A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Buddhism adapts to the local culture, while retaining its values

Buddhism is not a religion of conversion. It does not demand its followers go on a crusade to convert non believers. This maybe because it was founded as the middle path, founded in between Brahmanism and Jainism in India. Although Confucius, Lao Tzu and Buddha were basically contemporaries, it was several hundred years before they came into serious contact in China. Confucius had developed a remarkable code of ethics which still stands the test of time. To a degree aspects of Daoism which counts Lao Tzu as one of its founders were absorbed into this new to China philosophy. Chinese Buddhism took much from Daoism, in its foundation on the natural order rather than the spiritual realms. Zen was more spiritual and here Buddhism was seen as compatible, in it’s emphasise on the individual and harmony with your surroundings. In Tibet it adapted and absorbed animism. Even today a journey to Thailand and its unique but equally valid form of Theravada Buddhism stands in contrast to its neighbours in SE Asia. From such practices as sacred objects, to religious tattoos done by monks as blessings or wards, and also spirit houses.

In Western Christian countries the consciousness raising power of meditation is emphasized. The other ways that Buddhism can connect in the west are through respect for the environment and though finding ways to engage in social activism. In western nations many people are looking for a way to reconnect with the world around them. Many have abandoned the idea of a supreme creator, however they have not switched to a different system of values. Leaving behind the moral framework that Christianity taught for a vague shifting humanist philosophy leaves many without a solid framework of values, morals and expectations to base their interpersonal interactions on. Ask twenty agnostics what they consider the ten most important values for interpersonal relationships, and after the first few, you will be hard pressed to find agreement. Many will say they don’t believe in Religion as science has explained the universe in a way that matches with what they see. Many in the west only see Buddhism as something from Asia, that hippies in the sixties and seventies adopted parts of. That the peace movement espouses, or from movies like the Lost Horizon. Many think of the Dalai Lama as an Asian version of the Catholic Pope. They need to be exposed to the full spectrum of what Buddhism is, not just bits and pieces.

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