Dharma Decline

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Rita_Repulsa
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Dharma Decline

Post by Rita_Repulsa » Sat Nov 07, 2015 10:48 pm

I've read things about the decline of Buddhism in Japan in the past. This is a new article, which indicates that when it comes to Buddhism in Japan, people just aren't "buying" it anymore:
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/n ... ples-close
The crisis facing Japanese Buddhism isn’t a simple matter of demographics. In the early 1700s, Japan’s population stood at around 30 million – almost 100 million fewer than today – yet there were 46,000 temples. Surveys show that an increasing number of Japanese regard organised religion as inaccessible, cheerless and – since the 1995 sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway by the Aum Supreme Truth doomsday cult – even dangerous.

“In this kind of environment, new membership recruitment will remain difficult,” said Mark Mullins, a professor of Japanese studies at the University of Auckland. “There may be some winners in the shrinking religious market, but it seems likely that most religious organisations will be struggling to maintain their institutions and activities as the number of active clergy and members continues to decline.”
I think that this is very unfortunate.
Echo interaction cause and effect the interconnected quality of the absolute truth the foundation of Buddhism laying in this belief in happiness the four immeasurable and cessation of suffering. - tomschwarz

Buddhism is not a Care Bears fantasy (as many westerns think). - Harimoo

tingdzin
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by tingdzin » Sun Nov 08, 2015 1:34 am

I agree. There was also an article in this week's "Economist" about how many small. old temples are going bankrupt.

I think this can be seen, at least partially, as one of the long-term effects of the Danka system, which DGA referred to yesterday (Government's heavy-handed involvement with religion( see https://en,wikipedia.org/wiki/Danka_System ), but it is probably also due to trend towards a widespread dismissal of religious concerns that has overtaken most educated and developed countries, where there are lots of entertaining distractions and consumer goods to be chased.

We can hope that when the societies based on these trivialities inevitably collapse, Japanese Buddhist leaders will beup to the task of restoring meaningful Dharma to Japan.

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dharmagoat
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by dharmagoat » Sun Nov 08, 2015 5:18 am

tingdzin wrote:...but it is probably also due to trend towards a widespread dismissal of religious concerns that has overtaken most educated and developed countries, where there are lots of entertaining distractions and consumer goods to be chased.
The fact that what Buddhism teaches is largely at odds with what most educated people accept as true cannot be overlooked.

Blaming it on consumerism masks the real issue. Buddhism in its traditional forms is falling out of step with the modern world.

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Kim O'Hara
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by Kim O'Hara » Sun Nov 08, 2015 5:50 am

not.theguardian.com/world/2015/nov/06/france-shuns-traditions-as-churches-close
The crisis facing French Christianity isn’t a simple matter of demographics. In the early 1700s, France's population stood at around 30 million – almost 60 million fewer than today – yet there were 46,000 churches. Surveys show that an increasing number of French regard organised religion as inaccessible, cheerless and – since the rise of Islamic radicalism – even dangerous.

“In this kind of environment, new membership recruitment will remain difficult,” said Mark Mullins, a professor of French studies at the University of Auckland. “There may be some winners in the shrinking religious market, but it seems likely that most religious organisations will be struggling to maintain their institutions and activities as the number of active clergy and members continues to decline.”
Easy to rewrite, isn't it?
Still true, too.
:thinking:

Yes, all organised religion is dwindling away in all 'modern' societies. The rise of science (which works every time, unlike prayer) has driven rising rationalism, while democracy has driven rising egalitarianism. Put the two together and you have a whole generation of people willing and able to challenge irrational statements from anyone at all, including religious teachers who could previously rely on their authority shielding their pronouncements from examination.

I wouldn't mind at all (well, hardly at all) except that in losing religion we are losing ethics and morality (admittedly imperfect ethics and morality) faster than we can replace them with a more rationally based version of them.

:namaste:
Kim

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dharmagoat
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by dharmagoat » Sun Nov 08, 2015 6:02 am

Kim O'Hara wrote:Yes, all organised religion is dwindling away in all 'modern' societies. The rise of science (which works every time, unlike prayer) has driven rising rationalism, while democracy has driven rising egalitarianism. Put the two together and you have a whole generation of people willing and able to challenge irrational statements from anyone at all, including religious teachers who could previously rely on their authority shielding their pronouncements from examination.

I wouldn't mind at all (well, hardly at all) except that in losing religion we are losing ethics and morality (admittedly imperfect ethics and morality) faster than we can replace them with a more rationally based version of them.
Excellent post. I think that is it in a nutshell.

