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 Practice away from Buddhist Institutions

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mary kwart

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Join date : 2011-01-14
Age : 65
Location : Ashland, Oregon

PostSubject: Practice away from Buddhist Institutions   Fri May 25, 2012 4:27 pm

I am to the point in my practice where I do not feel like getting involved with any organized Buddhist group, but maintaining everyday practice in my everyday life in the most down to earth way possible.

Last year, when the local Zen group I belonged to and practiced with in town sent me a message about finishing paying my yearly dues to be a member ( At the time I could not afford the money, but the request for money was only a trigger) I immediately flashed on the fact that I was becoming my parents who had been practicing Catholics--my spiritual practice was epitomized by attending meditation on a regular schedule, being a "good" person and paying monetary dues to my spiritual institution and trying to do well at complicated foreign ceremonies like oryoki. Sounded like Catholic spiritual practice in the 50's!

Forgive any stridency of my tone, please. Maybe the fact that the US is a Christian country basically still informs how buddhist institutions conduct business. I think it's time to bring Buddhist practice home--really HOME. No oryoki, the way we Americans eat is just fine. No arcane ceremonies that are entertaining and inspire a sense of awe at first, but it's time to act like we are in the US. WHo is doing this with Buddhist practice in the US? The sense of Sangha is wonderful, but more and more I feel I have to swallow the kool aid and not bring up anything that is negative, even if it is meant to be constructive.The Sangha is supremely compassionate, but seems supremely lobotomized. What happened to a committment to the flip side of compassion--wisdom. No one talks about that, because it is harder to do and we "shouldn't" be trying to be more wise. The emphasis is on just being a super nice person and everything else will fall into place--this is why I left CAtholicism in the late 60's.

I am interested in the tradition of Buddhist practice like that of Layman P'ang or Ryokan--back to ordinary daily life happening now without the gloss of the institution. Oh well, Thanks for listening. Anyone going through a similar situation?
--Mary
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Ikuko



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Join date : 2012-02-08

PostSubject: Re: Practice away from Buddhist Institutions   Fri May 25, 2012 4:55 pm

Hi Mary

I think there are a lot of people who have the same wish and intention,and that it is a challenge,because we have to have shared symbols and symbolic world.Humans seem to need this.The shopping mall for instance is a place where I share logo-world in a temporary community.

I find it very frustrating because I feel like you caught in an anachronistic trap with all the smells bells robe and ritual which has meaning only because it is familiar.

Lay Buddhists don't need all that.But what do we need so that we can create community?

It could be that sites such as this are the new egalitarian lay place of training.

I had a good conversation on these lines recently.My friend and I agreed we just enjoyed having someone to sit with.That's all .

Do we need some kind of organisation though?

I'll just leave these questions as I'm going to share recipes now.

Chat back please.

Take care

Ikuko
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Howard

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Location : Vancouver

PostSubject: Re: Practice away from Buddhist Institutions   Fri May 25, 2012 11:25 pm

Hey Mary
Totally understandable. I think you'll find a lot of the OBCC folks feel the same way. Going back to the barest of meditative basic's has freed me from a Asian/Anglican maypole that I felt I'd been endlessly dancing around. It's left me with a Zafu for a compass and a lovely lightness to my heart & feet.. I know other X OBCers doing exactly the same thing.

Someone suggested I try newbuddhist.com which is Buddhist site where folks from many different traditions speak on a huge range of contemporary topics. You may already know of it but I've just been playing with it for a week.
It can't hold a candle up to Lise's forum but is a stimulating companion site for the number of Buddhist castaways on it. & oh yeah..prepare to feel your age there as there are a lot of younguns on board.
If it's not OK to post that site here then just PM me for it.
Cheers

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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Practice away from Buddhist Institutions   Sat May 26, 2012 10:38 am

Absolutely, Howard, it's fine to post about other sites and I hope people will - I like Newbuddhist.com too, it's got a lot of good stuff. It's also nice to read & talk about buddhism without OBC, Kennett, Shasta monks, Zen, etc, always hanging in the background, which is tough to do here obviously, since the site was set up initially for people having past or present OBC ties. Not that this site can or should stay limited to that narrow mission statement - maybe it's time to change that.

