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Exploring Buddhism


Deidre
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I belong to an atheist forum and we have discussed this a bit there. Just wondering if you've ever been curious about Buddhism yourself, and if so...why? What attributes do you wish to explore more? I've been looking into it for a while, and what seems most appealing to me, is an outlook of not becoming attached to this life, and the concept of suffering. Enlightenment and such seems too much like religion, to me.

 

The meditative aspects I like, too. Leaving the rigid nature of Christianity, has opened my mind up to other philosophies and concepts out there, that before, were somewhat closed off.

 

Hope to hear from some of you as to your own personal experiences, and interests as they relate to exploring Buddhism.

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There are many different types of Buddhism. I really like Zen, for meditation and its appreciation of the absurdity of life. The Tao, which is related, is a nice non-religious life philosophy.

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There are many different types of Buddhism. I really like Zen, for meditation and its appreciation of the absurdity of life. The Tao, which is related, is a nice non-religious life philosophy.

Yes, me too, very much. I'm on the same wave length as you. A lot of good can come from meditation and such. What I find most appealing about exploring this, is that when I was a Christian, the religion teaches/preaches it's all or nothing.

 

The nice thing about shedding Christianity, is that I believe anyway, that you can do as much as you are comfortable with, when it comes to other philosophies and teachings. No more, all or nothing mindset to it.

 

Sometimes, I think that we have within us an innate desire perhaps to follow 'something.' Something that moves us and makes us better for the world, but not something ''outside'' of us in order to do that. (no need to believe in a god in order to lead a fulfilling life, iow)

 

Thank you orbit, for sharing.

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There are many different types of Buddhism. I really like Zen, for meditation and its appreciation of the absurdity of life. The Tao, which is related, is a nice non-religious life philosophy.

Taoism is actually extremely religious. But when it was transported to Western cultures, the gods got left behind. It's only now that some Western followers of Taoism are becoming familiar with the Chinese deities.

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That doesn't mean you can't follow the teachings of the Tao Te Ching without believing in the gods. Almost any religious philosophy can be re-interpreted as non-religious.

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The two things I find most appealing are the concept of emptiness, and the attitude towards compassion.

 

So, emptiness, or dependent origination, as best I understand it, says that things (including me!) don't exist in and of themselves, they are not features of Absolute Reality. Rather, the things that exist now are the result of things that existed in the past, and the things that exist now will cease to exist in the future. This goes along with the idea that everything is constantly changing, and that you have to learn to deal with that. You can't hold on to the "you" that existed in the past because it's gone. You live in the moment as it is now, and understand that you can't keep it forever. You can't even keep the you that exists in this moment forever. On the other hand, it's not all chaos, because the things that will exist in the future are caused by the things that existed in the past. That means that self-improvement is useful (even if the concept of "self" is a bit iffy), that little bits of practice at changing your thought patterns now will change who you are in the future. This is karma, in the sense of cause and effect, not in the sense of some supernatural power that enforces morality.

 

Then there's compassion. Christianity teaches that you have to see yourself as sinful, as bad, before you can love others. Buddhism teaches the exact opposite. You start with loving yourself, and wishing yourself the best. You then realize that some of your habbitual actions are not making you happy, so in order to do the best for yourself, you start changing those actions. You learn that your happiness is your own responsiblity, not something you have to try to drag out of the people around you. So then you can start to notice that you're happier when the people you like are happier. You let go of your preconceived ideas about what is supposed to make people happy and start to see things as they really are, to identify the causes of suffering. You realize that you don't like how you feel when you are suffering, and you don't want the people you like to suffer either. So you start treating them better, in an intelligent manner instead of just trying to follow formulas. Then you realize that people you don't care about one way or the other suffer, and since you know that you want to minimize your own suffering, you also wish that their suffering was minimized.