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jundo cohen
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by jundo cohen » Sun Nov 08, 2015 5:32 pm

As someone who has lived in Japan for 30 years (and do now), I would say the story is a bit more complex. History and statistics are funny things, and often depend how ya look at things:

One can actually argue that Zen (the tradition I am most familiar with), and Buddhism in general, are doing better than ever in history. That is so both in their countries of origin (including Japan) and world-wide. How?

For example, population wise in sheer numbers, there is good evidence that Zen Buddhism (the flavor I know best so can speak to) ... and Buddhism in general ... are more popular (by number of Buddhists) than ever in world history. It covers more countries, more millions of people than ever found in centuries past in the rather small historical populations of ancient India, China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Tibet etc. by manifold. Also, people these days tend to be better educated, so their attraction to Buddhism is not simply based on illiteracy, need for potentially superstitious beliefs to make the crops grow or to cure a sick baby, or social compulsion (the Emperor and all the neighbors are Buddhist, so we had better be as well or we might find ourselves banished. So many of those temples which are closing in Japan were built in the first place because the government required membership as a way of social control and policing, a way to keep an eye on folks and keep Christianity from taking root).
Buddhism was a fact of life and death during the Tokugawa period (1600-1868): every household was expected to be affiliated with a Buddhist temple, and every citizen had to be given a Buddhist funeral. The enduring relationship between temples and their affiliated households gave rise to the danka system of funerary patronage.

This private custom became a public institution when the Tokugawa shogunate discovered an effective means by which to control the populace and prevent the spread of ideologies potentially dangerous to its power--especially Christianity. Despite its lack of legal status, the danka system was applied to the entire population without exception; it became for the government a potent tool of social order and for the Buddhist establishment a practical way to ensure its survival within the socioeconomic context of early modern Japan.
http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php? ... 0674025035
Many people become Buddhist these days based on an actual ability to go out, learn and practice by choice, encountering a true affinity to the Teachings. There may be more Zazen sitters in America and Europe today that in China, Japan and Korea combined at Zen's height there, and more general practitioners who actually have some real understanding of the central tenets of what they are practicing (and the same for Tibetan and other Buddhist practices, given the relative lack of access to practice in the past among ordinary folks and the relatively historically tiny populations, geographically isolated, class bound and with little opportunity for social mobility or access to education, of many places in old Asia).

In my experience, most Japanese ... unlike in some other cultures and societies ... do not seem to get so emotionally wrapped up and swept up in religious matters. I have a feeling that people were more religious in the past than today in Japan, but mostly because they saw Buddhism (and Shinto) as the best way to keep the crops growing (with a little help from the Buddhas and Spirits), healthy (before there were modern hospitals) and safe (best to travel with an amulet of some kind in the pocket). For every "Dogen" or other Japanese Buddhist leader who was a passionate religious man in Japanese history, the majority of people of the past were more "I will light incense or toss a coin to whatever Buddha or Spirit will help the crops grow and keep me healthy." I do not think that such attitude has changed much throughout the centuries and, quite possibly, it may be the central driving force for Buddhism and all religions among the general believers of most countries.

I cannot speak for other flavors of Buddhism, but I can speak a bit as a Zen Practitioner in Japan. Zen Practice. at its heart, should never be about quantity in any case. It has always been an arcane Practice meant for some, suited to those whose Karma brings them there. That is my feeling. So, it has only been for a small portion of the population in the past, not the wide masses, and it remains so today. Yet despite that fact, there are more serious practitioners, more access to resources and teachers and practice places by the people drawn to it, today more than ever in the past. Thus, I actually feel it is doing pretty well in Japan and worldwide, depending on how one assesses the situation.

Gassho, Jundo
Priest/Teacher at Treeleaf Zendo, a Soto Zen Sangha. Treeleaf Zendo was designed as an online practice place for Zen practitioners who cannot easily commute to a Zen Center due to health concerns, living in remote areas, or work, childcare and family needs, and seeks to provide Zazen sittings, retreats, discussion, interaction with a teacher, and all other activities of a Zen Buddhist Sangha, all fully online. The focus is Shikantaza "Just Sitting" Zazen as instructed by the 13th Century Japanese Master, Eihei Dogen. http://www.treeleaf.org

boda
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by boda » Sun Nov 08, 2015 6:08 pm

