Christian Guilt

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Xhale1227
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Christian Guilt

Post by Xhale1227 » Fri Nov 27, 2015 2:57 pm

Hey guys. Hoping some of you will be able to help me.

I was born into a Christian family although my parents were far from devout. For the first 15 years of my life I was an atheist with little to no interest in "spiritual mumbo jumbo". In high school I became mixed up in drugs/gangs, and was in a bad place. I began to search for a way out and Christianity offered me that. My life completely turned around for the better and I became very active at a local Greek Orthodox Church. After 2 years I decided to join an Orthodox monastery in Arizona. The first year was an absolutely amazing experience. Everything about monastic life appealed to me and I felt more peace than I had ever known before.
As time went on, I began to question things. As an American, Christianity was the first religion I gravitated towards. In my mind you either believed in God and were a Christian, or you were an Atheist. Islam was for Arabs, Buddhism was for Asians, Judaism was for Jews, etc... Anyways, I came in contact with a Buddhist who lived down the road from our monastery. He became a great friend and we spent many hours discussing theology. I began to read many books on Buddhism and it was if my whole belief system came crashing down. In my second year at the monastery, I decided to leave.

I don't want to go into specifics as to what caused me to leave the Church, but it was a very difficult decision. I still feel a great amount of guilt over my apostasy and have lost many dear friends. I've been a practicing Buddhist now for about a year. The logical part of me has zero issue with my choice. However a large chunk of my heart is still in Orthodoxy. Many of you from the West may not be familiar with the Orthodox Church, but it is a breathtakingly beautiful religion. Looks nothing like the Westernized Christianity you are probably familiar with. I adore the chanting, iconography, rituals, liturgies, and history. My heart is still in the church although my beliefs may now be Buddhist, and it's tearing me up. In my local Buddhist temple, I feel as though I'm an outsider.

Has anyone else gone through something similar? I'm really in a tough spot with my heart pulling me in one direction and my brain in another.

Jeff H
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Re: Christian Guilt

Post by Jeff H » Fri Nov 27, 2015 4:46 pm

Take your time, exhale, there’s no rush. I believe Buddhism does teach that there is an urgency, but rushing doesn’t help. You are already applying urgency because you’ve seen the problems in your life and you have taken decisive action. Now you’re working on the specific actions you need to cultivate.

That is what Buddhism is about: recognizing that we live a life defined by suffering; that suffering and its causes can be identified; that it is possible to reverse those causes; and that there is a path that will eventually attain that goal. The path is to learn and then practice what should be abandoned and what should be adopted.

Buddha taught that when we think and act in certain ways we get certain results. When we think and act in different ways we get different results. My teacher compares it to botany: if you learn the laws of botany, you can cultivate a perfect garden on purpose.

I suggest you stop trying to “be” an atheist, gang-banger, druggie, diagnosee, Christian, monastic, or Buddhist. Relax and appreciate the lessons you’ve learned, the trials you endure, the beauty of your Orthodox Church, and the teachings of the Buddha. Go to church because you love it. Learn about Buddhism and begin to adopt some practices. You will see the path unfold in front of you.

You are already very much on the right road. Just walk it.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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DNS
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Re: Christian Guilt

Post by DNS » Sat Nov 28, 2015 7:39 pm

Apostasy is most frowned upon in Judaism and Islam and to a lesser extent in Orthodox Christianity. So I know some of what you are going through since I was raised in a Jewish home. The religion is tied to your whole ethnic identity, community and culture. To leave it is seen almost like leaving your race. There is huge pressure to remain in your birth religion among Jews, Muslims, and Orthodox. As you know they even divide the Orthodox into the ethnic groups of Russian-Orthodox, Ethiopian-Orthodox, Armenian-Orthodox, Greek-Orthodox, etc.

There are lots of beautiful things in Buddhism too. Vajrayana might appeal to you with their beautiful art and deities and chants.