 

And eventually, you can even start to have compassion on the assholes that you really don't like (because you can see that their behavior causes suffering, even for themselves because assholes destroy their social connections and don't end up with any healthy relationships). But, unlike with Christianity, you've already built up a good foundation of wanting good things for yourself, so your compassion for people you dislike doesn't force you into becoming a victim again. And sometimes, you can even set aside your desire for revenge because you get that revenge won't fix the original problem which you've kinda dealt with on your own anyway, and can decide that you'd rather do what you can (if there's even anything you can do) to encourage the person be less of an asshole in the future. And if there's nothing you can do, well, holding on to your hate (the buddhist word, I think, would be "clinging" or "attachments") doesn't feel good, so you let it go and get on with life. Forgiveness isn't a goal in and of itself, it's just that sometimes, some types of forgiveness minimize the amount of suffering in the world, and less suffering is always a good thing. You can "love your enemies" without doing damage to yourself. In fact, trying to love your enemies by doing damage to yourself is morally wrong, becasue then you are causing yourself suffering and causing suffering is bad.

 

It was quite a relief for me to find an ethical framework that both let me be a "nice" person (some of my friends can't figure out why I waste my time feeling sad for people who've been mean to me, but that's just how my personality works), but also gives me an ethical way to stand up for myself. And it does that without holding "being nice" and "taking care of myself" as polar opposites.

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There are many different types of Buddhism. I really like Zen, for meditation and its appreciation of the absurdity of life. The Tao, which is related, is a nice non-religious life philosophy.

Taoism is actually extremely religious. But when it was transported to Western cultures, the gods got left behind. It's only now that some Western followers of Taoism are becoming familiar with the Chinese deities.

 

Yes, true. Most fascinating to me about learning about the religious side of it, in terms of deities, is that the teaching holds that none are eternal nor omnipresent. I'm not interested in worshipping anymore 'deities' in my lifetime, but it's just such a radically different view of deism than I was accustomed to.

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The two things I find most appealing are the concept of emptiness, and the attitude towards compassion.

 

So, emptiness, or dependent origination, as best I understand it, says that things (including me!) don't exist in and of themselves, they are not features of Absolute Reality. Rather, the things that exist now are the result of things that existed in the past, and the things that exist now will cease to exist in the future. This goes along with the idea that everything is constantly changing, and that you have to learn to deal with that. You can't hold on to the "you" that existed in the past because it's gone. You live in the moment as it is now, and understand that you can't keep it forever. You can't even keep the you that exists in this moment forever. On the other hand, it's not all chaos, because the things that will exist in the future are caused by the things that existed in the past. That means that self-improvement is useful (even if the concept of "self" is a bit iffy), that little bits of practice at changing your thought patterns now will change who you are in the future. This is karma, in the sense of cause and effect, not in the sense of some supernatural power that enforces morality.

 

Then there's compassion. Christianity teaches that you have to see yourself as sinful, as bad, before you can love others. Buddhism teaches the exact opposite. You start with loving yourself, and wishing yourself the best. You then realize that some of your habbitual actions are not making you happy, so in order to do the best for yourself, you start changing those actions. You learn that your happiness is your own responsiblity, not something you have to try to drag out of the people around you. So then you can start to notice that you're happier when the people you like are happier. You let go of your preconceived ideas about what is supposed to make people happy and start to see things as they really are, to identify the causes of suffering. You realize that you don't like how you feel when you are suffering, and you don't want the people you like to suffer either. So you start treating them better, in an intelligent manner instead of just trying to follow formulas. Then you realize that people you don't care about one way or the other suffer, and since you know that you want to minimize your own suffering, you also wish that their suffering was minimized.

 

And eventually, you can even start to have compassion on the assholes that you really don't like (because you can see that their behavior causes suffering, even for themselves because assholes destroy their social connections and don't end up with any healthy relationships). But, unlike with Christianity, you've already built up a good foundation of wanting good things for yourself, so your compassion for people you dislike doesn't force you into becoming a victim again. And sometimes, you can even set aside your desire for revenge because you get that revenge won't fix the original problem which you've kinda dealt with on your own anyway, and can decide that you'd rather do what you can (if there's even anything you can do) to encourage the person be less of an asshole in the future. And if there's nothing you can do, well, holding on to your hate (the buddhist word, I think, would be "clinging" or "attachments") doesn't feel good, so you let it go and get on with life. Forgiveness isn't a goal in and of itself, it's just that sometimes, some types of forgiveness minimize the amount of suffering in the world, and less suffering is always a good thing. You can "love your enemies" without doing damage to yourself. In fact, trying to love your enemies by doing damage to yourself is morally wrong, becasue then you are causing yourself suffering and causing suffering is bad.

