Do Buddhists proselytize?

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  • mr.Lou
    Member
    • Apr 2012
    • 61

    Do Buddhists proselytize?

    In one of his writings, the Dalai Lama suggests everyone should pursue the religion of their homeland to find happiness and fulfillment, and hope to be reincarnated a Buddhist in the next life. How do other Buddhists of the Soto Zen tradition address disagreement with other faiths, religions and practices? Are we to be conspicuous with our philosophy or is it something that is kept personal and private? This question is not with regard to approval or acceptance by society or others, but more a curiosity regarding Buddhist proselytizing.
    thank you
    -Lou Sat Today
  • Jundo
    Treeleaf Founder and Priest
    • Apr 2006
    • 39474

    #2
    Re: Do Buddhists proselytize?

    Originally posted by mr.Lou
    In one of his writings, the Dalai Lama suggests everyone should pursue the religion of their homeland to find happiness and fulfillment, and hope to be reincarnated a Buddhist in the next life. How do other Buddhists of the Soto Zen tradition address disagreement with other faiths, religions and practices? Are we to be conspicuous with our philosophy or is it something that is kept personal and private? This question is not with regard to approval or acceptance by society or others, but more a curiosity regarding Buddhist proselytizing.
    Hi Lou,

    Of course, these things vary from group to group, but I usually say something like this about our Sangha ...

    Many roads up the mountain-non-mountain, many beliefs and religions suited to different people. May each find their own road. We do not argue or disagree with people of other religions and philosophical systems (even with people of other flavors of Buddhisms ... such as the Dalai Lama!) ... even as we may disagree. Agreeing to disagree.

    Zen Practice can even be harmoniously united with other beliefs and aspects of life ... Christianity, Judaism, Atheism, Agnosticism, about anything at all-ism ... just like it lets us be liberal or conservative, male or female, single or married, tall or short, no matter ... if handled with a Wise mind (perhaps the only beliefs it does not fit with would be something like Nazism or any other violent, angry belief system).

    I have sometimes expressed opinions that have brought some angry reactions by certain other Buddhists (well, as "angry" as Buddhists get anyway!). I believe that, through the centuries, there has been much "hocus pocus", superstition and exaggeration often tangled up with this wondrous Path. However, I ALWAYS say too that one man's "silly story and abracadabra" is another person's "Sacred Story and Holy Mantra" ... and many good paths up the non-mountain-mountain ... may each find her own (and avoid the ones which lead off the cliff!) :shock:

    It may be shocking for a Buddhist priest to say so, as shocking as hearing a Catholic priest say he "doesn't believe in Jesus". But it's true nonetheless. I am a Buddhist priest who thinks "Buddha" is largely bunk and baloney.

    At least, I think there's a lot of "bull" to how Buddha is typically portrayed. I think many of the utterly fantastic Mahayana Sutra stories of Buddhas are ridiculous ... hyper-exaggerated ... just unbelievable! (meaning that they cannot be literally believed any more than children's fairy tales). The imagery is incredibly beautiful ... but the tale just incredible nonsense, purely the product of human imagination. I think the image of a "Perfect Buddha" ... either in this world or some Buddha Land ... as a flawless being beyond all human weakness, conflict and ignorance ... is a fable, a religious myth. I think most of the old miracle filled stories are well meaning fictions, sometimes holy lies, and the golden statues and paintings of Buddhas are but depictions of exaggerated dreams.
    (though don't miss the "on the other hand" conclusion of the essay ... people sometimes miss that part ... ) ...


    I know Buddha for a fact! ...

    Buddha is Real

    viewtopic.php?f=17&t=3673

    I am working on a book on such theme now.

    Anyway, I don't believe in proselytizing Buddhism either, or even Soto Zen Buddhism or our little Sangha. I do believe in making the Teachings known, and our resources known, to anyone with whom it may resonate ... letting them know it is here and that they may want to give it a try. However, we do not chase people in ... and we do not chase after people if they go.

    That is my personal view.

    Gassho, Jundo
    ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

    Comment

    • mr.Lou
      Member
      • Apr 2012
      • 61

      #3
      Re: Do Buddhists proselytize?

      Thank you Jundo for those clarifying words and I appreciate the link to the previous thread as well. As I pursue my studies of Buddhism, I find a lot of my Christian tendencies tend to rise up as frameworks to my understanding of religion. The "Great Commision" is something that I came to believe but never fully embodied because of my own doubts. However, as I grow in my studies of this tradition I more redilly seem to embody that natural eagerness to run out and share what I've learned so others can be happy like me. In many ways, I feel like a character in the allegory of the cave that learns they were just shadows. After reading your reply, I am reminded of Brad Warner's statement that "nothing is sacred" and therefore our philosophy is not "the good news" needing to be eagerly shared but instead it is...actually I have no idea what it is, yet.

