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Aloka
23 Jan 12, 20:16
Dear friends,

To what extent do you think its necessary for Buddhist practitioners from around the world to adopt the cultural beliefs, rituals,and customs of the original country of their chosen Buddhist school /tradition?

with kind wishes,

Aloka :hands:

Esho
23 Jan 12, 23:25
It is a big issue this one. Traditions are because culture. Culture is bigger than the individual. Culture can be seen as an output of some sort of "social self".

Inadvertently the early teachings have been forced into the social needs and likes of that social self, where they are adopted. So the teachings can become, for example, "Japanise". There is a social becoming or transformation.

It is important to "feel" the cultureless nature of the core teachings of the discourses left by Buddha. They are instructions to understand and realize non self. IMO, the early teachings are practically cultureless anytime we can not point to a cultural essence from them. They talk about a universal feature of mind as its impersonal nature.

For example, the realization that the Khandhas are empty of "I am", "This is mine" or "this is my self" is not a cultural artifact. It is a natural truth available for everybody.

So I think there is no need to adopt cultural beliefs to practice the teachings left by Buddha.


So we will just follow our common sense-a bit of this, a bit of that, as we see fit. And mostly we will take those things which agree with defilement (kilesa) rather than let ourselves be guided by truth-discerning awareness. Spiritual life becomes a matter of rites and rituals, of making merit by rote or to insure against some fear or other. There is no contact with the real Buddhist Teachings.

Heart Wood from the Bo Tree (http://dhammatalks.net/Books/Bhikkhu_Buddhadasa_Heart_Wood_from_the_Bo_Tree.htm )

Trilaksana
23 Jan 12, 23:46
I don't think they need to adopt any of them. Why should they?

plwk
24 Jan 12, 05:45
My own opinion on the topic resonates with this (http://www.budsas.org/ebud/whatbudbeliev/225.htm)

Trilaksana
24 Jan 12, 15:30
Thanks for sharing that article plwk. I agree with it. My point was that there isn't necessarily any need to adopt any of them. If they're are beneficial and make sense then maybe you should adopt them.

andyrobyn
25 Jan 12, 02:25
Thanks for the link plwk .... you had posted this previously and this time I have saved it.

For me, it is not a big issue as the cultural beliefs, rituals and customs of the original country of whatever Buddhist school /tradition are not the important aspect of the Buddhist practice.
As social creatures, us humans have developed different cultures and implementations within our different groups.

stoneflow
26 Jan 12, 02:19
Good question for sure. Because Buddhism in the West is still relatively new, Westerners such as I have to take pretty much what we can get, or so it seems. A lot of cultural trappings unavoidably accompany that true self or that 'true person of no rank' as Linji puts it. So we get to sift through what, in the beginning, is pretty mysterious sometimes.

I once even heard a Zen teacher insist that it was not real Zen without the very specific cultural trappings of his lineage. He was being critical of an American Zen teacher who makes every effort to put teachings in a context that is relevant - difficult and not something that can be cheated on it seems.

The wonderful thing about Buddhism is that it is adaptable - proven by 2500 years of clear worth to the many cultures it which explains to it's practitioners. It is about suffering and the end of suffering and that, so far, is universal.
The teachings are really useless unless applied to one's daily life and it is pretty unlikely that all those aspects of daily life may be adapted to someone else s culture out of context.

Aloka
24 Feb 14, 15:26
[I thought I'd revive this thread. ;D]


Isn't it the case, then, that we probably do have to adopt something of another culture which includes its beliefs, customs and rituals, depending on which tradition/school we choose ?

Do you think this is ok, or do you think changes should be considered ?

Neyya
24 Feb 14, 16:00
Great topic.
No I don't think it is necessary to practice the cultural aspect of studying or practicing Buddhism. But here is my question- how do we or how can we belong to a Sangha that is not influenced by a certain or specific culture (IE: Japanese, Vietnamese). These are what are available in my town that have services/practice in English.