I knew I would lose some family members and childhood friends by leaving the faith, but I chose so anyway, since I felt the quest for spiritual truth was more important than being part of a close-knit community. If I had to go alone, I was okay with that. Eventually you can find your own community ties once again in Buddhism.

dreambow
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Re: Christian Guilt

Post by dreambow » Sun Nov 29, 2015 12:53 am

xhale1227, Leaving a monastery where originally you felt 'at home' is a big ask. It reminds me of the story of Abhishiktananda's life in India as a monk he earnestly sought and found the deepest truth of Christs teaching through the timeless principles of Advaita. Its a difficult journey but it led to a life of simplicity and joy.

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Christian Guilt

Post by Kim O'Hara » Sun Nov 29, 2015 6:58 am

David N. Snyder wrote:There are lots of beautiful things in Buddhism too. Vajrayana might appeal to you with their beautiful art and deities and chants.
I was going to offer the same suggestion.

:namaste:
Kim

SeeLion
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Re: Christian Guilt

Post by SeeLion » Sun Nov 29, 2015 7:54 am

I'm really in a tough spot with my heart pulling me in one direction and my brain in another.
Meditate on that.

I will be putting 2 links: one about acceptance, other one about the present moment.

Which have nothing to do with what you are asking. But they do, they have everything to do, especially if one can see the link between the 2 and learns to practice self-acceptance in the present moment.

To put it in your words, learn to accept your heart and to accept your brain.

Or yet different words - allow your heart and your brain to accept each-other.

There is no need for a boxing match between the your heart and your brain :P Of course, organizing a boxing match is a valid option, nothing wrong with that. But both sides should expect some pain coming.

And there is nothing wrong with pain, professional boxers learn to use it as fuel to keep going.
(and no, my statement isn't endorsing boxing, this is just a metaphor)


http://dhammawheel.com/viewtopic.php?f=16&t=25143


http://www.dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=77&t=21332

gloriasteinem
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Re: Christian Guilt

Post by gloriasteinem » Sun Nov 29, 2015 8:02 pm

Hi, I'm Christian and Buddhist both, we do not have Buddhist temples around so I go to churches. Also I have something with daoism and shavaism too, but for me daoism is more like philosophy. Anyway, I don't see any contradiction, as I feel them as complementary. For me this is making your life much richer in ideas and scopes, I think you should peace up with understanding this is part if your spiritual life and not apostasy. It's really good you still like these things about Christianity, I myself have a lot of sympathy for Americans who embrace Orthodox Christianity, I think they make it in a very nice way (I'm from orthodox country although I'm personally fascinated by protestants) I dont think you should worry, you met someone who gave you a new vaster perspective as Buddhism presumably suggests about the skillful ways of helping, something most western Buddhists tend to forget about, that I wish you at least don't.

So, if you wanna talk with someone bicultural as I am, you always can.

Be well,

Alex
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Serenity509
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Re: Christian Guilt

Post by Serenity509 » Mon Nov 30, 2015 4:32 am

My mother's side of the family is Roman Catholic and my father's side is Eastern Orthodox. I was raised Catholic, but then I became Orthodox in high school. I then was an alter server in the Orthodox Church for six years. I ultimately left Eastern Orthodoxy due to some negative experiences with some overbearing priests, though I did my best not to burn any bridges on the way out.

The way that I, in converting to Buddhism, overcame any possible guilt was to arrive at the conclusion that there is no God. If there is no God, who is there to be guilty for? Sure, you might have lingering guilt over friends or family members who insist that you believe a certain way. But when you are a grown adult, it's no one's responsibility but your own what you choose to believe. It's not their right to decide for you.

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anjali
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Re: Christian Guilt

Post by anjali » Mon Nov 30, 2015 6:51 am

Xhale1227 wrote:...My heart is still in the church although my beliefs may now be Buddhist, and it's tearing me up. In my local Buddhist temple, I feel as though I'm an outsider.

Has anyone else gone through something similar? I'm really in a tough spot with my heart pulling me in one direction and my brain in another.
I would like to suggest that what are experiencing is analogous to the end of a romantic relationship--knowing that a relationship with a lover has ended. You can't go back. Too much has happened. What one is left with, for a while, are memories of the good times, and the despair that comes with feeling the death of a love and relationship that once gave much solace.

Like a lover one has moved on from, you are moving on from the Orthodox Church. And that's ok. Give yourself some time to work through the grieving process for what you have lost.

