Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

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Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby padma norbu » Sun Dec 08, 2013 7:52 pm

I have occasionally in the past few years started just saying "I'm not really a Buddhist, though" to friends and extended family whenever they ask me about all my books and thangkas and statues... not because I'm embarrassed or because I can't stand up for what I believe in, but because I don't want to embarrass the Buddha by being a poor example and also because I really think of myself as a Dzogchen practitioner (and a bad one at that), so I think every answer I gave them to their persistent questions would be really incomprehensible to them and just lead to more questions. And, I think you're not really supposed to talk about dzogchen to people openly who have no real interest in it.

What do you think of this? Is this a jerky thing to do?

I posted in Ethical Conduct because I just thought about it as possibly being an example of "turning your back on the dharma" (even though it really isn't, imo, but I could see how in some really strict traditions it might be).
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby dude » Sun Dec 08, 2013 8:21 pm

I consider it my responsibility to uphold the Law. For me, that means, imperfect and ignorant as I am, to declare myself a Buddhist and teach what little I know to anyone who cares to listen.
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby KonchokZoepa » Sun Dec 08, 2013 8:45 pm

i think it is said that you should not teach emptiness to people who are not ripe to hear it. but if you hold the morals of buddhism and listen to the buddhas advice from the sutras i think it is only of benefit if you talk about it with other people. it is also not good to lie or deny who you are in my opinion. you dont have to start teaching dzogchen or something like that to your family and friends but you can still talk about buddhism in general according to your knowledge. i think it is only of benefit, unless you dont have the intention or motivation to help them. only if it causes harm should you deny yourself being a buddhist if you are a buddhist in my opinion.

you can talk of so many teachings, amitabha , impermanence, karma , suffering, four noble truths, 8 fold path that will only give them good food for thought to turn towards virtue. if you wanna be open and it is helpful you can speak openly why you have denied the fact that you are a buddhist and leave that topic at that.

if you can rely the basic message

'' do not commit any wrongdoing
to perfect the practice of all virtue
to purify one's mind completely
this is the teaching of the buddhas ''

is of immense benefit if they can even think about it openly and without judgment, i get it that some people are so thick and stubborn that there is no point talking to them about virtue or life after death, but there are so many topics in buddhism that you can talk generally to people even outside of strictly buddhist context that can help turn their mind to virtue.

if it is of harm to your close ones or outsiders as you define them, then i wouldnt talk about anything or maybe admit that im a buddhist, but if its not them who are flawed in this, and you are just trying to make your life easier and avoid something that could be of benefit to them. think again.

really if someone has questions about buddhism it would be so great to talk about it with normal people who are not religious or spiritual but still have questions and are interested.
If the thought of demons
Never rises in your mind,
You need not fear the demon hosts around you.
It is most important to tame your mind within....

In so far as the Ultimate, or the true nature of being is concerned,
there are neither buddhas or demons.
He who frees himself from fear and hope, evil and virtue,
will realize the insubstantial and groundless nature of confusion.
Samsara will then appear as the mahamudra itself….

-Milarepa

OMMANIPADMEHUNG

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls6P9tOYmdo
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby dude » Sun Dec 08, 2013 9:08 pm

Right, teaching others is an act of compassion a source of great merit.
Even if they won't listen, it enables them to hear the Law and plants the seed of enlightenment.
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby anjali » Sun Dec 08, 2013 9:12 pm

padma norbu wrote:I have occasionally in the past few years started just saying "I'm not really a Buddhist, though" to friends and extended family whenever they ask me about all my books and thangkas and statues... not because I'm embarrassed or because I can't stand up for what I believe in, but because I don't want to embarrass the Buddha by being a poor example and also because I really think of myself as a Dzogchen practitioner (and a bad one at that), so I think every answer I gave them to their persistent questions would be really incomprehensible to them and just lead to more questions. And, I think you're not really supposed to talk about dzogchen to people openly who have no real interest in it.

What do you think of this? Is this a jerky thing to do?

I posted in Ethical Conduct because I just thought about it as possibly being an example of "turning your back on the dharma" (even though it really isn't, imo, but I could see how in some really strict traditions it might be).


I'm guessing you believe in the possibility of awakening? If so, from one perspective, you are surely a "buddhist", where "buddha" is understood in it's sanskrit meaning: awakened ( budh- awaken, notice, understand + -ta past participle suffix). Of course other paths believe in awakening to (such as yoga, advaita, etc). To say one is a buddhist is to acknowledge that one believes in the possibility of awakening uniquely expounded by the buddhist tradition. For me personally, to say I'm a buddhist is not to identify with a label, but more as an acknowledgement of a potentiality.
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby Kim O'Hara » Sun Dec 08, 2013 10:47 pm

I don't think labels are particularly useful and I do think they can be traps, encouraging people into stereotyping and lazy thinking so I don't like to stick the "Buddhist" label on myself. If people ask - which they rarely do - I will say something like, "I'm more Buddhist than anything else," or, "I try to follow the teachings of the Buddha." And if they are interested - which they rarely are - I will talk to them about the dharma and about meditation.
As always, Right Speech is the best guide: be honest, and try to speak appropriately for the situation.