Thanks

Neyya

delaware
24 Feb 14, 17:04
Somewhere I came across some study where they correlated the background of Buddhist practitioners and their choice of school of Buddhism to the religion in which they were raised. If I remember correctly Catholics gravitated to Tibetan (ritualistic), Protestants to Theravada and Jews to Zen.

Esho
24 Feb 14, 21:27
Somewhere I came across some study where they correlated the background of Buddhist practitioners and their choice of school of Buddhism to the religion in which they were raised. If I remember correctly Catholics gravitated to Tibetan (ritualistic), Protestants to Theravada and Jews to Zen.

Curious. My best friends are Jews and I practiced Zen before getting into Theravada. I like Jew culture and some of their spiritual insights given in the Talmud and the Tora. Somewhere I read that Zen is a kind of 'Japanese' Theravada and I agree. I don't know anything about protestants. My family tried to rise me as a catholic but after the first communion I told them not to push me, again, into such nonsensical faith.

Zuzu
27 Feb 14, 00:29
There are clearly many people who have been helped by adopting foreign cultures.
But perhaps it could hold someone back if they were to join a less enlightened culture.
An article on Buddha.net seems to support this point; it cautions the reader to avoid "allowing yourself to blindly follow meaningless and perhaps, unhelpful rituals."

http://www.buddhanet.net/cbp1_f6.htm

Zuzu
27 Feb 14, 00:40
Somewhere I came across some study where they correlated the background of Buddhist practitioners and their choice of school of Buddhism to the religion in which they were raised. If I remember correctly Catholics gravitated to Tibetan (ritualistic), Protestants to Theravada and Jews to Zen.

That is the case for me. I was raised by crazy catholics and am now attracted to "crazy" Tibetans (namely Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche) :biglol:

benthejack
27 Feb 14, 01:35
(this comment was at the end, I decided to shift it here as I write too much, sorry.)
In the end none of us will keep our rafts and all of us will ditch the cultural ropes that come with them.
But if we ignore the manual that tells us how to pull those ropes (even if it seems at first to be "mere ritual"), and ignore the instructions of our teachers in the first place, how can we expect to develop the skills needed to navigate our culturally formed raft successfully to the other shore? It seems wise to listen to the instructions of those who have sailed this particular raft, until we have sufficient skill to sail ourselves (probably quite advanced along the path).



This is an interesting topic,
Whatever tradition we choose we not only come across the cultural influences of that tradition, but we certainly bring our own cultural background to our practise.
Of course Buddhism will appear different when placed in different contexts with different environmental and cultural conditions.

A white piece of paper viewed in a green light appears differently to if it were viewed under red lighting conditions. The paper isn't different but appears to the viewer differently due to other causes and conditions. Likewise Buddha's teachings appear differently in different cultural lighting.

Our own experience and conditions largely determine which tradition we now enjoy (as was mentioned with the study of catholics.. protestants.. jews..)

as an example I personally practise Tibetan Buddhism, this is probably somewhat based on my background as a visual artist and my tendency to appreciate the visual cues and messages which are in abundance in TB. It probably also has a lot to do with the fact that I was brought up with (and actively engaged in) christianity, a religion that exclusively relies on devotion and faith. Likewise some who take a very "down to earth" approach to Buddhism --largely un-interested in objects of faith-- were probably largely influenced by an education that puts much import on the natural sciences (sorry that's a generalisation, I cant speak for others. I'm merely trying to point out the influences that flavour the way we think). Buddha's teachings will appear differently to our mind depending on our own different conditions. He's trying to get us all to see the white paper as it is (emptiness) but none of us do yet. unavoidable. The techniques for getting somebody who incorrectly see green, to see white, are probably different to the techniques that will work for somebody who incorrectly sees red.


to argue about what teachings are "original" and "correct" seems absurd to me. "Original" as Buddha himself taught was presented to the culture of 500BCE India, and was steeped in their language, mannerisms, and situations (this definitely isn't to say that it's irrelevant, just that what is practised and taught now is unavoidably seen in the light of a vastly different culture).
Similarly it seems absurd to argue which practises are "necessary and core" to Buddhas teachings. All practises (I like to give benefit of the doubt, innocent until proven guilty) are developed by those with deep experience of Buddha's teachings to navigate certain cultural or personal conditions.