Mary, you asked if anyone was going through a similar situation -- I am not now, but six or seven years ago when I stepped away from being affiliated with any group, I found it a great relief not to worry about all the bells, whistles and rules. And most of the all, the pretending that there was something better about emulating another culture's traditions, rituals, nomenclature. It felt more to me like we were co-opting it for the sake of some mysterious cachet or glamour. I don't mean to generalise; if it helps some peoples' practise, to follow Japanese or Tibetan customs, that's great, it just wasn't for me. Being on my own has been more than adequate. I can set up an altar without a stab of conscience that I'm not doing it "right" because I left out a water cup or whatever. I still visit temples but only to observe and soak up the scenery; I don't become part of their fabric. I think that without a formal affiliation I can look at a variety of practise forms and rituals for what they are in themselves, rather than in comparison to "my" tradition. And, having a little distance from any of it means there's no pressure to drink the Koolaid when the glasses are being handed round. Gives new meaning to the phrase "no thanks, I don't drink", doesn't it

Bringing buddhism home sounds good to me.


Last edited by Lise on Sat May 26, 2012 8:54 pm; edited 1 time in total
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: Practice away from Buddhist Institutions   Sat May 26, 2012 7:47 pm

I'm mostly not posting these days but I do appreciate this thread, Mary. Being a practitioner of a spiritual discipline need not be about adopting a cultural identity and supporting the bricks and mortar superstructure of that cultural construct. The origin of the word practice is the Greek word praxis. It means to make real or actualize. To make real a spiritual truth in one's life is what we long to do in my view. We do not long to have a membership card and the fees and identity that go with it. So "making it real", getting down to the essentials, is what satisfies me. I've been sitting daily now for 42 years. It's got me through the big things in life and now in my sixties an enduring sense of peace and equanimity in life, and a growing capacity for intimacy with both my loved ones and the non-human beings I share this world with. My home is my temple, my zendo. So what could be better?
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mary kwart

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PostSubject: Re: Practice away from Buddhist Institutions   Sun May 27, 2012 2:10 pm

Thanks to all for your thoughts. I knew I would not be alone. Ikuko--the conclusion I've come to right now about people needing shared symbols to form community is that I have that in my "regular" "secular" community. One example in my life:I volunteer to help get firewood to those that need it--there is a community of people involved in this action who have a shared intention and mode of operating. That is my "Sangha". I have other "Sanghas" for other things--the backpacking group I belong to for example--we have potlucks and go on hikes together. If I acknowledge spiritual practice as being awareness in every moment, do I need to practice with others who have the same aim? The verdict is out yet on that one for me. The answer: a "No-Sangha" Sangha!! Ha--sounds too Zen...I have been interested in the past reading about Toni Packer's Springwater Center and her bare bones approach to spiritual practice. I can't afford to go there but, as Dogen says: Why travel to other dusty countries? If your first step is falso you will immediately stumble. (Thanks Shasta Abbey afternoon rules for meditation). Is the portable Sangha within ourselves enough?

Thanks for the encouragement Lise and Bill R. I will check out newbuddhist.com, Howard.
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: Practice away from Buddhist Institutions   Sun May 27, 2012 2:39 pm

mary kwart wrote:
Is the portable Sangha within ourselves enough?
.

Maybe the question is, "Are there any beings not within our sangha? Is there any place that is not our community of practice?" Once we have become grounded in the interior temple of the heart, everything else is just an external expression of that sanctuary space. The heart is the organ of connection to all beings and the One Life they share. Do we need more than that? Do the external supports and props become obstacles and more layers of false identity at a certain point in our spiritual maturation? Thanks again for raising this question.
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Nicky



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PostSubject: Re: Practice away from Buddhist Institutions   Mon May 28, 2012 12:52 pm

Mary , i agree and agree .Yes i too AM going through something similar .

i find though even a small contribution here gets me edgy , but i want to join in a bit, out of a sort of loneliness , or a hope that the sangha word has a value .
And too Bill i cant help but respond to your last posting . thank you all Nicky .
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: Practice away from Buddhist Institutions   Mon May 28, 2012 3:12 pm

It may be that this is a developmental thing where learning certain forms and traditions in a group structure helps an individual establish themselves in a tradition of practice. Once that tradition has been thoroughly integrated and made your own, it is actualized, made real in your life, then the external structures and group support are not needed so much. After 42 years of daily sitting, and the devotional forms as an envelope, the group structures are not so much needed or wanted in my life. I have a home based hermit mode practice. It works for me. From time to time I appreciate the energy of sitting in a circle of practitioners, but it's not necessary.
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George
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PostSubject: Re: Practice away from Buddhist Institutions   Mon May 28, 2012 9:30 pm

