Americans turning to Buddhism?

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Queequeg
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Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by Queequeg » Fri Mar 08, 2019 12:59 am

https://www.theatlantic.com/health/arch ... py/584308/

A salve for emotional distress... Will the deeper teachings that undermine many modern conventions take eventually?

Nothing new for regulars here. Notable that this appeared in the Atlantic.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

Jeff H
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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by Jeff H » Fri Mar 08, 2019 4:28 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Fri Mar 08, 2019 12:59 am
Will the deeper teachings that undermine many modern conventions take eventually?
If they do, it won't be thanks to pap like this in an otherwise respectable magazine.

I don’t think this article is remotely about Buddhism, notwithstanding references to Pema Chodron and an unattributed quote from Shantideva. For me, this paragraph encapsulates the spirit of the article:
Olga Khazan wrote:Buffet Buddhism may not be traditional, but its flexibility does allow its adherents to more easily employ the philosophy for an antidepressant jolt. Some people practice Buddhism and meditation as an alternative to psychotherapy or psychiatric medication, given mental-health care’s cost and scarcity: Sixty percent of counties in the U.S. don’t have a single psychiatrist. “I have pretty good health insurance,” Bernard said, “but if I want support, it’s a month and a half to see someone new. Having a resource that I can pop open is invaluable.”
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

DharmaN00b
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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by DharmaN00b » Sat Mar 09, 2019 3:02 am

Too many choices nowadays. I don't know when or where there's no where left to turn.

tingdzin
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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by tingdzin » Sat Mar 09, 2019 6:42 am

Never mind. This kind of stuff just might be considered the Western equivalent of the popular Buddhism that flourished for centuries in early China, though largely unnoticed by historians, alongside the Buddhism of scriptures, monastic establishments, and profound contemplative and philosophical traditions. Eric Zurcher had a lot to say on the subject.

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Johnny Dangerous
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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by Johnny Dangerous » Sat Mar 09, 2019 7:59 am

As I see it:

There are two different ways to approach Dharma with regard to helping one's mental health, stress level etc. Sometimes they look the same on the surface but there are subtle differences.

The first one is (I suspect) what drives people so crazy about stuff like this. That's where someone thinks "ah, I can use this Buddhism stuff as a tool towards a less stressful, more productive life". The problem there is that they have no renunciation. They've never really questioned their end goal of this less stressful, more productive life. They haven't yet seriously considered that perhaps it is their entire relationship with everything that's in need of reexamination. In short, they don't really get samsara yet, they don't realize the utter vainglory of their plans and their ideas.

The other category is when a person sees themselves living the same suffering over and over, and begins to wonder if there is something beyond "happier and more productive life". They know they suffer, and they have some suspicion that there is a larger goal than mundane views of fulfillment via conditions, and are beginning to wonder if actual fulfillment might not come from conditions at all. But, they have to start somewhere, and that's usually with lessening their day to day suffering in the easiest way possible - becoming aware of the suffering they impose via their relationships to their minds.

Regardless of wherever else they stand, the second category of person is at least getting an inking of things, and whatever stress relief etc. they experience is in service of something greater, even if it's very murky and hard to see, and is only a seed. The basic understanding (mentioned in the article only briefly) that suffering is not something that can actually be avoided, and should not be battled is in fact, a huge deal. Someone can have no interest at all in Buddhism per se, but if they grasp this, it's a beginning. If they practice for a while, the second and third Noble Truths at least will become more evident.

As an aside, Buddhism has immeasurably improved the world of mental health treatment for the most common issues - anxiety and depression, whether it is credited or not, people are using bite-sized Dharma to ease their suffering, and this is positive. So if there is something to be upset about, it is that too many people are still in the first of the above categories, and think they can use the Dharma to keep doing what they are doing.....which is the opposite of it's purpose. It is not a mistake though that people are drawn to the healing properties of Dharma, and I have seen even Buddha Rupas function this way for non-Buddhists, so lets not look at it as all negative, even if some of the articles make people roll their eyes.

