Shopping for a tradition

DGA
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Shopping for a tradition

Postby DGA » Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:09 pm

This came up in reflecting on the Treeleaf Sangha thread:

viewtopic.php?f=69&t=11691

Historically, if you were interested in hearing and practicing the Dharma, you'd have to convince your family to let you leave the farm or the village, find a temple that would take a chance on you, and then learn and practice whatever was presented to you. This last bit is not such a bad approach: if the teachings are medicine given to alleviate the particular afflictions of the student, then it follows that the teacher is in a better position to diagnose and prescribe appropriate forms of practice for the student than the student who chooses to self-medicate.

I've noticed that in recent years people get interested in practice through reading or poking around online, convince themselves that a particular approach is the one for them (maybe it "resonates" for them), and then actively seek out a teacher who will give that particular kind of teaching on the student's terms. It's not unlike shopping: you identify with a particular kind of brand, and then you go out and get it. In this sense, the teachings have become to such students just another consumer good. I like This Zen brand meditation, not That Zen brand.

What gets lost in the process? The opportunity for the teacher to turn the student's world rightside-up. Why? Because the teacher is put in the position of giving the student what he or she wants, and not necessarily what he or she needs. What else gets lost in the process? It may be that some teachers commit to a race to the bottom in publicly crafting a brand for their school that emphasizes desirability (that is, promoting the idea that we give people what they want). Branding, after all, is competitive; Our School is not Your School. What emerges from this? Sectarian arrogance, perhaps, but also a feeling that others have a sinister view of your own school... how could they not, if they choose to practice with Them instead of Us?

I'd like to know what others think of this.

(I have some other ideas on teachers who willingly participate in such an arrangement, but I'm still thinking them through.)

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Re: Shopping for a tradition

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:20 pm

I think you are onto something, but I am not sure how that would work for modern westerners, especially laypeople. It seems like the model is preferable, but because of the sort of lives we lead, mostly unworkable. There is also the issue with the fact that in The West we just don't seem to accept the same kind of pedagogical relationships.

You see alot of westerners who want to get into Buddhism, and yet do not want any "trappings", and don't even seemingly want to acknowledge the authority of teachers at all - I've seen people basically shrug at the fact that a teacher spent half his life studying in a monastery etc... you see this in areas completely outside Buddhism too, being a cultural studies person i'm sure you'd have more insight on this than me. What we seem to end up with is actually a very narrow form of Buddhism that actually accommodates a very narrow group of rational-minded, individualistic middle class westerners. Accommodate being the operative word..never challenge, which you would think is important.

I know i've had to shop, this is the model usually available to us, like it or not.

This is true of so many things, there are direct parallels here to teaching martial arts and similar things too..if you are true to what you teach you end up with like ...one fifth of the people you would have if you just decided to "brand" yourself and give people just what they want. This will sound really grumpy, but I think many people looking around at least start off wanting reinforcement or confirmation rather than challenge, and this makes any kind of real effort at earnestly improving oneself difficult, if someone won't accept that medicine isn't always supposed to taste great, how can a doctor get them to take it?
Last edited by Johnny Dangerous on Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Shopping for a tradition

Postby Karma Dorje » Tue Feb 05, 2013 6:46 pm

People are always impelled by past aspirations, meritorious actions and interconnections. They may think that they are "shopping" but really they are just drawn to those things which are most familiar to them. In the West, most of us have obviously not spent a lot of time compared to the much older civilizations in India, China and the Far East. It's only natural that we are drawn to where our longest history was.
"Although my view is higher than the sky, My respect for the cause and effect of actions is as fine as grains of flour."
-Padmasambhava

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Re: Shopping for a tradition

Postby Jainarayan » Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:15 pm

Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273

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Re: Shopping for a tradition

Postby Matt J » Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:43 pm

The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
--- Xin Xin Ming


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Re: Shopping for a tradition

Postby Matt J » Tue Feb 05, 2013 7:49 pm

The Great Way is not difficult
If only there is no picking or choosing
--- Xin Xin Ming


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Re: Shopping for a tradition

Postby Karma Dorje » Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:02 pm

"Although my view is higher than the sky, My respect for the cause and effect of actions is as fine as grains of flour."
-Padmasambhava

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Re: Shopping for a tradition

Postby Jainarayan » Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:34 pm

Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273

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Re: Shopping for a tradition

Postby Jainarayan » Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:38 pm

Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273

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Re: Shopping for a tradition

Postby Astus » Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:57 pm

I don't see anything new about this "shopping for a tradition" except that it is compared to consumerism. True, poor farmers had little chance to spend time off the field pursuing spiritual goals, and those who did had to become monks. On the other hand, the nobility and the literati had enough freedom to pick and choose as they liked. In the imperial courts all sorts of religions were present and all of them were vying for support from the ruling class and especially the emperor. The development of the Zen school is closely connected to political powers from the very beginning, from the initial strengthening of Shenxiu's so called "Northern School", through Shenhui gaining support for his "Southern School", the rising of Mazu's "Hongzhou School" because of the newly gained freedom of local lords, and so on. Monasteries require the support of the wealthy and powerful. The more support you get the bigger the monastery becomes, plus all the benefits that comes with it. Lose that support and you can lose everything in no time. It was always in the interest of Buddhism, just as any organised religion, to gain legitimacy and financial aid from the lords of the land. To give a European example, the survival of Christianity and its becoming the dominant religion depended first on the Roman emperors and then the kings, and when later Luther got the support of Frederick III of Saxony he managed for the first time to secure the survival of a heretic sect (although others have tried before). So, it is not just that people are shopping for a tradition, but every religion must sell themselves.
Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.



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Re: Shopping for a tradition

Postby Yudron » Tue Feb 05, 2013 8:59 pm

Author of Buddhist young adult fiction. Vlogger at Wisdom and Compassion: Grandma Yudron's Totally Chill Vlog on Meditation and Tibetan Wisdom Blogger at Very active on Twitter.

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Re: Shopping for a tradition

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Re: Shopping for a tradition

Postby Jainarayan » Tue Feb 05, 2013 9:48 pm

Worthy, wise and virtuous: Who is energetic and not indolent, in misfortune unshaken,
flawless in manner and intelligent, such one will honor gain. - Digha Nikaya III 273

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Re: Shopping for a tradition

Postby Sara H » Mon Feb 11, 2013 2:45 am

"Life is full of suffering. AND Life is full of the Eternal
IT IS OUR CHOICE
We can stand in our shadow, and wallow in the darkness,
OR
We can turn around.
It is OUR choice." -Rev. Basil Singer

" ...out of fear, even the good harm one another. " -Rev. Dazui MacPhillamy

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Re: Shopping for a tradition

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Re: Shopping for a tradition

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Re: Shopping for a tradition

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Re: Shopping for a tradition

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