Kim O'Hara wrote:I wouldn't mind at all (well, hardly at all) except that in losing religion we are losing ethics and morality (admittedly imperfect ethics and morality) faster than we can replace them with a more rationally based version of them.
That's a common assumption, but the facts tell a different story.

http://pitweb.pitzer.edu/academics/wp-c ... ompass.pdf

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maybay
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by maybay » Sun Nov 08, 2015 7:58 pm

boda wrote:
Kim O'Hara wrote:I wouldn't mind at all (well, hardly at all) except that in losing religion we are losing ethics and morality (admittedly imperfect ethics and morality) faster than we can replace them with a more rationally based version of them.
That's a common assumption, but the facts tell a different story.

http://pitweb.pitzer.edu/academics/wp-c ... ompass.pdf
This type of simplistic quantitative study doesn't impress me much. There are so many problems with their methods, and as for the intention, it is nothing more than an attempt to validate a zero (atheism) with a whole lot of numbers. From the beginning they start with relying on each person's self-evaluation. "I am a Christian." OK, so what does that mean, really? It would be much more meaningful to examine actual practices. Person says prayers for 10 minutes every day, person goes to church every week, person donates a tenth of their earning to the church. Those might be statistics to base a study on. There is one example of that though:
As for suicide, however, regular church-attending Americans clearly have lower rates than non-attenders
And sure enough it's the only example that puts "believers" in a positive light.
And at the societal level, with the important exception of suicide, states and nations with a higher proportion of secular people fare markedly better than those with a higher proportion of religious people.
Just browsing through, some examples of the tyranny of statistics:
Some studies report that nonreligious people have higher rates of divorce than religious people (Hood, et al., 1996; Lehrer and Chiswick, 1993; Heaton and Call, 1997), but a 1999 Barna study found that atheists and agnostics actually have lower divorce rates than religious Americans.
Have they considered that non-religious people are less likely to get married in the first place, whereas religious people generally feel obliged? They don't say.
One consistent assertion made by religious people is that if a society or country loses faith in God, or becomes secular, the results won’t be good. It is a theo-sociological claim: societies characterized by significant levels of belief in God are expected to fare much better than those without. And it is a claim that is easily testable.
There's nothing easy about testing people or societies or religions, and here they've left out the most important part: the afterlife, coincidently the one statistic atheists are more willing to join.

Ananda was chided by the Buddha for thinking he understood the workings of karma. It is near worthless to draw conclusions about something as vague as claims to religious belief.
People will know nothing and everything
Remember nothing and everything
Think nothing and everything
Do nothing and everything
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Arjan Dirkse
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by Arjan Dirkse » Sun Nov 08, 2015 8:43 pm

I don't think it's a bad thing at all. A little less religion can be good. Certainly despite the "dharma decline" Japan is a better place right now than at most times in its blood soaked history.

The dharma is the dharma. It is not the corrupt institution of Buddhism.

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dharmagoat
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by dharmagoat » Sun Nov 08, 2015 8:57 pm

Arjan Dirkse wrote:The dharma is the dharma. It is not the corrupt institution of Buddhism.
We see the dharma through the lens of institutional Buddhism. Buddhism defines 'the dharma'. How can they not go hand in hand?
Last edited by dharmagoat on Sun Nov 08, 2015 8:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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maybay
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by maybay » Sun Nov 08, 2015 8:57 pm

Arjan Dirkse wrote:I don't think it's a bad thing at all. A little less religion can be good. Certainly despite the "dharma decline" Japan is a better place right now than at most times in its blood soaked history.
Are you blaming Japan's violent history on Buddhism?
Arjan Dirkse wrote:The dharma is the dharma. It is not the corrupt institution of Buddhism.
There is no Dharma without institutions to support it. Consider what today you call the Dharma and how you come to know it.
People will know nothing and everything
Remember nothing and everything
Think nothing and everything
Do nothing and everything
- Machig Labdron

Arjan Dirkse
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by Arjan Dirkse » Sun Nov 08, 2015 9:31 pm

dharmagoat wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:The dharma is the dharma. It is not the corrupt institution of Buddhism.
We see the dharma through the lens of institutional Buddhism. Buddhism defines 'the dharma'. How can they not go hand in hand?
Buddhism has its definition of the dharma. That doesn't mean institutional Buddhism always goes hand in hand with what the dharma is.

Lots of informed people are rightfully critical towards organized religion, including Buddhism. I understand why people turn away, and I think it isn't necessarily a bad thing. I think religion is mostly a bag of shit with a few pearls in it. And it's not as if those pearls are going away just because people look in a different direction. With all the books and translations in libraries and websites all over the world, Buddhism is accessible like never before, when people look for it it will still be there. And there may even be a few good teachers they can turn to.