The more skillful teachers with wide audiences I noticed are most definitely trying to steer people into camp #2.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

-James Low

Simon E.
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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by Simon E. » Sat Mar 09, 2019 10:34 am

:good:


I don't think we should feel too elated when the media take an interest in Dharma or too depressed when (and it will happen) Buddhism-lite falls out of fashion and there is a reaction against it.
What I have seen here in the U.K. is the tide of interest flowing in and flowing out several times over the years. The positive thing is that each time it leaves a few more people on the shore who go on beyond the superficial trendiness.
Buddha Dharma will probably never give rise to a mass movement in the West.
“The difference between us and Tara is that she knows she doesn’t exist”.

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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Mar 09, 2019 10:47 am

Yeah second that. (Although with the guilty feeling that I’m probably, actually, one of the first group.)
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by seeker242 » Sat Mar 09, 2019 1:23 pm

David McMahan at Franklin and Marshall College, who said some of these Western interpretations are slightly morphed from Buddhism’s original cultures and contexts. Buddhism carries with it a set of values and morals that white Americans don’t always live by. Much like “cafeteria Catholics” ignore parts of the religion that don’t resonate with them, some Westerners focus on only certain elements of Buddhist philosophy
Nothing wrong with that. Practicing some of Buddhism is better than practicing none of Buddhism. :smile:
One should not kill any living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should one incite any other to kill. Do never injure any being, whether strong or weak, in this entire universe!

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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by PeterC » Sat Mar 09, 2019 3:54 pm

Given the reference to “Kadampa Buddhism” at the start, it seems the writer was attending a NKT center. What sort of journalist writes an article on “Buddhism” but doesn’t pick up on the significance of that?

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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by Simon E. » Sat Mar 09, 2019 5:03 pm

PeterC wrote:
Sat Mar 09, 2019 3:54 pm
Given the reference to “Kadampa Buddhism” at the start, it seems the writer was attending a NKT center. What sort of journalist writes an article on “Buddhism” but doesn’t pick up on the significance of that?
My reaction exactly.
“The difference between us and Tara is that she knows she doesn’t exist”.

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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by Jeff H » Sat Mar 09, 2019 10:00 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sat Mar 09, 2019 7:59 am
As I see it: ...
Thanks. I appreciate your thoughtful perspective.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

DharmaN00b
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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by DharmaN00b » Sun Mar 10, 2019 2:46 am

Alas the capricious nature of people means a high percentage of casualties?!

Is determination a more predictable outcome. Let me look into my crystal ball.

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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by boda » Sun Mar 10, 2019 10:17 pm

Johnny Dangerous wrote:
Sat Mar 09, 2019 7:59 am
The first one [of ways to approach Dharma] is (I suspect) what drives people so crazy about stuff like this. That's where someone thinks "ah, I can use this Buddhism stuff as a tool towards a less stressful, more productive life". The problem there is that they have no renunciation. They've never really questioned their end goal of this less stressful, more productive life. They haven't yet seriously considered that perhaps it is their entire relationship with everything that's in need of reexamination. In short, they don't really get samsara yet, they don't realize the utter vainglory of their plans and their ideas.
Anyone practicing to reduce stress and increase productivity renounces whatever produces stress and a loss of productivity, so it is incorrect to say they have no renunciation.

Though I suppose there's a spectrum to renunciation, from a lay practitioner claiming renunciation in a ritualistic fashion to a true renunciate or monk.
they can use the Dharma to keep doing what they are doing.....which is the opposite of it's purpose.
Unless you'd like to be more specific, "doing what they are doing" is living a normal American life. American lay Buddhists also have a typical American lifestyle. American Buddhists are not immune to whatever the shortcomings of being raised in this culture may entail, nor are they immune to the vainglory or spiritual materialism. If they were then Chögyam Trungpa wouldn't have needed to write a book about it.

