Creating a Western Buddhism

There’s an interesting post right now over on the ever-controversial E-Sangha forum that asks the question, “Which school is making the biggest strides toward a Western Buddhism?”

This hot button question can create a lot of hostility among us peace-loving Buddhas. Is the desire to strip away Tibetan or Japanese or Chinese influences racially motivated? Are we confronting our own biases? Is Buddhism still Buddhism when it’s no longer steeped in a certain culture?

Traditionalists argue that wanting to strip away these cultural signifiers is simply our ego rearing its ugly head, demanding that Buddhism be more like us. Reformers argue Buddhism has been radically changed by every culture it has ever encountered, and ours shouldn’t be any different.

Personally, I have faith in Buddhism’s ability to contain all of our human trappings. I don’t think the trappings themselves matter so much. And besides that, what we decide on a forum or what I write about in this blog doesn’t matter – Buddhism is already changed by us, and we’re changed by it. If we take a step back and just look at where the entire argument is taking place, on a huge online forum with representatives from dozens of Buddhist sects from dozens of countries, we can see that the change has already taken place. Our only choice is whether or not we accept this reality. And even this, once we’ve acknowledged the fact that we have a choice, is not much of a choice at all.

When I posted about Dharmacore on the Livejournal Buddhists community, one commenter responded, “Hopefully as online practitioners we can graduate to novice practitioners by going to real dharma centers instead, eventually.” This is the fundamental mindset that I would like to drill into and explore with Dharmacore. Aren’t we practicing now? Can’t we practice wherever the Dharma is?

Please don’t forget to join the Dharmacore community.


5 Responses to “Creating a Western Buddhism”

  1. misterbooks Says:

    Very interesting. Fluid vs. Concrete.
    I’ll be watching….

  2. Thanks for stopping by misterbrooks!

  3. I don’t see why Buddhism in the West couldn’t take on more of its cultural trappings. It seems only natural since it has done so everywhere else. Nice blog BTW.

  4. Ideally, it would be nice to not have any cultural trappings attached to Buddhism. Some might even argue that an ideal Buddhism would be one that knows no culture and applies to everyone equally. I would disagree.

    I find that having the ability to see how other cultures have adopted Buddhism and how they have adapted to the Dharma (rather than adapting the Dharma to them) is immensely helpful. By understanding that Culture X holds opinion Y about an issue and has found the tools (if you will) provided by the Dharma to be helpful in understanding that issue, I can better understand my own culture and how to let the Dharma help me.

    When I’m that focused.

    Which isn’t often.

    What were we talking about?

  5. I think all religions should evolve over time to adapt to cultures. Does it really make sense talking to beings in the 21st century in the exact same way it was being done thousands of years ago?

    Cultures have moved on, Science has moved on, people’s understanding of life has moved on. Religion should too… The fundamentals of the teachings should/will always be the same but holding on tightly to old explanations, old words, old rituals and old traditions may also be a result of ego: clinging… and worse: clinging to the past.

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