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Bringing Eastern Spirituality to the US


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#1    ambelamba

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Posted 01 July 2013 - 05:25 AM

Buddhism is rapidly spreading throughout the US. And many Buddhist sanghas have friendly relationship with Unitarians.

Traditionally, the boundary between religion and spirituality is very vague in the East, and many major schools of thought and religions kinda co-existed in East Asia for many centuries. In case of Korea, Buddhism once held massive political power and the result was a wanton corruption of Buddhist orders. There's a proverb saying "When a monk frequents to the palace court, the kingdom will crumble.". As a person who deeply loves America, I am reminded of this words of wisdom whenever I hear the news of Christians forcing their faith on politics.

I had some firsthand experiences of Americans who are very hostile to forms of spirituality that are very incompatible with Christian doctrine. In fact, I read some articles written by conservative Christian leaders who blasted the modern immigration policy in the US, claiming that open immigration policies bring ungodly and blasphemous religions to America.

As an ex-Christian who was raised in the East for the entire childhood, I welcome the Eastern spiritual invasion to America. Although I am not a big fan of Confucius, my favorite quote by him is "Do not discuss the supernatural and divinity.". I love the quote, really. Confucius knew the futility of supernatural and paranormal. It doesn't help ruling a nation or an organization. The belief in supernatural will only cloud the mind. Even the venerable Buddha knew it, although his teachings got corrupted by metaphysical nonsense.

P.S. Whenever I post this kind of posts, the most ardent Christians in the forums are curiously absent in the discussion.

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#2    Frank Merton

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Posted 01 July 2013 - 06:05 AM

As I've said before, I'm not a very good Buddhist and Buddhism as practiced in Vietnam (where it contains a lot of native elements that to me are superstitious) is different (but not irreconcilability so) from what one finds in the States.

I am very un-prone and unqualified to preach Buddhism, but I love talking about it.  I think the Buddha's basic message is far better than Western religions (see -- no good Buddhist would ever make such a comparison) and is a way available to Westerners who don't want all the myth and superstition but still feel they lack a religious tradition and a route to spirituality.


#3    White Crane Feather

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Posted 01 July 2013 - 06:25 AM

Yes many people are intolerant and Christians happen to be the majority.  Abrahamic faiths have self righteousness built into their doctrines. It's the trait that has ensured their survival for so long. With the prolificaction of knowledge that we are experiencing now, they will have to change. And they are. More and more churches are embracing things they did not previously. If an institution does not change the people will evrnchuky change it for them.





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#4    third_eye

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Posted 01 July 2013 - 07:59 AM

I don't believe this is anything new. The most famous being the Maharishi and The Beatles. Thing is the West is too reliant on materialism as a common denomination to everything. It is a yardstick for success , it is the principle required evidence as proof , it is the main obstacle to any form of spirituality much less Eastern.

As a whole the US as a country will never embrace or adhere to any form of spirituality, at least not in the foreseeable future. THe sad thing is the rest of the world is embracing this 'materialistic culture' as a norm. WHat more proof of reality can one deny when it is a form of happiness that one can hold, touch, possess and taste and feel ? A friend once called me ignorant and arrogant because I was not excited for him when he bought his very first Fancy Benz Sports car, I was just never into such things and it puzzled me why I should and must feel as excited as him, then I realised it wasn't the car that made him happy, it was his desire or ego that demanded it, I did not bow to his symbols of success and wealth, thus I denied his sovereignty over my 'reality'  

The mind will not submit to any other form of 'spirituality' and will easily blind and dumb itself to materialistic forms. It is not new and is known from the very beginning in the days of GOtama. 'Live by the sword, die by the sword ... live by materialism, die by materialism' its all a mental enslavement dance around the bush of reality.

How did Bob Marley sang it ? 'Emancipate yourself from mental slavery non but ourselves can free our mind' Spirituality cannot be bought or brought to anyone other than by oneself, and as long as one does not open ones mind first to it this mind will never be overcome.