I have been considering this post for a while, and Mary has opened the perfect door—thank you. Here and now, my Buddhist practice is forever changed because of OBC Connect. I am grateful.
I stopped practicing with the OBC in 2007. I remember the specific straw, but in general there was no big event or conflict, just the persistent and nagging feeling, “This can’t be right.” It had little to do with Buddha or Dharma—I didn’t have enough background or knowledge to know much about them. It was with Sangha that I felt uneasy, especially with the general behavior of several of the monks. I did not see them breaking monastic rules or engaging in outrageous behavior, as has come to light with Michael Little. But something was way off in their human relationships, as if they had put aside simple humanity when they were ordained, as if they had begun to believe their own press clippings—“Oh, you’re so wonderful . . . .” Ultimately I came to feel that many monks were disrespectful of the Sangha in general and of individual members in particular, quick to “correct,” slow to praise. Monastic contrarianism. I finally left when I saw monks dismissive of the sincere efforts of trainees to come to Buddhism. From 2008 to 2010 I attended meditation and Dharma meetings with a Zen group unrelated to the OBC, and whadda ya know—same general behaviors: distant, corrective, dismissive. I began to realize for myself what so many of you have known for a long time—the strict and hierarchal structure of Zen will just never work for me. I am embarrassed to have come to this real Awakening so slowly, but I was a true believer. Clinging.
I had joined OBC Connect relatively early, before the Little explosion. It as been wonderful for me. I do not post often, but I have read many threads avidly, followed up on excellent reading suggestions, downloaded essays, and talked with spiritual friends, all of this while I continued to feel in my heart that the Buddha path was right for me, even if the path was much obscured by weeds. I have many to thank, forum participants whose steady observations have helped me clear my path a little: Isan, Kozan, Mark, Henry, Howard, and many others of great experience and kindness. And Lise, for making all this possible.
My observations on the ground and then having this OBC Connect forum full of other Buddhist practitioners who had also felt that “somethin’ ain’t right” to test them against has led me in an unexpected though perfectly natural direction—a meditation group within the framework of Unitarianism Universalism. A very small group of us left the local Zen establishment (and we have since been shunned—the tradition lives on in Fresno!) and met by ourselves, trying to imagine what a meditation and Dharma study group that truly valued Sangha might look like, might be structured like. Discovering the Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship showed us that we didn’t have to re-invent the wheel. (Thanks here to James Ford who has done so much to create and nurture this organization.) We don’t have an official name yet (I am lobbying strongly for “The Great Valley Cage-Free, All-Organic Sangha” but since we operate on democratic principles I am not hopeful), and we have only been meeting for two months, but all signs are good. We have a small but active group wherein responsibilities rotate, discussion topics and books are chosen by group vote, and all backgrounds and opinions are respected. As far as I am concerned, this is Sangha. No whistles, few bells, but a community of seekers who meditate, talk, listen, think, help each other and the larger Sangha (who may never realize that they are Sangha). The open discussions are deeply freeing, truly respectful. And we must be doing something right, because the local Zen establishment has already complained about us.
With Bows

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Lise
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PostSubject: Re: Practice away from Buddhist Institutions   Thu May 31, 2012 12:55 pm

George wrote:


. . . We don’t have an official name yet (I am lobbying strongly for “The Great Valley Cage-Free, All-Organic Sangha” . . .


George, I love that, it's got a ring to it and I hope your suggestion prevails.

Cage-free, my goodness. Think of the mayhem, the sheer chaos that may come of all this free-thinking, open-minded and open-hearted practise, exploration, autonomy. Your group is a very, very dangerous lot and I hope someone keeps a close eye on all of you -


Last edited by Lise on Thu May 31, 2012 3:18 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Ikuko



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PostSubject: Re: Practice away from Buddhist Institutions   Thu May 31, 2012 3:05 pm

So true George,you know you are doing something right when they try to stop you.