 

It was quite a relief for me to find an ethical framework that both let me be a "nice" person (some of my friends can't figure out why I waste my time feeling sad for people who've been mean to me, but that's just how my personality works), but also gives me an ethical way to stand up for myself. And it does that without holding "being nice" and "taking care of myself" as polar opposites.

 

Thank you for posting this! I love how you explained it like this, it's so true. How you compare Christianity to Buddhism, that is just perfect. I agree. I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but the other day, I came to the realization that I finally no longer hang my head in shame for things I've done wrong in the past, and with Christianity, this shame was somehow a positive to edify your walk with ''Christ.'' Buddhism is a holistic way of viewing life, if that's the right word. You look at wanting the best for others, because it is just the best possible thing to want. Not focusing on what an oustide 'higher power' would have me do, but Buddhism teaches the individual person how to live a life that is truly fulfilling, in ways that honestly, I hadn't lived as a Christian. Having said this, I'm an atheist, and I don't think my mind would have been pliable for Buddhism when I was following Christianity. Thanks again for this awesome post.

 

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That doesn't mean you can't follow the teachings of the Tao Te Ching without believing in the gods. Almost any religious philosophy can be re-interpreted as non-religious.

There is nothing in the Tao Te Ching about Gods--that's what I was referring to.

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That doesn't mean you can't follow the teachings of the Tao Te Ching without believing in the gods. Almost any religious philosophy can be re-interpreted as non-religious.

There is nothing in the Tao Te Ching about Gods--that's what I was referring to.

It doesn't matter if they're not in the Tao Te Ching. They are still part of Taoism. Unlike Christianity or Buddhism, Taoism is an ethnic religion, related to Shintoism and Bon (Bon being heavily influenced by Mahayana/Vajrayana Buddhism in its current state). The Tao Te Ching isn't a Bible, and it's not the origin of Taoism. Which means that something not being mentioned in the Tao Te Ching does not make it any less a part of Taoism.

 

As I said, though, this does NOT mean you can't reinterpret it to fit a non-religious world view. You can, and most Western followers of the teachings of the Tao Te Ching that I've met do. As do some Eastern. But that isn't REALLY Taoism anymore. Not as it's been practiced for thousands of years in China.

 

But, as De said, the gods of Taoism aren't Gods. They're not omnipotent, or omniscient, or omni-anything. They're just as likely to drop in for tea as they are to ask for worship (in fact, there are Taoist stories about gods doing just that).

 

So, while you CAN interpret the Tao Te Ching as atheistic, I would advise against it. Not because I feel you have to believe in a God or gods, but because I feel doing so robs it of much of its cultural depth. It wasn't written (or compiled, depending on what tradition you believe) in a vacuum, and it wasn't written for any culture but the Chinese culture.

 

This doesn't mean you should ADOPT that culture or its religious beliefs if you want to study the Tao Te Ching for the wisdom it holds. But that you should study them too and accept that they are part of Taoism. Doing so will help you get the most out of the Tao Te Ching.

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I first read Buddhist literature in college, 30+ years ago. I began with Zen. Through the years, I paid attention more to Buddhism. I also read Thomas Merton's literature that compared and fused some Christian and Buddhist principles. During the past couple years I've met, talked with, and attended fellowship dinners with, people who live by Buddhist principles in mainstream society. I have noticed my own views on life and reality becoming somewhat more reflective of Buddhist thought, during the past several years, particularly noticeable during my deconversion from Christianity.

Thanks for sharing this, Human. That's a neat story, there's something appealing about it isn't there. You seem very "zen" to me; that's a compliment. :) Anything about Buddhism that you dislike?

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I see nothing wrong with using the Tao Te Ching as a standalone book, out of context.

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That doesn't mean you can't follow the teachings of the Tao Te Ching without believing in the gods. Almost any religious philosophy can be re-interpreted as non-religious.

There is nothing in the Tao Te Ching about Gods--that's what I was referring to.

 

It doesn't matter if they're not in the Tao Te Ching. They are still part of Taoism. Unlike Christianity or Buddhism, Taoism is an ethnic religion, related to Shintoism and Bon (Bon being heavily influenced by Mahayana/Vajrayana Buddhism in its current state). The Tao Te Ching isn't a Bible, and it's not the origin of Taoism. Which means that something not being mentioned in the Tao Te Ching does not make it any less a part of Taoism.