      Being new to Buddhism and Treeleaf, I apologize if my questions are too rudimentary or previously covered. I do try to review the existing forums for answers first, but I did not happen upon the one you referenced above.
      thank you
      -Lou Sat Today

      Comment

      • Jundo
        Treeleaf Founder and Priest
        • Apr 2006
        • 39474

        #4
        Re: Do Buddhists proselytize?

        Originally posted by mr.Lou
        Being new to Buddhism and Treeleaf, I apologize if my questions are too rudimentary or previously covered.
        Hey Lou,

        Not at all. As a matter of fact, when people ask basic questions ... like how to sit, what is this or that ... it is a chance to offer a refresher to everyone on the "basics".

        Always keep Beginner's Mind.

        Gassho, J
        ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

        Comment

        • disastermouse

          #5
          Re: Do Buddhists proselytize?

          Although it's probably possible to proselytize some versions of Buddhism, I don't see how you would proselytize Zen. There is no damnation (except ignorance) and no salvation (except understanding - sometimes slowly dawning, often coming-and-going). It offers no permanent rest that you do not initiate yourself.

          I do sometimes argue with people of other faiths, but mostly just because it's interesting to talk to someone else who cares about these things.

          Chet

          Comment

          • Geika
            Treeleaf Unsui
            • Jan 2010
            • 4980

            #6
            Re: Do Buddhists proselytize?

            Whenever someone proselytizes to me, I don't really know how to respond to it well. I have trouble describing my practice to anyone asking about it from a biased perspective. To me, practice is something learned inside without words, though we use words to point to it. When I hear myself trying to describe my practice out loud, it doesn't sound right, and I don't want to lead anyone astray or appear to be biased myself.

            mr.Lou, when you ask how one should respond to such a situation, or if a Buddhist of our path should try and proselytize, I would say just go with your gut in the moment. That's all I can do.
            求道芸化 Kyūdō Geika
            I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

            Comment

            • mr.Lou
              Member
              • Apr 2012
              • 61

              #7
              Re: Do Buddhists proselytize?

              When I made this post, I did purposely use the word "proselytize" because I think it is a word unfairly viewed with a negative connotation. To me, it simply refers to the sharing of ideas. No one is born knowing Buddhism or anything really. Proselytizing is really just about sharing, and I don't necessarily see that it should be avoided. I can see that Buddhists may not necessarily go on missions with the exclusive aim at converting others to Buddhism, but I disagree with Chet's statement that Zen cannot be proselytized.

              Zen promises as much "salvation" as any other religion. All religions, including Zen, offer their form of Truth. It is what "saves" any religion's followers from "destruction." What details one associates with those terms is what sets each religion apart. I think we have to be cautious when separating Zen from other religions, because I see at the base level Zen is providing for humans' internal needs just as other religions are. It is still a ritualized practice that requires adherence to a structure.

              By the way, when Jehovah's Witnesses come to my door, I simply tell them that I am a Buddhist. They ask which tradition, but the conversation then proceeds to pleasantries and that is pretty much it. It does not have to be a negative incident to interact with those of other philosophies, and I do not think it should ever be avoided or feared.
              thank you
              -Lou Sat Today

              Comment

              • Geika
                Treeleaf Unsui
                • Jan 2010
                • 4980

                #8
                Re: Do Buddhists proselytize?

                I also do not think it should be avoided or feared... but I avoid and fear it. ops:
                求道芸化 Kyūdō Geika
                I am just a priest-in-training, please do not take anything I say as a teaching.

                Comment

                • mr.Lou
                  Member
                  • Apr 2012
                  • 61

                  #9
                  Re: Do Buddhists proselytize?

                  Originally posted by Amelia
                  I also do not think it should be avoided or feared... but I avoid and fear it. ops:
                  Don't we all?
                  thank you
                  -Lou Sat Today

                  Comment

                  • doogie
                    Member
                    • Feb 2008
                    • 77

                    #10
                    Re: Do Buddhists proselytize?

                    Doesn't Buddhism and zen specifically proselytize itself in a way, though often poorly? How many people know what they know about zen through D.T. Suzuki or Eugen Herrigel, from movies and television, or from the martial arts? How many were drawn in by promises of enlightenment, mystical powers of the mind, the end of illusion, or the cessation of suffering?
                    'Judge a man not by his answers, but by his questions.' Voltaire

                    Comment

                    • jefftos
                      Member
                      • Mar 2012
                      • 28

                      #11
                      Re: Do Buddhists proselytize?