Reverend Master Haryo,he of the OBC,blocked the group I am involved in from publishing a description of our group in the OBC newsletter.We wanted to do so because we consider ourselves to practice in that tradition.(and I do have misgivings about the OBC as an organisation,always have ,don't want to repeat myself here) I was indignant at the time,of course.Now I find I don't take much interest in what he does or says.We carry on .We have a great website.We have good times together on our residential retreats.We get opportunities to meet other contemplatives.We give ourselves opportunities to meet ourselves!

I am pushing gently for our organisation to be autonomous.It isn't even an organisation yet,it is a group of friends who met through OBC.I sometimes wonder if I will fall off my perch trying for this.It seems so obvious to me.I will have to wait and see if the critical time comes,and accept if it doesn't.

I find meeting with sanghas to sit and share what we are and have is a great thing to do.Actually nothing can prevent that happening.It is human beings being together-what could be better?

The Buddhist Unitarian organisation sounds fresh and true in the spirit of our times.Please keep telling us about it.

Bless you
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jack



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PostSubject: Re: Practice away from Buddhist Institutions   Thu May 31, 2012 4:20 pm

Quote :
My observations on the ground and then having this OBC Connect forum full of other Buddhist practitioners who had also felt that “somethin’ ain’t right” to test them against has led me in an unexpected though perfectly natural direction—a meditation group within the framework of Unitarianism Universalism.

I moved my practice away from a temple many years ago, and have found a reasonably helpful environment within a UU congregation. I and a few others started a practice group which is still going, but I've also moved away from that. I don't think UU is an especially good environment for people attempting to establish a practice or to grapple with some basic Buddhist teachings. The group has been most useful to those who wanted for various reasons to start a meditation practice. That included some with NA or AA backgrounds, some grappling with life's difficulties, and some just trying to be better people.

General Buddhist doctrine about things like karma, the magical properties of reciting certain scriptures or mantras, devas, nagas and such aren't useful or very welcome in that environment at all. That's quite OK with me, but some who want the full Buddhist trip are probably better off at a temple where a monk with "faith" can immerse people in "true" dogma with enough ceremonial mythos to overwhelm their common sense -- at least for a while.

UU is a very diverse environment, ideal for a Buddhist who remains open to the truth of reality and experience. It is not ideal for those who depend on collective confirmation or a monk's approval of what they think in order to keep from floundering.

UU can be a reasonable alternative for some who have already established a practice, but who have decided Buddhist teaching is robust enough to be useful in the real world without being continually propped up by ceremonial experience and lectures designed to eradicate doubt and grow blind, loyal faith.

The above represents how I see things now. Call me in ten years; I'm sure what I see then will be different.
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cmpnwtr

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PostSubject: Re: Practice away from Buddhist Institutions   Thu May 31, 2012 4:57 pm

I believe it could be a mistake to characterize a UU based Zen group in any particular mode, as they seem to be spontaneously generated in an open and tolerant universalist environment, and thus are likely to be quite diverse. The important thing for me is that UU is open enough and sufficiently non- sectarian to be able host a Zen group. I have a home based practice but I currently sit once a month with a very fine Zen group in the Sanbo Kyodan lineage, connected with Reuben Habito, a Zen teacher with Christian origins whose concepts in teaching are nevertheless rooted in Buddhism. The group does have strong, but accepting, leadership with a trained woman teacher designated as an "associate teacher" by Habito and assisted by the UU pastor who is rooted in Buddhist practice of many years. Frankly the doctrinal and liturgical boundaries and prescriptions have little importance to me. Sitting is the essence of "opening the treasure house" for me. And bringing sitting into daily life. They welcome persons of all or no persuasion. And I like that. You don't have to have your membership card or uniform. Kindness and gentleness with discipline are the important ingredients for me that make it a good sanctuary space to sit with others. www.SalemZenCenter.com The core of sitting for me is heartfulness and not mind created prescriptions of what to think and believe, or what devotional forms to employ.

I also sit occasionally with a blended Christian-Buddhist Zen sangha (also Sanbo Kyodan lineage ) from time to time, hosted by a Trappist monastery. Important ingredient again is not the sectarian identity but the practice and primacy of love, gentleness, and respect. www.seventhunders.org Perhaps, I don't know, but the fact that Sanbo Kyodan lineage is lay based, makes it more friendly to persons like me and more heartful and less prescriptive. One of my very best experiences with spiritual community was the meditation group we hosted in our own home as a young couple. Even our preschool daughter would join us from time to time in the sitting and short chants we used.
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