I don't live in ~500BCE India, Thus I can't practise "original buddhism" as that existed in a very different context,
I don't live in 1000 AD or 1400AD Tibet (When Atisha wrote the original Lam-rim text, and the time of Je Tsongkhapa respectively) so I can't even practise "Tibetan Buddhism" like they did,
I don't live in Thailand, or Cambodia, or Burma, or China or Japan.......

So it seems I have to pick a model of raft that fits me best, with a teacher who I trust. I've got to have faith in the boats integrity and my teachers ability (otherwise how on earth will I sail it confidently) and carefully read the raft's instruction manual (mine happens to include rituals to be used in certain circumstances!) with help from said teacher. Finally I'll sail through seas in different karmic winds to anybody else's (including my teachers), and thus have to make appropriate skilful adjustments to the sail as I go (which no doubt I'll be better at if I actually follow the boats manual for a while). If my raft sinks, either due to my own ineptitude at sailing, or because the raft was a dud, so be it. I'll [hopefully] know what to avoid next attempt.

Because we are all sailing in different winds, none of us can say for sure that "i'm sailing correctly and you're not", or "that manoeuvre is unnecessary (however silly it may seem in the context of your raft and instructions)". We just have to trust our teachers, our raft and it's instruction manual, and most importantly our own intuition and ability to sail.


And if possible, for a the sake of an enjoyable trip, take delight in admiring everyone else's beautiful and vastly different rafts whilst we're out on our way.


With love,
BTJ

Aloka
27 Feb 14, 02:42
this comment was at the end, I decided to shift it here as I write too much, sorry.)
In the end none of us will keep our rafts and all of us will ditch the cultural ropes that come with them.
But if we ignore the manual that tells us how to pull those ropes (even if it seems at first to be "mere ritual"), and ignore the instructions of our teachers in the first place, how can we expect to develop the skills needed to navigate our culturally formed raft successfully to the other shore? It seems wise to listen to the instructions of those who have sailed this particular raft, until we have sufficient skill to sail ourselves (probably quite advanced along the path).

Some people practice with more than one tradition and others change from one tradition or school to another successfully. Add-ons of cultural beliefs and customs aren't necessarily an essential part of the core instructions of teachers within that culture.



The tendency of Buddhists (haha well people of any faith) to bicker about whose teachings are "more profound" (mahayana) or "original" (theravada) seems absurd to me. "more profound" is merely an arrogant matter of opinion for someone who isn't already enlightened


Please try to stay on topic. The OP #1 wasn't asking for opinions about how Buddhists interpret the differences between teachings in Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.

Thanks. :hands:

benthejack
27 Feb 14, 03:48
Some people practice with more than one tradition and others change from one tradition or school to another sucessfully. Also add-ons of cultural beliefs and customs aren't necessarily an essential part of the core instructions of teachers within that culture.
:

Sure, I'm not saying suggesting people shouldn't switch tradition (as I have done myself) or even practise multiple ones, The point being made was that once we commit to one (or more if that be the case) it seems to me to be wise to follow the practises and instructions that are taught without (too much) discrimination until we have a good understanding and experience of each.

but you're right about cultural addons, I actually misunderstood the initial question (somehow.. It seems fairly clear on re-read, I guess I see what I want to see). I had thought you were rather talking about the specific Buddhist practises (particular cultural meditations, rituals etc..) that develop within a culture, rather than ancillary cultural practises that happen to co-exist and thus co-mingle. I guess that comes down to what is being taught or as you mention "the core instructions of the teachers of that culture".




Please try to stay on topic. The OP #1 wasn't asking for opinions about how Buddhists interpret the differences between teachings in Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism.
:

sure, sorry. (I'll edit, if that's ok?)
that was supposed to lead into the rest of that paragraph, but I can see how the division unnecessarily takes attention from the point I was trying to make.

dhammachick
14 Apr 14, 03:46
[I thought I'd revive this thread. ;D]


Isn't it the case, then, that we probably do have to adopt something of another culture which includes its beliefs, customs and rituals, depending on which tradition/school we choose ?