Perhaps you feel like an outsider at your local Buddhist temple for a couple of reasons. The first reason may be that you haven't completed the grieving process for the old faith you greatly cherished. Your heart isn't yet free to fully move on. A second reason might be that your local Buddhist temple is not your next "true love". Not all expressions of Buddhism are the same. If you spend some time exploring other Buddhist traditions perhaps you will find one you feel more at home with.
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dreambow
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Re: Christian Guilt

Post by dreambow » Mon Nov 30, 2015 8:05 am

Yes its like a love affair, only you're not in love with any particular person but omnipotent Christ. The wafting incense...smells are very evocative, the camaraderie of fellow, like minded monks. You cannot easily dismiss the monastic vows, the devotional singing of psalms and prayers and the contemplative hours. I suspect only an awakening can bring real clarity; a quiet mind is the key.

steve_bakr
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Re: Christian Guilt

Post by steve_bakr » Wed Dec 09, 2015 4:42 am

gloriasteinem wrote:Hi, I'm Christian and Buddhist both, we do not have Buddhist temples around so I go to churches. Also I have something with daoism and shavaism too, but for me daoism is more like philosophy. Anyway, I don't see any contradiction, as I feel them as complementary. For me this is making your life much richer in ideas and scopes, I think you should peace up with understanding this is part if your spiritual life and not apostasy. It's really good you still like these things about Christianity, I myself have a lot of sympathy for Americans who embrace Orthodox Christianity, I think they make it in a very nice way (I'm from orthodox country although I'm personally fascinated by protestants) I dont think you should worry, you met someone who gave you a new vaster perspective as Buddhism presumably suggests about the skillful ways of helping, something most western Buddhists tend to forget about, that I wish you at least don't.

So, if you wanna talk with someone bicultural as I am, you always can.

Be well,

Alex
At first I only read the original post and no further, because I immediately felt that what you suggested is the solution to this present situation. But I was as yet unaware that there was anyone else in DW like me, both Christian and Buddhist. This is a tremendous relief because I previously felt that I could not openly reveal this part of myself here in this forum. I thank you for sharing this about yourself. I no longer feel so alone in my bi-religious orientation.

smcj
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Re: Christian Guilt

Post by smcj » Wed Dec 09, 2015 7:22 am

I'm really in a tough spot with my heart pulling me in one direction and my brain in another.
Well, your heart and your brain are both in the correct place. Christianity speaks to the heart, Buddhism to the brain. Contrary to the dry style of the texts, the devotional aspect that pulls your heart back to Christianity is present in Buddhadharma too. It is not popular among Westerners in general, and extremely unpopular here at DW, but it is there, at least in Pure Land and Vajrayana. Some other forms are less devotional. So I encourage you to disregard the style of the texts and be open to what they are saying. I think you'll be surprised and delighted.

I'm not a Christian but I have friends that are both. In fact there's a whole little group I know that either does both practices, or else for entertainment they look for Christian authors that have interesting things to say.

********************************************

Just in the off chance that you'd read something suggested by a random internet poster, there is a book you might be interested in. It is about an American priest that was born circa 1880 in St. Louis and rose up the Church hierarchy to teach theology at the Vatican. Then he got sick with TB and was recuperating in Switzerland in the early 1930s. While he was immobilized he stumbled on Mahamudra, or something very very close. It freaked him out for a couple of reasons. First, it didn't happen during prayer. Second, it was contrary to the theology he subscribed to. His insight was that we are never really separated from Truth, whereas his theology said that we were separated from God by the sins of Adam.

He didn't associate the experience with Buddhism. He didn't know what to make of it. I'm the one that sees the similarity. Anyways, he tries like the dickens to fit his experience into monotheism and he can't do it, so he leaves the Church. He died in 1949. Not really your scenario, but it might be of some interest.

