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Christmas - the Buddhist Way
Dec. 29th, 2009 at 2:14 AM
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Dec. 29th, 2009 02:23 pm (UTC)
I will confess--I DO NOT GET Americanized Tibetan Buddhism.
And I say that as an Americanized Chan Buddhist.
Though I do agree that neither of them have any proscriptions that would prevent Xmas, though it's more of a stretch with the Tibetan variety. We had a tree, a special ceremony (just more musical than the usual ones), and a gift-exchange at my temple.
But the Chan/Zen tradition, especially the Shaolin flavor which is philosophically closer to Taoism than Buddhism-proper, makes absolutely no distinction about such trappings. If they're useful, use 'em, if they're not, ditch 'em --that's about as formulaic as we get.
Tibetan Buddhism is not like that, though, and ever time I see a Richard Gere clone waving prayer-flags and chatting about how nicely their beliefs fit in with American culture, it gives me a bit of a headache. ;)
Thanks for the video!
Dec. 29th, 2009 02:39 pm (UTC)
As a Secular Humanist or Jedi, I am more Deist in my approach to life..:)
I am exploring more spirituality away from religious trappings and have always been interested in Jesus, as a teacher, rather than son of a divine being. I've met a few Buddhists who believe him to be one of the Boddhisatvas.
I will have to contact one Tibetan Buddhist priest of my acquaintance. He manages to integrate his life as a tradesman/plumber and his Buddhist lifestyle.
I suppose like the Chinese, treat it as a buffet. Take what you like and leave the rest?
Do you have any sites to recommend?
Dec. 29th, 2009 04:09 pm (UTC)
Actually, the Chinese (or properly "Chan", since Chan Buddhism is actually informed by Hindu ("Siddarthan", if you like) Buddhism and the Taoist teachings, much more than it is actually related to Chinese or any other Buddhism) view is that there are important lessons to learn and skills to develop, and when it comes to what works to develop those skills, they aren't dogmatic but they do have a bit of "Um, why the hell do you think you know more than these seven grand masters again?"
It's just that anything else -- how you wear your hair, how you conduct your sex life, whether you eat meat, etc. -- is seen as completely secondary to your spiritual training. You should strive to do all of those things, as you make all decisions, in the best possible way (what way that is, your training will show you) -- but if you screw them up, it's not the end of the world, either.
So the Taoist/Chan/Shaolin Buddhism angle is very results-oriented: You learn breathing, you learn kungfu, you study the works of very smart people, you experience Qi, and then the expectation is that once you've learned and practiced enough, you'll find your own path to Enlightenment (and then you can show others how you did it, not because they SHOULD follow you, but because your experiences might help them). In all things, you strive to be independent and balanced and correct, but if your Mom feeds you pot-roast and you're hungry, why wouldn't you eat it?
The Tibetan-style (and to a lesser extent, Japanese-style) flavors of Buddhism are very different, very cultural. The prayers and rituals and behaviors are highly central to them; and they treat the Buddha-figure(s) much like Christianity treats the Christ-figure: As someone way cool that you should emulate, but not as something you'll ever reach yourself. (In fact, Siddartha Gautama was notoriously pissed off about that view, as was Christ. ...She said righteously. ;)
Also, Taoism is much more like Deism in that it's not really compatible with "a religion" -- it's certainly not compatible with what I'll call "cultural" Buddhism; in fact in China the Taoists and Buddhists tend to be at each other's throats a lot. Chan Buddhism specifically is a result of Hindu Indian masters traveling to the Shaolin Temple around the year 1200, teaching Yoga to the monks (who turned it into kungfu/qigong, a highly developed form of moving meditation), who then integrated the Buddha's teachings with their own scholars and sages, almost all of whom were "Philosophical" (i.e. nonreligious) Taoists.
The Japanese basically took all that ("Zen" is the Japanese pronunciation of "Chan") and integrated it into their own culture, where most of the finding-Enlightenment parts of it were lost (as usually happens, you'll find, when any mystic religion--including early Christianity--becomes a cultural must-do).
WOW, that was babbly. Sorry! For reading, the Shaolin portal on Wikipedia is a great place to start -- reading about the Temple itself, and its history, leads to some great stuff. Oh, and if you've never read the Tao te Ching -- a core text of Taoism -- it's totally worth it, too.
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