Author Topic: This time of year .....  (Read 138 times)

Chaz

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This time of year .....
« on: December 27, 2020, 07:14:58 PM »
This time of year always give me pause to consider the elements that have gone into present day religion and how such processes may affect western Buddhism in the future.

Lets take the most obvious - Christmas.  As a Christian holidayit has elements of Germanic Yule, Latin Saturnalia and Celitc Solstice observances along with traditional Christian tradition.  You could, if you wanted, throw Mithraism and Egyptian mythos into the mix.

The process by which this happened was first described to me as Purposive Evolution.  Simply put, this is a status quo, like Germanic religions, encounters a revolutionaryforce in Christianity.  Conflict arises.  The result is something new arises, containing elements of both the status quo and the revolutionary. 

This is why eastern and western christianity differ.  This is why they are in some ways the same.  The same is said for Buddhism.  As Buddhism spread it encountered new cultures and was adapted by those cultures.  Sometimes Buddhism prevailed, sometimes not.

This makes defining "pure" religions difficult because they are all have strong cultural influences and all the a]way back.  Like Christianity.  Christianity has Judaism as it's basis. Judaism contains elements of Mesopotamian and Egyptian mythology.  The same goes for whatever flavor of Buddhism you care to name.

You often see discussions about the future of western Buddhism.  These commonly about what people think should be added or subtractedas if there could be a collectively conscious decision to make.  It doesn't work that way.  Like the Chridtmas tree.  This tradition is about as non-Christion as it gets, yet there is is in Chistian homes world-wide.  There was no meeting to add that to Chritian tradition, it just worked its way in.  Why?  Because it worked.  Tibetan Buddhism is a fusion of Bon and Tantric Buddhism.

Sadly, none of us will live long enough to seewhat Western Buddhism will be, but it's still fun to speculate.

Personally I thing Buddhism in the west will begin with a fusion with monastic/contemplative Chistianity.

Your thoughts?

Gibbon

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Re: This time of year .....
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2021, 12:25:01 AM »
Happy New Year!  The Dharma certainly adapts to new cultures as it moves across the world.  It does not really matter what it looks like as long as it retains the view of impermanence and interdependence of all phenomena, and shunyata as their ultimate nature. 

I suspect that there will be not one, but several varieties of Western Buddhism in the future.  Several lineages have been passed on to the West successfully.  They will continue, but maybe some of them will merge.  There will be constant development in form but not in essence.

The Dharma will draw on what's in the minds of the people it encounters along the way.  The Christian background of Westerners will be a huge factor.  Already the chanting practices of some sanghas have Christian, rather churchy, cadences.  Some Buddhist centers have taken over old monastery sites.  I wonder if there will be a Western modification of monastic robes as has happened over many different cultures (compare Thai robes with Zen or Tibetan ones).

I must emphasize the all-important nature of lineage and transmission without which the Dharma cannot go on.  To my limited knowledge, no completely new lineage founded by a Westerner exists so far.  That would require a pure vision, something like a terma.  But it is only a matter of time before that happens. 

Gibbon

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Re: This time of year .....
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2021, 04:19:52 AM »

This is why eastern and western christianity differ.  This is why they are in some ways the same.  The same is said for Buddhism.  As Buddhism spread it encountered new cultures and was adapted by those cultures.  Sometimes Buddhism prevailed, sometimes not.


But what does it mean, sometimes Buddhism prevailed, sometimes not?  There are only two scenarios -- one where Dharma is transmitted and when it isn't.  In case of successful transmission, it does not matter what it looks like.  What matters is whether a realization into the ultimate nature of reality is achieved or not.  Someone once asked my old Guru if Jesus was a Buddha, and he said that he might have been one and it was impossible to determine based on the mode of transmission.

The other case is when it certainly looks like Buddhism, but it's only the outer trappings and the essence is not there any more.  We have all met people who have that ultra-Buddhist look, covered in layers of maroon clothing, jingling their malas, hanging around Lamas, talking much profound stuff.   They absolutely reek of Buddhism, but is it real or just an ego trip?  So it may look like Buddhism has prevailed, while, in reality, the Dharma has become corrupted and is now gone.
« Last Edit: January 06, 2021, 04:23:34 AM by Gibbon »

Chaz

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Re: This time of year .....
« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2021, 12:46:32 AM »

This is why eastern and western christianity differ.  This is why they are in some ways the same.  The same is said for Buddhism.  As Buddhism spread it encountered new cultures and was adapted by those cultures.  Sometimes Buddhism prevailed, sometimes not.


But what does it mean, sometimes Buddhism prevailed, sometimes not?  There are only two scenarios -- one where Dharma is transmitted and when it isn't.  In case of successful transmission, it does not matter what it looks like.  What matters is whether a realization into the ultimate nature of reality is achieved or not.  Someone once asked my old Guru if Jesus was a Buddha, and he said that he might have been one and it was impossible to determine based on the mode of transmission.

The other case is when it certainly looks like Buddhism, but it's only the outer trappings and the essence is not there any more.  We have all met people who have that ultra-Buddhist look, covered in layers of maroon clothing, jingling their malas, hanging around Lamas, talking much profound stuff.   They absolutely reek of Buddhism, but is it real or just an ego trip?  So it may look like Buddhism has prevailed, while, in reality, the Dharma has become corrupted and is now gone.

What I'm thinking about is more a matter of milieu.  For example, In the 8th-9th centuries, Nestorian Christian missionaries arrived in Tibet.  Their impact wasn't great.  It wasn't a matter of the gospel not being presented properly.  It was more likely Christianity didn't take hold and exert cultural influence, because it didn't really fit, culturally.  Padmasambhava arrived there about that same time and had a much bigger impact, probably because there was already a Buddhist presence and the similarity to Bon.

Here in the west, Buddhism has no concentrated cultural presence with multiple traditions and schools.  Also, the west has centuries of revealed religion instilled in the culture.  Buddhism just doesn't fit well.  That's not to say Buddhism won't have an influence, but whatever it is, it will most likely be absorbed into a largely Christian culture rather rather that supplanting it.

Gibbon

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Re: This time of year .....
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2021, 11:43:19 PM »
No, Buddhism will not supplant the Christian (or rather post-Christian) culture in the West.  But it will survive and grow as long as conditions are good for Dharma practice.  It does not have to be a state religion to do that.

Interestingly enough, now Christianity is very popular in the East.  In South Korea, Buddhism is passť and there are many devout Chinese and Japanese Christians (especially Catholics).  Things have definitely changed since the time of the Nestorian monks.

I look forward to decorating the Buddhamas tree a few hundred years from today!

Chaz

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Re: This time of year .....
« Reply #5 on: January 10, 2021, 04:56:32 PM »
I look forward to decorating the Buddhamas tree a few hundred years from today!

Me too.

My old sangha in CO had a new members reception in mid December.  This party was held in the shrine room.  The room was decorated with a Christmas/Chanuka theme along with all the Buddhsit adornments.

 

anything