 

As I said, though, this does NOT mean you can't reinterpret it to fit a non-religious world view. You can, and most Western followers of the teachings of the Tao Te Ching that I've met do. As do some Eastern. But that isn't REALLY Taoism anymore. Not as it's been practiced for thousands of years in China.

 

But, as De said, the gods of Taoism aren't Gods. They're not omnipotent, or omniscient, or omni-anything. They're just as likely to drop in for tea as they are to ask for worship (in fact, there are Taoist stories about gods doing just that).

 

So, while you CAN interpret the Tao Te Ching as atheistic, I would advise against it. Not because I feel you have to believe in a God or gods, but because I feel doing so robs it of much of its cultural depth. It wasn't written (or compiled, depending on what tradition you believe) in a vacuum, and it wasn't written for any culture but the Chinese culture.

 

This doesn't mean you should ADOPT that culture or its religious beliefs if you want to study the Tao Te Ching for the wisdom it holds. But that you should study them too and accept that they are part of Taoism. Doing so will help you get the most out of the Tao Te Ching.

 

Unfortunately, it has dogma attached to it, in other words. lol But, having said all you have, I prefer to cherry pick the parts that I think could be applicable to everyday life. Even as a westerner.

 

 

 

 

I first read Buddhist literature in college, 30+ years ago. I began with Zen. Through the years, I paid attention more to Buddhism. I also read Thomas Merton's literature that compared and fused some Christian and Buddhist principles. During the past couple years I've met, talked with, and attended fellowship dinners with, people who live by Buddhist principles in mainstream society. I have noticed my own views on life and reality becoming somewhat more reflective of Buddhist thought, during the past several years, particularly noticeable during my deconversion from Christianity.

... Anything about Buddhism that you dislike?

 

I'm not well-versed in Buddhist thought, and I admit I approach it rather eclectically, sifting through it, according to my understand, and holding in regard what resonates with me. I like the concepts of right thinking and right living. And "right" doesn't imply morality as much as right "alignment." What doesn't appeal to me are some implied absolutes such as "everything is an illusion" and that all suffering comes from desire. (While those statements are over-simplifications of Buddhist tenets, I've the ideas presented basically that way by people who self-identify as Buddhists.) I don't agree with either idea, and I especially disagree with the latter. I would say the word "suffering" needs to be more precisely defined and differentiated from ideas such as "disappointment." I do, however, think that most of what people perceive as reality is merely subjective interpretation of sense impressions and in that sense is illusory. And while I don't judge anyone's way of expression, I find no appeal in the religious ascetic lifestyle centered on temple ceremonies. However, they are humans, too, and typically sincere about their chosen way of life. I've met and spoken with Buddhist monks. It was a pleasant and enlightening interactions. I watched them create their mandala sand art, then destroy it, and cast the sand into the river.

 

I think your idea is along the lines of how I view it, also. I haven't been exploring it for too long, and unlike Christianity, there are layers to it that still mystify me. That I'm not sure I'll ever fully understand, but as zan states above, perhaps it was intended for a certain group, at a certain time. I'm left wondering if all dogmas and religious concepts are much the same. Thanks for your input, Human. It's something that has long intrigued me. smile.png
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I've only really looked at Buddhism in very general terms, out of curiosity as to what were the main themes and origin.  I would not pretend to understand the difference between various Buddhist sects, nor to be able to speak authoritatively.

 

My general impression was of a quite diverse structure which enveloped various ideas from theism to atheism, various concepts of the nature of nirvana and something of a "pick and mix" approach.  However, that might not be a correct representation.

 

There is certainly no reason why the meditative techniques, as far as I understand them, cannot be used outside of the religious framework.  I know a number of people who use "mindfulness" techniques but who are not Buddhist, and I recently saw mention of it being used as a way of controlling schizophrenia - to some success according to one sufferer who had managed to get his life back via that route.

 

The idea of freeing yourself of desires (I assume that is what you refer to as "emptiness") is something that could be usefully applied in meditation.  it has no necessarily religious context.