Do you think this is ok, or do you think changes should be considered ?

Namaste,

I think it's important that, if you don't adopt the culture, you should at lease UNDERSTAND it so that if you choose to go ahead with the path (EG Tibetan Buddhism), you can spend more time practising rather than picking it to pieces. For example, over the years I have met staunch atheists who insist on following Tibetan Buddhism. TB has a lot of influence from the Bon religion which was the indigenous religion of Tibet before Buddhism was introduced and embraced. So it used to REALLY irritate me (and still does to a lesser degree) when I would hear these people say "Oh I follow the Tibetan school, but not with all that superstitious shit, and I don't believe in rebirth". I remember cracking it one day and retorting with "Well, why the f**k do you follow it? Why not find another school of Buddhism that supports your views instead of trying to mold this path to suit you?" They got very uppity with me and I felt bad for snapping but I still to this day hold the view that you find a path to suit you, not the other way around. I'm not a fan of cherry picking.

But that's just my 0.02c

In metta,
Raven :hands:

Meridia
14 Apr 14, 07:30
[I thought I'd revive this thread. ;D]


Isn't it the case, then, that we probably do have to adopt something of another culture which includes its beliefs, customs and rituals, depending on which tradition/school we choose ?

Do you think this is ok, or do you think changes should be considered ?

I think it's inevitable that something of another culture will be adopted when choosing to follow a specific tradition/school. The fact that there are different traditions means that changes (by adding, taking away or adapting) must have occurred to create them. I don't think it's possible for something to stay completely static and frozen in time as it is followed by generations after generations, and in many ways, I would say this is Buddhism's strength. With some religions, some of the rules set down centuries/millennia ago can now seem out-of-date or no longer well-adapted to modern society, which forces people to choose the doctrine or adaptation/re-interpretation.

So, it's not that I think changes should be considered. Changes are inevitable. However, when and how those happen depends on the wisdom of those responsible for teaching the next generation, and the need for practice to be in accordance with the cultural and social reality it finds itself in.

John Marder
14 Apr 14, 19:43
This is very interesting.I'm sorry I haven't read it all in fullest detail but just wanted to report the difficulties I've had with exotic cultures associated with Buddhist teachings.
- that it becomes very difficult to disentangle the culture from the essential teaching
- that I get drawn into seeking identity in that culture
Of course, as with all difficulties, the process of realising the nature of the difficulty and overcoming it brings better understanding of what is important, so no regrets really.
Thanks for allowing me to share

gerrymob
15 Apr 14, 10:52
Somewhere I came across some study where they correlated the background of Buddhist practitioners and their choice of school of Buddhism to the religion in which they were raised. If I remember correctly Catholics gravitated to Tibetan (ritualistic), Protestants to Theravada and Jews to Zen.

I was born into an orthodox Jewish family, opted out by the age of 10 and have been a practising Theravada Buddhist since 1979. I know very little about Zen Buddhism.

Peace

Gerry

gerrymob
15 Apr 14, 11:01
I have kept away from adopting cultural add ons to Thai Theravada tradition, it has been enough just learning what I need to know. Some of the cultural additions have no basis in Buddhism and trying to participate in them would lead me into areas that I would not understand and would probably make a fool of myself.

Keep to the taechings of the Buddah, nice and simple.

Peace

Gerry

dhammachick
15 Apr 14, 23:24
Curious. My best friends are Jews and I practiced Zen before getting into Theravada. I like Jew culture and some of their spiritual insights given in the Talmud and the Tora. Somewhere I read that Zen is a kind of 'Japanese' Theravada and I agree. I don't know anything about protestants. My family tried to rise me as a catholic but after the first communion I told them not to push me, again, into such nonsensical faith.

I'm a Jew and was drawn to Tibetan Buddhism. The reason I have gravitated to Zen recently is that it's "cleaner" and easier for me to manage with my illness and other issues life has in store for me :D

In metta,
Raven :hands: