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Is Buddhism really two different religions?

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posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 10:35 AM
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I've long suspected that there was a sort of cleavage between traditional Buddhism as practiced in Asia, which comes with a lot of cultural baggage, and the stripped-down Buddhism that's rapidly growing in the Western world among yoga practitioners and whatnot, something that goes beyond recognized branches and schools. I thought it was due to East/West cultural differences. But I've heard something which made me think the schism might be deeper.

I've met a person who converted to Zen Buddhism. Questioning him about his beliefs, I learned he was an atheist, which surprised me, but it wasn't the first time I'd heard as such. Further exchange told me he believed in living for the moment, sort of a Carpe Diem thing, which was strange to me because it's a materialistic worldview (happiness in life measured by the maximum amount of stuff done/acquired) and seemed to clash with what I had learned so far about Buddhism. He told me, word for word if memory serves right : "Death is terrible because it prevents us from spreading our philosophy any longer". It struck that he had no contemplative spirituality at all.

Now, was that an isolated view, or is that kind of belief typical of Western Buddhism? I've noticed that a lot of them seem to be atheists as opposed to nontheists, so at least this aspect is common. If that's the general pattern, then can it really be considered the same religion? It's not just the interpretation that's different, it's the core teachings. I don't want to be rude, but to me it seems more like 20th century existentialism with meditation stitched on top. I'm having trouble understanding what this has to do with Buddhism, except for the mental conditioning techniques. It seems more of a practical tradition than a spiritual one.

Any practitioner here? I'd like to clear this up. Did I get it all wrong? Am I seeing things that aren't there? Or is there really such a schism?




posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 10:45 AM
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I'm no expert.

From what I've gathered, a great deal of Eastern Buddhism has been changed so much, by adding in the cultural baggage you speak of, that it's barely recognizable.
As far as your friend goes, that doesn't seem to work. I don't know anything about "zen" Buddhism, but The Buddha taught that you must overcome happiness AND sorrow. You overcome likes and dislikes, so in a sense the idea is to live in the moment, but not the way your friend is probably thinking. The goal of a Buddhist is to follow dharma and not his/her own urges.

So, in short, I think your atheist friend is using the Buddhist title as a convenient way to sound cool.

That's how it seems to me, from the little information available.



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 10:50 AM
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Sounds to me like this person you talked to incorporated elements from a few different things. S/he is not purely Buddhist. Buddhists are not materialists, they do not harbor dread or fear of death, and they don't care about expanding their influence. Did you know they have a self-mummification process? They spend the whole time meditating until they die. They literally starve themselves, ingesting only preservatives so as to not rot away. The ones who succeed are venerated as the equivalent of saints. Does that sound materialist to you? Or like they are afraid of dying? That's some serious dedication, I'm telling you. Kinda unhealthy, actually. Willful self-destruction? What's the point?
edit on 14-2-2014 by AfterInfinity because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 11:11 AM
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reply to post by Cathcart
 


I am agnostic and Buddhist.


The thing you have to understand about Buddhism is that there is no God in Buddhism and at no point do they teach you that there is no God. You are free to believe in God(s) if you wish. This is why Buddhism has so many different variations, because people have conformed Buddhism into their own beliefs/folklore/religion.

I struggle with calling the Buddhist part of my life religious, I don't even consider myself a religious man. I follow the Philosophy of Buddhism because they don't mess with speculation, it is all observation. I believed in re-birth a long time before I got into Buddhism and that is probably the only super-natural part of Buddhism (that I have come across in the Triratna Order), but all death theories usually are!

All the mysticism and magic in Buddhism seems unnecessary to me, if you strip it down to it's roots, it's teachings and meditation disciplines, then it is simply the most beneficial thing you can get involved in if you need to improve your state of mind, or even if you don't.
edit on 14-2-2014 by iRoyalty because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 11:13 AM
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Mr Headshot
The Buddha taught that you must overcome happiness AND sorrow.


Actually he talked about overcoming CRAVING, cravings bring sorrow.

His goal is for all humans to reach Nirvana (Bliss, Peace, Enlightenment), he wanted happiness for all life and his goal was to end suffering.



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 11:18 AM
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reply to post by Cathcart
 

I don't know anything about western Buddhism, but history shows a lot of variation even in eastern Buddhism.
You could look up, for a start, the differences between Mahayana and other forms.
So it's very plausible that different cultures will select and adapt whatever aspects of Buddhism suit them best.



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 11:23 AM
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reply to post by Cathcart
 


The last Buddhist died hundreds of years before the first buddhist doctrines were ever contrived.
edit on 14-2-2014 by Aphorism because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 11:25 AM
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Buddhism, as a practice, tends to focus on the moment to moment experience of "life" (the "now).

Zen buddhism is not necessarily something that one can "convert" to, or "practice" since it is a realization of what is already there. How does one "convert" to what they already are?

There are, imo, limitations to this. But, thats not much of an issue imo, given the nature of generalized ideologies. Buddhism, much like Christianity, is a system that has many different facets and sects (beyond just two).

I think the biggest difference is that, in everyday life, buddhism tends to focus on the "how" and many western religions focus on the "why."

Its not that clear cut, in reality, more of a generalized trend. I am not convinced this is sourced in the religions themselves, however, and more in the culture from which they originate and are prevalent.



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 11:35 AM
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Aphorism
reply to post by Cathcart
 


The last Buddhist died hundreds of years before the first buddhist doctrines were ever contrived.
edit on 14-2-2014 by Aphorism because: (no reason given)


Not true, the Buddha's direct disciples helped construct the Dharmapada taken from the Pali Cannon.

