who have been identified as such all their lives, for obvious social reasons.
Not twice, not three times, not once,
the wheel is turning.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby jcsuperstar » Mon Dec 07, 2009 2:10 am

it's a comfortable shoe, and quite sensible as well. i like both the fit and design. it didnt take long at all for me. however, becoming a theravada buddhist took more time.
สัพเพ สัตตา สุขีตา โหนตุ

the mountain may be heavy in and of itself, but if you're not trying to carry it it's not heavy to you- Ajaan Suwat
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Northernbuck » Mon Dec 07, 2009 2:23 am

[quote="ChangingMan"]How long did it take you to be able to say publicly "I am a Buddhist"?

Last Thursday, so it took about 8 weeks. I was at a presentation on a trip that a professor took to East Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand). She showed a picture of 12 wooden Buddhist monks and asked if anyone was Buddhist and knew there meaning. I was the only one who raised my hand. Felt..... truthful.
But if this neutral feeling that has arisen is conditioned by the body which is impermanent, compounded and dependently arisen, how could such a neutral feeling be permanent? - SN 36.7
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby James N. Dawson » Mon Dec 07, 2009 9:32 pm

There are SOME labels, that SOME people, feel it is RIGHT, NECESSARY and DESIRABLE to call themselves.

Punk. Straight-Edge. Feminist. Environmentalist. Vegan. Christian. Muslim. Liberal. Conservative.

I'm not entirely sure why, psychologically, this is so. Nor can I explain or justify it philosophically. But I do feel it "good" to label oneself. I'm not sure if it's even avoidable, without a lot of cumbersome circumlocution. Maybe, if you're not comfortable "identifying yourself" as a Buddhist, you're not quite ready to BE one. That's okay. Maybe you're a "friend of Buddhism". But I,myself, AM a Buddhist, and that label, and my identifying myself as such, is quite meaningful, even though it's hard (right now anyway) to explain exactly WHY and HOW.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Dec 08, 2009 10:07 am

Fear of labelling is a learned phenomenon like arachnaphobia.It arises within a culture that values individualism to an unbalanced degree. It will pass.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Dec 08, 2009 12:49 pm

I agree that labeling can be beneficial and even necessary (we want to know what's in our food, for instance), as long as we keep in mind that proliferation of labels is part of consumerism. Whenever there's a label, there's an industry -- Buddhism's no exception.

Some critical theory types would probably argue that the reason we find labels right, necessary and desirable is that we're conditioned socially to desire them. Labeling combines primal instincts with market economics in a "build-you-own-tribe" culture.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Dec 08, 2009 1:11 pm

I think you are over thinking Lazy eye. I am convinced that the experience of the Buddha under the Bo Tree gave rise to the best explanation that I know of concerning the nature of things, and the way to transcend the inherent suffering therein by a process of understanding . The conventional appellation in the west for people who share that pov is Buddhist, ergo I am a Buddhist. Its that simple.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Dec 08, 2009 3:21 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:I think you are over thinking Lazy eye. I am convinced that the experience of the Buddha under the Bo Tree gave rise to the best explanation that I know of concerning the nature of things, and the way to transcend the inherent suffering therein by a process of understanding . The conventional appellation in the west for people who share that pov is Buddhist, ergo I am a Buddhist. Its that simple.


Maybe it all comes down to taking refuge, as the quote in your sig line suggests.

Nothing wrong with using the conventional appellation, in my view. On the contrary, it's important and useful. But at the same time, labels have a tendency to foster attachment -- how could they not? The very term suggests this... a label is something that "sticks". The process of labeling involves inclusion and exclusion, and (not surprisingly) aversion and desire. We can see how emotionally fraught the discussions become when people start debating who is and isn't a real Buddhist, for instance. On a related note, every time I pick up one of the mainstream Buddhist magazines, I'm struck by the commerical side of things -- all the stuff you or I can buy to shore up our identity as Buddhists. Ya know?

Could be I am overthinking it, though.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Sanghamitta » Tue Dec 08, 2009 3:45 pm

Maybe, butI see a lot of attachment in people who are keen to avoid labels. Attachment to a negative , an absence , can be very strong. I see people defining themselves by what they dont believe which seems to be another and sometimes more insidiuous form of attachment. The Zen people ( I dont often quote from Zen sources but it says it well ) talk about the thorn that you use to remove another embedded thorn, and then you drop both thorns. Buddhadhamma is a good tried and tested thorn with which to remove the thorn of dukkha. I am quite happy to be a thornist.
The going for refuge is the door of entrance to the teachings of the Buddha.

Bhikku Bodhi.
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby Lazy_eye » Tue Dec 08, 2009 3:57 pm

Sanghamitta wrote: The Zen people ( I dont often quote from Zen sources but it says it well ) talk about the thorn that you use to remove another embedded thorn, and then you drop both thorns. Buddhadhamma is a good tried and tested thorn with which to remove the thorn of dukkha. I am quite happy to be a thornist.


That's a great quote -- thanks! I might sign up for "thornism" myself. :)
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Re: Saying "I am a Buddhist"

Postby pink_trike » Tue Dec 08, 2009 7:44 pm

Sanghamitta wrote:Fear of labelling is a learned phenomenon like arachnaphobia.It arises within a culture that values individualism to an unbalanced degree. It will pass.

And on the other hand, the loosening of our habitual grip on labeling is freedom from a cultural milieu and the patterns of mind that arise with it that obsessively divides and separates everything, naming it, identifying with it, and attaching to it. "I", "I'm", "my", "mine". Labels are best used carefully like medicine, and held lightly.
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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