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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by odysseus » Sun Nov 08, 2015 9:51 pm

Yeah, we all know the prophecy about Buddhism declining one fifth a part over every 500 years. And then again it will take 30000 (?) years more before Buddhism is totally forgotten and there will appear a new Buddha. Even if we're already 2500 years after Shakyamuni, there are still a few thousand years to go before it's gone. Buddhists will do their best and keep it alive. No problem with strange teachings in modern days, even with groups like NKT and Lama Nydahl and SGI. Those who are Buddhists don't have to worry until a few thousand years.

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dharmagoat
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by dharmagoat » Sun Nov 08, 2015 10:37 pm

odysseus wrote:Yeah, we all know the prophecy about Buddhism declining one fifth a part over every 500 years. And then again it will take 30000 (?) years more before Buddhism is totally forgotten and there will appear a new Buddha. Even if we're already 2500 years after Shakyamuni, there are still a few thousand years to go before it's gone. Buddhists will do their best and keep it alive. No problem with strange teachings in modern days, even with groups like NKT and Lama Nydahl and SGI. Those who are Buddhists don't have to worry until a few thousand years.
Yes, let's put full trust in the scriptures and get on with the serious business of disappearing up our own arses.

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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by anjali » Sun Nov 08, 2015 10:51 pm

For those interested in what the sacred might look like in a secular spirituality, you may want to check out, Spirituality for the Skeptic: The Thoughtful Love of Life, by Robert Solomon.

Just recently (Nov 5), there was a science news article with the title,Religious upbringing linked to less altruism, study of children suggests. Here is the conclusion:
The negative relation between religiosity and altruism grew stronger with age; children with a longer experience of religion in the household were the least likely to share.

Children from religious households favored stronger punishments for anti-social behavior and judged such behavior more harshly than non-religious children. These results support previous studies of adults, which have found religiousness is linked with punitive attitudes toward interpersonal offenses.

"Together, these results reveal the similarity across countries in how religion negatively influences children's altruism. They challenge the view that religiosity facilitates prosocial behavior, and call into question whether religion is vital for moral development -- suggesting the secularization of moral discourse does not reduce human kindness. In fact, it does just the opposite," Decety said.
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Wherever there is a human being, there is an opportunity for kindness. –-Seneca

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Malcolm
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by Malcolm » Sun Nov 08, 2015 10:54 pm

dharmagoat wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:The dharma is the dharma. It is not the corrupt institution of Buddhism.
We see the dharma through the lens of institutional Buddhism.
You may, I don't.
Buddhism defines 'the dharma'.
Not for me.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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dharmagoat
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by dharmagoat » Sun Nov 08, 2015 11:03 pm

Malcolm wrote:Not for me.
Thank you, Malcolm. I will take you off the list.

YesheDronmar
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by YesheDronmar » Sun Nov 08, 2015 11:10 pm

Malcolm wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:The dharma is the dharma. It is not the corrupt institution of Buddhism.
We see the dharma through the lens of institutional Buddhism.
You may, I don't.
Buddhism defines 'the dharma'.
Not for me.
I'm with Malcolm on this one.

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maybay
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by maybay » Sun Nov 08, 2015 11:24 pm

Arjan Dirkse wrote:Lots of informed people are rightfully critical towards organized religion, including Buddhism.
Their criticism would be better spent on the Dharma.
Buddhism is accessible like never before, when people look for it it will still be there.
With what reason and what faith would people have to investigate and practice a dead religion?

You imagine the world can be contained in scientific formula, engineering blueprints, biological DNA, or software code. These are just one-side of the story, i.e. law without embodiment, like sperm without an egg, or a foetus without a womb.
People will know nothing and everything
Remember nothing and everything
Think nothing and everything
Do nothing and everything
- Machig Labdron

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maybay
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Re: Dharma Decline

Post by maybay » Sun Nov 08, 2015 11:28 pm

Malcolm wrote:
dharmagoat wrote:
Arjan Dirkse wrote:The dharma is the dharma. It is not the corrupt institution of Buddhism.
We see the dharma through the lens of institutional Buddhism.
You may, I don't.
Even the guru-disciple relationship is an institution.
People will know nothing and everything
Remember nothing and everything
Think nothing and everything
Do nothing and everything
- Machig Labdron

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