Buddhism has been alive and kicking since the Buddha first attained enlightenment 500 BCE



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 11:39 AM
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reply to post by Serdgiam
 


Yes I agree with this, many cultures have believed that the obtaining of Nirvana (Enlightenment) is divine and that the path to Nirvana is a holy path.

It is easy to understand why, since the state of Nirvana is a very pure state, no ego, judgement, craving, sexual desire etc. Your life from there on out is to improve the world, end suffering and help others combat their cravings.



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 11:41 AM
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reply to post by iRoyalty
 


Perhaps that was actually the point of time wherein we applied the shackles of the human psyche to something which is both far beyond our comprehension, and innate to who we are in every way.



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 11:46 AM
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Serdgiam
reply to post by iRoyalty
 


Perhaps that was actually the point of time wherein we applied the shackles of the human psyche to something which is both far beyond our comprehension, and innate to who we are in every way.


Perhaps, I do not want to say that eastern variations who depict it as a holy path are incorrect in this belief. As I have said I am also Agnostic and the reason I like Buddhism is because out of all Religions I have studied, Buddhism is the only one that actually has practical advancements, you can literally alter your body, deny pain and even develop superior strength. This is all obtained in the mind.

I have always thought if you want to find something holy, you must look inside yourself, if we're god's creation we must be able to find his/her/it's link in ourselves.

Whilst I have had a couple of 'revelations', true moments of understanding, I am yet to see anything holy. Most certainly what would be considered supernatural but I do not believe I have communed or met any form of deity... yet.
edit on 14-2-2014 by iRoyalty because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 11:49 AM
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reply to post by iRoyalty
 





Not true, the Buddha's direct disciples helped construct the Dharmapada taken from the Pali Cannon.

Buddhism has been alive and kicking since the Buddha first attained enlightenment 500 BCE


Then you should be able to tell me when it was written.



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 11:56 AM
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Aphorism
Then you should be able to tell me when it was written.


It isn't a complete book like the Bible or the Qu'ran, it's a collection of 'quotes' almost, meant to have been spoken by the Buddha himself.

They have been preserved mainly verbally for many hundreds of years after his death, passed down by the Bodhisattva (those almost expected to reach enlightenment), they were considered Guardians of the Dharma (the teaching). There were some writings at the time but it was not a period of time where literacy was common.

The point is that his words and teaching were passed down by Buddhists, Buddhism has not ceased for 2,500 years.
edit on 14-2-2014 by iRoyalty because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 12:00 PM
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iRoyalty
reply to post by Serdgiam
 


Yes I agree with this, many cultures have believed that the obtaining of Nirvana (Enlightenment) is divine and that the path to Nirvana is a holy path.


I think that western cultures have the same belief, they have just moved the experience to exclusively after our body dies. Conspiracy?!



It is easy to understand why, since the state of Nirvana is a very pure state, no ego, judgement, craving, sexual desire etc. Your life from there on out is to improve the world, end suffering and help others combat their cravings.


I have always viewed it to be a return to baseline, not necessarily an achievement in the general sense. At certain points, it seems a "critical mass" of sorts is reached, where we have grown our unique perspective to expand beyond the currently perceived boundaries. Another experience is when this process is realized continuously, in a constant, mindful state of expanding beyond currently perceived boundaries.

I think that, even without these experiences, that a logical way to go about life is to help ourselves and others. I dont think that even the experience of greed is fully realized in our current paradigm. It seems paradoxical that greed might be fully realized from making a stronger society rather than a larger bank account, but I think that might be a misconception. Overall, the net sum gain of a diversity of resource allocation, rather than specific, has a lot of strengths.

All that said, once one reaches an awareness of the layout of their own cave, they start to become curious about the fires they see lining the cliffside. We can peer into others perspectives like driving down the road, looking into a house, and seeing a family sitting down for dinner.
edit on 14-2-2014 by Serdgiam because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 12:01 PM
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reply to post by iRoyalty
 


I would agree that Buddhism survives, but the first and last Buddhist, that being the one person who prescribed to Buddha's teachings, was Buddha himself. Everything else is second-hand.



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 12:02 PM
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reply to post by iRoyalty
 


Perhaps I should've been more articulate, I meant overcome the transient, worldly happiness. Buddha recognized that he was happy as a prince, but his goal was to overcome that happiness for a greater one.



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 12:15 PM
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Mr Headshot
reply to post by iRoyalty
 


Perhaps I should've been more articulate, I meant overcome the transient, worldly happiness. Buddha recognized that he was happy as a prince, but his goal was to overcome that happiness for a greater one.


He actually despised his life as a prince, all the material goods he could desire were not fulfilling. I wouldn't say he wanted to overcome happiness, because Nirvana is blissful happiness, it's about blocking out suffering so happiness can be the stronger emotion. Or to be more exact, blocking out the cause of suffering (Dukkha) which is Craving (Taṇhā)
edit on 14-2-2014 by iRoyalty because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 12:18 PM
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Aphorism
reply to post by iRoyalty
 


I would agree that Buddhism survives, but the first and last Buddhist, that being the one person who prescribed to Buddha's teachings, was Buddha himself. Everything else is second-hand.


Yeah ok, I can see what you're getting at. No one since has mastered his teachings as the Buddha himself mastered them.

But you don't have to have a perfect understanding of the Dharma to be a Buddhist, you just have to believe in the teaching, believe it can end suffering.

Buddhism is a path and it's not a selective club just for those who have managed to complete the journey.
edit on 14-2-2014 by iRoyalty because: (no reason given)



posted on Feb, 14 2014 @ 12:20 PM
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reply to post by iRoyalty
 


Just like you don't have to be Jesus to be Christian.



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