 

Unless you are actually going to join a sect of some sort, pretty well any practice from practically any religion is capable of being poached for personal experimentation and use within a secular "do-it-yourself" framework, albeit maybe with some adaptation.  The question is what you consider you need in your own life and psyche - whether you interpret your approach to that need from a secular or spiritual standpoint is irrelevant.  If it seems helpful, use it.

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I've only really looked at Buddhism in very general terms, out of curiosity as to what were the main themes and origin.  I would not pretend to understand the difference between various Buddhist sects, nor to be able to speak authoritatively.

 

My general impression was of a quite diverse structure which enveloped various ideas from theism to atheism, various concepts of the nature of nirvana and something of a "pick and mix" approach.  However, that might not be a correct representation.

 

There is certainly no reason why the meditative techniques, as far as I understand them, cannot be used outside of the religious framework.  I know a number of people who use "mindfulness" techniques but who are not Buddhist, and I recently saw mention of it being used as a way of controlling schizophrenia - to some success according to one sufferer who had managed to get his life back via that route.

 

The idea of freeing yourself of desires (I assume that is what you refer to as "emptiness") is something that could be usefully applied in meditation.  it has no necessarily religious context.

 

Unless you are actually going to join a sect of some sort, pretty well any practice from practically any religion is capable of being poached for personal experimentation and use within a secular "do-it-yourself" framework, albeit maybe with some adaptation.  The question is what you consider you need in your own life and psyche - whether you interpret your approach to that need from a secular or spiritual standpoint is irrelevant.  If it seems helpful, use it.

I agree with what you're saying, about using some of the practices and concepts outside of a religious framework. I think zan only mentioned it to point out that it might be worth exploring to gain the full context of why certain practices are even performed in the first place. That's my guess, he may be able to expound a bit better on that, than me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I first read Buddhist literature in college, 30+ years ago. I began with Zen. Through the years, I paid attention more to Buddhism. I also read Thomas Merton's literature that compared and fused some Christian and Buddhist principles. During the past couple years I've met, talked with, and attended fellowship dinners with, people who live by Buddhist principles in mainstream society. I have noticed my own views on life and reality becoming somewhat more reflective of Buddhist thought, during the past several years, particularly noticeable during my deconversion from Christianity.

... Anything about Buddhism that you dislike?

 

I'm not well-versed in Buddhist thought, and I admit I approach it rather eclectically, sifting through it, according to my understand, and holding in regard what resonates with me. I like the concepts of right thinking and right living. And "right" doesn't imply morality as much as right "alignment." What doesn't appeal to me are some implied absolutes such as "everything is an illusion" and that all suffering comes from desire. (While those statements are over-simplifications of Buddhist tenets, I've the ideas presented basically that way by people who self-identify as Buddhists.) I don't agree with either idea, and I especially disagree with the latter. I would say the word "suffering" needs to be more precisely defined and differentiated from ideas such as "disappointment." I do, however, think that most of what people perceive as reality is merely subjective interpretation of sense impressions and in that sense is illusory. And while I don't judge anyone's way of expression, I find no appeal in the religious ascetic lifestyle centered on temple ceremonies. However, they are humans, too, and typically sincere about their chosen way of life. I've met and spoken with Buddhist monks. It was a pleasant and enlightening interactions. I watched them create their mandala sand art, then destroy it, and cast the sand into the river.

 

I think your idea is along the lines of how I view it, also. I haven't been exploring it for too long, and unlike Christianity, there are layers to it that still mystify me. That I'm not sure I'll ever fully understand, but as zan states above, perhaps it was intended for a certain group, at a certain time. I'm left wondering if all dogmas and religious concepts are much the same. Thanks for your input, Human. It's something that has long intrigued me. smile.png

 

I do believe that, all religion is the same. I believe it all originates in the human psyche and includes all the same universal elements and characters. But each one has its different set of surface or outward details. Religions are like different cultures of the mind, each religion with its set of traditions, customs, language, and rules or 'norms'. It's all an internal drama continually playing and replaying in order to understand what it means to be human. It's often just so weird how it morphs and manifests outwardly.

 

Increasingly, I'm viewing religion as a symptom of human evolution. And a person who consciously attends to one's own personal development can see in one's own life a microcosm of evolution that occurs in the entire species. It's the evolution of each individual that determines the direction for the evolution of the human race as a whole. Religion can be useful as a tool to facilitate individual evolution from one stage to another. Buddhist thought seems conscious of the need for personal evolution. But religion has limits, and at some point, a person must move on and leave the religion behind. (All the preceding is merely my opinion.)