The problem is the stigma of greater than ... if I can't be greater or at the very least promised to be as great as JC, as revered as Buddha, lead more to better a Promised Land than Moses, be as exemplary as Muhammad ... be another 'great' so and so then I might as well not bother, when the core principle of spirituality is just be as true to the true oneself that one can be. THere would never be another Gandhi or Einstein even if one were to eat' sleep drink and die alike them every step of the way ... but that is what many wants spirituality to promise. I even had one wanting to know the secret to enlightenment so as to achieve the power of levitation and if one cannot levitate one is not enlightened , and why does he want to be able to levitate >? To be famous ... so sad.

Then the problem of extremism when facing spiritual issues , they want to never feel sadness ever again , if not then the happiness gained is false, and yet they feel unhappiness day in day out but not only denies it but submits themselves to all forms of magical drugs and chemicals to make the body 'forget' it thus making the believing that the sadness does not exist easier to convince oneself of.

Comfortably numb is easier than to admit that for ones entire life ... one has been 'dead'


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#5    Frank Merton

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Posted 01 July 2013 - 08:07 AM

By "materialism" here I assume you mean the pursuit of possessions rather than the philosophical teaching.

I think Vietnam is every bit as materialist in that sense as are the States.  People here are very much about getting rich.  Vietnam is, however, also more "spiritual" if you define "spiritualism" not as belief in spirits but as a sense that there are things beyond the (philosophical teaching meaning) material world.

I don't know that it is necessary for a given person to be spiritual.  I think it adds something to one's life, but that is just my experience.


#6    GreenmansGod

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Posted 01 July 2013 - 08:33 AM

I have three Buddhist who come to my Bardic circles, as I start my Druid Grove I am hoping incorporate Buddhist teaching in our discussions. Maybe even to get a local Monk to come and speak.  I think the Neo Pagan thought is close enough to Buddhism we can be spiritual buddies.
IMO the overall message is far superior to the Abrahamic one. If I was to change my path it would be Buddhism of some kind.

Frank, personally I think you are a very good Buddhist, Siddhartha would be proud.

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#7    Frank Merton

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Posted 01 July 2013 - 09:36 AM

Aw shucks.


#8    Paranoid Android

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 04:42 AM

I've noticed this pattern also. Eastern philosophy is becoming popular as society moves away from religiosity. Possibly it's a palatable alternative to atheism as people turn away from the Christian majority.

A pattern I've also noticed is that in Eastern countries such as China and Vietnam, Christianity is on the rise at unprecedented levels (last time I checked the statistics, about 9.2% of the Chinese population identify as Christian - a phenomenal rise in numbers composted to earlier statistics).

I wonder, let's say we could look into a crystal ball and view our world one hundred years in the future. Would we see the traditional Eastern faiths dominating the Western world and Christianity the dominant faith in Eastern countries?



Edited by Paranoid Android, 02 July 2013 - 04:43 AM.

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#9    Frank Merton

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 04:59 AM

I strongly doubt that there has been any increase in standard Christian denominations.  If statistics show one, it will be because the state has become less anti-religious and so people who were Christians all along are coming out of the woodwork.

Proselytism is still rigidly prohibited in China.  This has the ironic effect of making young Chinese far more susceptible to missionary activity than they might other wise be, as they don't understand the tricks and tactics so often used.  We saw a similar phenomenon when Eastern Europe opened up to missionaries.


#10    Paranoid Android

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 05:38 AM

I know several people who have done missionary work in China and Vietnam.  It's all hush hush underground, but it's there.  They've since returned home now, so I'm not revealing secret identities of people over there now who are doing mission work.  If they were ever discovered by the authorities over there, the very least they could expect is to be sent back to their own country with their passport stamped "NEVER TO RETURN", and I say the very least, because much worse might happen and has happened.  And I am absolutely 100% positive that there are foreign missionaries in those countries right now doing the work that others in the past have done.  Yes, Christians don't mind breaking the law if it gets in the way of God's work.