:namaste:
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby reddust » Sun Dec 08, 2013 10:52 pm

When I was working in Chicago, our group would practice Chod in my law offices conference room. My boss was awesome, everyone knew I was a Buddhist and I could take vacation for two weeks a year for retreat. For a lawyer my boss was pretty easy going. We practiced every Sunday, not during the week…lol :tongue:
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Dec 08, 2013 11:26 pm

I wouldn't deny it, but I try to avoid discussions of it at all unless I think the people are really, truly interested. Since most of my friends and family are either religiously unaligned, or at adamant "this life is it" type folks, I don't think it would go anywhere good. I can't even envision getting very far with Buddhism 101 type stuff with most of family and friends..much less trying to explain something like Vajrayana practices.

Usually when I talk about it to them I stress that i'm "doing meditation" above labeling myself a Buddhist. If people want to know more I will definitely tell them..but i've gotten better at telling when someone is starting from a skeptical enough place that they wouldn't be open anyway, so i'm pretty limited in day to day life with how much I talk about it.
"We're chained to the world and we all gotta pull" -Tom Waits
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby KonchokZoepa » Mon Dec 09, 2013 12:03 am

yah i have to admit that i dont talk about it to people that i see no benefit in talking about it.

i try with my family but they are not open to it.
If the thought of demons
Never rises in your mind,
You need not fear the demon hosts around you.
It is most important to tame your mind within....

In so far as the Ultimate, or the true nature of being is concerned,
there are neither buddhas or demons.
He who frees himself from fear and hope, evil and virtue,
will realize the insubstantial and groundless nature of confusion.
Samsara will then appear as the mahamudra itself….

-Milarepa

OMMANIPADMEHUNG

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ls6P9tOYmdo
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby padma norbu » Mon Dec 09, 2013 5:15 am

Yeah, these are people with absolutely no affinity for it at all and you know how you can tell what people are thinking if you know them well by the look on their face, tone of voice, etc. This is the same general crowd and mindset of people in which several years ago during a political debate (where they were mostly pro-Bush), someone asked if I was a "Demon-crat" and I said "not really, but I'm more left-leaning than right-leaning on most issues." So, the follow-up question was "so you're a socialist?" and I said "I'm more of a Buddhist" as a joke, but the response was actually — get this — "uh oh, watch out, are you going to blow up some buildings or what?" My wife and I exchanged a glance of "holy crap, these people are oblivious." So, yeah, they equate Buddhism with terrorism (or at least one of them did) and generally like mainstream everything and have a very small-town mentality, USA is the greatest country in the world, adults who actually are interested in Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift... I think you get the idea.

They are also gossipy so pretty much any faults I have would be lumped in with Buddhism. That's really why I figured best not to bother.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby Adamantine » Mon Dec 09, 2013 6:49 am

padma norbu wrote:Yeah, these are people with absolutely no affinity for it at all and you know how you can tell what people are thinking if you know them well by the look on their face, tone of voice, etc. This is the same general crowd and mindset of people in which several years ago during a political debate (where they were mostly pro-Bush), someone asked if I was a "Demon-crat" and I said "not really, but I'm more left-leaning than right-leaning on most issues." So, the follow-up question was "so you're a socialist?" and I said "I'm more of a Buddhist" as a joke, but the response was actually — get this — "uh oh, watch out, are you going to blow up some buildings or what?" My wife and I exchanged a glance of "holy crap, these people are oblivious." So, yeah, they equate Buddhism with terrorism (or at least one of them did) and generally like mainstream everything and have a very small-town mentality, USA is the greatest country in the world, adults who actually are interested in Kim Kardashian and Taylor Swift... I think you get the idea.

They are also gossipy so pretty much any faults I have would be lumped in with Buddhism. That's really why I figured best not to bother.


I think it's best in these circumstances to go the "hidden-yogi" route. Even ChNN recommends being very discreet about your practice and beliefs.. which is one of the reasons he recommends just having a white AH in tigle print framed on the wall as art, which most people won't have a clue what it is and could just as well be modern art, as opposed to a full shrine, tangkhas, etc. I have all the typical Vajrayana trappings in my little place, but for when I have any guests that would be confused, or judgmental, I have a shrine that has windowless doors that can close and conceal the interior, and a japanese screen I can put up over the other stuff. I think one Guru R tangkha would still be visible but it's framed western style, not with the silk surround, and because I have other Asian art and furniture around I could chalk it up to me being an asianphile. Anyway, I would be more of a hidden yogi in general except that I have a very social gossipy sibling that tells everyone I am a Buddhist.. so I've been outed against my will! But I think it's great if you can pull off the hidden-yogi thing. Personally, I think it's ideal if you don't lie in the process though.. just dance around the truth as much as possible.. change the subject discreetly if a direct question is aimed at you, like that. :buddha1:
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Detachment is the final happiness. ~Sri Saraha
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby lobster » Mon Dec 09, 2013 8:04 am