 

I happen to agree, and relating to evolution, you are probably right and I think there's been many studies on the subject. If you do some research on the Paleolithic time period, it has been noted that the people of that time were practicing a form of religion relating to experimenting with different forms of consciousness. While it's all interesting and good that man has the capacity to look outside of himself, in pursuit of answers to the various mysteries of the universe, to me it's also disheartening in a way, that he never seems quite satisfied with the here and now. :/
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Meditation is helpful, in my experience. It has nothing to do with any religion. Regarding religions, do we really need to have somebody telling us what to think, what is true?

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Buddhist meditation helped me a lot.  The branches of Buddhism where they worship something never appealed to me but Originally Buddhism did not involve the Worship of any God.  People often mistaken Buddhism for the worship of Buddha.  They also mistaken Buddha for a fat guy when he was actually extremely thin and would go on fasts that almost caused him to starve to death.

 

Buddhist meditation of reaching a point where the mind no longer desires anything, no longer worries, and is completely still , brought me a peace and even slight euphoric feelings of well being at times.  Sometimes that state was impossible to achieve. Othertimes the mind became silent and I could control what came in and out of the mind.  The  ability to achieve this state of mind increases the more you practice (like anything).

 

Sadly I didn't stick with it.  If you take just ten minutes a day to meditate it will strengthen certain areas of the brain and you will grow in your ability to practice control of the mind which can be extremely helpful in situations where you need to focus on one thing and block everything else out; In situations where you're upset about something , it can help to get it completely off the mind to no longer have the negative emotions associated with it (that are bad for the health as well).

 

No matter what I'm doing, my mind is not completely focused on it.  When I worked fast food, it was so tough during rush times, because my mind is thinking about unrelated things rather than focusing on what needs  attention.  Meditation helped me concentrate better without distractions or getting side tracked.

 

It enabled me to have a disciplined mind that could focus on one thing and to not let the mind drift and chase after every thought. 

 

At any rate, I’d recommend Buddhist meditation to anyone, Theist or Atheist.

 

Some of the Buddhist Philosophies are cool which I'll get to later.  Good thread Dee!  It was the Reason I contacted staff to get permission to enter the subforum!  goodjob.gif 

wow, nice food for thought, matty. smile.png thanks for contributing. i agree, that there are a lot of good morsels of practical wisdom within Buddhism, which is why i like it. in some ways, it's logical and simplistic as atheism is. i find that the two interplay nicely together, as long as i detach myself from the religous aspects of buddhism. i have no desire to get involved with any religious concepts or doctrines/dogmas of ANY kind, anymore. it's as though my brain just can't process it anymore, or won't. i find it all tedious.

 

 

Meditation is helpful, in my experience. It has nothing to do with any religion. Regarding religions, do we really need to have somebody telling us what to think, what is true?

and this.

 

and the answer to that question...nope. smile.png

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Some people feel a need for religious practice, even if it doesn't involve a God. Some feel the need for religious laws and the order they can bring, even if there isn't a God in that religion saying what these rules are. Some people just feel that need. You don't, florduh. And that's okay. But those that do are okay too.

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I was in Tibetan Buddhism for 7 years and I have tentatively come to some conclusions - only for myself, of course and this is NOT  meant to discourage others from exploring it:

 

1. Probably its impossible for me to be a follower of any organized religion

2.  Tibetan Buddhism is very much closer to Christianity in practice than i ever imagined.  Prayers, a hierarchy of authorities, sacred texts, merit which results in a good rebirth (aka a "heaven" of one kind or another) - really not too much different when you get down to it.

 

3. It has a good ethical standard, but like most codified religions, takes it to an extreme.

 

Contemplation in and of nature seems to be the ticket for me.  Everything else is too much human thinking involved in it.

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I was in Tibetan Buddhism for 7 years and I have tentatively come to some conclusions - only for myself, of course and this is NOT  meant to discourage others from exploring it:

 

1. Probably its impossible for me to be a follower of any organized religion

2.  Tibetan Buddhism is very much closer to Christianity in practice than i ever imagined.  Prayers, a hierarchy of authorities, sacred texts, merit which results in a good rebirth (aka a "heaven" of one kind or another) - really not too much different when you get down to it.