The book is "I Was a Monk" by John Tettemer.

p.s. On another thread I related a story told by Albert Hoffman that I called a "karmic foreshadowing". Tettemer had what I see as another karmic foreshadowing, but not as striking as Hoffman's. After he left the Church he ended up in Hollywood as an extra on "Lost Horizon" playing a Tibetan monk. Seems to me like he was headed in that direction next lifetime.
I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.

gloriasteinem
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Re: Christian Guilt

Post by gloriasteinem » Wed Dec 09, 2015 12:13 pm

steve_bakr wrote: At first I only read the original post and no further, because I immediately felt that what you suggested is the solution to this present situation. But I was as yet unaware that there was anyone else in DW like me, both Christian and Buddhist. This is a tremendous relief because I previously felt that I could not openly reveal this part of myself here in this forum. I thank you for sharing this about yourself. I no longer feel so alone in my bi-religious orientation.
I'm glad for you, however I think it's called shared belief or something like that, because you have faith in God, enlightment, etc., also culture holds the habit of it
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Dechen Norbu
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Re: Christian Guilt

Post by Dechen Norbu » Wed Dec 09, 2015 3:26 pm

anjali wrote:
Xhale1227 wrote:...My heart is still in the church although my beliefs may now be Buddhist, and it's tearing me up. In my local Buddhist temple, I feel as though I'm an outsider.

Has anyone else gone through something similar? I'm really in a tough spot with my heart pulling me in one direction and my brain in another.
I would like to suggest that what are experiencing is analogous to the end of a romantic relationship--knowing that a relationship with a lover has ended. You can't go back. Too much has happened. What one is left with, for a while, are memories of the good times, and the despair that comes with feeling the death of a love and relationship that once gave much solace.

Like a lover one has moved on from, you are moving on from the Orthodox Church. And that's ok. Give yourself some time to work through the grieving process for what you have lost.

Perhaps you feel like an outsider at your local Buddhist temple for a couple of reasons. The first reason may be that you haven't completed the grieving process for the old faith you greatly cherished. Your heart isn't yet free to fully move on. A second reason might be that your local Buddhist temple is not your next "true love". Not all expressions of Buddhism are the same. If you spend some time exploring other Buddhist traditions perhaps you will find one you feel more at home with.
:good:

steve_bakr
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Re: Christian Guilt

Post by steve_bakr » Wed Dec 09, 2015 11:36 pm

Dechen Norbu wrote:
anjali wrote:
Xhale1227 wrote:...My heart is still in the church although my beliefs may now be Buddhist, and it's tearing me up. In my local Buddhist temple, I feel as though I'm an outsider.

Has anyone else gone through something similar? I'm really in a tough spot with my heart pulling me in one direction and my brain in another.
I would like to suggest that what are experiencing is analogous to the end of a romantic relationship--knowing that a relationship with a lover has ended. You can't go back. Too much has happened. What one is left with, for a while, are memories of the good times, and the despair that comes with feeling the death of a love and relationship that once gave much solace.

Like a lover one has moved on from, you are moving on from the Orthodox Church. And that's ok. Give yourself some time to work through the grieving process for what you have lost.

Perhaps you feel like an outsider at your local Buddhist temple for a couple of reasons. The first reason may be that you haven't completed the grieving process for the old faith you greatly cherished. Your heart isn't yet free to fully move on. A second reason might be that your local Buddhist temple is not your next "true love". Not all expressions of Buddhism are the same. If you spend some time exploring other Buddhist traditions perhaps you will find one you feel more at home with.
:good:
We're talking about something which is embedded into one's psyche, and it is also one's culturalization. So that, in effect, when a Christian becomes a Buddhist, there is an interaction within, a sort of dual culturization. Finding a resolution or a reconciliation is a highly individual process. I sensed in the OP a true love of the Orthodox Church.

The question arises in this individual instance: "Must the OP leave his Church in order to practice Buddhism?" Not necessarily. For myself, Christianity is my native culture. My wife is a Christian and I have longtime Christian friends who would not in any way understand my decision to become a Buddhist. If I had attempted to simply transplant myself entirely from my Christian culture to my adopted Buddhist culture, the entire fabric of life as I knew it would have collapsed.

If I may use the phrase in this context, that was not "skillful means." For me, it was not the way to handle my life situation. So, I became a Buddhist and retained my Christianity, only I now see Christianity in an entirely different way, and I am certainly not tied down by doctrinal issues.

Perhaps this is the way forward for the OP. But I don't think he has responded yet to any posts, so we do not know. It is not outside the realm of possibility for such people to leave Buddhism and return to the Church. But I prefer the dual approach.

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