I see your point about Christians coming out of the woodwork, but I do not think it would account for all the increase in numbers.  Missionaries who have been in China and come back attest to the growth of Christianity, not just the existence of people who already believe but the many new converts.  Then those converts convert others and then those converts convert more still.  As such, I am not quite yet ready to throw away my hypothesis.  Perhaps if I'm still alive in fifty years (I'll be 83 by that time) I'll re-evaluate my position then :ph34r:

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#11    Frank Merton

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 06:08 AM

I will tell you frankly that I think missionaries are a curse and fully approve of expelling them.  Most of the population agrees.  They are arrogant and self-righteous, don't care about the families and societies they disrupt, use underhanded methods, and are not welcome.  I strongly doubt that anything worse than expulsion occurs, if the law has otherwise been obeyed.

The main center for missionary activity in Vietnam has been to take advantage of the friction between majority Vietnamese and the minority "hill" people.  The main conflict is economic -- over ownership of land and the desire of the government to take land (through proper eminent domain procedures with generous compensation) so as to increase agricultural production and make it go beyond the subsistence farming the locals want to maintain.

This is a painful subject for everyone.  The missionaries make it worse, as the minorities "convert" to their thing and then claim religious persecution, so as to get political support in the West.  It is all hypocrisy.  The missionaries know its a sham but go ahead anyway.  The process of forcing the end of subsistence farming is essential to feed the population, and that the compensation is rejected does not mean that legal procedures can be ignored.


#12    Paranoid Android

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 06:31 AM

Maybe some of them are like that, Frank.  But I've personally known people from my own church who have done missionary work in Vietnam.  My previous church was predominantly Chinese, my current church is predominantly Vietnamese.  I cannot see any of them play the politics card in order to win converts.  They aren't that type of person.  My pastor is an immigrant, his family came over here from Vietnam when he was just a child.  He's done missionary work in Vietnam, and I see nothing but love come from him.

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#13    Frank Merton

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 07:09 AM

As you know large numbers of any population are gullible, and a society where free exchange of ideas has been restricted for a period of time has a population that tends to be particularly so.  As Vietnam opens up religions are more and more free to do what they want -- especially religious denominations that have been in Vietnam a long time.

I doubt that active proselytizing will be allowed in Vietnam for quite a while yet.  Neither the Party nor the population are much in favor of it, and many restrictions remain on even the established Buddhists, Roman Catholics and Caodaists.  (For example Buddhist monks are not allowed to beg on the streets they way they do elsewhere in SE Asia).  External political pressure may have some influence, or it may be counterproductive, all dependent on the finesse with which it is carried out.

Every now and then someone brings up religious matters with me in such a way as I think they are doing something as you describe.  I make it clear that I already know about Christianity and am not interested and that is generally as far as it gets.  Neither I nor anyone I know would report such an incident, and if we did it would be considered silly.  This is not a society of informants, so to get expelled one would have to go a lot further than that.

I might mention my feeling reading what you posted that often missionaries need financial support from back home, and a certain amount of hyperbole about how successful the Christianizing efforts are being might therefore be expected.


#14    third_eye

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 07:41 AM

NOt forgetting it gets them a go straight to GO and get visas before anyone else ... emigration favors them too ...

I remember one from the Philippines ... he had the gall to sit in someone's living room having tea and cakes while condemning the ancestral altar of the hosts and the idols beings evil demons and on top of it all declaring the ancestors and grandparents as idiots and fools for not accepting his ever loving 'GOd'

Lucky I was there as I started laughing uncontrollably , else things were taking a turn for the worse as I heard the eldest son was already getting twitchy to kick some Ars3 ... the grandparents started laughing with me and my friend till the grand mother said "you foreigners 'joke' about everything .... "

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' ... life and death carry on as they always have ~ and always will, only the dreamer is gone ~ behind the flow of imagination, beyond any effort to be still
dancing in the ebb and flow of attention, more present than the breath, I find the origins of my illusions, only the dreamer is gone ~ the dream never ends
'

GIFTS WITH NO GIVER - a love affair with truth ~ Poems by Nirmala

third_eye ' s cavern ~ bring own beer


#15    Frank Merton

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Posted 02 July 2013 - 08:24 AM

Missionaries would do well to not disparage ancestral shrines; it would be the equivalent of disparaging tombstones -- you are talking about memorials to loved family members, not gods.  This is another point about them -- they know so little about the cultures they enter and think their culture so superior.





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