 

3. It has a good ethical standard, but like most codified religions, takes it to an extreme.

 

Contemplation in and of nature seems to be the ticket for me.  Everything else is too much human thinking involved in it.

I appreciate you posting this Deva, as I've been coming away with mixed feelings about it thus, my desire to cherry pick what I think will benefit me. It's funny but as a Christian, I would have felt guilty cherry picking my way through the religion but I suppose the good news is that I don't view life in such absolutes anymore. We're always learning if nothing else right? :D

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I first read Buddhist literature in college, 30+ years ago. I began with Zen. Through the years, I paid attention more to Buddhism. I also read Thomas Merton's literature that compared and fused some Christian and Buddhist principles. During the past couple years I've met, talked with, and attended fellowship dinners with, people who live by Buddhist principles in mainstream society. I have noticed my own views on life and reality becoming somewhat more reflective of Buddhist thought, during the past several years, particularly noticeable during my deconversion from Christianity.

... Anything about Buddhism that you dislike?
I'm not well-versed in Buddhist thought, and I admit I approach it rather eclectically, sifting through it, according to my understand, and holding in regard what resonates with me. I like the concepts of right thinking and right living. And "right" doesn't imply morality as much as right "alignment." What doesn't appeal to me are some implied absolutes such as "everything is an illusion" and that all suffering comes from desire. (While those statements are over-simplifications of Buddhist tenets, I've the ideas presented basically that way by people who self-identify as Buddhists.) I don't agree with either idea, and I especially disagree with the latter. I would say the word "suffering" needs to be more precisely defined and differentiated from ideas such as "disappointment." I do, however, think that most of what people perceive as reality is merely subjective interpretation of sense impressions and in that sense is illusory. And while I don't judge anyone's way of expression, I find no appeal in the religious ascetic lifestyle centered on temple ceremonies. However, they are humans, too, and typically sincere about their chosen way of life. I've met and spoken with Buddhist monks. It was a pleasant and enlightening interactions. I watched them create their mandala sand art, then destroy it, and cast the sand into the river.
I think your idea is along the lines of how I view it, also. I haven't been exploring it for too long, and unlike Christianity, there are layers to it that still mystify me. That I'm not sure I'll ever fully understand, but as zan states above, perhaps it was intended for a certain group, at a certain time. I'm left wondering if all dogmas and religious concepts are much the same. Thanks for your input, Human. It's something that has long intrigued me. :)
I do believe that, all religion is the same. I believe it all originates in the human psyche and includes all the same universal elements and characters. But each one has its different set of surface or outward details. Religions are like different cultures of the mind, each religion with its set of traditions, customs, language, and rules or 'norms'. It's all an internal drama continually playing and replaying in order to understand what it means to be human. It's often just so weird how it morphs and manifests outwardly.Increasingly, I'm viewing religion as a symptom of human evolution. And a person who consciously attends to one's own personal development can see in one's own life a microcosm of evolution that occurs in the entire species. It's the evolution of each individual that determines the direction for the evolution of the human race as a whole. Religion can be useful as a tool to facilitate individual evolution from one stage to another. Buddhist thought seems conscious of the need for personal evolution. But religion has limits, and at some point, a person must move on and leave the religion behind. (All the preceding is merely my opinion.)
I happen to agree, and relating to evolution, you are probably right and I think there's been many studies on the subject. If you do some research on the Paleolithic time period, it has been noted that the people of that time were practicing a form of religion relating to experimenting with different forms of consciousness. While it's all interesting and good that man has the capacity to look outside of himself, in pursuit of answers to the various mysteries of the universe, to me it's also disheartening in a way, that he never seems quite satisfied with the here and now. :/
Deidre, I have heard and read about the evidences of religion in prehistoric human society. Do you have some sources at hand that go into detail about this, especially the idea of "experimenting with different forms of consciousness"? Perhaps humanity, on the whole, has never been quite satisfied with the here and now because when looking within they do not recognize what they are seeing. + Human

I'm on my phone but if not tonight, tomorrow, I will post some links for you, yes.