It's healthy, I believe, to examine just how deeply our culture (the good and the not so good aspects) is embedded in each of us.

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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by SunWuKong » Mon Mar 11, 2019 6:01 am

Sorry I just skimmed over the article. It's not about the statistic at all, just idle conjecture. The growth of people self-identifying as "Buddhists" is growing steadily in the USA, but it's efficacy in mental health is certainly the bait used by many groups and individuals, but I'll bet its the ones who charge the most money. Maybe even the same ones that see the highest attrition rates. Buddhists act and talk just as crazy as everyone else to me, so I couldn't say. The story does not focus on the metrics. The growth in Buddhism might have more to do with non-violence than anything else. All the other religions seem pretty blood-soaked currently.
"We are magical animals that roam" ~ Roam

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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by Wayfarer » Tue Mar 12, 2019 11:09 am

What do we make of this:
The aim of salvation in Buddhism...is to be released from finite life itself. Such an idea of salvation recurs across the world religions, but in many strands of Buddhism there is a remarkable honesty regarding the implications of salvation. Rather than promising that your life will continue, or that you will see your loved ones again, the salvation of nirvana entails your extinction. The aim is not to lead a free life, with the pain and suffering that such a life entails, but to reach the “insight” that personal agency is an illusion and dissolve in the timelessness of Nirvāṇa.. What ultimately matters is to attain a state of consciousness where everything ceases to matter, so that one can rest in peace.

From Why Mortality Makes Us Free

NYT published my comment on the article.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Queequeg
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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by Queequeg » Tue Mar 12, 2019 1:17 pm

Much easier to dismiss Buddhism if its about dissolving into nothingness. Its neutral - no judgment, and literally, has no point. Its a whole different matter when you have to consider it as a teaching that says you suffer because you're doing life wrong.

I vow to save all beings.

That's as ambitious a statement about life as can be made.
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

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Queequeg
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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by Queequeg » Tue Mar 12, 2019 3:10 pm

On the issue of mindfulness without Dharma...

Shantideva in the Washington Post!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions ... le-hatred/
Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

boda
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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by boda » Tue Mar 12, 2019 4:04 pm

Queequeg wrote:
Tue Mar 12, 2019 3:10 pm
On the issue of mindfulness without Dharma...

Shantideva in the Washington Post!

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions ... le-hatred/
The solution — and the opportunity for each of us — lies not in disagreeing less, but in understanding the appropriate way to disagree with others, even when we are treated with hatred. A valuable clue can be found in the words of the 8th-century Indian Buddhist master Shantideva in his text “A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life”: “Unruly beings are as unlimited as space / They cannot possibly all be overcome, / But if I overcome thoughts of anger alone / This will be equivalent to vanquishing all foes.”
See, the only way to vanquish your foes, assuming that’s something you want to do, is to accept them. :)

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Queequeg
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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by Queequeg » Tue Mar 12, 2019 4:28 pm

Who's a foe?

To all my friends!

Those who, even with distracted minds,
Entered a stupa compound
And chanted but once, “Namo Buddhaya!”
Have certainly attained the path of the buddhas.

-Lotus Sutra, Expedient Means Chapter

There are beings with little dust in their eyes who are falling away because they do not hear the Dhamma. There will be those who will understand the Dhamma.
-Ayacana Sutta

DharmaN00b
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Re: Americans turning to Buddhism?

Post by DharmaN00b » Tue Mar 12, 2019 9:20 pm

What seems to be clear is that many people do not respect kindness. Instead they learn respect when you stop them from exploiting you. For those of us accustomed to having our every whim and fancy attended we become spoiled and thereby have a greater sense of importance in the world.

I'm sure many of us understand if we set no boundaries with others they become quite vocal (in other words more political), and this extends beyond the person to the community and the nation. The notion of "anything for a quiet life" flat out fails and if not nipped at the bud early turns from just a nuisance into something that will definitely test the patience of a saint.

:cheers: :focus:

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