                      I had a long journey through many different faiths, and when I identified as any of them, my take was I'll go my way and you go yours, I don't know if Buddhists proselytize or not, but I know that I don't, as a Christian the great commission bothered me because I understood that other peoples paths are there own and no matter how hard I beat people over the head with the bible, it would never change their mind, only they could change their minds. That's just like, my opinion though man

                      Gassho,

                      Jeff

                      Comment

                      • Rich
                        Member
                        • Apr 2009
                        • 2603

                        #12
                        Re: Do Buddhists proselytize?

                        I don’t. Think buddhism has saved me. There is a lot about life I don't like. But whether I like it or not I continue to practice. Is that religion, I think not. But thinking doesn't. Really matter when the rubber hits the road.
                        _/_
                        Rich
                        MUHYO
                        無 (MU, Emptiness) and 氷 (HYO, Ice) ... Emptiness Ice ...

                        https://instagram.com/notmovingmind

                        Comment

                        • doogie
                          Member
                          • Feb 2008
                          • 77

                          #13
                          Re: Do Buddhists proselytize?

                          I don't really understand the concept of "saving." What does it mean? I understand it from the Christian point of view. It has a very concrete meaning. Unambiguous, and perhaps its too big a task to ask anyone to say something unambiguous about zen, but when "I vow to save all sentient beings," there is no one in need of saving, and no need to save them, so what gives?
                          'Judge a man not by his answers, but by his questions.' Voltaire

                          Comment

                          • Jundo
                            Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                            • Apr 2006
                            • 39474

                            #14
                            Re: Do Buddhists proselytize?

                            Originally posted by doogie
                            ... but when "I vow to save all sentient beings," there is no one in need of saving, and no need to save them, so what gives?
                            There are no sentient belngs in need of saving ... yet sentient beings are in need of saving, and it is the task of Bodhisattvas like us to save them! (Zen is not seeing things as an "either A or B" proposition ... and so often in a Buddha's Eye, A is precisely B!). Sentient Beings are suffering, precisely because sentient beings things there is a self in need. At the Heart of saving sentient beings is teaching them that "there are no sentient belngs in need of saving", the Wisdom of this Beautiful Path. No self, and so no suffering! :shock:

                            But the saving does not end there ...

                            At the same time, folks need saving in other ways ... food, shelter, companionship, a shoulder to lean on too. There may be "no sentient belngs in need of saving", but some folks are hungry and lonely tonight.

                            "Saving" is a very loaded word for some because of "Judeo-Christian baggage" that they carry around with them (and should put down ... cause often it is baggage of their own packing!) ... so one can substitute a word such as "help, aid, rescue" or the like if one wishes. It is our Bodhisattva Vow then to "Aid All Sentient Beings!" through both material goods like food and medicine, a friendly ear and helping hand ... and by making these Teachings available.

                            However, as I said ... we do not force anyone to listen, even as we "put them out there" and make these Teachings and Practices available. It is a Buddhist view that folks will hear when they are ready, not a moment before ... either in this lifetime or some other. So, we make the Teachings available and accessible ... but we do not hound anyone to buy into them.

                            I usually suggest to our Sangha members that they do not try to persuade anyone of the "Rightness of Zen Buddhism" or the like. On the other hand, if someone asks ... just speak about what this Way is in one's own life, and answer their questions as best one can. Do not force or lure anyone to a Zen sitting ... but, on the other hand, bring them if they express an interest.

                            Also, do not try to convince friends or relatives about Buddhist Practice. Instead, I suggest you just be with them as a good, caring, gentle friend or relative ... son or daughter, parent ... and they will get the point. In fact, if they see a change in you from before ... if they see that you have, in fact, become a more caring, gentle, whole, content person than who they knew before ...

                            ... they will get the message more than anything that can be said in words.

                            Gassho, J
                            ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

                            Comment

                            • mrsedwards
                              Member
                              • Dec 2011
                              • 33

                              #15
                              Re: Do Buddhists proselytize?

                              Originally posted by Jundo
                              I do believe in making the Teachings known, and our resources known, to anyone with whom it may resonate ... letting them know it is here and that they may want to give it a try. However, we do not chase people in ... and we do not chase after people if they go.

                              That is my personal view.

                              Gassho, Jundo
                              I thought this was so well put. I'm like mrlou and with a Christian background find that the more I learn, the more I have this feeling of spreading the 'good word' if you will. I find some conflict sometimes that as time goes on I feel more compassionate and thus feel more of a need to act and pass on help to those who are suffering. But as you say, 'with whom it may resonate'. Key words there as you don't want to be the crazy lady at the grocery store who keeps talking about the Buddha and such.
                              Well, I'm not so sure I want to be that crazy lady, just yet.

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