:)

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Human, here is a basic link that I think you'll enjoy reading. Talks about shamanism, and the history of it, and how some archaeologists feel it could date back to the Paleolithic period. I found some other articles about it, as well, if you're interested.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shamanism

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Enlightenment and such seems too much like religion, to me.

That's curious to me. Why do you say that? I encountered someone recently who rebuffed at those who speak of enlightenment. I found it curious. What is it that strikes you as religious? Is it because it sounds hierarchical? That it sounds like being a "sinner" if you're not? Fallen from Grace? In a fallen state? Is it being interpreted within a Christian context?

 

Personally, I understanding Enlightenment as awakening to our fullest potentials. It's very individual. It's very much personal. The person I am today is far more aware than I was when I was 20. Is this to say being 20 is worthless? Of course not. If enlightenment is a condition of our awareness, then how is this religious?

 

The meditative aspects I like, too.

That's the key aspect of what is missing in Christianity. It's all too externalized. Very little emphasis on inner awakening.

 

Leaving the rigid nature of Christianity, has opened my mind up to other philosophies and concepts out there, that before, were somewhat closed off.

I'll add my two cents here. Try to think less in terms of philosophies and concepts, but rather in terms of opportunity, or methods and means for self-exploration. That's entirely different than "believing" in something. Entirely different. What you believe, becomes a product of what you experience, and that will be your individual realization through that experience. That to me is the major shortcoming of Christianity as an organized religion. There is very little self-discovery. It's largely presented as conformity to external rules. That's just becoming like others; not yourself.

 

Hope to hear from some of you as to your own personal experiences, and interests as they relate to exploring Buddhism.

I draw from Buddhist approaches, as well as Hindu, as well as other mystical insights, but not as any one personal system to follow. I do not consider myself any religion, though I respect those who search for truth within. Religion is useful as a system for many, but not if they bypass inner work. Then they are merely seeking a shortcut to Nirvana, and end up in hell, so to speak. wink.png
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Hi Antlerman,

 

Thanks for your response here.

 

I will touch on enlightenment, first since you asked. I've read into it, and while we can view it I suppose how we wish, it seems at its root to be somewhat theistic. Even though worshipping "God" is not a part of it, the idea at least behind enlightenment, to the best of my understanding, is to set a person apart from the "unenlightened," so to speak. I don't like that, tbh. It reminds me of "holiness" in Christianity and if only we can strive for this or that virtue, our lives will have higher purpose or meaning. Buddhism practiced in the west tempers that down.

 

I don't want any part of theism and "enlightenment," has that theistic feel to it.

 

This is to the best of my understanding, but maybe I'm way off base. Lol :blush:

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Here's a little more on Buddhist philosophy,.Life is learning and involves self-study, self-mastery, self-discipline, learning from others, learning from nature, and learning from society.  Another goal is learning compassion,  learning reality, and eventuallly the end goal is to forget about oneself and become one with everything.  Much emphasis is placed on humility.  Being proud will cause you much grief and make shortcommings, weaknesses, failure, and embarrassment unbearable.

Self-conquest is another goal.  Many people never actuallly discover who they are. After discovering oneself,  We then learn to control our emotions, control our thoughts, and control our mouths (become more aware of our speech).  We are also  become more aware of how we communicate to others through posture, body language, fascial expression, and tone of voice.  When we learn to speak more from the heart, our words have more power and people will be more interested in listening and taking to heart what is being said.  

An enlightened person will be an inspiration to others without even being aware of it or putting effort into appearing a certain way.  It will be natural and others will know that it is genuine.  Buddhism also tries to get one to learn the right time.  If you try to make a flower bloom before it's time you will destroy it.  "Haste makes waste."

Buddhist philosophy is also about accepting whatever happens as the best thing for you.  Being angry, resentful, or full of regret about what you cannot control, or constantly dwelling on what you should have done differently will get you no where.  If you accept the negative circumstance and believe that it is for the greater good, you will be stronger and the most good that can come forth from the misfortune will.   Attitude is everything.  One must accept that life will be full of disappointment, failure, suffering, frustration, and loss.  But  Every Cloud has a silver lining! :yellow:I

Buddhism also requires someone you trust who will be a good mentor and correct you and help you on the journey.  And that's all I've got for now *Gong* :P

Really love your post, here. (even though it hints of theism lol) ;)

**hugs

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