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Buddhism In America

.. themes appeal to many, Buddhist belief in using the mind to change our lives provides practical methods and exercises that we can use every day to change our perception of reality. “Rather than turning us away from what is best in Western Culture, Buddhism can help us return to it, for the west today is in the grip of a major cultural crisis of confidence.”(Kulananda, 210) Buddhism has become so popular in the West, because it teaches one how to be happier and more aware by use of; seeing things as they are, living a sacred life, speaking the truth, loving, attention and focus on what is important to you, and meditation. These concepts work with us, because they are easily adaptable and understandable to the Western way of life. “Zen can be adapted to be useful I modern times. Like water it takes the form of the vessel that contains it without any change in its nature: water remains water whether it is held in a rice bowl or a coffee mug.

Many who seek enlightenment in this day and age may not be able to fulfill their destiny within a purely monastic lifestyle.”(Simpkins, p.61) Another aspect of Eastern religions that attract Westerners is the ability to be independent in the search of enlightenment. Jakusho Kwong, Soto Priest and abbot of the Soto Zen Buddhist Temple in Genjoji, expresses, “Theres a lot to read, and theres a lot to learn. But for me, the most important thing is whats yours. What can you call your own? And to know that. Not what Suzuki Roshi said, or Maezumi Roshi said, or Katagari Roshi said.

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What you say. What it means to you. Thats the only way.” (Tworkov, 103) “In Zen terms, we are born alone, we die alone, and we have realization alone.”(Toms, 131) Maintaining a clear awareness of our feelings and sensations, we can open out the gap between feeling and craving. This experience strengthens our intuition of how things really are and a series of ever more intensely positive mental states therefore follow. Hindu promotes the ability to listen when people need to be heard. When asked “Whats your road man?” Jack Kerouac answered, “Holyboy road, madman road, rainbow road, guppy road, its an anywhere road for anybody anyhow.” By saying this, Kerouac means that his path in life is to follow his Taoist religion, be free from others, seek happiness and peace, innocence of youth, and that the path he is on can be universally reached.

This just shows how conclusive people can be with their words when they learn what the really important things are. Eastern religions seek to fulfill self and understand the nature of self. They teach the seeker to let “body and mind fall away” and look at the greater picture (Toms, 73). “In going for refuge to the Buddha one commits oneself to becoming more than one is now.”(Kulananda, 72) “In seeking happiness by clinging to a restricting, ego-identity, again and again we cause ourselves and others to suffer.”(Kulananda, 87) More and more public figures such as; Richard Gere, Michael Yauch, Steven Segal, Courtney Love, Oliver Stone, and more, practice the eastern religions and praise their effectiveness. “Yauch is slight and soft-spoken, he says Buddhism, felt real, not hokey. Two generations ago, given his milieu he would have been a curiosity, today he is something of a role model.”(Van Biema, 8-9) Eastern religions can be a cheap alternative to psychotherapy because they are very similar. “Given the sophistication of the Buddhist analysis of the mind and its preoccupation with the eradication of suffering, it is only natural that strong similarities have come to be seen between Buddhism and the contemporary Western Psychotherapy.”(Kulananda, 222) As Buddhism and psychotherapy become closer acquainted with one another, there is an emerging trend towards a kind of psychotherapeutic Buddhism, where the drive towards enlightenment is replaced with the overriding impulse to simply come to terms with oneself and feel better about oneself and the world.

Why has it become important to our society. “Anything infused into our world today about nonviolence can only help.”(Scorsesce) Most people in our society struggle to find the right views. “Right views bring us in touch with some of the most important concepts in Buddhist philosophy. How do you perceive life, death, impermanence, suffering, dissatisfaction, and cause and effect? Do we really believe, and know, that we reap what we sow, or do we regard that as just another clich? In the west, we are typically conditioned to push these serious matters aside, and deal with them later. Buddhism says deal with them now, and youll transform your life.”(Das, 95) Maintaining a clear sense of our feelings and sensations, we can open out the gap between feeling and craving. This experience strengthens our intuition of how things are and a series of ever more intensely positive mental states therefore follow. Two Buddhist ideas, that there is a natural hierarchy of values and that reality is perceived in the imagination, contain within them the seeds of Western Cultural renaissance. What Buddhism most has to offer Western Philosophy is the notion that ways of conceptualizing are intertwined with ways of being and although one can go about philosophy as if it were a purely intellectual exercise, there is little value in that thought alone cannot apprehend reality.

“Dharma is timeless not culture bound.”(Das, 378) Dharma, the cosmic law underlying all existence; combines with the Buddha and the Sangha (the community of believers), to form the Three Treasures of the faith. It is one of Buddhisms great strengths that it has at its heart the ideal of spiritual fellowship. “Today, Buddhism is at a critical juncture as it encounters the West. It is no surprise that there have been formidable culture, linguistic, political, and material barriers to overcome in the transmission of Buddha Dharma from the East to the West and from the past on to the present and the future. This is a transition through time as well as through space, spanning continents and oceans, from a traditional Oriental world to a scientific postmodern Western Culture.”(Das, 378) “Modern Western culture is marked by an unprecedented degree of technological sophistication and material abundance.

It is highly complex and deeply fragmented.”(Kulananda, 25) All over, people seem torn between a sincere desire to conquer ego and the drive to be doing so. A great benefit to our society has been the increase in people who maintain less interest in self and more for the benefit of others, as well as the increase of knowledge of the effects. The majority of Eastern Religions promote the ability to listen when people need to be heard. Everything that lives is subject to decay. All conditioned things are impermanent.

To be alive is to change. Without change we would be absolutely inert, but the un-enlightened human condition is to fight change every inch of the way. A following of well known peoples (celebrities, business men, politicians, etc.) has made Eastern Religion appealing to those who were originally skeptical. A poem that appeared in New Yorker Magazine shows how Buddhism has practically become a “household term” “The huge head of Richard Gere, a tsonga blossom / in his hair, comes floating like a Macys / Parade balloon above snowcapped summit / of sacred Kailas.” Some very outstanding people of the Eastern religions have reached out to those in need, like Roshi Bernard Glassman, founder of the “Bakery Zendo” in Brooklyn, who uses what he learns and teaches to benefit his community. He employs the local homeless and unemployed in his bakery, garment company, and building-renovation services, and houses them in his large suburban New York mansion where they are allowed to study Zen with the great master. There has been much progression of Buddhism in the US because, “Americans have always been a do it yourself culture, and this is a do it yourself philosophy.”(Van Biema, 8). But it is definite that there will be much more progression.

As Richard Gere said, “There has not been enough time to ferment and intoxicate the culture in America, but our approach, because were so new at it, has a certain eagerness and excitement that you sometimes dont see in Tibetans. Westerners ask questions, they take notes.” Individuals join meditating groups while still maintaining ties to their traditional faiths to “wet their feet” in more satisfying and less materialistic lives. The progression of Western views to adapt Eastern ideas can be explained as, “Combining monastic views with secular lifestyle has nonetheless served two functions. It has introduced the monastic dimension of the Japanese Zen tradition to the United States, where it may someday figure prominently. It has also been a skillful means for establishing the authority of Zen teachings both within and without the communities.” (Glassman Tworkov, 153) Show major impacts on West Less materialistic lifestyle People search to be “better” Giving Concerned about others People more in touch with reality People become more aware and accepting Show impact on my life?.


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