I would agree with 'hidden yogi' advice. We are not the Buddhists of others perception. Therefore it is perfectly acceptable to say we are 'not really Buddhists'. It is quite easy to listen to others explanation of wisdom as a practice in humility, patience and quite often incredulity. You might even offer a bit of 'Noble Silence' if you are up for it . . . :spy:
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby dude » Mon Dec 09, 2013 8:21 am

Is the aspiration to save all living beings without meaning?
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby duckfiasco » Mon Dec 09, 2013 8:32 am

The interpretation of anything you say is outside of your control.
I tell people I'm a Buddhist if they ask, knowing full well they likely picture me going "om" in some uncomfortable position.
It's best to not make too big a deal out of it I think and let the actions of your mind, speech, and body do the explaining for you.
Remaining calm while others get upset and need a cool head, knowing how to soothe jealousy in your friends, responding with love when someone expects hatred... these do a lot more good than avoiding using a specific word :group:
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby seeker242 » Mon Dec 09, 2013 8:49 am

If you are a Buddhist and someone asks you and you say no, isn't that breaking the "I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech."?
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby padma norbu » Mon Dec 09, 2013 1:34 pm

seeker242 wrote:If you are a Buddhist and someone asks you and you say no, isn't that breaking the "I undertake the training rule to abstain from false speech."?


It probably would be if I considered myself as a Buddhist rather than a dzogchen practitioner:

from http://tsegyalgar.org/theteachings/dzogchen/:
"Dzogchen is an ancient spiritual teaching developed in Tibet within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. It does not belong to a school or religious system. Rather, it is the knowledge that Tibetan masters have transmitted without being limited by sectarianism. The word 'Dzogchen', meaning 'total perfection', actually refers to the true inherent nature of all beings, their primordial state, which is free from all limitations and conditioning. The master's transmission of this state of knowledge lies at the very heart of the Dzogchen teachings.

The Dzogchen tradition has been passed from master to student in an unbroken lineage over the centuries, right up to the present day. Due to its direct and unelaborate approach, it transcends cultural boundaries making it accessible to all nationalities regardless of their spiritual background."

I took refuge with Lama Tsering Everest after already receiving transmission from Namkhai Norbu several times and practicing his methods for 3 or 4 years. I also specifically took refuge with her with the intention of taking them as a dzogchen student who is allowed to do anything and will keep all samayas in guru yoga, as Namkhai Norbu teaches. I view Tibetan Buddhism the same framework as some Tibetan Buddhists view Dzogchen; Dzogchen is like the cherry on top of all the other teachings. The difference being I have been introduced to the 'cherry' first... so, now that I have realized I am not fortunate enough to be an instantly awakened Buddha, I have gone back to receive the rest of the ice cream sundae, too. But, I still consider myself a student of dzogchen, regardless of how much respect I have for all forms of Buddhism.
"Use what seems like poison as medicine. We can use our personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings." Pema Chodron
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby Simon E. » Mon Dec 09, 2013 2:11 pm

I was in a shop which was run by the Tibet Society a few years ago .
I made a few purchases from a young Englishman who impressed me with his presence and kindness.
I asked if he was a practitioner. He replied that ' he knew nothing about those things '. ' I just work here ' he added.
I later discovered that he was highly regarded by his ( well known ) teacher as one showing high attainment.
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby AlexanderS » Mon Dec 09, 2013 4:44 pm

I tell people that i'm a horrible buddhist, because that is truly how I feel.
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby Jikan » Mon Dec 09, 2013 4:49 pm

I try to be as honest with people as I can. This means that if anyone asks me what religion I follow or what church I belong to, I tell them "Buddhist." I rarely, if ever, bring it up in conversation, but if anyone asks, I tell the truth. This is often followed by such expressions as "just a beginner."

Simon E. wrote:I was in a shop which was run by the Tibet Society a few years ago .
I made a few purchases from a young Englishman who impressed me with his presence and kindness.
I asked if he was a practitioner. He replied that ' he knew nothing about those things '. ' I just work here ' he added.
I later discovered that he was highly regarded by his ( well known ) teacher as one showing high attainment.


I like this fellow's approach.
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Re: Denying you're a Buddhist to outsiders

Postby dude » Mon Dec 09, 2013 4:50 pm

duckfiasco wrote:The interpretation of anything you say is outside of your control.
I tell people I'm a Buddhist if they ask, knowing full well they likely picture me going "om" in some uncomfortable position.
It's best to not make too big a deal out of it I think and let the actions of your mind, speech, and body do the explaining for you.
Remaining calm while others get upset and need a cool head, knowing how to soothe jealousy in your friends, responding with love when someone expects hatred... these do a lot more good than avoiding using a specific word :group:


You're right about that. Actions speak louder than words.
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