Stochastic Life

This is a blog by a Western Buddhist.

I also talk about digital culture and it's relationship to modern spirituality, specifically (but not limited to) modern Western Buddhism. I post about music too, I can't help it. I favor hasitly written original content. I always accept questions and comments.

I am also a writer of no consequence, and I co-founded a company to pursue creative interests. We have a lot of projects going on, I'll try to make it easy to check on those specific projects..

Formatted to be iPad/etc friendly, just in case you needed something enlightening to read while your on the can.

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Posts tagged "Western Buddhism"
hello! I am so grateful to have found your blog. I am deeply interested in exploring a better understanding of Buddhism; these teachings have spoken to me for a very long time. Can you recommend books or other resources for a beginner? Many thanks, -em
stochasticlife stochasticlife Said:

Well, I have a few posts related to that actually, I’d start with:

New to Buddhism, start here.

Consider that a ‘Day One’ crash course. Many people make the decision to ‘be’ a Buddhist before they really understand what that is/does. I’d actually recommend that you write down what those expectations are for you and take them up with somebody.

If you still want to be a Buddhist tomorrow, I would strongly advise that yo start sitting with other Buddhists. The ‘type’ or scale of the practice doesn’t really matter at this point, just so long as you do it. Some groups may not be for everyone, as you start keep your commitments [Except as it pertains to a daily practice] to a minimum. 

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One of the appeals of Buddhism in the West is it’s compatibility with logic and reason. Obviously this can be very dependent on the particular branch of Buddhism, but at it’s heart the basic principals and foundation of Buddhism are not specifically incompatible with the scientific method or current scientific theories. 

As I am fond of saying, Buddhism will allow you just as much superstition as you want (or can handle). 

Since the mid 20th century, the entire concept and connotation of religion in the West has made a decisive shift. The evolution of this appeal has manifested into the conceptual practice of Buddhism as a philosophy -an attempt to contrast it with ‘Buddhism as a religion’. This distinction seems important to some because it now considered a common sub-cultural value that religion is diametrically opposed to reason and logic. This distinction has arisen and widened in recent decades, for both political and cultural reasons. 

The establishment of this distinction has very real and immediate consequences to Buddhism as it pertains to the West.

The ‘religious right’ appropriated not only Christianity (especially ‘Evangelical Christianity’) but the very concept of ‘religion’ itself. 

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I have a question that maybe you could help with? As I read your entry on Eastern vs. Western Buddhism the part talking about some Eastern Buddhists complaining about us Westerners misappropriating Buddhism. How much can we be blamed for misappropriating their religion when they themselves brought it over to us first? Hasn't Buddhism changed wherever it's landed? The Buddhism in China is not the same one in Japan or India. Why are we getting the slack for some changes?
stochasticlife stochasticlife Said:

Good question. It’s something of a complicated subject.

Ultimately, it’s simply a consequence of it’s growth. It’s not simply a matter of ‘them’ bringing it to ‘us’, many of Western Buddhists pioneers were in fact Westerners. 

I suspect the primary source of complaint is the flippant disregard of culture and it’s mindless appropriation. There is a specific segment of our “Western Buddhist” population that is simply bent on mining and appropriating “Eastern” cultures for some perceived ’spiritual depth’ in doing so, they misinterupt the dharma, or pass it over entirely. 

In the West ‘we’ (in a far more general sense) are guilty of appropriating ‘Eastern Buddhism’ in ultimately superficial ways: The kanji tattoos, the Buddhist iconography in home decor and furniture stores, etc. 

In summary, there will be some tension here, it’s an inevitable consequence of Buddhisms growing popularity and acceptance. The ‘crimes’ committed in this regard are rarely committed by Buddhisms actual Western adherents, but typically by the culture at large.

As Western Buddhists we simply must be respectful to note the difference. I do not practice ‘Eastern Buddhism’, as I am not culturally an ‘Easterner’, my life did/does not allow me to practice Buddhism in a rigidly culturally fashion. I’ve been to Japan, but I was only there a month, hardly long enough to call my practice ‘Japanese Buddhism’. As long as we Westerns are aware of the distinction where it exists, I think things are fine.

There are Westerners that do practice ‘Eastern Buddhism’ but they are rarer. That requires a high level of commitment to cultural assimilation and observance. There is a certain level of purity in such practice, but at the expense of versatility. If we aren’t able to study the dharma in such specifically focused fashions, I think we should simply be mindful of the distinction. 

I don’t think it’s anyone’s fault, it’s all just part of the process.;

I’m knocking around a few topics in my head at the moment, in the next few days I hope to discuss the following topics:

  • The difference between Eastern and Western Buddhism (as I see it) and why the distinction is made is made in the first place
  • Ritualism, my thoughts on the value of ritualism in Buddhism
  • More on the psychological consequences of karma and it’s presence in everyday life.
  • Life-style consciousness and it’s impact on spiritual pursuit in 21st Century america.
  • Practical compassion on an everyday level.

If you have any other topics you’d like my thoughts/opinion on, or are interested in what I have to say regarding the above more than the others, feel free to let me know.

Meet Allan Benett

Allan Bennett (born Charles Henry Allan Bennett) later known as Bhikkhu Ananda Metteyya. Allan Bennett is credited as being on the the first Westerners to accept ordination as a Buddhist monk.

Allan Bennett was ordained around 1900/1901 in Sri Lanka in the Theravada tradition. Bennett published several books, and was also well versed in Hatha Yoga. Bennett is cited as one of the first formal introductions to Yoga and Buddhism in the West, particularly in the English speaking world. He was a very important step in the evolution and growth of Buddhism in the West.

Bennett was not only a contemporary, but a close friend of Aleister Crowley for many years. 

Be careful on his Wikipedia page, it’s glaringly obvious that his page is in no way impartial. Can the significance of his contribution be accurately assessed? No, but he was one of the first, and one of note; and for that distinction we thank him for his contribution to Western Buddhism.